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Chapter 8

FOUR HUNDRED TO FIVE HUNDRED A.D.

 From Bishop to Pope

  "In the beginning of the fifth century, Vigilantius, a learned and eminent presbyter of a Christian church, took up his pen to oppose the growing superstitions. His book, which unfortunately is now lost, was directed against the institution of monks, the celibacy of the clergy, praying for the dead, and the martyrs, adoring their relics, celebrating their vigils, and lighting up candles to them after the manner of the pagans. Jerome, esteemed as a great luminary of the Catholic church, who was a most zealous advocate for all the superstitious rites, undertook the task of refuting Vigilantius, whom he politely styles `a blasphemous heretic,' comparing him to Hydra, to Cerberus, the Centaurs, and considers him only as the organ of the demon. He, however, furnishes us with all the particular articles of heresy, in the words of Vigilantius himself, which are as follows:

"'The honors paid to the rotten bones and dust of the saints and martyrs, by adoring, kissing, wrapping them up in silk and vessels of gold, lodging them in their churches, and lighting up wax candles before them, after the manner of the heathens, were the ensigns of idolatry. That the celibacy of the clergy was a heresy, and their vows of chastity the seminary of lewdness. That to pray for the dead, or to desire the prayers of the dead, was superstitious; for that the souls of the departed saints and martyrs were at rest in some particular place, whence they could not remove themselves at pleasure, so as to be present everywhere to the prayers of their votaries. That the sepulchers of the martyrs ought not to be worshiped nor their fasts and vigils to be observed; and lastly, that the signs and wonders said to be wrought by their relics and at their sepulchers, served to no good end or purpose of religion." -- Jones' Church History, p.169.

In Asia and Europe there were considerably over one hundred bishops presiding over as many cities and districts, each one being subject to the presiding bishop over the respective district either eastern or western, according to their situation, Constantinople in the East, and Rome for the West. Besides the rivalry and clamor for power in religious controversy between these two popes, or bishops, many of the lesser dignitaries also assumed powers over others, and many queer and unscriptural doctrines arose, thus hastening the falling away.

Soon after Constantine, emperor of the Roman empire, had embraced Christianity, the bishop of Rome, being located near the throne of the emperor, naturally was received into favor as the presiding prelate over other bishops. The bishop of Rome was soon placed at the head of the clerical order, as superior bishop, and he maintained his claim of superiority by immense splendor and magnificence. His authority had, before the close of the fourth century, a formidable rival in the bishop of Constantinople, who at a council in that city was elevated to bishop of second clerical rank.

There were several sects in the fourth century outside of the Roman church. Orchard says, "It must not be forgotten that there were churches more or less extensive throughout Africa, besides the Donatists, and known as Manicheans, Montanists, Novationists, and others, whose morals were far more excellent than even St. Augustine's (of the Roman church), but all these were heretics in his view, and objects of his most virulent animosity."-- Baptist History, p. 97.

This author continues, "The innumerable Christians of the East, who were not in communion with either the Greek or the Roman churches, may be divided into two classes. The first consists of such as in ages past dissented from the Greek church, and formed similar hierarchies, which yet subsist independent of one another, as well as of the Grecian and Roman communities. The second class consists of those who never were of any hierarchy, and who have always retained their original freedom. The number of such orientals is very great, for they lived dispersed all over Syria, Arabia, Egypt, Persia, Nubia, Ethiopia, India, Tartary, and other eastern countries. `It is remarkable,' says Robinson, `that although they differ, as Europeans do, on speculative points of divinity, yet they all administered baptism by immersion, and there is no instance to the contrary.'" -- Idem, p. 112.

"The Messalians or Euchites (the one a Hebrew term, the other a Greek, and signifying a praying people) had in Greece a very early existence . . . These people, like all other nonconformists, are reproached and branded with heresy. . . . The morality of this people was severe and captivating to the simple, but their discipline and worship are both reproached. . . . They were often named from the country they inhabited. . . . Some were called after the names of their teachers. . . . The term Euchites among the Greeks was a general name for Dissenters, as the Waldensees was in the Latin church, and Nonconformists in England. This large body of Dissenters were resident in the empire from the first establishment of Christianity, till its destruction in the thirteenth century." -- Idem, p. 113.

Among these Dissenters, under various man-called names, was the Church of God, still upholding the true faith, still observing the Sabbath, with the Law of God, as well as the Faith of Jesus, unadulterated.

Of the Sabbath and first-day in this century of the church, Coleman says:

"The last day of the week was strictly kept in connection with that of the first day for a long time after the overthrow of the temple and its worship. Down even to the fifth century the observance of the Jewish Sabbath was continued in the Christian church, but with a rigor and solemnity gradually diminishing." – Ancient Christianity Exemplified, chap. 26, sec. 2.

This, of course, applied to the sects, and the Roman church especially; but, as further proof will show, the true church, did not forsake the Sabbath, nor observe it with a lessened ardor.

Coleman continues: "During the early ages of the church, it (the first day) was never entitled `the Sabbath,' this word being confined to the seventh day of the week, the Jewish Sabbath, which, as we have already said, continued to be observed for several centuries by the converts to Christianity." -- Idem, chap. 26, sec. 2.

This fact is made still clearer by the following language, in which this historian admits Sunday to be nothing but a human ordinance:

"No law or precept appears to have been given by Christ or the institution of the Lord's day [by which Coleman refers to Sunday in error], or the substitution of the first for the seventh day of the week." -- Idem.

"The observance of the Lord's day was ordered while yet the Sabbath of the Jews was continued; nor was the latter superseded until the former had acquired the same solemnity and importance which belonged, at first, to that great day which God originally ordained and blessed.

. . . But in time, after the Lord's day was fully established [in the Roman Catholic church], the observance of the Sabbath of the Jews was gradually discontinued, and was finally denounced as heretical [by the popish church]." -- Idem.

 
 
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