MITHRAISM, an outwardly refined
sun worship, invaded the Roman Empire in B.C. 67, and made way for
itself by gathering under its wing all the gods of Rome, so that
"in the middle of the third century [A. D.] Mithraism seemed on the
verge of becoming the universal religion."– Encyclopedia
Britannica, Vol. XVIII art. "Mithras," p. 624, 11th edition,
That which made Mithraism so
popular was the fact that the Roman Caesars adopted it, and the soldiers
planted its banner wherever they went. The higher schools of Greek
learning also accepted it, as did also the nobility, or the better
classes of society, which gave it great prestige. Its
"Mysteries" had a bewitching and fascinating influence on the
people. And Sunday, "the venerable day of the sun, was the popular
holiday of Mithraism. On the other hand, the primitive Christian
religion appeared to the learned Greek scholastics and their followers
of eminent nobility only as "foolishness" (see 1 Corinthians
1:18-23), and the Romans looked down upon the Christians with disdain
and utter contempt. After the Jews had rebelled against the Roman
government (Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by Titus, A. D. 70,
and multitudes of the Jews were sold as slaves), hatred and contempt for
them had become quite general among the Romans, and everything Jewish
was despised. Thus Sunday, in the Roman world, stood for what was
eminent and popular, while the Sabbath, kept by the Jews, stood for what
was despised and looked down upon. The temptations placed before an
aspiring man, therefore, lay all in one direction. Dr. J. L. Mosheim
"The profound respect that
was paid to the Greek and Roman mysteries, and the extraordinary
sanctity that was attributed to them, were additional circumstances
that induced the Christians to give their religion a mystic air, in
order to put it upon an equal footing, in point of dignity, with that
of the Pagans. For this purpose, they gave the name of mysteries to
the institutions of the Gospel, and decorated particularly the holy
sacrament with that solemn title. They used in that sacred
institution, as also in that of baptism, several of the terms employed
in the Heathen mysteries, and proceeded so far, at length, as even to
adopt some of the ceremonies of which those renowned mysteries
consisted... A great part, therefore, of the service of the Church, in
this century, had a certain air of the Heathen mysteries, and resembled
them considerably in many particulars"–"History of the
Church" (2–vol. ed.) Vol. I, Cent. 2, part 2, chap. 4, par. 5,
p. 67. New York:1871.
Gradually, as the church lowered
its standards, many of the Greek scholars accepted Christianity (while
they retained their heathen philosophy), and they carried with them into
the church more or less of their former viewpoint and teaching. Then, as
heathenism assailed the church, and the Roman government persecuted it,
these men, such as Origen, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, et al., wrote
"apologies" and "treatises" to vindicate
Christianity. They, however, sadly mixed heathen sentiments with
Christian doctrines, and the church gradually became permeated with the
teachings of these men, who now had become the new leaders. Dr. Cummings
"The Fathers who were really
most fitted to be the luminaries of the age in which they lived were
too busy in preparing their flocks for martyrdom to commit anything to
writing .... The most devoted and pious of the Fathers were busy
teaching their flocks; the more vain and ambitious occupied their time
in preparing treatises. If all the Fathers who signalized the age had
committed their sentiments .to writing, we might have had a fair
representation of the theology of the church"–"Lectures on
Romanism," p. 203; quoted in "History of the Sabbath,"
J. N. Andrews, pp. 199, 200. In a very short time, the customs of
Mithraism became incorporated into Christianity. John Dowling, D. D.,
says: "There is scarcely anything which strikes the mind of the
careful student of ancient ecclesiastical history with greater
surprise, than the comparatively early period at which many of the
corruptions of Christianity, which are embodied in the Romish system,
took their rise"–"History of Romanism," Book II,
chap. 1, par. 1, p. 65.
Christianity soon became so much
like Mithraism that there was only a step between them. Frantz Cumont
(who is probably the best informed man of our age on the subject of
Mithraism) says of Christianity and Mithraism: "The two opposed
creeds moved in the same intellectual and moral sphere, and one could
actually pass from one to the other without shock or interruption ....
The religious and mystical spirit of the Orient had slowly overcome the
whole social organism and prepared all nations to unite in the bosom of
a universal church"–"Oriental Religions in Roman
Paganism," pp. 210, 211. Chicago, Ill.:Open Court Pub. Co., 1911.
The Introductory Essay by Grant Showerman says: "Nor did
Christianity stop here. It took from its opponents their own weapons and
used them; the better elements of paganism were transferred to the new
religion"–Id., pp xi, xii.
It would be too long a story to
trace the doctrines of Mithraism that were brought into the church. We
must confine ourselves to our subject, Sundaykeeping. Mr. Cumont says
authorities purified in some degree the customs which they
could not abolish."
"The pre-eminence assigned
to the dies Solis [Sunday] by Mithraism also certainly contributed to
the general recognition of Sunday as a holiday [among
Christians]."–"Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and
Romans," pp. 171, 162, 163. New York:1912.
"Sunday, over which the Sun
presided, was especially holy .... "[The worshipers of Mithra]
held Sunday sacred, and celebrated the birth of the Sun on the
twenty-fifth of December"– "The Mysteries of Mithra,"
pp. 167, 19I. Chicago: Open Court Pub. Co., 1911.
Professor Gilbert Murray, M.A.,
D.Litt., LL.D., F.B.A., Professor of Greek in Oxford University, says:
"Now, since Mithras was 'The
Sun, the Unconquered,' and the Sun was 'The royal Star,' the religion
looked for a King whom it could serve as the representative of Mithras
upon earth:. . . The Roman Emperor seemed to be clearly indicated as
the true King. In sharp contrast to Christianity, Mithraism recognized
Caesar as the bearer of the divine Grace, and its votaries filled the
legions and the civil service ....
"It had so much acceptance
that it was able to impose on the Christian world its own Sun-Day in
place of the Sabbath, its Sun's birthday, twentyfifth December, as the
birthday of Jesus."–"History of Christianity in the Light
of Modern Knowledge," Chap. III; cited in "Religion and
Philosophy," pp. 73, 74. New York:1929.
Rev. William Frederick likewise
states the same historic fact:
"The Gentiles were an
idolatrous people who worshiped the sun, and Sunday was their most
sacred day. Now, in order to reach the people in this new field, it
seems but natural, as well as necessary, to make Sunday the rest day
of the church. At this time it was necessary for the church to either
adopt the Gentiles' day or else have the Gentiles change their day. To
change the Gentiles' day would have been an offence and stumbling
block to them. The church could naturally reach them better by keeping
their day. There was no need in causing an unnecessary offence by
dishonoring their day"–"Sunday and the Christian
Sabbath," pp. 169, 170; quoted in Signs of the Times, Sept. 6,
Thomas H. Morer makes a similar
acknowledgement. He says:
"Sunday being the day on
which the Gentiles solemnly adored that planet, and called it Sunday,
. . · the Christians thought fit to keep the same day and the same
name of it, that they might not appear causelessly peevish, and by
that means hinder the conversion of the Gentiles, and bring a greater
prejudice than might be otherwise taken against the gospel."
–Dialogues on the Lord's Day," p. 23. London:1701.
The North British Review gives
the following reasons for the Christians' adopting the heathen Sun-day:
"That very day was the
Sunday of their heathen neighbors and respective countrymen, and
patriotism gladly united with expediency in making it at once their
Lord's day and their Sabbath .... That primitive church, in fact, was
shut up to the adoption of the Sunday, until it became established and
supreme, when it was too late to make another alteration."–Vol.
XVIII, p. 409. Edinburgh:Feb., 1853.
Thomas Chafie; a clergyman of the
English Church, gives the following reasons why the early Christians
could not continue to keep the Bible Sabbath among the heathen, nor
change the heathen custom from Sunday to Saturday: "Christians
should not have done well in changing, or in endeavouring to have
changed their [the heathen's] standing service-day, from Sunday to any
other day of the week; and that for these reasons:
"1. Because of the contempt,
scorn and derision they thereby should be had in among all the
Gentiles with whom they lived; and toward whom they ought by St.
Paul's rule to live inoffensively, 1 Cor. 10:32, in things
indifferent. If the Gentiles thought hardly, and spoke evil of them,
for that they ran not into the same excess of riot with them: 1 Pet.
4:4, what would they have said of Christians for such an innovation as
would have been made by their change of their standing service-day? If
long before this, the Jews were had in such disdain among the Gentiles
for their Saturday- Sabbath,... how grievous would be their taunts and
reproaches against the poor Christians living with them, and under
their power, for their new set Sacred day, had the Christians chosen
any other than the Sunday?
"2. Most Christians then
were either Servants or of the poorer sort of People and the Gentiles
(most probably) would not give their servants liberty to cease from
working on any other set day constantly, except on their Sunday ....
"3. It would have been but
labour in vain for them to have assayed the same, they could never
have brought it to pass." –"A Brief Tract on the Fourth
Commandment . . . About the Sabbath-Day," pp. 61, 62. London:St.
Paul's Church Yard, 1692.
Richard Verstegen, after much
research, writes of the heathen nations: "And it is also
respectable, that the most ancient Germans being Pagans, and having
appropriated their first Day of the Week to the peculiar adoration of
the Sun, whereof that Day doth yet in our English Tongue retain the name
of Sunday."–"Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in
Antiquities," p. II. London:1673. Speaking of the Saxons, he says:
"First then unto the day dedicated unto the especial adoration of
the Idol of the Sun, they gave the name of Sunday, as much as to say the
Sun's-day, or the day of. the Sun. This Idol was placed in a Temple, and
there adored and sacrificed unto, for that they believed that the Sun in
the Firmament did with or in this Idol correspond and co-operate. The
manner and form whereof was according to this ensuing
Picture"–Id., p. 74. (Capitalization as given in this ancient
It is hardly fair to accuse the
Roman Catholic Church of exchanging God's holy Sabbath for a heathen
festival without giving her the opportunity to deny or acknowledge this
accusation; so we will now let her state the fact in her own words,
frankly. She says:
"The Church took the pagan
philosophy and made it the buckler of faith against the heathen ....
She took the pagan Sunday and made it the Christian Sunday .... There
is, in truth, something royal, kingly about the sun, making it a fit
emblem of Jesus, the Sun of Justice. Hence the Church in these
countries would seem to have said, 'Keep that old, pagan name. It
shall remain consecrated, sanctified.' And thus the pagan Sunday,
dedicated to Balder, became the Christian Sunday, sacred to
Jesus."–"Catholic World," March, 1894, p. 809.
So willing were church leaders to
adopt the popular heathen festivals, that even heathen authors
reproached them for it. Faustus accused St. Augustine as follows:
"You celebrate the solemn
festivals of the Gentiles, their calends and their solstices; and as
to their manners, those you have retained without any alteration.
Nothing distinguishes you from the pagans except that you hold your
assemblies apart from them."–Cited in "History of the
Intellectual Development of Europe," Dr. J. W. Draper, Vol. I, p.
310. New York:1876.
Similar reproaches had been made
earlier, for Tertullian answers them, making the following admission:
"Others, with greater regard
to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god
of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray toward
the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. What then? Do
you do less than this? . . . It is you, at all events, who have even
admitted the sun into the calendar of the week; and you have selected
its day, in preference to the preceding day .... You who reproach us
with the sun and Sunday should consider your proximity to
us."–"Ad Nationes," Book I, chap. 13; in
"Ante-Nicene Fathers," Vol. III, p. 123, ed. by Drs. Roberts
and Donaldson. New York:1896.
Tertullian had no other excuse
for their Sunday-keeping than that they did not
do worse than the heathen. Not only did the Church adopt heathen
festivals, but Gregory Thaumaturgus allowed their celebration in the
degrading manner of the heathen:
"When Gregory perceived that
the ignorant multitude persisted in their idolatry, on account of the
pleasures and sensual gratifications which they enjoyed at the pagan
festivals, he granted them a permission to indulge themselves in the
like pleasures, in celebrating the memory of the holy martyrs, hoping
that, in process of time, they would return of their own accord, to a
more virtuous and regular course of life"–"Ecclesiastical
History," J. L. Mosheim, D.D., Vol. I, Second Century, Part II,
chap. 4, par. 2, footnote (Dr A. Maclaine's 2–vol. ed., p. 66). New
Cardinal Newman says:
"Confiding then in the power
of Christianity to resist the infection of evil, and to transmute the
very instruments and appendages of demon-worship to an evangelical
use, . . . the rulers of the Church from early times were prepared,
should the occasion arise, to adopt, or imitate, or sanction the
existing rites and customs of the populace, as well as the philosophy
of the educated class .... "The same reason, the need of holy
days for the multitude, is assigned by Origen, St. Gregory's master,
to explain the establishment of the Lord's Day ....
"We are told in various ways
by Eusebius, that Constantine, in order to recommend the new religion
to the heathen, transferred into it the outward ornaments to which
they had been accustomed in their own .... Incense, lamps, and
candles;... holy water; asylums; holy days and seasons, . . . the ring
in marriage, turning to the east, images . . . are all of pagan
origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church."–''
Development of Christian Doctrine," pp. 371-373. London:1878.
"Real superstitions have
sometimes obtained in parts of Christendom from its intercourse with
the heathen .... As philosophy has at times corrupted her divines, so
has paganism corrupted her worshipers"–Id., pp. 377, 378.
"The church . . . can
convert heathen appointments into spiritual rites and usages ....
Hence there has been from the first much variety and change, in the
Sacramental acts and instruments which she has used."–Id., p.
Speaking of the immoral pagan
feast he says:
"It certainly is possible
that the consciousness of the sanctifying power in Christianity may
have acted as a temptation to sins, whether of deceit or of violence;
as if the habit or state of grace destroyed the sinfulness of certain
acts, or as if the end justified the means"–Id., p. 379.
The terrible nature of these
sensual gratifications of the pagan festivals, in which the leaders of
the Church now allowed its members to indulge, a person can hardly
imagine till the sickening facts are spread before one's eyes by Livy. (Hist.,
lib. xxxix, chap. 9-17.) The learned Englishman, George Smith, F.A.S.,
in his "Sacred Annals," Vol. III, on the "Gentile
Nations,'' pp. 487-489, says that this "most revolting and
abandoned villiany" was so general, that when the Roman Senate had
to proceed against its worst features, "Rome was almost deserted,
so many persons, feeling themselves implicated in the proceedings,
sought safety in flight."
A church that will take in such
members, without conversion, and then allow them to continue in the most
putrid corruption, must have lost all respect for morality (not to say
true Christianity), and cannot be in possession of the divine power of
the gospel; which changes the hearts and lives
of people. (Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17.) The Apostle Paul had
foretold this "falling away" of the church. (Acts 20:28-30; 2
Thessalonians 2:1-7.) And it was during this fallen condition that the
Church changed its weekly rest day from the Sabbath to the Sunday. Dr.
N. Summerbell says: "The Roman church had totally apostatized ....
It reversed the Fourth Commandment by doing away with the Sabbath of
God's word, and instituting Sunday as a holiday."–'' The
Christian Church," p. 415. Cincinnati:1873.
Now, long after the Sabbath has
been changed, Protestants are at a loss to find authority in the Bible
for this change. They have rejected the authority of the Roman church to
legislate on Christian faith, and cannot accept tradition, therefore
they know not where to turn. Professor George Sverdrup, a leading man in
the Lutheran Church, gives expression to this predicament in the
"For, when there could not
be produced one solitary place in the Holy Scriptures which testified
that either the Lord Himself or the apostles had ordered such a
transfer of the Sabbath to Sunday, then it was not easy to answer the
question: Who has transferred the Sabbath, and who has had the right
to do it?"- -" Samlede Skrifteri Udvalg," Andreas
Helland, Vol. I, pp 342, 343. Minneapolis, Minn.:1909.
Walter Farquhar Hook, D.D., Vicar
of Leeds, expresses the same thought:
"The question is, whether
God has ordered us to keep holy the first day of the week. Baptism and
the Lord's Supper are undoubted ordinances of God; we can quote the
chapter .and verse in which we read of their being ordained by God.
But as to the Lord's Day [Sunday], we are not able to refer to a
single passage in all the Scriptures of the New Testament in which the
observance of it is enjoined by God. If we refer to tradition,
tradition would not be of value to us on the point immediately under
consideration. The Romanist regards the tradition of the Church as of
authority equal to that of Scripture. But we are not Romanists But on
this point there is not even tradition to support us There is no
tradition that God ordained the first day of the week to be a Sabbath
.... The change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday was never
mentioned, or, as far as I can discover, thought of by the early
Christians. The Sabbath, that is to say, the observance of Saturday as
a day to be devoted to God's service, to rest of body and repose of
mind, was an ordinance of God. This ordinance relating to Saturday
could be changed by God and by God only. We, as Protestants, must
appeal to the Bible, and the Bible only, to ascertain the fact that
God has changed the day–that God has Himself substituted Sunday for
Saturday .... It is no answer to this to say that the apostles seem to
have sanctioned the assembly of Christians for public worship on the
Lord's Day, or that St. John in the Apocalypse speaks of the Lord's
Day and may possibly allude to the Sunday festival. For this is one of
those arguments which prove too much. We ourselves keep Easter Day;
this is no proof that we do not keep Christmas Day, or that Easter has
been substituted for Christmas. And if we have instances of the first
day of the week being kept holy by the apostles, we have more
instances of their observing the Jewish Sabbath"–"Lord's
Day," p. 94. London:1856; quoted in "The Literature of the
Sabbath Question," Robert Cox, Vol. II, pp. 369, 37O.
Dr. Edward T. Hiscox, author of
the "Baptist Manual," says:
"There was and is a
commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that Sabbath day was not
Sunday. It will be said, however, and with some show of triumph, that
the Sabbath was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the
week, with all its duties, privileges, and sanctions. Earnestly
desiring information on this subject, which I have studied for many
years, I ask, where can the record of such a transaction be found?.
Not in the New Testament, absolutely not. There is no Scriptural
evidence of the change of the Sabbath institution from the seventh to
the first day of the week. "I wish to say that this Sabbath
question, in this aspect of it, is the gravest and most perplexing
question connected with Christian institutions which at present claims
attention from Christian people; and the only reason that it is not a
more disturbing element in Christian thought and in religious
discussions, is because the Christian world has settled down content
on the conviction that somehow a transference has taken place at the
beginning of Christian history .... "To me it seems unaccountable
that Jesus during three years' intercourse with His disciples, often
conversing with them upon the Sabbath question, discussing it in some
of its various aspects, freeing it from its false glosses, never
alluded to any transference of the day; also that during forty days of
His resurrection life, no such thing was intimated. Nor, so far as we
know, did the Spirit, which was given to bring to their remembrance
all things whatsoever that He had said unto them, deal with this
question. Nor yet did the inspired apostles, in preaching the gospel,
founding churches, counseling and instructing those founded, discuses
or approach this subject. "Of course, I quite well know that
Sunday did come into use in early Christian history as a religious
day, as we learn from the Christian Fathers
and other sources. But what a pity
that it comes branded with the mark of paganism, and christened t with
the name of the sun-god, when adopted and sanctioned by the papal
apostasy, and bequeathed as a sacred legacy to
Protestantism!"–A paper read before a New York Ministers'
Conference, held Nov. 13, 1893. From a copy furnished by Dr. Hiscox
for the "Source Book," pp. 513, 514. Wash., D. C.:Review and
Bishop Skat Rordam, of Denmark,
"As to when and how it
became customary to keep the first day of the week the New Testament
gives us no information .... "The first law about it was given by
Constantine the Great, who in the year 321 ordained that all civil and
shop work should cease in the cities, but agricultural labor in the
country was permitted .... Still no one thought of basing this command
to rest from labor on the 3rd [4th] commandment before the latter half
of the sixth century. From that time on, little by little, it became
the established doctrine of the church during its 'Dark Ages,' that
the holy church and its teachers, or the bishops with the Roman Pope
at their head, as the Vicar of Christ and His apostles on earth, had
transferred the Old Testament Sabbath with its glory and sanctity over
onto the first day of the week."–"Report of the Second
Ecclesiastical Meeting in Copenhagen, Sept. 13-15, 1887," P.
Taaning, pp. 40, 41. Copenhagen:1887.
Bishop A. Grimelund, of Norway,
"Now, summing up what
history teaches regarding the origin of Sunday and the development of
the doctrine about Sunday, then this is the sum. It is not the
apostles, not the early Christians, not the councils of the ancient
church which have imprinted the name and stamp of the Sabbath upon the
Sunday, but it is the Church of the Middle Ages and its scholastic
teachers."– "Sondagens Historie " (The History of
Sunday), p. 37. Christiania:1886. "What do we learn from this
historical review? . . . That it is a doctrine which originated in the
papal church that the sanctification of the Sunday is enjoined in the
3rd [4th] commandment, and that the essential and permanent in this
commandment is a command from God to keep holy one day in each
week."–ld., pp. 47, 48.
Constantine had been watching, he
said, those Caesars who had persecuted the Christians, and found that
they usually had a bad end, while his father, who was favorable toward
them, had prospered. So, when he and Licinius met at Milan in 313 A. D.,
they jointly prepared an edict, usually called "The Edict of Milano,"
which gave equal liberty to Christians and pagans
Had Constantine stopped here, he
might have been honored as the originator of religious liberty in the
Roman Empire, but he had different aims in view. The Roman Empire had
been ruled at times by two, four, or even six Caesars jointly, and in
his ambition to become the sole Emperor, Constantine, as a shrewd
statesman, soon saw that the Christian church had the vitality to become
the strongest factor in the empire. The other Caesars were persecuting
the Christians. If he could win them without losing the good will of the
pagans, he would win the game. He therefore set himself to the task of
blending the two religions into one. As H. G. Heggtveit (Lutheran) says:
"Constantine labored at this
time untiringly to unite the worshipers of the old and the new faith
in one religion. All his laws and contrivances are aimed at promoting
this amalgamation of religions. He would by all lawful and peaceable
means melt together a purified heathenism and a moderated Christianity
.... His injunction that the 'Day of the Sun' should be a general rest
day was characteristic of his standpoint .... Of all his blending and
melting together of Christianity and heathenism none is more easy to
see through than this making of his Sunday law. 'The Christians
worshiped their Christ, the heathen their sun-god; according to the
opinion of the Emperor, the objects for worship in both religions were
essentially the same.'"– "Kirkehistorie" (Church
History), pp. 233, 234. Chicago:1898.
Constantine's Sunday law of 321
A. D. reads as follows:
"On the venerable Day of the
Sun let the magistrates and people residing in cities rest, and let
all workshops be closed. In the country, however, persons engaged in
agriculture may freely and lawfully continue their pursuits; because
it often happen, that another day is not so suitable for grain-sowing
or for vine planting; lest by neglecting the proper moment for such
operations the bounty of heaven should be lost. (Given the 7th day of
March, Crispus and Constantine being consuls each of then for the
second time"–"Codex Justinianus, lib. 3, tit. 12, 3"
translated in "History of the Christian Church," Philip
Schaff D. D., (7–vol. ed.) Vol. III, p. 380. New York:1884.
Dr. A. Chr. Bang (Lutheran
bishop, Norway), says:
"This Sunday law constituted
no real favoritism toward Christianity .... It is evident from all his
statutory provisions that the Emperor during the time 313-323 with
full consciousness has sought the realization of his religious aim;
the amalgamation of heathenism and Christianity"–"Kirken
of Romerstaten" ("The Church and the Roman State"), p.
That Constantine by his Sunday
law intended only to en force the popular heathen festival is
acknowledged by Professo Hutton Webster, Ph.D. (University of Nebraska),
who says "This legislation by Constantine probably bore no relation
to Christianity; it appears, on the contrary, that the emperor in his
capacity as Pontifex Maximus, was only adding the day of the sun, the
worship of which was then firmly established in the Roman Empire, to the
other ferial days of the sacred calendar"–"Rest Days,"
p. 122. New York:1916.
A. H. Lewis, D. D., who spent
years of study and research on this subject, declares, that "the
pagan religion of Rome had many holidays, on which partial or complete
cessation of business and labor were demanded," and that
Constantine by his Sunday law was "merely adding one more festival
to the festi of the empire"–"A Critical History of Sunday
Legislation from 320 to 1888 A. D.," pp. 8, 12. New York:D.
Appleton and Co., 1888 This is clearly seen when we carefully examine
all the circumstances presented by Dr. Lewis:
1. Constantine's Sunday edict was
given March 7, 321. The very next day he issued an edict commanding
purely heathen superstition. We quote: "The August Emperor
Constantine to Maximus: "If any part of the palace or other public
works shall be struck by lightning, let the soothsayers, following old
usages, inquire into the meaning of the portent, and let their written
words, very carefully collected, be reported to our knowledge."
–Id., p. 19.
2. The Caesars for over a century
had been worshipers of the sun-god, whose weekly holiday was Sunday. Dr.
Lewis says: "The sun-worship cult had grown steadily in the Roman
Empire for along time."–Id., p. 20. He then quotes the following
from Schaff in regard to Elagabalus, a Roman Caesar of a century before
Constantine's time: "The abandoned youth, El-Gabal or Heliogabalus
(218-222), who polluted the throne by the blackest vices and follies,
tolerated all religions in the hope of at last merging them in his
favorite Syrian worship of the sun with its abominable excesses. He
himself was a priest of the god of the sun, and thence took his
name"–Id., pp. 20, 21.
Dean H. H. Milman says: "It
was openly asserted that the worship of the sun, under the name of
Elagabalus, was to supersede all other worship. If we may believe the
biographies in the Augustan history, a more ambitious scheme of a
universal religion had dawned upon the mind of the emperor. The Jewish,
the Samaritan, even the Christian, were to be fused and recast into one
great system, of which the Sun was to be the central object of
adoration"– "History of Christianity," Vol. II, Book 2,
chap. 8, par. 22, p. 178, 179. New York:1881.
Dr. Lewis further says that
Aurelian, who reigned from 270-276 A. D., embellished the temple of the
Sun with "above fifteen thousand pounds of
gold"–"History of Sunday Legislation,'' p. 23. Diocletian,
who reigned from 284 to 305, "appealed in the face of the army to
the all-seeing deity of the sun." –Id., p. "Such were the
influences which preceded Constantine and surrounded him when he came
into power. The following extract shows still plainer the character of
Constantine and his attitude toward the sun-worship cults, when the
first 'Sunday edict' was issued: "'But the devotion of Constantine
was more peculiarly directed to the genius of the Sun, the Apollo of
Greek and Roman mythology .... The sun was universally celebrated as the
invincible guide and protector of Constantine.'"–"Id., pp.
"These facts combine to show
that Sunday legislation was purely pagan in its origin."–Id.,
"In this law he only sought
to give additional honor to the 'venerable day' of his patron deity,
the sun-god."–Id., p. 32.
"His attitude toward
Christianity was that of a shrewd politician rather than a devout
adherent."–Id., p. 6.
Dr. Lewis quotes from Dr. Schaff
a very fitting conclusion to his remarks regarding Constantine:
"'And down to the end of his
life he retained the title and dignity of pontifex maximus, or
high-priest of the heathen hierarchy. His coins bore on the one side
the letters of the name of Christ, on the other the figure of the
sun-god, and the inscription 'Sol invictus"–Id., p. 10.
That the Christians at this time
were still keeping the Sabbath can be seen from the following statement
of Hugo Grotius, quoted by Robert Cox, F. S. A. Scot.:
"He refers to Eusebius for
proof that Constantine, besides issuing his wellknown edict that labor
should be suspended on Sunday, enacted that the people should not be
brought before the law courts on the seventh day of the week, which
also, he adds, was long observed by the primitive Christians as a day
for religious meetings .... And this, says he, 'refutes those who
think that the Lord's day was substituted for the Sabbath–a thing
nowhere mentioned either by Christ or His apostles.'" –"
Opera Omnia Theologica," Hugo Grotius (died 1645), (London:1679);
quoted in "Literature of the Sabbath Question," Cox, Vol. I,
p. 223. Edinburgh:Maclachlan and Stewart, 1865.
Pope Sylvester co-operated with
Constantine to bring paganism into the Christian church (especially
Sunday-keeping). This caused the true Christians to have repugnance for
him. The Waldenses believed he was the Antichrist. Dr. Peter Allix
quotes the following from a prominent Roman Catholic author regarding
"'They say that the blessed
Pope Sylvester was the Antichrist, of whom mention is made in the
Epistles of St. Paul, as being the son of perdition, who extols
himself above every thing that is called God; for, from that time,
they say, the Church perished .... "He lays it down also as one
of their opinions, 'That the Law of Moses is to be kept according to
the letter, and that the keeping of the Sabbath . . . and other legal
observances, ought to take place.'"–"Ecclesiastical
History of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont," p. 169.
Oxford:182I. Page 154 in the edition of 1690.
Having obtained a glimpse of the
opposition of God's people to this falling away, let us now return to
our subject, to get a view of the novel means Constantine employed to
make converts in accordance with his amalgamation scheme.
Edward Gibbon says: "The
hopes of wealth and honors, the example of an emperor, his exhortations,
his irresistible smiles, diffused conviction among the venal and
obsequious crowds which usually fill the apartments of a palace .... As
the lower ranks of society are governed by imitation, the conversion of
those who possessed any eminence of birth, of power, or of riches, was
soon followed by dependent multitudes. The salvation of the common
people was purchased at an easy rate, if it be true that, in one year,
twelve thousand men were baptized at Rome . . . and that a white
garment, with twenty pieces of gold, had been promised by the emperor to
every convert"– "Decline and Fall," chap. 20, par. 18.
Constantine gave the following
instruction to the bishops at the Council of Nicsea, which shows his
"'In all ways unbelievers
must be saved. It was not every one who would be converted by learning
and reasoning. Some join us from desire of maintenance; some for
preferment; some for presents, nothing is so rare as a real lover of
truth. We must be like physicians, and accommodate our medicines to
the diseases, our teaching to the different minds of all.'"–
"Lectures on the History of the Eastern Church," Arthur
Penrhyn Stanley, D. D., Lecture 5, p. 27I. New York:1875.
The bishops were only too willing
to follow the emperor's instruction, and the result was disastrous to
the church. J.A. W. Neander in the following paragraph gives us some of
the results of this policy:
"Such were those who,
without any real interest whatever in the concerns of religion, living
half in Paganism and half in an outward show of Christianity, composed
the crowds that thronged the churches on the festivals of the
Christians, and the theaters on the festivals of the pagans"–
"History of the Christian Religion and Church," Vol. II,
Sec. 3, Part 1, Div. I, par. I, p. 223. Boston:1855.
No wonder Rev. H. H. Milman
"Is this Paganism
approximating to Christianity, or Christianity degenerating into
Paganism?" –"History of Christianity,'' pp. 341,342. He
answers this question later by saying: "With a large portion of
mankind, it must be admitted that the religion itself was Paganism
under another form"– Id., p. 412.
Eusebius, bishop of Csesarea, and
an admirer of Constantine, co-operated with him in bringing "the
venerable day of the sun" into the Christian church. Speaking of
Pope Sylvester, Constantine, and himself, he says: "All things
whatsoever that it was duty to do on the Sabbath these we have
transferred to the Lord's day, as more appropriately belonging to it,
because it has a precedence and is first in rank, and more honorable
than the Jewish Sabbath. For on that day, in making the world, God
said," Let there be light, and there was
light.'"–"Commentary on the Psalms"; quoted in
"Literature on the Sabbath Question," Robert Cox, Vol. I, p.
Eusebius evidently used the
strongest argument he knew as proof for Sunday-keeping; but advocates of
this new holiday had probably not yet conceived the idea that Christ's
resurrection would be an argument in favor of Sunday-keeping, so he used
Old And New Church Members
The church at this time consisted
of two widely different kinds of church members: 1. The old class, with
their devoted leaders, had accepted Christianity in the primitive way,
by genuine conversion and separation from the world, suffering for
Christ and His unpopular truth. This class lived mostly in the country
and in out-of-the-way places. 2. The new converts lived mainly in the
large cities, and had come in through a mass movement, following the
crowd in what was most popular, attracted by the hopes of temporal gain
or honor, or they had been forced in by the secular arm. These were
devoid of any personal Christian experience, but constituting the
majority, they elected bishops of their own kind.
The elections of bishops were
attended with secret corruption and bloody violence, which was only too
natural for that kind of "Christians." Edward Gibbon says of
"While one of the candidates
boasted the honors of his family, a second allured his judges by the
delicacies of a plentiful table, and a third, more guilty than his
rivals, offered to share the plunder of the church among the
accomplices of his sacrilegious hopes."–"Decline and
Fall," chap. XX, par. 22.
Rev. II. H. Milman says:
"Even within the Church
itself, the distribution of the superior dignities became an object of
fatal ambition and strife. The streets of Alexandria and of
Constantinople were deluged with blood by the partisans of rival
bishops"–"History of Christianity," Book 3, chap. 5,
par. 2, p. 410. New, York:1881.
Schaff declares that "many
are elected on account of their badness, to prevent the mischief they
would otherwise do"–"History of the Christian Church,"
Vol. III, Sec. 49, par. 2, note 5, p. 240. Even the sanctity of the
church was not respected by the fighting parties. Milman, speaking of
the installation of a bishop at Constantinople, says:
"In the morning, Philip [the
prefect of the East] appeared in his car, with Macedonius by his side
in the pontifical attire; he drove directly to the church, but the
soldiers were obliged to hew their way through the dense and resisting
crowd to the altar. Macedonius passed over the murdered bodies (three
thousand are said to have fallen) to the throne of Christian
prelate."–"History of Christianity," Vol. XI, p. 426.
New York:1870. Socrates ("Ecclesiastical History," Bk. II,
chap. 17, p. 96) gives the number slain as 3150.
Can we wonder at the lack of
spiritual insight and sound judgment of such bishops when they met at
their councils to formulate the creed of Christendom? They decreed in
favor of image worship, purgatory, prayers for the dead, veneration of
relics, and many other heathen customs, persecuting all who would not
fall in line with their mongrel customs. At the Council of Laodicea, A.
D.) 364, they anathematized Sabbath-keepers in the following way:
"Christians must not judaize
by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day, rather honoring
the Lord's Day; and, if they can, resting then as Christians. But if
any shall be found to be judaizers, let them be Anathema from
Christ"–Canon XXIX, "Index Canonum," John Fulton, D.
D., LL.D., p. 259.
That the Christians were then
keeping the Sabbath we see from Canon XVI of the same council, in which
"The Gospels are to be read
on the Sabbath Day, with the other Scriptures"– Id., p. 255.
Dr. Heylyn also declares that the
Christians were keeping the Sabbath at that time:
"Nor was this onely the
particular will of those two and thirty Prelates, there assembled; it
was the practice generally of the Eastern Churches; and of some
churches of the west .... For in the Church of Millaine [Milan]; . . .
it seemes the Saturday was held in a farre esteeme .... Not that the
Eastern Churches, or any of the rest which observed that day, were
inclined to Iudaisme [Judaism]; but that they came together on the
Sabbath day, to worship Iesus [Jesus] Christ the Lord of the
Sabbath."–"History of the Sabbath" (original spelling
retained), Part 2, par. 5, pp. 73, 74. London:1636.
The true Christians paid very
little attention to the anathema of the bishops, for they continued to
keep the true Sabbath, as the following quotations show:
"From the apostles' time
until the council of Laodicea, which was about the year 364, the holy
observation of the Jews' Sabbath continued, as may be proved out of
many authors; yea, notwithstanding the decree of the council against
it"–"Sunday a Sabbath," John Ley, p. 163.
London:1640. That the Sabbath was kept, "notwithstanding the
decree of the council against it," is also seen from the fact
that Pope Gregory I (A. D. 590-604) wrote against "Roman citizens
[who] forbid any work being done on the Sabbath
day"–"Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers," Second Series,
Vol. XIII, p. 13, epist. 1.
As late as 791 A. D. Christians
kept the Sabbath in Italy. Canon 13 of the council at Friaul states:
"Further, when speaking of
that Sabbath which the Jews observe, the last day of the week, and
which also our peasants observe, He said only Sabbath, and never added
unto it,' delight,' or 'my.'"–Mansi, 13, 851; Quoted in
"History of the Sabbath," J. N. Andrews, p. 539. 1912.
Bishop Hefele summarizes the
canon in the following words:
"The celebration of Sunday
begins with Saturday evening. It is enjoined to keep Sunday and other
church festivals. The peasants kept Saturday in many
cases"–"Conciliengesch.," 3, 720, sec. 404; Quoted in
"History of the Sabbath," Andrews, pp. 539, 540. 1912.