WE SHALL now briefly trace the
apostolic Christian Sabbath-keepers from Antioch in Syria to their
farthest mission stations in old China. Thomas Yeates in his
"Indian Church History" (London:1818), has collected from
several sources statements that all agree on the points he presents,
that the apostle Thomas traveled through Persia into India, where he
raised up many churches.
"From thence he went to
China, and preached the gospel in the city of Cambala, [which is]
supposed to be the same with Pekin, and there he built a
church."–"Indian Church History," p. 73.
"In the year 1625, there was
found in a totem near Si-ngan-fu, the metropolis of the province of
Shin-si, a stone having the figure of a cross, and inscriptions in two
languages,... Chinese and Syriac · . . as follows: 'This Stone was
erected to the honor and eternal memory of the law of light and truth
brought from Ta- Cin, and promulgated in China.' [The inscription
consists of 736 words, giving] a summary of the fundamental articles
of the Christian faith"–Id., pp. 86-88.
That the missionaries who brought
the gospel to China were Sabbathkeepers can be seen by the following
extract from the inscription:
"On the seventh day we
offer sacrifice, after having purified our hearts, and received
absolution for our sins. This religion, so perfect and so excellent,
is difficult to name, but it enlightens darkness by its brilliant
precepts"– "Christianity in China," M. l'Abbe Huc,
Vol. I, chap. 2, pp. 48, 49, seq. New York:1873.
Returning to India we shall find
traces of the Sabbath among those churches also. And they had retained
the Bible in the ancient language used by the church at Antioch, where
the name "Christians" originated. (Acts 11:26.)
"It was in these sequestered
regions that copies of the Syriac Scriptures found a safe asylum from
the search and destruction of the Romish inquisitors, and were found
with all the marks of ancient purity"–"Indian Church
History," T. Yeates, p. 167.
"Whatever may be the future
use and importance of those manuscripts, one thing is certain, and
that is, they establish the fact that the Syrian Christians of India
have the pure unadulterated Scriptures in the language of the ancient
church of Antioch, derived from the very times of the
Apostles"–Id., p. 169.
Thomas Yeates shows that they
"Saturday, which amongst
them is a festival day, agreeable to the ancient practice of the
church"–Id., pp. 133, 134.
The Armenians of India and Persia
had evidently received their faith from the same source as the other
Christians of India. Rev. Claudius Buchanan, D. D., says of them:
"The Armenians in Hindostan
are our own subjects .... They have preserved the Bible in its purity;
and their doctrines are, as far as the Author knows, the doctrines of
the Bible. Besides, they maintain the solemn observance of Christian
worship, throughout our Empire, on the seventh day; and they have as
many spires pointing to heaven among the Hindoos, as we
ourselves"–"Christian Researches in Asia," p. 143.
The Jacobites, another branch of
the original Christians of India, can add one more link to this
evidence. Samuel Purchas, the noted geographer and compiler, said of
"They keep Saturday holy,
nor esteem the Saturday fast lawful, but on Easter even. They have
solemn service on Saturdays, eat flesh, and feast it bravely, like the
Jews"–"Pilgrimmes," Part 2, Book 8, chap. 6, p. 1269.
London:1625. (We must remember that the papal church demanded all to
fast on the Sabbath, but these Christians refused to obey her.)
J. W. Massie says of these Indian
"Remote from the busy haunts
of commerce, or the populous seats of manufacturing industry, they may
be regarded as the Eastern Piedmontese, the Vaudois of Hindustan, the
witnesses prophesying in sackcloth through revolving centuries, though
indeed their bodies lay as dead in the streets of the city which they
had once peopled."–"Continental India," Vol. 2, p.
Mr. Massie further says of these
Separated from the Western world
for a thousand years, they were naturally ignorant of many novelties
introduced by the councils and decrees of the Lateran; and their
conformity with the faith and practice of the first ages laid them
open to the unpardonable guilt of heresy and schism, as
estimated by the church of Rome. 'We
are Christians, and not idolaters,' was their expressive reply when
required to do homage to the image of the Virgin Mary .... LaCroze
states them at fifteen hundred churches and as many towns and
villages. They refused to recognize the pope, and declared they had
never heard of him; they asserted the purity and primitive truth of
their faith since they came, and their bishops had for thirteen
hundred years been sent, from the place where the followers of Jesus
were first called Christians."–Id., Vol. II, pp. 116, 117.
When the Portuguese (Roman
Catholics) came to Malabar, India, in 1503,
"they were agreeably
surprised to find upwards of a hundred Christian churches on the coast
of Malabar. But when they became acquainted with the purity and
simplicity of their worship, they were offended. 'These churches,'
said the Portuguese, 'belong to the Pope.' 'Who is the Pope?' said the
natives, 'we never heard of him.' The European priests were yet more
alarmed, when they found that these Hindoo Christians maintained the
order and discipline of a regular church under Episcopal jurisdiction
and that, for 1300 years past, they had enjoyed a succession of
Bishops appointed by the Patriarch of Antioch. 'We,' said they, are of
the true faith, whatever you from the West may be; for we came from
the place where the followers of Christ were first called Christians.'
"–"Christian Researches in Asia," Claudius Buchanan,
D. D., p. 60. Philadelphia:1813.
"These Christians met the
Portuguese as natural friends and allies, and rejoiced at their
coming:–but the Portuguese were much disappointed at finding the St.
Thome Christians firmly fixed in the tenets of a primitive church; and
soon adopted plans for drawing away from their pure faith this
innocent, ingenuous, and respectable people"–"Indian
Church History," Thomas Yeates, p. 163. London:1818.
When the Jesuit, Francis Xavier,
and his colaborers, were sent to India, they displayed the true spirit
"The Inquisition was set up
at Goa, in the Indies, at the instance of Francis Xaverius, who
signified by letter to Pope [King] John III, Nov. 10, 1545, 'that the
Jewish wickedness spread every day more and more in the parts of the
East Indies, subject to the kingdom of Portugal, and therefore he
earnestly besought the said king, that to cure so great an evil, he
would take care to send the office of the Inquisition into those
countries. [Accordingly the Inquisition was erected there.] The first
Inquisitor was Alexius Diaz Falcano, sent by Cardinal Henry, March 15,
A. D. 1560. The language of F. Xavier, used on this occasion, is truly
suspicious, and that under the mask of correcting 'the Jewish
wickedness,' is rather to be construed an avowed design against the
liberties, the independence, and the firmness of the native Christians
of Malabar, who refused to acknowledge the Pope's supremacy, and with
a true Protestant zeal bravely resisted the Catholic
tyranny."–Id., pp. 139, 140.
"The Jewish wickedness"
of which Xavier complained was evidently the Sabbath-keeping among those
native Christians, as we shall see in our next quotation. When one of
these Sabbath-keeping Christians was taken by the Inquisition, he was
" of having Judaized; which
means, having conformed to the ceremonies of the Mosaic law; such as
not eating pork, hare, fish without scales, &c., of having
attended the solemnization of the Sabbath"–"Account of the
Inquisition at Goa," Dellon, p. 56. London:1815.
"The Inquisitors, by
degrees, begin to urge him in this way–'If thou hast observed the
law of Moses, and assembled on the Sabbath day as thou sayest, and thy
accusers have seen thee there, as appears to have been the case; to
convince us of the sincerity of thy repentance, tell us who are thine
accusers, and those who have been with thee at these
assemblies.'" Dellon then suggests that in the mind of the
Inquisitors "the witnesses of the Sabbath are considered as
accomplices." –Id., p. 58.
Some have thought that these
Sabbath-keepers were relapsed Jews, but Dellon declares:
"Of an hundred persons
condemned to be burnt as Jews, there are scarcely four who profess
that faith at their death; the rest exclaiming and protesting to their
last gasp that they are Christians, and have been so during their
whole lives."–Id., p. 64.
"The prisoner, who was
entirely innocent, would be given over to the civil arm to be burned,
unless he confessed the very crimes of which he was accused, and
signed his confession, and also named six or seven of his accusers.
But, not being told who they were, he might have to name many before
striking the right ones, and, as his accusers were supposed to have
been eyewitnesses to his Sabbath-keeping, they might be
Sabbath-keepers, who, like himself, were in the clutches of the
Inquisition. His only hope, therefore, was to name some of his
brethren, who would then be taken by the inquisitors, and forced to
repeat the same experience to free themselves. Thus the prison would
be filled with people who were tortured for guilt of which they were
innocent, or to remain in solitary confinement and terrible suspence
and agony of mind until the Auto da Fe, or public burning, which took
place every two or three years"–Id., pp. 53-60, 67.
And whether they were released or
executed, their property was confiscated to the Inquisition.
Dr. C. Buchanan says:
"When the power of the
Portuguese became sufficient for their purpose, they invaded these
tranquil Churches, seized some of the Clergy, and devoted them to the
death of heretics .... They seized the Syrian Bishop Mar Joseph, and
sent him prisoner to Lisbon and then convened a Synod at one of the
Syrian Churches called Diamper, rear Cochin, at which the Romish
Archbishop Menezes presided. At this compulsory Synod 150 of the
Syrian Clergy appeared. They were accused of the following practices
and opinions' 'That they had married wives; that they owned but two
Sacraments, Baptism and the Lord's Supper; that they neither invoked
Saints, nor worshipped Images, nor believed in Purgatory; and that
they had no other orders of names of dignity in the church, than
Bishop, Priest, and Deacon.' These tenets they were called on to
abjure, or to suffer suspension from all Church benefices. It was also
decreed that all Syrian books on ecclesiastical subjects that could be
found, should be burned; 'in order,' said the Inquisitors, 'that no
pretended apostolical monuments may remain.'"– "Christian
Researches in Asia," p. 60.
The papacy had adopted the policy
that all remains of the pure, apostolic church, whether persons or
books, should be carefully eradicated, so that no trace of them might
betray the sad fact that the Roman church had fallen away from the
apostolic purity. And she has also tried to destroy all accounts of her
persecution during the Dark Ages, so that her tracks would be covered