« FöregåendeFortsätt »
relieved also the real Christian from the dread of Pagan persecution; and allowed him for a time at least, to enjoy in peace the comforts of the gospel, the belief in which ceased from this time to be the watchword for cruelty and massacre.
The distinction between the nominal and the real Christian, just noticed, was too important to be disregarded in the prophetic history; where it accordingly has been marked with peculiar emphasis, by the former being designated as the followers of Antichrist, while the latter are distinguished as the true servants of God, having his mark on their foreheads' they are moreover figuratively represented as already enjoying the peace and felicity which belong to the blessed in another life; while the followers of Antichrist, or the nominal Christian, is pictured as suffering already the peturbation and dismay, that await the wicked at the last day,
A. D. 400 to 500.-It was not long, as already intimated, that the true Christian was allowed to. enjoy in tranquillity the comforts of his religion; for only a short period elapsed, before Pagan was succeeded by Antichristian or Sectarian persecution. The disturbances that broke out in the fourth century, from the contention of the worldly-minded, for power and promotion, were soon followed
by others, equally fatal to the peace of Christendom, and if possible still more injurious to the cause of true religion.
The subject of these was for the most part some metaphysical dispute about the nature of the Godhead, as in the Arian and Trinitarian controversy; which began in the fourth century, and in a short time gave rise to others, upon subjects equally beyond the reach of human research. The impossibility of producing uniformity of opinion on such questions, by persuasion or argument, necessarily became apparent in the different councils convened for this purpose; and resort was consequently had to those means, which have never since wholly ceased to be employed, namely, compulsion and persecution.
Besides the Arian and Trinitarian, we find in the fifth century, the Nestorian, Eutychian, and Pelagian controversies; with others of minor importance, which involved Christendom in strife and bloodshed. The mania for metaphysical disputation concerning the nature of the Deity, for two centuries infected the whole Christian world; and this infatuation, which spread like a pestilence, was at last suppressed, rather than extinguished.
The real cause that kept alive these deplorable divisions, is stated by some of the most eminent writers of this period, to have been the same as that which occasioned the Donatist faction; namely, the rivalship and jealousy of those prelates, who found their interest in fomenting this spirit of discord.
With these lamentable dissentions, which form a prominent feature in the history of the fourth century, is that of the fifth almost wholly engrossed.
A. D. 500 to 612.-If the Antichristian spirit thus manifestly betrayed itself, although cloaked under the garb of Christianity, it was not slow to display still more unequivocal marks of its Pagan origin. This appeared between the fifth and sixth century, by the revival of idolatry, in the worship of saints and images.
In the fifth century the Virgin Mary had obtained the title of Mother of God, and this was followed in the sixth by the establishment of the festivals of the Purification of the blessed Virgin, the Immaculate Conception, and others, intended to console the Heathen converts, for the loss of their Lupercalia, or feasts of Pan.'
To the corruptions now stated, besides those before mentioned in the preceding century, which continued in full force, was added yet one which struck more decidedly at the root of Christianity than all the rest. This was the iniquitous practice of falsifying scripture; thus darkening, as it were, the very source of light. From the earliest periods, ignorance and credulity had led to the admission of doubtful or fictitious writings into the Christian
canon; and some even with the best intentions, were tempted to use the pious fraud, of publishing their own inventions, for writings of divine origin and authority; injudiciously thinking thereby to serve the cause of religion. But it was reserved for the period now under consideration, to establish the custom of systematically falsifying scripture for the worst of purposes, to answer selfish and worldly ends. In order to obtain the victory over an adversary in the religious controversies which were carried on at this time, and were for the most part decided in councils expressly convened, it became a prevailing practice to falsify texts in scripture, or to invent others to suit the purpose of the disputants. The extent to which this fraud was practised, may be conceived from the statement of Mosheim, that in the fifth century- the whole Christian church was overwhelmed with these spurious productions, these infamous impositions.'
The detection of these impostures, it must be remembered, was more difficult at that time, when there were only manuscript copies of scripture to refer to; these being comparatively few in number, carefully preserved by particular churches, and not in the hands of the people, as they have been since the art of printing was discovered. The clergy were the only depositaries of this sacred trust, and through them alone was the light of the gospel dispensed to their flock. How unworthy they were of this trust, at a time when they no longer desired to enlighten the minds of the people, but found their
interest in precluding from them the knowledge of truth, appears from the following statement. In the sixth century, the public teachers seemed to aim at nothing else than to sink the multitude into the most opprobrious ignorance and superstition, to efface from their minds all sense of the beauty and excellence of genuine piety, and to substitute in the place of religious principles, a blind veneration for the clergy, and a stupid zeal for a senseless round of ridiculous rites and ceremonies.'
A. D. 612 to 762.-We have now reached an eventful period in the history of our religion, marked by two momentous occurrences, one, the establishment of the Papal hierachy, and the other, the rise of Mahommedism. As these form the most prominent features in the picture of Antichristian domination, so they are distinguished in the prophetic history, by descriptions more minute and circumstantial than any others that occur. The latter, or the rise of Mahommedism, first claims our attention.
Six centuries had scarcely elapsed since the birth of the Messiah, and the first half of that period had already sufficed for the utter extinction of the true spirit of his religion; while the remaining half