Fifth Century - This century was the twilight of the Dark Ages and the dawn of the Papacy, a period of political and ecclesiastical chaos, marked by the increasing corruption of the people and the nominal “church,” the invasion of the Eastern and Western Roman Empires by the barbarians of Northern Europe and Northwestern Asia, the overthrow of the Western Roman Empire, the pretended adoption of Christianity by the barbarians, the universal introduction, among the Catholics, of infant baptism, a salaried ministry, the multiplication of so-called “pious” frauds and superstitions, the increase of image worship, saint worship, relic worship, Mariolatry, asceticism, monasticism, sacramentalism, hierarchism, traditionalism, formalism, hypocrisy, avarice, prodigality, intemperance, theatre-going, celibacy, licentiousness, clerical wealth and luxury, fine “church” buildings, rich festivals, and pompous processions, and theatrical pulpit eloquence, the Augustinian, Pelagian and Semi-Pelagian controversies on the doctrines of sin and grace, the Nestorian and Eutychian heresies concerning the nature of Christ, and the persecution of the Novatians and Donatists, the true people of God.
“If a man were called,” says Robertson, “to fix upon the period in the history of the world, during which the condition of the human race was most calamitous and afflicted, he would, without hesitation, name that which elapsed from the death of Theodosius the Great (A. D. 395) to the establishment of the Lombards in Italy (A. D. 571). The scourge of God, the destroyer of nations, are the dreadful epithets by which the contemporary authors distinguish the most noted of the barbarous leaders; and they compare the ruin which they had brought on the world to the havoc occasioned by earthquakes, conflagrations, or deluges -the most formidable and fatal calamities which the imagination of man can conceive.” “In the course of the fifth century the Visigoths took possession of Spain; the Franks, of Gaul; the Saxons, of England; the Huns, of Pannonia; the Ostrogoths, of Italy and the adjacent provinces. The conquerors submitted to the religion of the conquered, which at this period, indeed, in its established form, approximated closely to the superstition and idolatry of the ancient heathen.” In 402 Honorius, the Western Roman Emperor, fleeing from the Goths, transferred the seat of his government from Rome to the strong fortifications and marshes of Ravenna. In 410 Alaric the Goth sacked Rome. In 452 Attila the Hun, after having ravaged, for several years, the Eastern Roman Empire, invaded Italy, but died the following year. In 455 Genseric the Vandal sacked Rome. In 476 Odoacer, chief of the Heruli, overthrew the Western Roman Empire, banished Romulus Augustulus, the last Western Roman Emperor, and made himself king of Italy. In 493 Theodoric, king of the Ostrogoths, conquered Italy, and reigned over that country till 525.
In answer to the charge that Christianity occasioned all the misfortunes of the times, Salvian, a presbyter of Gaul, “lays the blame, not upon the heathens, but upon the ‘Christianity’ of the day,” says Prof. Schaff, “and draws an extremely unfavorable picture of the moral condition of the (so-called) Christians, especially in Gaul, Spain, Italy and Africa. ‘The church,’ says this Jeremiah of his time, ‘which ought everywhere to propitiate God, what does she but provoke Him to anger? How many may one meet, even in the church, who are not still drunkards, or debauchees, or adulterers, or fornicators, or robbers, or murderers, or the like, or all these at once, without end? It is even a sort of holiness among Christian people to be less vicious.’ From the public worship of God, he continues, and almost during it, they pass to deeds of shame. We are worse, says he, than the barbarians and heathens. If the Saxon is wild, the Frank faithless, the Goth inhuman, the Alanian drunken, the Hun licentious, they are by reason of their ignorance far less punishable than we, who, knowing the commandments of God, commit all these crimes. He compares the (nominal) Christians especially of Rome with the Arian Goths and Vandals, to the disparagement of the Romans, who add to the gross sins of nature the refined vices of civilization, passion for theatres, debauchery and unnatural lewdness. Therefore has the just God given them into the hands of the barbarians and exposed them to the ravages of the migrating hordes. This horrible picture of the Christendom of the fifth century,” adds Prof. Schaff, “though in many respects exaggerated, is, in general, not untrue.” The most of the barbarian invaders of the Roman Empire belonged to the Teutonic nations, who always paid the highest respect to their females, and consequently had high notions of personal purity; while the great mass of the Romans, the official as well as the private members of the Catholic “Church,” were immersed in voluptuousness and sensuality—insomuch that it is said that the barbarians blushed to hear of their almost incredible vices. Some of “the Christian teachers,” says Milman, “endeavored to shame their Latin brethren by the severity of Teutonic morals, and to rouse them from their dissolute excesses by taunting them with their degrading inferiority to barbarians, heathens and heretics.”
No wonder that such a people as this, being utterly dead in sin, having no particle of inward, genuine religion, should multiply outward religious forms and ceremonies and superstitions and idolatries; for man is, as has been said, a religious animal, and must have some object to worship. In the same manner the intellectual, cultured and depraved Athenians were so very religious that they are said to have worshiped thirty thousand gods; and then, lest they might have omitted some deity, erected several altars to the “Unknown God,” whom they ignorantly worshiped, and whom the Apostle Paul declared unto them (Acts 17:23-31). The Catholic monks of the fifth century, substituting an arbitrary, eccentric, mechanical and pretentious self-righteousness for the simple, Divine way of salvation, by living faith in Christ, practiced severe austerities, pretending to say 100, or 300, or 700, or even 1,200 prayers in a day; but they never equalled the ancient and modern Hindoo devotees, who not only used a prayer-wheel to pray rapidly and constantly with, but who practiced the most dreadful self-tortures “for the supposed benefit of their souls and the gratification of their vanity in the presence of admiring spectators.” But “the monasticism of India, which for three thousand years has pushed the practice of mortification to all the excesses of delirium, never saved a single soul, nor produced a single benefit to the race.” The culmination of Catholic anchoretic asceticism was in the performances, in the Eastern Roman Empire, from the fifth to the twelfth centuries, of the Stylites or so-called Pillar Saints, who are said to have spent thirty, forty, and one even sixty-eight years, “day and night, summer and winter, rain and sunshine, frost and heat, standing, in prayer and penances, on the top of unsheltered pillars from ten to sixty feet high,” preaching also frequently to their disciples, who carried them up food on a ladder, and who revered and almost worshiped them for their “holiness.” “In the beginning of the fifth century the worship of departed saints appeared in full bloom, and then the Virgin Mary was soon placed at the head as the Mother of God and the Queen of the heavenly host,” and as having prevailing influence and power even over the Most High. Also the elements of the communion, and the pretended images and relics of the so-called saints, were worshiped.
Among the fine products of Catholic Monasticism and Alexandrian Platonic Philosophy were Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, against which unscriptural errors Augustine was, in the fifth century, the chief champion of the truth, and he is still regarded by many as the ablest advocate of the doctrine of grace since the days of the Apostles.[i][ii] His “Confessions” still extant, and written in his forty-sixth year, show that he had a deep Christian experience, a most remarkable Divine change from extraordinary sinfulness to extraordinary devotion, a translation from nature to grace, realized while in a passion of tears praying for deliverance from the bondage of his sins and opening the Bible at the passage, “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof” (Rom. 13:13, 14). In his Retractations, written in his seventy-first year, he acknowledges his fallibility, and conscientiously seeks to withdraw every known error from his writings. Pelagius, a British monk and legal moralist, and Coelestius, a Scotch or Irish lawyer, residing at Rome, converted by Pelagius to monasticism (neither of them having, it would seem, any Christian experience), were the founders of Pelagianism. John Cassian, a Greek monk, either by birth or education, or both, a pupil of John Chrysostom (a convert to the Alexandrian Platonic anthropology), and a founder of convents for men and women at Massilia (or Marseilles) in Gaul, a Greek colony, was the founder of Semi-Pelagianism, or Cassianism, or Massilianism. Both Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism are superficial, rationalistic, unchristian forms of self-righteousness, and they shade almost imperceptibly into each other; indeed, in their final analysis, they are really one. Pelagianism has been called human monergism—a system of salvation according to which man is represented as saving himself; Semi-Pelagianism has been called synergism—a, system of salvation according to which Divine grace and human free-will equally co-operate to effect man’s salvation; and Augustinianism has been called Divine monergism—a system of salvation according to which God alone is represented as saving the sinner. Pelagianism regards man as well and sound and strong, and able to do all that he needs for himself; Semi-Pelagianism regards man as sick, but conscious and able to desire the help of a physician, and either accept or refuse such help when offered, and that, unless he co-operate with Divine grace, he will be lost; Augustinianism regards man as dead in sin, and absolutely needing God to quicken and save him. Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism are one, in referring the actual cause of salvation to man; Augustinianism, on the contrary, refers the actual cause of salvation to God. Pelagianism declares that Adam’s fall hurt himself alone, and not his posterity; that all men are born in a sinless condition, and can keep the law of God and thus insure their own salvation; and thus that there is no need either of the atonement of Christ or the regeneration of the Holy Spirit. As will be plainly seen, Pelagianism is paganism, being an utter denial of the Scriptures from beginning to end; although Pelagius and Coelestius invented ingenious and plausible arguments to prove that their positions were scriptural, and that there was really no difference between them and their opponents. Semi-Pelagianism declares that men, though born in sin, are not born entirely sinful, but have some good still remaining in them, and that this good must form a joint partnership with God in order to insure the sinner’s salvation; that sometimes grace anticipates the human will, and draws it, though not irresistibly, to God; but that usually the human will must take the initiative, and determine itself to conversion; that in no instance can Divine grace operate independently of the free self-determination of man; that, as the husbandman must do his part,[iii][iv] but all avails nothing without the Divine blessing, so man must do his part, yet this profits nothing without Divine grace, neither does Divine grace profit anything without the work of man. Semi-Pelagianism thus, in the same manner, if not to the same extent, as Pelagianism, depreciates the grace of God, the atonement of Christ, and the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, exalts the ability, pride and work of man not only to a level with, but, virtually, to a superiority over the work of God in salvation, since God does or offers to do the same for all men, and man himself does that which actually makes him to differ from the lost, and actually carries him to Heaven. Thus Semi-Pelagianism strongly tends to Pelagianism, and ultimately and logically identifies itself with it, making man his own Savior. John Cassian, the author of this system, defends, in his Seventeenth “Conference of the Fathers,” occasional falsehood; and, in his Twentieth “Conference,” tries to show that there are “several ways of obtaining remission of sins besides through the death and intercession of Christ.” Arminianism differs from Semi-Pelagianism chiefly in declaring that all men are born entirely corrupt, and must have Divine grace operate upon them before they can think or will any good thing; but it also affirms that Divine grace operates upon all men, and that each man’s salvation actually depends upon the use which his own free-will makes of that grace; so that Arminianism, like Pelagianism and Semi-Pelagianism, represents God as making salvation possible to all men but sure to none, and represents man as at last doing that which really saves him—makes man his own Savior. The great majority of the professedly Christian world are Arminians.
The question of the precise extent of man’s corruption and the exact relation of man to God in salvation does not seem, so far as the records have been handed down to us, to have profoundly occupied the attention of the people of God after the days of the Apostles until the fifth century. And Augustine, Bishop of the church at Hippo Regius in North Africa, seems to have had a clearer idea of that extent and relation than any other person in the early post-apostolic centuries. Led, not by Greek philosophy and monkish moralization, but by a deep personal experience of his own utter sinfulness and of the almightiness of Divine grace -the Holy Spirit within him teaching him the same lesson as taught by that Spirit in the Scriptures, and even in creation and providence -Augustine affirmed that God is an omnipotent sovereign, and all men are entirely dependent upon Him; that all the human race were in the loins of Adam and fell in him, and are therefore born totally depraved; that Divine grace is absolutely unmerited, indispensable and irresistible in the salvation of the sinner; that, from its eternal design to its eternal accomplishment, grace does all the work of salvation, even working in the sinner all his good will and all his good works, so that he shall go at last into the Divine presence as a poor, helpless beggar, a poor, lost sinner, saved by grace alone from first to last, and shall be thus prepared to give God all the glory of his salvation. In this manner all the proud, poisonous Pharisaism in the believer’s heart is exterminated; he is made a truly and deeply humble child of God, conformed to the image of the meek and lowly Lamb of God; and he is doubly comforted, and enabled to put implicit trust not in man, not in himself, but in God, by not only “looking forward into eternal life, but also backward into the ante-mundane eternity, and finding in the eternal purpose of Divine love the beginning and the firm anchorage of his salvation” (2 Sam. 23:5; Isa. 54:10, 55:3; Jer. 31:3, 31-37; Rom. 8:29-39; Eph. 1, Eph. 2, Eph. 3; Phil. 1:6, 29; Phil. 2:12, 13; 2 Thess. 2:13, 14; 2 Tim. 1:8-10; 1 Peter 1:1-5; Heb. 6:13-20; Rev. 1:5, 6, 5:9, 10). Augustine maintained that God’s election and predestination of the sinner to eternal life were altogether of free and unmerited grace, and not at all conditioned on the sinner’s repentance, faith and good works; for these are declared in the Scriptures to be the fruit of God’s Spirit in the heart (Ps. 107:1-31; Isa. 45:24, 25; Isa. 64:6, 61:10; Jer. 31:1-9, 23:6; Zech. 12:10; Matt. 1:21; Acts 5:31, 11:18, 16:14, 13:48; Rom. 3:24, 4:5, 16, 5:19-21, 8:29-39, 9:16, 11:5-7; 1 Cor. 1:30, 31, 12:7-11; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; Gal. 5:22, 23; Eph. 1:3, 4, 19, 2:1-10; Phil. 1:6, 29, 2:12, 13; 2 Tim. 1:9, 10; Titus 3:5-7; Heb. 8:9-12, 12:2, 13:8; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1:1-5; 2 Peter 1:3; 1 John 4:19, 5:1; John 1:12, 13, 3:1-8, 5:25, 6:63, 8:36, 10:26-30, 16:7-14, John 17). Although all Semi-Pelagians and Arminians say that salvation is conditioned on the repentance and faith of the sinner, the Scriptures just quoted so plainly and unmistakably declare that repentance and faith are themselves the gift of God and the work of God’s Spirit in the heart, that the ablest Arminian writers[v][vi] are constrained to admit this fact. The “Cyclopaedia of Methodism,” edited by Matthew Simpson, the leading “Bishop” of the Methodist Episcopal “Church” in the United States, makes the following statements: “In Calvinistic theology the process of salvation is, first, regeneration; second, faith; and third, repentance. Methodists believe that, in the salvation of the sinner, the Holy Spirit enlightens his understanding and causes him to see his need of a Savior; that under this spiritual influence and power the first step is repentance, or turning from sin, the second, believing in the Lord Jesus Christ. These are followed by regeneration. While repentance is, strictly speaking, the act of man, it is nevertheless also in another sense the gift of God. Without the grace of God first given, no man will repent or turn to God. The Holy Spirit supplies light to the understanding, quickens the emotions, and so seals Divine truth upon the conscience that the sinner not only sees, but feels his spiritual danger.” “Regeneration, or conversion, or the new birth, or the new creation, or becoming a new creature, is the work of the Holy Spirit, by which a change is wrought in the heart of the believer; it is the implantation of the love of God in the soul by the operation of the Holy Spirit. The efficient cause of regeneration is the Divine Spirit, for no man can turn himself unto God. It proceeds by enlightening the judgment through the word of truth or the gospel of salvation, and impressing that truth upon the understanding so as to subdue the will and reign in the affections.” Directly contradictory to this assertion that the regenerating Spirit of God subdues the will, the same author asserts in the same article that God gives every man His Spirit, and “gives man the power, on the one hand, of yielding to the influences of the Spirit, and, on the other, of rejecting them and pursuing a course unto perdition;” that “God has placed this fearful responsibility upon the exercise of the human will.” For the point-blank contradiction of this last assertion, any one who believes the Scriptures and acknowledges Christ as his only Master need only refer to (John 1:12, 13, 3:1-8; Rom. 9:16; Phil. 2:12, 13; James 1:18; Ps. 110:3). McClintock and Strong’s “Cyclopaedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature,” the most thorough and elaborate Methodist work of the nineteenth century, makes the following plain and strong scriptural statements: “The author, as well as object, of true repentance, is God (Acts 5:31).” “Christian faith does not spring from the natural working of the human mind; it is the gift of God (Eph. 2:8), and is wrought in the heart by the Holy Spirit through the word of the gospel and the free grace of Christ (Rom. 10:17; 1 Cor. 1:21). Fides donum Dei est, per quod Christum redemptorem nostrum in verbo Evangelii recte agnoscimus (Formula of Concord, 3. 11);” that is, “Faith is the gift of God, by which we rightly recognize Christ our Redeemer in the word of the gospel.” One more witness on this subject will be enough, and he shall be the ablest Methodist theologian that ever lived, the highest Methodist authority of the present century in both Europe and America. Richard Watson, in his “Biblical and Theological Dictionary,” says: “An evangelical repentance is a godly sorrow wrought in the heart of a sinful person by the word and Spirit of God, whereby, from a sense of his sin, as offensive to God and defiling and endangering to his own soul, and from an apprehension of the mercy of God in Christ, he, with grief and hatred of all his known sins, turns from them to God as his Savior and Lord.”[vii][viii] “The very circumstances which rendered the new covenant necessary, take away the possibility of there being any merit upon our part; the faith by which the covenant is accepted is the gift of God; and all the good works by which Christians continue to keep the covenant originate in that change of character which is the fruit of the operation of His Spirit.” “True and saving faith acknowledges on earth, as it will be perpetually acknowledged in Heaven, that the whole salvation of sinful man, from the beginning to the last degree thereof, whereof there shall be no end, is from God’s freest love, Christ’s merit and intercession, His own gracious promise, and the power of His own Holy Spirit.”[ix][x] If these pointed declarations do not contain the essence of the Bible doctrine of grace, known as Paulinism or Augustinianism, then it does really seem that human language has no meaning.
“The great system of doctrine known in history as the Pauline, Augustinian or Calvinistic,” says Prof. Charles Hodge, “is taught, as we believe, in the Scriptures; was developed by Augustine, formally sanctioned by the Latin Church, adhered to by the witnesses of the truth during the Middle Ages, repudiated by the Church of Rome in the Council of Trent, revived in that church by the Jansenists, adopted by all the reformers, incorporated in the creeds of the Protestant Churches of Switzerland, of the Palatinate, of France, Holland, England and Scotland, and unfolded in the Standards framed by the Westminster Assembly,” which have been doctrinally adopted by the Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Baptists of Europe and America. And, unless words are twisted out of their lexical meanings, the Episcopal Articles of Faith, from the ninth to the eighteenth, and the Methodist Articles, from the seventh to the twelfth, establish the same doctrine, and are emphatic witnesses against their members who repudiate this doctrine of the Bible and of their fathers.
“It is a historical fact that this system of doctrine has (in its application to sinners by the Spirit of God) been the moving power in the church; that largely to it (as thus applied) are to be referred the intellectual vigor and spiritual life of the heroes and confessors who have been raised up in the course of ages; that (by the will and power of God) it has been the fruitful source of good works, of civil and religious liberty, and of human progress. Its truth may be evinced from many different sources. 1st. All the various parts of this system of doctrine, unlike those of all other different doctrines, are thoroughly consistent with all the other parts of the same doctrine, insomuch that any one part necessarily involves all the others; thus proving the infinite wisdom of the author of the doctrine. 2nd. This system of doctrine alone is consistent with all the facts of creation—and providence—the supreme, absolute, unchallengeable sovereignty of God in everything that He made and in everything that He orders throughout the universe-the inconceivable gulf between the eozoon and Gabriel, and the myriad gradations between these creatures—and the unspeakable inequalities existing among men, both nationally and individually, in the matter of original endowments, providential circumstances and religious advantages. 3rd. This system of doctrine alone is consistent with the great facts plainly revealed in the Bible. 1st. The relationship of God to men; His infinite superiority to all creatures; His absolute proprietorship of the universe, as its creator and preserver; and man’s entire forfeiture, by his apostasy, of all claim on the justice of God. 2nd. The death of fallen man in trespasses and sins, and his consequent utter inability to change his own heart, to prepare himself for that change, or to co-operate in the production of that change. 3rd. The omnipotent sovereignty of the Spirit of God in quickening, out of this spiritually dead mass, whom He will, raising the objects of His choice out of spiritual death, giving them spiritual life, and creating them anew in Christ Jesus. 4th. The plain scriptural fact that all the good in man is the fruit, and therefore cannot possibly be the cause of his election unto life (Eph. 1:3-6; 1 Peter 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13; 1 Thess. 1:2-4). 5th. The fact revealed on almost every page of the Bible, and deeply written in every Christian heart, that salvation is not at all of works, whether actual or foreseen, but is altogether of the free, unmerited grace of God. No teacher ever sent by God to reveal His will has asserted, more unmistakably than the Lord Jesus Christ, the omnipotent sovereignty of God in salvation, the specialty and certainty of the everlasting blessedness of all whom the Father loved as He loved the Son and gave the Son out of the world before the foundation of the world (John 5; John 6; John 10:17; Matt. 11:25, 13:11). How any man can claim the name of Christian and yet deny these plain declarations of Christ, is astonishing. Any theory, however pleasant, and yet inconsistent with all these undeniable facts of nature, providence, experience and Scripture, is worse than Worthless—it is delusive and ruinous. The objections urged by the benighted carnal mind, which is enmity against God, to the Bible doctrine of salvation by grace alone, address themselves more powerfully to the feelings and the imagination than to the understanding, and are, therefore, arrayed in such distorted and exaggerated forms as to produce the strongest revulsion and abhorrence; the very same objections are urged, in equally shocking pictures, by infidels and atheists against the providence and the foreknowledge of God, His permission of sin and misery in the universe, and the unending sinfulness and misery of many of His intelligent creatures; and the very same objections were urged by unbelievers against the teachings of the Apostles. The practical tendency of any doctrine is to be decided from its character and from its effects. The proper effect of the conviction that we have forfeited all claims on God’s justice, that we are at His mercy, and that He may rightfully leave us to perish in our sins, is to lead us to seek that mercy with earnestness and importunity. And the experience of the church in all ages proves that such is the actual effect of the doctrine in question (when really believed). It has not led to neglect, to stolid unconcern, or to rebellious opposition to God, but to submission, to the acknowledgment of the truth, and to sure trust in Christ as the appointed Savior of those who deserve to perish.”—Condensed and modified from C. Hodge, in “Systematic Theology.”
As Augustinianism, shortly after the death of Augustine, degenerated, in the Catholic “Church,” into Semi-Augustinianism, which was afterwards fully developed in the writings of the Roman Catholics, Aquinas, Bellarmine and Mohler, and in the Canons of the Council of Trent, and has re-appeared in the modified or Wesleyan Arminianism of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it is proper, here, to point out, in a few words, the grand citadel of this unscriptural theology, and to assault it with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6:17). If in accordance with that word, it will stand; if not, it will fall.
Catholic and Protestant Semi-Augustinians describe all men as born totally depraved, or dead in sin, since and in consequence of Adam’s fall; but these theologians declare that the Spirit of God gives every human being, in all ages and nations of the world, some degree of spiritual life, light and grace, which, if he properly accepts, embraces, improves, yields to or complies with, he will be given more life, light and grace by the Holy Spirit, more of his spiritual death will be removed, and if he thus continues to improve the grace given, he will finally repent truly and believe the gospel, and then be born again or regenerated; after all this, however, there is no certainty whatever of the sinner’s salvation—he must himself continue to obey the Lord, co-operate with His Spirit, and persevere in grace to the last moment of his conscious life, or else he will finally fall into everlasting perdition. Really, it is difficult to see what comfort such a doctrine as this can afford to the weak and tempted child of God who has been taught by experience to have no confidence in the flesh or in his own strength (Jer. 17:5, 6; Phil. 3:3); and it is equally difficult to see how that Divine Spirit, whose name is the Comforter, can be the author of such a doctrine (John 14:16; Isa. 40:1, 2). This doctrine is the most cultured and refined and the highest attainable product of natural Religion—the very closest imitation which the darkened mind can invent of the Bible doctrine of grace and salvation; and it is possible for many of the weak, unestablished, improperly instructed children of God to be deceived, in a measure, and for a season, by its ingenuity and plausibility, especially because of its conformity to carnal common sense, or natural reason, and human philosophy. “No man living,” says Wesley, “is without some prevenient grace, and every degree of grace is a degree of life.” “The visitations of the gracious influences of the Holy Spirit,” says Watson, “are vouchsafed to all men, and in the first instance, and in numberless other subsequent cases, quite independent of our seeking them or desire for them; and, in our convictions for sin under His operations, we are often wholly passive. The Holy Spirit removes so much of our spiritual death as to excite in us various degrees of religious feeling, and enable us to seek the face of God, to turn at His rebuke, and, by improving His grace, to repent and believe the gospel.” This doctrine of the human soul not being a unit, but being composed of parts, and of the Holy Spirit giving life to one or more of these parts, and, if these parts work well, giving life to one or more of the other parts, etc., until the last dead part is made alive—or, of there being degrees[xi][xii] in the spiritual life which the Holy Spirit gives the dead sinner, and the giving of the higher degrees being conditioned on the use which the partially quickened sinner makes of the lower degrees—this doctrine is an invention of the darkened mind of man, and is utterly opposed to the Scriptures of inspired truth. GOD’S ACCOUNT of the manner in which He quickens the spiritually dead sinner, and saves him from his sins, and prepares him for everlasting holiness and happiness beyond the grave, may be seen in such Scriptures as the following: (Ps. 110:3, 111:9; Ps. 105; Ps. 106, 107; Isa. 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 53, 54, 55, 57:15, 60, 61; Jer. 31, 29:10-14; Ezek. 36, 37, 47; Zech. 12:10-14, 13:1; Hosea 14; Jonah 2:9; Mal. 3, 4; Matt. 1:21, 11:25-30, 13:11; John 1:12, 13, 3:1-8, 5:25, 6:37-63, 8:36, 10:26-30, 11:25, 26, 14:16-20, 16:7-14, 17; Acts 2, 5:31, 11:18, 15:11, 16:14, 13:48; Rom. 3:24, 4:5, 16, 5:19-21, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11; 1 Cor. 1:26-31; 2 Cor. 3, 4, 5; Gal. 2:16-21, 3:10-29, 4:21-31, 5; Eph. 1, 2, 3; Phil. 1:6, 29, 2:12, 13; Col. 3:3, 4; 2 Tim. 1:9, 10; Titus 3:5-7; Heb. 8:9-12, 12:2, 13:8; James 1:18; 1 Peter 1, 2; 1 John 4:19, 5:1-4; Rev. 1:5, 6, 5:9, 10). These Scriptures demonstrate that God, by the exercise of His own sovereign will and almighty power, and not because of any works[xiii][xiv] whatever of theirs, specially and efficaciously elects, redeems and sanctifies all who shall finally reach Heaven; that He takes away not a part of but all their stony heart, and gives them a heart of flesh; that He goes down into their spiritual graves, and brings them out, and clothes their very dry bones with sinews and flesh and skin, and puts His Spirit within them, and makes them live and know that God has done all this glorious work; that He new-creates them in Christ Jesus; that He gives them His Spirit to abide with them and dwell in them forever; that He gives them spiritual or eternal life, repentance, faith, love, peace, and all spiritual blessings in accordance with His eternal purpose before the foundation of the world; that He gives them the life of Christ, even Christ who is their life—NOT A PARTIAL, FRAGMENTARY, IMPERFECT, CHANGING, PERISHABLE, MOMENTARY LIFE, DEPENDENT FOR ITS COMPLETION AND PERPETUATION UPON THEIR FEEBLE AND SINFUL SELVES, BUT THE LIFE THAT HE GIVES THEM IS THE LIFE OF CHRIST, YEA, IT IS CHRIST HIMSELF, THE PERFECT AND ETERNAL GOD, THE SAME YESTERDAY, AND TO-DAY, AND FOREVER. The good work that He begins in us He will perform until the day of Jesus Christ, not only the day when Christ shall be first revealed as our Savior, but the day when He shall come finally to judge the world and take His ransomed people home (Phil. 1:6, 10; 2 Thess. 1:7-12; Heb. 12:3; Rom. 8:29-39; 2 Peter 3:10-13). Just as a pseudo-scientific infidelity seeks to expel God from the universe, or to minimize His immediate influence in the universe to the least possible degree; so a pseudo-religious dogma seeks to expel the Spirit of God from the heart of man, or to minimize His immediate influence in the human heart to the least possible degree. Spiritualism is always and everywhere offensive to the natural mind. Those natural principles that remain even with the children of God during all their earthly life may be pleased, to some extent, with a somewhat rationalistic, anti-supernatural religion; but such Christians are sadly in need of instruction in spiritual things.
Prof. Henry Drummond, in his recent able work entitled “Natural Law in the Spiritual World,” has some admirable pages unanswerably evincing the united and harmonious testimony of both science and Scripture to the truth of the Pauline or Augustinian or Calvinistic doctrine of salvation, and I will now give the substance of some of his remarks upon this subject:
The Apostle John says, “He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life” (1 John 5:12). “Omne vivum ex vivo” (everything living comes from something living). Spontaneous generation is a scientific heresy, asserted by Dr. H. C. Bastian, but given up with reluctance by Tyndall, Huxley, and all the great scientists of Europe. Biogenesis is victorious along the whole line, says Huxley; no life without antecedent life, says Tyndall. Even so the spiritual life is the gift of the living Spirit, a new creation from above, which no natural man, by improving himself, can attain, although nearly all the preachers and poets and novelists and essayists proclaim differently. No physical change or evolution can endow a single mineral atom with life. The vast helpless world of the dead or inorganic is cut off from the living by the law of biogenesis; only by the bending down of some living form into this dead world can these dead atoms live. So there is a mighty gulf between the natural and the spiritual world, which is hermetically sealed on the natural side, which no natural power can bridge across. “Except a man be born again, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” The passage from the dead to the living is miraculous, Divine. Any communication from the higher to the lower world must be a revelation; “the natural man cannot know spiritual things, because they are spiritually discerned.” It is perfect folly to offer us Christianity without a living creative Spirit—a personal religion without regeneration. A stone cannot grow more and more living till it enters the organic world; neither can a natural man simply grow better and better till in his own power he enter the kingdom of God. A new principle distinguishes the plant from the stone, and the spiritual from the natural man—the principle of life. It cannot be truly said that he that hath Brahma, or Buddha, or Mohammed, hath life; but it can be truly said that he that hath Christ hath life. This fact distinguishes Christianity from all other religions. According to the analogies of biology, the new spiritual life dawns suddenly and comes without observation, and develops gradually; growth is most gradual in the highest forms of life;. no wonder that development is tardy in the creatures of eternity. Health or structure can come gradually, but life cannot. Growth is the work of time; but life is not. At one moment the being is dead; the next moment it lives; this is regeneration—the passing from death to life. Just as in natural life, so in spiritual life, the conscious moment is not (often) the real moment of birth, but follows it long afterwards. The living blade is small, near the earth, often soiled, crushed, down-trodden, but it has life, which the great imposing stone beside it does not have; and the living blade will grow spontaneously and mysteriously, and it doth. not yet appear what it shall be. The Christian, like the poet, is born, not made; and the fruits of his character are not manufactured things, but living things grown from the secret inward germ of the living Spirit—not the products of this world, but exotics from a sunnier clime. If you can account for a flower, it is artificial and dead. True life, growth and spirituality are mysterious, unaccountable. The Christian is a unique phenomenon; if you can account for him, he is not a Christian. God’s grace is free; the lily and all nature echo the blessed evangel of Jesus, “Come unto Me, and I will give you rest.” We would not urge a plea for the inactivity of the spiritual energies, but for the tranquility of the spiritual mind.
Life is correspondence with environment; death is the want of such correspondence. All organisms are living to all within the circumference of their correspondence, and dead to all beyond. The natural man is not in correspondence with, not responsive to, his spiritual environment, and is therefore spiritually dead. Those who are in communion with God live; those who are not are dead. The natural mind may be cultivated, high-toned, lovely, virtuous; its correspondence may reach to the stars of Heaven, to the magnitudes of time and space; but the stars of Heaven are not Heaven, and time and space are not God; and such a mind, if it commune not with God, is spiritually dead, just as the plant is dead to the voice of the bird. We have the most emphatic and abundant proof from the spiritually dead themselves, in the modern Agnostic philosophy, that the Pauline anthropology, instead of being an insult to human nature, is true -that the natural man does not know or commune with God, that such a mind is spiritually dead. There never before was a time when this fundamental truth of Christianity could be more boldly proclaimed, or could better secure the respect or arrest the interest of science. To know God in nature only, even however great, eternal or infinite, is not spiritual life; for eternal life consists in the knowledge of God and Jesus Christ. Outside of the sphere of special revelation man has never attained a sin-abhorring, passion-controlling, heart-purifying knowledge of God. The flicker of natural reason but makes the mysterious and impenetrable darkness deeper; for the carnal mind is enmity against God. The doctrine of eternal life is not a question of philosophy. Correspondence with God includes communion, faith and love; this perfect spiritual life will stretch beyond the grave and be found inviolate
When the moon is old,
And the stars are cold,
And the books of the Judgment Day unfold.
Every organism, however small, has a type to which it is to be conformed; so Christ is the perfect type, the Divine ideal, to which the new creature, the spiritual man, is to be finally and perfectly conformed. Christ is the life; His incarnation is the life revealing the type; and His life by His spirit in us conforms us to that type; and this conformity will go on until Christ is perfectly formed in us—the hope and the realization of glory.
The mineral is below and dead to the organic kingdom; and so the organic is below and dead to the spiritual kingdom, the kingdom of Heaven or of God. The members of the mineral kingdom are not born at all; the members of the organic kingdom are once born, while the members of the spiritual kingdom are twice born; and by the law of conformity to type, they will in the end attain to the pure and holy image of their Father, God. Thus far Prof. Drummond.
Even the Apostle Paul confesses of himself, as well as of his brethren, that, in the present state of existence, we know only in part—that now we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:9, 12). And Augustine, though he saw so clearly the Bible doctrine of God’s free redeeming grace, yet greatly and sadly erred in accepting also, and very inconsistently, the doctrine of sacramentalism (or salvation only through the ordinances administered by the Catholic “Church”—the Old Catholic, not Roman Catholic), and also in inconsistently persecuting the Donatists for their religion. Augustine’s ability and sacramentalism caused the Catholics at first to accept his doctrine of grace; but, soon after his death, the Catholics became Semi-Augustinian; and, at the councils of Orange and Valence, A. D. 529, Semi-Augustinianism was formally adopted as Catholic doctrine. Augustine’s theory of the right of a State to persecute its citizens to make them conform to a national religion involved the germs of absolute spiritual despotism, and of even the horrors of the Inquisition; but in practice he is said to have urged clemency and humanity upon the magistrates.[xv][xvi] Sacramentalism and religious persecution are as diverse from predestinarianism as night is from day; and, as Augustine held all these three principles, we learn that even God’s regenerated people may be in great darkness on some important points, while they have light on other points still more important-in other words, that we are utterly dependent on the Holy Spirit to open our understandings and hearts, and to enlighten and animate us on all spiritual subjects.
After the decision of the Roman Emperor Honorius’s commissioner, Marcellinus, a friend of Augustine (A. D. 411), in favor of the Catholics and against the Donatists, severe civil laws were enacted against the latter; their ministers were banished; their private members fined, and their meeting-houses confiscated. In 415 they were forbidden, on pain of death, from holding religious meetings. In 428 the Arian Vandals conquered Africa, persecuted the Catholics, and put an end to the persecution of the Donatists. The Novatians continued, during the fifth century, in Italy and other countries of Europe. The Christians in Persia were persecuted for forty years during this century.
Nestorius, “patriarch” of Constantinople, maintained that there is only a moral and not a substantial union between the human and Divine natures of Christ, and virtually affirmed that Christ has two persons (Nestorianism). This error was condemned by the Council of Ephesus, A. D. 431, which declared that in Christ there is a substantial union of two natures, human and Divine, in one person. Eutyches, of Constantinople, affirmed that, at the incarnation, the human nature of Christ was merged in the Divine, making only one nature (Monophysitism). This error was condemned by a council at Constantinople, A. D. 448. The Fourth General Council at Chalcedon, A. D. 451 (the most numerous, and, next to the first, the most important General Council), condemned both Nestorianism and Eutychianism, and declared that there is in Christ an unmixed but inseparable union of two natures in one person; that neither is Christ’s person to be divided nor His two natures confounded.
The Council of Chalcedon also conferred on the “Bishops” of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch and Jerusalem the titles of Patriarchs, thus laying the foundations of the unscriptural oligarchy of the Greek Catholic “Church;” and the “Bishop” of Rome, Leo “the Great,” who was in office from A. D. 440 to 461, and who was a man of extraordinary mental ability and of towering ambition, laid the foundations of the unscriptural monarchy of the Roman Catholic “Church” by striving to realize Cyprian’s invention of the supremacy of Peter over the other Apostles, the succession of the Bishop of Rome to Peter, and consequently that Bishop’s supremacy over the whole church.
John Chrysostom (the Golden-mouthed—born in Antioch 347, died in banishment 407) is considered by the Greek “Church” its greatest expositor and preacher. He was a thorough-going synergist; and his pupil, Cassian, was the founder of Semi-Pelagianism. Jerome (born about 340, died 419) was, among the Latin “fathers,” the most zealous promoter of monasticism, and the most learned, eloquent and authoritative; is called the founder of the grammatico-historical interpretation of the Scriptures; was proud, vain, sophistical and irritable; and his Latin version of the Bible, called the Vulgate, has been substituted, as though inspired, by the Roman Catholic “Church” in place of the original Hebrew and Greek Scriptures.
The Anglo-Saxon conquest of England, A. D. 449, broke up the ancient British Church planted in that island either in the first or the second century, and drove the remnant into Cornwall and Wales. Palladius and Patrick are said to have preached the gospel with great success in Ireland during this century; but it is certain that they were not Romanists, and had nothing to do with Rome.
Not even the exact year, much less the exact month and day, when Christ was born, is stated in the Scriptures, or is known to mortals. The sixth of January was in the second and third centuries, thought to have been the day; but it was decided by the Catholics in the fourth and fifth centuries that the 25th day of December[xvii][xviii] was the day. As Rome, the centre of paganism, was made the centre of Catholicism, so the Pagan festivities of the Saturnalia, Sigillaria, Juvenalia and Brumalia, which occurred in December, were very conveniently and hilariously transmuted by a worldly “Christianity” into the festival of Christmas.
Sixth Century.—During the sixth century the twilight of the Dark Ages deepens, the papacy assumes its mediaeval phase, clerical pride and splendid robing and celibacy and corruption, and formalism, sacramentalism, laxity of discipline, the worship of Mary and saints and relics and images, traditionalism, monasticism, ignorance and superstition, increase; men believe more and more in the saving efficacy of human works and ceremonies and institutions, and in purgatorial fire; the Franks, Ostrogoths, Visigoths and Lombards are, by corrupting compromises, converted to Catholicism—being simply required to make an oral profession of faith in Christ, memorize the creed, and transfer their worship from their own gods to the images of Christ and the saints, and being taught that gifts for charity and religion atoned for any amount of licentiousness and bloodshed; the Monophysite controversies rage among the Catholics amid scenes of numberless outrages, intrigues, depositions, banishments, commotions, riots, fires and murders; the “Fifth General Council, at Constantinople, adopts anew the faith of Chalcedon, and complicates the dispute;” the dissolute but able Eastern Roman Emperor, Justinian (whose wife, Theodora, was of the same character), reconquers, by his generals, Belisarius and Narses, a large part of the lost Western Empire in Africa and Spain, Sicily and Italy, and wars with the Persians, and makes that celebrated digest of Roman laws which has become the common law of all civilized nations; he also “affects a life of austere piety, assumes to regulate matters of faith, discipline and worship, and, by acts of extortion, oppression and corruption of justice, procures means for building magnificent church-houses and hospitals;” he seeks to enforce general religious uniformity throughout his dominions, requiring all infants to be baptized, and enacts severe penalties against Pagans and heretics (by the latter meaning those who differed from him in religious views and practices); and the people of God flee for refuge into barbarous, or desert, or mountainous countries, especially into Northern Italy, Northern Spain and Southern France. Among the lovers of truth during the sixth century were the Novatians, the Donatists and the Montenses (or Mountaineers), so called because they dwelt for security in the caves of the mountains. These were all occasionally called Anabaptists or re-immersers, because they did not recognize the validity of Catholic baptism, but baptized all, whether Catholics or not, who united with them -just as has been done by those called Baptists during the last four centuries.
Priests in the Greek Catholic “Church” are still called “Popes” or fathers; but about A. D. 500 Latin Catholic writers restricted this title to the Catholic “Bishop” of Rome, to whom it was first applied in the letter of a “Deacon” to “Pope” Marcellus, A. D. 275. In 588 John Jejunator (the Faster, so called from his frequent and rigid fasts), “Patriarch” of Constantinople, assumed the title of “Universal Bishop;” and “Pope” Gregory I. (surnamed the “Great”) rebuked John for his “devilish” pride, and called such an appellation the sign of “the Forerunner of Antichrist.” But this title was gladly received by Gregory’s successor, Boniface III., from the Emperor Phocas in 606, and was, in 648, exchanged by “Pope” Theodore for that of “Sovereign Pontiff.” Gregory I. was Pope from A. D. 590 to 604. He is one of the four “doctors” of the Latin “Church” -Ambrose, Augustine and Jerome being the other three. He was a Semi-Augustinian, excessively superstitious, monastic, ritualistic and hierarchical, hostile to secular learning, persecuted the Donatists in Africa, and was the father of mediaeval papacy, of the practical doctrine of purgatory[xix][xx] and meritorious masses; he advocated the atoning value of good works, and furnished a basis for the later system of works of supererogation. He sought to make converts, first by preaching, and if that failed, by bribery or imprisonment and torture. He applauded and flattered the centurion Phocas, a monster of vice and cruelty, who rebelled against and atrociously slew the Roman Emperor Maurice and his wife and eight children, and who usurped the throne. In 597 he sent out Augustine, a zealous, intolerant and self-sufficient monk, with forty followers, to convert the heathen Saxons in England to Roman Catholicism—the first strictly foreign mission, of the modern style, ever undertaken; and, as England was the field of this mission, so England has appropriately become the chief mother of nineteenth-century missions—of the same character. In about a year three British kings and ten thousand of their subjects were baptized—any scandalous stories being told of these pretended conversions and baptisms; the old Pagan temples were “consecrated” by being sprinkled with “holy” water, and by having the “saints” relics put in place of the idols; and the old heathen festivals, such as Yule and Easter,[xxi][xxii] were transformed into so-called “Christian” festivities. In such measures of compromise and accommodation, as well as in centralized power and unflagging perseverance. Papal Rome imitated Imperial Rome; and, using even greatly superior worldly wisdom and skill, she has achieved a natural success far more extensive and enduring than that ever attained by the Caesars or their political successors. The daughters of Papal Rome attain similar success just in proportion as they adopt similar measures of corrupting accommodation to the principles and practices of the world.
The old British Christians, who traced their origin, through the mercantile relations of Cornwall, England, and Marseilles, France, to the churches planted in Asia Minor by Paul and watered by John, and who had, in the fifth century, fled from the heathen Saxon invaders into the mountains of Wales (Matt. 24:16), as others afterwards fled to the Pyrenees and to the mountains of Northern Italy and of Bohemia, refused to acknowledge the authority of the pope, or to have any alliance with Rome. Some of these old Welsh Christians are said to have preached the gospel in Ireland, in Scotland, and in England. They regarded clerical pride as a mark of Antichrist.[xxiii][xxiv] Notwithstanding a great desire and a diligent search, the present writer has not been able to find any satisfactory information in reference to the early non-monastic, non-ritualistic, and non-prelatical Christians in Wales. Among the nominal Welsh Christians corruptions were rife as early as the third century.
As for the so-called Culdees, who are said by Presbyterian writers to have flourished in Scotland and Ireland during the sixth and succeeding centuries, and whom they maintain to have been very pure in doctrine, worship and government, and through whom they claim a continuous historical extra-Roman succession from the Apostles, it is now admitted by the best scholars that the “Culdees” existed only from the eighth to the fourteenth centuries; that their faith, discipline and ritual did not materially differ from those of Rome, and that they were almost as superstitious and corrupt as the Roman Catholics -their purity existing only in poetry and legend, but being unknown to history.[xxv]
In this century the “Benedictine Order” gave zealous attention to the Catholic training of youth and the higher education of the clergy.
About A. D. 530 Dionysius Exiguns, a Scythian monk residing in Rome, introduced the birth of Christ as a chronological epoch, but, as is now believed, placed that event four years after it really occurred.
[xxvi][xxvii] Bible Baptists believe the doctrine of salvation by grace alone, because it is unmistakably taught in the Scriptures, and not because Augustine or any other man since the Apostles has believed and maintained it. Very few of our members ever heard of Augustine, and still fewer are aware of his having been an advocate of the doctrine of grace. But, since the days of the Apostles, though that great doctrine has had more consistent, it has had no abler advocate than Augustine; and, as the first great post-apostolic controversy on that subject took place in the fifth century between Augustine and Pelagius, the doctrine of grace and the opposite doctrine of works are here treated, for the sake of unity and clearness, in the fullness of the their subsequent developments.
[xxviii][xxix] This ancient argument for conditionaliam is utterly neutralized by the fact that, as the husbandman must first be born into the natural kingdom before he can do any work in nature, so must the spiritually dead sinner first be born into the spiritual kingdom before he can do any work in that kingdom; and when thus born of God he will certainly believe in Christ, overcome the world, and have eternal life, and never perish (1 John 5:1, 4; John 10:27-30, John 11:25, 26).
[xxx][xxxi] It is a most lamentable fact, and demonstrates the unspirituality of the great mass of the Catholic and Protestant world, that nearly all professed Christians accept their own uninspired authorities in preference to the plain declarations of the inspired Scriptures. With them the word of man is every thing, and the word of God is nothing. And the most of their speakers de part further from the truth in the direction of Pagan Pelagianism than their written authorities, and thus perniciously impose upon the ignorance of their private members.
[xxxii][xxxiii] “The reason of pardon, in every case,” says Watson, in his “Theological Institutes,” “is not repentance, not faith, not anything done by man, but the merit of the sacrifice of Christ.” This is exactly Primitive Baptist doctrine, for believing which they are hated and persecuted everywhere.
[xxxiv][xxxv] One of the most learned and esteemed Methodist ministers in North Carolina remarked a few years since to the present writer: “One of your ministers recently preached in my meeting-house and some of my members, speaking to me afterwards, made the objection that the sermon was too denominational: but I told them that the objection was caused by their own ignorance; that salvation by sovereign grace was the doctrine of the Methodist Church.”
[xxxvi][xxxvii] Confusion of thought produces inaccuracy of statement. Life itself is one thing; and the manifestation of life is another thing. While there are various degrees in the manifestations both of natural and spiritual life itself, whether natural or spiritual, is a separate entity, an indivisible unit, a clear Divine gift, essentially and totally distinguished from death by such a mighty gulf as only the Infinite Creator can span. It is not quantity, but quality, that distinguishes the essence of life, light, grace and Spirit, from the essence of death, darkness, nature and matter. And the life which the Spirit of God gives to His spiritually dead but chosen people is emphatically declared in the Scriptures to be spiritual. Divine, eternal, everlasting life, the life of Christ, even Christ Himself dwelling by His Spirit in them, and, because He lives, making them live also.
[xxxviii][xxxix] The Semi-Augustinianism of the nineteenth century declares that, between spiritual quickening and spiritual birth, the poor partially dead sinner must accept, embrace, use, improve, yield to and comply with the life, grace or light already given, and, it he does so properly, God will also give him repentance, faith and regeneration; but, it he does not. God will not give him these additional graces. Now, if accepting, embracing, using, improving, etc., are not works of the sinner, they are nothing. Webster and Worcester tell us that a work is an act; deed or performance; and these two lexicographers and Skeats say that the English term work is of the same root as the Greek term ergon, which Liddell and Scott say is a most general term for anything done by a human being. And the New Testament repeatedly and emphatically declares that we are not saved ex ergon or kata erga (in consequence of, in accordance with, because of, works) which we have done. Wesleyan Anninianism makes our salvation depend, primarily, upon works done by us before we are born, spiritually; and, secondarily, upon works done by us after our spiritual birth. The scriptural fact is that God, by His almighty grace, works in His people all the willing and all the doing that are acceptable to Him (1 Kings 8:58; Ps. 110:3; Prov. 21:1; Isa. 26:12; Phil 2:12, 13; Heb 13:21). Heathen authority for the limitation of the power of God and for only a partial quickening of the dead, may be found in the old Pagan Roman Bible, Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Book 1, lines 409, 411, 428, 429.
[xl][xli] The basal idea of the theory of the persecution of so-called heretics was that temporal suffering might force them into the true faith, and thus save them from eternal punishment—an idea thoroughly inconsistent with the doctrine of salvation by grace alone.
[xliv][xlv] Gregory was the first to make practical Origen’s and Augustine’s doctrine of purgatorial fire after death, and taught that the sufferings of Christiana consigned to purgatory could be mitigated and shortened by the prayers, alms, masses, and other services of their surviving friends. He taught that each celebration of the communion was a new sacrifice, having new virtue for the atonement of sin.
[xlvi][xlvii] Yule, the old name for Christmas, is from the same Anglo-Saxon root (geola) as the word jolly, and was the Pagan festival of the Winter Solstice. The word Easter is derived from Eastre, the Anglo-Saxon goddess of Spring, to whom the fourth month, answering to our April, was dedicated. The ninth edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica well remarks: “The ecclesiastical historian, Socrates, states with perfect truth that neither Christ nor His Apostles enjoined the keeping of this or any other festival. The sanctity of special times or places was an idea quite alien from the early Christian mind.”
[l][li] A thorough demonstration of the utter baselessness of the theory which attempts to carry back the origin of Presbyterianism from the sixteenth to the sixth or eighth century, is given by the leading Presbyterian Church historian. Prof. Philip Schaff, in his “History of the Christian Church,” vol. 4., pp. 61-76.