Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 1, 1957

The Papal Pageantry -- (II.)

Luther W. Martin, St. James, Mo.

(Adapted from "The Giant Masquerade," a book written by Frank C. Raynor, and printed in Scotland in 1925 ...)

"Step by step an organization was built up which culminated in the exaltation of the Pope to absolute supremacy and the transformation of the church into a political institution employing the religious instincts and needs of men to minister to human greed, pride and the lust for power." (Page 39, Romanism and The Gospel, by Scott.)

Christ came into the world holding the stars in His hands. Men beheld with wonder and admiration, and found that in their light the whole of life had to be readjusted. He taught men that the individual soul is of transcendent value; that there is open access for the highest as well as the humblest. By the revelation of these truths — a veritable revelation of the "exceeding riches of His glory" the first century was transfigured as is the face of misery by the smile of love, and there sprang into being the church of Christ . . . purchased by the blood of a Saviour, over whose cradle, the angels sang at Bethlehem.

Before the eyes of those who were first called 'Christians' (Acts 11:26), spiritual values brightened into pure reality, beginning on the day of Pentecost, A. D. 33. (See Acts 2nd Chapter.) The simple 'luxury of doing good' was more desirable than all the flaunted opulence of a Nero, a Felix, or an Agrippa. The virtues of pity, forgiveness, gentleness, and humility were more dazzlingly beautiful than all the torches of the Roman arenas. The things of the Spirit had become known for a moment, as they really are, through the inspiration of the Apostles as their unerring instruction became fixed in the pages of what was to be known as the New Testament. Peddlers, weavers, shoemakers, merchants, sailors, and slaves, as they met in marketplaces or on lonely by-ways, spoke to each other concerning the 'man of Galilee; and, as the decades passed, these same folk made collections of all the Apostolic writings that were available to be copied.

The humblest Christian in this new and idyllic society was a "king and priest" (Rev. 1:6) whose conduct was vestmented with holiness, and whose hope was for life eternal. This hope sustained him before the terror of Caesar and the lions; while Christ, the Good Shepherd, portrayed to the Christian the ultimate in a sacrificial offering for the sins of the world. Nine times, along the highways of the Roman Empire, the fires of persecution were kindled against these followers of Christ . . . yet, the influence of the Christian religion began to have its effect upon Pagan Rome. Simultaneously, however, the individual churches on the Italian peninsula, began to be affected by the Paganism of Rome. Hence, in the Augusteum of the heathen basilicas, the images of the Emperors were replaced by images of Christ and the Apostles. The 'local deities passed away' but on every roadway, on the summits of the hills, in the ravines and valleys, crosses began to appear on the roofs of houses and in the mosaics of the floors.

But after these first generations, the light begins to fade from what had formerly been the holy fraternity. With the growing influence of the new faith came the demand for a more external manifestation. The companies of saints, held together hitherto in the bonds of congregational autonomy, with each assembly ruled by its own plurality of bishops, now began to be shaped, coordinated, and run into moulds, and fashioned into an image of the Roman provincial government. A slow but deadly power of a subtle materialism settled upon the young society . . . young, that is, when compared to Judaism and heathenism.

Cyprian draws a dark picture of the Christian flock in the third century. He speaks of the lust for gold, the fraud, deceit, perjury, slander and backbiting that had arisen among them; of negligent servants, avaricious overseers, and of multiplied usuries. Consequently, with this condition existing in many quarters, particularly in Italy, at the next instance of persecution, there was widespread apostasy. With this trend, there was an increase of ceremonial. External and material aids were resorted to as an old man turns to his staff. The gospel story ... the light of the world, began to vanish from among them, as the gleam of the 'sanctuary-lamps' and the blaze of gold-encrusted, gem-glittering altars, and allegedly the glory of heaven must now be mediated through a coloured and distorting ritual. Like the fall of a star across the night, the whole conception of Christianity as set forth in the New Testament, reeled back from the Mount of Transfiguration to the Temple of Solomon.

With the elaboration of ceremonial comes that form, looming large between God and the worshipper; imitating so alien from the Christianity of the Bible — the priest — and competing with the priests of Mithra and Isis; soon to emerge as a sacred and magical order — the only medium by which they would claim, man could hope to gain the 'pearl of great price.'

Gradually about the priest crystallizes and congeals the hierarchy and the institution, slowly modeling itself on the secular administration and heathen ceremonial of Rome. The splendour, colour, music, holy water, tonsure, artful use of lights characteristic of pagan worship, are copied. Fragment by fragment the gorgeous elements of temple service are built up. The Roman Catholic Church took its hierarchical weapons from the arsenal of the enemy. Even the vestments of the 'clergy,' unknown and unnecessary in the primitive church, were copied. Dalmatic, chasuble, stole, and maniple, were all taken over by the 'clergy' from the Roman magistracy.

Thus, the 'Church" was becoming more prominent than Christ. The full extent of the dismal change is revealed to us in the words of Cyprian: "He can no longer have God for a Father who has not the Church for a mother."

Visibility, rigidity of formulae, stringent and repressive discipline, supernatural importance of ecclesiastical offices, bishops over a number of congregation rather than a plurality of bishops over each assembly, and, bishops supposedly endowed with some definable miraculous grace, received directly by manual transmission — this was their narrow and unscriptural conception of the 'Church' by this time.

By the fourth century, the process of copying the governmental structure of this 'Church' from the Roman Empire, was complete. The most gigantic influence in western civilization was almost ready to take its place on the stage of history. For the next thousand years would be the chief actor, and for some of that time it would be the only actor, pronouncing its incredible monologue.

In the year 324, the Emperor Constantine makes the first move in the prodigious game, he decides to move the seat of government to the East. A place was selected that would combine the advantages of defense, profit and security. Therefore, in that year, the foundations of Constantinople were laid . . . it was sometimes called `New Rome' . . . much to the chagrin of the 'Eternal City.' The cities of the world were ransacked for works of art, while learned and noble citizens were induced, by lavish gifts, and still more alluring promises, to settle in the new Capital. By this means, wealth, wit and enterprise, plus political ambitions now flowed to the Bosphorus; while the waters of the Tiber no longer richened beneath the splendour of Caesar's throne. Hence, the widowed city was pleased to behold, and eager to magnify, a new and 'spiritual' majesty which rose in its place.

The Bishop of Rome (not yet 'Pope'), but rich in lands, imperial in his glistening vestments, more than imperial in his awe-full spiritual dignities, steps into the place left vacant by the Emperor.

In the midst of what had been the Christian flock, where once, in the beauty of simplicity, had stood the Good Shepherd, with the lamb on His shoulder and the lambs at His feet, now rises a throne; founded in royal favor, pillared on human pride and vanity, towering against the purity of that Galilean vision, and casting a shadow that would ultimately engulf Europe in the Dark Ages.

How much easier for the Latin citizens to see a throne than to perceive Christ's spiritual presence 'where two or three are gathered together in my name!"