Truth Triumphant


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THE AGES DIGITAL LIBRARY

HISTORY

TRUTH TRIUMPHANT      *290

by Benjamin George Wilkinson

Books For The Ages

AGES Software • Albany, OR USA Hartland Publications • Rapidan, VA USA Version 1.0 © 1997

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TRUTH TRIUMPHANT

THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS

BY

BENJAMIN GEORGE WILKINSON, PH. D.

Our Authorized Bible Vindicated

Hartland Publications
P. O. Box 1
Rapidan, Virginia, U.S.A. 22733

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PREFACE

THE author sends forth this book with the hope that it may open a new world to its readers. The prominence given to the Church in the Wilderness in the Scriptures establishes without argumentation the existence of such an organization, and emphasizes its importance.

Appealing for attention to this thrilling theme, the writer has sought to bring together in a comprehensive view the forceful, even if at times apparently disjointed, narrative of the Church in the Wilderness in different countries. The cumulative character of the historical proof will be clear to the seeker after truth. Supported by the many converging lines of evidence, the author believes that he has opened new doors into the realm of history in which the providence of God has a most prominent place.

While the author has used a great number of original sources, he has also entered into the labors of many scholars and writers who have gone before him. From both these original and secondary sources he has sought to fashion this study. It is his aim that this information will be of value in pointing out present-day deceptions and in revealing the way to meet many insidious teachings. He attempts to make clear man’s present duty in terms of world history.

Confident that this book will reveal a new story and throw strong light on the history of God’s people, the author presents this volume. He fervently prays that the promised latter rain of the Holy Spirit will use these pages to enlighten others so that they may share the blessing promised to those who live victoriously in the closing scenes of earth’s history.

CONTENTS

 Index

Index of Authorities

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THE AUTHOR.

Preface Introduction

1. What Is the Church in the Wilderness?

2. The Church in the Wilderness in Prophecy

3. The Apostolic Origins of the Church in the Wilderness

4. The Silent Cities of Syria

5. Lucian and the Church in Syria

6. Vigilantius, Leader of the Waldenses

7. Patrick, Organizer of the Church in the Wilderness in Ireland. 

8. Columba and the Church in Scotland

9. Papas, First Head of the Church in Asia

10. How the Church Was Driven Into the Wilderness

11. Dinooth and the Church in Wales

12. Aidan and the Church in England

13. Columbanus and the Church in Europe

14.The Church in Europe after the Time of Columbanus

15. Early Waldensian Heroes

16. The Church of the Waldenses

17. Aba and the Church in Persia

18. Timothy of Bagdad; The Church Under Mohammedan Rule. 

19. The St. Thomas Christians of India

20. The Great Struggle in India

21. Adam and the Church in China

22. Marcos of Peking

23. The Church in Japan and the Philippines

24. The Remnant Church Succeeds the Church in the Wilderness Bibliography


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INTRODUCTION

A much-neglected field of study has been opened by the research of the author into the history of the Christian church from its apostolic origins to the close of the eighteenth century. Taking as his thesis the prominence given to the Church in the Wilderness in Bible prophecy, and the fact that ‘“the Church in the Wilderness,’ and not the proud hierarchy enthroned in the world’s great capital, was the true church of Christ,” he has spent years developing this subject. In its present form, Truth Triumphant represents much arduous research in the libraries of Europe as well as in America. Excellent ancient sources are most difficult to obtain, but the author has been successful in gaining access to many of them. To crystallize the subject matter and make the historical facts live in modem times, the author also made extensive travels through Europe and Asia.

The doctrines of the primitive Christian church spread to Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. As grains of mustard seed they lodged in the hearts of many godly souls in southern France and northern Italy — people known as the Albigenses and the Waldenses. The faith of Jesus was valiantly upheld by the Church of the East. This term, as used by the author, not only includes the Syrian and Assyrian Churches, but is also the term applied to the development of apostolic Christianity throughout the lands of the East.

The spirit of Christ, burning in the hearts of loyal men who would not compromise with paganism, sent them forth as missionaries to lands afar. Patrick, Columbanus, Marcos, and a host of others were missionaries to distant lands. They braved the ignorance of the barbarian, the intolerance of the apostate church leaders, and the persecution of the state in order that they might win souls to God.

To unfold the dangers that were ever present in the conflict of the true church against error, to reveal the sinister working of evil and the divine strength by which men of God made truth triumphant, to challenge the Remnant Church today in its final controversy against the powers of evil, and to show the holy, unchanging message of the Bible as it has been preserved for those who will “fear God, and ke ep His commandments” — these are the sincere aims of the author as he presents this book to those who know the truth.

MERLIN L. NEFF.

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CHAPTER 1

WHAT IS THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS?

And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she mightily into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. (Revelation 12:14, 6)

THE Church in the Wilderness is the connecting link between apostolic Christianity and God’s people today. The purpose of this volume is to show that there were Christian people in every country during this long period of history who possessed churches, colleges, mission stations, and theological schools; who followed closely and adhered steadfastly to the beliefs and practices delivered by the apostles to the saints; and who possessed and preserved the original Scriptures given to the church in the first century. These people constitute the Church in the Wilderness. This is a conception which is not generally held. The title, Church in the Wilderness, is taken from the Bible prophecy of Revelation 12 describing the woman who fled into the wilderness. The woman is the church.1 The title clearly shows that it was not the popular or predominant church. These faithful believers held high the banner of truth, and withstood the encroachments of apostasy. Their fortunes varied, for at times they possessed many churches, famous schools, and distant mission stations, while in other ages they suffered from poverty and dire persecution.

The great missionary work of this church is little known, its sufferings have been overlooked, and its heroes unsung. In the following pages is presented the precious heritage which it has bequeathed to modem times. By restoring the true church to its rightful place, the key is recovered which unlocks the meaning of great issues confronting this present generation.

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Some will ask, Should not we look to the church which for ages has been the favored of kings and nations to find the true church instead of looking to a people who for centuries were never the dominant church, and who many times were obscure? Let the prophet John answer this question: “The woman [church] fled into the wilderness.”(Revelation 12:6.) In order to recognize the true church, it is imperative that we fix our eyes upon those Christian bodies which have largely been forgotten in the works of history.

Divine revelation teaches that the light which was to shine upon the last generation of men would be a continuation and an enlargement of the light which shone upon the Church in the Wilderness throughout almost thirteen centuries; namely, the 1260-year period. While it is generally recognized that the 1260-year period of the Church in the Wilderness did not begin in apostolic times, it is nevertheless necessary to introduce, this prophetic period with a proper background. The beginning and ending of the 1260-year period is established in later chapters. No particular effort is made, however, to differentiate in nomenclature between the Church in the Wilderness and its apostolic origins.

It should be understood at the outset that in giving the surprising record of this remarkable church, the old beaten paths used by almost all the writers of church history cannot be followed. The light of Bible prophecy has pointed the way for this investigation and the method in which this theme should be treated. This subject has rarely, if ever, been presented in such a way as to reveal the amazingly interesting interrelationships which existed between and among the various groups of faithful believers in widely separated areas.

Certain modem authors have assiduously labored to belittle the American founders of religious liberty and democracy, such as Washington, Jefferson, and others. This same class of writers has invaded the realm of church history, and that which was obscure before, is growing darker. These men seek to give the glory of the Church in the Wilderness to another. Sad to relate, many sincere persons are being deceived by the astounding propaganda in books and articles founded on misleading historical bases. It is time to bring to light the many heroic struggles of the men whom God used to preserve the divine doctrines and the Holy Scriptures.

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The statements here made concerning the Church in the Wilderness and its history will be clarified, enlarged upon, and further explained and supported by evidence from dependable sources.

The Church in the Wilderness did not arrive at the truth by opposition to prevailing dogmas and heresies. Its faith was not a faith newly received. The religious beliefs of its members were an inheritance from the days of the apostles. To them men owe the preservation of the Bible. Contrary to almost universal belief, the Church in the Wilderness embraced the true missionary churches during the long night of the Dark Ages. It held aloft the torch of education while the rest of the world about it was falling into the darkness of ignorance and superstition. Its territory was not circumscribed. On the contrary, its influence penetrated into all parts of the known world.

FROM THE DAYS OF THE APOSTLES

The history of nominal Christianity is the record of bitter theological controversies, and, at times, even of bloody encounters to achieve its aims; it is a record of incredible activity to secure political power. The history of the Church in the Wilderness is a stirring revelation of consecrated, evangelical labor in continent-wide leadership for the salvation of the hopeless and benighted. It did not, as its rivals did, claim intellectual logic in doctrine; it did not attempt to enforce its views by political cruelty. It severed all territorial and family ties which might have held it to the world and to the rapacious churches of empires, thus successfully preserving its scriptural doctrines and its apostolic organization.

The present can never be properly understood without correct information concerning the past. Those who have been taught falsified history or who have had their minds filled with the twisted interpretations of events gone by, stagger like the blind with a darkened mind. Everyone today wants to be modem. But those who neglect the lessons of the past do not achieve modernity. They achieve only contemporaneity. Minds indoctrinated by histories and encyclopedias which glorify a union of church and state will pass a discontented present in a democracy which completely separates the state and the church, for they will long for, and labor to make, a different order of things. The ideas that one has concerning vanished generations have a great deal to do with one’s relation to the present.

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It is equally true that a person who has distorted views of the present cannot build for a better future. Those who look upon the medieval years of European history with its serfdom and theocracy as the ideal will be in revolt against modem society and will seek ways to re-establish those systems. Those who do not believe in Jesus Christ, the divine Creator, who unselfishly died upon a cross, will find no joy in self-sacrifice and loving service, but will reach out to seize all they can for themselves. Those who are convinced that there was a rebellion in heaven and that humanity today is surrounded by principalities and powers of darkness will be more willing to seek the help of the Holy Spirit than if they reject the teaching of the Scripture concerning Satan and evil angels. In other words, man visualizes a future which should logically follow his estimate of present potentialities, be his estimate right or wrong.

All have not been made aware of the decisive struggles which occurred behind the scenes over the Church in the Wilderness. Many have failed to note the true centers of Christian activity in the past. They realize altogether too little the meaning of the momentous events taking place today because they are ignorant of this historical background. The correct perspective of past history is as necessary to effective leadership as the appreciation of present values. Many have but slight knowledge of the messages of God for this generation, because they have been taught to gaze not upon the underlying, but upon the superficial, origins of the past. The past which gave us democracy and religious liberty is the history which should be known and studied. We need the Sacred Book to point the way to the true history.

The Church in the Wilderness, surrounded by savage tribes and battling against barbaric darkness, has been painted by its enemies without its victories. Driven often by opposition to mountain retreats, it was saved from the corrupting influences of ecclesiastical and political power. In many parts of the world, all the way from Ireland in the west to China in the east, there were centers of truth. The leaders in these centers were united in their desire to remain in the faith, and to perpetuate from generation to generation the pure truths of the gospel handed down from the days of the apostles.

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 Their records have been systematically destroyed.2 Remoteness and obscurity, however, could not entirely conceal these heroes, because the fires of their persecution have continued to light up the scenes of their sacrificing labors.

The ungarbled history of the true church will lead to the realization that God’s church of today is the successor of the Church in the Wilderness. The true church today unites the present to eternity, even as the Church in the Wilderness united the apostolic past to the present. As one follows the history of the Church in the Wilderness, the marks of identification will be given by which the final remnant church may be recognized. Such a presentation will, moreover, unmask the false, preposterous, and misleading history widely used today to discredit true history.

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CHAPTER 2

THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS IN PROPHECY

We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.(2 Peter 1:19.)

Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come
(1 Corinthians 10:11.)

THE Biblical picture of the Church in the Wilderness and the emphasis of inspiration on its importance, especially as found in the writings of Daniel the prophet and of John the apostle, are now considered. These two prophetic studies shine with unusual brilliance among the sixty-six books which make up the Holy Scriptures. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and the other prophets spoke particularly of the things already established in Israel; Daniel and the revelator on the other hand presented the prophetic blueprints of world history. Daniel spoke from his high pedestal as prime minister of Babylon, the first of the world’s four universal monarchies. John, the last living star in the crown of the twelve apostles, was banished by the emperor of Rome, a ruler of the last of the four universal monarchies.

The Savior in His teachings referred to many passages in the books of the Old Testament; but none did He single out and command to be studied with more directness than the book of the prophet Daniel.(Matthew 24:15.) To the beloved apostle, in exile on the Isle of Patmos, Christ presented glories for which the Roman emperor would have exchanged all he had. These two books are not the concealing, but the revealing, of the will of God. In both these writings God unfolded the supremely thrilling story of the beginnings, the growth, the struggles, and the final triumph of His church. He also exposed the daring impiety, the alliances with the kings of the earth, the long cruelty, and the final overthrow of the “mystery of iniquity,” the religious rival of His church.

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With far-reaching vision, these two prophets, Daniel and John, foresaw the conflicts of the Christian Era and the final crisis. Using the well-known Biblical figure of a woman to symbolize a church, John the revelator said,

“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.”(Revelation 12:6.)

In the same chapter, in order to make the prediction prominent, the apostle John again said,

“And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.”(Revelation 12:14.)

When one accepts the Bible rule that a day in prophecy stands for a literal year of 360 days, he can explain scriptural prophetic time periods. It is the rule laid down by God Himself.(Numbers 14:34; Ezekiel 4:6.) Furthermore, a “time” is a prophetic year, or 360 literal years. By these two direct statements of the prophetic period we know that the church was to be in the wilderness 1260 years.

The vision continues further to show that the remnant, or the last church, would be a successor to the wilderness church. The prophetic use of the word “remnant” is significant. Even as a remnant of cloth will identify the bolt from which it is taken, so the last church is a continuation of the Church in the Wilderness, and identifies it. In his vision John turns immediately from the scenes of the Church in the Wilderness to the outstanding work of the remnant church in the following words:

“And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.”(Revelation 12:17.)

These scriptures plainly present inspiration’s insistent call upon the children of men to know and recognize God’s true church in all ages.

Mankind should ponder the fact that the history of the Church in the Wilderness is linked with a definite period of 1260 years. 

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Not only are these 1260 years specifically presented seven times in the Bible, but this period is treated many other times in Holy Writ without using the definite number of years.(See Daniel 11:32-35; Matthew 24:21-29; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7.) Was the history of this church during these long centuries a blank, as church historians usually treat it? Why have they ignored its vast achievements? Have the Holy Scriptures prophesied in vain concerning it? Is the allotment by divine revelation of 1260 years of history to this organization nothing in the judgment of historical researchers?

Any organization or connected movement among men which could hold the center of the stage for 1260 years ought to be a subject of vast importance. What other political kingdom or empire of prominence had so lengthy a history? Longer than the days of Great Britain, enduring more years than imperial Rome, even rivaling the centuries wherein the Jews were the chosen people, is the record of the Church in the Wilderness. No study of the nineteen centuries of the Christian Era can be harmonized with God’s revealed purpose unless it recognizes the dominant place of the Church in the Wilderness.

HOW HER RIVALS IN RELIGION COUNTERFEITED THE PROPHECIES

Apostolic Christianity, as a religion supremely superior to paganism, caused widespread upheavals in the world. So strong were her prospects of success that Jesus and His apostles were fearful of the great deceptions that would come because of imitations and counterfeits. To make a clear-cut distinction between these counterfeits and genuine Christianity, new light from heaven was needed. Such revelations were provided in the last books of the New Testament. All the truths needed to chart the future course of gospel believers were to be found in the messages from the apostles.

There is little point in claiming that a certain church or doctrine came down from the days of the apostles. Sin came down from the days of the apostles, and the devil also was active at that time and before. It is not so much what came down from the days of the apostles, as what came down from the apostles themselves. Even in his day the apostle Paul wrote:

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“The mystery of iniquity doth already work.” The growth and final form of the mystery of iniquity which was already operating before Paul’s death is seen more clearly in the history of the Church in the Wilderness.

Approximately thirty-six years stand between the writing of the first three Gospels — Matthew, Mark, and Luke — and the writing of the last — John. This gave that many years for the mystery of iniquity, already at work in Paul’s day, to develop more powerfully. The outstanding difference between the character of the Gospel by John and the first three gospels has long been recognized?1 It was the task of the beloved apostle to emphasize those events and teachings in the life of the divine Son of God which would enable his followers to meet the devastating growth of the organized “mystery of iniquity.” This power was pointed out in the symbols of the book of Revelation, and it had already advanced in a threatening manner in the days of the last Gospel writer.2 In order to understand properly this significant background it is necessary to take a short retrospect of the movements which swept over the nations in the centuries immediately preceding the birth of Christ. This will explain why powerful bodies, Christian in name, but antagonistic in spirit to Bible believers, sprang into existence soon after the appearance of the gospel.

When Christianity boldly set forth, it faced a rising tide of Bible-counterfeiting religions. To grapple with all these, God imbued the Sacred Writings with latent power. The Holy Spirit and the Bible agree. Without the Spirit, the Bible is dead; and without the Bible, the Holy Spirit and His message would be circumscribed. The Holy Spirit occupied the ground of truth in advance, yet the revelations of the Old Testament, designed by the divine Author to warn against these evil forces, were employed by the enemies of truth as weapons for their own use. In the visions of the prophets, warnings as well as descriptions had been given beforehand — especially by Daniel — concerning apostate religions that would arise, counterfeiting the truth, and seeking supremacy over the nations. It is an astonishing and significant fact that within one hundred years after the death of the prophet Daniel, Zoroastrianism flourished in Persia, Buddhism arose in India, Confucianism arose in China, and a little later, Socrates, famous Grecian philosopher, became a renowned thinker.

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This was at the moment when the visions of Daniel were sowing the world with electrifying conceptions. There is evidence which leads one to conclude that Daniel’s visions were an influence upon the state religion of Persia.3

GREAT PROPHETIC TIME PERIODS

The fulfillment of such predictions as the doom of Tyre and the overthrow of the Jews has attracted universal attention. In events still more thrilling did the prophecies of the Church in the Wilderness, as given in the books of Daniel and the Revelation, meet their realization.

What value does the Bible place on prophetic time periods in general, and upon the 1260-year era in particular? For man to foretell in general terms with noteworthy accuracy some future situation, is a rare occurrence. To do this is not prophecy, but human calculations. Bible predictions of future situations, however, are given millenniums in advance; they tell of peoples yet to arise and of events to come of which at the moment of the prophecy there was nothing in contemporaneous events to inspire the prediction. Only divine foreknowledge could do this. 

Time-period prophecies are found in the books of Daniel and the Revelation. The most important of these in Daniel are the following: the 1260-year prophecy of Daniel 7; the 2300-year prophecy of Daniel 8; the 490-year period, embracing the 483-year and the 486-year subdivision, of Daniel 9; the many smaller time periods of Daniel 11; and the 1290-year and 1335-year periods of Daniel 12. There are many similar time prophecies in the book of Revelation. The devout mind which has already discovered the eternal value of Biblical truth believes confidently that these divine scriptural predictions will meet their fulfillment.

Jesus Himself constructed His teaching in harmony with the time predictions of the Old Testament, principally those in the book of Daniel. When the Redeemer was covering in prophetic language the whole of the Christian Era, three times He referred to “those days” of Daniel (Matthew 24:22,29.) which were the 1260 years — a major part of the time intervening between His days and now. Also Peter, speaking of the Old Testament prophets, said that they searched “what manner of time the spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ” (that is, His first coming) “and the glory that should follow” (that is, His second coming) (1 Peter 1:11.)

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 Paul warned the Thessalonian church against looking for the second coming of Christ until Daniel’s prophecy of the long reign of the “man of sin” had been accomplished.(2 Thessalonians 2:3.) In truth, the prophetic time periods constitute the framework around which the New Testament writers built. 

Christ came as the fulfillment of four thousand years of prophecy. Old Testament prophecy was substantiated by its fulfillment in the New Testament. With as great certainty and with no less volume, the prime movements and events which would concern Christ’s church to the end of time were also divinely predicted. Provision was made to forewarn His people, to discover for them beforehand the real meaning of movements — political, economic, and religious — in order to inspire their confidence and to send them forth determined to brave anything, even death, that this great salvation might be proclaimed to the ends of the earth.

THE 1260 — YEAR TIME PERIOD

Second to none among these chains of prophecy was the 1260-year time period concerning the Church in the Wilderness. Seven times it was given.(Daniel 7:25; 12:7; Revelation 11:2, 3; 12:6, 14; 13:5.) God did not announce it once and leave it. He did not utter it twice and drop the subject. Seven times He pressed it home to the attention of men. What excuse can be made by mortal man for not having carefully read the message of his heavenly Father on this subject?

The importance of this subject will be seen by giving briefly the work of the church during this 1260-year period in Great Britain, France, Italy, Syria, Assyria, Persia, India, Turkestan, China, the Philippines, and Japan. Many books could be written upon it. Yet in all the thousands of published volumes treating of history during this period, how little is said concerning this topic so prominent in God’s book!

There remains, however, a still more important phase of this subject. For what purpose did Jesus permit the Church in the Wilderness to suffer during the 1260-years? Surely there is a reason. Was it not to seal with the testimony of martyr’s blood the permanent values in the Christian religion? Did not these centuries of severe testing help to substantiate what books constituted the genuine collection of the Bible, and to disclose the counterfeit writings? 

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In fulfilling its remarkable destiny as the guardian of the treasures of truth, the noble children of this church fought and bled and marched, and turned and fought and bled again during the 1260 years.4

It is in a very significant setting that this matter is presented. The twelfth chapter of the Revelation reveals the complete history of the true church under three phases. Employing the well-known figure of a woman to represent His church, God sets forth three distinct phases of her experience to indicate the three periods of His church upon earth from the first to the second coming of Christ. Depicting the apostolic church, the woman wears upon her head a crown of twelve stars. In time of tribulation she fled into the wilderness. The final portrayal in Revelation 12 reveals the remnant church. As a woman is neither imaginary nor abstract it may be said that this woman represents, not an invisible church, but one duly organized, visible, and tangible. It has an organization; it is visible and tangible. By the wilderness condition, God indicated that the true church, though under a long period of strong opposition and persecution, would continue to carry the gospel to the world.

The Church in the Wilderness was to do her great work in quietness. Surrendering to her hierarchical opponents the pompous show, and demonstrating fertility in a comparatively diminished condition, she was to mold the human race. Contrariwise, her rival, clothed in scarlet and living pompously with princes and kings,(Revelation 17:2-4.) would, during the same 1260 years, feed her members with those weak and beggarly elements of the world from which the gospel was designed to free them.

Where can one better find that sense of perspective touching the past, so necessary to the sense of correct value of the present and to definiteness of action, except in the divine prophetic time periods of the Scriptures?


CHAPTER 3

THE APOSTOLIC ORIGINS OF THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS

The rise of Christianity and the spread of the Church in Syria was startling in its rapidity.1

IN CONTRAST with the four hundred years of silence between Malachi and Matthew, the coming of the great Redeemer brought to the world a powerful, stimulating message and introduced a marvelous new era. None of the prophets before Him had been permitted to change the bases of the dispensation introduced by Moses. Jesus Christ, however, was that Prophet predicted by Moses who was to usher in a new dispensation. He gave to man a new revelation from Jehovah. The twelve apostles, going forth to promulgate the teachings of Jesus, formed the charter membership of the apostolic church which flourished for about five hundred years. Then gradually the combined heretical sects seized the power of the nations and drove the true church into the wilderness. These apostolic origins will be the theme of this chapter.

Previous to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 by the Roman army, at which time the apostles were dispersed, the gospel had gone to Samaria, Ethiopia, Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, Italy, and India. The religion of Christ was enriched in all utterance. As a bright and shining light, it evangelized Zoroastrians, Buddhists, Greek philosophers, and Confucianists, laying strong foundations for the future.

As the apostolic church advanced, the gospel was planted not only in diverse nations, but in different languages. Often the same language was used by several nations. Therefore, in this volume Syrian or Syriac Christianity will refer to all churches which are indebted to Syrian origins; that is, to Syrian missionaries and authors to whom later churches looked as pioneers of the Syriac language in their services; as, for example, in Syria, Assyria, Persia, India, and China. Similarly, the term Celtic Christianity will apply to all churches and nations which used the Celtic language in their divine worship, such as Galatia and France, as well as Ireland, Scotland, and England before England was overrun by the pagan Anglo-Saxons.

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 Greek Christianity will refer to the churches throughout the world where the Greek language was used in their literature and worship. Latin Christianity refers particularly to the homeland of the Romans, Italy, and to certain other nations. No hard and fast rule of designation can be laid down for the overlapping of these different designations and terms. All that can be given is a general guiding description.

CHRISTIANITY AMONG THE JEWS 

The gospel first went to the Jews. It is easy to forget that almost every hero of the Bible was a Jew and that every book of the Sacred Scriptures was written by a Hebrew. Jesus Christ Himself was an Israelite.

It was to those having the blood of Abraham in their veins that the Redeemer first directed His message. His apostles were sent “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Tens of thousands received the word gladly, and among them were many priests. Even to the uttermost parts of the earth, where the Jews had been scattered and their descendants were counted by the millions, did the message penetrate. For a long time, as will be shown in later chapters, the bulk of the early church members had been won from among the descendants of Israel.

The first people other than the Jews to accept the gospel were the Samaritans. Christ had predicted that His disciples should witness for Him in Judea, Samaria, and in the uttermost parts of the earth. Philip, the newly elected deacon, was the one who determined to tell the good news to the Samaritans.(Acts 8:5.)

Samaria was the only place where men were presumptuous enough to build a temple to rival the one at Jerusalem. It was claimed that it was the successor to Solomon’s temple. Here only could be found another Pentateuch.2 The small group of Samaritans still existing look upon these first five books of Moses, written in the old Hebrew letters, as their greatest treasure.3

Ethiopia is the second foreign country evangelized by the church at Jerusalem. The story, as told in the book of Acts, represents Philip the evangelist as being conducted southward by the Holy Spirit after his victories in Samaria. There he met the royal treasurer of the queen of Ethiopia returning to his country from Jerusalem where he had been to worship. 

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The treasurer was reading the prophecy of Isaiah, who wrote about eight hundred years before Christ. Philip explained to this searcher for truth the fulfillment of the prophecy. This prophecy and its accurate fulfillment gave Philip a powerful message which caused the eunuch to accept Christ and be baptized. Thus began the evangelization of Ethiopia.4

THE BEGINNINGS OF SYRIAN CHRISTIANITY

Christianity was to enter a new field through the leadership of Paul, strong herald of the cross. In Antioch, the capital of the Roman province of Syria, was to be found a new center for the gospel. When Jerusalem, the original headquarters, was destroyed, the leadership passed to Antioch, where it remained for some time.

When the gospel moved into Syria, the whole church was astir. Cornelius, a Roman centurion at Caesarea, had experienced a remarkable conversion. Church members were fired with new zeal, and they entered Antioch “preaching the word to none but unto the Jews only.” Syria at that time included Palestine, parts of Arabia, and extended to the Euphrates River. Then began what may be justly described as “the golden age of Syria.”5 In Antioch, its capital, an opulent center, was located the administration building of the Roman officials of the East. Many Jews were there, and so numerous and influential were they that their rights and privileges were recorded on tables of brass.6

As a result of the ministry of Barnabas and Paul at Antioch, the name of “Christian” was there first given to the followers of Jesus. The providence of God was looking to the future of the gospel. Soon Jerusalem would be destroyed, and tens of thousands of Christian Jews would be driven northward, rejected by the rabbinical Jews. It would now be greatly to their advantage as followers of Jesus to be called Christians. They would no longer be classed with the Jews, and the new name would help them to escape the wrath of the Gentile world against the Hebrew race. As will be shown later, these exiles were to populate with beautiful cities, and with institutions of unsurpassed scholarship, a section of country northward beyond the bounds of Canaan.7 They would furnish an evangelical grasp of Christianity’s greatest doctrines which their background of Jewish history enabled them to appreciate more profoundly than could Gentile converts.

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It was from Antioch that Paul and Barnabas, set apart by the Holy Ghost, went forth as the first foreign missionaries. The results were a revelation. Little did the apostles foresee the manner in which the Gentiles would desert the heathen temples for the churches, as they had seen the Jews come into the church from the synagogues. Leaving the island of Cyprus, where the Gentiles had heard with astonishment the doctrines of the Lord, Paul and Barnabas went into Asia Minor. Here, as in Syria, the cities were full of Jews. Paul was proud that he was a son of Israel, because he knew that fifteen hundred years of sacred teaching on each recurring Sabbath had enriched the Hebrews with a mentality in things divine which enabled them to grasp readily such truths as God, sin, morality, and the need of a Redeemer. He entered therefore into the synagogues on the Sabbath day. The synagogues had long been established in the regions which were new to Paul and his helpers, and through the Jews they were able to secure an introduction to the Gentiles. A new vision came to the churches in Syria and Judea when the two men who launched Christianity’s foreign mission program returned with the reports of their successes. Even before Paul had finished his labors, or before Jerusalem was in ruins, the apostle Thomas had left for Persia and India. 

Eastward into those fertile lands between and around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers were laid the beginnings of Christianity at the second Syrian center, Edessa. Edessa, now Urfu, in Asia Minor, was at that time the capital of the small kingdom of Osrhoene. This city was about two hundred miles northeast of Antioch. From it Christianity emanated to Persia, India, Parthia, and China, and from it and other near-by cities, came the continued support of the work in those distant Eastern countries. Concerning Edessa, a well-known Orientalist writes as follows: “Edessa had also a celebrated School of Medical Research which was removed to Nisibis. Many famous physicians were numbered in the Nestorian ranks who graduated there.”8 At Edessa, the purest Syriac (Aramaean) was spoken.

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Tertullian, who wrote about seventy-five years after the death of the apostle John, speaks of the spread of Christianity in the following language:

For upon whom else have the universal nations believed, but upon the Christ who has already come? For whom have the nations believed, — Parthians, Medes, Elamites, and they who inhabit Mesopotamia, Armenia, Phrygia, Cappadocia, and they who dwell in Pontus, and Asia, and Pamphylia, tamers in Egypt, and inhabiters of the region of Africa which is beyond Cyrene, Romans and sojourners, yes, and in Jerusalem Jews, and all other nations; as, for instance,...varied races of the Gaetulians, and manifold confines of the Moors, all the limits of the Spains, and the diverse nations of the Gauls, and the haunts of the Britains (inaccessible to the Romans, but subjugated to Christ) In all which places the name of the Christ who is already come reigns.9

By whom was the knowledge of Christ brought to all these places? By those Christians who had the spirit of the genuine Syrian theology. However, there were others who taught false doctrines. Gnosticism, a product of Alexandria, Egypt, Antioch’s rival, was a union of pagan philosophy and gospel truths. While it was founding churches and building colleges, it rejected the Old Testament, denied creation, and held in contempt all Jews, even Christian Jews. In these words, the historian Newman aptly describes the difference between the theology of Antioch and that of Alexandria: “In the great christological controversies of the fourth and following centuries Alexandria and Antioch were always antagonists, Alexandria representing a mystical transcendentalism and promoting the allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures; Antioch insisting on the grammatico-historical interpretation of the Scriptures, and having no sympathy with mystical modes of thought.”10

Whence came that marvelous missionary activity of the church of the East for a thousand years? It originated in the regions of Antioch and Edessa. How great was the difference between apostolic Christianity and its perversion at Alexandria in the early history of the church is shown in the following quotation from Bigg: “The Church of the second century rang with alarm, and the consequence was that all the Christian writers of that period except Justin Martyr and Clement of Alexandria, shrank with horror from the name of philosophy.”11

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Shortly after the death of the apostles, the New Testament was translated into Syriac. This noble version, called the Peshitta, meaning “simple,” had for centuries a wide circulation in the East.12   It is still the authoritative Bible in large Eastern communities.

THE BEGINNINGS OF CELTIC CHRISTIANITY 

The apostle to the Gentiles, after founding Syrian Christianity, was called to plant the gospel among the Galatians, in the heart of the large Celtic branch of the human family. The Celts of Galatia were of the same family, and spoke the same language as the Irish, Scotch, British, Welsh, and French.13

Thus the Holy Spirit set another stream flowing rapidly which was to water the lands of the West. As India and China were to be bound to the West by Syrian Christianity, so Ireland and the western rim of Europe were to touch the East through Celtic Christianity. By one of those strange phenomena of history — may it not well be called providential? — the Galatians, a numerous branch of the Gauls from France, had pushed their way into Asia Minor. With all the fiery nature of the Celtic race, they had invaded and subdued Italy and sacked Rome in the fourth century before Christ.14 Not satisfied with this success, they broke into Asia Minor, and, settling there, became the founders of the province of Galatia.

Paul prepared to pass them by as he journeyed west, but the Holy Spirit disposed otherwise. A severe affliction compelled him to tarry in their midst. He won the love and devotion of these people, and soon there was raised up what he pleased to call “the churches of Galatia.”(Galatians 1:2.) Patrick entered Ireland in the latter half of the fourth century. He found a well-organized and healthy Celtic Christianity there.15 Evidence goes to show that Celtic Ireland learned the gospel from the believers in Galatia. One writer, who has made special research in Oriental history, says, “The Christianity which first reached France and England (i.e., Gaul and Britain) was of the school of the apostle John, who ruled the churches in Asia Minor, and therefore of a Greek, not Latin, type.16

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There is abundant evidence of intercommunication between Ireland, France, and Galatia in the three hundred years between Paul and Patrick.17 That the Celts in France were evangelized by the Celts in Asia Minor is shown by a well-known event in the history of the French church.18 About seventy years after the death of the apostle John, the churches in southern France suffered a terrible persecution at the hands of the pagans. The distressed believers in 177 sent a pathetic account of their afflictions, not to Italy or to Africa, but to their brethren in Asia Minor.

“In order to understand the situation, political and ecclesiastical, in southern France, we must bear in mind that the Gauls of the West and the Galatae of the East were of the same stock, and that each branch, though several nations intervened, retained unimpaired its racial characteristics.19

Thus Ireland received the gospel from Asia Minor, by way of the sea and by way of the Celtic believers in southern France; and they, in turn, obtained the light from the Galatians to whom Paul had ministered.

The facts given by Douglas Hyde show how powerful and how widely spread over Europe was the Celtic race centuries before Christ. Alexander the Great would not embark upon his campaigns into Asia without having first assured himself of the friendship of the Celts.20

Within the generation following the apostles, if not even before the death of John, the New Testament had been translated into that most beautiful of all Latin texts, the Italic version, often called Itala. For centuries scholars of the Celtic church quoted from the Itala.21

THE BEGINNINGS OF GREEK CHRISTIANITY

After Paul had labored in Galatia he was instructed by the Lord in a vision by night to go into Greece. He might have spent the rest of his days profitably in Asia Minor, but the Holy Spirit purposed otherwise. By his celebrated labors in the Greek centers of Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, Corinth, and later in Ephesus, the apostle founded Greek Christianity. At Athens, he entered the world’s intellectual center of paganism. Greece was still palpitating with the glorious memories of her victories over Persia’s millions, and the nation was reveling in the rich stores of her golden literature. Paul planted the gospel in the midst of the

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people who spoke the Greek language, that medium through which God was pleased to transmit to the world the most exalted of all literature, the Greek New Testament. The first revelations given to the gospel church were written in Greek.22

In later days a deep hatred sprang up between Greek and Latin churches, and Greek and Latin ecclesiastics hurled bitter words at one another. These theological controversies arose because both churches had grown ambitious and had allied themselves with kings and emperors. At length, in 1054, the Greek and Latin churches separated. Long before this the Latin state church feared the effect of the accumulated stores of Greek literature. Latin was made the ecclesiastical language of Western Europe.23 The Greek language, with its literature, was condemned by Roman ecclesiasticism, its study forbidden, and its writings anathematized. Ireland’s Celtic church in the medieval ages remained a center for instruction in Greek long after it had virtually disappeared elsewhere in Western Christendom.24 The knowledge of Greek was declared in the universities of the Latin hierarchy to be full of daggers and poison.25 For more than one thousand years it ceased to exist in the Teutonic kingdoms of Europe, except in the bosom of Greek and Celtic Christianity, and with those evangelical bodies which looked to the Scriptures as their only authority.26

The repulse of the Greek church by the Latin hierarchy left the former as a buffer between the astounding activities of Christianity in the East and the victorious sword of the papal kingdoms of Western Europe.

THE BEGINNINGS OF LATIN CHRISTIANITY

Sometimes the Lord calls, sometimes He impels men to great tasks, not because they are disobedient, but because their interest in near-by labors makes them oblivious to distant opportunities. Paul was directed by a vision to go to Greece, but he went as a prisoner to Rome. Intent on anchoring his great work among the Gentiles to Jewish Christianity, he complied with a dangerous request of the leaders at Jerusalem. The other apostles wished to disarm the prejudices of Jewish authorities against Paul by having him unwisely appear in the temple of Jerusalem in fulfillment of a vow. Paul was willing to risk his life by performing the required ceremonies in the central sanctuary of Israel if only he might avert a rupture between Gentile and Jewish Christianity.

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 He knew that the Gentile believers had received only a meager training in the profound truths of the gospel. Is it for this reason that practically all his epistles are written to the young, inexperienced Gentile churches? Moreover, in vision he foresaw the crushing opposition which would grow into an apostate church and which would pursue the true church for 1260 years, and therefore, he yearned to link the new Gentile churches to an experienced Judaism which had turned to Christ.

In His ministry to the Jews, Jesus was sacrificed at Jerusalem; in his ministry to the Gentiles, Paul was sacrificed at Jerusalem. Only a sacrifice can open the eyes of tardy believers to the greatest spiritual advances. Nothing short of the sacrifice of Jesus could break hard hearts and inspire consecration. Although Paul knew full well the burning hatred of the rabbis against him, he followed the plan of the other apostles, and entered the temple. The temple throngs rushed on him with rage. If the tumult had not reached the ears of the Roman guard, who barely succeeded in snatching him from the hands of his enemies, he would have been torn limb from limb. When he appeared before the Roman tribunal, Paul felt he could not locally obtain justice, therefore he said, “I appeal unto Caesar.” The Roman magistrate replied, “Hast thou appealed unto Caesar? unto Caesar shalt thou go.”

As a prisoner, Paul was carried to Rome, the capital of the Latin-speaking nations, the mistress of the world. Christianity did not come to Rome first through Paul; he found it there already when he arrived. Whether it preceded Paul by means of merchants, converted soldiers, or humble missionaries, is not known.27 Nevertheless, the slender beginnings soon grew in strength through the ministry of the great apostle. He at once challenged the higher circles of Judaism and paganism. Having been recognized as a prisoner of no ordinary class, he was allowed the freedom of his own house, and permitted to come and go and to labor in no small public way during the two years before his case came to trial.28 The epistle known as Second Timothy was written between the acquittal of the apostle at his first hearing and the death sentence at his second hearing.

Greece was the intellectual, but Rome was the military, stronghold of paganism. No one can read scholarly authors such as Auguste Arthur Beugnot, who wrote the history of the destruction of paganism in the West, without realizing how nearly invincible was the resistance of Italian heathenism. 

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Latin Christianity did not so early show the gains which soon adorned the labors of Celtic and Syrian Christianity. Out of the three hundred eighteen bishops who signed the decrees of the great Council of Nicaea in 325 — the first general church council — only seven were from the Latin West.29

To understand the apostolic origins of the true church, it is necessary to study the triumphs of the other apostles. In the first seven or eight years of gospel history the apostle Peter was a dominant figure. Paul held the center of the stage for the next thirty years. Peter’s closing years were scenes of wide and significant labors. They ranged from Babylon30 in the East to Rome in the West. For years he cherished the work at Jerusalem. There is reason to believe that at Rome he followed Paul in martyrdom.31 What determinative effects came from his labors over widespread areas may be seen by noting carefully the first epistle of Peter.

PETER’S EPISTLE TO THE CHURCHES 

This epistle opens with greetings from the apostle to the believers “scattered throughout Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,” and closes with a salutation from Babylon. All these first five provinces are found in Asia Minor. The significant results of Peter’s labors in Bithynia lead the student to glean awhile in that field. Paul was to evangelize Galatia but was forbidden by the Holy Spirit to go into Bithynia. In Galatia, Paul planted but Peter watered.(1 Peter 1:1; Galatians 1:2, 21.) In Bithynia, Peter both planted and watered. Many learned writers have given valuable time to analyzing the work in Bithynia. In 109, about nine years after the death of the apostle John, the Roman emperor requested the scholarly Pliny, governor of Bithynia, to make investigations concerning Christianity there because of the stories which had come to his ears.

The governor of Bithynia, in rendering his report to the emperor, revealed the irresistible advances of the gospel. Pliny complains that the people are leaving the old gods and their heathen worship to go in throngs to the worship of Christ. He laments because the sale of heathen sacrifices has fallen off.

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 Paying splendid tribute to the virtues of the Christians, he describes how they meet regularly once a week on “a stated day” for worship, which was undoubtedly the seventh-day Sabbath.

While Peter lived, churches sprang up in Chaldea, Assyria, Syria, and Asia Minor. As the next two chapters will show, there grew up in this territory noble, heroic, sacrificing leaders of Christianity who for many centuries formed the most learned and stabilizing force in the world to strengthen and to help the true church in the Far East and the West.

According to the writings of Origen (A.D. 185-254), the apostle Andrew was given Scythia as his field of labor, while Thomas was assigned to Persia.32 According to evidence fully discussed in a later chapter, Thomas went farther than Persia. Reliable Syrian history indicates that the gospel was planted at Mosul, in Mesopotamia, in 170.33 About 150, or fifty years after the death of the apostle John, the gospel had been preached and churches raised up in Persia, Media, Parthia, and Bactria.34 Rawlinson speaks of Christianity’s spreading in the empire of Parthia by 150.35 Evidently before he was killed in India in 72, the apostle Thomas had raised up many churches.36

THE GOSPEL TO INDIA

Pantaenus, one of the founders of the theological school at Alexandria, seventy years after the death of the apostle John, went to a country he called India, it is related, and reported evidences that the apostle Bartholomew had labored there.37 The gospel must have made a great headway among the Syriac and Latin-speaking peoples within a half century after the death of the apostle John, because by that time the famous Syriac New Testament, called the Peshitta, had appeared.38 Christianity is indicated as spreading among all ranks throughout Persia, Parthia, Media, and Bactria during the reign of the emperor Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 161-180).39

What power drove these early believers to enter the intellectual strongholds of European paganism, to venture within the fanatical pantheons of Asia Minor, to brave the burning heat of Arabia, to spend their lives wandering in Tartary, and, as strangers, to struggle under the blistering sun of India? This power was the word of God, which burned as a fire in their hearts. 

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They cried out with the apostle Paul, “Woe is unto me, if I preach not the gospel!”

These early missionaries clung to the Bible as the guidebook which would keep them from being deceived by apostasies, counterfeits, and by wolves in sheep’s clothing. Obedience to this Book singled them out for the rage of pagan emperors. They defended the truth against the wiles of Western false christs and of the counterfeit doctrines of the great Eastern religions. Nevertheless, as Paul wrote,

“The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword,”(Hebrews 4:12.)

and by that word, they conquered.

This chapter has traced the origins of Christianity in its various branches (Syrian, Celtic, Greek, Latin) and has revealed how the apostles and their immediate successors delivered its truths to these different peoples. Succeeding chapters will follow up the further history of these origins in different lands and show how and where the primitive New Testament faith with its apostolic origins survived. Then the reader will be better able to see how present-day Christianity compares with primitive Christianity.

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CHAPTER 4 

THE SILENT CITIES OF SYRIA

The ancestry of the Reformers is to be found in the godly men and women who, even in the darkest days, by their simple evangelical piety, kept the fire on the altar from going out altogether.1

IN THE early ages of the Christian Era the flourishing cities of Syria were the first to occupy a commanding position in the development of the doctrines and missions of the true church. It is an impressive fact that many of these silent and deserted cities still remain in a remarkable state of preservation. For many centuries after the Jewish Christians migrated north when they were driven out of Jerusalem, they continued to augment the membership of this already virile Christian region whose chief city was Antioch.2 Syria is a district, little known, but full of significance respecting the history of the true church.

Because of the hatred for the Jews who had rebelled against Rome and were duly suppressed, the emperor forbade them, in 135, to enter the city of Jerusalem. This, of course, excluded Christians of Jewish descent. This act also contributed to the building up of new Syrian centers of Christianity. Today one finds the splendid remains of the villas, churches, inscriptions, and public buildings in Syria which were established in the early Christian centuries.3 Here church organizations and mission enterprises took permanent shape under the hands of the apostles and their immediate successors. From this new base, streams of light went out to the ends of the earth.

However, before describing that which research can find in many of these cities, attention is directed to the historical and archaeological background of this early Syrian civilization which formed the earliest base for missionary work, both in the West and in the East.

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HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL BACKGROUND

Jerusalem’s fall produced its greatest moral effect upon the millions of Jews who did not reside in Palestine. Stunned by this event, they listened to the gospel, and untold numbers turned to Christ. These did a great work in establishing the church in all parts of the world.4 As they had not been under the fanatical legalism of the Jerusalem rabbis, thousands of them were open to the convincing fulfillments of prophecy preached by the leaders of the church.

The victories of the Roman armies aroused the Christian Jews in Palestine to obey the command of Jesus to flee from Judea when the fall of Jerusalem was imminent. The first region to receive beneficial influence from this transfer of population was that portion of Palestine lying to the east of the Jordan, referred to in the Bible as Decapolis,5 a word meaning “ten cities.” Upon these cities the Roman Empire had bestowed special citizen rights and had lavished huge sums of money to beautify and embellish them. It was Rome’s purpose to exalt alluring Grecian culture and philosophy in the hope of leading the Jews into pagan art and thought.6

In the days of the apostles this trans-Jordan region was a fertile land, enriching its inhabitants by varied and abundant harvests. The Christian Jews fled here to escape the terrors of the Roman war (A.D. 66). The book of Acts would lead one to believe that there were many thousands of them by this time.(Acts 21:20.) Possibly from seventy to ninety thousand Christian Jews fled from Palestine eastward. Many Gentile Christians also escaped. According to Eusebius these refugees fled to the city of Pella.7 The same historian again mentions Pella in connection with the widespread rebellion of the Jews in 135, after which the emperor Hadrian plowed Jerusalem under, changed its name to Aelia, and forbade the Gentile Christians there to have a leader of Jewish descent.8 Pella, at this time, was one of the famous ten cities. Arriving in such a region of culture, wealth, and liberality of thought, the fleeing Jewish Christians, stirred by having recently seen the fulfillment of one of Christ’s major prophecies, could hardly have failed to exercise an irresistible influence upon their new neighbors.

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The exiles who settled here multiplied in numbers throughout the following years. Their converts and their descendants formed large and learned Christian communities. The land of these pagan ten cities, or Decapolis, suddenly found itself producing a strong effect upon Christianity.

Another remarkable migration then began from Decapolis to the region about Antioch. Decades had passed since Paul and Barnabas had raised up churches in that part of Syria which lay directly north of Decapolis. There numerous converts to Christ existed among the Gentiles and Jews. The majority of the new believers, however, in the northern Syrian region were from among the sons of Israel. This latter community beckoned to the dwellers in Decapolis. Consequently, descendants of those who originally fled from Jerusalem left Pella and its regions to enrich and multiply Christian centers to the north as far as the Euphrates River.9

Syria had early attracted the attention of the cultured as a region in which to erect the magnificent in architecture. It was the richest and most prosperous province of the Roman Empire.10 It was also famed for culture and learning. In this section are found the grandest temples erected by the Roman emperors for the worship of the sun-god. In the midst of this land stood Antioch, the capital city. Later, when the emperor Justinian wanted, about 530, to build in Constantinople the finest church in the world, he searched diligently throughout Greek and Latin civilizations to secure a gifted builder, but was obliged at last to turn to Syria. Here he found the skill he sought.

“The school of Antioch at that time surpassed almost every other in scientific and literary repute, and its methods dominated all the East. Justinian, in the middle of the sixth century, wished to rebuild the cathedral of Constantinople, and from the school of Antioch he drew both his architects, Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus.”11

Concerning the unrivaled skill and scholarship of Syria, one historian says:

“Now the primary characteristic of Byzantine architecture is its development of the method of roofing with domes. The most perfect specimen of this work is the great church of St. Sophia at Constantinople, which it was the pride of Justinian to have built.

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Two earlier churches had been burnt — Constantine’s church in A.D. 404, at the time of Chrysostom, and its successor in A.D. 532. Strictly speaking, Justinian’s St. Sophia — still standing and now used as a mosque — is not typical Byzantine architecture. It is quite unique. Nothing of the kind had preceded it; it was never successfully imitated. Its famous architect, Anthemius, has the proud distinction of having produced a work without peer or parallel in all the ages of building. “St. Sophia,” say M. Bayer, “has the double advantage of marking the advent of a new style and reaching at the same time such proportions as have never been surpassed in the East.”12

In tracing the Celtic Church in Ireland, scholars are much impressed with the influence which these new styles, introduced by the Syrian architects, had on Western architecture. The connection of this style with the West is well established. The new principles of Syrian architecture were adopted in Ireland.

From Constantinople Byzantine architecture rapidly passed westwards. Greek art was dead. Roman art was dead. In the sixth century, the only living, powerful, vivifying art was the art and the architecture of Byzantium. I have now to show you two things: first, how Byzantine art and architecture passed over to Gaul; and then, how from Gaul it passed to Ireland. In the first place, as to the transition of Byzantine architecture from Constantinople to Gaul, the time and place of transit are easily determined.13

The splendor of the civilization built up in Syria can still be seen. The glory that remains is described in Howard Crosby Butler’s article, “A Land of Deserted Cities”:

“Few people appreciate the fact that today, at the dawn of the twentieth century, there are still parts of the old Roman Empire where no traveler of modern times has been; that there are ancient towns which no tourist has seen, temples and towers that no lover of classic architecture has yet delighted in, inscriptions in ancient Greek that no savant has as yet deciphered, whole regions, in fact, full of antiquities for which no Baedeker has been written, and which are not shown upon the latest maps.

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Let the reader for a moment imagine himself withdrawn from the luxuriant landscapes of forest-capped hills and fresh green pastures with which he is familiar, and set down in this wasted land of barren gray hills, beneath a cloudless sky, and let him see before him in the distance a towering mass of broken walls and shattered colonnades, the mighty remnants of a city long deserted by civilized men, silent, sepulchral, with gates wide open and every house within untenanted even by wild beasts. Let him recall that this now lonely city was in existence before the days of Constantine the Great, while Rome was still mistress of the world and the Antonine emperors still sat upon the throne, that its magnificent churches were erected while our ancestors were bowing to Woden and Thor, that its spacious villas and its less pretentious, though still luxurious abodes, were built while the Anglo- Saxon was content with a hut of branches and skins, and then let him reflect that this once wealthy and thriving town has stood uninhabited for thirteen centuries, that no hand has been raised to add a single stone or to brace a tottering wall in all that time, and he will grasp something of the antiquity and something of the desolation of these dead cities.14

These silent cities of Syria differ in many respects from the ruins and remains of the archaeological past found elsewhere in the world. The monuments are not the work of some foreign invader, but are indigenous the work of the inhabitants themselves. Furthermore, the stones were skillfully fitted together without cement or mortar. The construction and arrangements for sanitation were of the highest order and betoken an advanced degree of civilization. Some authors state that the arrangements for health and sanitation would be superior to those found in many places in the Western world today, even in Europe and America.

“Tangible remains of their civilization indicate that the people who inhabited the greater number of these smaller towns in northern and southern Syria composed a large, well-to-do middle class. They seem to have had no superiors living near them, for there is only one residence of special magnificence in northern Syria, and one in the south, and these mayhave been the houses of the local governors.15

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The apostles foresaw that the future success of the gospel would see many indifferent members coming into the fold. Paul declared that even in his day false brethren had entered in unawares. 

In their stand for the pure doctrines of Christianity, the churches of Syria were horrified at the license which many so-called Christian teachers took with the Scriptures, and they rebelled against the doctrines of Gnosticism which arose in the corrupted Christianity of the church in Alexandria. “The school of Antioch led a revolt against the Alexandrian exegesis of Holy Scripture, and founded a more critical method.”16 Lucian, the famous evangelical leader and scholar, was obliged to contend against both Gnosticism and Manichaeism, but more especially against the former, which was the older of the two movements.

As opposition to the allegorizing tendency of the age centered in the theology of the school of Lucian, it later found a home in the Church of the East.17 Emphasis should be placed upon the fact that the Syrian type of theology had great influence, endured until the Reformation, and kept its apostolic stamp. The inscriptions found on many of the buildings indicate that Syrian Christianity compassed a goodly portion of the territory in which the silent cities are found today.

“It is perhaps interesting to note that the inscriptions from this region (treated by Wm. Kelley Prentice), covering more than three centuries, show, in their phraseology, a primitive Christianity in that they are dedicated to “God and His Christ,” sometimes with mention of the Holy Spirit or the Trinity, but without invocation of the saints or even of the Virgin Mary. In this region, as in the Hauran, there are almost no Mohammedan remains, the prosperity of both regions having evidently ended with the Mohammedan conquest.”18

EL-BARA AND OTHER CITIES 

El-Bara, one of the silent cities on the road between Aleppo and Lattaquia, near Antioch, still contains villas, churches, funeral pyramids, and other edifices giving evidence of the past culture and education. Monograms cut in stone disclose the builder’s faith in Christ as the Alpha and Omega.19

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At Djebel Barisha may be seen many inscriptions and monuments of the second century after Christ. Some prominent inscriptions on these buildings are in Greek, some in Latin, some in Syrian. A few of them as recorded by an American archaeological expedition, read as follows:

If God be for us, who can be against us?

Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son, the Word of God, dwells here; let no evil enter.

The Lord shall preserve thy going out and thy coming in.
Upon this rock I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall

not prevail against it.20

Baouda contains the ruins of a large market town. To reach it, the visitor passes over an old Roman road built evidently before the days of Christ. Baouda betrays the marks of having been a strictly commercial, financial, and transportation center. The stone edifices provided for the store below with a dwelling apartment above for the proprietor. A short distance from Baouda is Babiska. Here are two churches, large and small public baths, with spacious inns near them. The buildings show great care and architectural ability in their construction. The fragment of another large building, probably a temple, dates from 225.21

WHY SILENT AND DESERTED CITIES

To understand why these cities are silent and deserted, one must notice the policy of Imperial Christianity during the centuries prior to the time when the scourge of Mohammedanism fell on the Roman Empire in Asia. Immediately after the Council of Nicaea, 325, the inroads of the northern Goths became serious and demanded the attention of the Roman emperors. The victories of these invaders cut off much of the empire in the West and reduced it in Europe to only about one third of its original territory. In order to survive, it was necessary to closely unify that which remained. In addition, imperial Christianity made the punishment of heresy a serious part of its program. Then terrible persecution fell on those who rejected the Church of Rome.

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This started a movement among the believers in Syria, long a part of the Roman Empire, which caused them to flee into those Eastern regions already alienated in spirit by imperial exactions. The scourge of heresy hunting had fallen upon the Eastern provinces. Entire Christian populations migrated from the areas of the silent cities and from that part of Assyria near the headwaters of the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers which was included in the Roman Empire. When the emperor Justinian in 532 began his policy of subjecting everything to imperial Christianity, the devout, learned, and industrious portions of the population had already left these parts to find a refuge within the boundaries of the restored Persian Empire.22

Imperial Christianity, on the other hand, was wholly unprepared for the Mohammedan hordes which appeared unexpectedly out of Arabia about one hundred years after Justinian. Mohammedanism issued from Arabia following 622 with the suddenness and force of a tornado. When Islam had finished its onslaught against Asia Minor and the eastern provinces, it had wrenched away the Roman Empire’s possessions in Asia, north Africa, and Spain. In the first onrush of this new fanatical religion, Palestine was captured. Then followed the overthrow of the Roman emperor and his army on a battlefield in Syria. Followers of Mohammed pursued their work of slaughter, devastation, loot, and deportation. The Christian population that remained in the land of Syria evidently worked its way farther east, leaving behind them their cities, silent and deserted.

Further historical recitals involving the Church of the East reveal that those first six and a half centuries of Syrian Christianity were marvelous in establishing the New Testament church, not only in the East, but also in the West. The mingling of the large Gentile and Jewish gospel communities in this region, coupled with the splendid spiritual background of training which the Jews under the Old testament had in things divine, richly endowed this fruitful soil for the spread of Christianity. Finally, the persecutions carried on by the imperial church, followed by the devastations of the Mohammedans, left the area depopulated and robbed of the gospel church of Syria. The protecting hand of God was over His truth, and the churches far to the west in Europe, and also to the east in Asia, were strong enough to carry forward the light.

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A CHURCH EVANGELICAL, NOT PAPAL 

The fact that the East was full of Jews, and that the preponderance of converts in the early gospel communities was for a long time from among them,23 would indicate that the character of the beliefs and observances held by the Church of the East were modeled after the churches of Judea, not after Rome. Early believers for a long time called themselves Nazarenes, a title found in the words of Luke, who reported that the accusers of the apostle Paul said,

“For we have found this man a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ting-leader of the sect of the Nazarenes.”(Acts 24:5.)

They also called themselves Beni-Israel, or Sons of Israel. They usually spoke of our Lord as the Messiah, and therefore were called Messiahans. Many of their rites and ceremonies were performed in such a way as to reveal their connection with the Jews of earlier times.

The majority of writings preserved by the Church of Rome supports the contentions of that ecclesiastical system. Light is thrown on the actual beliefs of the early Christians by studying the fundamental instructions concerning the organization of individual churches as given by the apostle Paul. The great apostle to the Gentiles made it distinctly clear that the churches which he founded in his missionary labors were modeled after the Christian churches in Judea. Thus he says,

“For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews.”(1 Thessalonians 2:14.)

Paul did not pattern the plan of the local church after the heathen temple or after the Gentile models he might have found in his travels. The pattern given him was of God. What was that pattern? It was the first Christian church at Jerusalem and its duplicates in Judea.

It would be difficult to imagine that the apostle Paul, laboring in regions all the way from Babylon to the western borders of Asia Minor, would organize the churches upon any other model. His congregations also were but repetitions of the original Christian communions in the province of Judea, particularly of the churches in Jerusalem.

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 For some time, groups of Christian believers continued to meet in the synagogues on the Sabbath day with the Jews.24 This fact indicates that the apostolic church, in its primitive organization, did not cast away everything connected with the synagogue. A confirming indication of this is found in the decision of the Apostolic council recorded in the book of Acts, where the assembled delegates voted that they would not pass any ordinances other than the four which they had already sanctioned, because,

“Moses of old time hath in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath day.”(Acts 15:21.)

The Gnostic theology of Alexandria which was followed by the Church of Rome, was hostile to anything Jewish, even Jewish Christianity. Therefore it is safe to conclude from these historic developments that primitive Syrian Christianity was not organized after the pattern of the Church of Rome, but followed an evangelical Judean and Biblical type of church organization.

The thoughtful student cannot but be impressed with the heroic exploits achieved by the missionary churches, offsprings of the Syrian parent communion church, throughout vast domains. Here one finds the spiritual leadership of Lucian of Antioch, of Vigilantius, reputed to be the first supreme head of the Waldenses, and indirectly of Patrick, organizer of Celtic Christianity in Ireland. These leaders are presented fully in succeeding chapters.

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CHAPTER 5

LUCIAN AND THE CHURCH IN SYRIA

Lucian was really a learned man; his work on the text of the Old Testament, which he corrected from the original Hebrew, soon became famous; he was a Hebrew scholar, and his version was adopted by the greater number of the churches of Syria and Asia Minor. He occupied himself also with the New Testament. His exegesis differs widely from that of Origen. In Antioch allegorical interpretation was not in fashion.1

CONSIDERATION having been given to the importance of Syria in conserving the original bases of the true church, attention is now directed to Lucian (c. A.D. 250-312). Born among the hills of Syria, this devout scholar was destined to exercise a dominating influence on the thought of men through the ages. He was gifted with an unusual spirit of discernment, which the Holy Spirit used in enlarging and strengthening the foundations laid by the apostles. For many years destructive teachings more deadly to early Christianity than the poison of serpents had been gaining ground. Lucian was called upon to face these, and although he did not succeed in completely removing them, nevertheless he did build for all a safe retreat.

Lucian might be likened to the founders of the American republic. As authors of the American Declaration of Independence and that part of the Constitution known as the Bill of Rights, they gave the nation written documents upon which to build the state. So Lucian, in an hour when documentary confusion was threatening chaos, defended, preserved, and passed on to other generations the true text of the Holy Scriptures. He also left a masterpiece of theology to evangelical believers. He stimulated and vivified correct church organization and method of evangelization. Although his opponents have seen to it that not much history about him has been preserved, yet they cannot rob him of his great works.

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Lucian was born at Antioch, a center of Greek life and culture. In his day, Rome ruled supreme. There was no more powerful metropolis than Antioch. On the outskirts lay the glamorous grove of Daphne, celebrated above all other groves. In it the pleasure seeker could find many delights, ranging from the most luxurious and sensuous to the highest performances of classical art. Often, in his youth, Lucian looked upon these scenes of worldly folly; but his pious heart turned away from them in complete devotion to his Lord. He could wander eastward a few miles to those beautiful villages and cities, the remains of which have been described in a previous chapter. At that time they were the flourishing home of a learned, devoted Christianity, clinging closely to the early simplicity of the gospel, and refusing to adopt the unscriptural teachings and customs of heathenism which were gaining ground in some professed Christian bodies. The early years of Lucian were years of great contrast. He quickly discerned that there were two movements taking shape in Christendom, one loose in doctrine and affiliating itself with heathenism, the other based on the deep foundations of the Christian faith.

HIS BOYHOOD AND YOUTH

In early boyhood an event occurred which opened his eyes to the frailty of empires. The Persians, led by the fanaticism of Mithraism, had made themselves masters of the Near Eastern world, bringing into existence an empire which would be the dreaded antagonist of Rome for five centuries. When Lucian was about ten years of age, Shapur (Sapro) I, the Persian monarch, waged successful warfare to the west, capturing the city of Antioch and taking captive the Roman emperor.2 Naturally he carried back from the region many captives, among them Syrian Christians who would labor to evangelize Persia. Antioch on the border line between Rome and Persia, the coveted prize of both empires, offered a commanding position from which the work of Lucian could exercise its influence east and west through the coming centuries.

Soon the government of the Roman world passed into the hands of an energetic soldier, the emperor Aurelian, who set about vigorously to repair the damage to the imperial system done by weak predecessors. At this time a certain Paul, born in Samosata, was bishop of Antioch and had brought down upon himself the wrath of the Roman and Alexandrian churches because of his teachings. 

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Paul was accused of believing a doctrine concerning the divinity of Christ which in the eyes of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria was considered heresy. Now for the first time Lucian heard the thunders of that struggle concerning the Sonship of our Lord which would go on until and after the first and most famous general council of the church was held at Nicaea in 325.

How difficult and dangerous the situation of Lucian was may quickly be seen. The churches of Rome and Alexandria had entered into an alliance. Alexandria had, for more than two centuries before Christ, been the real capital of the Jews who were compromising with paganism. The church at Alexandria was in this atmosphere. The city of Rome had been for seven hundred years, and was still to be for some time, the world capital of paganism. This environment greatly influenced the church at Rome. Lucian grew up in the churches of Judea. Here was the divine pattern for further believers. Lucian founded a college at Antioch which strove to counteract the dangerous ecclesiastical alliance between Rome and Alexandria. How bitter the situation became and how it finally split the West and East will be clarified by the following four facts: 

First, the original founders of the ecclesiastical college at Alexandria strove to exalt tradition. Justin Martyr, as early as 150, had stood for this.3 He was the spiritual father of Tatian, who in turn was, in all probability, a teacher of Clement. Second, Clement, most famous of the Alexandrian college faculty and a teacher of Origen, boasted that he would not teach Christianity unless it were mixed with pagan philosophy.4 Third, Victor I, bishop of Rome, entered into a compact with Clement, about 190, to carry on research around the Mediterranean basin to secure support to help make Sunday the prominent day of worship in the church.5 Sunday was already a day exalted among the heathen, being a day on which they worshiped the sun; yet Rome and Alexandria well knew that most of the churches throughout the world sanctified Saturday as the Sabbath of the fourth commandment.6 Fourth, when Victor I, in lordly tones, pronounced excommunication on all the churches of the East who would not with him make Easter always come on Sunday, Alexandria supported this first exhibition of spiritual tyranny by the bishop of Rome. Lucian opposed Alexandria’s policies and for this has been bitterly hated and his name kept in the background. 

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In the church struggle over Paul of Samosam, Lucian held aloof from both parties. When it appeared as if neither side would win, appeal was made to the pagan emperor Aurelian. The party led by the bishops of Rome and Alexandria could well bow its head with shame that the aid of a heathen emperor was invoked to settle a controversy over the divine Son of God. Most astonishing to relate, the emperor declined to judge the case and commanded (A.D. 270) that it should be submitted to the judgment of the bishops of Italy and Rome.7 In referring this issue to the bishop of the capital city and his associates, it was assumed that they were responsible for the whole Christian church. This came as a recognition from the pagan state to Pope Felix. It could easily be used to support the assumed primacy of Peter.

What must have stirred the mind of Lucian, however, who at this time was about twenty-five years of age, were the philosophical speculations offered to sustain the theological viewpoint held by the bishop of Rome concerning the Godhead. Concerning the Christians after the Council of Nicaea, where the influence of Rome was dominant, the historian Edward Gibbon wrote, “They were more solicitous to explore the nature, than to practice the laws, of their founder.”8

As no record has been found that Lucian was a participant in this controversy, subsequent historians recognize their inability to accuse him of factionalism or instability. One must read the thorough defense of this holy man by George Bishop Bull to know the errors Lucian opposed and the excellent doctrines he taught.9 There is no record of any charge of heresy, officially or ecclesiastically, lodged against him by his contemporaries.

In his early youth, Lucian was called to resist the rise and spread of two perverted types of Christianity: Manichaeism and Gnosticism.

INSIDIOUS TEACHINGS MET BY LUCIAN

Manichaeism dethroned the first chapter of Genesis by rejecting creation and a miracle-working God, by demanding celibacy of its leaders, and by worshiping the sun as the supreme dwelling place of Deity.10 Imbued with the ancient Persian hatred of the Old Testament, it ridiculed the Sabbath of the fourth commandment and exalted Sunday.11 This fanatical darkness, with its own fabricated scriptures, came down upon Syria like a fog.  Lucian weakened its attacks by his irresistible defense of the Scriptures and their teachings.

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He was next aroused to meet in the primitive church an invasion of subtle hero worship. Gnosticism was eating its way into those sections of the church which were compromising with paganism. The wrath of the papal party was brought down upon him because he refused to participate in a questionable movement to exalt on fraudulent grounds the primacy of the bishop of Rome. For more than a century previously there had appeared considerable deceptive literature giving an exalted place to Peter. In these crafty stories the impetuous apostle was brought to Rome, and with him was brought Simon the magician, whom he had rebuked. Supernatural powers were attributed to Simon. Peter, in these dishonest fables, was reputed to follow Simon, rapidly confuting his heresies and his superhuman feats, and finally destroying this pretended follower of the faith by a mighty miracle. These fabulous exploits of Peter were emblazoned abroad.

“The apocryphal accounts...of Peter’s deeds at Rome leaped at once beyond all bounds of sober credibility. They may have concealed a modicum of fact beneath the fiction, but the fiction so far exceeded and distorted the fact that it is hopeless now to try to disentangle one from the other....None the less this literature cannot be overlooked by one who aims to comprehend the growth of papal prestige. Conceptions founded upon it and incidents borrowed from it were in time accepted by most of the influential writers of Roman Christendom, even by those who like Eusebius or Jerome fully realized that the literature as a whole was a web of falsehood. In particular, the figure of Simon Magus, once installed at Rome, could never be entirely exorcised, nor could Peter be deprived of the renown of being the first mighty victor over heresy as embodied in Simon’s person. In fact, it is difficult to name one of the Fathers after the third century who does not sometime allude to that famous story. Ambrose, Jerome, Augustine and others...could none of them rid themselves altogether of the impression it made upon them.12

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Lucian never accepted such doubtful tales. He protested against those who were championing fraudulent claims; but as they became more determined in countenancing these false stories, and so helped to make the bishop of Rome “the vicar of the Son of God,” the more hostile they grew toward Lucian.

LUCIAN’S GIFT OF THE GENUINE NEW TESTAMENT 

The Protestant denominations are built upon that manuscript of the Greek New Testament sometimes called the Textus Receptus, or Received Text. It is that Greek New Testament from which the writings of the apostles in Greek have been translated into English, German, Dutch, and other languages. During the Dark Ages, the Received Text was practically unknown outside the Greek Church. It was restored to Christendom by the labors of that great scholar, Erasmus. It is altogether too little known that the real editor of the received text was Lucian. None of Lucian’s enemies fails to credit him with this work. Neither Lucian nor Erasmus, but rather the apostles, wrote the Greek New Testament. However, Lucian’s day was an age of apostasy when a flood of depravations was systematically attempting to devastate both the Bible manuscripts and Bible theology. Origen, of the Alexandrian college, made his editions and commentaries of the Bible a secure retreat for all errors, and deformed them with philosophical speculations introducing casuistry and lying.13 Lucian’s unrivaled success in verifying, safeguarding, and transmitting those divine writings left a heritage for which all generations should be thankful.

Mutilations of the Sacred Scriptures abounded.14 There were at least eighty heretical sects all striving for supremacy.15 Each took unwarranted license in removing or adding pages to Bible manuscripts.16

Consider how masterly must have been Lucian’s collection of the evidences which identified and protected the writings left to the church by the apostles. From that day to this the Received Text and the New Testaments translated from it are far in the lead of any other Bibles in use.

REJECTION OF THE SPURIOUS OLD TESTAMENT BOOKS 

Not only did Lucian certify the genuine New Testament, but he spent years of arduous labor upon the Old Testament.17 As the Greek language was the prevalent tongue in which leading works were published throughout the civilized world, he translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek. 

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He did this work so well that even Jerome, his bitter opponent, admitted that his Greek translation of the Old Testament held sway in the capital city of Constantinople and in most of the Near East.18

Jerome also entered the same field and translated the Hebrew Bible, not only into Greek, but into Latin. When the two translations of the Hebrew Bible appeared, there was a marked difference between the edition of Lucian and that of Jerome. To Jerome’s Latin edition were added the seven spurious books called the Apocrypha, which the Protestant world has continuously rejected. The responsibility cannot all be laid upon Jerome, for he did not believe in these seven spurious books. Augustine, whose fame as a father of the papal church outshines Jerome’s, favored them.19 Since, however, Jerome had been employed by the bishop of Rome to publish this translation and had received abundant money from his employer for its accomplishment, the pope took the liberty of adding the seven spurious books in question to the Latin edition of Jerome’s Old Testament. Later the Papacy pronounced it to be the authoritative Bible of the Roman Catholic Church.

Thus, in many ways Lucian became a blessing to those churches which in later years designated the Church of Rome “a newcomer,” and felt themselves compelled to disagree with it, while they persevered in apostolic usages.

EXPOSURE OF THE ALLEGORIZING THEOLOGIANS

Clement (c. A.D. 194) and Origen (c. A.D. 230) of the metaphysical school of Alexandria, in the days immediately preceding Lucian, welded into an alluring and baffling system the method of allegorizing the Bible. They taught the supremacy of the bishop of Rome and declared that there was no salvation outside the church. Clement played to the applause of the populace by advocating the affinity of Christianity with paganism and of sun worship with the Sun of Righteousness. John Mosheim testifies to this as follows:

“He [Clement] himself expressly tells us in his Stromata, that he would not hand down Christian truth pure and unmixed, but “associated with, or rather veiled by, and shrouded under the precepts of philosophy”... the philosophy of the Greeks.”20

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While Clement, with Pantaenus, mixed Christianity with paganism at Alexandria, Lucian founded at Antioch a school of Syrian theology. The profound difference between his teaching and that of the north African allegorizing theologians, Dr. Williston Walker thus describes: *

“With Antioch of this period is to be associated the foundation of a school of theology by Lucian, of whom little is known of biographical detail, save that he was a presbyter, held aloof from the party in Antioch which opposed and overcame Paul of Samosata, taught there from c. 275 to 303, and died a martyr’s death in 312.... Like Origen, he busied himself with textual and exegetical labors on the Scriptures, but had little liking for the allegorizing methods of the great Alexandrian. A simpler, more grammatical and historical method of treatment both of text and doctrine characterized his teaching.”21

It was a critical hour in the history of the church in the days following the efforts of Clement, Origen, and Tertullian — the mystical teachers of north Africa — to substitute new foundations for Christianity. In that time God raised up a tireless champion of truth, Lucian. Speculation within the church was tearing to pieces the faith once delivered to the saints. The very foundation of the gospel itself was at stake. Because of the immense contributions made by Syrian Christianity in the following centuries, later generations are indebted to Lucian. At this time the words of the psalmist were appropriate: “If the foundations be destroyed, what can the righteous do?”(Psalm 11:3.) It was at this time, according to a historian acceptable to the Roman Church, who lived in the same century with Lucian, that the martyr drew up a confession of faith.22

DENOUNCING TRADITION ABOVE THE BIBLE

The apostle Paul had prophesied that after his departing men would arise from the ministry, speaking perverse things and entering like grievous wolves among the flock.(Acts 20:29, 30.) Paul said it would come; Lucian in his day could say truly that it had come. Within a hundred years after the death of Paul there can be found in the writings of authors who now stand high in the Roman Catholic Church the exaltation of tradition to the level, if not above the level, of the Holy Scriptures. 

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Tertullian (A.D. 150- 235), who lived in the same century as did Lucian, after explaining the oblations for the dead, the sign of the cross upon the forehead, and the dipping of candidates in the water three times for baptism, writes:

“If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none. Tradition will be held forth to you as the originator of them, custom as the strengthener, and faith as their observer.23

The Church in the Wilderness believed the Bible to be supreme. Its members believed that the Holy Spirit and the word agreed, and they remembered that Jesus met each test Satan put against Him in the hour of temptation with the words, “It is written.” To hold the Holy Scriptures as an infallible guide to salvation excludes the admission of any other authority upon as high a level. To exalt tradition and place it on the level with the Bible throws the door open to admit all kinds of writings as bearing the seal of divine authority. Moreover, it places an impossible burden upon believers to verify a wide range of literature. *

The Protestant and the Catholic worlds both teach that the Holy Scriptures are of God. There is a difference, however, for the Protestants admit the Bible and the Bible only, while the Papacy places the church traditions on an equality with the Scriptures. The Council of Trent, 1545, whose decisions are supreme authority on doctrine in the Roman Catholic Church, speaks as follows on written and unwritten tradition:

The sacred and holy, oecumenical and general Synod of Trent,...following the examples of the orthodox fathers, receives and venerates with equal affection of piety, and reverence, all the books both of the Old and of the New Testament, — seeing that one God is the author of both, and also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved by a continuous succession in the Catholic Church.24 

That this principle still prevails in the Roman Catholic Church is shown by the words of the celebrated Cardinal Gibbons of Baltimore, who was long the leading exponent of his church in the United States.

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 Thus he writes:

A rule of faith, or a competent guide to heaven, must be able to instruct in all the truths necessary for salvation. Now the Scriptures alone do not contain all the truths which a Christian is bound to believe, nor do they explicitly enjoin all the duties which he is obliged to practice. Not to mention other examples, is not every Christian obliged to sanctify Sunday, and to abstain on that day from unnecessary servile work? Is not the observance of this law among the most prominent of our sacred duties? But you may read the Bible from Genesis to Revelation, and you will not find a single line authorizing the sanctification of Sunday. The Scriptures enforce the religious observance of Saturday, a day which we never sanctify.25

Lucian was obliged to take his stand against the tide of error that was rising in his day. He was diametrically opposed to the school of theology at Alexandria, whose teachings exalted tradition. Tertullian took the same stand as did other early north African authors directly or indirectly favored by the Papacy.26

Lucian encountered the contradictory teachings concerning the binding obligations of the Ten Commandments. The same inconsistency is manifest in papal doctrine today, for The Catholic Encyclopedia says: “The Church, on the other hand, after changing the day of rest from the Jewish Sabbath, or seventh day of the week, to the first, made the Third Commandment refer to Sunday as the day to be kept holy as the Lord’s Day. The Council of Trent (Sess. 6, can. 14) condemns those who deny that the Ten Commandments are binding on Christians.”27 This directly contradicts the teachings of Thomas Aquinas regarding the fourth commandment.28 And it is to be remembered that the Roman Church ranks him first as an expositor of papal doctrine. 

STANDING AGAINST “NO-LAW” THEORY

If any one part of the Ten Commandments is ceremonial, as Thomas Aquinas teaches, then the claim that they all are perfect, immutable, and eternal in their binding power upon all men falls to the ground. 

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The celebrated Reformer, Calvin, indignantly refuted the analysis of Thomas Aquinas.29 The charge made by Thomas Aquinas that the Sabbath commandment was ceremonial is not sustained by changing Saturday to Sunday, for, if definitely naming one particular day of the week is ceremonial, Sunday would be as ceremonial as is Saturday. Nor would the choice of any other succession of days, as one day in ten, or one day in twenty, escape this condemnation. Since the New Testament teaches that the ceremonial law was nailed to the cross, this attempt to make the fourth commandment partly ceremonial, placing it as a plaything in the hands of the church, clearly taught the abolition of the moral law. Herein can be seen how diametrically the above quotation from The Catholic Encyclopedia disagrees with Thomas Aquinas. The first says that the Decalogue is moral; the second claims it to be partially ceremonial. Cardinal Newman praised Alexandria, the seat of Gnosticism, which powerful movement rejected the Old Testament and with it the Ten Commandments. Lucian took his stand against such advocates of the “no-law” theory and taught the binding obligation of the Ten Commandments. Therefore he was called a “Judaizer” by John Henry Cardinal Newman.30

Excessive in his denunciations against Lucian, and master of the use of English, Newman, in founding the Oxford Movement, attempted to de- Protestantize the Western world. All must admit the great debating ability of the Oxford professor who left the Church of England to enter the Roman Catholic priesthood. He set out to defend the Alexandrian theologians.31 He sought diligently to find another way to circumvent the truth. Newman and the Oxford Movement as antagonists labored to brand the Authorized Version of the Bible as dishonest in doctrine.32 In order to secure a reason for writing his book entitled The Arians of the Fourth Century, which volume is practically atheism wearing a gospel mask, he was compelled to recognize the outstanding leadership of Lucian. So he said, “Now let us advance to the history of this Lucian, a man of learning, and at length a martyr.” He neglected, however, to state that for centuries Lucian’s orthodoxy has been defended by such great scholars as Caesar Cardinal Baronius, George Bishop Bull, and Henry Melville Gwatkin. So Newman resurrected against Lucian the old shibboleth of Judaizing. When a modernist is pressed for a weapon to attack defenders of the Ten Commandments, he brings out again the old bogey of Judaizing. What are the historical facts? 

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Newman recognized that the Jews “became an influential political body in the neighborhood of their ancient home, especially in the Syrian provinces which were at that time the chief residence of the court.33

However, Newman failed to add the facts admitted by The Catholic Encyclopedia, that “for a long time Jews must have formed the vast majority of members in the infant Church.”34 Since the majority of believers in the East were for a long time Jewish converts, it can easily be seen that the custom was general in the eastern church of observing Saturday as the Sabbath.35 It could hardly have been otherwise. The noble Christianity of converted Jews was second to none. Centuries of training under the prophets had endowed Jewish believers in Christ with ability to comprehend and to propagate the truths of the Scriptures. They felt, as the heathen world did not, the force of such terms as God, sin, righteousness, and atonement.

Lucian, though he was a Gentile, is belittled by Cardinal Newman as a Judaizer. Why? Those who sanctified Saturday by abstaining from labor were stigmatized as Judaizers. why should Lucian observe Saturday as sacred? It was the general custom. The church historian Socrates writes a century after Lucian: “For although almost all churches throughout the world celebrate the sacred mysteries on the Sabbath of every week, yet the Christians of Alexandria and at Rome, on account of some ancient tradition, have ceased to do this.”36 Here we note the union between the church at Rome and at Alexandria, and their common antagonism to the seventh-day Sabbath.

Sozomen, a contemporary of this Socrates, and also a church historian, writes likewise, “The people of Constantinople, and almost everywhere, assemble together on the Sabbath, as well as on the first day of the week, which custom is never observed at Rome or at Alexandria.”37 *

At the Synod of Laodicea (c. A.D. 365) the Roman Catholics passed a decree that “Christians must not Judaize by resting on the Sabbath, but must work on that day.... But if any shall be found to be Judaizers, let them be anathema from Christ.”38 Thus this church law not only forbade its followers to sanctify Saturday, but also stigmatized as Judaizers those who did.

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A long list of early church writers could be given to show that for centuries the Christian churches generally observed Saturday for the Sabbath and rested from labor on that day. Many churches also celebrated the day of Christ’s resurrection by having a religious meeting on Sunday, but they did not recognize that day as the holy day of the fourth commandment.39

The churches throughout the world were almost universally patterned after the church of Jerusalem in belief and practice. “It is true that the Antiochene liturgy describes Jerusalem ‘as the mother of all churches.’”40 Paul wrote,

“Ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judea are in Christ Jesus.”(1 Thessalonians 2:14.)

The apostle Paul, therefore, is the author of the Judean pattern. How long did this pattern continue? The quotation given above from The Catholic Encyclopedia, article, “Calendar,” reveals that vast numbers, not a scattered few, of Christians were converts from the Jews, so that the Judean type of Christianity was almost universal, and it so continued for a long time.

Syria, the land of Lucian, possessed the Judean type of Christianity. “They [the books DeLacy O’Leary was describing] certainly do prove the continued and vigorous existence of a Judaistic Christianity within the province of Syria.”41 

Judean Christianity prevailed so widely that it reached far into Africa, even into Abyssinia. The church in Abyssinia was a great missionary church. Neither must we forget that the Abyssinian Church [which is distinctively of Judaic-Christian type] became popular in the fourth century. In the last half of that century St. Ambrose of Milan stated officially that the Abyssinian bishop, Museus, had “traveled almost everywhere in the country of the Seres” [China].42 For more than seventeen centuries the Abyssinian Church continued to sanctify Saturday as the holy day of the fourth commandment.

As early as the second century, Judean Christianity in Syria produced scholars famous in Bible manuscripts. “The work of Malchion is generally regarded as commencing the ‘Early School’ of Antioch. .. The actual leader in the critical work was Lucian who came from Edessa and was Malchion’s pupil.

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 The result was an Antiochene revised Greek text of both Testaments.”43 Lucian and his school, like Origen, worked in the field of textual criticism, but he used different manuscripts from those used by Origen. Erasmus rejected the manuscripts of Origen, as did Lucian.44

Lucian prevailed over Origen, especially in the East. “The Bibles produced by the Syrian scribes presented the Syrian text of the school of Antioch, and this text became the form which displaced all others in the Eastern churches and is, indeed, the Textus Receptus (Received Text) from which our Authorized Version is translated.”45

Before his death Lucian was acknowledged throughout all Christendom as orthodox from the standpoint of the Bible, and a fundamentalist. It remained for Cardinal Newman to resurrect the calumny of Judaizing against him fifteen hundred years later.

A brief summary of the theological conditions which prevailed in the days of Lucian, and a review of his work and influence, is now presented.

1

THEOLOGY

The school at Antioch, founded by Lucian, developed a system of theology, so real that though all the power of the Papacy was thrown against it, it finally prevailed.

The Papacy also developed a great system of theology which was challenged both by the Church in the Wilderness and by the Reformation.

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2

QUALITY NOT QUANTITY

The Antioch system of theology which we have been studying was prominent; it extended from England to China and from Turkestan to Ethiopia.

Papal theology was also prominent. It is not necessary to indicate the dominating course it has had throughout the earth. Yet numbers do not constitute the final proof of truth. As an example, more millions of people in the world follow Buddha than follow any other religion.

3

THE GENUINE BIBLE

Lucian and his school gathered and edited a definite and complete Bible. It was a collection of the books from Genesis to Revelation. Well-known writers like Jerome, Erasmus, and Luther, and, in the nineteenth century, John William Burgon and Fenton John Anthony Hort, whether friends or opponents, agree that Lucian was the editor who passed on to the world the Received Text — the New Testament text which was adopted at the birth of all the great churches of the Reformation. Not a single church born of the Reformation, such as Lutheran, Calvinistic, Anglican, Baptist, Presbyterian, Methodist, Congregational, or Adventist, adopted any other Bible than that whose New Testament text came down from Lucian.

The Papacy passed on to the world an indefinite and incomplete Bible. While it recognized to a certain extent the books from Genesis to Revelation, it added to them seven other books not considered canonical by the authorities quoted above. In the Latin Vulgate of the Papacy it adopted a New Testament text with passages radically different from the same in the Received Text. It also made the decrees of the councils and the bulls of the popes equal to the books of the Bible. In other words, with the Roman Catholic Church, the Scriptures are still in the making. The Papacy exalts the church above the Bible.  Cardinal Gibbons says, “The Scriptures alone do not contain all the truths which a Christian is bound to believe.”46

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4

MANUSCRIPTS TRUE AND FALSE

The text which Lucian gave to the world was to all intents pure and correct.47 Even his opponents declare that there are no Greek New Testaments older than Lucian’s, and that with it agree the great mass of Greek manuscripts.48

The Roman Catholic text of the regular books from Genesis to Revelation and the seven apocryphal books based upon the manuscripts of Origen — later edited by Jerome — abounded in errors. Thousands of these errors have been noted and presented to the world by eminent Catholic and non-Catholic writers. Catholics admit that Jerome was a polemic theologian and that he allowed his prejudices to warp his translation.49

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RELATION TO THE LAW OF GOD

The theology of Antioch stood for the binding obligation of the Ten Commandments.

The theology of the Papacy claims authority to change the Ten Commandments.

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CHRIST OUR SUBSTITUTE AND SURETY

The theology of Antioch teaches salvation for sinful man through the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross.

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The Papacy does not now teach and never has taught salvation for sinful man through the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross. The Catholic Encyclopedia states, “‘Vicarious satisfaction,’ a term now in vogue, is not found expressly in the church formularies, and is not an adequate expression of Christ’s mediation.”50

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THE SABBATH

The majority of the churches of Syria and of the East continued to observe Saturday, the Sabbath of the fourth commandment from the days of the apostles and throughout the centuries. Hence the attempt to stigmatize them as Judaizers.

The Papacy has always endeavored to substitute the observance of Sunday for the sanctification of Saturday, the Sabbath of the fourth commandment. Pope Gregory I, in 603, declared that when antichrist should come, he would keep Saturday as the Sabbath.51

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NO UNION OF CHURCH AND STATE

The church organization developed by the apostles and continued largely by Syrian theology was simple and evangelical. Fundamentally, it rejected the union of church and state.

The church organization developed by the Papacy is hierarchal. Throughout its history it has believed in the union of church and state.

Lucian died before Constantine had consummated the union of the church with the state. Lucian’s teaching, however, lived on to plague imperial Christianity. The heritage he left behind became embosomed in the Church in the Wilderness. As late as the fifteenth century the Catholic clergy displayed a bitter hatred to Greek learning.52 The knowledge of Greek, however, remained in the bosom of the Church in the Wilderness whether in Syria, northern Italy, among the Celts, or in Oriental lands.                                                                      

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 And wherever the true faith was held, the New Testament, verified and transmitted by Lucian, was venerated and followed.

Conditions continued thus until the dawn of the Reformation under Luther. The Papacy waxed more powerful and more autocratic. The churches remaining true to New Testament Christianity became more and more sure of their ground, following the leadership of Lucian. Finally, when the great Reformation began, almost the first thing they did was to reach out, seize, and place at the foundation of the Reformed Church the Greek New Testament of Lucian. On the other hand, the first four decisions of the Council of Trent — the first Catholic world council after the powerful beginnings of the Reformation — condemned Lucian’s text and insisted on Jerome’s Vulgate. It is true that the Reformation leaders did not part with all the teaching of the Papacy subsequently deemed by Protestant bodies as unscriptural, namely: the union of church and state, ceremonialism, hierarchal organization, etc. Protestantism should have gone forward in its reforms until it had returned to the purity of the Church in the Wilderness.

Lucian by his life and by his opposition to Alexandrian errors showed that he would never accept any doctrines of the Trinity which destroyed the moral obligation of the Ten Commandments; that he refused any teaching which exalted the inspiration of the church above the inspiration of the Bible, and that he did not countenance any authority which divided the Decalogue into moral and ceremonial, is proved by his writings.

Lucian is one of those world characters who needs no sculptor to erect a monument to his fame. The transmission of the Received Text with its unparalleled effects down through the centuries is monument enough. Another monument is the influence of Lucian in the great Church of the East, as reproduced in its evangelical thought and life. In its history will be seen the hand of God, building a sure foundation for the divine truths that shall live in the long wilderness period of the church.

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CHAPTER 6 


VIGILANTIUS, LEADER OF THE WALDENSES

The paganism which so soon began to avenge itself by creeping into the doctrines and practices of the early church has never been altogether eradicated, and has always been ready to become the nucleus of heresy or corruption when faith declined or ardor cooled.1

THE earliest leader of prominence among the noble Waldenses in northern Italy and southern France is Vigilantius (A.D. 364-408). By some he has been accounted the first supreme director of the church of the Waldenses.2 In his time the protests against the introduction of pagan practices into primitive Christianity swelled into a revolution. Then it was that the throngs who desired to maintain the faith once delivered to the saints in northern Italy and southwestern France were welded into an organized system. Desiring truth based on the Bible only, those who refused to follow the superstitious novelties being brought into the church were greatly influenced by the clear-cut scriptural teachings of Vigilantius. Undoubtedly Patrick of Ireland, who was at that same time enlarging the Irish Church, was stirred by the reforms taking place in south central Europe.

Vigilantius was born in southern France near the Pyrenees Mountains.3 His father was the proprietor of a relay post, a “mansio,” one of those many traveling stations throughout the Roman Empire. The early home of the reformer was a relay center where change of horses could be secured for travelers who, perchance, were merchants, ambassadors, illustrious personages, bishops, ordinary tourists, or imperial couriers. The business offered to the growing youth abundant opportunity to obtain information on all topics from those who tarried at his father’s mountain abode.

As Vigilantius ranged through the solitudes tending the flocks, pursing the chase, or guiding travelers through the mountain defiles, he increased in stature and wisdom. Sometime while in contact with Christian travelers he accepted Christ as his Savior.

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 Near by were the estates of the famous historian Sulpicius Severus. This renowned writer was the idol of the learned class. In his mansion he was at some time host for practically all the distinguished men of his day. He invited Vigilantius to enter his employ, first probably in ordinary service, but later as the collector of rents and the manager of his estates.

While Vigilantius was employed in the services of this historian, a great change came over Sulpicius Severus. He was carded off his feet by the wave of asceticism and monasticism which was sweeping westward. Vigilantius early learned to love his employer. He admired greatly the brilliant intellect of this man who could feed the hungry, clothe the poor, and visit the sick, while engaged in many literary labors.

THE STRUGGLE AGAINST MONASTICISM 

Now, not far to the north dwelt Martin, bishop of Tours. Near the banks of the Loire River this prelate had founded the first monastery in France. The extreme austerities of asceticism to which he had subjected himself, coupled with the flaming reports of his so-called miracles, enabled him to set loose in the West the passion for monastic life. Sulpicius Severus, accompanied by Vigilantius, his Celtic financier, set out to visit Martin. That conference produced a profound change in the life of both Sulpicius and Vigilantius, but in opposite directions. The fanaticism of Martin, bishop of Tours, drew Sulpicius and his brilliant talents into the monastic life.

Such were the scenes related to Vigilantius by Sulpicius, if not actually witnessed by him; and he could not remain blind to the fact that his patron was neither happier nor better for his visit to the bishop of Tours. After his return home, the image of Martin haunted the sensitive historian: he was pursued by the recollection of the ascetic prelate sleeping on the cold earth, with nothing but ashes strewed beneath him, and covered with sackcloth only; refusing a softer bed, or warmer clothing, even in severe illness; declaring that a Christian ought to die on ashes; feeding on the most unwholesome food, and denying himself every indulgence; praying in the most irksome posture, forcing sleep from his eyes, and exposing himself to the extremes of heat and cold, hunger and thirst.

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 The imagination of Sulpicius dwelt on what he had seen and heard at Marmoutier, until he believed that heaven would be closed upon him, unless he should practice the same austerities.”4

The love of the marvelous, the habit of dwelling upon tales of wonders and of practicing ascetic austerities, had seized the employer of Vigilantius. On the other hand, Vigilantius saw in the system a form of religion without the simplicity of the gospel of Christ.

Thus Vigilantius saw on one side vain glorious exaltation, spiritual pride, and pretension to miraculous power; and on the other side, a false humility and prostration of the understanding, both growing out of the same mistaken system of asceticism: a system which undermined the doctrine of Christ’s full and sufficient sacrifice, and assigned an undue value to the inflictions and performances of men like Martin of Tours: and which he probably foresaw would in the end elevate them in the minds of weak brethren, to mediatorial thrones, and render them little less than objects of divine worship. Consequently we must attribute to impressions first received in the household of Sulpicius, the efforts, which Vigilantius afterwards made, to expose the errors of asceticism, and to check the progress of hagiolatry.”5

The gulf between Vigilantius and Sulpicius which was formed by their visit to Martin was widened when Sulpicius employed him as the messenger to Paulinus of Nola, Italy. This excellent man had also gone to a retreat where he could give his time “to those beguiling practices, which afterwards became the characteristics of the Latin Church; and proved so fatal in the end to the simplicity of the gospel.... Religious observances, transferred from pagan altars to Christian shrines, were dignified with the name of honors due to the memory of a departed saint: and as the heroes of old were invoked by the ancestors of Paulinus, so did he himself substitute the name of Felix for that of Hercules or Quirinus, and implore the aid of a dead martyr, when no other name in prayer ought to have been upon his lips, than that of the one Mediator between God and man.”6 Furthermore we are told that Pope Gelasius, in the fifth century, introduced into the West the Purification festival, coupled with a Procession of Lights, to supplement the heathen feast Lupercalia.

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What must have been the effect upon our simple mountaineer when he beheld in Italy gorgeous shrines erected to commemorate a hermit? Through divine grace Vigilantius escaped the infatuation which descends almost irresistibly upon those who yield themselves to practices designed to supplant the simplicity of the gospel.

The age of the apostles faded away into the age of the church fathers. Learning and argument were used to prove the verities of the gospel rather than the words “which the Holy Ghost teacheth.”(1 Corinthians 2:13.) This was especially true of Europe and Africa. 

REVOLT AGAINST ASCETICISM AND MONASTICISM

As if the ransom of the Redeemer was not sufficient without their own sufferings, those who practiced asceticism imposed appalling torments upon themselves. They undermined the doctrine of Christ’s full and sufficient atonement for sin. Processions were formed, relics displayed, and incense burned before the tomb of some exalted ascetic.

Monasticism followed on the heels of asceticism. Justin Martyr (A.D. 150) was prominent among the early apostates because of his perverted teachings.8 He was followed by his pupil Tatian, who in turn taught Clement (A.D. 190), a founder of the ecclesiastical school at Alexandria. Clement declared he would hand down the gospel mixed with heathen philosophy. But it remained for Origen, Clement’s pupil, who mutilated himself, to start the glorification of celibacy.

Monasticism is not a product of Christianity. It was imported from non-Christian religions. Christianity saw it first introduced from Egypt, evidently coming from Buddhism. There were two classes of monks. The first, the anchorites, sought to live alone in the gloomiest and wildest spots in the wilderness. The second class, monks, evading the solitary life, gathered into communities called monasteries. Refusing obedience to any spiritual superior except the supreme head of the church, they placed at the command of the Papacy a vast mobile army of men not responsible to any congregation. 

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Let it be remembered that the Bible training schools of Celtic and Syrian Christianity were not monasteries of this kind, although there are writers who would have it so. The inmates of the monasteries had a different program from the Bible training schools, whose pupils were there, not for life, but for a period of training, as the youth of today leaves home for four years in college.

The monks at certain times had pageantries, prostrations, and genuflexions. All these externals were symptoms of a growing ecclesiastical system, and they helped prepare the way for the union of the papal church with the state. Nevertheless, these and other departures from New Testament Christianity stirred deeply in all lands those who were to become leaders against the new perversions and who would demand a return “to the law and to the testimony.”(Isaiah 8:20.)

THE FORERUNNERS OF VIGILANTIUS

The splendid city of Milan, in northem Italy, was the connecting link between Celtic Christianity in the West and Syrian Christianity in the East.9 The missionaries from the early churches in Judea and Syria securely stamped upon the region around Milan the simple and apostolic religion. Milan was the rendezvous of numerous councils of clergy from the East, so that the early liturgies of Antioch, Milan, and Gaul were practically identical.10 It is impossible to find a time throughout the centuries when there was not opposition in northern Italy to the Roman hierarchy, sometimes great, sometimes small, but always evangelical. Dr. Allix states this fact thus:

To this purpose it will be of use to set forth as well the constitution of the church, as the manner in which the diocese of Milan did continue independent until the midst of the eleventh century, at which time the Waldenses were obliged more openly to testify their aversion for the Church of Rome as an anti-Christian church. It will be easy enough for me to perform what I have proposed by myself, in following the history of the church. Before the Council of Nicaea, we find the diocese of Italy very distinct from that of Rome.”11

Dr. Faber presents, in the following words, one way in which this gulf between the churches of the Milan district and Rome originated:

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Now this district, on the eastern side of the Cottian Alps, is the precise country of the Vallenses [Waldenses]. Hither their ancestors retired, during the persecutions of the second and third and fourth centuries: here, providentially secluded from the world, they retained the precise doctrines and practices of the primitive church endeared to them by suffering and exile; while the wealthy inhabitants of cities and fertile plains, corrupted by a now opulent and gorgeous and powerful clergy, were daily sinking deeper and deeper into that apostasy which has been so graphically foretold by the great apostle.”12

OPPONENTS OF PAGAN PRACTICES 

First among those who protested against heathen practices in the church was Helvidius I (c. A.D. 250-420 [sic]). It is interesting to note that three of the outstanding opponents of the papal innovations in Latin Christianity were from northern Italy. These were Helvidius, Jovinian, and Vigilantius. As for Helvidius, all that was written by him and for him has been destroyed. Though he lived a century and a half after Justin Martyr and more than a century after Tertullian, Cyprian, Origen, and Clement, their writings have been preserved, while his were destroyed. Helvidius belonged to the church which strove to hand down the doctrines of the Bible in the pure form. He is famous for his exposure of Jerome for using corrupted Greek manuscripts in bringing out the Vulgate, the Latin Bible of the Papacy. If the thunders of Jerome had not been turned against Helvidius, we would know less concerning him.

“Helvidius, a so-called heresiarch of the fourth century, a layman who opposed the growing superstitions of the church... He was a pupil of Auxentius, bishop of Milan, and the precursor of Jovinian.”13 Duchesne points out that Auxentius, for twenty years at the head of the diocese of Milan, was from Asia Minor and impressed on those regions the Syrian leadership in Christianity. Daring in his scholarship, Helvidius accused Jerome, as Jerome himself admits, of using corrupt Greek manuscripts.14

That part of the ecclesiastical system of the fourth century, which was peculiarly ascetic and rigid, found an impersonation in Jerome, who exhibited its worst and most repulsive traits in the whole tenor of his life and conversation.

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 Sourness, bitterness, envy, intolerance, and dissatisfaction with every manifestation of sanctity which did not come up to his own standard, had become habitual to him, and were betrayed in almost everything that he wrote, said, or did. Censoriousness, and the spirit of invective, were amongst his most strongly marked failings, and the very best men of the age did not escape his censure.”15

The second renowned reformer in north Italy and forerunner of Vigilantius was Jovinian (A.D. 330-390). He was so superior in scholarship that the united attempts of such learned advocates of the Papacy as Jerome, Augustine, and Ambrose failed to overthrow his scriptural and historical arguments.16 Of him Albert H. Newman says: 

That the protest of Jovinianus awakened great interest and received influential support is evident from the excited polemics of Jerome, and from the public proceedings that were instituted against him in Rome and Milan.... The persistence of the influence of Jovinianus is seen in the movement led by Vigilantius. It is not unlikely that followers of Jovinianus took refuge in the Alpine valleys, and there kept alive the evangelical teaching that was to reappear with vigor in the twelfth century.”17

Beuzart relates how a learned French historian speaks of the relentless persecution carried on as late as 1215 by monks against so-called heretics named Jovinianists, Patarines, and Albigenses.18

Jovinian drew the wrath of Jerome because he taught that the lives of married people, all other things being equal, are fully as acceptable in the sight of God as those who are not married; that eating with thanksgiving is as commendable with God as abstemiousness; and that all who are faithful to their baptismal vows will be equally rewarded at the day of judgment. Because of this, Jerome said that Jovinian had “the hissing of the old serpent,” “nauseating trash,” and “the devil’s poisonous concoction.”19

Vigilantius was convinced that the new system of austerities, processions, and sacraments did not result in making men preeminently happy and holy. Vigilantins witnessed too many of the ecclesiastical riots of the day.

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When Damasus was elected pope, A.D. 366, the dissentions in Rome were so violent that the gates of the basilica, where his rival was consecrated, were broken open, the roof was torn off, the building was set on fire, and one hundred and thirty-seven persons were killed.”20

Similar ecclesiastical riots were seen at this time in Palestine. Jerome, in one of his epistles, declares that their private quarrels were as furious as were those of the barbarians.

WHAT CAUSED THE RUPTURE BETWEEN VIGILANTIUS AND ROME?

When Vigilantius returned to Sulpicius, his employer, he stood at the parting of the ways. On the one hand there was Martin, bishop of Tours, rushing from cave to cell in the excitement of supposed miracles; there was Sulpicius, turning from sound scholarship to fables and visions; and the gentle Paulinus of Nola was groveling before the image of a favorite saint — the victim of delusions. On the other hand, there was Helvidius challenging the corrupt manuscripts in the hands of Jerome, the bishop of Rome, and their followers; there was the great leader Jovinian defending gospel simplicity and a married clergy. The event which decided Vigilantius was his visit to Jerome.

By this time the Goths, Celts, and Franks had forgotten their days of invasion and their religious differences, and were being united by the invisible bonds of community life. They prized their Latin Bible (not the Latin Bible of Jerome), generally called the Itala, “because it was read publicly in all the churches of Italy, France, Spain, Africa, and Germany, where Latin was understood; and Vetus, on account of its being more ancient than any of the rest.”21 To supplant this noble version, Jerome, at the request of the pope and with money furnished by him, brought out a new Latin Bible. He was looked up to by the imperial church as the oracle of his age. Vigilantius having inherited his father’s wealth and desiring to consult Jerome, determined to visit him in his cell at Bethlehem.

He went by way of Italy, paying a second visit to Panlinus. While he was there, processions to the tomb of the saint were made, accompanied by the swinging of incense and carrying of lighted tapers; but Vigilantius said nothing.

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 The gentle manners of Sulpicius and Panlinus coupled with their meek devotion softened their delusions. When, however, he encountered the fierce polemics of Jerome, the eyes of the Gallic reformer were opened.

Vigilantius, A.D. 396, was the bearer of a letter from Paulinus to Jerome, and this was the introduction which made him personally acquainted with the most extraordinary man of that age. Jerome was the terror of his contemporaries; the man above all others, who, in a mistaken attempt to do his duty to God, failed most signally in his duty towards men, unmindful of the apostle’s words, “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar,” etc. The mortification of the flesh had tended to puff up his spirit, and of all the polemical writers of the fourth century, he was the most bitter and severe.”22

The first meeting of Vigilantius with Jerome at Bethlehem is described in this language:

A narrow bypath leading off from the street, at the spot where the tomb of King Archelaus formerly stood, conducted the traveler to the cell of Jerome; here he found the ascetic clad in a vestment so coarse and sordid, that its very vileness bore the stamp of spiritual pride, and seemed to say, “Stand off, my wearer is holier than thou.” The face of the monk was pale and haggard. He had been slowly recovering from a severe illness, and was wasted to a shadow. Frequent tears had plowed his cheeks with deep furrows; his eyes were sunk in their sockets; all the bones of his face were sharp and projecting. Long fasting, habitual mortification, and the chagrin which perpetual disputation occasions, had given an air of gloominess to his countenance, which accorded but ill with his boast, that his cell to him was like an arbor in the Garden of Eden.”23

Vigilantius was at first warmly received by Jerome. The scenes at Bethlehem were the same as he had witnessed on the estates of his friends who had been drawn into the tide of asceticism. The sourness of temper and the fierce invectives of the editor of the Vulgate began to raise doubt in the mind of Vigilantius, however, as to the value of the whole system. The Gallic presbyter was especially incensed at Jerome’s criticism of Panlinus;

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but it was when Jerome turned fiercely upon Rufinus, his former friend, that the break between Vigilantius and Jerome took place.

Vigilantius left Bethlehem to visit Rufinus at Jerusalem. There was nothing in the life and atmosphere of that ancient city to encourage the visitor from southern France. He learned enough from his interview with Rufinus to recoil from Jerome’s leadership and to discover the first protest arising in his heart against the new system of asceticism and monasticism. He returned from Jerusalem to Bethlehem fully determined to protest against the unchristian vagaries of the monk whom few dared to oppose. As a result of this encounter, Vigilantius resolved to quit for good the contentious successors of the Alexandrian school, because of their loose theology and because they associated with the swarms of Egyptian monks. He determined to raise his voice in defense of the gospel’s primitive simplicity.

Another incident occurred to strengthen his resolution. He revisited Nola, Italy, returning by way of Egypt. One can imagine his indignation when he learned that Jerome was not satisfied with all the humiliations and sufferings Paulinus had undergone to conform to asceticism, but had written a taunting demand that his friend surrender all his wealth immediately.

Then Vigilantius decided to break the silence. How and where and against what, we learn from Jerome’s reply to Reparius, a priest of southern France, to whom, about A.D. 404, Jerome wrote the following concerning Vigilantius:

I have myself before now seen the monster, and have done my best to bind the maniac with texts of Scripture, as Hippocrates binds his patients with chains; but “he went away, he departed, he escaped, he broke out,” and taking refuge between the Adriatic and the Alps of King Cotius, declaimed in his turn against me.”24

In the Cottian Alps, in that region lying between the Alps and the Adriatic Sea, Vigilantius first began public efforts to stop the pagan ceremonies that were being baptized into the church. Why did he choose that region? Because there he found himself among people who adhered to the teachings of the Scriptures. They had removed to those valleys to escape the armies of Rome. 

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“He was perhaps aware that he would find in the Cottian Alps a race of people, who were opposed to those notions of celibacy and vows of continence, which formed the favorite dogma of Jerome, and were at the bottom of all his ascetic austerities.”25

How fruitful were the endeavors of Vigilantius, may be seen in the following, taken from another letter of Jerome to Reparius: “Shameful to relate, there are bishops who are said to be associated with him in his wickedness — if at least they are to be called bishops — who ordain no deacons but such as have been previously married.”26 It is not known whether the bishops who were agreeing with Vigilantius in his crusade against the semipagan Christianity of his day were on the Italian or the French side of the Alps. It mattered little as far as Jerome was concerned, since the preaching of Vigilantius on both sides of these mountains produced the thundering denunciations of Jerome, the great champion of the state church, that were heard all the way across the Mediterranean from Bethlehem. Thus the new mission of Vigilantius had created a cleavage between those who elected to walk in the apostolic way and those who gave church “development” as their reason for adding pagan ceremonies to the glamour of state gorgeousness. 

THE NEW ORGANIZATION OF FREE CHURCHES

The Alpine churches of France and Italy were not swept into the new hysteria. They welcomed Vigilantius with open arms, and his preaching was powerful. “He makes his raid upon the churches of Gaul,” cried out Jerome. Those in the south of France who desired the new teachings appealed to Jerome to defend the innovations against the attacks of Vigilantius. Jerome’s reply, addressed to Reparius, reveals what doctrines and practices the Gallic reformer was denouncing — church celibacy, worship of relics, lighted tapers, all-night vigils, and prayers to the dead.

Again and again Jerome begged to have sent to him the book which Vigilantius wrote. The historian Milner has exclaimed, “For a single page of Jovinian or Vigilantius I would gladly give up the whole invectives of Jerome.”27 The new leader of the churches which had not united with the state spent his fortune in collecting manuscripts, circulating the Scriptures, and employing amanuenses to write pamphlets, tracts, and books. 

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Jerome demanded that he be delivered over to the state for banishment or death; and as historians and the decrees of popes point out, the state church, when seeking the life of opponents, turned them over to the secular tribunal for punishment.28 This was done in order to disguise their crime.29 “The wretch’s tongue should be cut out, or he should be put under treatment for insanity,” wrote Jerome. Thus the ecclesiastical leaders, supported by state police power, were abandoning the persuasion of love for the brutal argument of force.

In spite of all this, those in the regions under consideration, were determined to follow the Bible only. They were growing in strength, and were coming closer together. Under the impetus of the campaigns of Vigilantius, a new organization was being created, destined to persist through the coming centuries. Vigilantius had prepared himself for this throughout the years by giving days and nights to study and research. It is a regrettable fact that none of his writings have been preserved. 

How demoralizing the influence of the monastic hysteria was may be seen in the transformation wrought in Augustine (A.D. 354-430). This renowned writer of the church (probably of all Catholic Fathers, the most adored by the Papacy) was forced by the popular pressure into the views of Jerome, and was in correspondence with him. His complete surrender to the policy of persecution is given at length by Limborch.30 Augustine, from his episcopal throne in north Africa, gave to the Papacy a deadly weapon; he invented the monstrous doctrine of “Compel them to come in.” Thus he laid the foundation for the Inquisition. Intoxicated with Greek philosophy, he cried out that its spirit filled his soul with incredible fire.31 He had wandered nine long years in Manichaeism, which taught the union of church and state and exalted the observance of the first day of the week.32 Augustine found many reasons why the doctrines and practices of the church should be enforced by the sword.33 The doctrine “Compel them to come in,” sent millions to death for no greater crime than refusing to believe in the forms of ecclesiastical worship enforced by the state. Such was the atmosphere of the age in which Vigilantius ministered.

In his day another controversy existed which was to rock the Christian world. Milan, center of northern Italy, as well as all the Eastern churches, was sanctifying the seventh-day Sabbath, while Rome was requiring its

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followers to fast on that day in an effort to discredit it. Interesting pictures of the conflict are given by an eminent scholar and writer, Dr. Peter Heylyn.34 Ambrose, the celebrated bishop of Milan, and Augustine, the more celebrated bishop of Africa, both contemporaries of Vigilantius, described the interesting situation. Ambrose said that when he was in Milan he observed Saturday, but when in Rome he fasted on Saturday and observed Sunday. This gave rise to the proverb, “When you are in Rome, do as Rome does.” Augustine deplored the fact that in two neighboring churches in Africa, one observed the seventh-day Sabbath, another fasted on it.35 

Vigilantius has been called “the Forerunner of the Reformation,” “one of the earliest of our Protestant forefathers.”36 Although the practices against which he inveighed continued for hundreds of years, yet the influence of his preaching and leadership among the Waldenses.37 burned its way across the centuries until it united with the heroic reforms of Luther. As the Papacy promoted persecutions from time to time against the Waldenses, it proclaimed the “heresy” of these regions as being the same brand as that of Vigilantius. Two centuries later medieval writers leveled their attacks against Claude, bishop of Milan, and against his followers on the basis that he was infected with the “poison” of Vigilantius.38 From the days of the Gallic reformer on, multiplied churches of northern Italy and southern France bore an entirely different color from that which rested upon legal ecclesiasticism. Thus, Vigilantius, in southern Europe, like his contemporary, Patrick, of Ireland, can be counted as being one of the early bright stars of the Church in the Wilderness.

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CHAPTER 7

PATRICK, ORGANIZER OF THE CHURCH IN THE WILDERNESS IN IRELAND

From all that can be learned of him (Patrick), there never was a nobler Christian missionary.... He went to Ireland from love to Christ, and love to the souls of men.... Strange that a people who owed Rome nothing in connection with their conversion to Christ, and who long struggled against her pretensions, should be now ranked among her most devoted adherents.1

THE heroic figure of Patrick, taken captive as a boy into slavery, stands out as a creator of civilization. He was not only an architect of European society and the father of Irish Christianity, but he raised up a standard against spiritual wolves entering the fold in sheep’s clothing. So much legend and fiction has been written about him that one is almost led to believe that there were two individuals — the real Patrick and the fictitious Patrick. The statement may come as a surprise to many, yet it is a fact that the actual Patrick belonged to the Church in the Wilderness. He should not be placed where certain historians seem determined to assign him. 

The facts presented in the following pages will no doubt be a revelation to many who, misled by wrong representations, have not realized of what church Patrick was a child and an apostle. As will be shown later, he was of that early church which was brought to Ireland from Syria.2 He was in no way connected with the type of Christianity which developed in Italy and which was ever at war with the church organized by Patrick.

Patrick belongs to the Celtic race, of which the Britons of England, as well as the Scotch and Irish, are a part. The vivacity of the Celtic temperament is equaled by noble courage under danger and by a deep love for learning. The Celts, like the Germans, possess a profound religious fervor which makes them devoted to the faith of their choice. This race once extended all the way from Scythia to Ireland.3 The Celts are descended from Gomer, the grandson of Noah, from whom they obtained through the centuries the name of the Cimmerians. In fact, the Welsh today call themselves Cymry.

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Three countries, Britain, Ireland, and France, are claimed by different writers to be the fatherland of Patrick. The weight of evidence plainly indicates that his birthplace was in that kingdom of Strathclyde, inhabited and controlled by the ancient Britons, which lay immediately northwest of England.4 Rome had divided the island into five provinces, and, in addition, recognized the Strathclyde kingdom. It was then customary to speak of these divisions as “the Britains.” To ten of the superior cities of these Britains, the Roman senate had extended the fight of citizenship.5 As his parents resided in one of these ten cities, Patrick in all probability, like Paul, was born a Roman citizen. He was born about A.D. 360.6

Fortunately, two of Patrick’s writings, his Confession and the Letter against Coroticus, a near-by British king, survive and may be found readily. In the Letter Patrick tells how he surrendered his high privileges to become a slave for Christ. Of his faith and his dedication to God, he says:

I was a free man according to the flesh. I was born of a father who was a decurion. For I sold my nobility for the good of others, and I do not blush or grieve about it. Finally, I am a servant in Christ delivered to a foreign nation on account of the unspeakable glory of an everlasting life which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Of the two writings, namely, the Confession, and the Letter, Sir William Betham writes:

In them will be found no arrogant presumption, no spiritual pride, no pretension to superior sanctity, no maledictions of magi, or rivers, because his followers were drowned in them, no veneration for, or adoration of, relics, no consecrated staffs, or donations of his teeth for relics, which occur so frequently in the lives and also in the collections of Tirechan, referring to Palladius, not to Patrick.”7

At the age of sixteen, Patrick was carried captive to Ireland by freebooters who evidently had sailed up the Clyde River or landed on the near-by coast. Of this he writes in this Confession:

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I, Patrick, a sinner, the rudest and least of all the faithful, and most contemptible to great numbers, had Calpurnius for my father, a deacon, son of the late Potitus, the presbyter, who dwelt in the village of Banavan, Tiberniae, for he had a small farm at hand with the place where I was captured. I was then almost sixteen years of age. I did not know the true God; and was taken to Ireland in captivity with many thousand men in accordance with our deserts, because we walked at a distance from God and did not observe His commandments.” 

It can be noticed in this statement that the grandfather of Patrick was a presbyter, which indicated that he held an office in the church equal to that of bishop in the papal meaning of the term. This is one of the many proofs that celibacy was not an obligation among the early British clergy. Patrick’s father was a deacon in the church, a town counselor, a farmer, and a husband. To the glory of God, it came to pass that, during his seven years of slavery in Ireland, Patrick acquired the Irish form of the Celtic language. This was of great value, because the fierce fighting disposition of the pagan Irish, at that time was a barrier to the Romans’ or Britons’ attempting missionary work across the channel on a large scale. However, many of those previously carried off into captivity must have been Christians who engaged themselves so earnestly in converting their captors that considerable Christianity was found in Ireland when, after his escape, Patrick dared to return to evangelize the island.

It will be further noted in the quotation above that he was taken into “captivity with many thousand men.” The seagoing craft used in those days along the coasts of Ireland, called “coracles,” were small vessels made by covering a wicker frame with hide or leather. The problem involved in transporting many thousands of captives by means of such small boats indicates that the raid must have been made on a near-by coast, which is further testimony that his fatherland was “the Britains.”

Patrick, like his Master of Galilee, was to learn obedience through suffering. A great task awaited him. The apostolic church had won a comparatively easy victory in her struggle with a pagan world for three centuries. But an almost impossible task awaited her when a compromising Christianity, enforcing its doctrines at the point of the sword, had become the state religion of the Roman Empire.* 

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It was an hour when a new line of leaders was needed. As the struggle of free churches to live their lives without the domination of a state clergy began, God was training Patrick.

While considering the early life of this Christian leader, it is most interesting to note what was happening in contemporary history. Vigilantius8 was doing his work in southern France and in northern Italy, or among the Latin peoples. Shortly before Patrick’s time the empire at Constantinople had been under the rule of Constantine II, who recoiled from accepting the extreme views on the Godhead, which had won the vote under his father, Constantine the Great, in the first Council of Nicaea. As will be related later, similar opposition to those extreme views prevailed all over Europe. Patrick’s belief was that of the opposition. Dr. Stokes writes: “The British churches of the fourth century took the keenest interest in church controversies. They opposed Arianism, but hesitated, like many others, about the use of the word ‘homoousion.’”9 (This word means “identity of substance.”) Thus Celtic Christianity in the years of Patrick refused to accept this test term and the conclusions to which the radical speculations were leading.

It is remarkable that in the time of Patrick, as later testimony from Alphonse Mingana will point out, there were large groups of Christians stretching all the way from the Euphrates to northwestern India. Furthermore, in 411, when Patrick was at the height of his work, the recognized head over the Church of the East at Seleucia, Persia, consecrated a metropolitan administrator for China who must have had many provincial directors under him. This indicates many Christian churches in China in that age. Ambrose reported in 396 that Musaeus, an Abyssinian church leader, had “traveled almost everywhere in the country of the Seres.” Seres was the name for the Chinese.10 Truly, the age in which Patrick labored saw stirring scenes throughout the world.

Both Isaac, supreme director, and Theodore of Mopsuestia, author and theologian, were powerful leaders in the great Church of the East during the period of Patrick’s ministry. The influence of the writings of Theodore in molding Oriental Christianity for centuries and his signal work in refuting the doctrines of Mithraism in the East, while Patrick was winning his victories in the West, is of importance.11 

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CHRISTIANITY IN IRELAND BEFORE PATRICK

Celtic Christianity embraced more than Irish and British Christianity. There was a Gallic (French) Celtic Christianity and a Galatian Celtic Christianity, as well as a British Celtic Christianity. So great were the migrations of peoples in ancient times that not only the Greeks, but also the Assyrians settled in large numbers in the land now called France. Thus for almost a thousand years after Christ there was in southern France a strong Greek and Oriental population. As late as 600, there were people in France who spoke the language of Assyria.12

Surely no one could claim that that branch of Celtic Christianity in Asia Minor, whose churches arose as the result of the labors of the apostle Paul, received their gospel from the bishop of Rome. On the other hand, it is evident that Gaul received her knowledge of the gospel from missionaries who traveled from Asia Minor. It was the Celtic, or Galatian type of the New Testament church which evangelized Great Britain.13 Thus Thomas Yeates writes:

A large number of this Keltic community (Lyons, A.D. 177) — colonists from Asia Minor — who escaped, migrated to Ireland (Erin) and laid the foundations of the pre-Patrick church.”14

The Roman Catholic Church throughout the centuries was able to secure a large following in France; but until after the French Revolution she never succeeded in eliminating the spirit of independence in the French hierarchy. This is due largely to the background of the Celtic race. As H. J. Warner writes:

Such an independence France had constantly shown, and it may be traced not only to the racial antipathy between Gaul and Pelagian, but to the fact that western Gaul had never lost touch with its eastern kin.”15

PATRICK’S WORK IN IRELAND

Two centuries elapsed after Patrick’s death before any writer attempted to connect Patrick’s work with a papal commission. No pope ever mentioned him, neither is there anything in the ecclesiastical records of Rome concerning him. Nevertheless, by examining the two writings which he left, historical statements are found which locate quite definitely the period in which he labored.

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When Patrick speaks of the island from which he was carried captive, he calls it “the Britains.” This was the title given the island by the Romans many years before they left it. After the Goths sacked the city of Rome in 410, the imperial legions were recalled from England in order to protect territory nearer home. Upon their departure, savage invaders from the north and from the Continent, sweeping in upon the island, devastated it and erased its diversified features, so that it could no longer be called “the Britains.” Following the withdrawal of the Roman legions in 410, the title “the Britains” ceased to be used. Therefore from this evidence it would seem logical to reach the conclusion that Patrick wrote his letters and documents before that date.

This date agrees with the time when Columba, the renowned graduate of Patrick’s school who brought Christianity to Scotland, began his ministry. Columba graduated when the schools founded by Patrick had grown to sizable proportions. The time which elapsed between the founding of the schools by Patrick and their growth in the days of Columba would indicate that Patrick began his ministry in Ireland about 390.

What Patrick did between the time of his escape from slavery in Ireland and his return as a missionary to that land is not known. Every effort has been made by propapal writers to place him in this interval, at Rome. On one such fictitious visit it is said that Patrick with the help of an angel performed the questionable feat of stealing many relics from the pope among which was supposed to have been the bloodstained towel of our Savior and some hair from the Virgin Mary. One writer exclaims: “O wondrous deed! O rare theft of a vast treasure of holy things, committed without sacrilege, the plunder of the most holy place in the world!”16

The words of Patrick himself reveal his unrest of soul after his escape from slavery until he submitted to the call of God to proclaim the news of salvation to the Irish. He had continually heard voices from the woods of Hibernia, begging him, as did the man in the night vision of Paul, “Come over...and help us.” Neither the tears of his parents nor the reasonings of his friends could restrain him. He determined, whatever the cost, to turn his back upon the allurements of home and friends and to give his life for the Emerald Isle.

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HIS AUTHORITY — THE BIBLE

Patrick preached the Bible. He appealed to it as the sole authority for founding the Irish Church. He gave credit to no other worldly authority; he recited no creed. Several official creeds of the church at Rome had by that time been ratified and commanded, but Patrick mentions none. In his Confession he makes a brief statement of his beliefs, but he does not refer to any church council or creed as authority. The training centers he founded, which later grew into colleges and large universities, were all Bible schools. Famous students of these schools — Columba, who brought Scotland to Christ, Aidan, who won pagan England to the gospel, and Columbanus with his successors, who brought Christianity to Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy — took the Bible as their only authority, and founded renowned Bible training centers for the Christian believers. One authority, describing the handwritten Bibles produced at these schools, says, “In delicacy of handling and minute but faultless execution, the whole range of paleography offers nothing comparable to these early Irish manuscripts.”17

In the closing words of his Letter, Patrick writes: “I testify before God and His angels that it shall be so as He has intimated to my ignorance. These are not my words, but (the words) of God, and of the apostles and prophets, which I have written in Latin, who have never lied.”

Patrick, like his example, Jesus, put the words of Scripture above the teachings of men. He differed from the Papacy, which puts church tradition above the Bible. In his writings he nowhere appeals to the church at Rome for the authorization of his mission. Whenever he speaks in defense of his mission, he refers to God alone, and declares that he received his call direct from heaven. Sir William Betham states that the more recent Latin version of Jerome was not publicly read in Patrick’s day. Evidently the earlier Latin version of the Bible, known as the Itala, was publicly used. It is interesting to note that it was approximately nine hundred years before Jerome’s Vulgate could make headway in the West against the Itala.18

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Wherever this Christian leader sowed, he also reaped. Ireland was set on fire for God by the fervor of Patrick’s missionary spirit. Leaving England again with a few companions, according to the record in the Book of Armagh, he landed at Wicklow Head on the southeastern coast of Ireland. Legendary and fabulous is The Tripartite Life of Patrick. It cannot be credited, yet doubtless it was built around certain facts of his life. At least from these records can be traced his steps for a quarter of a century through the isle.

Patrick believed that Christianity should be founded with the home and the family as its strength. Too often the Christian organizations of that age were centered in celibacy. This was not true of the Irish Church and its Celtic daughters in Great Britain, Scotland, and on the Continent. The Celtic Church, as organized and developed under Patrick, permitted its clergy to marry.19

The absence of celibacy in the Celtic Church gives added proof to the fact that the believers had no connection with the church at Rome. Thus Dr. J. H. Todd writes: “He [Patrick] says nothing of Rome, or of having been commissioned by Pope Celestine. He attributed his Irish apostleship altogether to an inward call, which he regarded as a divine command.”20

One of the strongest proofs that Patrick did not belong to papal Christianity is found in the historical fact that for centuries Rome made every effort to destroy the church Patrick had founded. Jules Michelet writes of Boniface, who was the pope’s apostle to the Germans about two hundred years after Patrick: “His chief hatred is to the Scots [the name equally given to the Scotch and Irish], and he especially condemns their allowing priests to marry.”21

Patrick sought two goals in his effort to make truth triumphant. First, he sought the conversion of those among whom he had been a slave, and, secondly, he longed to capture Tara, the central capital of Ireland, for Christ. Therefore he proceeded immediately to County Antrim in the northwest, where he had endured slavery. While he failed to win his former slave master, he was successful in converting the master’s household. This threw open a door to further missionary labors not only to this region but also across the adjacent waters into near-by Scotland.

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History loves to linger upon the legend of Patrick’s attack on Tara, the central capital. The Irish, like other branches of the Celtic race, had local chieftains who were practically independent. They also had, by their own election, an overlord, who might be referred to as a king and who could summon all the people when needed for the defense of the nation. For many years Tara had been the renowned capital of Ireland to which were called the Irish chieftains to conduct the general affairs of the realm. These conventions were given over not only to business, but also to festivals emblazoned with bright scenes and stirring events. As Thomas Moore wrote:

The harp that once through Tara’s halls The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls, As if that soul were fled. —
So sleeps the pride of former days,
So glory’s thrill is o’er;
And hearts, that once beat high for praise, Now feel that pulse no more.
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It was at the time of one of these assemblies, so the story goes, that Patrick personally appeared to proclaim the message of Christ. The event is so surrounded by legends, many of them too fabulous to be considered, that many details cannot be presented as facts. His success did not come up to his expectations, however; but by faithful efforts he placed the banner of Christianity in the political center of the national life.

He did not enter the capital because he felt that God’s work needed the help of the state. Patrick rejected the union of church and state. More than one hundred years had passed since the first world council at Nicaea had united the church with the empire. Patrick rejected this model. He followed the lesson taught in John’s Gospel when Christ refused to be made a king. Jesus said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”(John 18:36.) Not only the Irish apostle but his famous successors, Columba in Scotland, and Columbanus on the Continent, ignored the supremacy of the papal pontiff. They never would have agreed to making the pope a king. Although the Roman Empire after the fourth century had favored that supremacy, there was still great discontent throughout Europe against this encroachment of civil power into the church.

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While Patrick was laboring in Ireland, the bishop of north Africa in 418 had excommunicated Apiarius, a clergyman, for grave offenses. The offender appealed to the pope, who acquitted him over the heads of his superiors. The bishops retaliated by assembling in council and passing a protest forbidding an appeal of lower clergy against their bishops to an authority beyond the sea. The pope replied with resolutions which he claimed had been passed by the Council of Nicaea. Their illegality was exposed by the African prelates.23

Yet it must not be thought, as some writers antagonistic to the Celtic Church claim, that Patrick and his successors lacked church organization. Dr. Benedict Fitzpatrick, a Catholic scholar, resents any such position. He adduces satisfactory proof to show that the Irish founders of Celtic Christianity created a splendid organization.24

THE FICTITIOUS PATRICK 

Many miracles have been ascribed to Patrick by the traditional stories which grew up. Two or three will suffice to show the difference between the miraculous hero of the fanatical fiction and the real Patrick. The Celtic Patrick reached Ireland in an ordinary way. The fictitious Patrick, in order to provide passage for a leper when there was no place on the boat, threw his portable stone altar into the sea. The stone did not go to the bottom, nor was it outdistanced by the boat, but it floated around the boat with the leper on it until it reached Ireland.25

In order to connect this great man with the papal see, it was related: “Sleep came over the inhabitants of Rome, so that Patrick brought away as much as he wanted of the relics. Afterward those relics were taken to Armagh by the counsel of God and the counsel of the men of Ireland. What was brought then was three hundred and threescore and five relics, together with the relics of Paul and Peter and Lawrence and Stephen, and many others. And a sheet was there with Christ’s blood [thereon] and with the hair of Mary the Virgin.26 But Dr. Killen refutes this story by declaring:

He (Patrick) never mentions either Rome or the pope or hints that he was in any way connected with the ecclesiastical capital of Italy. He recognizes no other authority but that of the word of God. .. When Palladius arrived in the country, it was not to be expected that he would receive a very hearty welcome from the Irish apostle.

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 If he was sent by [Pope] Celestine to the native Christians to be their primate or archbishop, no wonder that stout-hearted Patrick refused to bow his neck to any such yoke of bondage.”27

About two hundred years after Patrick, papal authors began to tell of a certain Palladius, who was sent in 430 by this same Pope Celestine as a bishop to the Irish. They all admit, however, that he stayed only a short time in Ireland and was compelled to withdraw because of the disrespect which was shown him.

One more of the many legendary miracles which sprang from the credulity and tradition of Rome is here repeated. “He went to Rome to have [ecclesiastical] orders given him; and Caelestinus, abbot of Rome, he it is that read orders over him, Gemanus and Amatho, king of the Romans, being present with them. .. And when the orders were a reading out, the three choirs mutually responded, namely the choir of the household of heaven, and the choir of the Romans, and the choir of the children from the wood of Fochlad. This is what all sang: ‘All we Irish beseech thee, holy Patrick, to come and walk among us and to free us.’”28 It is doubtful whether the choirs in heaven would accept this representation that they were Irish.

WAR ON THE CELTIC CHURCH

The growing coldness between the Celtic and the Roman Churches as noted in the foregoing paragraphs did not originate in a hostile attitude of mind in the Celtic clergy. It arose because they considered that the Papacy was moving farther and farther away from the apostolic system of the New Testament. No pope ever passed on to the leading bishops of the church the news of the great transformation from heathenism to Christianity wrought by Patrick. This they certainly would have done, as was done in other cases, had he been an agent of the Roman pontiff.

One is struck by the absence of any reference to Patrick in the Ecclesiastical History of England written by that fervent follower of the Vatican, the Englishman Bede, who lived about two hundred years after the death of the apostle to Ireland. That history remains today the well from which many draw who would write on Anglo-Saxon England.

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 Bede had access to the archives of Rome. He was well acquainted with the renowned Celtic missionaries who were the products of the schools of Patrick. He also emphasizes the profound differences between the Celtic and Roman Churches which brought about bitter controversies between kings and bishops. Though a great collector of facts, Bede makes no reference whatever to Patrick. The reason apparently is that, when this historian wrote, the Papacy had not yet made up its mind to claim Patrick.

When the pope had sent Augustine with his forty monks to convert the heathen Anglo-Saxons, Augustine, with the help of Bertha, the Catholic wife of King Ethelbert of Kent, immediately began war on the Celtic Church of Wales. He demanded submission of the Christian society of nearly three thousand members at Bangor in north Wales.29 Augustine addressed the president of this society in these words: “Acknowledge the authority of Rome.” He promptly received the answer that the pope was not entitled to be called the “Father of fathers” and the only submission that they would render to him, would be that which they owed to every Christian. Augustine threatened them with the sword, and, as will be noted later, twelve hundred of these British Christians were slaughtered by a pagan army.30

As further evidence of the gulf between the Roman and the Celtic Church, another episode occurred in England in 664 when the Papacy by state force inflicted a severe wound at the well-known Synod of Whitby in northern England. The king of that region had married a Roman Catholic princess, who, with the help of her priestly confessor, laid the trap for the pastors who were graduates from Patrick’s schools. The king, wearied with the strife between the two communions, became a tool to the plan. That conference with its unjust decisions drove the leaders of the Celtic Church out of northern England.31 About fifty years after this, or in 715, the growing influence of the Roman Catholic Church backed by the papal monarchs of Europe, brought about an attack upon Scotland’s center of Celtic Christianity at Iona. Founded by Columba and celebrated in song and story, this was attacked, and the clergy of the Irish Church were expelled from the place. 

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THE CHARACTER OF PATRICK

Patrick, while manifesting all the graces of an apostolic character, also possessed the sterner virtues. Like Moses, he was one of the humblest of men. He revealed that steadfastness of purpose required to accomplish a great task. His splendid ability to organize and execute his Christian enterprises revealed his successful ability to lead. He was frank and honest. He drew men to him, and he was surrounded by a band of men whose hearts God had touched. Such a leader was needed to revive the flickering flames of New Testament faith in the West, to raise up old foundations, and to lay the groundwork for a mighty Christian future.

To guide new converts, Patrick ordained overseers or bishops in charge of the local churches. Wherever he went, new churches sprang up, and to strengthen them he also founded schools. These two organizations were so closely united that some writers have mistakenly called th