The Exaltation of the BishopricTHE Scripture was fulfilled; there had come a falling away. But that there should come a falling away, was not all of the story -- through that falling away there was to be revealed "that man of sin," "the son of perdition," "the mystery of iniquity," "that wicked," who would oppose and exalt himself above all that is called God or that is worshiped; and who, when he did appear, would continue even till that great and notable event -- the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Referring again to the scripture quoted from 2 Thessalonians ii, 2, at the beginning of the previous chapter, it is seen that self-exaltation is the spring of the development of this power.
As that scripture expresses it, "He opposeth and exalteth himself." As another scripture gives it, "He shall magnify himself in his heart." And another, "He magnified himself even to the prince of the host" -- the Lord Jesus Christ. And yet another, "He shall also stand up against the Prince of princes." That is, he shall reign, or assert authority above, and in opposition to, the authority of Christ; or, as the thought is developed by Paul, this power would oppose and exalt itself above all that is called God or that is worshiped, so that he as God sitteth in the temple -- the place of worship -- of God, showing himself that he is God.
Referring also again to the instruction of Paul to the elders who met him at Miletus, there is seen a prophecy of this same spirit of self-exaltation, -- a wish to gain disciples to themselves instead of to Christ. They would prefer themselves to Christ, thus at once putting themselves above him, in opposition to him. And this would be developed from among the bishops. "Of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."
This spirit was actively manifested in opposition to the apostle John while he was yet alive, for he says: "I wrote unto the church; but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the pre-eminence among them, receiveth us not." 3 John 9.
This assertion of pre-eminence was shown in prating against the apostle with malicious words, and not only rejecting him, but casting out of the church those members who would receive him. It was but a little while after the living authority of the apostles was gone, before this was carried to yet further extremes.
According to the word of Christ, there is no such thing as pre-eminence, or mastership, or sovereignty of position, among men in the church. There was once an argument among his disciples as to who should be counted the greatest, and Jesus called them unto him and said: "Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: and whosoever among you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son on man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." Mark x, 42-45.
And in warning his disciples of all times against the practice of the scribes and Pharisees of that time, who were but the popes of their day, he says they "love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren....Neither be ye called masters: for one is your master, even Christ. But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." Matt. xxiii, 6-12.
With these instructions the apostles went forth under the great commission of Christ, preaching everywhere that with the Lord there is no respect of persons, but that all are equal before God. There is neither lordship nor over-lordship among men in the church of Christ; but all are brethren. Christ only is the head of the church, and the head of every man in the church.
In the church each member has the same rights as any other member; but for the good of all and the mutual benefit of all concerned, as well as better to carry on his work in the world, the Lord has established his church, and with it a system of church order in which certain ones are chosen to exercise certain functions for the mutual benefit of all in the organization. These officers are chosen from among the membership by the voice of the membership. Of these officers there are two classes, and two only, -- bishops and deacons. This is shown by Paul''s letter to the Philippians -- "Paul and Timotheus, the servants of Jesus Christ, to all the saints in Christ Jesus which are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons." Chap.i 1.
Bishops are sometimes called elders; but the same office is always signified. When Paul gave directions to Titus in this matter, he said : "For this cause left I thee in Crete, that thou shouldest set in order the things that are wanting, and ordainelders in every city, as I had appointed thee if any be blameless. . . . For abishop must be blameless, as the steward of God." Titus i, 5-7.
This is further shown in Acts xx, to which we have before referred; when Paul had called unto him to Miletus "theelders of the church" of Ephesus, among other things he said to them: "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers," -- episkopoi -- bishops.
Peter also writes to the same effect: "The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; neither as being lords over God''s heritage, but being ensamples to the flock." 1 Peter v, 1-3.
This text not only shows that the terms "elder" and "bishop" refer to the same identical office, but it shows that Peter counted himself as one among them; and that not only by his precept but by his example he showed that in this office, although overseers they were not overrulers or lords.
The true idea on this point has been clearly stated as follows: --
"It has been said that the pope, the bishops, the priests, and all those who people convents, form the spiritual or ecclesiastical estate; and that princes, nobles, citizens, and peasants form the secular or lay estate. This is a specious tale But let no man be alarmed. All Christians belong to the spiritual estate; and the only difference between them is in the functions which they fulfill. We have all but one baptism, but one faith; and these constitute the spiritual man. Unction, tonsure, ordination, consecration, given by the pope, or by a bishop,may make a hypocrite, but can never make a spiritual man. We are all consecrated priests by baptism, as St. Peter says: `You are a roval priesthood;'' although all do not actually perform the offices of kings and priests, because no one can assume what is common to all without the common consent. But if this consecration of God did not belong to us, the unction of the pope could not make a single priest. If ten brothers, the sons of one king, and possessing equal claims to his inheritance, should choose one of their number to administer for them, they would all be kings, and yet only one of them would be the administrator of their common power. So it is in the church. Were several pious laymen banished to a desert, and were they, from not having among them a priest consecrated by a bishop, to agree in selecting one of their number, whether married or not, he would be as truly a priest as if all the bishops of the world had consecrated him." -- Luther.1
Such is the order in the church of Christ,and as every Christian is God''s freeman and Christ''s servant, it follows as has been well stated that "monarchy in spiritual things does not harmonize with the spirit of Christianity." -- Neander.2 Yet this order was not suffered long to remain. A distinction was very soon asserted between the bishop and the elder, and the bishop assumed a precedence and an authority over the elder, who was now distinguished from the bishop by the title of "presbyter" only. This was easily and very naturally accomplished.
For instance, a church would be established in a certain city. Soon perhaps another church or churches would be established in that same city, or near to it in the country. These other churches would look naturally to the original church as to a mother, and the elders of the original church would naturally have a care for the others as they arose. It was only proper to show Christian respect and deference to these; but this respect and deference was soondemanded, and authority to require it was asserted by those who were bishops first.
Again: as churches multiplied and with them also elders multiplied, it was necessary, in carrying forward the work of the gospel, for the officers of the church often to have meetings for consultation. On these occasions it was but natural and proper for the seniors to preside; but instead of allowing this to remain still a matter of choice in the conducting of each successive metting or assembly, it was claimed as a right that the one originally chosen should hold that position for life.
Thus was that distinction established between the elders or presbyters, and the bishops. Those who usurped this permanent authority and office took to themselves exclusively the title of "bishop," and all the others were still to retain the title of "presbyter." The presbyters in turn assumed over the deacons a supremacy and authority which did not belong to them, and all together -- bishops, presbyters, and deacons -- held themselves to be superior orders in the church over the general membership, and assumed to themselves the title of "clergy," while upon the general membership the term "laity" was conferred.
In support of these three orders among the "clergy," it was claimed that they came in proper succession from the high-priests, the priests, and the Levites of the Levitical law. "Accordingly, the bishops considered themselves as invested with a rank and character similar to those of the high-priest among the Jews, while the presbyters represented the priests, and the deacons the Levites." -- Mosheim.3
These distinctions were established as early as the middle of the second century. This led to a further and most wicked invention. As they were now priests and Levites after the order of the priesthood of the former dispensation, it was necessary that they also should have a sacrifice to offer. Accordingly, the Lord''s supper was turned into "the unbloody sacrifice." Thus arose that which is still in the Roman Catholic Church the daily "sacrifice" of the mass. "The comparison of the Christian oblations with the Jewish victims and sacrifices, produced many unnecessary rites, and by degrees corrupted the very doctrine of the holy supper, which was converted, sooner, in fact, than one would think, into a sacrifice." --Mosheim.4 With this also came a splendor in dress, copied from that of the former real priesthood.
The estimate in which the bishop was now held may be gathered from the following words of a document of the second century: --
"It is manifest, therefore, that we should look upon the bishop even as we would upon the Lord himself." "It is well to reverence both God and the bishop. He who honors the bishop has been honored of God; he who does anything without the knowledge of the bishop, does (in reality) serve the devil." -- Ignatius.5
The next step was for certain bishops to assert authority over other bishops; and the plea upon which this was claimed as a right, was that the bishops of those churches which had been established by the apostles were of right to be considered as superior to all others. Furthermore it was claimed that in those churches the true doctrine of Christ had been preserved in the greatest purity. As the bishops of those churches claimed to be the repositories of the true doctrine, whenever any question arose upon any matter of doctrine or interpretation of the scripture, appeal was made to the bishop of the nearest apostolic church. As Rome was the capital of the empire, and as the church there claimed direct descent not only from one but from two apostles, it soon came to pass that the church of Rome claimed to be the source of true doctrine, and the bishop of that church to be supreme over all other bishops. In the latter part of the second century, during the episcopate of Eleutherius, A. D. 176 to 192, the absolute authority of the church of Rome in matters of doctrine was plainly asserted in the following words: --
"It is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the church, -- those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate, have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good pleasure of the father." "Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; (we do this, I say) by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally-known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul: as also (by pointing out) the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the succession of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every church should agree with this church, on account of its pre-eminent authority . . . Since, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it easy to obtain from the church; since the apostles, like a rich man depositing his money in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers." -- Irenaus.6
When this authority and power was asserted during the bishopric of Eleutherius, it is not at all strange that his immediate successor, Victor, A. D. 192 to 202, should attempt to carry into practice the authority thus claimed for him. The occasion of it was the question of the celebration of what is now Easter, as already related in the preceding chapter. This action of Victor is pronounced by Bower "the first essay of papal usurpation." Thus early did Rome not only claim supremacy, but attempt to enforce her claim of supremacy, over all other churches. Such was the arrogance of the bishops of Rome at the beginning of the third century.
The character of the bishopric in A. D. 250 is clearly seen in the quotation already given on page 131 of this book; but for the convenience of the reader, we insert it again in this place: --
"Not a few bishops who ought to furnish both exhortation and example to others, despising their divine charge, became agents in secular business, forsook their throne, deserted their people, wandered about over foreign provinces, hunted the markets for gainful merchandise, while brethren were starving in the church. They sought to possess money in hoards, they seized estates by crafty deceits, they increased their gains by multiplying usuries." -- Cyprian.7
As the bishopric became more exalted, and arrogated to itself more authority, the office became an object of unworthy ambition and unholy aspiration. Arrogance characterized those who were in power, and envy those who were not. And whenever a vacancy occurred, unseemly and wholly unchristian strife arose among rival presbyters for the vacant seat. "The deacons, beholding the presbyters thus deserting their functions, boldly invaded their rights and privileges; and the effects of a corrupt ambition were spread through every rank of the sacred order." -- Mosheim.8
Cornelius became bishop of Rome, A. D. 251. A presbyter of the same church aspired to the same office, and was supported by a considerable party in the church, and also by five other presbyters. He wrote letters to Cyprian, bishop of Carthage, charging Cornelius with heinous sins. Cornelius also wrote about the same time to Cyprian, who thus learning of the division in the church of Rome, called together in council the bishops of his province, and they sent two of their number with letters to Rome to inquire into the trouble. The church in Rome immediately sent letters in answer to the bishops in Africa, assuring them that Cornelius had been properly chosen, and was worthy of the situation. The two messengers returning, also confirmed the testimony of the letters by a report of their own investigations. Upon this the African bishops sent Cornelius a series of resolutions which they had adopted in the council lately held, with respect to those who denied the faith in the time of the persecution by Decius, to the effect that all such should not be excluded forever from the church, but should be admitted after doing sufficient penance -- those who had bought exemption in the time of persecution being obliged to do longer penance than others: -- and if while doing penance they should come suddenly to the point of death, they should be received into the church at once.
Upon receiving the resolutions, Cornelius called a council of sixty bishops, and a large number from the other orders of the clergy. Amoung them was Novatian, who had been opposed to Cornelius for the office of bishop. In the council he likewise opposed the resolution sent up from Africa. He maintained that all who had yielded in the time of persecution ought never again to be admitted to the church upon any terms whatever. The majority, however, was against him, and he himself was turned out of the church. Upon this he joined with a presbyter by the name of Novatus, who had been turned out of the church at Carthage, and the followers of the two together agreed to ordain Novatian a bishop in Rome. Novatian immediately set himself in opposition to Cornelius. This party then sent letters to the other churches round about, informing them of the ordination of Novatian, and exhorting them not to communicate with any who had in any way denied the faith under persecution. Cornelius also at the same time wrote to other bishops informing them that the ordination of Novatian was irregular. Thus the division and the controversy spread farther and farther.
While this was going on in Rome, there was also a division in the church of Carthage, where a certain Felicissimus had been excommunicated, whose party also had elected a bishop of their own, by the name of Fortunatus. Felicissimus went to Rome, hoping to win Cornelius to his side, and the messengers of Novatian went to Carthage to gain the favor of Cyprian and the bishops of Africa to their side. But Cyprian stood by the bishop of Rome, and carried with him the bishops of Africa. Novatian sent yet other messengers into Africa, who diligently worked up partisans there, and it was not long before they secured the ordination of some of their party as bishops. These newly ordained bishops asserted their right to exercise the office of bishop over churches connected with the church of Rome, instead of the regular bishops of those churches. This increased the confusion, which spread finally throughout the provinces of Africa. This became a matter of great perplexity to Cornelius. As both parties were continually sending their letters, and messengers, and embassies, to him , and as both made the same claims, it was very difficult for him to decide who were the regular Catholic bishops. But Cyprian, to relieve this perplexity, drew up a list of all the Catholic bishops in the African provinces, and sent it to Cornelius at Rome.
These discussions gave an opportunity for the further assertion of the dignity and authority of the bishopric. Cyprian," the representative of the episcopal system" (Neander9), declared that --
"The church is founded upon the bishops, and every act of the church is controlled by these same rulers." Whence you ought to know that the bishop is in the church, and the church is the bishop; and if any one be not with the bishop, that he is not in the church."10
He insisted that God made the bishops and the bishops made the deacons, and argued thus: -- "But if we [bishops] may dare anything against God who makes bishops, deacons may also dare against us by whom they are made."11
"The epistle of Cyprian to Cornelius, bishop of Rome, shows the height to which the episcopal power had aspired before the religion of Christ had become that of the Roman empire. The passages of the Old Testament, and even of the New, in which honor or deference is paid to the Hebrew pontificate, are recited in profuse detail; implicit obedience is demanded for the priest of God, who is the sole infallible judge or delegate of Christ." -- ; Milman.12
Cornelius was succeeded in the bishopric of Rome by Lucius, who was put to death in less than six months, and was succeeded by Stephen, A. D. 253 to 253. Soon after Stephen''s election, the bishop of Lyons in Gaul wrote to inform him that the bishop of Arles had adopted the views and discipline of Novatian. He also wrote to Cyprian to the same effect. About the same time a question involving much the same point was causing a difficulty in Spain. There two bishops, Basilides and Martial, had been deposed by a council of bishops, and two others were appointed in their places. They were both charged with surrendering the Scriptures in the time of persecution. Basilides went to Rome to secure the support of the bishop of Rome in his desire to be re-instated. In this he succeeded, and returned to Spain, and there exercised his office as bishop as he had formerly done, and Martial followed his example. Then the bishops of Spain sent letters and deputies to Carthage, asking the advice and help of the African bishops; and the deputies whom they sent were the two bishops whom they had put in the place of Basilides and Martial. A council of twenty-eight bishops was held in Carthage, presided over by Cyprian. Having only a one-sided view of the case, as the bisip of Rome had had the other side they indorsed the action of the church of Spain, and decided that Basilides and Martial ought not to be acknowledged as bishops; that it was not lawful to commune with them; and that whosoever should do so ought to be excommunicated.
Not long afterward, there arose another subject of controversy, which caused much contention with far-reaching consequences. As the bishops arrogated to themselves more and more authority, both in discipline and doctrine, "heretics" increased. Whosoever might disagree with the bishop, was at once branded as a heretic, and was cut off from his communion, as Diotrephes had counted as a heretic even the apostle John. Upon this point the representative of the episcopal system further declared: -- "Neither have heresies arisen, nor have schisms originated, from any other source than from this, that God''s priest is not obeyed; nor do they consider that there is one person for the time priest in the church, and for the time judge in the stead of Christ; whom, if according to divine teaching,the whole fraternity should obey, no one would stir up anything against the college of priests; no one, after the divine judgment, after the suffrage of the people, after the consent of the Co-bishops, would make himself a judge, not now of the bishop, but of God. No one would rend the church by a division of the unity of Christ."-- Cyprian.13
He therefore argued that if any person was outside of this system of episcopal unity, and was not obedient to the bishop, this was all the evidence necessary to demonstrate that he was a heretic. Consequently he declared that no one ought "even to be inquisitive as to what" any one "teaches, so long as he teaches out of the pale of unity."14 In this way the truth itself could easily be made heresy.
By this system, "heretics" soon became numerous, and, as many persons were changing their residence from place to place, a question was raised whether baptism by heretics was valid. Some bishops of important churches held that it was, others held that it was not. Yet up to this time all bishops and churches were allowed to decide this for themselves. A council of bishops in Africa and Numidia, about the beginning of the third century, had established in those provinces the discipline that all heretics must be re-baptized when applying for admission to any of those churches. This practice was also adopted in Cappadocia, Galatia, Phrygia, Cilicia, and neighboring provinces, by a council held at Iconium in Phrygia, A. D. 230. Pontus and Egypt followed the same course, but Italy, Gaul, and Spain held, on the contrary, that baptism by heretics was valid, it mattered not what the heresy might be.
Thus stood the question when Stephen became bishop of Rome. Soon after the difficulty with the Spanish bishops, some bishops of Numidia and Mauritania sent in quiries to Cyprian, raising anew the question of baptism by heretics. A council of seventy-one bishops was held at Carthage, which declared that the practice of re-baptizing should be invariably followed. The council sent a letter to Stephen of Rome, reporting their decision, and asking him to agree with it. Stephen answered the council by letter in which he first called particular attention to the great dignity of the bishopric of Rome, and the honor which it derived from its succession to the apostle Peter. Next he informed them that he absolutely rejected and condemned their decrees. He then threatened to cut off from his communion all who should presume to disobey by re-baptizing any heretics, and finally not only ordered Cyprian to change his opinion on the subject, and practice accordingly, but declared him to be "a false Christ,"a "false apostle," and a "deceitful workman."
On receipt of Stephen''s letter, Cyprian called another council of eighty-five bishops, which met September 1, A. D. 256. The council canvassed the whole subject anew, came to their original conclusion, and again sent word by messengers to Stephen, who not only refused to receive them at all, but forbade all the church of Rome either to receive or entertain them in any manner. He then proceeded to execute his threat, and excommunicated the whole council, and whoever held the same opinion as the council. This excluded from his communion the bishops of Africa, Numidia, Mauritania, Egypt, Cilicia, Galatia, and Cappadocia. He endeavored by a letter, however, to win the bishop of Alexandria to his view, but failed.
Cyprian wrote to Firmilian, bishop of Caesarea in Cappadocia, telling him of Stephen''s conduct. In reply Firmilian wrote to Cyprian a letter in which he compared Stephen to Judas Iscariot, and branded him as "inhuman," "audacious," "insolent," "wicket," "impious," "schismatic," "a defamer of Peter and Paul," and "worse than all heretics." This Firmilian is pronounced "one of the most eminent prelates at that time in the church, both for piety and learning;" but Cyprian was not far behind him and Stephen in eminence for this kind of piety. For he wrote to the bishop of Sobrata a letter in which he charged Stephen with "pride and impertinence, self-contradiction and ignorance, with indifference, obstinacy, and childishness," and called him "a favorer and abettor of heretics against the church of God." -- Bower.15 Stephen died August 2, A. D. 257, and thus was stopped the generous flow of pious phrases.
Stephen was succeeded by Sixtus II, who held the office about a year, and was put to death in the persecution under Valerian. He was succeeded July 22, A. D. 259, by Dionysius. At this time there was another Dionysius, who was bishop of Alexandria, and who had entered into a certain controversy with Sabellius upon the subject of the trinity. In the arguments which he published, some persons thought they discovered heresy, and reported it to the bishop of Rome, who called a council of the bishops of Italy, and requested Dionysius to answer the accusation and give an explanation of his faith. Dionysius addressed to the bishop of Rome a "confutation and apology,"explaining the expressions in his former writings, which it was charged contained heresy.
During the bishopric of Dionysius, there occurred the case of Paul of Samosata, who at that time was bishop of Antioch, an account of which will illustrate the condition of the bishoprics of the principal cities of the empire at this time.
The bishops of the East said of Paul that before his connection with the church he was poor almost to beggary, and that he had received neither wealth from his father nor obtained possessions by any art or trade or business, yet had now acquired excessive wealth by his iniquities and sacrileges; that by various means which he employed, he had exacted and extorted from the brethren, promising to aid them for a reward: that he took advantage of those who were in difficulty, to compel them to give him money to be free from their oppressors; that he made merchandise of piety; that he affected lofty things, and assumed too great things, attaining worldly dignity, wishing rather to be called a magistrate than a bishop; that he went strutting through the forum reading letters and repeating them aloud as he walked; that in public he was escorted by multitudes going before and following after him; that he brought reproach upon the faith by his pomp and haughtiness; that out of vanity and proud pretensions he contrived in ecclesiastical assemblies to catch at glory and empty shadows, and to confound the minds of the more simple; that he had prepared himself a tribunal and a high throne separated from the people like a ruler of this world, rather than a disciple of Christ; that he was in the habit of slapping his hand upon his thigh and stamping upon the tribunal with his foot, reproving and insulting those who would not applaud his sermons; that he magnified himself not as a bishop but as a sophist and juggler; that he stopped the singing of psalms in honor of Christ, and had prepared choirs of women to sing other compositions at the great festivals; that he hired deacons and presbyters of neighboring districts to preach his views of the trinity; that he had with him certain women whom the people of Antioch called "adopted sisters;" that he allowed his presbyters and deacons also to follow the same practice; that he had made his presbyters and deacons rich by indulging their covetous dispositions, and had thus bought their favor, so that none of them would accuse him of the evil doing; that many bishops beside Paul had indulged themselves in the same things, or had incurred suspicion of it, especially in the matter of the adopted sisters; that although Paul had dismissed one of these, he retained two others with him, blooming in age and eminent in beauty, taking them with him wherever he went, indulging in luxury and surfeiting; that although men around him were groaning and lamenting because of these things, they were so much afraid of his tyranny and power that they did not venture to accuse him; and finally, that all these things might be borne with in the hope of correcting the evil, were it not that he had trifled away the sacred mystery, and paraded his execrable heresy.16
On account of Paul''s heresy, a council of eighty bishops was assembled at Antioch. Paul was excommunicated, pronounced deposed from the bishopric, and the council on their own authority appointed a successor. Their assumed authority to appoint a successor without consulting the membership of the church of Antioch, caused yet a larger number to take sides with Paul, because such proceeding was decidedly irregular.
At this time Zenobia was queen of the East, and with her Paul was rather a favorite. Under her protection and upon the irregularity of the proceedings of the council, he openly for four years defied the decrees of the council, and held his place as bishop of Antioch. When Aurelian, in A. D. 270, went to the East to dethrone Zenobia, the bishops appealed to him to enforce their decrees and remove Paul. Aurelian referred the case for decision to the bishops of Rome and Italy. Before this controversy was ended, Dionysius died, and his successor, Felix, decided against Paul. Then according to the decree that Aurelian had already pronounced, Paul was removed from the office and emoluments of the bishopric of Antioch.
We do not know whether the charges brought against Paul were all true or not, as those who made the charges were all his enemies. But whether they were true or not, is not particularly important; because if they were true, it is not to the credit of the bishopric of that time, for they clearly involve other bishops in the most serious moral delinquencies of Paul. On the other hand if the charges were not true, then that a company of eighty bishops should falsely make such charges, is scarcely less to the credit of the bishopric of the time, than the other would be if it were true.
In either case, therefore, it is certain that the statement of Eusebius of the condition of the bishopric in 302, when the Diocletian persecution began, is strictly true. "They were sunk in negligence and sloth, one envying and reviling another in different ways, and almost on the point of taking up arms against each other, and were assailing each other with words as with darts and spears, prelates inveighing against prelates, and people rising up against people, and hypocrisy and dissimulation had arisen to the greatest height of malignity." Also some who appeared to be pastors were inflamed against each other with mutual strifes, only accumulating quarrels and threats, rivalship, hostility, and hatred to each other, only anxious to assert the government as a kind of sovereignty for themselves.
The Scripture was fulfilled. Therehadcome a falling away; there was a self-exaltation of the bishopric; and THE TIME WAS COME WHEN THE MAN OF SIN SHOULD BE REVEALED.
1 [Page 231] D''Aubigne''s "History of the Reformation." book vi, chap. iii. par. 7.
2 [Page 231] "History of the Christian Beigion," Vol. i, Section Second, part i, div. i, A, par. 5.
3 [Page 232] "Ecclesiastical History," Century ii, part ii, par.4, Maclaine''s translation.
4 [Page 232] Id. chap. iv, par. 4, Murdock''s translation.
5 [Page 233] "Epistle to the Ephesians," cha;. vi, and "To the Smyraeans," chap. ix.
6 [Page 234] "Against Heresies, "book iv, chap. xxvi, par. 2; book iii, chap. iii, par.2;and book iii, chap. iv, par. 1.
7 [Page 234] "On the Lapsed," Chap. vi.
8 [Page 235] "Ecclesiastical History,'' Century iii, part ii, chap. ii, par. 4.
9 [Page 237] "History of the Christian Religion," vol. i, second Section, part i. div. i, B, par. 5.
10 [Page 237] Epistle xxvi, chap. i, and epistle ixiii, chap. viii.
11 [Page 237] Epistle ixiv, chap. iii.
12 [Page 237] "History of Christianity," book iv, chap. i, par. 22.
13 [Page 239] Epistle liv, chap. v.
14 [Page 239] Id., li, chap. xiiv.
15 [Page 241] "Lives of the Popes," Stephen, par. 8.
16 [Page 243] "Eusebius''s Ecclesiastical History," book vii, chap. xxx.