The Disciples: A Struggle for Reformation

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I was highly impressed by the amount of Scripture and historical evidence that was used by the author in proving his point when writing this book. You can tell that Mr. Busenitz thought out his topic very well and the book was accurately researched, making the time reading it enjoyable. I've been a Christian for over 20 years. I've done numerous Bible Studies and have led many of them. In all my years as a believer, I've never really understood the Reformation and the role Martian Luther played.

I assumed that the knowledge of "faith alone" was common knowledge and didn't understand why other denominations struggled with that belief. It wasn't until I read Long Before Luther did I really begin to understand the rich history of the church and our break from the Roman Catholic belief system. Nathan Busenitz has an amazing way of taking a deep and delicate subject and writing it in a way a layman can understand. The heart of the Gospel and the true beginning of the Church leads back to Christ and Christ alone.

Long Before Luther brings us back to the truth of our salvation and that the real beginning of the church was not at the Reformation but in Acts. All signs lead us right back to Christ and the in faith alone are we saved. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has had questions of the beginning of the Protestant church and the split from the Catholics. Understanding our church history makes us more effective in worship and witnessing.

This book is a fresh look at the Reformation teachings and reminds us not to over-glorify the achievements of the early reformers for they were not the original proponents of the five solas of the Reformation. They renewed the emphasis on the fundamentals of the Christian faith, especially after many decades of Roman Catholic Church teachings that had eroded these basics.

Perhaps, the Reformers' work was more of a reaction against the Roman Church rather than some brand new set of teachings. Busenitz has shown us that the patristics taught the same things too, even though there are some differences. Readers will be encouraged to know that there is ample historical continuity of the faith. We give thanks to God for enabling these faithful servants who had stood up and fought successfully to maintain the purity of the gospel. With each generation, people change. Cultures change. Contexts change, but the Word of God stands forever.

Long before Augustine were the faithful testimonies of the Early Church and the first disciples. It can only be surmised that there is one constant guide through it all: The Holy Spirit. As most of you are aware of, this year marks the th anniversary of the Reformation. There have been many book on the Reformation for the past few years leading up to this anniversary as well as books on Martin Luther.

There have some wondering, if gospel-centered theology came into the church during the time of the Reformation, how was the gospel taught before the Reformation. Was Catholicism the norm until Martin Luther came into the picture? Nathan Busenitz has written a book that takes a look at the proclamation of the gospel prior to the Reformation. The book is titled Long Before Luther. In the beginning of the book, Busenitz looks at whether gospel-centered theology was a new thing or something that needed to be revitalized.

Ancient times had prepared it,—new times flow from it. It is their centre, their bond, and their unity. Thenceforth all the popular superstitions were without meaning, and the slender remains which they had saved from the great shipwreck of infidelity sank before the Majestic Sun of eternal truth. The Son of man lived thirty-three years here below, curing the sick, instructing sinners, having no place where to lay his head, yet displaying, in the depth of this humiliation, a grandeur, a holiness, a power, and divinity, which the world had never known.

He suffered, died, rose again, and ascended to heaven.

His disciples, beginning at Jerusalem, traversed the empire and the world, everywhere proclaiming their Master "the Author of eternal salvation. A great number of Asiatics, Greeks, and Romans, till then led by priests to the feet of dumb idols, believed the Word which suddenly illumined the earth "like a sunbeam," as Eusebius expresses it. A new people, a holy nation, was formed among men, and the astonished world beheld, in the disciples of the Galilean, a purity, a self-denial, a charity, a heroism, of which it had lost even the idea.

Two principles, in particular, distinguished the new religion from all the human systems which it drove before it. The one related to the ministers of worship, the other to doctrine. The ministers of Paganism were in a manner the gods whom those human religions worshipped. The priests of Egypt, Gaul, Scythia, Germany, Britain, and Hindostan, led the people so long, at least, as the eyes of the people were unopened.

Jesus Christ, no doubt, established a ministry, but he did not found a particular priesthood. He dethroned the living idols of the nations, destroyed a proud hierarchy, took from man what man had taken from God, and brought the soul again into immediate contact with the divine source of truth, proclaiming himself sole Master and sole Mediator.

The religions of the earth had framed an earthly religion. They had told man that heaven would be given him as a hire—they had fixed its price, and what a price! The religion of God taught that salvation came from God, was a gift from heaven, the result of an amnesty, of an act of grace by the Sovereign. It is true, Christianity cannot be summed up under these two heads, but they seem to rule the subject, especially where history is concerned; and as we cannot possibly trace the opposition between truth and error, in all points, we must select those of them which are most prominent.

Such, then, were two of the constituent principles of the religion which at that time took possession of the empire, and of the world. With them we are within the true land-marks of Christianity— out of them Christianity disappears. On the preservation or the loss of them depended its greatness or its fall. They are intimately connected; for it is impossible to exalt the priests of the church, or the works of believers, without lowering Jesus Christ in his double capacity of Mediator and Redeemer.

The one of these principles should rule the history of religion, the other should rule its doctrine.


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Originally, both were paramount; let us see how they were lost. We begin with the destinies of the former. The Church was at first a society of brethren, under the guidance of brethren. They were all taught of God, and each was entitled to come to the Divine fountain of light, and draw for himself. John, vi, The Epistles, which then decided great questions of doctrine, were not inscribed with the pompous name of a single man—a head. The Holy Scriptures inform us, that the words were simply these, "The apostles, elders, and brethren, to our brethren.

But even the writings of the apostles intimate, that from the midst of these brethren a power would rise and subvert this simple and primitive order. Let us contemplate the formation, and follow the development of this power—a power foreign to the Church. Paul of Tarsus, one of the greatest apostles of the new religion, had arrived at Rome, the capital of the empire and of the world, preaching the salvation which comes from God. Founded by this apostle, it consisted at first of some converted Jews, some Greeks, and some citizens of Rome.

For a long time it shone like a pure light on a mountain top. Its faith was everywhere spoken of; but at [16] length it fell away from its primitive condition. It was by small beginnings that the two Romes paved their way to the usurped dominion of the world. The first pastors or bishops of Rome early engaged in the conversion of the villages and towns around the city.

The necessity which the bishops and pastors of the Campagna di Roma felt of recurring in cases of difficulty to an enlightened guide, and the gratitude which they owed to the Church of the metropolis, led them to remain in close union with it. What has always been seen in analogous circumstances was seen here; this natural union soon degenerated into dependence. The superiority which the neighbouring churches had freely yielded, the bishops of Rome regarded as a right.

The encroachments of power form one large part of history, while the resistance of those whose rights were invaded forms the other. Ecclesiastical power could not escape the intoxication which prompts all those who are raised to aim at rising still higher.

It yielded to this law of humanity and nature. Nevertheless, the supremacy of the Roman bishop was at this time limited to oversight of the churches within the territory civilly subject to the prefect of Rome. The respect paid in the second century to the different bishops of Christendom was proportioned to the rank of the city in which they resided. Now Rome was the greatest, the richest, and the most powerful city in the world. It was the seat of Empire,—the mother of nations; "All the inhabitants of the earth belong to it," says Julian; [6] and Claudian proclaims it "the fountain of law.

If Rome is queen of the cities of the world, why should not its pastor be the king of bishops? Why should not the Roman Church be the mother of Christendom? Why should not the nations be her children, and her authority their sovereign law? It was easy for the ambitious heart of man to reason in this way. Ambitious Rome did so. Thus Pagan Rome, when she fell, sent the proud titles which her invincible sword had conquered from the nations of the earth to the humble minister of the God of peace seated amidst her ruins.

The bishops in the different quarters of the empire, led away [17] by the charm which Rome had for ages exercised over all nations, followed the example of the Campagna di Roma, and lent a hand to this work of usurpation. They took pleasure in paying to the Bishop of Rome somewhat of the honour which belonged to the Queen city of the world.

At first there was no dependence implied in this honour. They treated the Roman pastor as equal does equal; [8] but usurped powers grow like avalanches. What was at first mere brotherly advice soon became, in the mouth of the Pontiff, obligatory command. In his eyes a first place among equals was a throne. The Western bishops favoured the designs of the pastors of Rome, either from jealousy of the Eastern bishops or because they preferred the supremacy of a pope to the domination of a temporal power. On the other hand, the theological factions which rent the East sought, each in its turn, to gain the favour of Rome, anticipating their triumph from the support of the principal Church of the West.

Rome carefully registered these requests, these mediations, and smiled when she saw the nations throwing themselves into her arms. She let slip no occasion of increasing and extending her power. Praise, flattery, extravagant compliments, consultation by other churches, all became, in her eyes, and in her hands, titles and evidents of her authority.

HISTORY OF THE REFORMATION

Such is man upon the throne; incense intoxicates him, and his head turns. What he has he regards as a motive to strive for more. The doctrine of the Church, and of the necessity of her external unity, which began to prevail so early as the third century, favoured the pretensions of Rome. The primary idea of the Church is, that it is the assembly of the saints, 1 Cor.


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  • Still, however, the Church of the Lord is not merely internal and invisible. It must manifest itself outwardly, and it was with a view to this manifestation that the Lord instituted the Sacraments of Baptism and the Eucharist. The Church considered as external, has characteristics different from those which distinguish her as the Church invisible. The internal Church, which is the body of Christ, is necessarily and perpetually one. The visible Church, doubtless, has part in this unity, but considered in herself, multiplicity is a characteristic attributed to her in the Scriptures of the New Testament.

    While they speak to [18] us of a Church of God, [9] they mention, when speaking of the Church, as externally manifested, "the Churches of Galatia," "the Churches of Macedonia," "the Churches of Judea," "all the Churches of the Saints. In primitive times, the great tie which united the members of the Church was the living faith of the heart, by which all held of Christ as their common Head.

    Various circumstances early contributed to originate and develop the idea of the necessity of an external unity. Men accustomed to the ties and political forms of an earthly country, transferred some of their views and customs to the spiritual and eternal kingdom of Jesus Christ. Persecution, powerless to destroy, or even to shake this new society, drew its attention more upon itself, and caused it to assume the form of a more compact incorporation. To the error which sprung up in deistical schools, or among sects, was opposed the one universal truth received from the Apostles, and preserved in the Church.

    This was well, so long as the invisible and spiritual Church was one with the visible and external Church. But a serious divorce soon took place; the form and the life separated from each other. The semblance of an identical and external organisation was gradually substituted for the internal and spiritual unity which forms the essence of genuine religion. The precious perfume of faith was left out, and then men prostrated themselves before the empty vase which had contained it.

    The faith of the heart no longer uniting the members of the Church, another tie was sought, and they were united by means of bishops, archbishops, popes, mitres, ceremonies, and canons. The living Church having gradually retired into the hidden sanctuary of some solitary souls, the external Church was put in its place, and declared to be, with all its forms, of divine institution. Salvation, no longer welling up from the henceforth hidden Word, it was maintained that it was transmitted by means of the forms which had been devised, and that no man could possess it if he did not receive it through this channel.

    None, it was said, can, by his own faith, attain to eternal life. Christ communicated to the Apostles, and the Apostles communicated to the Bishops, the unction of the Holy Spirit; and this Spirit exists nowhere but in that order! Originally, whosoever had the Spirit of Jesus Christ was a member of the Church, [19] but the terms were now reversed, and it was maintained that none but members of the Church received the Spirit of Jesus Christ. In proportion as these ideas gained ground, the distinction between clergy and people became more marked.

    The salvation of souls no longer depended solely on faith in Christ, but also, and more especially, on union with the Church. The representatives and heads of the Church obtained a part of the confidence due only to Jesus Christ, and in fact became mediators for the flock. The idea of the universal priesthood of Christians accordingly disappeared step by step; the servants of the Church of Christ were likened to the priests under the Old Dispensation; and those who separated from the bishop were put in the same class with Korah, Dathan, and Abiram.

    From an individual priesthood, such as was then formed in the Church, to a sovereign priesthood, such as Rome now claims, the step was easy. In fact, as soon as the error as to the necessity of a visible unity of the Church was established, a new error was seen to arise, viz. Although we nowhere find in the gospel any traces of a pre-eminence in St. Peter over the other apostles; although the very idea of primacy is opposed to the fraternal relations which united the disciples, and even to the spirit of the gospel dispensation, which, on the contrary, calls upon all the children of the Father to be servants one to another, recognising one only teacher, and one only chief; and although Jesus Christ sharply rebuked his disciples, as often as ambitious ideas of pre-eminence arose in their carnal hearts, men invented, and by means of passages of Scripture ill understood, supported a primacy in St.

    Peter, and then in this apostle, and his pretended successors at Rome, saluted the visible representatives of visible unity—the heads of the Church!

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    The patriarchal constitution also contributed to the rise of the Roman Papacy. So early as the three first centuries, the churches of metropolitan towns had enjoyed particular respect. The Council of Nice, in its Sixth Canon, singled out three cities, whose churches had, according to it, an ancient authority over those of the surrounding provinces; these were Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch.

    The political origin of this distinction is betrayed by the very name which was at first given to the bishop of these cities. He was called Exarch, in the same way as the civil [20] governor. This name occurs for the first time in the Council of Constantinople, but in a different sense from that which it received at a later period; for it was only a short time before the Council of Chalcedon, that it was applied exclusively to the great metropolitans. The second ecumenical Council created a new patriarchate, that of Constantinople itself, the new Rome, the second capital of the empire.

    The Church of Byzantium, so long in obscurity, enjoyed the same privileges, and was put by the Council of Chalcedon in the same rank as the Church of Rome. Rome then shared the patriarchate with these three churches; but when the invasion of Mahomet annihilated the sees of Alexandria and Antioch—when the see of Constantinople decayed, and later, even separated from the west, Rome remained alone, and circumstances rallied all around her see, which from that time remained without a rival.

    New accomplices, the most powerful of all accomplices, came also to her aid. Ignorance and superstition seized upon the Church, and gave her up to Rome with a bandage on her eyes, and chains on her hands. Still this slavery was not completed without opposition. Often did the voice of the churches protest their independence: This bold voice was heard especially in proconsular Africa and the East. But Rome found new allies to stifle the cry of the Churches. Princes, whom tempestuous times often caused to totter on the throne, offered her their support if she would in return support them.

    They offered her spiritual authority, provided she would reinstate them in secular power. They gave her a cheap bargain of souls, in the hope that she would help them to a cheap bargain of their enemies. The hierarchical power which was rising, and [21] the imperial power which was declining, thus supported each other, and, by this alliance, hastened their double destiny. Here Rome could not be a loser. These decrees did not contain all that the popes pretended to see in them; but in those times of ignorance it was easy for them to give prevalence to the interpretation which was most in their favour.

    The power of the emperors in Italy becoming always more precarious, the Bishops of Rome failed not to avail themselves of the circumstance to shake off their dependence. But energetic promoters of the Papal power had by this time emerged from the forests of the North. The barbarians, who had invaded the West, and there fixed their abode, after intoxicating themselves with blood and rapine, behoved to lower their fierce sword before the intellectual, power which they encountered.

    Altogether new to Christianity, ignorant of the spiritual nature of the Church, and requiring in religion a certain external show, they prostrated themselves, half savages, and half Pagans, before the High Priest of Rome. With them the West was at his feet. First, the Vandals, then the Ostrogoths, a little later the Burgundians, afterwards the Visigoths, lastly, the Lombards and Anglo-Saxons, came to do obeisance to the Roman Pontiff. It was the robust shoulders of the sons of the idolatrous North which finished the work of placing a pastor of the banks of the Tiber on the supreme throne of Christendom.

    These things took place in the West at the beginning of the seventh century, precisely at the same period when the power of Mahomet, ready also to seize on a portion of the globe, was rising in the East. From that time the evil ceases not to grow. In the eighth century we see the Bishops of Rome with one hand repulsing the Greek Emperors, their lawful sovereigns, and seeking to chase them from Italy, while, with the other, they caress the Mayors of France, and ask this new power, which is beginning to rise in the West, for a share in the wrecks of the empire.

    Between the East, which she repels, and the West, which she invites, Rome establishes her usurped authority. She rears her throne between two revolts. Frightened at the cry of the Arabs, who, become masters of Spain, vaunt that they will soon arrive in Italy by the passes of the Pyrennees and the Alps, and proclaim the name of Mahomet on the seven hills—amazed at the audacious Astolphus, [22] who, at the head of his Lombards, sends forth his lion-roar, and brandishes his sword before the gates of the eternal city, threatening massacre to every Roman, [15] —Rome, on the brink of ruin, looks around in terror, and throws herself into the arms of the Franks.

    The usurper Pepin asks a pretended sanction to his new royalty; the Papacy gives it to him, and gets him in return to declare himself the defender of the "Republic of God. Peter, and, swearing with uplifted hand, declares that it was not for a man he took up arms, but to obtain the forgiveness of his sins from God, and do homage to St.

    Peter for his conquests. Charlemagne appears. The first time, he goes up to the Cathedral of St. Peter devoutly kissing the steps. When he presents himself a second time, it is as master of all the kingdoms which formed the empire of the West, and of Rome herself. Leo III deems it his duty to give the title to him who already has the power, and, in the year , at the feast of Noel, places on the head of the son of Pepin the crown of the Emperor of Rome. He detaches himself from a rotten tree which is about to fall, in order to engraft himself on a vigorous wild stock.

    Among the Germanic races, to which he devotes himself, a destiny awaits him to which he had never ventured to aspire. Charlemagne bequeathed to his feeble successors only the wrecks of his empire. In the ninth century civil power being everywhere weakened by disunion, Rome perceived that now was the moment for her to lift her head.

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    When could the Church better make herself independent of the State than at this period of decline, when the crown which Charles wore was broken, and its fragments lay scattered on the soil of his ancient empire? At this time the spurious Decretals of Isidore appeared. In this collection of pretended decrees of the popes, the most ancient bishops, the contemporaries of Tacitus and Quintilian, spoke the barbarous Latin of the ninth century.

    The customs and constitutions [23] of the Franks were gravely attributed to the Romans of the time of the emperors; popes quoted the Bible in the Latin translation of St. Jerome, who lived one, two, or three centuries after them; and Victor, Bishop of Rome, in the year , wrote to Theophilus, who was Archbishop of Alexandria, in The impostor, who had forged this collection, strove to make out that all the bishops derived their authority from the Bishop of Rome, who derived his immediately from Jesus Christ.

    Not only did he record all the successive conquests of the pontiffs, but he, moreover, carried them back to the remotest periods. The popes were not ashamed to avail themselves of this despicable invention. As early as , Nicholas I selected it as his armour [17] to combat princes and bishops. This shameless forgery was for ages the arsenal of Rome. Nevertheless, the vices and crimes of the pontiffs were for some time to suspend the effects of the Decretals.

    The Papacy celebrates its admission to the table of kings, by shameful libations. It proceeds to intoxicate itself, and its head turns amidst the debauch. It is about this time that tradition places upon the Papal throne a damsel named Joan, who had fled to Rome with her lover, and, being taken in labour, betrayed her sex in the middle of a solemn procession. But let us not unnecessarily aggravate the disgrace of the Court of the Roman Pontiffs. Abandoned females did reign in Rome at this period. A throne, which pretended to exalt itself above the majesty of kings, grovelled in the mire of vice.

    Theodora and Marozia, at will, installed and deposed the pretended Masters of the Church of Christ, and placed upon the throne of Peter their paramours, their sons, and their grandsons. These scandalous proceedings, which are but too true, perhaps, gave rise to the tradition of Popess Joan. Rome becomes a vast theatre of disorder, on which the most powerful families in Italy contend for ascendancy—the Counts of Tuscany usually proving victorious.

    In , this house dares to place upon the pontifical throne, under the name of Benedict the Ninth, a young boy brought up in debauchery. This child of twelve, when pope, continues his ineffable turpitude. The Emperors of Germany, indignant at so many disorders, cleansed Rome with the sword. The empire, exercising its rights of superiority, drew the triple crown out of the mire into which it had fallen, and saved the degraded popedom by giving it decent men for heads.

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    Henry III, in , deposed three popes, and his finger, adorned with the ring of the Roman Patricians, pointed out the bishop to whom the keys of the confession of St. Peter were to be remitted. Four popes, all Germans, and nominated by the emperor, succeeded each other. When the pontiff of Rome died, deputies from that Church appeared at the imperial court, like the envoys from other dioceses, to request a new bishop. The emperor was even glad to see the pope reforming abuses, strengthening the Church, holding councils, inducting and deposing prelates, in spite of foreign monarchs; the Papacy, by these pretensions, only exalted the power of the emperor, its liege lord.

    But there was great danger in allowing such games to be played. The strength which the popes were thus resuming, by degrees, might be turned, all at once, against the emperor himself. When the viper recovered, it might sting the bosom which warmed it. This was what actually happened. Here a new epoch in the Papacy begins. It starts up from its humiliation, and soon has the princes of the earth at its feet.

    To exalt it is to exalt the Church, is to aggrandise religion, is to secure to the mind its victory over the flesh, and to God his triumph over the world. These are its maxims, and in these ambition finds its profit, fanaticism its excuse. Hildebrand, by turns unduly extolled or unjustly stigmatised, is the personification of the Roman pontificate in its power and glory. He is one of those master spirits of history, which contain in them an entire order of new things, similar to those presented in other spheres by Charlemagne, Luther, and Napoleon. Leo IX took up this monk in passing through Clugny, and carried him to Rome.

    From that time Hildebrand was the soul of the popedom, until he became the popedom itself. He governed [25] the Church in the name of several pontiffs before his own reign under that of Gregory VII. One great idea took possession of this great genius. He wishes to found a visible theocracy of which the pope, as vicar of Jesus Christ, will be head. The remembrance of the ancient universal dominion of Pagan Rome haunts his imagination, and animates his zeal.

    He wishes to restore to Papal Rome all that the Rome of the Emperors had lost. To this Spirit of truth, humility, and meekness, he was a stranger. He sacrificed what he knew to be true, when he judged it necessary to his designs. In particular, he did so in the affair of Berenger. But a spirit far superior to that of the common run of pontiffs, a deep conviction of the justice of his cause, undoubtedly did animate him.

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    Bold, ambitious, and inflexible in his designs, he was, at the same time, dexterous and supple in the employment of means to ensure their success. His first labour was to embody the militia of the Church, for he behoved to make himself strong before he attacked the empire. A Council held at Rome cut off pastors from their families, and obliged them to belong entirely to the hierarchy. The law of celibacy, conceived and executed under popes who were themselves monks, changed the clergy into a kind of monastic order. Gregory VII pretended to have over all the bishops and priests of Christendom the same power which an abbot of Clugny had over the order over which he presided.

    The legates of Hildebrand, comparing themselves to the proconsuls of ancient Rome, traversed the provinces to deprive pastors of their lawful wives, and if need were, the pope himself stirred up the populace against married ministers. But Gregory's main purpose was to shake Rome free of the empire.

    This bold design he never would have ventured to conceive, had not the dissensions which troubled the minority of Henry IV, and the revolt of the German princes, favoured its execution. The pope was then like one of the grandees of the empire. Making common cause with the other great vassals, he forms a party in the aristocratic interest, and then forbids all ecclesiastics, under pain of excommunication, to receive investiture [26] to their benefices from the Emperor.

    He breaks the ancient ties which unite churches and their pastors to the authority of the prince, but it is to yoke all of them to the pontifical throne. His aim is by a powerful hand to enchain priests, kings, and people, and make the pope a universal monarch. It is Rome alone that every priest must fear, in Rome alone that he must hope. The kingdoms and princedoms of the earth are his domain, and all kings must tremble before the thunder of the Jupiter of modern Rome.

    Woe to him who resists! Subjects are loosed from their oath of allegiance, the whole country is smitten with interdict, all worship ceases, the churches are shut, and their bells are mute; the sacraments are no longer administered, and the word of malediction reaches even to the dead, to whom the earth, at the bidding of a haughty pontiff, refuses the peace of the tomb.

    The pope, who had been subject from the earliest days of his existence, first to the Roman Emperors, then to the Frank Emperors, and, lastly to the German Emperors, was now emancipated, and walked, for the first time, their equal, if not, indeed, their master. He died at Salerno, saying, "I have loved righteousness and hated iniquity, therefore die I in exile.

    The successors of Gregory, like soldiers who arrive after a great victory, threw themselves, as conquerors, on the subjugated churches. Spain, rescued from Islamism, Prussia, delivered from idols, fell into the hands of the crowned priest. The crusades, which were undertaken at his bidding, every where widened and increased his authority. Those pious pilgrims, who had thought they saw saints and angels guiding their armies, and who, after humbly entering the walls of Jerusalem barefoot, burned the Jews in their synagogue, and, with the blood of thousands of Saracens, deluged the spots to which they had come, seeking the sacred footsteps of the Prince of Peace, carried the name of pope into the East, where it had ceased to be known from the time when he abandoned the supremacy of the Greeks for that of the Franks.

    On the other hand, what the armies of the Roman republic and of the empire had not been able to do, the power of the Church accomplished. The Germans brought to the feet of a bishop the tribute which their ancestors had refused to the most powerful generals. Their princes, on becoming emperors, thought they had received [27] a crown from the popes, but the popes had given them a yoke. The kingdoms of Christendom, previously subjected to the spiritual power of Rome, now became its tributaries and serfs.

    At first it was a community of brethren, and now an absolute monarchy is established in its bosom.


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    All Christians were priests of the living God, 1 Peter, ii, 9, with humble pastors for their guides; but a proud head has risen up in the midst of these pastors, a mysterious mouth utters language full of haughtiness, a hand of iron constrains all men, both small and great, rich and poor, bond and slave, to take the stamp of its power. The holy and primitive equality of souls before God is lost, and Christendom, at the bidding of a man, is divided into two unequal camps—in the one, a caste of priests who dare to usurp the name of Church, and pretend to be invested in the eyes of the Lord with high privileges—in the other, servile herds reduced to blind and passive submission, a people gagged and swaddled, and given over to a proud caste.

    Every tribe, language, and nation of Christendom, fall under the domination of this spiritual king, who has received power to conquer. But, along with the principle which should rule the history of Christianity was one which should rule its doctrine. The grand idea of Christianity was the idea of grace, pardon, amnesty, and the gift of eternal life.

    This idea supposed in man an estrangement from God, and an impossibility on his part to reenter into communion with a Being of infinite holiness. The opposition between true and false doctrine cannot, it is true, be entirely summed up in the question of salvation by faith, and salvation by works. Still it is its most prominent feature, or rather, salvation considered as coming from man is the creating principle of all error and all abuse.

    The excesses produced by this fundamental error led to the Reformation, and the profession [28] of a contrary principle achieved it. This feature must stand prominently out in an introduction to the history of the Reformation. Salvation by grace, then, is the second characteristic which essentially distinguished the religion of God from all human religions. What had become of it? Had the Church kept this great and primordial idea as a precious deposit? Let us follow its history. The inhabitants of Jerusalem, Asia, Greece, and Rome, in the days of the first emperors, heard the glad tidings, "By grace are ye saved through faith—it is the gift of God.

    At this voice of peace—at this gospel—at this powerful word—many guilty souls believing were brought near to Him who is the source of peace, and numerous Christian churches were formed in the midst of the corrupt generation then existing. But a great misapprehension soon arose as to the nature of saving faith.

    Faith, according to St. Paul, is the means by which the whole being of the believer—his intellect, his heart, and his will—enter into possession of the salvation which the incarnation of the Son of God has purchased for him. Jesus Christ is apprehended by faith, and thenceforth becomes every thing for man, and in man. He imparts a divine life to human nature; and man thus renewed, disengaged from the power of selfishness and sin, has new affections, and does new works.

    The History of Christianity II: From the Reformation to the Modern Megachurch

    Faith says Theology, in order to express these ideas is the subjective appropriation of the objective work of Christ. If faith is not an appropriation of salvation, it is nothing; the whole Christian economy is disturbed, the sources of new life are sealed up, and Christianity is overturned at its base. Such was the actual result. The practical view being gradually forgotten, faith soon became nothing more than what it still is to many—an act of the understanding—a simple submission to superior authority.

    This first error necessarily led to a second. Faith being stripped of its practical character, could not possibly be said to save alone. Works no longer coming after it, behoved to be placed beside it, and the doctrine that man is justified by faith and by works gained a footing in the Church. To the Christian unity, which includes under the same principle justification and works, grace and law, doctrine and duty, succeeded the sad duality, which makes religion and morality to be quite distinct,—a fatal error, which separates things that cannot live unless united, and which, putting the soul on one side, and the body on the other, causes death.

    The words of the apostle, echoing through all ages, are, [29] "Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh? Another great error arose to disturb the doctrine of grace. This was Pelagianism. Pelagius maintained that human nature is not fallen—that there is no hereditary corruption—and that man, having received the power of doing good, has only to will it in order to perform it. But if we look to the motives from which those external actions proceed, we find in every part of man selfishness, forgetfulness of God, pollution, and powerlessness.

    This heresy spread over Christendom with astonishing rapidity. The danger of the system appeared, above all, in this—by placing goodness, not within, but without, it caused a great value to be set on external works, on legal observances, and acts of penance. The more of these men did, the holier they were; they won heaven by them, and individuals were soon seen a very astonishing circumstance, certainly who went farther in holiness than was required.

    Pelagianism, at the same time that it corrupted doctrine, strengthened the hierarchy; with the same hand with which it lowered grace it elevated the Church; for grace is of God, and the Church is of man. The deeper our conviction that the whole world is guilty before God, the more will we cleave to Jesus Christ as the only source of grace. The destruction of the monasteries and most of the libraries, music and art of medieval England now looks what it always was — not a religious breakthrough, but a cultural calamity. The slaughtered Popish martyrs look less like an alien fifth column than the voices of a history England was not allowed to have.

    Terms and Conditions. Style Book. Weather Forecast. Accessibility links Skip to article Skip to navigation. Tuesday 24 September By Eamon Duffy. Related Articles. In History. Top news galleries. History Expat.

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