Return to BibleToday Homepage
PhotoDrama of Creation
The lessons of the past should never be forgotten. But we should cover with a broad mantle of charity much of its wickedness. The Church early lost the inspired Message, and unconsciously adopted the error that the teachings of the Bishops were the equivalent in authority of those of the Apostles. Through this broad channel grievous errors swept away precious truths. Lord's Old Roman World declares, "In the Second Century there were quiet bishops, intrepid martyrs, who addressed their flocks in upper chambers, and who held no worldly rank. The Third Century saw the Church more powerful as an institution. When Christianity, in the Fourth Century, became the religion of the court, it was used to support the very evils against which it originally protested. The clergy, ambitious and worldly, sought rank and distinction. They became lazy, arrogant and independent. The Church was allied with the State, and religious dogmas were enforced by the sword of the magistrates."
Fortunately there are always advanced thinkers on all lines. Such are generally considered fools, and persecuted. In reality they are the greatest benefactors of mankind. Huss suffered for his faithfulness to the Bible. Wycliffe and Tyndale were persecuted. Tyndale's Bible was burned publicly by high ecclesiastics, in front of St. Paul's Cathedral, London.
Later on, Cranmer, Latimer and Ridley, once associated with the Roman Hierarchy, but subsequently with the English Hierarchy, were publicly burned, because of their change of faith. In the light of today we see less difference between the two Hierarchies. Both Catholics and Protestants agree in condemnation of the atrocities of the past, perpetrated in the name of our Redeemer, one of whose titles is "Prince of Peace," and who admonished, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God." Thank God! Our mental eyes, with clearer light, see greater lengths and breadths and heights and depths of Love Divine!
Nobody today believes that Martin Luther stepped so fully out in advance of all others that he could be said to have grasped the Truth, the whole Truth and nothing but the Truth. Even Lutherans cut two of his Ninety-five Theses, but wishing to keep the number the same they divided two others. All agree, however, that about the time of Luther, civilization took a step forward. Catholics are better Catholics today, and Protestants better also.
Dr. Luther was the head of a Catholic College for the instruction of German youth for the priesthood. He had heard about the Bible, but like others for thirteen centuries before him, he trusted in the decisions of the various "Apostolic Councils" of the Church--the various promulgated Creeds. These he believed to be Biblical.
But one day he chanced to see a Latin copy of the New Testament. His curiosity led him to read it. He was amazed at its simplicity. He wrote the Pope, suggesting the calling of a Council to ascertain whether there had been a gradual digression from the Bible. The Pope did not take the suggestion kindly. Luther was branded a heretic, unfrocked, excommunicated. This treatment only convinced him the more of the difference between the Bible methods and teachings and the modern ones. He began to write tracts which he scattered all over Germany, amongst the comparatively few people then able to read--in any language. Gradually, through much tribulation, the Bible became more prominent.
Those holy, honest-hearted Reformers only partially comprehended the Bible. Much of the smoke of superstition and bigotry still affected their mental eyes. Nor have we gotten out of the fog yet. Thank God, however, Bible study is reviving, influencing people of every denomination. Let us remember that only the few of old were able to read. A Bible cost a fortune. It was thought useless because of erroneous trust in Bishop-Apostles and their Creeds.
About the time that Martin Luther began to study the New Testament and was amazed at its simplicity-- when he was grasping the great Bible Truth of justification by faith--he encountered Tetzel. The effect was to convince him the more that great errors had gradually crept into the faith and spirit of the Church. Tetzel was selling Indulgences under the Pope's authority. The proceeds were to be used in completing St. Peter's Cathedral at Rome.
Tetzel may or may not have exceeded his authority, but the record is that he preached, not the merit of Christ's sacrifice, but the power of the Pope, and of himself, his agent, saying, You have friends in Purgatory, suffering there for various sins. The Pope has the power to release them; I am his agent. Those who donate to this fund drop their money into this box, assured that the moment they do so their friends will be released from Purgatorial suffering.
Catholic though he still was, and a believer in Purgatory, Luther could not tolerate such a commercial proposition as that the grace of God should be purchased with money. He denounced Tetzel vigorously.
So far as we are aware, the public sale of Indulgences has been stopped in most civilized lands, but until recently in Mexico many Church tables were spread with Indulgences, specifying various sins and crimes, and bearing fixed prices.
Protestants, and some Catholics, have assumed that these Indulgences are permits to sin. The Church of Rome, however, claims that they never issue permits to commit sin, but merely so much remission of Purgatorial sufferings.
Amongst Bible students today, there seems to be a growing conviction that the Bible teaches that there is no consciousness in death--that the awakening moment in the Resurrection Morning will connect up with the dying thought. The proof- texts for Purgatory they apply to saints in this life, to the world's "stripes" in the next Age, and to the "time of trouble."
Catholics and Protestants are inclined to call the doings of the Inquisition very unholy. Facing the facts charitably, we remember that it belonged to a less favored day. With enlightenment, thank God, has come a keener sense of the Justice and Love which Jesus inculcated: "Love your enemies, do good to them that hate you and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely, for My sake."--Matthew 5:44; Mark 13:13; Luke 6:27.
The Law given Israel at Mt. Sinai expressed merely Justice in its command, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself." How seriously indeed portions of God's Word were overlooked in the persecutions of the Inquisition! Not only was there no love nor sympathy, but Justice in every sense of the word was violated. Thank God for the light of a better day!
There is in the human heart a treacherous disposition to do evil, if only an excuse for it can be found. As the Jews found an excuse for crucifying Jesus, stoning Stephen, etc., so the Inquisitors found an excuse for their persecutions. Like Saul of Tarsus, they thought they did God service. Matters have changed greatly, but persecution is still practised along different lines--ostracism, slander, boycotting. The Bible refers to this, saying, "Your brethren which cast you out said, The Lord be glorified! But He shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed."--Isaiah 66:5.
The mob spirit, the lynching spirit, is but a less legal form of "The Holy Inquisition." A Chicago Methodist Episcopal minister, angered at Prof. Farson, is quoted by the Indianapolis News and the New York Tribune as saying: "If I had the power I would skin that man, salt his hide and tack it on a barn door." The secular editor of the News says, "If such a violent outbreak was made by one who preaches the Gospel of Peace, what may we not expect from the sons of Belial?"
Evidences multiply that the mob spirit, the Inquisition spirit is growing. All should be on guard.
In Geneva, Switzerland, there was dedicated in 1912 a monument bearing the following inscription: "In memory of Michael Servetus--victim of religious intolerance of his time, and burned for his convictions at Champel, on September 27, 1553. Erected by the followers of John Calvin, three hundred and fifty years later, as expiation for that act, and to repudiate all coercion in matters of faith."
Thus have the followers of John Calvin demonstrated to the world that they have progressed far beyond the teachings of their leader in the spirit of true Christianity--the spirit of Justice, of Love. Calvinists deserve congratulations on their progress, from all Christians--Catholics and Protestants -all of whom have been making similarly good progress during the intervening four centuries. None now would justify Calvin's course in sentencing Servetus to be burned.
Others burned at the stake usually had the fuel piled at their feet. The flames were inhaled with the smoke, and the victim was speedily unconscious to suffering. For Servetus Satanic ingenuity arranged the burning fagots at a distance. He literally roasted alive, in horrible torture, nearly five hours --in the name of God, of Jesus, of Righteousness, Truth, Justice, Love, Christianity and Civilization.
It seems remarkable that only now we are realizing that a man so deficient in the spirit of his Master as to murder his brother, should not be an accepted teacher of the Word of God and its spirit. Only now are Bible students realizing that Brother Calvin was not the inventor of the doctrine of Election, but merely of the doctrine that all the non-elect would suffer everlastingly. Now we see that the terms, "the Elect," "the very Elect," are Bible terms! and that those who make their calling and election sure, will be glorified in the First Resurrection. Now we see that the Elect will be associated with Jesus in His Kingdom, which will bless the non-elect-- "all the families of the Earth."--Galatians 3:29.
Regret as we may the multiplied sects of Christendom, we must look upon them all with sympathy. The establishment of each, marked a further endeavor to get nearer to God and the true Light. The Wesleys returned to the simplicity of the early Church in preaching, Class gatherings, Bible study, etc. Naturally they were opposed by Churchianity. Cattle were driven amongst the worshipers to interrupt their meetings; they were mobbed. Similarly, Baptists, Presbyterians and others have had their experiences of persecution, hindering Bible study and worshiping of God according to their consciences.--2 Timothy 3:12.
"What manner of persons ought we to be?" As we note the bitter persecutions of the past, and the "narrow way" of all who follow Jesus only, we should the more forgive arrogance and bigotry. All should turn away from human traditions and everything contrary to the Bible.--2 Peter 3:11.
Christian people in all denominations are reaching this conclusion, and studying God's Word without creedal spectacles, in Bible classes, or in their homes.--2 Timothy 2:15.
Wesley uncovered another precious Bible truth. He declared Calvin's doctrine impossible for his acceptance, as Calvinists now do. Brother Wesley's theme was Free Grace, and his favorite text, "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come, and whosoever will may come and take of the Water of Life freely." His heart was broad and loving, but the real breadth of Grace Divine was not then seen. He did not discern that his beautiful text relates to the blessing of the non-elect during Messiah's Reign; that the Church will not become the Bride until the marriage, at our Lord's Second Coming. Soon after, the Spirit and the Bride will bid all mankind partake of life everlasting.
Now we see the connecting link between Election and Free Grace. God's Election of a saintly Kingdom class is the work of this Age. The Elect in glory will in the next Age extend God's Free Grace to all.--Romans 8:28,29; Revelation 22:17.
Great Temples, or Cathedrals, have been erected throughout the civilized world. Their founders doubtless were inspired more or less to emulate Solomon and Herod in their great Temples of the past. No fault need be found with these from some standpoints. All the circumstances being equal, it would be a shame for Christians to meet for Divine worship under conditions inferior to those of their homes. In many instances, however, the people who have donated the money for the erection and upkeep of these buildings have been extremely poor, and have been cajoled into the expenses by misleading sophistries.
In the days of Jesus and the Apostles, it was not considered "Christian work" to raise money for Church purposes. Today money-raising is the ideal "work for Jesus." The Apostles taught that the real work of the Church of Christ is not to build up costly edifices beyond their means, involving them in debt, but to build themselves up in the most holy faith. "The Temple of God is holy, which Temple ye are," "if so be that the Spirit of Christ dwell in you." God's people are the living stones under Divine supervision, being shaped and polished for places in the Glorious Spiritual Temple. Through that antitypical Temple, God will send His blessings. The removal of the curse, and the wiping away of all tears, will follow.
While using these modern Temples, let us not forget that they are not the real Temple, or Church. It is composed of the saints of God, who day by day are seeking to walk in the footsteps of Jesus, in the service of the Truth, "doing good to all men as they have opportunity, especially to the household of faith." If inclined to criticize our forefathers for building costly Cathedrals while neglecting the Bible, let us remember that coming generations may make similar or worse comments on us for building scores of costly Dreadnaughts for injury to our fellows. With what shame we will look back upon our own faults! The thought should make us humble.
Christ is here in contrast with the rich, the learned, the religious and the irreligious of our day--"Christendom." The Holy Spirit gives "the spirit of a sound mind." (2 Timothy 1:7.) To sacrifice present interests for eternal ones is wise. Is it any wonder that artists represent the world as wealth-mad, glory-mad, pleasure-mad?
The Christian Herald of a somewhat similar picture, says: "This allegory--which a critic has aptly called 'A Painter's Sermon'--is applicable to conditions in every part of the civilized world. It is a picture to study and to ponder over, that the full import of its teaching may be understood."
The Christian Commonwealth of the same, said: "On either side passes the heedless crowd. A prominent figure is a priest, proudly conscious of the perfection of the ritual with which he is starving a higher life. Over the shoulder of the priest looks a stern-faced divine of very different type, and, Bible in hand, he turns to look at the Divine figure. The startled look on the face of a hospital nurse in the foreground is very realistic. So absorbed is the man of science with his test-tube that he never glances at the Christ at his side. One of the most striking features is that of a false beauty, hurrying from one scene of pleasure to another. In the background stands an angel with bowed head, holding the cup which the world He loved to the death is still compelling the Christ to drink."
The passers-by represent the non-elect, whose only hope lies in the Kingdom of Messiah. The Elect in this picture are represented in the person of the suffering Savior--members of the Body of Christ, the Church. "He that despiseth you despiseth Me." These faithful members of the Body of Christ are not confined to one denomination, but constitute the saintly ones of every church and outside of every human system. They are the "Wise Virgin" class, being fitted by ignominy for the Heavenly Kingdom, and its great work of blessing humanity--the non-elect.
A master of art has given us a picture which well represents the attitude of the Higher Critics toward the Book of Daniel and its wonderful prophecies, which more clearly than any others point out our day, its present experiences and what is to be expected. Of course, in discrediting Daniel and the Prophets, and the Psalms of the Old Testament, these critics really discredit Jesus and the Apostles. These Higher Critics of all the great colleges have undermined faith in the Bible as the Word of God, and thus undermined all faith in a personal Creator with many.
These critics have little to say against Him who spake as never man spake; but the discerning minds of our day perceive that as Jesus and the Apostles quoted Daniel and the Prophets as Divinely inspired, the discrediting of the one is the rejection of the other. How could we rely upon the testimony of Jesus and the Apostles respecting other matters, if they erred respecting the prophecies of the past?
The condition of Christendom today is truly deplorable; and although we can see how it has come about, it seems almost impossible to restore a faith once lost. Only the very honest-hearted may we expect will be recovered. Their deflection had its start with the impossible thought that all except a handful of humanity must suffer to all eternity at the hands of fire-proof devils, because God thus foreknew and arranged matters from before the foundation of the world. They cast away the Bible because of the erroneous view that it is the foundation of all these various religious errors.
This unbelief advances like a mighty wave, and its influence is sweeping away all hope respecting a future life. It is preparing the world for anarchy. The wonder is that the great and rich, supporting colleges which thus teach, do not realize that they are bringing anarchy upon the world.
Even now, Labor, like the blind giant Samson, is groping for the pillars whose fall will overthrow present conditions.
Everybody knows that stimulated by printing there has been a greater development of knowledge along every line within the past century than during the preceding fifty-nine centuries. Everybody knows that the telegraph, telephone, wireless, electric lights, gas lights, steam railroads, electric roads, machinery, conveniences, etc., of our day were all unknown a century ago.
But although we know this to be true, it seems almost incomprehensible to the rising generation. These things have come so gradually that few realize that they are foregleams of the great thousand-year Day of Messiah's Kingdom in which the curse will be fully removed, and instead the blessing long- promised of God will be outpoured upon humanity abundantly.
The Bible declares the coming glory of Earth, when God shall make the place of His feet glorious, when the whole Earth shall be a Paradise of God. Our great scientists, who give no heed to the Bible, testify that present attainments are as nothing to what is just at hand.
God describes our day in Daniel's prophecy, saying, In the Time of the End (of this Age), many shall run to and fro; knowledge shall be increased; the wise shall understand... and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation.--Daniel 12:1-10; Matthew 24:21.
Are we not in the midst of the running to and fro which this prophecy predicted? We must, therefore, be living today in the period designated the Time of the End--the time in which this Age will gradually close and the New Age will gradually dawn with greater blessings. The first locomotive was built only ninety years ago. Now, in every land, multitudes are running to and fro, whose grandfathers probably never traveled fifty miles from their birthplace. Surely no prophecies could be more accurately fulfilled than this one.
Who but God could have known and foretold this marked peculiarity of our day? Jesus quoted a part of this prophecy.