CONSTANTINE THE GREAT
The Roman Catholic Church is a developing body. She is not today what she was years ago. As the ages have come and gone she has called councils where different doctrines have been added and some have been subtracted. She is truly the product of evolutionary thought. Just when did this antichristian institution begin? Different writers give different men and different dates as the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church. For example, J. T. Odle, in his Church Member's Handbook, page 16, lists Gregory as the founder and 590 as the beginning date. Dr. Boettner says: "The papacy really began in the year 590, with Gregory I, as Gregory the Great, who consolidated the power of the bishopric in Rome and started that church on a new course."1 On page 125 of the same book Dr. Boettner says: "In Italy the term 'pope' came to be applied to all bishops as a title of honor, and then to the bishop of Rome exclusively as the universal bishop. It was first given to Gregory I by the wicked emperor Phocas, in the year 604. This he did to spite the bishop of Constantinople, who had justly excommunicated him for having caused the assassination of his (Phocas') predecessor, emperor Mauritus. Gregory, however, refused the title, but his second successor, Boniface III (607) assumed the title, and it has been the designation of the bishops of Rome ever since." Thus, many date Catholicism as beginning with Gregory the Great.
Leo I and Boniface III
Some date the origin of Catholicism with Leo the Great A.D. 440-461. He first asserted the universal episcopate of the Roman bishop. He said the church was built on Peter. "According to him the church is built upon Peter, in pursuance of the promise of Matt. 16:16-19. Peter participates in everything which is Christ's: what the other apostles have in common with him they have through him. The Lord prays for Peter alone when danger threatens all the apostles, because his
firmness will strengthen the others. What is true of Peter is true also of his successors. Every other bishop is charged with the care of his own special flock, the Roman with that of the whole church. Other bishops are only his assistants in this great task. Through the see of Peter, Rome has become the capital of the world in a wider sense than before. For this reason, when the earth was divided among the apostles, Rome was reserved to Peter, that here, at the very center, the decisive triumph might be won over the earthly wisdom of philosophy and the power of the demons; and thus from the head the light of truth streams out through the whole body. In Leo's eyes the decrees of the council of Chalcedon acquired their validity from his confirmation. The wide range of this theory justifies the application to him of the title of the first pope."2 Leo also began to acquire power over the Roman Emperor. Thus the bloody woman begins to take reigns and ride the beast that had seven heads and ten horns! It is easy to see, then, why some date Catholicism as beginning with Leo.
Because Boniface HI acquired the title of "Universal Bishop," some date Catholicism from him. And so it could be said of others who helped to mold the Harlot into what she is today. Leo and Boniface and Gregory certainly did their part.
Flavius Valerius Constantinus A. D. 306-337
It is my opinion that the dubious honor of being the founder of Catholicism should go to Constantine the Great. He, more than anyone else, put into the pot the ingredients to brew the Roman Catholic Hierarchy. He laid the ground-work necessary to make possible the usurpations of Leo, Gregory, Boniface and all the popes after them.
As best as this writer can tell, he is the first, under the name of religion, to persecute our Baptist ancestors. He persecuted the Donatists as we shall presently see. Not much has been written about him that I know of from Baptist circles. A full book about him from our point of view would fill a great need. Whether he did all that he did willfully, ignorantly or both, God knows and we form our opinions. Whichever, he certainly was a tool in the hands of Satan, used effectually to
build the devil a church with which to persecute the true churches of our Lord Jesus Christ.
His Early Life
His father was a military man whose career moved him into the political arena. His mother, Helena, was a concubine of his father's. His father separated from Helena and married Flavia Maximiana Theodora, stepdaughter of Maximianus; the Augustus of the West. "That his second wife may perhaps have influenced him religiously is fairly supposable, since she, at all events, as appears from a coin which has remained heretofore unnoticed, was a Christian."3
His father was favorable to Christians and protected them whenever he could. Constantine may have gotten his spirit of toleration of Christians from his father. He loved his mother, Helena. He later raised statues of her all over the empire, struck coins with her image and named cities after her. That Helena was a very religiously superstitious person we will see. She, too, had an effect on Constantine.
Constantine's Supposed Conversion (?)
Around Constantine's conversion (?) there are great clouds of doubt. The only account we have of it comes from Eusebius' Life of Constantine. Following is a lengthy quote from Neander:
"In the next following years, after Constantine, as his father's successor, he had been proclaimed Augustus, in 306, by the legions in Britain, he appears to have been still attached to the pagan forms of worship, When, in the year 308, after the successful termination of the war with that Maximianus Herculius who had a second time set himself up as emperor, he received the unexpected intelligence that the Franks, against whom he was just commencing a campaign, had ceased from their hostile demonstrations, he gave public thanks in a celebrated temple of Apollo, probably at Autun, (Augustodunum,) and presented a magnificent offered to the god. ' From this circumstance we may gather, not only that
Constantine still professed an attachment to the old heathen ceremonies, but also that he did not belong to the class of warriors and princes who make no account of the religious interest, and who, strangers to all emotions and impulses of that nature, have an eye only to the human means of prosecuting their undertakings. He believed himself to be indebted for his good fortune to the protection of a god.
It was not until after his victory over the tyrant Maxentius, that Constantine publicly declared in favor of the Christians. The question here presents itself, whether, as we must suppose according to one of the traditions, it was this victory itself, in connection with the extraordinary circumstances preceding it, which gave this new and decided direction, not to the public conduct only, but also to the religious opinions of the emperor.
According to Eusebius, the way in which this important change was brought about, was as follows: - Maxentius, in making his preparations for the war, had scrupulously observed all the customary ceremonies of Paganism, and was relying for success on the agency of supernatural powers. Hence Constantine was the more strongly persuaded that he ought not to place his whole confidence in an arm of flesh. He resolved in his mind, to what god it would be suitable for him to apply for aid. The misfortunes of the last emperors, who had been so zealously devoted to the cause of Paganism, and the example of his father, who had trusted in the one true and almighty God alone, admonished him that he also should place confidence in no other. To this God, therefore, he applied, praying that he would reveal himself to him, and lend him the protection of his arm in the approaching contest. While thus praying, a short time after noon, he beheld, spread on the face of the heavens, a glittering cross, and above it the inscription: "By this conquer." The emperor and his whole army, now just about to commence their march toward Italy, were seized with awe. While Constantine was still pondering the import of this sign, night came on; and in a dream Christ appeared to him, with the same symbol which he had seen in the heavens, and directed him to cause a banner to be prepared after the same pattern, and to use it as his protection against the power of the
enemy. The emperor obeyed: he caused to be made, after the pattern he had seen, the resplendent banner of the cross, (called the Labarum,) on the shaft of which was affixed, with the symbol of the cross, [a] monogram of the name of Christ. He then sent for teachers of whom he inquired concerning the God that had appeared unto him, and the import of the symbol. This gave them an opportunity of instructing him in the knowledge of Christianity."4
If this account is true, then a real miracle took place. I, for one, do not believe that a miracle took place. One should be careful how one interprets things seen in the sky. Brother Clarence Walker used to tell us of a man who believed God had called him to preach. He told Bro. Walker he saw clouds in the sky form the letters G.P.C. He interpreted that to mean he was to Go Preach Christ. After talking with him Bro. Walker, believing God had not called the man, said, "Young man those letters meant Go Plow Corn!" No doubt Bro. Walker was right.
Religion United To The State
Constantine's embracing so-called Christianity united the power of Rome to the false churches. Those churches which had embraced the errors of the Episcopal Church Government, Baptismal Regeneration and Infant Baptism were the ones who flocked to Constantine. Thus formed the most unholy alliance ever made. It was the death knell to millions of Baptists from that day forward.
Let us see what Dowling says upon this subject: - "It was owing to forgetfulness or disregard of the important principle, mentioned at the close of the last chapter, vix., that Christ's kingdom is not of this world, that the emperor Constantine, soon after his remarkable, and as some suppose, miraculous conversion to Christianity in the year 312, took the religion of Christ to.the unhallowed embraces of the state, assumed to unite in his own person the civil and ecclesiastical dominion, and claimed the power of convening councils and presiding in them, and of regulating the external affairs of the church. The account of Constantine's conversion, which is related by Eusebius in his life of the
Emperor, by whom the particulars were communicated to the historian, is as follows: (Eusebius, vita Const., lib. i., chapter 28., and c.) At the head of his army, Constantine was marching from France into Italy, oppressed with anxiety as to the result of a battle with Maxentius, and looking for the aid of some deity to assure him of success, when he suddenly beheld a luminous cross in the air, with the words inscribed thereon, "BY THIS OVERCOME." Pondering on the event at night, he asserted that Jesus Christ appeared to him in a vision, and directed him to make the symbol of the cross his military ensign. Different opinions have been entertained relative to the credibility of this account. Dr. Milner receives it, though in evident inconsistency with his creed; Mosheim supposes, with the ancient writers, Sozomen and Rufinus, that the whole was a dream; Gregory, Jones, Haweis, and others reject it altogether, and Professor Gieseler, with his usual accuracy and good sense, reckons it among "the legends of the age, which had their origin in the feeling that the final struggle was come between Paganism and Christianity." For my part, I have no hesitation in regarding the whole as a fable. It was not until many years after it was said to have occurred, that Constantine related the story to Eusebius, and in all probability he did it then by the instigation of his superstitious mother, Helena, the celebrated discoverer of the wood of the true cross (?) at Jerusalem, some 250 years after the total destruction of that city, and all that it contained, and the disappearance of the identity of its very foundations, under the ploughshare of the Roman conqueror Vespasian. The subsequent life of Constantine furnished no evidence that he was a peculiar favorite of Heaven; and the results of is patronage of the church, eventually so disastrous to its purity and spirituality, are sufficient to prove that God would never work a miracle to accomplish such a purpose."5
The Edict of Milan 313 A. D.
It is no small wonder that many felt Constantine to be their Champion. All had suffered much at the hands of the emperors under severe persecution. Constantine and Licinius
issued the famous Edict of Milan which was an edict of toleration. From Eusebius, I give the Edict in its entirety:
"As we long since perceived that religious liberty should not be denied, but that it should be granted to the opinion and wishes of each one to perform divine duties according to his own determination, we had given orders, that each one, and the Christians among the rest, have the liberty to observe the religion of his choice, and his peculiar mode of worship. But as there plainly appeared to be many and different sects added in that edict, in which this privilege was granted them, some of them perhaps, after a little while, on this account shrunk from this kind of attention and observance. Wherefore, as I, Constantine Augustus, and I, Licinius Augustus, came under favourable auspices to Milan, and took under consideration all affairs that pertained to the public benefit and welfare, these things among the rest appeared to us to be most advantageous and profitable to all. We have resolved among the first things to ordain, those matters by which reverence and worship to the Deity might be exhibited. That is how we may grant likewise to the Christians, and to all, the free choice to follow that mode of worship which they may wish. That whatsoever divinity and celestial power may exist, may be propitious to us and to all that live under our government. Therefore, we have decreed the following ordinance, as our will, with a salutary and most correct intention, that no freedom at all shall be refused to Christians, to follow or to keep their observances or worship. But that to each one power be granted to devote his mind to that worship which he may think adapted to himself. That the Deity may in all things exhibit to us his accustomed favour and kindness. It was just and consistent that we should write that this was our pleasure. That all exceptions respecting the Christians being completely removed, which were contained in the former epistle, that we sent to your fidelity, and whatever measures were wholly sinister and foreign to our mildness, that these should be altogether annulled; and now that each one of the Christians may freely and without molestation, pursue and follow that course and worship which he has proposed to himself: which, indeed, we have resolved to communicate most fully to your care and diligence, that you
may know we have granted liberty and full freedom to the Christians, to observe their own mode of worship; which as your fidelity understands absolutely granted to them by us, the privilege is also granted to others to pursue that worship and religion they wish. Which it is obvious is consistent with the peace and tranquility of our times; that each may have the privilege to select and to worship whatsoever divinity he pleases. But this has been done by us, that we might not appear in any manner to detract any thing from any manner of religion, or any mode of worship. And this, we further decree, with respect to the Christians, that the places in which they were formerly accustomed to assemble, concerning which also we formerly wrote to your fidelity, in a different form, that if any persons have purchased these, either from our treasury, or from any other one, these shall restore them to the Christians, without money and without demanding any price, without any superadded value, or augmentation, without delay, or hesitancy. And if any have happened to receive these places as presents, that they shall restore them as soon as possible to the Christians, so that if either those that purchased or those that received them as presents, have any thing to request of our munificence, they may go to the provincial governor as the judge; that provision may also be made for them by our clemency. All which, it will be necessary to be delivered up to the body of Christians, by your care, without any delay. And since the Christians themselves are known to have had not only those places where they were accustomed to meet, but other places also belonging not to individuals among them, but to the right of the whole body of Christians, you will also command all these, by virtue of the law before mentioned, without any hesitancy, to be restored to these same Christians, that is to their body, and to each conventicler respectively. The aforesaid consideration, to wit, being observed; namely, that they who as we have said restore them without valuation and price, may expect their indemnity from our munificence and liberality. In all which it will be incumbent on you, to exhibit your exertions as much as possible, to the aforesaid body of Christians, that our orders may be most speedily accomplished, that likewise in this, provision may be made by our clemency, for the preservation of the common and public
tranquility. For by these means, as before said, the divine favour with regard to us, which we have already experienced in many affairs, will continue firm and permanent at all times. But that the purpose of this our ordinance and liberality may be extended to the knowledge of all, it is expected that these things written by us, should be proposed and published to the knowledge of all. That this act of our liberality and kindness may remain unknown to none."6
Changes in the False Churches
The false churches flocked to him and he became their head. Through his efforts these false churches were reconstructed into one whole over which he presided. "Soon after Constantine professed conversion to Christianity, he undertook to remodel the government of the church, so as to make it conform as much as possible to the government of the state. Hence the origin of the dignities of patriarchs, etc., intended by the Emperor to correspond with the different secular offices and dignities, connected with the civil administration of the empire. Taking these newly constituted dignitaries of the church into his own special favor, he loaded them with the wealth and worldly honors, and richly endowed the churches over which they presided, thus fostering in those who professed to be the followers and ministers of Him who was 'meek and lowly of heart' a spirit of worldly ambition, pride, and arvice. And thus was the let on hinderance to the progress of corruption, and the revelation of'the man of sin' spoken of by Saint Paul in the remarkable prediction already referred to, in a great measure removed."7
It is easy to see from the words of Dowling, how the struggle among the bishops for power came about. In a quest for wealth, power and fame one bishop must become the "universal bishop." One must become "pope."
That the readers of this notebook not think that Dowling was not "telling it like it is" let us see a few letters of Constantine himself:
Copy of an Epistle in which the Emperor grants money to the churches:
"Constantine Augustus to Caecilianus bishop of Carthage. As we have determined, that in all the provinces of Africa, Numidia and Mauritania, something should be granted to certain ministers of the legitimate and most holy catholic (universal) religion, to defray their expenses, I have given letters to Ursus, the most illustrious lieutenant-governor of Africa, and have communicated to him, that he shall provide, to pay for your authority, three thousand follies ($10,000.00)
After you shall have obtained this sum, you are to order these monies to be distributed among the aforesaid ministers, according to the abstract addressed to thee from Hosius. But if thou shall learn, perhaps, that any thing shall be wanting to complete this my purpose with regard to all, thou art authorized, without delay, to make demands for whatever thou mayest ascertain to be necessary, from Heraclides, the procurator of our possessions. And I have also commanded him when present, that if thy authority should demand any monies from him, he should see that it should be paid without delay. And as 1 ascertained that some men, who are of no settled mind, wish to divert the people from the most holy catholic (universal) church, by a certain pernicious adulteration, 1 wish thee to understand that I have given, both to the proconsul Anulinus and to Patricius, vicar-general of the praefects, when present, the following injunctions; that among all the rest, they should particularly pay the necessary attention to this, nor should by any means tolerate that this should be overlooked. Wherefore, if thou seest any of these men persevering in this madness, thou shalt, without any hesitation, proceed to the aforesaid judges, and report it to them, that they may animadvert upon them, as I commanded them, when present. May the power of the great God preserve thee many years."
The Privileges and Immunities of the Clergy
Copy of an Epistle in which the Emperor commands that the prelates of the churches should be exempt from performing service in political matters:
"Health to thee, most esteemed Anulinus. As it appears from many circumstances, that when the religion was despised, in which the highest reverence of the heavenly majesty is observed, that our public affairs were beset with great dangers, and that this religion, when legally adopted and observed, afforded the greatest prosperity to the Roman name, and distinguished felicity to all men, as it has been granted by the divine beneficence, we have resolved that those men who gave their services with becoming sanctity, and the observance of this law, to the performance of divine worship, should receive the recompence for their labours, oh most esteemed Anulinus; wherefore it is my will that these men, within the province, entrusted to thee in the Catholic church, over which Caecilianus presides, who give their services to this holy religion, and whom they commonly call clergy, shall be held totally free, and exempt from all public offices, to the end that they may not by any error or sacrilegious deviation, be drawn away from the service due to the Divinity, but rather may devote themselves to their proper law, without molestation. So that, whilst they exhibit the greatest possible reverence to the Deity, it appears the greatest good will be conferred on the state. Farewell, most esteemed and beloved Anulinus."8
Unity Among All Churches
Constantine was possessed with great energy and determination. All of those energized by Satan have been. He was determined that everyone agree with him. He set about to bring unity among all the bishops and churches. Can you not see how this begins and leads to the Universal Church of Rome?
He commanded councils to be called for this very purpose. Let us read two of his letters for this purpose from Eusebius:
Copy of the Emperor's Epistle, in which he ordains a council of bishops to be held at Rome, for the unity and peace of the church:
"Constantine Augustus, to Miltiades bishop of Rome, and to Marcus. As many communications of this kind have been sent to me from Anulinus, the most illustrious proconsul of Africa, in which it is contained that Caecilianus, respects, by his colleagues in Africa; and as this appears to be grievous, that in those provinces which divine Providence has freely entrusted to my fidelity, and in which there is a vast population, the multitude are found inclining to deteriorate, and in a manner divided into two parties, and among others, that the bishops were at variance; 1 have resolved that same Caecilianus, together with ten bishops, who appear to accuse him, and ten others, whom he himself may consider necessary for his cause, shall sail to Rome. That you, being present there, as also Reticius Maternus, and Marinus, your colleagues, whom I have commanded to hasten to Rome for this purpose, may be heard, as you may understand most consistent with the most sacred law. And, indeed, that you may have the most perfect knowledge of these matters, I have subjoined to my own by Anulinus, and sent them to your aforesaid colleagues. In which your gravity will read and consider in what way the aforesaid cause may be most accurately investigated and justly decided. Since it neither escapes your diligence, that I show such regard for the holy catholic church, that I wish you, upon the whole, to leave no room for schism or division. May the power of the great God preserve you many years, most esteemed."
Copy of the Epistle in which the Emperor commanded another council to be held, for the purpose of removing all the dissension of the bishops:
"Constantine Augustus to Chrestus bishop of Syracuse. As there were some already before who perversely and wickedly began to waver in the holy religion and celestial virtue, and to abandon the doctrine of the catholic (universal) church, desirous, therefore, of preventing such disputes among them, I had thus written, that this subject, which appeared to be agitated among them, might be rectified, be delegating certain bishops from Gaul, and summoning others of the opposite parties from Africa, who are pertinaciously and
incessantly contending with one another, that by a careful examination of the matter in their presence, it might thus be decided. But since, as it happens, some, forgetful of their own salvation, and the reverence due to our most holy religion, even now do not cease to protract to the decision already promulgated, and asserting that they were very few that advanced their sentiments and opinions, or else that all points which ought to have been first fully discussed not being first examined, they proceeded with too much haste and precipitancy to give publicity to the decision. Hence it has happened, that those very persons who ought to exhibit a brotherly and peaceful unanimity, rather disgracefully and detestably are at variance with one another, and thus give this occasion of derision to those that are without, and whose minds are averse to our most holy religion. Hence it has appeared necessary to me to provide that this matter which ought to have ceased after the decision was issued by their own voluntary agreement, now, at length, should be fully terminated by the intervention of many.
"Since, therefore, we have commanded many bishops to meet together from different remote places, in the city or Aries, towards the calends of August, I have also thought proper to write to thee, that taking the public vehicle from the most illustrious Latronianus, corrector of Sicily, and taking with thee two others of the second rank, which thou mayest select, also three servants to afford you services on the way; I would have you meet them within the same day at the aforesaid place. That by the weight of your authority, and the prudence and unanimity of the rest that assemble, this dispute, which has disgracefully continued until the present time, in consequence of certain disgraceful contentions, may be discussed, by hearing all that shall be alleged by those who are now at variance, whom we have also commanded to be present, and thus the controversy be reduced, though slowly, to that faith, and observance or religion, and fraternal concord, which ought to prevail. May Almighty God preserve thee in safety many years."9
Since the true churches. Baptist churches, would and did oppose such unity, they ran into trouble with Constantine.
As a result, he persecuted them severely as we shall see when we study the Donatists.
Constantino's life, after his supposed conversion, does not bear resemblance to that of a dedicated Christian. His ultimate salvation, of course, rests with God and not with us. However, we are to know people by their fruit. Neander remarks: "Constantine, instigated by the calumnious representations of his second wife, Fausta, had in a paroxysm of anger, caused his son, the Caesar Crispus, step-son of Fausta, to be put to death. Reproached for this act by his mother Helena, and convinced afterwards himself that he had been falsely informed, he had added another crime to this by a cruel revenge on Fausta, whom he caused to be thrown into the glowing furnace of a bath. Suspicious jealously had misled him to order the execution of his nephew, a hopeful prince, the son of the unfortunate Licinius; and several others, connected with the court, are said to have fallen victims to his anger or his suspicion."10 Much more could be added but this will allow you to see his true character.
When Constantine inquired about Christianity from the irregular churches, he was, no doubt, told of Baptismal Regeneration. "When this hierarchy was created, Constantine, who was made its head, was not at that time a Christian. He had agreed to become one. But as the erring or irregular churches which had gone with him into this organization had come to adopt the error of Baptismal Regeneration, a serious question arose in the mind of Constantine, 'If I am saved from my sins by baptism, what is to become of my sins which 1 may commit after I am baptized?' He raised a question which had puzzled the world in all succeeding generations. Can baptism wash away yet uncommitted sins? Or, are the sins committed prior to baptism washed away by one method (that is, baptism), and sins committed subsequent to baptism washed away by another method?"11
J. M. Cramp says the following: "And great numbers followed the example of Constantine, who deferred his baptism until the latest possible period, that all his sins might be washed away at once, as he, poor man, vainly imagined they would be, by the administration of the ordinance."12
Neander: "It is most probable that, carrying his heathen superstition into Christianity, he looked upon baptism as a sort of rite for the magical removal of sin, and so delayed it, in the confidence that, although he had not lived an exemplary life, he might yet in the end be enabled to enter into bliss, purified from all his sins. He was doubtless sincere, therefore, when, on receiving baptism, he said, as Eusebius reports, that from thenceforth, if God spared him his life, he would devote himself to God's worthy laws of life."13
There is so much that needs to be said about Constantine but this chapter has run too far. However, enough has been said to show why this writer prefers to date the Roman Catholic Church with Constantine.
Please remember: There were hundreds of true churches that had nothing to do with the organization of the hierarchy under Constantine. They opposed it, thus becoming guilty of treason against the Roman Empire. Many lost their lives as Satan now, under the name of religion, wields the sword of the state against our Baptist ancestors.
Notes on Chapter 6
1 Roman Catholicism, page 126.
2 The New Schaff-Hergoz Religion Encyclopedia, Vol. 6, pages 449-450.
3The New Schaff-Hergoz Religion Encyclopedia, Vol. 3, page 250.
4 History of the Christian Religion and Church, Vol. 2. pages 6-8.
5 History of Romanism, pages 30-31.
6 Ecclesiastical History, pages 426-428.
7 History of Romanism, page 31.
8 Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, pages 431-433.
9 Ecclesiastical History of Eusebius, pages 429-431.
10 History of the Christian Religion and Church, Vol. 2, page 29.
11 The Trail of Blood, pages 16-17.
12 Baptist History, page 44.
13 History of the Christian Religion and Church, Vol. 2, page 29.
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