The Last Reformation
F. G. [Frederick George] Smith

Part 2 out of 3

recognition became general. It is probable that in the local
presbytery of the primitive church some one minister excelled in
special gifts and qualifications and consequently became a natural
leader of his brethren. _Such_ leadership was of God, comes general
because it was based on the authority proceeding from the Spirit of
God. Such was the leadership which Paul held in a sphere of activity
wider than a local congregation. But such was not positional authority
or authority proceeding from a humanly created superior office and
appointment thereto. It was of divine order. But this fact of
distinguished leadership at first, doubtless furnished an excuse for
the creation of a distinct office with carefully defined functions and
limits of authority. The power of the bishop thus constituted advanced
steadily. The churches of the cities where they were located extended
their influences over smaller towns in the surrounding territory, and
thus the city bishop came to rule over the elders of the lesser
churches of a district.

[Sidenote: Development of hierarchy]

When the first step toward ecclesiasticism was definitely taken,
by the recognition of official position authority, and government
proceeding from human appointment alone, the way was prepared for
rapid progress toward a highly organized system of man-rule. When the
bishops met in provincial councils, special deference was given those
bishops from cities of great political importance, and they were
exalted to the presidency of these councils, and this in time led to
the recognition of a new order of church officials--_metropolitans_.
Later the metropolitans seemed too numerous for general utility in
governmental functions; therefore general leadership gradually became
centralized more and more in the bishops or metropolitans of
certain of the most important cities, until they were finally given
recognition as an order superior to that of metropolitans and were
styled _patriarchs_. The first Council of Nice recognized this
superior authority possessed by the patriarchates of Alexandria, Rome,
and Antioch. The General Council of Constantinople placed the bishop
of Constantinople in the same rank with the other three patriarchs,
and the General Council of Chalcedon exalted the see of Jerusalem to
a similar dignity. The race for leadership between the patriarchates
then began. On account of the Moslem invasion in the seventh century,
Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch fell away from their former
positions of greatness; therefore the rivalry for leadership was
henceforth between the see of Rome and the bishop of Constantinople.
Rome possessed many natural advantages, and consequently the bishop
of Rome gained the greater prestige. The full-fledged papacy was the

[Sidenote: Fundamental causes]

What produced that transition from the humble apostolic church of the
brethren to the medieval church of the impious Hildebrand, who caused
monarchs to tremble on their thrones? The change resulted from two
particular causes, and it is highly essential to our purpose that
we understand them. One was a misconception both of the Fundamental
constitution of the true church itself as designed by its Founder
and of Christ's perpetual relationship to it; and the second was
the imperialistic tendencies of that age to which the first error
naturally exposed the church.

It is unnecessary here to recite at length that conception of the
primitive church which we have described in preceding chapters as
the concrete expression of the kingdom of God. Such was the only true
_catholic_, or universal, church. Its catholicity, however, was a
moral and spiritual dominion exercised over men by the truth and
Spirit of God, and was rendered visible only in the society of
redeemed believers who held the truth and bore its appropriate fruits
of righteousness. Being composed of the redeemed, it lovingly embraced
within its membership the entire brotherhood of Christ.

[Sidenote: Two theories of catholicity]

It is not too much to say that in the age in which Christianity first
appeared it was difficult for men to appreciate the conception of a
purely moral and spiritual authority which was to be universal and
perpetual. Another idea of catholicity soon began to take possession
of men's minds--the idea of a temporal and earthly organization of the
kingdom of heaven. In this conception of the church the bond of union
was not moral and spiritual--not the inevitable result of divine life
and love in the individual members--but its pretended catholicity was
to be secured by official, administrative, legislative, and judicial
functions under a human headship and a self-perpetuating human
magistracy. Such was the "mystery of iniquity," and in its developed
form historically it was "the man of sin." The student of the New
Testament can easily see that the great Founder never intended that
the boundary of his church should be determined by the administrative
functions of a self-perpetuating clerical corporation. But, on
the other hand, the real church embraces the entire _spiritual
brotherhood,_ and out of this spiritual membership was developed by
the Spirit of God the capacity and authority to teach, guide, and
instruct. What a contrast these two conceptions present!

[Sidenote: The power of the keys]

Out of that worldly conception of the kingdom of God grew the Romish
figment of the "power of the keys." According to this idea, Christ
constituted his ministers a sort of clerical, close corporation
invested with direct authority over souls so that without their
priestly mediation the kingdom of heaven is forever shut against men.
The words "keys of the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. 16:19) are evidently
nothing more than a figurative expression indicating the moral
influence in the kingdom which Peter in particular should wield with
peculiar energy and efficiency. According to Matt. 18:18 all the
apostles and others were to exercise the same functions. In time, this
expression denoting moral influence and usefulness in the service of
Christ was tortured into an engine of despotism and made the means of
spiritual tyranny over the consciences of millions of men and women.
The corporation entrusted with such power durst not be resisted, and
the church was identical with the hierarchy.

But all of Rome's boasted catholicity, centralized in an official,
administrative corporation, is a chimera; for it is a fact that
multitudes are accepted of God as members of the divine family who are
not identified with the hierarchy. The real catholic church, embracing
the whole spiritual brotherhood, is therefore something else.

[Sidenote: Main source of ecclesiasticism]

But we have not yet reached in this discussion the tap-root of the
evil tree of human ecclesiasticism. The fundamental error underlying
all other errors on this subject, was the idea of an absent Christ.
Notwithstanding the definite assertions of our Lord, "I am with you
alway, even unto the end of the world" and "Where two or three
are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of
them"--notwithstanding these reassuring promises and the definite
statements of the apostles which represent Christ as the ever-living
and ever-acting head of the church, soon after the apostolic period
men lost the consciousness of the divine presence and began to think
and to act as if Christ were indeed absent and would not return again
for thousands of years. The presence of gigantic evils in the world
with no apparent available means of redressing them, the dead weight
of heathenism, and the disturbing influences of speculative Oriental
philosophies impressed upon the conscience of the world a despairing
pessimism. In the midst of this trial there was a revival of the
Platonic philosophy. The treatise of Plato that made the most profound
impression upon the religious thought of the second century was the
"Timaeus," wherein the Deity is pictured as withdrawn from the world
into a distant heaven separated from all creation because of the evil
with which matter is essentially connected. With God withdrawn from
the world and Christ absent on a long journey, what was man to do?
What was the hope of the world?

Here ecclesiasticism found its real opportunity. Here human authority
and government could be and was substituted for that spiritual
dominion of Christ which gave life, form, and character to his church
in primitive days. Here grew up that conception of the church as
identical with the hierarchy whose power and authority was handed
down by direct descent from the apostles and without whose priestly
mediation there was no hope of salvation. Here was introduced the
idea of world-wide centralization of administrative, legislative,
and judicial functions in a self-perpetuating human headship. What a
contrast! With Christ absent, the church an ark for the saving of the
world, the truth a mere deposit made to the church for safe keeping to
be handed down like a heirloom from generation to generation, and with
a self-perpetuating priestly corporation as master of the destinies of
the universe, we are prepared to understand the tyrannical rule of the
church of Hildebrand and Innocent III. Traced to its source, this evil
system is found to have sprung from that worldly conception of the
kingdom of Christ which was substituted for the inconceivably grander
conception of its Founder--a kingdom whose dominion is moral and
spiritual under the personal supervision of Christ himself in all
ages, and which embraces in its membership the entire spiritual



The age of popery's greatest glory was the world's midnight. I have
not attempted to give an adequate description of that long reign of
superstition and error preceding the reformation of the sixteenth
century. Such is the particular province of ecclesiastical historians.
I have simply confined the discussion to certain features essential to
our present purpose.

One point of importance I have endeavored to impress, namely, that
the papal hierarchy, with all its attendant evils, corruption,
superstition, and spiritual despotism, was the logical successor of
the Ante-Nicene church; that the ripened fruits of papalism were the
direct results of the seeds of error planted in the second and third
centuries. In view of this fact, one is led to inquire why true
Christianity was not permanently buried in oblivion beyond the
possibility of resurrection, how any reformation could be possible.

If Christianity were nothing more than a human religion, its
reformation at such a period of decline and corruption would appear
impossible. But Christianity was of divine origin. No matter how
deeply it was buried under the rubbish of human tradition and
superstition, no matter how grossly it was perverted and misunderstood
by men, it still retained within itself the vital spark of divine
life, the living principle of reformation.

[Sidenote: First cause of reformation]

The secret of this reformatory power was Jesus Christ himself, the
great ever-living head of the church. Notwithstanding the decline
of faith and morals among those professing Christ, the wonderful
character of Jesus still stood out with remarkable clearness and
power in the records of the New Testament and could not but exert a
tremendous influence in spite of prevailing standards; could not
but shed rays of light and warmth in the midst of the surrounding
darkness. Although men's ideas of the church became perverted, they
could not entirely lose sight of the great Founder of the church, and
they could not escape the conviction that the record of the founding
of that church was given in the writings of the New Testament and that
these writings were worthy of peculiar veneration. Perhaps this is
the main reason why the learning of antiquity was chiefly preserved in
monasteries and churches. There were ecclesiastics in all these
ages who were acquainted with the Scriptures in Latin, and this
acquaintance tended to preserve the knowledge of Jesus the Christ as
portrayed in the original gospel records. The history of that epoch
proves that there were men who loved the Lord more than priestly forms
and ceremonial observances. John Wyclif, Jerome of Prague, John Huss,
and others experienced that deeper longing for personal relationship
with Christ, and they proclaimed the gospel of Christ in a manner that
could not be understood by the hierarchy of their times.

[Sidenote: Classical learning]

Jesus was indeed the Christ of God. The light which shone forth from
his presence could not be totally obscured, and the moral power and
influence of his life and teaching could not be destroyed. The revival
of classical learning restored the Greek Testament to western Europe
and attracted the attention of students and learned men in all the
monasteries and universities. While the hierarchy insisted on the
exclusive right to interpret the Scriptures, the simple reading of
these wonderful records could not but create new conceptions of truth
which no clerical prohibition could banish. Life was springing up in
the midst of death.

[Sidenote: Love for truth]

The Reformation was the sincere effort of honest men to restore the
truth of primitive Christianity, that the world might again experience
the triumph of evangelical faith. To the everlasting credit of the
Continental reformers be it said that their motives were not selfish.
They sought not for themselves freedom of thought and speech nor
church power. Their immediate object was the restoration of the
gospel; all other results were but secondary. Nothing is more
certain than that at the first Luther had no idea of assailing the
organization of the papal church. Most of the reformers at the first
still believed most earnestly in the imperial government of the
universal church; and they relinquished this long-cherished ideal only
when driven by force of circumstances which were at first unseen and
unsuspected. Luther did not at first question the doctrine of the
supremacy of the pope; but when he found that the reigning pope could
not be reconciled with the principles of truth which he taught, Luther
proposed to appeal the matters in question to a general council,
notwithstanding the melancholy example, a century earlier, of the
Council of Constance and the fate of John Huss and Jerome of Prague.

[Sidenote: Indulgences]

The real occasion for the outbreak of the Reformation was the papal
traffic in indulgences. Leo X had great need of money for the building
of St. Peter's, and other undertakings, and in order to fill the
coffers of the church he had recourse to the sale of indulgences.
The power of dispensing these indulgences in Saxony in Germany was
committed to a Dominican friar named Tetzel, a fanatical enthusiast
who entertained the most extravagant notions concerning their efficacy
in forgiving not only the sins already committed but even those which
were contemplated. Luther's soul burned with righteous indignation. Of
what use was the doctrine that forgiveness of sin came by the death of
Christ on the cross if any sinner could obtain it from an emissary of
the pope for a pecuniary consideration. Luther felt that this infamous
traffic was making the Word of God of none effect. He therefore drew
up ninety-five theses against the doctrine of indulgences and nailed
them on the church-door at Wittenberg. The printing-press scattered
copies of these theses everywhere, and soon the continent of Europe
was in a blaze of controversy. Such, in short, was the beginning of
the Reformation and some of the causes leading thereto.

[Sidenote: Gospel standard sought]

The key-note of the reformers was, therefore, the gospel. The views
of the reformers with respect to truth were not altogether harmonious,
and it is evident that some of them had much clearer conception of the
gospel than had others. Nevertheless, their primary purpose was the
same. They were gradually forced to the conviction that Rome had
made the faith of God of none effect by her traditions, errors, and
superstitions, so much so as to make it practically unknown. It was
the purpose of these heroic preachers to bring out these long-obscured
truths and thus make them effectual in the saving of men. The main
doctrine around which the Reformation centered was justification by
faith independent of human mediation.

So far as the Reformation restored to the world right doctrine, it
tended to correct the evils of that phase of the apostasy which we
have characterized as the corruption of evangelical faith. But it did
not remove that other evil characteristic of the apostasy, the parent
of nearly all other evils--_human ecclesiasticism_. Viewed from one
angle, that power appears to have been modified; but from another
point of view, we can see that what was formerly an imperial system
of centralized ecclesiastical control simply ended now in nationally
centralized systems perpetuating the same principles. Thus, from the
centralized dominion of the papal hierarchy there sprang the national,
or state, churches in Switzerland, Germany, Holland, England, Sweden,
and Scotland.

[Sidenote: Lingering influence of Rome]

We have already shown that development of ecclesiasticism which
culminated in the papacy. From the primitive autonomy of the local
churches, there came the centralization and consolidation of churches
sectionally under a human headship with administrative functions, then
provincial or national centralization, then finally the primacy of
Rome over them all. The reason for this is evident. When the moral and
spiritual dominion of Christ's kingdom was lost to view or could not
be appreciated, the wrong conception of the church as a world-empire
naturally took possession of men's minds; for in that age vast,
centralized, imperial power was the ideal government. When, however,
the political empire fell, and men witnessed the ruin of their
political ideal, they sought to realize the same universal conception
in a world-church possessing imperial powers under the pope of Rome.

[Sidenote: National churches]

At the period of the Reformation the Christian world had been in the
grip of this world-church idea for more than a thousand years. As
already stated, the reformers, whose minds were directed chiefly
toward the restoration of evangelical doctrine, had at first no idea
of breaking away from this standard. Evidently they had no conception
of that moral and spiritual dominion of Christ by which alone he
governs his church--a 'kingdom that is not of this world.' They
therefore abandoned the world-church idea reluctantly, and not until
the opposition of the hierarchy drove them to separation. When the
issue was clearly drawn, they of course decided to obey God rather
than man. Having no idea of the real spiritual character of the divine
ecclesia, they had to content themselves with that _national_ church
unity which was still in their power.

The clergy, who had long been accustomed to the imperial tie, believed
that a national headship was now necessary. The governments of Europe
at that time were for the most part absolute monarchies, about the
only limits to the sovereign power of these kings being the control
which the pope exercised over the ecclesiastical affairs of the
nations. From this control the Reformation liberated them. Therefore
they eagerly took upon themselves the oversight of the national
churches, and thus came into existence the church-and-state system of
Protestant Europe. To a great extent the power that the imperial head
of the church lost was acquired by the national heads.

All this seemed perfectly consistent to the reformers. They felt the
necessity of lodging somewhere that power of human control which had
been formerly exercised by the pope. As one writer has said, "They
could not understand that Christianity could prosper without a
strongly organized and governed church or without the presence of a
strong and vigorous hand ready at all times to repress dissent
and enforce uniformity of faith and worship." The time of absolute
religious freedom was not yet.

[Sidenote: Ecclesiasticism perpetuated]

As might be expected, numerous modifications of the principles and
usages of the papal church occurred in the change from imperial
control to the state-church system. This diversity took place in the
different countries in accordance either with prevailing conditions
and sentiments or with the whims and caprices of the reigning
sovereigns. While some retained the episcopate, others greatly
modified it or rejected it altogether. In forms of worship, ritual,
and other things numerous changes were also made. But notwithstanding
the diversity in forms of worship and in church polity, in two
respects there was perfect agreement among all the Reformed
churches--two things brought over from the papacy--namely, first,
the idea of a self-perpetuating clerical caste possessing in their
corporate capacity legislative and judicial authority over the
church; and second, the centralization under a human headship of
administrative functions, instead of that local autonomy which
prevailed in the congregations of apostolic times. The doctrine of the
"power of the keys," a power wielded by a clerical corporation with
authority to prescribe the very manner and form of worshiping God and
to require men to comply therewith or else exclude them from gospel
privileges. That doctrine was accepted without question. It was the
same power in principle as that which was wielded so terribly by
Gregory VII in the papal church of the eleventh century.



[Sidenote: A mental picture]

Picture a keen observer living in the middle of the first century
of our era. He travels about from place to place studying the
development, nature, and fruits of the recently established religious
phenomenon--Christianity. He observes the purity of its doctrines and
the high moral standard exemplified in the lives of its adherents, and
he inquires particularly concerning the secret of that mysterious bond
which unites in one body and in one fellowship, sympathy, and love the
entire society of believers in Jesus. He departs. After the lapse of
long ages he returns near the beginning of the twentieth century,
and lo, what is it that meets his astonished vision? The mournful
spectacle of a divided Christendom; of rival sects compassing land and
sea to make proselytes; of the spiritual alienation of those who, in
reality, belong to the one divine family; of waste and inefficiency
in methods of evangelical effort; not to mention the error, pride, and
worldliness inherent in the gigantic ecclesiastical systems known as
denominational churches. What a change!

It is useless to minimize the evils inherent in the sect system.
Intelligent men the world over need not the services of an
eye-specialist to see clearly that there is something wrong with
modern Christendom; that the sect system does not represent the
standard of primitive Christianity, but that in reality the sect
principle misrepresents the apostolic ideal as portrayed in the New
Testament. We may as well face the facts honestly and seek for
a remedy for this disease that has so long marred the beauty and
corrupted the nature of the true Christian system.

[Sidenote: Inherent evils]

I cheerfully admit that God has worked among his people in all ages
in accordance with the degree of light and truth which they possessed.
But I can not forget that the greatest revivals of evangelical
religion have either taken place in spite of the sect system or
among those who had just made their escape from the bondage of
ecclesiastical despotism and had not as yet become very deeply
affected by the sectarian principle. To what source, then, are we to
trace sects? What is their cause?

[Sidenote: Alleged causes of sect-making]

A large proportion of the Christian world would reply without
hesitation that the existence of the modern sects is due to these
two things: the principle of religious liberty and the limitations
of human knowledge. Such an answer reveals a superficial view of
the whole subject. Religious liberty among Christians existed in the
primitive church before the rise of ecclesiastical tyranny over the
conscience, and the masses of men in those days were at least as
limited in knowledge as are we. Still, the church was one; it was not
divided into rival and hostile sects. There was no need in those days
of constructing churches to conform to the limited capacity of men's
minds; for there was already in existence a church sufficiently
_catholic_ in its nature and spirit to accommodate all classes of
minds, because there was in operation the power of the Spirit of
God which revealed truth to men and thus enlightened their minds and
brought them into harmony with the divine standard. Concerning the
principle of religious liberty, I shall have more to say hereafter.

[Sidenote: Human limitations]

The natural limitations of human knowledge may account for difference
of opinion, but more than this is required to account for the entire
system of organized sects such as we see it today. Millions of
evangelical Christians possessing spiritual affinity and holding
opinions no more divergent than often exist between members of the
same sect, are, nevertheless, divided into independent, rival parties.
Something else originated and now perpetuates that barrier between

When differences are fundamental and therefore unavoidable, they will
become more pronounced under test than at any other time. If, during
an epidemic, a physician believes that the method of treatment
employed by another doctor is actually killing the patients, his
opposition to such a method will then he stronger than at any other
time. As long as that method is simply a theory, it is harmless. Only
when put into practise does it become dangerous.

It is a matter of common knowledge that evangelical Christians are
not driven further apart but are really driven together whenever
Christianity itself is placed under any special trial, as, for
example, in foreign missionary work in heathen lands. And even in our
own country, whenever a great local interest is taken in the work
of soul-saving there is a corresponding tendency for Christians
of different sects to ignore their differences of opinion and get
together as if they believed in a common Lord over all and were all
members of the same family. Thus, whenever the high tide of evangelism
comes in, the landmarks of sects are scarcely visible; but whenever
the tide goes out, behold, _the ancient boundaries of sects appear as
before_. This fact proves that there are no fundamental reasons why
sects should exist. It proves that in reality sects are a barrier
to the true work of Christ; hence are, in their essential nature,
antichristian. What, then, is the real cause of sects'?

Traced to the original source, modern sects, we find, originated where
the papacy originated--in the corruption of Christianity in the early
centuries. All came from the same roots of error.

[Sidenote: True causes of sects]

However modified and diversified in external form and in doctrinal
teaching they may now be, they exhibit in their ecclesiastical
constitutions a foreign character derived from the foreign stock from
which they sprang. Into this system there have been engrafted many
noble scions of truth from the "good olive-tree," and these have
produced commendable fruits of righteousness. But we are here
concerned with pointing out those fundamental characteristics of the
system that are foreign to the true church of Jesus Christ.

[Sidenote: Erroneous ideas of the church]

The first cause to which I call attention is an erroneous conception
of the church itself. At the cost of some repetition I must point
out that in the beginning the church was the universal company of the
redeemed, the whole _spiritual brotherhood_, whether isolated members
of Christ or those worshiping in local assemblies distributed over the
earth. The tie which united these members of Christ in one body
was their common faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and the life of the
Spirit. But as in those times vast centralized imperial power was
a divinity that every one worshiped, it was impossible properly to
appreciate _the moral and spiritual dominion_ of Christ by which
alone he designed to rule his church; therefore men soon proceeded to
pattern the church of Christ after the political government, first
by grouping together under one administrative human headship the
congregations of a province or section of the empire, and then finally
uniting these different provinces under one administrative headship
at Rome. From that day until the present time the church-idea that has
generally prevailed in Christendom has been an organization fashioned
according to the kingdoms of this world; a human organization in which
the administrative functions of government are centralized under some
form of human headship; a unity that is not moral and spiritual, but
official and administrative, as well as legislative and judicial.

[Sidenote: Wrong standard of church-membership]

Coincident with the creation of foreign ideals concerning church
societies was the formation of of a foreign idea of church-membership
and church-relationship. In the beginning, as we have shown, the
church was simply the divine family. Therefore salvation through
Christ was its sole condition of membership. "And the Lord added to
them day by day those that were being saved" (Acts 2:47, R.V.). And as
the local congregation was but the concrete expression of the ideals
of the general body or church, that membership in Christ which made
men members of the general body, made them, by a moral and spiritual
law, members of all the other members of Christ, and therefore fixed
their local relationship: they belonged by divine right with whichever
company of believers they happened to be associated. Nothing more than
simple recognition of what God had done for them and the according
to them of the local rights and privileges that naturally belonged
to them was necessary on the part of a local congregation to make the
actual union complete.

The wrong conception of the constitution of the church necessarily
required another standard of church-membership. When _church_ came
to signify merely a group of congregations consolidated under a
centralized human headship possessing administrative, legislative, and
judicial functions (so organized as to distinguish it from all other
organized groups or congregations), simple membership in Christ was
insufficient to mark the convert with the stamp of denominational
individuality. Salvation itself made no one a member of a church
fashioned according to the kingdoms of this world. Consequently
another standard of membership was necessary, a standard which
required acceptance of and conformity to the self-made rules and
regulations of that foreign society called a church. And when these
earth-born institutions became identified in the public mind with
the real church of Christ and membership in them became confused with
membership in the true church of God, the natural result was that
millions complied, in a formal manner at least, with the conditions of
the counterfeit church membership who never knew what it meant to be
vitally joined to Christ. In this we see the "evil" fruit which grew
on that tree of error. The multitudes that have been by this means
deceived with the thought that they were Christians, only to be lost
at last, will not be known until that awful day of final reckoning.

[Sidenote: Divisive nature of the creeds]

The formation of creeds tends to create division and to perpetuate
division. Caesar's maxim illustrates their history: "Soldiers will
raise money, and money will make soldiers." So creeds will make sects,
and sects will make creeds. "A creed or confession of faith is an
ecclesiastical document--the mind and will of some synod or council
possessing authority--as a term of communion by which persons and
opinions are to be tested, approbated or reprobated." The sect
churches are built on their creeds, although, of course, they affirm
that their creeds are built on the Bible. In this case, however, it is
usually apparent to the careful observer that the Bible is that part
of the foundation which is buried out of sight below the ground. The
creed is the real test applied to persons, the measure by which their
opinions are judged. It is the creed upon which the sect is built that
gives the denominational character and distinctiveness.

It is a fact of history that the primary purpose of the historical
creeds was not to unite men but to separate them. The Nicene Creed was
made to exclude the Arians. The Decrees of the Council of Trent were
framed to exclude Protestants; the Westminster Confession, to exclude
Arminians; and the Episcopal Articles, to exclude Catholics and
Independents. To rally around a creed framed by human authority and
make it the basis of union is but to teach a system--a sect system;
but to rally around the person of Jesus Christ and make him the
supreme object of our faith, hope, and love is to contend for what
the Bible terms the faith, the truth, the gospel. This is infinitely
better than any document proceeding from Nicea, Trent, Dort, Augsburg,
or Westminster.

[Sidenote: Power of the keys]

Another cause, both for the origin of the sect system and its
perpetuation, is the assumed "power of the keys" which has been
carried over from the Church of Rome. The idea that the administrative
rule and government of the church of Christ has been, by divine
decree, centralized in a self-perpetuating clerical caste with
authority to legislate for the church and then to enforce its
decisions by judicial procedure, is foreign to the primitive church as
recorded in the New Testament. It is a product of Papalism, and yet
it has been, in its essential characteristics, transferred directly to
the sects of Protestantism. The New Testament recognizes no such human
positional authority. It recognizes only that divine authority which
operates through God's chosen ministers and helpers by virtue of
the Spirit-bestowed gifts and qualifications. The only governmental
authority exercised by the New Testament ministers was in cooperation
with Christ, the visible head, by putting forth, in accordance with
the Spirit's gifts and qualifications, some portion of that moral
power by which alone Christ governs.

The idea that to a clerical order has been committed the exclusive
guardianship of the church, with full power to admit to or exclude
from the worship and service of God all except those who come by
way of their priestly mediation, is the basest assumption. It is a
violation of the rights of individual conscience. Yet just such
power has been and still is being exerted as a means of enforcing
acquiescence in matters of opinion and submission to customs and
practises which every unprejudiced man knows, or can soon see, is no
part of the New Testament teaching and requirements. What a weapon
has this ecclesiastical assumption been! One always ready for use. It
makes no difference whether it is wielded by a Methodist conference,
an Episcopal judicatory, a Presbyterian synod, or a Catholic pope, it
is all the same in principle--"the power of the keys."

[Sidenote: Lack of religious freedom]

This assumed corporate power of the clergy has been one of the
fundamental causes of sect-making. When a general clerical body
assumes the right in its corporate capacity to prescribe rules of
either faith or practise, written or unwritten, and then to enforce
them by judicial action, it is a direct violation of the New Testament
standard, and of the rights of individual consciences. It was because
of this lordly, unscriptural rule that many sincere men of God have
been forced to sever their connection with the older sects in order
to find a place where a greater degree of light and truth could be
experienced and proclaimed. In such cases it was not religious liberty
that caused the formation of new movements and new sects, but _the
lack of religious liberty_.

That "power of the keys," making and then enforcing the standards of
creeds, has done violence to the conscience of both the clergy and
the laity. Conscienceless persons subscribe to the creed without any
particular hesitation, but the truly conscientious suffer the greatest
embarrassment They must either refuse altogether and withdraw from
all connection, or else subscribe with a mental reservation amounting
practically to hypocrisy.

[Sidenote: Inflexible character]

This inflexible character of the sect institution has been a most
fruitful cause for the production of new sects. No matter how
spiritual the movement at its beginning, when its leaders were not
longing for church power but were earnestly preaching the Word of
the Lord as it came unto them, as soon as the sect machinery was
thoroughly organized and was set in motion the inevitable tendency has
been to throw around the movement a wall of creedal and ecclesiastical
exclusiveness which shut out other true people of God; and then
began a process of crystalization which ever afterwards precluded the
unfolding of new truth. It is a well-known fact that the high tide of
truth-discovery in every religious movement in Protestantism has
been at the time of its beginning. A fixed law of immobility has ever
afterwards prevailed. The reason is clear: whenever men grasp the
reins of government and assume those prerogatives which belong to God
alone, the rule of the Spirit ends. The unfolding of new truths by
the operation of the Spirit is impossible within the limits of the
old order where human ecclesiasticism reigns. But truth can not be
permanently suppressed. If it can not find room for development
within the existing order of things, God will raise up men who
will, independently, proclaim the Word of the Lord. This he has done
repeatedly, only to have the new movements end in the same manner--in
a rule of human ecclesiasticism.

Human ecclesiasticism has always been the greatest barrier to the free
spiritual development of the work of Christ. According to that relic
of the papal church, authority and rule is vested in the clerical
corporation and is by them conferred upon other individuals by the
act of ordination. How different the standard of the Word! In the Old
Testament times the office of prophet did not come in the priestly
line, but on whomsoever the spirit of prophecy descended--whether upon
Amos, the herdsman, or David, the king--he spake as he was moved by
the Holy Ghost. There has never been a time under the divine economy
when any man to whom the Word of the Lord came was not divinely
authorized to proclaim his message wherever he could get a hearing,
whether in synagog or temple, or out under the broad canopy of heaven.



What about the church of the future? Is the modern sect system the
ultimate goal of Christian attainment in this world? While the sects
contain much truth and many of the people of God, their ecclesiastical
constitutions are foreign to the true church of Jesus Christ, and it
is inconceivable that the great Founder would make no provision either
in his Word or in his plan for the correction of the evils which have
grown up around the Christian system during the dark ages of the world
and which have in a great measure perverted the gospel itself and
lessened its wholesome efficiency as the universal remedy for human

Since no sect can make good a claim to being exclusively the church of
God, a general feeling of toleration at least (if not in all cases
of sincere respect) has come to prevail respecting the different
denominational churches. Men have come to look upon the sects as
a mere matter of fact, not to be seriously questioned, and we are
supposed to cover the whole scene with the mantle of patience and
charity and make the best of a bad situation.

[Sidenote: The Protestant truce]

Dr. J.M. Sturtevant has expressed this general attitude so well that I
shall quote his own words: "It has long been true in this country that
no Protestant can freely expose the errors and superstitions of the
papal church, especially from the pulpit, without incurring the charge
of intolerance, bigotry, and uncharitableness. Religious controversy
itself has been placed under the ban, as in its own nature
uncharitable. When once any religious opinion has organized itself
into a sect, it is thought to have acquired a sacredness which, in the
name of Christian charity and in the interest of the tranquility of
the community, defends it from any open assault. We have come into the
condition in which Rome was when she had extended her conquests from
the British Isles to the Euphrates and had transferred to Rome the
divinities of all the countries conquered. People of every nationality
might worship their own divinities, but must respectfully tolerate the
worship of every other. In this way only could religious conflict be
avoided. The chief reason why Christianity was persecuted was that
from its very nature it could accept no such truce. It is either
a universal religion or no religion at all. It is, like all other
systems which claim to be the true, in its own nature exclusive."

It is because of its universal character that truth can accept no such
truce as has been declared by the modern sects. Truth is exclusive,
and hence can make no compromises. The church of God is universal or
it is no church at all. The whole truth concerning the church question
must and will come out. The times demand it; the people of God
demand it; the Spirit of God demands it; and, as we shall show, the
Scriptures declare it.

[Sidenote: A new awakening]

It is very evident that the people of God are not satisfied with
the present sectarian situation. Everywhere there is manifested a
restlessness and uneasiness respecting the arbitrary lines of
sect which separate between those who have a recognized spiritual
affinity--recognized except formally by the ecclesiastical powers that
be. _The Christian consciousness is becoming awakened._ Men are coming
to see that Christianity is to be measured, not by sect lines, but by
that broader, Scriptural rule of the divine family embracing all
true disciples of Jesus--those who possess his life and bear the
appropriate fruits of righteousness. This awakening, with its logical
consequences, is what I have termed THE LAST REFORMATION. It will give
form and character to the Church of the Future.

[Sidenote: Apologies for sects]

Sectarianism still has its defenders, however. In the midst of the
rising tide of spiritual fellowship and love, there are those who
bring forward a few sickly apologies for sects, apologies which
generally impress the earnest student of the Scriptures with the
thought that the apologist has a hard case to make out. The excuse
most commonly advanced is that the sect system is a useful arrangement
for accommodating the variety of tastes and feelings found
among Christian people. It is assumed that some are natural-born
Episcopalians, with an innate fondness for formal liturgies and
ecclesiastical vestments, and that others are so constituted by nature
as to require certain other particular forms of worship.

[Sidenote: Diversity of taste and culture]

If there is any such fundamental demand in human nature for a variety
of sects, as different climates are required to suit different
orders of life on our planet, it is strange indeed that the apostles
overlooked such an important point and failed to provide for it. Why
was not the primitive church constructed so as to bring into existence
at once a variety of human sects to accommodate the different classes
of people then existing? From the modern point of view they had an
excellent excuse for starting with at least two churches--one for
the Jews and another for the Gentiles; and if these had not been
sufficient, before the end of their personal ministry they could have
brought into existence a whole brood of sects.

Now, the student of the Scriptures knows that the apostles proceeded
exactly in the opposite direction. They labored earnestly to bring all
classes into love and fellowship _in one body_. This course was not in
accordance with the wisdom of the world, but the twentieth century is
beginning to see that it was "the wisdom of God."

The reason why men have a liking for formal liturgies, stately
ceremonies, and ecclesiastical vestments is because of environment.
They have been trained that way. Here again we see the natural
tendency of sects to make sectarians and thus reproduce their kind.
When particular forms and ceremonies, which are not required
by Scripture, are enforced upon men by a self-constituted,
self-perpetuating ecclesiastical authority, the inevitable result
is to stamp the same principles upon succeeding generations and thus
perpetuate the sect system exercising such authority.

[Sidenote: The sect spirit]

In a final effort to lessen the odium attaching to what is now widely
recognized as an evil, some assert that the cause of mischief is the
sect spirit. This statement contains truth, but it does not tell the
whole truth. One of the worst evils of human slavery was the extreme
tyranny which some slave-masters exercised. But the real fact was that
the system itself tended to convert good men and women into tyrants.
The special manifestation of evil was both effect and cause. It
was the natural tendency of the system to make tyrants, and tyrants
perpetuated the system. So also with sectarianism. Though all can
realize a theoretical difference between the sect spirit and simple
denominationalism, yet the very tendency of the system itself is
to create party interests and to introduce party rivalries, which
naturally foster the sect spirit. Without that devotion to party and
party interests--a devotion almost equal to their devotion to the
gospel itself--sects would perish. _If sect-members should become so
universal in their love and sympathy as to devote themselves to the
work of Christ alone--forgetting party interests--sects would die. The
sect spirit is, therefore, essential to the maintenance of the life
and individuality of the sect body._

[Sidenote: What is the remedy?]

The remedy for sectarianism is not a return to imperialism. The
world-church idea as exemplified in the papal church is not the goal
of Christianity. Such might hold dominion over men in the barbaric
ages of the world, but its universal sway has ceased. The Inquisition
will never be reestablished. The unity of the church is not to be
found in an imperial hierarchy.

Nor is Christian unity to be obtained by adherence to the historic
creeds. These documents may express many noble sentiments respecting
Christ and his truth, and they may express the fullest knowledge of
the truth known in the days when they were written. But knowledge
of the truth is progressive, while creeds are stationary. No human
document, therefore, can serve as a permanent basis upon which to
build our faith. And then, too, we have seen that creeds are in their
very nature divisive. Hence they can not be made the basis for the
realization of unity.

Nor is the unity of the church to be found in some particular form
of exclusive church polity, as Episcopalianism, Presbyterianism, or
Congregationalism. We have conclusively proved that that conception of
the church patterned after the forms of political government, in which
government and authority are vested inherently and exclusively in
human hands, is foreign to the original conception of the church as it
existed in the minds of its Founder and his apostles. The government
of the New Testament church is a theocracy. Christ is head. He rules
through his Holy Spirit by moral suasion and spiritual influence, and
the ministers and helpers whom he calls and qualifies share in that
oversight and responsibility to the same extent that they are able
to wield the same moral and spiritual power. _This is the only church
authority and government recognized in the New Testament_.

[Sidenote: The perpetual theocracy]

Here I shall digress long enough to point out by way of contrast
the true form of divine government. Every one is familiar with the
theocratic government of Israel under the Old Testament dispensation.
God ruled. He who carefully reads the New Testament can not fail to
discern the same type of government in the church before the rise of
human ecclesiasticism. The first preachers of the gospel spoke with
an authority not derived from a human source. When Peter and John were
threatened before the Council and commanded not to speak or teach in
the name of Jesus Christ, they gave the sublime answer: "Whether it
be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than unto God,
judge ye. For we can not but speak the things which we have seen and
heard" (Acts 4: 19, 20). The same principle stands out in bold relief
in the experience of Paul. Although that great apostle was forward
to cooperate with other apostles and ministers of Christ, one can
not fail to see that his whole career exemplified the principle of
theocracy. He "was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision."

[Sidenote: An important parallelism]

Permit me to call attention particularly to an important parallelism
between the government of Israel under the theocracy and the
government of the New Testament church before the rise of
ecclesiasticism. God led his people out of Egypt by Moses and Joshua.
These men are a type of Christ, who leads his people. After the
Israelites were settled in Canaan, they had no central government,
but each locality or city was autonomous, having its local judges or
elders. In a time of crisis God raised up a judge to lead the people
in the necessary cooperative efforts to preserve or regain their
liberties. Their miseries Were always the result of their own sins,
not a failure of the divine form of government. Their appointing a
king and thus setting up a centralized human government was called
_rejecting God as ruler_. And this is exactly parallel with what
ecclesiasticism has done and is doing with the same results. God's
government of the church is set aside and rejected.

[Sidenote: Not church federation]

Nor will an organic union of all the sects solve the problem of
unity. In the first place, the tendency of such a union is toward
imperialism, the creation on the federation plan of another
world-church. In the second place, such a federation would strengthen
rather than lessen the authority of human rule, while the compromises
necessary to make such a project possible would lessen in the same
degree that freedom of the Spirit by which alone the full gospel can
be given to the world. And in the third place, such a federation would
not be the church of God, for the very framework on which it would
rest, human ecclesiasticism, is foreign to the original conception of
the church. It would be only a human arrangement patterned after the
model of a world-empire. And for another reason such would not be the
church. The divine _ekklesia_ includes in its membership the whole
family of God. Thousands of men and women who are united to Christ
and in fellowship with all the saved are not members of the formally
organized sects. Therefore the union of all such churches in one
federation would not include the whole family.

[Sidenote: Back to the Bible standard]

Thus, the remedy for sects is not church federation, nor a return to
the historic creeds, nor the adoption of one of the exclusive forms
of church polity; neither is it an attempt to hide the sin of the
obnoxious sect system by covering it with a mantle of charity and
patience--as a sort of necessary evil. What, then, is the real remedy
for sects? It is the absolute rejection of every foreign element that
has crept into the Christian system and the return to that primitive
conception of the church as made up of the entire brotherhood of
Christ, organized and controlled by the Holy Spirit. For true unity
we must turn from hierarchies and apostolical successions and priestly
corporations and church synods and human creeds to THE CHRIST who
alone is the head of the church.

[Sidenote: True membership]

Such a movement requires a moral revolution with respect to the
attitude of God's people toward membership in sects. It requires the
obliteration of sect lines and the recognition of no other bond of
union than that of a common brotherhood through union with Christ.
Divine life secured through repentance and faith is the sole condition
of membership in the church of Christ, and this relationship is
maintained by obedience to the commands of Christ and consistent
Christian conduct. "If we walk in the light, as he is in the light,
we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his
Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).

[Sidenote: Elimination of ecclesiasticism]

Such a movement and such a standard of church relationship require the
elimination of all ideas of priestly ecclesiasticism. The Christ
of the New Testament church is not an absent Christ. He has
never resigned his position as head of the church and vested the
governmental authority in a self-perpetuating clerical caste. His
government is theocratic. He administers it himself through his Holy
Spirit. Hence no men or set of men can confer any power or authority
whatsoever upon any individual to act for Christ. Christ calls his
own assistants, and any man unto whom the Word of the Lord comes is
divinely authorized to proclaim His message. The only sphere of human
operation respecting this administration of divine government is
simple recognition of what God has done, and this recognition in the
last analysis belongs to the whole body of God's people. The basis
of every man's authority and responsibility is, therefore, not human
appointment or official position, but the divine call, gifts, and
qualifications, that he possesses. If, for example, he is called to
apostolic work and endowed with gifts and qualifications fitting him
for such service, he has apostolic authority and responsibility,
and there is nothing for other ministers or Christians to do but to
_recognize what God has done_. "Now hath God set the members every one
of them in the body, as it hath pleased him" (1 Cor. 12:18). Such, in
short, is the divine organization and government.

[Sidenote: What of the future?]

The realization of this grand ideal of the restoration of the New
Testament standard of church membership, government, and authority,
is impossible within the sect system. For the sects to turn all the
people of God loose from subjection to every foreign yoke and make
them free to associate without restriction with all the saved of God,
would be an act of suicide. _Only by division and by holding the grasp
of ecclesiastical rule can sects survive._ But he is blind to the
signs of the times who can not see that the grip of ecclesiasticism is
slipping and the bonds of true catholicity becoming strengthened.
The true people of God are becoming more and more dissatisfied with
present conditions and are beginning to think in terms of a universal
Christianity. The rising tide of evangelism among such is already
beginning to overflow the lines of sect. What may we expect in the

Things can not continue as they have been in the ecclesiastical
world. A sweeping reformation is imperative and imminent. In fact,
the vanguard of this great movement is already visible. What will the
future bring forth? Will the sects themselves fade away and gradually
become dissolved? or will the powers that rule in the ecclesiastical
world finally set themselves against the spirit of catholicity and
thus practically force the true people of God to ignore absolutely
all sectarian lines and step out on the broad platform of truth and
universality, united in Christ alone, knowing no head but Christ and
no creed but His truth? Who can tell?

[Sidenote: A fundamental difference]

In the present work I have given a brief historical sketch of the
leading ecclesiastical events, showing the apostasy as it existed
under two phases, the corruption of evangelical faith and the reign
of ecclesiasticism. I have also shown that the reformations of
Protestantism have tended to the correction of that first phase
pertaining to doctrine, but that a complete reformation requires the
elimination of ecclesiasticism. Hence what I have termed the Last
Reformation, if it is to be the _last_, not only must include the
restoration of pure doctrinal truth but must also restore the real
church of the New Testament. So far as true doctrine is concerned,
such a reformation will differ from other evangelical movements in
degree only--it must ultimately comprehend the whole truth. But the
fundamental difference between the reformation herein considered and
all other preceding reformations is that it strikes the death-blow
to the very root of error that produced the sect system--_human
ecclesiasticism_--and substitutes therefor the administrative
authority of the Holy Spirit working in varying degrees in all the
members of Christ throughout the world. The last reformation therefore
must differ from all others, not in degree only, but _also in kind_.

[Sidenote: The witness of prophecy]

God alone understands the future. During the ages past he has not left
his own work without the witness of prophecy. We may rest assured,
therefore, that in the prophecy of the divine Word he has given us
an outline of the history of his church. So I shall ask the reader to
patiently follow me through a brief sketch of ecclesiastical events
as described in the prophecies of the Revelation. Such an examination
will throw a large amount of additional light on the subjects I have
already treated historically, and will also give us a divinely drawn
picture of the church of the future. Such will enable us to understand
better the real character and extent of THE LAST REFORMATION.


The Church in Prophecy



[Sidenote: Value of prophecy]

The value of prophecy in establishing the religion of the Bible as the
religion, of God has been generally recognized. Its value, however,
is not limited to the proof of the divinity of Biblical truth which it
furnishes: it serves a definite and most important purpose in the life
and work of God's believing children in all ages. By it we are better
able to understand God's own plan and purposes in human history, and
by it we are made conscious of our own whereabouts along the pathway
of time. The movements of God in the history of the past that were
predicted by earlier prophets have received their chief inspiration
from the conscious knowledge the leaders had of the prophetic
character of their work. It was Daniel's study of prophecy that
stirred his soul for the restoration of Israel to the favor of God
and to their own land (Dan. 9:2), and at the same time opened his own
heart for the wonderful revelation concerning future events. It was
the consciousness of prophetic fulfilment that gave John the Baptist
his inspiration for work (John 1:23); and in establishing the truths
of the gospel of Christ, the apostles placed leading emphasis on the
fact that these things were written in the law and in the prophets.

The love and care that Christ had for his people did not cease in the
beginning of the gospel dispensation; for he gave the promise, "I
am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." It is altogether
reasonable, then, that we should receive "the revelation of Jesus
Christ, which God gave unto him, to _show unto his servants_ things
which must shortly come to pass" (Rev. 1:1). Through the varying
conditions of time, Christ leads his people on to certain victory.

Since the mission of the church was to be world-wide and perpetual, it
is fitting that the church should be described prophetically in order
that we might have definite information concerning the operations
of the divine hand in working out the great problem of the church's
destiny after the close of the sacred canon.

[Sidenote: Prophetic symbols]

Before proceeding with our discussion of those prophecies which
concern the church, let us pause and consider briefly the character
of symbols. The prophecy of the Scriptures is presented to us in two
distinct forms--direct statements in the ordinary language of life and
in symbolic representations, but far the greater part is expressed
in symbols, as in the book of Daniel and in the Revelation of John.
Without an understanding of the nature of symbols we can not get a
proper understanding of such prophecies.

Spoken or written language is a very complicated affair, but it is
in reality an arbitrary arrangement. The name that we attach to a
particular object could as well be given to a totally different object
instead if we only agreed to make the change. For this reason spoken
language is variable. Changes are constantly taking place. The
language of Bible symbols, on the other hand, is not subject to
the law of change, as we shall see; it is not based on arbitrary
arrangement or mere convenience, but its foundational principles exist
in the very nature of things.

Webster defines _symbol_ as follows: "The sign or representation of
any moral thing by the images or properties of natural things. Thus,
a lion is the symbol of courage; the lamb is the symbol of meekness or
patience." Horne, in his Introduction to the Study of the Bible, says:
"By symbols we mean certain representative marks, rather than express
pictures; or, if pictures, such as were at the time _characters_, and
besides presenting to the eye the resemblance of a particular object,
suggested a general idea to the mind, as when a _horn_ was made
to denote _strength_, an _eye_ and _scepter_, _majesty_, and in
numberless such instances, where the picture was not drawn to
express merely the thing itself, but something else, which was or was
conceived to be, analogous to it."

According to these definitions, the main idea of a symbol is the
representation of an object or quality, not by exhibition of itself,
but by another object or character analogous to it. Nor are we limited
in the use of symbols to the exhibition of moral subjects alone.
Any object may be symbolized, provided a corresponding object can be

[Sidenote: Analogy the basic law]

Analogy, then, is the fundamental law of symbols. This being true,
it is clear that symbols must be definitely applied. They are not
arbitrary. There is no reason why we could not call a book a table,
and a table it would be, provided we agreed universally to adopt that
designation; but we violate nature if we attempt to represent the
quiet, peaceful, gentle disposition of a child by a lion or a tiger,
or a cruel, vindictive, tyrannical disposition by a lamb. A polluted
harlot may represent an apostate church, but not the true church. A
proper correspondence of character and quality must be observed. We
must follow nature strictly. And this is the law of symbols.

Symbols are drawn from different departments--from angelic life, human
life, animal life, and inanimate creation. But in every case there
is in the selection and use of the symbol a proper correspondence of
character and quality.

[Sidenote: Twofold object of symbols]

The deciding factor in the original selection of a symbolic object
is the nature of the thing to be symbolized. In the field of Bible
prophecy the general design is in the main twofold--the representation
(1) of the affairs of the church and (2) of the political history of
those nations and kingdoms which were to exert an important influence
on the life and development of the church. It is evident that in the
divine estimation the church and its welfare is of infinitely greater
importance than the affairs of nations and kingdoms. Therefore we may
reasonably expect that, according to the nature of symbolic language,
symbols designed to represent the church will be found to be of the
most exalted type, whereas those representing political things will be
found to be selected from an inferior department. In accordance with
this fundamental classification we shall find that symbols drawn from
angelic life and human life invariably refer to the department
of ecclesiastical affairs, while those drawn from animal life or
inanimate nature represent political things. The only apparent
exception to this rule is that certain inanimate objects formerly
consecrated to the service of God and thus associated with the
department of the church are sometimes used to represent spiritual
things, because the analogy is obvious. Bearing in mind this
fundamental distinction between the representation of things political
and things ecclesiastical, we are prepared to understand other shades
of distinction.

Nations may be peaceful or tyrannical and oppressive, and churches
may be good or apostate; but the exact character can be analogously
represented by the symbolic object. A vicious wild beast stamping and
devouring would naturally represent a cruel, tyrannical government;
and a good woman represents the true church, while a vile harlot
represents the church apostate. But whatever the nature of the symbol,
whether beast, locust, lion, horse, temple, angel, or man, we may
know at once from the nature of the symbol where to look for its
fulfilment. This important guide in the study of prophetic truth--a
guide overlooked by most of the commentators--relieves us of much of
the uncertainty hitherto connected with the subject.

Since, as we have seen, symbolic language is based on analogy, it
is evident that there are some objects whose nature forbids their
symbolization, there being no corresponding object in existence.
God can not be symbolized. "To whom then will ye liken God? or what
likeness will ye compare unto him" (Isa. 40:18). There may be certain
symbols connected with his person setting forth the dignity, majesty,
and eternal splendor of his name, but he himself appears unrepresented
by another. The same is true also of the person of Jesus, our
Redeemer, although in this case we must distinguish between the
Christ incarnate and Jesus in his essential divinity. Considered as
incarnate--both God and man--the human aspect of his character as
manifested in his sacrificial death may be analogously represented as
a Lamb slain. But considered in his essential divinity, he can not
be symbolically represented. Therefore, whenever the glorified Christ
appears on the symbolic stage, he always appears in his own person
proclaiming his own name. "I am he that liveth, and was dead; and,
behold, I am alive for evermore" (Rev. 1:18). "He hath on his vesture
and on his thigh a name written, King of kings, and Lord of lords."

In Rev. 6:9 the souls of the martyrs are represented as crying unto
God for the avenging of their blood on them that dwell on the earth.
There is no object analogous to a disembodied spirit. It is easy to
give them an arbitrary name. Therefore they simply appear under their
own appropriate titles as "the _souls_ of them that were slain."

Whenever we attach a literal significance to a symbolic object, we
immediately destroy its character as a symbol. This should not be
done. With the exception of those instances where the nature of
an object forbids its symbolization and where the description must
therefore of necessity be literal, we should always look for the true
fulfilment, not in that department from which the symbol is drawn, but
in another department--that to which the symbol by analogy refers us.

[Sidenote: Field of present inquiry]

The limits and object of the present work preclude an exhaustive
treatment of prophecy in general. Our immediate purpose is to set
forth particularly those prophecies of the divine Word which clearly
portray and outline the character of a world-wide religious movement
in the last days. To do this effectually, however, we must briefly
consider those prophecies which describe the principal ecclesiastical
events in history which form the basis of, or lead up to, the Last
Reformation. The subject as outlined in the prophecies and as based on
the facts of history, naturally divides into four parts, or epochs, as

I The Apostolic Period
II The Medieval Period
III Era of Modern Sects
IV The Last Reformation

For the sake of brevity, we shall, as far as possible, exclude from
our present inquiry those prophecies pertaining to civil and political
affairs, retaining only such as have an important bearing on the
church subject.



[Sidenote: The star-crowned woman]

The twelfth chapter of Revelation introduces an important line of
prophetic truth respecting the church, beginning with these words:
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the
sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve
stars: and she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained
to be delivered." "And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule
all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God,
and to his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where
she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a
thousand two hundred and threescore days" (verses 1, 2, 5, 6).

As we have already stated and as will be made very clear hereafter,
symbols drawn from human life are used to represent ecclesiastical
affairs. Therefore in the symbol now before us we have a
representation of the church, and from the general description given
we infer that it must be the pure church of God, for the brightest
luminaries of heaven are gathered around her and no evil thing is said
concerning her. That this woman is the special object of God's care
and concern is further shown by the fact that when she fled into the
wilderness, she had "a place prepared of God, that they should feed
her there." That this interpretation of the woman is correct is also
shown by other texts in Revelation.

In chapter 21:9 an angel talking with John said, "Come hither, I will
shew thee the _bride_, the Lamb's wife." And again, in chapter 19:7,
where the church is undoubtedly referred to, a great multitude is
represented as saying, "Let us be glad and rejoice, and give honor to
him: for the marriage of the Lamb is come, and his _wife_ hath made
herself ready." In the seventeenth chapter the church apostate is
without doubt described by the symbol of a vile, polluted harlot.

The pure woman of chapter 12, then, represents the apostolic church in
all its beauty and glory. She is represented as clothed with the sun,
a striking emblem of the light of the glorious gospel of Christ
which shone forth from the early church. The moon under her feet is
generally understood to designate the typical worship of the Jewish
age, which was a shadow of things to come but which now stands
eclipsed in the superior light and glory of the new and better
dispensation. The moon is the lesser light and derives its
illumination from the sun; so also the Mosaic period was the moonlight
age of the church and reflected a part of the gospel which, at a later
time, was to be revealed in all its glory with the rise of the "Sun of

The crown of twelve stars adorning the diadem of the church is a fit
representation of the twelve apostles of the Lamb, they being in one
important sense permanent fixtures in the church. According to chapter
1:20, stars are sometimes used to represent Christian ministers, the
analogy as light-givers being obvious. "They that be wise shall
shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to
righteousness as the stars forever and ever" (Dan. 12:3).

The prominent position occupied by this woman and the light which
shone forth from the sun with which she was clothed stand out in
marked contrast with the later description given of her flight into
and seclusion in the wilderness. The latter stage of her experience
I shall describe further on, but a brief allusion to it will make
her first appearance more impressive. The wilderness describes the
apostasy which was to envelop the woman and thus obscure her light.
Therefore her first appearance as in the planetary heavens presents a
sublime description of her dignity and excellence in the morning time
of the gospel era. Her light shone upon all and her glory could be
seen by all. She presents that fundamentally distinct characteristic
of the true church of God--universality; not a mere isolated star
shedding its feeble rays in competition with the other orbs of night;
but a cluster of bright, shining stars and _the very sun itself_. The
light of the apostolic church was, therefore, all-inclusive in the
sense of reflecting all the truth. It is essential to our proper
understanding of the symbols that follow that we comprehend the true
character of the church of God--the bride of Christ.

[Sidenote: The man child]

The next object to claim our attention in the vision under
consideration is that of the man child to whom the woman is said to
give birth. A variety of interpretations of this man child have been
given. Some say that it refers to Jesus Christ, but this application
is objectionable for different reasons. First, Jesus is everywhere
represented as the founder of the church, not as its child. Second,
true analogy is lacking: there is nothing about a mere child to
proclaim divinity. Others have identified the child with the Emperor
Constantine; but here again the consistent use of symbolic language is
overlooked; for if the woman, the mother, represents the church, then
the child horn of her can not represent a single, definite individual,
but rather a collection of individuals or another phase of the
church itself. In other words, if the one single symbol represents a
particular individual, the other must also represent an individual.
Thus, if the man child is identified with Christ, the mother should
signify the Virgin Mary; or if Constantine is intended, then Helena,
mother of Constantine, should be represented by the woman.

It is clear, however, that the woman signifies, not a single
individual, but the church. Therefore the child born of her must
simply signify another phase of the church but the same family. By
means of this twofold symbol--involving the closest relationship
known--is set forth the fruitfulness and perpetuity of the church.
There is also another reason why a double symbol should be selected
to set forth the true church--to represent two distinct phases of the
church's life and history, which, in the nature of the case, could
not be represented under a single symbol. According to the description
given, the man child was caught up to God and to his throne, while the
woman remained on earth and fled into the wilderness, where she had a
place prepared of God for 1,260 days. The man child, then, represents
that phase of the church which was caught up from the earth but
ascended to heaven and there lived and reigned with Christ; while the
woman represents that phase of the church which continued on earth and
fled into the wilderness during the period of the great apostasy.

There is also direct Scriptural testimony justifying this
interpretation of the man child. In Isaiah 66 we have a sublime
description of Zion, God's church and people, represented as a
woman, a mother. The context shows that this scripture is a prophetic
allusion to the church of the New Testament age. "Before she
travailed, she brought forth; before her pain came, she was delivered
of a _man child_. Who hath heard such a thing? who hath seen such
things? Shall the earth he made to bring forth in one day? or shall
a nation be born at once? for as soon as Zion travailed, she brought
forth her children" (verses 7, 8). Here Zion is represented as a
mother bringing forth a man child, but this is interpreted to be _a
nation born at once_. According to Heb. 12:22, 23, this Zion, or Sion,
represents the New Testament church. There is no doubt, then, that the
man child of Revelation 12 refers to the great host of new converts
with which the early church was blessed. The scripture in Isaiah
just cited met its fulfilment on the day of Pentecost and shortly
afterwards, when thousands were brought into the church in a day. The
apostle Paul also refers to the great company of Jews and Gentiles who
were reconciled to God as constituting _"one new man" in Christ_ (Eph.

[Sidenote: The great red dragon]

The next object in the vision to which our attention is directed
is introduced in these words: "And there appeared another wonder in
heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten
horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third
part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the
dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to
devour her child as soon as it was born" (Rev. 12:3, 4).

The dragon is the name given by the ancients to a fabulous monster
represented as a large winged lizard or serpent. It was regarded as
the enemy of mankind, and its overthrow is made to figure among the
greatest exploits of the gods and heroes of heathen mythology. The
symbol, being drawn from the natural world, directs us by analogy to
persecuting, tyrannical government. We must not suppose that this is
a literal description of Beelzebub; for there is no proof that the
personal devil has any such appearance as this monster with seven
heads and ten horns, and a tail dragging after him a third part of the
stars of heaven.

In the second verse of the next chapter John describes the rise of a
beast that also had seven heads and ten horns; "and the dragon gave
him his power, and his seat, and great authority." The fact that the
dragon was succeeded by the beast, who reigned in his stead, is proof
that the dragon does not signify the personal devil; for, as far as
we know, the archfiend has never resigned his position, but is still
doing his infernal business at the same stand.

In many respects the beast is similar to the dragon. In the
seventeenth chapter the beast appears again, and the explanation given
by the angel will enable us to understand the signification both of
the dragon and of the beast. "The beast that thou sawest was, and is
not; and shall ascend out of the bottomless pit, and go into perdition
... and here is the mind which hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven
mountains, on which the woman sitteth. And there are seven kings: five
are fallen, and one is, and the other is not yet come; and when he
cometh, he must continue a short space.... And the ten horns which
thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but
receive power as kings one hour with the beast" (verses 8-12).

With these facts before us and with our understanding of the nature of
symbols, it is easy to identify the dragon and the beast as the Roman
Empire, first under the pagan form and later under the papal form.
Although the beast was to succeed the dragon, yet in identifying the
heads of the beast, the angel informed John that in his day five had
already fallen, while one then existed and the other was future. This
proves, then, that the same heads served both for the dragon and for
the beast, thus establishing their essential identity. And it is a
fact well known that there is no essential difference between Rome
pagan and Rome papal. The seven heads of Rome, therefore, signify the
distinct forms of government that ruled successively in the empire,
for they are represented, not as simultaneous powers, but as
consecutive powers. The five that had already fallen when John
received the vision were the regal power, the consular, the
decemvirate, the military tribunes, and the triumvirate. "One is"--the
imperial. The seventh, or future one, was the patriciate.

It is natural that the pagan Roman Empire should be represented as a
dragon. In the prophecy of Daniel the Grecian kingdom is represented
by a he goat for no other apparent reason than the fact that the goat
was the national military standard of the Grecian monarchy. So also
the dragon was the principal military standard of the Romans next to
the eagle. Arian, an early writer, mentions the fact that dragons were
used as military standards by the Romans. The dragon of Revelation
12 is also described as a _red_ dragon. The dragon standards of the
Romans were painted red. Ammianus Marcellinus mentions "the purple
standard of the dragon." By this fabulous beast described as a great
red dragon, then, is symbolically represented the heathen Roman

The ten horns, or kingdoms, which had not yet risen when the
revelation was given, were the ten minor kingdoms that grew out of
the Roman Empire during its decline and fall. These are as follows:
1. Anglo-Saxons; 2. Burgundians; 3. Franks; 4. Huns; 5. Heruli; 6.
Lombards; 7. Ostrogoths; 8. Suevi; 9. Vandals; 10. Visigoths.

The dragon is described with the horns, although they were not yet in
existence and did not arise until about the time the dragon became
the beast. He is also represented with seven heads, although he really
possessed only one head at a time and five had already fallen and one
was yet to come. He is described with all the heads and horns he had
ever had or was to have. The reason why the same general power is
described under two forms--first as the dragon and later as the
beast--will appear more clearly hereafter.

The fact that the dragon was called the devil and Satan has led some
to think that the personal devil himself is meant. The foregoing
explanation concerning the heads and the horns shows conclusively,
however, that by the dragon is meant the pagan Roman Empire, and not
Beelzebub. The Hebrews applied the term "Satan" to an adversary, or
opposer, as can be seen by examining in the original the following
and many other texts: Num. 22:22; 1 Sam. 29:4; 2 Sam. 19:22; 1 Kings
11:25. The term is also thus used in the New Testament, signifying
merely an opposer. "But he turned, and said unto Peter, Get thee
behind me, _Satan_" (Matt. 16:23). "The things which the Gentiles
sacrifice, they sacrifice to _devils_" (1 Cor. 10:20). Paganism was
the great opposer of Christianity; hence was a Satan to it, while the
apostle Paul denominated its religious rites as devil-worship. We must
remember that the text does not say that the dragon was the devil and
Satan, but that he was _called_ the devil and Satan. He partook of the
nature and character of the personal devil, was the chief instrument
through which the devil worked, and was therefore called by his name.

The tail of this dragon "drew the third part of the stars of heaven,
and did cast them to the earth." This is not a literal description,
for the fixed or planetary stars never fall to the earth. If they did,
they would destroy it. The stars are doubtless employed as symbols
set in the ecclesiastical firmament, giving light amid the surrounding
darkness. Light is so often used as the representative of gospel
truth that the application of the stars to prominent characters in
the church is obvious. Jesus is the Sun of Righteousness, and his
ministers are bright, shining stars--light-givers. The ministers
of the seven churches of Asia Minor are represented as stars (chap.
1:20). "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the
firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars
forever and ever" (Dan. 12:3). The casting down of the third part of
the stars, therefore, signifies the warfare which the dragon power
waged against the early church, in which conflict the ministers of
Christ became the marked objects of heathen wrath.

[Sidenote: The war in heaven]

"And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against
the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, and prevailed not;
neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon
was cast out, that old serpent called the Devil and Satan, which
deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his
angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in
heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our
God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is
cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And
they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their
testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death" (Rev.

The symbolic scene suddenly changes, and instead of the woman and the
man child, Michael and his angels appear in conflict with the dragon
and his angels. This change of symbols indicates the introduction of
a different phase of thought. From the nature of the symbols we can
quickly ascertain the reason for this change. The woman represents the
true church and is a proper symbol of its unity, beauty, purity,
and glory. But there is another phase of the church which can not be
represented symbolically by a woman--the militant phase. The church is
also an aggressive, fighting power, ready to wage warfare against the
powers of evil. We would not expect to see the church left helpless
like a woman before a great dragon. We would naturally expect to
see divine aid extended, and this is done by the change of symbolic
imagery, Michael (Christ) and his angels appearing to wage war against
the dragon.

The battle between Michael and the dragon signifies the great conflict
which took place between primitive Christianity and the powers of
paganism enthroned in the Roman Empire. It will be observed that this
scripture has no reference to the origin of Satan himself, as some
people have supposed; for the conflict was fought in the Christian
dispensation, as is proved by the weapons which the followers of
Michael employed--"And they _overcame him by the blood of the Lamb_,
and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives
unto the death." Under this figure, the followers of Michael are
represented as victors, the dragon being cast down to the earth,
or overthrown. It is a fact of history that primitive Christianity
succeeded in its fight against paganism.

In the nineteenth chapter of Acts we have an account of the effect
Christianity had on heathenism. Paul went to Ephesus, which at that
time was the chief capital of proconsular Asia, a leading mart of
heathen idolatry, and in which was situated one of the seven wonders
of the ancient world--the temple of Diana. The preaching of the gospel
produced such a mighty effect that the followers of Diana, fearing
lest their magnificent system of worship should be destroyed, stirred
up the people in a tumult until the city was in an uproar, a great mob
shouting, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians."

Before the end of the first century, according to the testimony of
the younger Pliny, the temples of the gods of Asia Minor were almost
forsaken. Well has Butler said, "The final victory of Christianity
over heathenism and Judaism, and the mightiest empire of the ancient
world, a victory gained without physical force, by the moral power
of faith and perseverance, of faith and love, is one of the strongest
evidences of the divinity and indestructible life of our holy

It is a fact worthy of mention that the early Christians regarded
the Roman Empire as a great enemy to the truth, and described it as a
dragon, the victory of Christianity over heathenism being represented
by the overthrow of the dragon. Constantine and others of his time
describe these events thus. Says Bishop Newton, "Moreover, a picture
of Constantine was set up over the palace gate, with a cross over his
head, and under his feet the great enemy of mankind (who persecuted
the church by means of impious tyrants), in the form of a dragon,
transfixed with a dart through the midst of its body, and falling
headlong into the depth of the sea."

Verse 11 seems to indicate that many of the followers of Christ lost
their lives in this conflict, and this doubtless is parallel with the
statement that the man child was caught up to God and to his throne.
It may also imply that in the conflict the dragon employed the arm of
civil power in his opposition to the truth. But Christianity increased
notwithstanding the violent opposition. During the reign of the
Emperor Septimus Severus, about the close of the second century, when
a violent persecution of the Christians occurred, Tertullian, the
first of the great Latin Fathers, wrote a notable apology for the
Christian faith, addressed to the Emperor. In this important document
this noble defender of Christianity sets forth so clearly the nature
of the conflict between truth and error that I shall make rather a
lengthy quotation from his writing.

"Rulers of the Roman Empire," he begins, "you surely can not forbid
the truth to reach you by the secret pathway of a noiseless book.
She knows that she is but a sojourner on the earth, and as a stranger
finds enemies; and more, her origin, her dwelling-place, her hope, her
rewards, her honors, are above. One thing, meanwhile, she anxiously
desires of earthly rulers--not to be condemned unknown. What harm can
it do to give her a hearing?... The outcry is that the state is filled
with Christians; that they are in the fields, in the citadels, in the
islands. The lament is, as for some calamity, that both sexes, every
age and condition, even high rank, are passing over to the Christian

"The outcry is a confession and an argument for our cause; for we are
a people of yesterday, and yet we have filled every place belonging to
you--cities, islands, castles, towns, assemblies, your very camp, your
tribes, companies, palace, senate, forum. We leave to you your temples
alone. We can count your armies: our numbers in a single province
will be greater. We have it in our power, without arms and without
rebellion, to fight against you with the weapon of a simple divorce.
We can leave you to wage your wars alone. If such a multitude should
withdraw into some remote corner of the world, you would doubtless
tremble at your own solitude, and ask, 'Of whom are we the governors?'

"It is a human right that every man should worship according to his
own convictions ... a forced religion is no religion at all.... Men
say that the Christians are the cause of every public disaster. If the
Tiber rises as high as the city walls, if the Nile does not rise over
the fields, if the heavens give no rain, if there be an earthquake, if
a famine or pestilence, straightway they cry, Away with the Christians
to the lions.... But go zealously on, ye good governors, you will
stand higher with the people if you kill us, torture us, condemn
us, grind us to the dust; your injustice is the proof that we
are innocent. God permits us to suffer. Your cruelty avails you
nothing.... The oftener you mow us down, the more in number we grow;
the blood of Christians is seed. What you call our obstinacy is an
instructor. For who that sees it does not inquire for what we suffer!
Who that inquires does not embrace our doctrines? Who that embraces
them is not ready to give his blood for the fulness of God's grace?"

[Sidenote: The woman's flight]

Under the figure of Michael and his angels, the early church is
represented as victorious in casting down the powers of heathenism;
but under the symbol of the woman, the church is apparently
represented as defeated; for after the casting down of the dragon it
is said, "To the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she
might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished
for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent"
(verse 14). This agrees with verse 6, where it is said that "the woman
fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God,
that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and three score

The flight of the woman into an obscure place in the wilderness
presents a striking contrast with her first appearance in the
planetary heavens, where she was "clothed with the sun, and the moon
under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars." By this
sudden change in the symbolic representation of the woman's position
is set forth the ecclesiastical change that took place in the early
part of the church's history. First she appears as the glorious bride
of Christ adorned in beauty and splendor and radiating the light of
his glorious gospel. She was then "the light of the world." Later we
find a great change taking place. Instead of the church representing
all the truth to the world, we find the beginning of a great apostasy,
which in time was to eclipse and well nigh extinguish the light and
glory of primitive Christianity by substituting in its place the
darkness of the apostasy born in ages of ignorance and superstition.

That such a change in the history of the true church should occur
was predicted by Christ and the apostles. Jesus said, "And because
iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matt. 24:12).
Peter said, "There shall be false teachers among you, who privily
shall bring in damnable heresies" (2 Pet. 2:1). Paul said, "Also of
your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw
away disciples after them" (Acts 20:30). To the Thessalonians who had
been troubled with the report that the second coming of Christ was
then near at hand, Paul said, "Let no man deceive you by any means:
for that day shall not come, except there come _a falling away first_,
and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth
and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is
worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, and showing
himself that he is God.... For the mystery of iniquity doth already
work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of
the way. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall
consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the
brightness of his coming" (2 Thess. 2:3-8).

The reader can scarcely consider these texts without perceiving
clearly that change which came over the primitive church resulting
in a transition from her glorious state of innocent beauty to the
full-grown papacy--the "mystery of iniquity."



The fact of history pertaining to the true church which Paul described
as a "falling away" is represented by the Revelator by the symbol of
the woman fleeing into the wilderness. The other fact mentioned by
Paul pertaining to the rise and development of the man of sin is
represented in the visions of the Revelation as follows:

[Sidenote: The ten-horned leopard-beast]

"And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out
of the sea, having seven heads and ten horns, and upon his horns ten
crowns, and upon his heads the name of blasphemy. And the beast which
I saw was like unto a leopard, and his feet were as the feet of a
bear, and his mouth as the mouth of a lion: and the dragon gave him
his power, and his seat, and great authority. And I saw one of his
heads as it were wounded to death; and his deadly wound was healed:
and all the world wondered after the beast. And they worshiped the
dragon which gave power unto the beast: and they worshiped the beast,
saying, Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with
him? and there was given unto him a mouth speaking great things and
blasphemies; and power was given unto him to continue forty and two
months. And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme
his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven. And it
was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome them:
and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues, and nations.
And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are
not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation
of the world. If any man have an ear, let him hear. He that leadeth
into captivity shall go into captivity: he that killeth with the sword
must be killed with the sword. Here is the patience and the faith of
the saints" (Rev. 13: 1-10).

From the nature of the symbol employed, we should naturally infer that
a persecuting, tyrannical kingdom or empire is meant. That such
an application of the term "beast," when used in connection with
prophetic symbols, is correct, is shown by a reference to the
interpretation given concerning the fourth beast of Daniel's vision.
"The fourth beast shall be the fourth kingdom upon the earth" (Dan.
7:23). We have already shown conclusively that by the dragon was meant
the pagan Roman Empire, and the same heads and horns are apparently
ascribed to this leopard-beast, the only difference being that the
crowns--a symbol of sovereignty--have been transferred from the heads
to the horns. This substantial agreement with the facts of history
makes certain the identification of this beast with the revised
western Roman Empire under the papal form, the sovereignty being
vested in the ten minor kingdoms until they chose to "give their power
and strength unto the beast" (Rev. 17:13).

The symbol of a beast considered merely _as a beast_, could not, in
the nature of the case, signify anything more than a temporal kingdom
or political empire. It will be noticed, however, that this particular
prophetic symbol is _more than a beast_; for, combined with his
beastly nature, there are certain characteristics which unmistakably
belong to the department of human life--a mouth _speaking_ great
things; power to magnify himself against the God of heaven, to set
himself up as an object of worship, to single out the saints of
God and kill them, etc. This combination of symbols from the two
departments--animal life and human life--points us with absolute
certainty to the political-religious system of Rome.

Every historian knows that _pagan_ Rome was succeeded by _papal_ Rome.
The transfer is expressed thus: "And the dragon gave him his power,
and his seat, and great authority" (verse 2). The rising papacy
succeeded to the power and authority formerly exercised by pagan Rome;
and when the political capital was removed to Constantinople, the pope
was left in possession of the ancient seat of empire and government.
"The beast" therefore refers to Rome either as a political power or as
an ecclesiastical power, the context determining whether the political
or the ecclesiastical phase is meant in a given instance. It will be
observed, however, that the leading actions ascribed to this beast
are derived from its human characteristics, pointing unerringly to the
papacy for its fulfilment.

This beast the world admired. "And they worshiped the dragon which
gave power unto the beast; and they worshiped the beast, saying,
Who is like unto the beast? who is able to make war with him?" The
expression "_worshiped_ the dragon" shows that reference is made to
the dragon, not as a political power, but as a religious power. This
worship of the dragon by those who worshiped the beast which succeeded
the dragon was fulfilled by the perpetuation under the papacy of
the rites and ceremonies of paganism. Roman Catholicism is a strange
amalgamation of Judaism, Christianity, and heathenism. The part
derived from paganism occupies such a prominent place in Roman
Catholic practise and worship that we can not fail to observe its
close resemblance to, if not absolute identity with, heathenism. Just
to mention a few points:

1. The high priest of the pagan religion was called Pontifex Maximus,
and he claimed spiritual and temporal authority over men. The pope of
Rome borrowed the title and made the same claims, even being clad in
the same attire.

2. The heathen wore scapulars, medals, and images for personal
protection. Romanists wear the same things for the same purpose.

3. Pagans, by an official process called _deification_, raised men,
after their death, to a dignified position and accorded them
special honors and worship. Papists, by a similar process called
_canonization_, exalt men after their death to the dignity of saints
and then offer up prayers to them.

4. Papists' adoration of idols and images was also borrowed direct
from the heathen; for all such practises were absolutely forbidden by
the Mosaic law and had no place in primitive Christianity.

5. Their religious orders of monks and nuns were also in imitation of
the vestal virgins of antiquity.

The beast is described as a blasphemous power. Adam Clarke has stated
that "blasphemy, in Scripture, signifies _impious speaking_, when
applied to God; and _injurious speaking_, when directed against our
_neighbor_." A name of blasphemy would therefore properly signify the
prostitution of a sacred name to an unholy purpose. An example of this
kind is given in Rev. 2:9, where we read, "I know the blasphemy of
them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagog of
Satan." In this case certain wicked men blasphemed the name by calling
themselves Jews, since according to Scripture 'he _only_ is a Jew who
is one inwardly.' But to prostitute a sacred name to an unworthy use
would be no more impious or blasphemous than would the assumption by
man of those rights and prerogatives which belong to God alone. This
the pope has done for ages. Among the blasphemous titles which he has
assumed are these: "Lord God the Pope," "King of the World," "Holy
Father," "King of kings and Lord of lords," "Vicegerent of the Son of
God." For ages he has claimed infallibility, and this claim became
a dogma of the church when adopted by the General Council of 1870.
Further, he claims power to dispense with God's laws, to forgive sins,
to release from purgatory, to damn and to save. To call the Roman
Catholic Church the _holy_ church of the Bible is to prostitute a
sacred name to an unworthy institution. And to elevate a man to the
place where "he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself
that _he_ is God," by claiming those prerogatives which belong to God
only, is most flagrant blasphemy.

[Sidenote: A persecuting power]

"And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to
overcome them: and power was given him over all kindreds, and tongues,
and nations" (chap. 13: 7). Here we have a direct prediction of that
reign of tyranny in the Dark Ages in which millions of people suffered
martyrdom at the hands of papal Rome.

I am aware that many Catholics affirm that their church never
persecuted, that it was the civil power that did this dread work of
slaughter. We must remember, however, that the beast of Revelation
13 signifies the imperial and the ecclesiastical power in the closest
union possible; for the beast appears _as one_, the two phases being
represented by the combination of symbols from the two distinct
departments of life--human and animal. In the seventeenth chapter
we have the same distinct characteristics again set forth, but in a
different combination, the beast appearing simply as a beast, thus
representing the political power of Rome; while the ecclesiastical
power is represented by a corrupt woman sitting on the beast and
directing its course. In that description it is stated, "And I saw
_the woman_ drunken _with the blood of the saints, and with the blood
of the martyrs of Jesus_" (verse 6). The Romish church itself is,
therefore, represented as participating in the work of martyrdom.

Does this divine prediction agree with the facts of history? It is
altogether impossible to compute correctly the number of those who
were in different ways put to death for opposing the corruption of the
Church of Rome. A million Waldenses perished in France. Nine
hundred thousand Christians were slain within thirty years after the
institution of the Jesuits. The Duke of Alva boasted that he had
put to death 36,000 in the Netherlands by the hands of the common
executioner. The Inquisition destroyed 150,000 within thirty years. If
it be asserted that this was accomplished by the secular arm, I reply
that sentence of death was pronounced upon so-called heretics by the
church and that the secular power was simply a tool for carrying the
barbarous sentence into execution. We can not forget that the pope
applauded Charles IX of France and his infamous mother, Catherine de
Medici, for their part in the massacre of St. Bartholomew, and ordered
a medal struck in honor of the event; that following the revocation
of the Edict of Nantes, when 300,000 were cruelly butchered during
the reign of Louis XIV, Pope Innocent XI extolled the king by special
letter, as follows: "The Catholic Church shall most assuredly
record in her sacred annals _a work of such devotion toward her_
excellent undertaking_."

Popery has for ages claimed the right to exterminate by death those
who were heretics. Numerous provincial and national councils have
issued cruel and bloody laws for the extermination of the Waldenses
and other so-called heretics. Besides these, at least six of their
_General_ Councils, the highest judicial assemblies of the Roman
Church, with the popes themselves sometimes present in person, have
by their decrees pronounced the punishment of death for heresy: 1. The
Second General Council of Lateran (1139) in its twenty-third canon. 2.
The Third General Council of Lateran (1179), under Pope Alexander III.
3. The Fourth General Council of Lateran (1215), under Pope Innocent
III. 4. The Sixteenth General Council, held at Constance in 1414. This
council, with Pope Martin present in person, condemned the reformers
Huss and Jerome to be burned at the stake, and then prevailed on the
Emperor Sigismund to violate the safe conduct which he had given Huss
and signed by his own hand and in which he had guaranteed the reformer
a safe return to Bohemia; and this inhuman sentence against Huss
was then carried out. 5. The Council of Sienna (1423), which was
afterwards continued at Basil. 6. The Fifth General Council of Lateran

That such teachings and practises were an integral part of Romanism is
easily shown. St. Aquinas, the "angelic doctor," argued that heretics
might justly be killed. Cardinal Bellarmine, in a Latin work, _De
Laicis_, still extant, entered into a regular argument to prove that
the church has the right of punishing heretics with death and should
exercise that right. Bellarmine was a nephew of one pope and a close
friend and associate of others, a champion of Romanism, and a defender
of its doctrines. In the work above referred to be declares that
"_heretics were often_ _burned_ BY THE CHURCH." "The Donatists,
Manicheans, and Albigenses were routed and annihilated by arms."

Many timid-hearted Christians in the present age of religious
toleration think that it is almost unchristianlike for us to bring
up and lay to the charge of Rome such a sweeping indictment for those
massacres of Christians in a barbarous age. Such it would be had Rome
ever disavowed these acts or shown any signs of true repentance. The
fact is that it is the boast of Catholics that "Rome never changes."
Well has Charles Butler said, "It is most true that the Roman
Catholics believe the doctrines of their church to be unchangeable;
and that it is a tenet of their creed, that what their faith ever has
been, such it was from the beginning, _such it is now, and such it
ever will be_."

In a copy of the eleventh edition of "The Faith of Our Fathers," by
Cardinal Gibbons, page 95, I read: "It is a marvelous fact, worthy of
record, that in the whole history of the church, from the nineteenth
century to the first, no solitary example can be adduced to show that
any pope or general council ever revoked a decree of faith or morals
enacted by any preceding pontiff or council. Her record in the past
ought to be a sufficient warrant that she will _tolerate no doctrinal
variations in the future_." So the doctrine of her inherent right to
persecute and slay every one who disagrees with her, which has been
enacted by popes and general councils and carried out in the past, is
still in vogue.

"And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the
blood of the martyrs of Jesus."

In our study of Revelation 12 and 13 we have observed that Rome in its
twofold form--pagan and papal--is represented by the dragon and the
beast respectively. This has been established so clearly as to
remove well nigh all doubt concerning the identification. It will be
profitable, however, to give brief consideration to certain parallel
prophecies in Daniel; for in addition to covering the same ground and
describing under other symbols the same general facts of history, they
furnish us an infallible starting-stake, thus establishing definitely
the truth of the interpretation concerning the Roman power, and giving
us a solid basis from which we can proceed with logical certainty to
the interpretation of other symbols in the Revelation.

[Sidenote: The image of Nebuchadnezzar's dream]

In the second chapter of Daniel we have the narrative of a dream which
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had during the time of the Jewish
captivity in that city. After the king awoke, he was so confused that
notwithstanding the deep impression made by his nocturnal experience,
he could not recall to mind the dream itself. He therefore had
recourse to the Chaldeans and wise men of his realm. They failed to
make known his dream, whereupon he became furious and decreed their
death. At this juncture Daniel came forward and announced that if
given time he would fulfil the king's desire, and shortly afterward he
appeared before the king and addressed him as follows:

"Thou, O king, sawest, and behold a great image. This great image,
whose brightness was excellent, stood before thee: and the form
thereof was terrible. This image's head was of fine gold, his breast
and his arms of silver, his belly and his thighs of brass, his legs of
iron, his feet part of iron and part of clay. Thou sawest till that a
stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet
that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the
iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces
together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors;
and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and
the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the
whole earth" (Dan. 2:31-35).

The interpretation of this dream, as given by the prophet,
particularly concerns and interests us. Said Daniel: "This is the
dream; and we will tell the interpretation thereof before the king."
"Thou, O king, art a king of kings: for the God of heaven hath given
thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the
children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the
heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over
them all. Thou art this head of gold" (verses 36-38).

At the time of this vision the Chaldean monarchy was in the height of
her power and glory. Babylon, the capital city, was the chief "pride
of the Chaldees' excellency," containing those magnificent hanging
gardens, one of the Seven Wonders of the ancient world. Nebuchadnezzar
was pointed out particularly as the head of gold in the image, but we
should bear in mind that in the general language of prophecy,
"kings" signify not merely individual monarchs but monarchies under a
succession of princes of the same nation. That the real significance
of the head of gold is the Babylonian Kingdom or Monarchy is shown by
the fact that in the description of the other three divisions of the
same image they are referred to directly as _kingdoms_. The Babylonian
Kingdom came to an end with the death of Belshazzar, and the overthrow
of his father Nabonadius in 538 B.C.

"And after thee shall arise another kingdom inferior to thee"
(verse 39). This is the explanation given of that part of the image
represented by the breast and arms of silver. This refers to the
Medo-Persian empire, which, under Cyrus the Great, captured Babylon
538 B.C. and terminated the Chaldean empire. The Persian kingdom
was in certain respects inferior to the Chaldean, just as silver is
inferior to gold. It was neither as wealthy nor as prosperous, and
was particularly inferior in the character of its kings, for from the
death of Cyrus they are said to have been "as vile a set of men as
ever disgraced human nature."

"And another third kingdom of brass, which shall bear rule over all
the earth." This refers to the Macedonian, or Greek, empire founded
by Alexander the Great. After subduing Greece and reducing Egypt,
Alexander penetrated into Asia, took Tyre, met and overthrew Darius
the Persian at Arbela, in 331 B.C., thus terminating the Persian
Empire. The Grecian Kingdom had less external magnificence than those
which preceded it and was founded and maintained by force of arms;
but it was more extensive than the others, including many dominions
in Europe, Africa, and regions farther to the east in Asia than had
before been penetrated. It was foretold that this kingdom should "bear
rule over all the earth"; it was the main boast of Alexander that he
had subdued the whole world.


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