The Birth of the Papacy

TimeWatch Editorial
March 06, 2017

J. A. Wylie, in his book, "The History of Protestantism, Vol 1, after describing the downward shift in Christian virtue, then begins to detail the move toward authoritarian  control of the Church and ultimately the church’s control of the state. On page 8 of Volume 1 Wylie says the following.

“While the, "living oracles" (or the Word of God) were neglected, the zeal of the clergy began to spend itself upon rites and ceremonies borrowed from the pagans. These were multiplied to such a degree, that Augustine complained that they were "less tolerable than the yoke of the Jews under the law."  At this period the Bishops of Rome wore costly attire, gave sumptuous banquets, and when they went abroad were carried in littersThey now began to speak with an authoritative voice, and to demand obedience from all the Churches.” J. A. Wylie, "The History of Protestantism, Vol 1"page 8

If you have not yet read the previous Editorials, perhaps the two parts of “The True Protestant” would be useful to understanding J.A. Wylie’s description of the history. Gradually, while it at first appeared that persecution was at last over, and a time of peaceful worship lay ahead, there was a covert crawl that assaulted the church from within. In fact one of the first conflicts that took place in the church demonstrated the arrogance of the western church. Wylie describes the conflict over Easter.

“Of this the dispute between the Eastern and Western Churches respecting Easter is an instance in point. The Eastern Church, following the Jews, kept the feast on the 14th day of the month Nisan the day of the Jewish Passover. The Churches of the West, and especially that of Rome, kept Easter on the Sabbath following the 14th day of Nisan. Victor, Bishop of Rome, resolved to put an end to the controversy, and accordingly, sustaining himself sole judge in this weighty point, he commanded all the Churches to observe the feast on the same day with himself. The Churches of the East, not aware that the Bishop of Rome had authority to command their obedience in this or in any other matter, kept Easter as before; and for this flagrant contempt, as Victor accounted it, of his legitimate authority, he excommunicated them. They refused to obey a human ordinance, and they were shut out from the kingdom of the Gospel. This was the first peal of those thunders, which were in after times to roll so often and so terribly from the Seven Hills.” J. A. Wylie, "The History of Protestantism, Vol 1"page 8

From that moment on, the conflict simply expanded. The authority of the Bishop of Rome increased within a short space of time. As Wylie explains it,

“Riches, flattery, deference, continued to wait upon the Bishop of Rome. The emperor saluted him as Father; foreign Churches sustained him as judge in their disputes; heresiarchs sometimes fled to him for sanctuary; those who had favors to beg extolled his piety, or affected to follow his customs; and it is not surprising that his pride and ambition, fed by continual incense, continued to grow, till at last the presbyter of Rome, from being a vigilant pastor of a single congregation, before whom he went in and out, teaching them from house to house, preaching to them the Word of Life, serving the Lord with all humility in many tears and temptations that befell him, raised his seat above his equals, mounted the throne of the patriarch, and exercised lordship over the heritage of Christ.” J. A. Wylie, "The History of Protestantism, Vol 1"page 8

Wylie clearly defines the downward march of the faith. The impact of the corruption was extreme in every way. The entire reason for the existence of the church was destroyed until those who worshiped bowed before men and custom. Every element of society became subject to the fraudulence that took the place of the family of heaven. Indeed Wylie does say it best.

“The gates of the sanctuary once forced, the stream of corruption continued to flow with ever-deepening volume. The declensions in doctrine and worship already introduced had changed the brightness of the Church's morning into twilight; the descent of the Northern nations, which, beginning in the fifth, continued through several successive centuries, converted that twilight into night. The new tribes had changed their country, but not their superstitions; and, unhappily, there was neither zeal nor vigor in the Christianity of the age to effect their instruction and their genuine conversion. The Bible had been withdrawn; in the pulpit fable had usurped the place of truth; holy lives, whose silent eloquence might have won upon the barbarians, were rarely exemplified; and thus, instead of the Church dissipating the superstitions that now encompassed her like a cloud, these superstitions all but quenched her own light.” J. A. Wylie, "The History of Protestantism, Vol 1"page 8

This was the birth of the Papacy; A seduction of power, rather than a transfer of faith. There was not even an attempt to persuade. Coercion was the motivating force. The power of the State along with its legal recourse was transferred to the church, suddenly bringing into the fold, the majority.

“She opened her gates to receive the new peoples as they were. She sprinkled them with the baptismal water; she inscribed their names in her registers; she taught them in their invocations to repeat the titles of the Trinity; but the doctrines of the Gospel, which alone can enlighten the understanding, purify the heart, and enrich the life with virtue, she was little careful to inculcate upon them. She folded them within her pale, but they were scarcely more Christian than before, while she was greatly less so. From the sixth century down-wards Christianity was a mongrel system, made up of pagan rites revived from classic times, of superstitions imported from the forests of Northern Germany, and of Christian beliefs and observances which continued to linger in the Church from primitive and purer times. The inward power of religion was lost; and it was in vain that men strove to supply its place by the outward form.” J. A. Wylie, "The History of Protestantism, Vol 1"page 8

This was the birth of the Papacy. To this day, it describes its existence as a place where the inward power of religion is lost; and vain, men strive to supply in its place an outward form.

Cameron A. Bowen

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