From Here to Forever


Days of Peril for the Church

The faithful standard-bearers were few. At times it seemed that error would wholly prevail, and true religion would be banished from the earth. The gospel was lost sight of, and the people were burdened with rigorous exactions. They were taught to trust to works of their own to atone for sin. Long pilgrimages, acts of penance, the worship of relics, the erection of churches, shrines, and altars, the payment of large sums to the church—these were enjoined to appease the wrath of God or to secure His favor. HF 36.3

About the close of the eighth century, papists put forth the claim that in the first ages of the church the bishops of Rome had possessed the same spiritual power which they now assumed. Ancient writings were forged by monks. Decrees of councils before unheard of were discovered, establishing the universal supremacy of the pope from the earliest times. (See Appendix) HF 36.4

The few faithful builders upon the sure foundation (1 Corinthians 3:10, 11) were perplexed. Wearied with the constant struggle against persecution, fraud, and every other obstacle that Satan could devise, some who had been faithful became disheartened. For the sake of peace and security for their property and their lives, they turned away from the sure foundation. Others were undaunted by the opposition of their enemies. HF 37.1

Image worship became general. Candles were burned before images and prayers offered to them. The most absurd customs prevailed. Reason itself seemed to have lost its sway. While priests and bishops were themselves pleasure-loving and corrupt, the people who looked to them for guidance would be sunken in ignorance and vice. HF 37.2

In the eleventh century, Pope Gregory VII proclaimed that the church had never erred, nor would it ever err, according to the Scriptures. But Scripture proofs did not accompany the assertion. The proud pontiff also claimed power to depose emperors. An illustration of the tyrannical character of this advocate of infallibility was his treatment of the German emperor, Henry IV. For, presuming to disregard the pope's authority, this monarch was excommunicated and dethroned. His own princes were encouraged in rebellion against him by the papal mandate. HF 37.3

Henry felt the necessity of making peace with Rome. With his wife and faithful servant he crossed the Alps in midwinter, that he might humble himself before the pope. Upon reaching Gregory's castle, he was conducted into an outer court. There, in the severe cold of winter, with uncovered head and naked feet, he awaited the pope's permission to come into his presence. Not until he had continued three days fasting and making confession, did the pontiff grant him pardon. Even then it was only upon condition that the emperor should await the sanction of the pope before resuming the insignia or exercising the power of royalty. Gregory, elated with his triumph, boasted that it was his duty to pull down the pride of kings. HF 37.4

How striking the contrast between this haughty pontiff and Christ, who represents Himself as pleading at the door of the heart for admittance. He taught His disciples: “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” Matthew 20:27. HF 38.1

Even before the establishment of the papacy the teachings of heathen philosophers had exerted an influence in the church. Many still clung to the tenets of pagan philosophy and urged its study upon others as a means of extending their influence among the heathen. Serious errors were thus introduced into the Christian faith. HF 38.2