Facts of Faith
Influences Toward Apostasy
MITHRAISM, an outwardly refined sun worship, invaded the Roman Empire in BC 67, and made way for itself by gathering under its wing all the gods of Rome, so that “in the middle of the third century [A. D.] Mithraism seemed on the verge of becoming the universal religion. “Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol. XVIII, art. “Mithras,” p. 624, 11th edition, 1911. FAFA 97.1
That which made Mithraism so popular was the fact that the Roman Caesars adopted it, and the soldiers planted its banner wherever they went. The higher schools of Greek learning also accepted it, as did also the nobility, or the better classes of society, which gave it great prestige. Its “Mysteries” had a bewitching and fascinating influence on the people. And Sunday, “the venerable day of the sun,” was the popular holiday of Mithraism. FAFA 97.2
On the other hand, the primitive Christian religion appeared to the learned Greek scholastics and their followers of eminent nobility only as “foolishness” (see 1 Corinthians 1:18-23), and the Romans looked down upon the Christians with disdain and utter contempt. After the Jews had rebelled against the Roman government (Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed by Titus, A. D. 70, and multitudes of the Jews were sold as slaves), hatred and contempt for them had become quite general among the Romans, and everything Jewish was despised. Thus Sunday, in the Roman world, stood for what was eminent and popular, while the Sabbath, kept by the Jews, stood for what was despised and looked down upon. The temptations placed before an aspiring man, therefore, lay all in one direction. Dr. J. L. Mosheim says: FAFA 97.3
“The profound respect that was paid to the Greek and Roman mysteries, and the extraordinary sanctity that was attributed to them, were additional circumstances that induced the Christians to give their religion a mystic air, in order to put it upon an equal footing, in point of dignity, with that of the Pagans. For this purpose, they gave the name of mysteries to the institutions of the Gospel, and decorated particularly the holy sacrament with that solemn title. They used in that sacred institution, as also in that of baptism, several of the terms employed in the Heathen mysteries, and proceeded so far, at length, as even to adopt some of the ceremonies of which those renowned mysteries consisted.... A great part, therefore, of the service of the Church, in this century, had a certain air of the Heathen mysteries, and resembled them considerably in many particulars.” — “History of the Church” (2-vol. ed.) Vol. I, Cent. 2, part 2, chap. 4, par. 5, p. 67. New York: 1871. FAFA 97.4
Gradually, as the church lowered its standards, many of the Greek scholars accepted Christianity (while they retained their heathen philosophy), and they carried with them into the church more or less of their former viewpoint and teaching. Then, as heathenism assailed the church, and the Roman government persecuted it, these men, such as Origen, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, et al., wrote “apologies” and “treatises” to vindicate Christianity. They, however, sadly mixed heathen sentiments with Christian doctrines, and the church gradually became permeated with the teachings of these men, who now had become the new leaders. Dr. Cummings says: FAFA 98.1
“The Fathers who were really most fitted to be the luminaries of the age in which they lived were too busy in preparing their flocks for martyrdom to commit anything to writing.... The most devoted and pious of the Fathers were busy teaching their flocks; the more vain and ambitious occupied their time in preparing treatises. If all the Fathers who signalized the age had committed their sentiments to writing, we might have had a fair representation of the theology of the church.” — “Lectures on Romanism,” p. 203; quoted in “History of the Sabbath,” J. N. Andrews, pp. 199, 200. FAFA 98.2
In a very short time, the customs of Mithraism became incorporated into Christianity. John Dowling, D. D., says: “There is scarcely anything which strikes the mind of the careful student of ancient ecclesiastical history with greater surprise, than the comparatively early period at which many of the corruptions of Christianity, which are embodied in the Romish system, took their rise.” — “History of Romanism,” Book II, chap. 1, par. 1, p. 65. FAFA 98.3
Christianity soon became so much like Mithraism that there was only a step between them. Frantz Cumont (who is probably the best informed man of our age on the subject of Mithraism, says of Christianity and Mithraism: FAFA 99.1
“The two opposed creeds moved in the same intellectual and moral sphere, and one could actually pass from one to the other without shock or interruption.... The religious and mystical spirit of the Orient had slowly overcome the whole social organism and prepared all nations to unite in the bosom of a universal church.” — “Oriental Religions in Roman Paganism,” pp. 210, 211. Chicago, Ill.: Open Court Pub. Co., 1911. FAFA 99.2
The Introductory Essay by Grant Showerman says: FAFA 99.3
“Nor did Christianity stop here. It took from its opponents their own weapons and used them; the better elements of paganism were transferred to the new religion.” — Id., pp xi, xii.
It would be too long a story to trace the doctrines of Mithraism that were brought into the church. We must confine ourselves to our subject, Sunday-keeping. Mr. Cumont says further: FAFA 99.4
“The ecclesiastical authorities purified in some degree the customs which they could not abolish!” FAFA 99.5
“The pre-eminence assigned to the dies Solis [Sunday] by Mithraism also certainly contributed to the general recognition of Sunday as a holiday [among Christians].” — “Astrology and Religion Among the Greeks and Romans,” pp. 171, 162, 16.3. New York: 1912. FAFA 99.6
“Sunday, over which the Sun presided, was especially holy.... FAFA 99.7
“[The worshipers of Mithra] held Sunday sacred, and celebrated the birth of the Sun on the twenty-fifth of December.” — “The Mysteries of Mithra,” pp. 167, 191. Chicago: Open Court Pub. Co., 1911. FAFA 99.8
Professor Gilbert Murray, M.A., D. Litt., LL.D., F.B.A., Professor of Greek in Oxford University, says: FAFA 100.1
“Now, since Mithras was ‘The Sun, the Unconquered,’ and the Sun was ‘The royal Star,’ the religion looked for a King whom it could serve as the representative of Mithras upon earth: ... The Roman Emperor seemed to be clearly indicated as the true King. In sharp contrast to Christianity, Mithraism recognized Caesar as the bearer of the divine Grace, and its votaries filled the legions and the civil service....
“It had so much acceptance that it was able to impose on the Christian world its own Sun-Day in place of the Sabbath, its Sun’s birthday, twenty-fifth December, as the birthday of Jesus.” — “History of Christianity in the Light of Modern Knowledge,” Chap. III; cited in “Religion and Philosophy,” pp. 73, 74. New York: 1929. FAFA 100.2
Rev. William Frederick likewise states the same historic fact: FAFA 100.3
“The Gentiles were an idolatrous people who worshipped the sun, and Sunday was their most sacred day. Now, in order to reach the people in this new field, it seems but natural, as well as necessary, to make Sunday the rest day of the church. At this time it was necessary for the church to either adopt the Gentiles’ day or else have the Gentiles change their day. To change the Gentiles’ day would have been an offence and stumbling block to them. The church could naturally reach them better by keeping their day. There was no need in causing an unnecessary offence by dishonoring their day.” — “Sunday and the Christian Sabbath,” pp. 169, 170; quoted in .
Thomas H. Morer makes a similar acknowledgement. He says: FAFA 100.4
“Sunday being the day on which the Gentiles solemnly adored that planet, and called it Sunday.... the Christians thought fit to keep the same day and the same name of it, that they might not appear causelessly peevish, and by that means hinder the conversion of the Gentiles, and bring a greater prejudice than might be otherwise taken against the gospel.” — “Dialogues on the Lord’s Day,” p. 23. London: 1701.
The North British Review gives the following reasons for the Christians’ adopting the heathen Sun-day: FAFA 101.1
“That very day was the Sunday of their heathen neighbours and respective countrymen, and patriotism gladly united with expediency in making it at once their Lord’s day and their Sabbath.... That primitive church, in fact, was shut up to the adoption of the Sunday, until it became established and supreme, when it was too late to make another alteration.” — Vol. XVIII, p. 409. Edinburgh: Feb., 1853. FAFA 101.2
Thomas Chafie, a clergyman of the English Church, gives the following reasons why the early Christians could not continue to keep the Bible Sabbath among the heathen, nor change the heathen custom from Sunday to Saturday: FAFA 101.3
“Christians should not have done well in changing, or in endeavouring to have changed their [the heathen’s] standing service-day, from Sunday to any other day of the week; and that for these reasons: FAFA 101.4
“1. Because of the contempt, scorn and derision they thereby should be had in among all the Gentiles with whom they lived; and toward whom they ought by St. Paul’s rule to live inoffensively, 1 Corinthians 10:32, in things indifferent. If the Gentiles thought hardly, and spoke evil of them, for that they ran not into the same excess of riot with them: 1 Peter 4:4, what would they have said of Christians for such an innovation as would have been made by their change of their standing service day? If long before this, the Jews were had in such disdain among the Gentiles for their Saturday-Sabbath.... how grievous would be their taunts and reproaches against the poor Christians living with them, and under their power, for their new set Sacred day, had the Christians chosen any other than the Sunday? FAFA 101.5
“2. Most Christians then were either Servants or of the poorer sort of People: and the Gentiles (most probably) would not give their servants liberty to cease from working on any other set day constantly, except on their Sunday.... FAFA 101.6
“5. It would have been but labour in vain for them to have assayed the same, they could never have brought it to pass.” — “A Brief Tract on the Fourth Commandment ... About the Sabbath-Day,” pp. 61, 62. London: St. Paul’s Church Yard, 1692. FAFA 102.1
Richard Verstegen, after much research, writes of the heathen nations: FAFA 102.2
“And it is also respectable, that the most ancient Germans being Pagans, and having appropriated their first Day of the Week to the peculiar adoration of the Sun, whereof that Day doth yet in our English Tongue retain the name of Sunday.” — “Restitution of Decayed Intelligence in Antiquities,” p. 11. London: 1673.
Speaking of the Saxons, he says: FAFA 102.3
“First then unto the day dedicated unto the especial adoration of the Idol of the Sun, they gave the name of Sunday, as much as to say the Sun’s-day, or the day of the Sun. This Idol was placed in a Temple, and there adored and sacrificed unto, for that they believed that the Sun in the Firmament did with or in this Idol correspond and co-operate. The manner and form whereof was according to this ensuing Picture.” — Id., p. 74. (Capitalization as given in this ancient book.)
It is hardly fair to accuse the Roman Catholic Church of exchanging God’s holy Sabbath for a heathen festival without giving her the opportunity to deny or acknowledge this accusation; so we will now let her state the fact in her own words, frankly. She says: FAFA 102.4
“The Church took the pagan philosophy and made it the buckler of faith against the heathen.... She took the pagan Sunday and made it the Christian Sunday.... There is, in truth, something royal, kingly about the sun, making it a fit emblem of Jesus, the Sun of Justice. Hence the Church in these countries would seem to have said, ‘Keep that old, pagan name. It shall remain consecrated, sanctified.’ And thus the pagan Sunday, dedicated to Balder, became the Christian Sunday, sacred to Jesus.” — “Catholic World,” March, 1894, P. 809. FAFA 102.5
So willing were church leaders to adopt the popular heathen festivals that even heathen authors reproached them for it. Faustus accused St. Augustine as follows: FAFA 103.1
“You celebrate the solemn festivals of the Gentiles, their calends and their solstices; and as to their manners, those you have retained without any alteration. Nothing distinguishes you from the pagans except that you hold your assemblies apart from them.” — Cited in “History of the Intellectual Development of Europe,” Dr. J. W. Draper, Vol. I, p. 810. New York: 1876. FAFA 103.2
Similar reproaches had been made earlier, for Tertullian answers them, making the following admission: FAFA 103.3
“Others, hath greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray toward the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. What then? Do you do less than this? ... It is you, at all events, who have even admitted the sun into the calendar of the week; and you have selected its day, in preference to the preceding day.... You who reproach us with the sun and Sunday should consider your proximity to us.” — “Ad Nationes,” Book I, chap. 13; in “Ante-Nicene Fathers,” Vol. III, p. 123, ed. by Drs. Roberts and Donaldson. New York: 1896.
Tertullian had no other excuse for their Sunday-keeping than that they did not do worse than the heathen. Not only did the Church adopt heathen festivals, but Gregory Thaumaturgus allowed their celebration in the degrading manner of the heathen: FAFA 103.4
“When Gregory perceived that the ignorant multitude persisted in their idolatry, on account of the pleasures and sensual gratifications which they enjoyed at the pagan festivals, he granted them a permission to indulge themselves in the like pleasures, in celebrating the memory of the holy martyrs, hoping that, in process of time, they would return of their own accord, to a more virtuous and regular course of life.” — “Ecclesiastical History,” J. L. Mosheim, D.D., Vol. I, Second Century, Part II, chap. 4, par. 2, footnote (Dr. A. Maclaine’s 2-vol. ed., p. 66). New York: 1871. FAFA 103.5
Cardinal Newman says: FAFA 104.1
In Confiding then in the power of Christianity to resist the infection of evil, and to transmute the very instruments and appendages of demon-worship to an evangelical use.... the rulers of the Church from early times were prepared, should the occasion arise, to adopt, or imitate, or sanction the existing rites and customs of the populace, as well as the philosophy of the educated class....
“The same reason, the need of holy days for the multitude, is assigned by Origen, St. Gregory’s master, to explain the establishment of the Lord’s Day.... FAFA 104.2
“We are told in various ways by Eusebius, that Constantine, in order to recommend the new religion to the heathen, transferred into it the outward ornaments to which they had been accustomed in their own.... Incense, lamps, and candles; ... holy water; asylums; holy days and seasons, ... the ring in marriage, turning to the east, images ... are all of pagan origin, and sanctified by their adoption into the Church.” — “Development of Christian Doctrine,” pp. 871-373. London: 1878. FAFA 104.3
“Real superstitions have sometimes obtained in parts of Christendom from its intercourse with the heathen.... As philosophy has at times corrupted her divines, so has paganism corrupted her worshipers.” — Id., pp. 877, 378. FAFA 104.4
“The church ... can convert heathen appointments into spiritual rites and usages.... Hence there has been from the first much variety and change, in the Sacramental acts and instruments which she has used.” — Id., p. 879. FAFA 104.5
Speaking of the immoral pagan feast he says: FAFA 104.6
“It certainly is possible that the consciousness of the sanctifying power in Christianity may have acted as a temptation to sins, whether of deceit or of violence; as if the habit or state of grace destroyed the sinfulness of certain acts, or as if the end justified the means.” — Id., p. 379. FAFA 104.7
Speaking of the immoral pagan feast he says: FAFA 104.8
“It certainly is possible that the consciousness of the sanctifying power in Christianity may have acted as a temptation to sins, whether or deceit or of violence; as if the habit or state of grace destroyed the sinfulness of certain acts, or as if the end justified the means.” — Id., p. 379.
The terrible nature of these sensual gratifications of the pagan festivals, in which the leaders of the Church now allowed its members to indulge, a person can hardly imagine till the sickening facts are spread before one’s eyes by Livy. (Hist., lib. xxxix, chap. 9-17) The learned Englishman, George Smith, F.A.S., in his “Sacred Annals,” Vol. III, on the “Gentile Nations,” pp. 487-489, says that this “most revolting and abandoned villainy” was so general, that when the Roman Senate had to proceed against its worst features, “Rome was almost deserted, so many persons, feeling themselves implicated in the proceedings, sought safety in flight.” FAFA 104.9
A church that will take in such members, without conversion, and then allow them to continue in the most putrid corruption, must have lost all respect for morality (not, to say true Christianity), and cannot he in possession of the divine power of the gospel; which changes the hearts and lives of people. (Romans 1:16; 2 Corinthians 5:17) The Apostle Paul had foretold this “falling away” of the church. (Acts 20:28-30; 2 Thessalonians 2:1-7) And it was during this fallen condition that the Church changed its weekly rest day from the Sabbath to the Sunday. Dr. N. Summerbell says: FAFA 105.1
“The Roman church had totally apostatized.... It reversed the Fourth Commandment by doing away with the Sabbath of God’s word, and instituting Sunday as a holiday.” — “The Christian Church,” p. 415. Cincinnati: 1873. FAFA 105.2
Now, long after the Sabbath has been changed, Protestants are at a loss to find authority in the Bible for this change. They have rejected the authority of the Roman church to legislate on Christian faith, and cannot accept tradition, therefore they know not where to turn. Professor George Sverdrup, a leading man in the Lutheran Church, gives expression to this predicament in the following words: FAFA 105.3
“For, when there could not be produced one solitary place in the Holy Scriptures which testified that either the Lord Himself or the apostles had ordered such a transfer of the Sabbath to Sunday, then it was not easy to answer the question: Who has transferred the Sabbath, and who has had the right to do it? — “Samlede Skrifter i Udvalg,” Andreas Helland, Vol. I, pp. 342, 343. Minneapolis, Minn.: 1909. FAFA 105.4
Walter Farquhar Hook, D.D., Vicar of Leeds, expresses the same thought: FAFA 106.1
“The question is, whether God has ordered us to keep holy the first day of the week. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are undoubted ordinances of God; we can quote the chapter and verse in which we read of their being ordained by God. But as to the Lord’s Day [Sunday], we are not able to refer to a single passage in all the Scriptures of the New Testament in which the observance of it is enjoined by God. If we refer to tradition, tradition would not be of value to us on the point immediately under consideration. The Romanist regards the tradition of the Church as of authority equal to that of Scripture. But we are not Romanists.... But on this point there is not even tradition to support us.... There is no tradition that God ordained the first day of the week to be a Sabbath.... The change of the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday was never mentioned, or, as far as I can discover, thought of by the early Christians. The Sabbath, that is to say, the observance of Saturday as a day to be devoted to God’s service, to rest of body and repose of mind, was an ordinance of God. This ordinance relating to Saturday could be changed by God and by God only. We, as Protestants, must appeal to the Bible, and the Bible only, to ascertain the fact that God has changed the day - that God has Himself substituted Sunday for Saturday.... It is no answer to this to say that the apostles seem to have sanctioned the assembly of Christians for public worship on the Lord’s Day, or that St. John in the Apocalypse speaks of the Lord’s Day and may possibly allude to the Sunday festival. For this is one of those arguments which prove too much. We ourselves keep Easter Day; this is no proof that we do not keep Christmas Day, or that Easter has been substituted for Christmas. And if we have instances of the first day of the week being kept holy by the apostle, we have more instances of their observing the Jewish Sabbath.” — “Lord’s Day,” p. 94. London: 1856; quoted in “The Literature of the Sabbath Question,” Robert Cox, Vol. II, pp. 369,370.
Dr. Edward T. Hiscox, author of the “Baptist Manual,” says: FAFA 107.1
“There was and is a commandment to keep holy the Sabbath day, but that Sabbath day was not Sunday. It will be said, however, and with some show of triumph, that the Sabbath was transferred from the seventh to the first day of the week, with all its duties, privileges, and sanctions. Earnestly desiring information on this subject, which 1 have studied for many years, I ask, where can the record of such a transaction be found? Not in the New Testament, absolutely not. There is no Scriptural evidence of the change of the Sabbath institution from the seventh to the first day of the week.
“I wish to say that this Sabbath question, in this aspect of it, is the gravest and most perplexing question connected with Christian institutions which at present claims attention from Christian people; and the only reason that it is not a more disturbing element in Christian thought and in religious discussions, is because the Christian world has settled down content on the conviction that somehow a transference has taken place at the beginning of Christian history.... FAFA 107.2
“To me it seems unaccountable that Jesus during three years’ intercourse with His disciples, often conversing with them upon the Sabbath question, discussing it in some of its various aspects, freeing it from its false glosses, never alluded to any transference of the day; also that during forty days of His resurrection life, no such thing was intimated. Nor, so far as we know, did the Spirit, which was given to bring to their remembrance all things whatsoever that He had said unto them, deal with this question. Nor yet did the inspired apostles, in preaching the gospel, founding churches, counselling and instructing those founded, discuss or approach this subject. FAFA 107.3
“Of course, I quite well know that Sunday did come into use in early Christian history as a religious day, as we learn from the Christian Fathers and other sources. But what a pity that it comes branded with the mark of paganism, and christened with the name of the sun-god, when adopted and sanctioned by the papal apostasy, and bequeathed as a sacred legacy to Protestantism!” — A paper read before a New York Ministers’ Conference, held Nov. 13, 1893. From a copy furnished by Dr. Hiscox for the “Source Book,” pp. 513, 514. Wash., D. C.: The Review and Herald, 1922. FAFA 107.4
Bishop Skat Rordam, of Denmark, says: FAFA 108.1
“As to when and how it became customary to keep the first day of the week the New Testament gives us no information....
“The first law about it was given by Constantine the Great, who in the year 321 ordained that all civil and shop work should cease in the cities, but agricultural labor in the country was permitted.... Still no one thought of basing this command to rest from labor on the 3rd [4th] commandment before the latter half of the sixth century. From that time on, little by little, it became the established doctrine of the church during its ‘Dark Ages,’ that the holy church and its teachers, or the bishops with the Roman Pope at their head, as the Vicar of Christ and His apostles on earth, had transferred the Old Testament Sabbath with its glory and sanctity over onto the first day of the week.” — “Report of the Second Ecclesiastical Meeting in Copenhagen, Sept. 13-15, 1887, “P. Taaning, pp. 40, 41. Copenhagen: 1887. FAFA 108.2
Bishop A. Grimelund, of Norway, says: FAFA 108.3
“Now, summing up what history teaches regarding the origin of Sunday and the development of the doctrine about Sunday, then this is the sum: It is not the apostles, not the early Christians, not the councils of the ancient church which have imprinted the name and stamp of the Sabbath upon the Sunday, but it is the Church of the Middle Ages and its scholastic teachers.” — “Sondagens Historie” (The History of Sunday), p. 87. Christiania: 1886.
“What do we learn from this historical review? ... That it is a doctrine which originated in the papal church that the sanctification of the Sunday is enjoined in the 3rd [4th] commandment, and that the essential and permanent in this commandment is a command from God to keep holy one day in each week.” — Id., pp. 47, 48. FAFA 108.4