As the year 457 b. c. was an important date in Jewish history, so 538 a. d. is a milepost in the history of the Christian church. The former, dating from the decree to restore and build Jerusalem, marks the beginning of one great prophetic period, the 2300 days of Dan. 8:14. The latter, which witnessed the setting up of the papacy, is the date from which to reckon that other prophetic period, "a time and times and the dividing of time," or the twelve hundred and sixty days of Dan. 7:25. It is the period during which the little horn, that plucked up three of the ten divisions of the Roman empire, should bear sway. It is to the beginning of this period, the year 538, that the thirty-first verse of Daniel 11 brings the history.
The fully developed papacy was not the work of one nor of two years any more than the universal power of Babylon, Medo-Persia, or Greece was an immediate acquisition. As those kingdoms grew in power, so papal Rome grew in power. According to Rev. 13:2, the dragon gave the beast his power and his seat and great authority. The work of Constantine and Justinian in gaining power for this new organization was parallel to the conquests of Cyrus, Alexander, and CÊsar in their conquests for their respective nations. The seat of the pagan Roman government was removed to Constantinople,
thereby giving room for the papacy to be seated on the throne in the city on the Tiber. As territory and a capital were gained gradually, so the authority of the papacy was a gradual acquisition. Each of the four universal kingdoms had a distinct policy, which was followed throughout its existence. Likewise the papacy had its policy just as clearly defined. The working of this policy in its inception is best seen in Alexandria. It was there that the two streams, paganism and Christianity, mingled their waters. The papacy had birth on the banks of the Nile: Egypt was the mother who nursed it, and as it grew, it breathed in the miasma of its surroundings. First, Christians interpreted the Bible according to pagan thought, and paganism appearing to be vanquished, in reality became the conqueror.
Then the teachings of the Word were changed. In order to compromise with pagans, idol worship was introduced into the Christian church; the second commandment was dropped from the decalogue, and the tenth was divided to preserve the number. The fourth, the keystone to the law of God, a memorial of creation and redemption, was so altered as to exalt the enemy of God above God himself. Later, the whole Bible was discarded, and as that detector of sin was suppressed, vileness and iniquity became uncontrollable. This, however, was not the whole policy of the papacy, but only one of the stones in the foundation of the structure that was being reared.
The head of the church, who was likewise a civil ruler, was exalted more and more above his fellows, until a complete ecclesiastical hierarchy
was formed. By decree of a general council the head of the church was declared infallible. But even before, this faith in the new church, and especially in the head of the church, took the place of faith in Christ. The Virgin Mary and saints became mediators for sinful man, and forgiveness was granted by the head of the church. Righteousness by works led to long pilgrimages, penance, and relic worship. Everlasting punishment was held as a threat above the heads of the common people. The darkness deepened. The inquisition was instituted to force men's conscience. Kings upon their thrones were compelled to recognize the superior authority of the power of Rome, and failure to do so meant the removal of their crowns. Subjects were absolved from allegiance to their sovereigns, and so complete was the obedience of nations to Rome, that no man dared lift his hand in opposition.
A darkness beyond comprehension settled over all the world. The light had been extinguished when God's Word was banished. "The noontide of the papacy was the world's moral midnight."
The power which should speak great words against the Most High, and wear out the saints of the Most High, was allotted 1260 years in which to work; but so cruel was that power that the time was shortened, lest none should survive the persecution. It was Egyptian or Babylonian bondage for the Christian church. But even as God had some in Egypt and Babylon who were followers of the light throughout the period of darkness, there was ever a little company of believers who held the Scriptures dear to
their hearts, and who obeyed the commandments.
The Waldenses could trace their ancestry back to the days of Paul, and from Asia Minor, where that apostle first preached, to the wild retreat in the mountains of Italy, there were faithful Sabbath keepers. The power on the throne might change the day of worship, but there were always some who obeyed God rather than man. As Gabriel told Daniel, "They that understand among the people shall instruct many; yet they shall fall by the sword, and by flame, by captivity, and by spoil." Though thousands fell because they dared lift the voice against the powers that be, yet God watched their numbers and counted each one who gave his life.
There is no more wonderful record of deliverance from bondage than that which God wrought for his church at the close of the period of persecution. Israel's deliverance from Egypt, when a multitude marched through the Red Sea on dry land, was marvelous; the deliverance from Babylon was a wonder in the eyes of the world; but the birth of Protestantism-the deliverance from the darkness of the Middle Ages-surpassed all others.
In the twelfth of Revelation, where the same deliverance is mentioned, it is stated that the earth helped the woman-the church. And it did indeed. Powers that were wholly unaccountable for the good they were doing, were used by the Father to break those bands that Satan had placed around the truth. The suppression of the Bible had led to the suppression of all learning. There were no schools for the
masses; there were no books, no papers; physicians were forbidden to practice medicine, lest they should take money which would otherwise go into the coffers of the church. Should any man dare to advocate learning, or cross the beaten paths made by the church, he was led to the stake. But it could not always be so. God made use of the Moors who had accepted Mohammedanism to help deliver his people. Schools were established by them in Spain and western Asia. The sciences were taught, and from these schools the light of learning broke into Egypt.
Wycliffe, called "the Morning Star of the Reformation," in the fourteenth century, translated the Bible into English. He wrote tracts showing the fallacy of the papal system. He, in England, like Daniel of old, was in close touch with the king, and the light of the gospel was having its effect. To the ruler on the throne, and the students in the universities, Wycliffe gave the gospel. His followers, known as Lollards, were bitterly persecuted, but never wholly exterminated; and it is their descendants, who, as Puritans, brought Protestantism to America.
Huss and Jerome in Bohemia lifted their voices against papal dogmas, and later Luther, the German monk, proclaimed liberty of conscience and salvation alone by faith in Jesus Christ. He had found a copy of the Bible chained in a cell of one of the German monasteries, and the spark there kindled, lighted a fire which Rome was unable to extinguish.
The Word of God became the lesson book for the German nation. Luther was assisted in his
work of reform by Melanchthon, the noted teacher in Wittenberg. Other schools were established throughout Germany; teachers were educated, and before the death of Luther the German nation sat at the feet of Protestant teachers; so rapid was the work when the Word of God was opened to mankind. The Reformation marched on to victory. Rome retreated into narrower and still narrower bounds, not before the sword, but before the onward march of truth. Into every nation of Europe the light shone, and America was founded upon the principles which had their birth in Germany.
The papacy quivered before the blow; and had each nation accepted the Reformation as it came to it, it would have been but a short time until history would have been at an end. God was in the Reformation, offering to modern nations the same deliverance which was held out to the Jews when they were granted an opportunity to return from Babylon to Jerusalem. The everlasting covenant was repeated, but men in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries treated it as the Jews did the decree to leave Babylon. When once the principles of the Reformation-liberty of conscience and the equal rights of all men-were presented to a nation, and were refused, that nation sank back into the arms of the papacy, and carried to its completion the principles of that government.
Such was the history of France. The experience of that nation stands as an object lesson to the world. Truth had been proclaimed within her borders, but again the papacy rose up to do according to his will. It is in that country that verses 36-39 of chapter 11 were
exactly fulfilled. Having rejected light, the intensity of the darkness into which men fell was beyond description.
Scott, in the life of Napoleon, speaking of France in the year 1793, just a few years before the expiration of the allotted time (verse 36), says: "The world for the first time heard an assembly of men, born and educated in civilization, and assuming to govern one of the finest European nations, uplift their united voices to deny the most solemn truth which man's soul receives, and renounce unanimously the belief and worship of the Deity." "France stands apart in the world's history as the single state which, by the decree of her legislative assembly, pronounced that there was no God, and of which the entire population of the capital, and a vast majority elsewhere, women as well as men, danced and sang with joy in accepting the announcement. This was atheism-the logical result of the position taken in Alexandria when Christians assumed the garb of pagan philosophers. God's Word was treated as a product of the human mind. Atheism in the individual is likewise the result of so treating the Scriptures."
Still further quotations from the history of those times will show how completely God was rejected, and the worship of the human intellect was substituted.
One day "the doors of the Convention were thrown open to a band of musicians, preceded by whom the members of the municipal body entered in solemn procession, singing a hymn in praise of Liberty, and escorting a veiled female, whom they termed the 'Goddess of Reason.'" On unveiling the creature, she was found
to be a prostitute opera singer. This was the fittest representation France could find of the reason which they exalted. Perhaps it was hard to understand, when noting the policy of Greece in elevating human reason, what the result of such a course would be. The history of France in the days of the Revolution is a thorough explanation of those results.
Men to-day exalt reason above God; they deign to give private interpretation to the divine Word; they offer all sorts of theories contradictory to a "thus saith the Lord," and even professed Christians follow the Greek intellect, studying the philosophy themselves, and teaching it to their children, apparently unconscious of the fact that this is papal and only papal, and that its ultimate result may be read in the awful annals of France.
Having enthroned the "Goddess of Reason," France passed laws which clearly reveal the result of such worship. The two institutions which date back to Eden, and which are inseparably connected with the worship of Jehovah, were defamed. The week was changed by a decree so as to completely abolish all resemblance to former times, and for a brief space France rested one day in ten instead of observing the weekly Sabbath. The law of marriage was repealed, and that safeguard to society completely disregarded.
The papacy in France was fast paving the road to self-annihilation. Human intellect worshiped brings death. The French Revolution of 1798, the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, and the Reign of Terror tell the dreadful story of destruction. The entire history of this period is
an object lesson to the world of the final destruction of nations when the Spirit of God is withdrawn, because those in authority refuse to worship Jehovah, choosing rather to exalt the "Goddess of Reason."
Complete overthrow stared France in the face until the control of affairs was assumed by the young military officer, Napoleon Bonaparte. Out of chaos he led the nation through bloodshed to a place of honor among the nations of Europe. The cause of the struggle, which cost thousands of lives, was the attempt to suppress both civil and religious rights. The Reformation in Germany in the sixteenth century struck a deathblow to feudalism and the monarchy. France was the battle ground where papal tyranny wrestled with Protestantism and republicanism. Absolute monarchy always accompanies and supports the policy of the papacy, whether in a pagan or a nominally Christian nation. Democracy in principle is the form of government assumed by any nation when the light of truth is accepted.
When the Reformation was rejected by France, the tyranny of the monarchy knew no bounds. Two thirds of the land of the state was in the hands of the clergy and nobles; the king passed laws taxing his subjects against all protest from Parliament; warrants for arrest and imprisonment were issued by his authority alone; "famine prevailed in every province, and the bark of the trees was the daily food for hundreds of thousands." The oppression was unendurable, and men, frenzied until they were more demon than human, rose in revolt.
In America the principles of the Reformation
had been put into practice with comparative ease. But France, having once rejected light, waded through blood in her demand for freedom.
Then appeared Napoleon. With the rapid movements of a master mind he carried victory for French arms throughout Europe. The army was the controlling element; nobles and clergy were alike powerless, and the common people had exhausted themselves without avail during the terrors of the past few years. He defeated the Austrians and captured Milan; he forced the pope, and various cities of Italy, to purchase peace by giving up their art collections. He organized a republic in Northern Italy, and compelled Austria to cede its Belgian provinces to France. He conducted an expedition to Egypt, hoping to gain control of the eastern Mediterranean. On the way he captured Malta, and then gained a victory over the Mohammedans of Egypt near the pyramids. Near the Nile, however, Bonaparte was met and defeated by Lord Nelson, the greatest of English naval officers. England, jealous of the rapid progress now being made by Napoleon, had opposed his progress in Egypt. Later, he defeated the Turks of Egypt at Aboukir. In 1799 a constitution was adopted in France, and Napoleon was chosen First Consul with two assistants. France had attempted to copy the Constitution of the United States, but the effect failed. The constitution of 1799 established a centralized government, and deprived the people of liberty and self-government. "Equality, not liberty, was all that the cause of France now represented."
The reforms of Napoleon are worthy of notice. Says the historian, "He personally participated
in the religious ceremonies which attended the formal restoration of the old system of worship where the Goddess of Reason had been enthroned with atheistic orgies." "Full toleration was secured for non-Catholics." It was Berthier, who in 1798 made the pope a prisoner, thus fulfilling the prophecy concerning the 1260 years of papal supremacy.
The reforms of Napoleon, however, tended only toward a monarchy, and while the people pleaded for republicanism, the pride of the man overruled, and he bent his energies toward his own exaltation. He was proclaimed emperor in 1804, and, in imitation of Charlemagne, he received a crown from Pope Pius VII in Notre Dame. Freedom seemed again to be defeated. Partial acceptance of truth brings only tyranny. This is individual as well as national experience.
The establishment of the principles of the Reformation, as seen in the adoption of the Constitution of the United States, was the result of Puritan faith and courage to follow in that light which led away from the papacy. The struggle of France is a warning to those who see no harm in harboring the principles of antichrist, or those who, having known the truth of civil and religious liberty, turn again to the bondage of error.
At the time of the end (1798) the kings of the north and the south again contended. From the founding of Constantinople by Constantine in 330, the power which held that city had maintained control of the Mediterranean, for Constantinople is recognized by all nations as the key to both Asia and Europe. In the time of the end, history will again center about this city.
As in times past, so again we are obliged to trace far back to find the source of events which now appear in full view. About the time that the papacy was growing into a full-fledged monarchy, recognized among nations of the earth, another power had birth. This new work of Satan came in the form of Mohammedanism, which to-day holds about one sixth of the world's population in its grasp. The new doctrine originated in Arabia, from whence it spread as a smoke from the bottomless pit. Syria fell under its power, but Egypt became the center of its influences. Egypt has felt every evil influence, and the banks of the Nile have fed every form of idolatry.
Mohammedanism is but another form of Egyptian darkness. By the power of the sword the followers of Mohammed strove to enter Europe. The western horn of the Crescent, the Moslem symbol, was extended into Spain in the early part of the eighth century, and for a time all Europe was threatened, but the battle of Tours (732) stopped the progress of the conquerors. In 1453, however, Constantinople was captured, and has since remained in the hands of the Turks, the boldest advocates of the doctrine of Mohammed. As the founding of Constantinople is a guidepost in history, so the capture of that city in 1453 is another landmark. One of the greatest checks received by the papacy was due to the influx into Italy of Greek scholars, driven from Constantinople by the incoming Mohammedans. The discovery of America was due to the closing of the eastern passage to the rich islands of the Indian Ocean by the Mohammedans in Constantinople and
Asia Minor, and so in more ways than is usually thought, God worked to advance truth through those who were ignorant of his truth.
Not only Egypt, but Syria and Turkey in Europe, belonged to the Mohammedans, and he has entered the "glorious land," and a Moslem mosque occupies the site where once stood the temple of Solomon. Edom, Moab, and Ammon, however, escaped the hand of this conquering power, and these countries receive an annual tribute from the Turks who pass in caravans on their way to Mecca.
The ambition of Napoleon to establish the authority of Europe in Egypt might have been the beginning of the last struggle between the north and the south. Even in his day Russia and France made friends, but the time had not yet come for the Turk to take his departure from Europe, and England took the part of Egypt against the arms of Napoleon. Napoleon recognized the strength of Constantinople, so also did Russia, and there has been constant jealousy among the nations of Europe lest one should outwit the others, and become the possessor of that stronghold.
Every eye is centered on that one spot, and has been for years. Turkey is known universally as the "Sick Man of the East," and the only reason he does not die is because intoxicants are administered, figuratively speaking, by first one nation then another. The time will come when he will remove from Constantinople, and take up his abode in Palestine; that is, plant his tabernacle between the Mediterranean and Red Seas. Time and again the world has been brought to realize that the end of all things is
near at hand, for all know that when the Turk steps out of Constantinople, there will be a general breaking up of Europe. They may not name this impending conflict the battle of Armageddon, but God has so named it. In the Crimean war of 1853-1856, the world trembled for Turkey, and, lest the crisis should be precipitated, England and France came to the rescue, and Russia was bidden to stand back. In the Russo-Turkish war of 1877, the powers of Europe united to sustain the life of the sick man.
"I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth. . . . And I saw another angel ascending from the east, having the seal of the living God; and he cried . . . saying, Hurt not the earth . . . till we have sealed the servants of our God in their foreheads." These angels now hold the winds of strife, waiting for the church of God to prepare for his coming. The sealing angel goes through Jerusalem (the church) to place the seal of the living God on the foreheads of the faithful, and while this work goes forward, Turkey stands as a national guidepost to the world, that men may know what is going on in the sanctuary above.
God's eye is upon his people, and he never leaves himself without a witness in the world. No man knows when Turkey will take its departure from Europe, but when that move is made, earth's history will be short. Then it will be said, "He that is unjust let him be unjust still, . . . and he that is righteous let him be righteous still." To-day is "the day of preparation." The fate of Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome is recorded for the edification
of the nations of to-day, and the lessons taught by all center in the events just before us. While the world watches Turkey, let the servant of God watch the movements of his great High Priest, whose ministry for sin is almost over.