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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profound impression upon the religious thought of the second century was the “Timæus,” wherein the Deity is pictured as withdrawn from the world into a distant heaven separated from all creation because of the evil with which matter is essentially connected. With God withdrawn from the world and Christ absent on a long journey, what was man to do?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 systenı 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 brotherhood.
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.
The secret of this reformatory power was Jesus Christ himself, the great ever-living head of the First cause church. Notwithstanding the deof reformation cline 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.
Jesus was indeed the Christ of God. The light which shone forth from his presence could not be Classical
totally obscured, and the moral learning
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.
The Reformation was the sincere effort of honest men to restore the truth of primitive ChristianLove for
ity, that the world might again extruth
perience 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