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Sixth Edition, 1915
By Dr. John Thomas (first edition written 1861)



Chapter 2


3. The Woman Jezebel




As we have shown in our exposition of the apocalyptic "Balaam and "Nikolaitans," there existed a class of teachers calling themselves "christians," contemporary with the apostles, who taught "another gospel," and set forth a Jesus, which Paul styled "another Jesus; "both of which, that is, the Jesus and their gospel, were different from the real Jesus and the true gospel, proclaimed by the apostles; and subversive of the divine teaching concerning them. This class of teachers, styled by Peter "false teachers;" and by John, "false prophets and" deceivers who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh" which heresy, or falsehood, he says, "is the Deceiver and the Antichrist" wherever found (2 Pet. ii. 1; 1 John iv. 1; 2 John 7): this class, I say, had become numerous and influential by the end of the first century; and were to be found sowing tares in all the field of the apostolic labors. They were the "reverend divines" and "D.D's" of the Nineteenth Century in embryo -- the self-styled "apostles" to whom "the Clergy" of our day are the undoubted "successors." They taught the same doctrine as our clergy, and therefore they are unquestionably the same class.

Now false teachers, prophets, and deceivers are aggregately represented in the scriptures of the Old and New Testament, by a woman of vicious and profligate character. Thus, the Spirit in Ezekiel xxii. 25, in speaking of the leaders of the people in Jerusalem, says, "there is a conspiracy of her prophets in the midst thereof; like a roaring lion ravening the prey, they have devoured souls; they have taken the treasure and precious things. Her priests have violated my holy law, and have profaned my holy things. Her prophets have daubed souls with untempered mortar, seeing vanity, and divining lies unto them, saying, Thus saith Yahweh Elohim, when Yahweh hath not spoken." These priests and prophets, who were princes in Jerusalem and Samaria, are represented in the next chapter by two lewd women, "the Daughters of One Mother," Aholah the elder, and Aholibah her sister. "Thus were their names," says the Spirit; "Samaria is Aholah, and Jerusalem, Aholibah." Then follows the indictment against them, in which their apostasy from the Mosaic Law in its simplicity, in their blending it with the abominable customs and principles of heathenism, is likened to the intercourse of harlotry and adultery. The priests and prophets of Samaria were Aholah the harlot daughter of the comely and delicate woman, Zion under the law (Jer. vi. 2); and the same class in Jerusalem were Aholibah, the younger harlot of the same mother, "more corrupt in her inordinate love than Aholah."

In the New Testament, the disciples of Jesus Anointed, who, though not all "elders," "apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers," are all "living stones built up a spiritual house, a holy and royal priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people" (Eph. iv. 11; 1 Pet. ii. 5,9; Apoc. v. 9,10). And so long as they held fast the name, and did not deny the faith, of Jesus Anointed, they are styled apocalyptically "the Woman," and "the Woman of the Lamb" (Apoc. xii. 6,14,16,17; xix. 7,8). But when a schism of this one body was elaborated by false teaching, the teachers and those who followed the teaching, ceased to be of "the Woman of the Lamb;" but became "a woman," or an adulteress.

Such had become the situation of affairs by the close of the first century. There were two women in the Roman Habitable claiming to be the Spouse of Christ; the one, "a Chaste Virgin, begotten and espoused to one husband, the Christ, by the word" (2 Cor. xi. 2; 1 Cor. iv. 15; Eph. v. 26); the other, a woman, drunken and adulterous, and the Mother of a progeny of Harlots, and of the Abominations of the earth (Apoc. xvii. 1-6; xiv. 4), all of them, mother and daughters, begotten of the traditions and commandments of men, making void the word of God. Between these two women there was rivalry and indignation. The adulteress proclaimed that she was rich, and increased in goods, and had need of nothing; and invited the world, in all its filthy garments, to her embrace. This is what is proverbially styled "the World and his Woman," called by his friends and boon companions, "THE CHURCH." Scripturally, they are Ahab and Jezebel, the adversaries and destroyers of the saints; and wherever any of their prophets are found ministering before the people, there the principles of the flesh, and the gospel-nullifying traditions of men, are glorified and prevail; because, "being of the world, therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them" (1 John iv. 5). This is an unmistakable criterion. The world will not listen to the counsel, and support any women, but Jezebel and her daughters. Whatever "preacher" will present himself in the name of Jezebel, him will the world listen to with open mouth and ears; for the principles he inculcates are what the flesh approves.

The apocalyptic woman that had been manifested in John's day was styled "Jezebel," because the character of the class of false teachers was analogous to that of the wife of Ahab, known in Jewish history by that name. Hence, the literal Jezebel was made the type, or pattern, of the class, which became the figurative Jezebel. There was no literal woman named Jezebel in Thyatira claiming to be a christian, any more than there was a literal Antipas and Balaam in Pergamos of these names; at least history gives no account of any. Therefore the typical Jezebel must be that Jezebel of the Old Testament. The study of her history and circumstances must be virtually the study of her antitype, and that antitype is the adulteress, or pseudo church, of false teachers, in which the abettors of Balaam's teaching were embodied; and who differs from Balaam in this that she is the adulterous exhibition of what Balaam taught. Her name in Hebrew is (!Hebrew!) Izabel, which is compounded of(!Hebrew!) not and (!Hebrew!) she dwells. As if the Spirit had said, she dwells not with me; that is, the teachers and their disciples who teach and seduce to commit prostitution, and to eat idol sacrifices, are not my spouse. Thus by conferring this name upon them, the real spouse of Christ in those days was vindicated by the Spirit. No wonder the Apocalypse was unpopular with those who held the doctrine of Balaam in those days, as it hath also been to this day with the same class. They know they do not teach the word, and that they can define neither the name nor the faith of the Spirit; and they know that they teach for the hire paid them by the house of Ahab, or the world; and that they love the wages of unrighteousness. How then can a book be popular with such which proclaims them to be not the spouse of the Spirit; but the harlot community prostituting itself for hire to an ignorant, superstitious, and besotted world?

But Izebel or Jezebel, is not only etymologically an appropriate type of the clerical orders of Christendom, whose constituents are "the prophets" of the world; the origin, and character, and fate of the woman are also typical of the origin, character, and fate of the "reverend divines," and doctors of divinity, who minister to the itching ears of those who heap up to themselves teachers after their own lusts, and are turned aside to fables. Jezebel was the daughter of Ethbaal, the idolatrous king of the Zidonians, whose name imported dedication to Baal the false god, the lord of the people; whom Balaam had before taught the Israelites to serve with fornication and idolatry. Now the origin of the clergy is analogous to this. They were begotten in idolatry, or in Baal. "The Lord saw folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused his people Israel to err" (Jer. xxiii. 13). Peter also testifies this of certain prophets, styling themselves christian teachers, in his day. In writing to the elect he says, "there will be false teachers among you, who privily will bring in damnable heresies. These, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption. They have eyes full of an adulteress (full of Jezebel) and that cannot cease from sin; beguiling unstable souls; a heart have they exercised with covetous practices; cursed children, who have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the Way of Balaam son of Bosor, who loved the wanes of unrighteousness. They are wells without water, clouds that are carried of a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever." Such were the clergy in their origin. The generation of the clerical Jezebel in our day, however, differs from the generation of their brethren and fathers in the days of Peter in this, that our clergy never were the children of God, and were never in the right way; therefore, though the accursed preachers of other gospels than the true one, they are not "cursed children:" and have not "forsaken the right way," because they were never in it. "The Way of Balaam" is emphatically the Way of the Clergy in all post-apostolical and pre-millennia] generations. Their eyes are full of Jezebel, whose original practice is proverbially "the ministerial sin." They speak evil of the things they do not understand; and they undertake to teach what they know nothing about; and therefore, they are "wells without water."

These clerical prophets in Balaam, and therefore in Baal, in undertaking to speak to the edification, exhortation, and comfort of souls, being of a class represented by a woman, "called herself a prophetess." They became an ecclesiastical woman prophesying deceits. She was begotten of falsehood, so that the father of the clergy is "the Devil, who was a liar from the beginning." "Except ye be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, ye cannot be saved." This was the first element of the falsehood enunciated to christians by teachers in the presence of the apostles. They set up the dogma, that a Gentile must believe the gospel, be immersed, be circumcised, and keep the law, in order to salvation. This was the first lie taught for truth after the ascension of Jesus; and those who taught it, constituted in themselves, and therefore originated, the anti-apostolic order, familiarly known in our day as "the clergy." Hence, the clergy are Judaizers to this day -- commanding to fast, to abstain from meats, to keep holy days, and sabbaths.

But the falsehood which generated their order was not complete till the principles of heathen philosophy were commingled with the Judaic dogma. This was effected when they denied the resurrection of the body in affirming, as Justin testifies they did, that what they call "souls" went immediately to heaven at death. This Judaized Heathenism constituted what Paul calls "a lie," and "the Mystery of Iniquity" -- a system of falsehood formative of the clerical order, which gave them a parentage like that of Jezebel. The principles styled Baal (for Baal having no real existence, was only a system of ideas, so called, that lorded it over those who acknowledged it), gave origin to the clergy who worship Baal and preach him everywhere. The Sidonians believed in immortal souls, in their going to heaven at death, and in a place of torment, where the wicked burned in fire eternally. They also believed in sacrifice to propitiate the Deity, and in making long and noisy prayers, by which to induce him to hear them. Our clergy have not advanced one step beyond this since the days of Jezebel. She believed these things, and were she personally in existence now, she could have no scruples in becoming a member of any clergyman's church in this city, Catholic or Protestant. It is true, the clergy now hold a few principles, or rather opinions, unknown to Jezebel and her clergy, the original prophets of immortal-soulism. They believe in a Jesus of whom she had never heard; but their belief in this other Jesus whom Paul did not preach, does not at all interfere with their hearty adhesion to the Baal-System of Ideas. Their eyes are full of Jezebel, and she was full of Baal.

Prostitution, and eating the sacrifices offered to the idol-representations of the dead, whose souls were said to be alive, were institutions of Baal-Religion. When Israel were seduced by the Moabitish women to worship Baal, at the suggestion of Balaam, they committed whoredom with them, and ate the sacrifices of their gods. The Balaamite clergy were guilty of the same thing. They privily introduced idolatrous practices among christians. They taught them to eat of the sacrifices sold as holy meat, by which they became partakers of the idol-altars, and propitiated the heathen, for in so doing, they contributed to the support of the pagan priesthood. But Paul objected to this sort of compromise in toto. His argument was, that the things the Gentiles sacrificed they sacrificed to demons, to the ghosts of dead men, and not to God; and that in eating of them knowingly, they had fellowship with their imaginary demons. He told them that when they went to the butcher's they should ask no question, but just buy whatever came to hand. They would then buy in ignorance, having no knowledge whether there was sacrificial meat or not. But if any one said, "this is offered in sacrifice to idols," he told them not to eat it, for the eating then involved a principle of fellowship with deified ghosts, in the judgment of him who invited to eat.

Paul's anxiety was that the Corinthian brethren should "not have fellowship with demons," or deified imaginary ghosts, called "immortal souls." These demons had a table and a cup, as well as the Lord; and Paul taught that they could not partake of both without sin. The same demons have a table and a cup now, modified, however, in this, that bread cut up into pieces, emblematic of the divisions of antichristendom, is substituted for meats offered to the demons. The table spread by the clergy, and called by them "the sacrament," is the modern table of the demons. It is the table of those who believe in deified immortal souls, who are the gods of the clerical system. It is Jezebel's table, at which a saint cannot eat without having fellowship with the demons she funeralizes to glory, which is sin. Her churches are a synagogue of unbaptized "miserable sinners," as they proclaim themselves to be in their prayers, and consequently, her table cannot be the Lord's, for his teaching has no place for such there -- the miserable patrons of demons belong to Jezebel, not to the spouse of Christ.

Again, prostitution, literal and figurative, is a notorious clerical vice, and characteristic of Jezebel. She forbids to marry, and in so doing, "teaches to commit fornication." The priests of the Romish Jezebel are literally a body of whoremongers and adulterers, and their nunneries houses of ill fame; and though, on account of the marriage of the Protestant clergy, this is not the case to the same extent, yet spiritually they are in the same condemnation; for "fornication," in its figurative sense, imports unhallowed union with the world, and blasphemy against God. They are all guilty of this. If they knew the truth, and told the world the truth, the world would not support them. Now, "all that is of the world is not of the Father;" and "he that is the friend of the world is the enemy of God;" they pretend to be God's servants, to be His church or spouse, and yet they serve the world for hire. They are therefore prostitutes and men-pleasers, and consequently, cannot possibly be the servants of Christ, whose name they blaspheme in all their institutions.

The literal Jezebel was a persecutor and slayer of the prophets of Yahweh; and the antitypical, or clerical, Jezebel has been pre-eminently so. The clergy from their origin until now, have always been opposed to the truth; and have always had a hand in stirring up persecution for its suppression. The civil power, or the Diabolos, has been the instrument of their malevolence and cruelty; and though they cannot inflict personal violence in this country, they still retain much power for evil in the territory of the Beast. But the fate of Jezebel awaits them. She was hurled from her high and queenly estate with violence, and devoured by dogs so completely, that they found not of her what to bury. Jezebel has not yet come to this. She is still in her glory, rioting in drunkenness and prostitution.

It was a fault charged upon the presbytery of the ecclesia in Thyatira, that they permitted some of the Jezebel class to teach the servants of Christ there. It was the duty of an eldership not to allow error to be inculcated. They appear to have been too tolerant. Teaching which led to practices and conclusions subversive of morality and the gospel ought not to have been allowed. They had the truth, which had been divinely planted among them, and all things not according to that, they ought to have authoritatively suppressed. This course would have been an effectual barrier against Jezebel, and her Balaamite and Nikolaitan progeny. But this course was not pursued. She obtained a foothold, and the consequence has been the extinction of Antipas in Thyatira, where none are now to be found who hold fast the name and the faith of Jesus Christ as his faithful witnesses.

"I gave Jezebel time," saith the Spirit, "that she might heartily turn from her prostitution; but she turned not." As we have said, Jezebel still lives, and she lives in sin. In the days of John she was without political sovereignty; she was the daughter of Ethbaal the idolater; but she had not been married to the Greco-Latin Ahab. The Judaizing and Gnostic clergy were actively working the Mystery of Iniquity into authority; they had organized it into a synagogue, and were privily insinuating it into the elderships; but they had not yet succeeded in allying themselves to the State. The apostles, while living, warned them and exhorted them to turn from their evil course; but, as John says, "they hear us not;" and went out from fellowship with them, and circumvented them in every possible way. Referring to these whom he calls "the Satan" after whom some had turned aside, Paul says, in writing to Timothy, "This thou knowest, that all they which are in Asia be turned away from me; of whom are Phygellus and Hermogenes." These were two clergymen, friends of Balaam and Jezebel the prophetess, who taught the inherent immortality of the soul of the flesh; and therefore, with two other clergymen named Hymenaeus and Philetus, said that the resurrection is already past; and that, consequently, there is no future resurrection of the dead; resurrection being unnecessary upon the Jezebel principle of the immortal soul of sinful flesh going immediately to heaven at the death of the body. Paul argues ably against this heathen absurdity in 1 Cor. xv. But it had no effect upon Jezebel the prophetess for "seducers waxed worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived and she still went on in her vicious course. "I gave her time," says the Spirit, "that she might heartily turn from her prostitution." Instead of slaying every deceiver in communion with her, as he had Ananias and his wife Sapphire, he gave her time. That time has not yet expired; for Jezebel lives, but has not repented; but instead thereof, "sits as a woman drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus," upon an association of ensanguined and blasphemous powers, represented by "a scarlet colored beast, full of names of blasphemy" (Apoc. xvii. 3,6).

The writers of the second, third, and fourth centuries, styled by the clergy of our day "the Fathers," with probably an exception or two, were all of Jezebel. In the letter before us, they are styled "her children;" they were such, because they were unfaithful to the truth; and though they suffered death by the pagan power for their opinions, it was, in the providence of God, a present punishment for their iniquity. "Behold," saith the Spirit, "I cast her into a bed, and them that commit adultery with her into a great tribulation, except they may have heartily turned from their deeds. And I will kill her children with death, and all the ecclesias shall know that I am the searcher of reins and hearts." In reading the history of these centuries the student of ecclesiastical history must not suppose that all called "christians" who died by the hand of the executioner, were put to death for their adherence to the name and faith of Jesus Christ. Multitudes had a rage for martyrdom, and gave their bodies to the fire in expiation of iniquity, transgression, and apostasy. These were "those who committed adultery with Jezebel," the clerical fathers, and "her children," who looked up to those fathers as the deluded people of "the religious world" look up now to the clergy who deceive them, regarding them with awe as their "spiritual guides" and "fathers in Cod." The tribulation that came upon the body indiscriminately regarded as "christian" by the pagan authorities, an apostle terms "judgment beginning at the House of God." "If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye," says Peter;" for the Spirit of glory and of the Deity resteth upon you; on their part (on that of the persecutor) he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or an evil-doer, or as a busy body in other men's matters. Yet if any man suffer as a christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment begin at the house of God: and if first at us, what shall the end be of them who obey not the gospel of the Deity? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear? (1 Pet. iv. 14-18). Many suffered "as evil-doers" under the name of christian." Thus Milner observes, "Many heretics, who wore the name of christians, were guilty of the most detestable enormities; these were indiscriminately charged by the pagans on the christians in general." And again, "the abominations of heretics, whom ignorance and malice will ever confound with real christians, furnished the enemies of Christ with some tolerably specious pretensions. Probably these were much exaggerated; but whatever they were, the whole Christian Name was accused of them." "The injudicious conduct of apologists," says Gibbon, "betrayed the common cause of christianity, to gratify their devout hatred to the domestic enemies of the church. It was sometimes faintly insinuated, and sometimes boldly asserted, that the same bloody sacrifices, and the same incestuous festivals, which were so falsely ascribed to the orthodox believers, were in reality celebrated by the Marcionites, by the Carpocratians, and by several other sects of the Gnostics. Accusations of a similar kind were retorted upon the church by the schismatics who had departed from its communion, and it was confessed upon all sides, that the most scandalous licentiousness of manners prevailed among great numbers of those who affected the name of christians." The apocalyptic letters plainly testify to the existence of this state of things in the christendom of the close of the first century. There were two classes -- the Antipas, or faithful witnesses, who held the truth in righteousness; and the Nikolaitans, or children of Jezebel, who held the doctrine of Balaam, and seduced the servants of Jesus Christ to the practice of deeds which he detested. Against these judgment is threatened in the words, "I will kill Jezebel's children with death; and all the ecclesias shall know that I am he who searches the reins and hearts." To kill with death is to destroy with violence -- by judgment through the magistrate, who wielded the sword of office for the execution of the law. To kill with death was not to permit the offenders to die a natural death. All such, who gave their bodies to be burned, or to be thrown to the wild beasts, or to any other form of martyrdom, were mere "sounding brass and tinkling cymbals;" and heirs of the vengeance to be revealed in "the Second Death." They had not faith to give them the victory over the world; so the world overcame them by its seductions, and exposed them to be "hurt of the Second Death," which is manifested after the resurrection of the flesh. When this time arrives, the "bed" will have been prepared for Jezebel, and she will then be "cast into it;" and not she only, but with her them that commit adultery. This bed is the "great tribulation," or "sorrow," in which the antichristian apostasy is to be destroyed at the apocalypse of Jesus Christ in "the Hour of judgment;" when Babylon, the Great City, falls because of her having prostituted and debauched all the nations with her blasphemies and abominations. The ecclesiasticism of the earth and of the whole habitable, with all the clerical orders by which it is upheld, will be utterly abolished by the wrath of the Deity poured out without mixture, which they will be compelled to drink with great torment in the presence of Jesus and the Saints (Apoc. xiv. 7-11; xviii. 2). Into this bed of tribulation Jezebel is at length cast, with all her antichristian and clerical adherents, who, in the text last quoted, are typified by "demons," "foul spirits," and "hateful birds;" for the Thyatiran Jezebel is but the germ of that Babylon which, as a mighty Upas banded with brass and iron, now overshadows all nations with its pestiferous and besotting influence.

Now this "great tribulation," which is yet antitypically to come upon "Babylon, the Great, the Mother of Harlots," was typically poured out upon the Thyatiran Jezebel previous to the taking of the pagan hierarchy out of the way, which prevented the manifestation of the Lawless One, who would be set up as the head of Jezebel, and as a substitute for Christ upon earth. As Christ is the Head of the true Woman, the body of the faithful; so the Pope is the present Head of Jezebel, the Mother of Harlots, and of all her family. But, before Christ appears in power, his woman passes "through much tribulation to enter into the kingdom of the Deity" (Acts xiv. 22); and so, before Antichrist (the power which set up as Christ's substitute, and is now incorporated in the chief styled "the Pope") appeared in power, the Thyatiran Adulteress was made to pass through "a great tribulation" ere she could enter into the kingdom of this world; and mount the scarlet-colored beast; and "sit a Queen and no widow;" and, intoxicated with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus, say with complacency, "I shall see no sorrow." She had to pass through the "Ten Days," which the Spirit forewarned the Smyrneans they would be tried with, when the Diabolos should cast of them into prison, or the house of death. The reader is here referred to what has been written about the "ten days' tribulation" on page **. "All the ecclesias" in the proconsular Asia were afflicted by this; and Thyatira's, consequently, among the rest.

But the Ten Days' tribulation of Trajan's reign was but an earnest, as it were, of the great tribulation to which the christian name would be subjected before the Jezebel Apostasy from apostolic teaching should attain to political sovereignty over the nations, and be "spued out of the mouth of the Spirit." They had to pass through that "Hour of trial, which," the Spirit forewarned the Philadelphians," should come upon the whole habitable, to prove them that dwell upon the earth" (Apoc. iii. 10). Judgment the most terrible would befall her, which "all the ecclesias" would perceive was the hand of God punishing her by the sword of the ruler for her abominations.

And so it was. Ecclesiastical historians inform us, that in the third century the pure light of the gospel was much clouded and depraved by an unhappy nurture of philosophical self-righteousness and superstition. With the exception of three years, the christians had enjoyed a long peace of thirty seven years to A.D. 248. This, it appears from one of Origen's homilies, was followed by a great degree of lukewarmness, and even of much religious indecorum. The declension seems to have been remarkable. "Several," says he, "come to church only on solemn festivals; and then not so much for instructions as diversion; some go out again as soon as they have heard the lecture, without conferring, or asking the pastors any questions; others stay not till the lecture is ended; and others hear not so much as a single word, but entertain themselves in a corner of the church." "Elsewhere," says Milner, "he complains of the ambitious and haughty manners of pastors, and of the improper steps which some took to obtain preferments." At this time, the reigning emperor, Philip the Arabian, who murdered his predecessor, is styled by Eusebius a christian;" and indeed, that he was so by profession," says Milner, "seems well attested by the concurrent voice of antiquity;" and he adds, "there is no doubt but in the fourth year of his reign, A.D. 247, he allowed and conducted the secular games which were full of idolatry."

This Philip was slain and succeeded by Decius, A.D. 248. His enmity to Philip conspired with his pagan prejudices to bring on the most dreadful persecution ever yet experienced by christians. It was evident that nothing less than the destruction of the christian name was intended. The persecution raged with astonishing fury both in the East and West. Cyprian, an overseer in "the church" at Carthage during the persecution, recognizes it as a chastisement for sin. In a treatise of his concerning "the Lapsed," is an account of the declension that had taken place before his conversion, and which moved God to chastise "the church." "If the cause of our miseries," says he, "be investigated, the cure of the wound may be found. The Lord would have his family to be TRIED. And because long peace had corrupted the discipline divinely revealed to us, the heavenly chastisement hath raised up our faith, which had lain almost dormant; and when, by our sins, we had deserved to suffer still more, the merciful Lord so moderated all things, that the whole scene rather deserves the name of A TRIAL than a persecution. Each had been bent on improving his patrimony; and had forgotten what believers had done under the Apostles, and what they ought always to do. They were brooding over the arts of amassing wealth. The pastors and the deacons each forgot their duty; works of mercy were neglected, and discipline was at the lowest ebb. Luxury and effeminacy prevailed. Meretricious arts in dress were cultivated. Fraud and deceit were practised among brethren. Christians could unite themselves in matrimony with unbelievers; could swear not only without reverence, but even without veracity. With haughty asperity they despised their ecclesiastical superiors. They railed against one another with outrageous acrimony, and conducted quarrels with determined malice. Even many bishops, who ought to be guides and patterns for the rest, neglecting the peculiar duties of their stations, gave themselves up to secular pursuits. They deserted their places of residence and their flocks: they travelled through distant provinces in quest of pleasure and gain; gave no assistance to the needy brethren; but were insatiable in their thirst of money. They possessed estates by fraud and multiplied usury. What have we not deserved to suffer for such a conduct? Even the Divine Word hath foretold us what we might expect, saying, 'If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments, I will visit their offences with the rod, and their sin with scourges.' These things had been denounced and foretold, but in vain. Our sins had brought our affairs to that pass, that because we had despised the Lord's directions, we were obliged to undergo a correction of our multiplied evils, and a trial of our faith by severe remedies."

The foregoing extract will illustrate the saying of the Spirit, "and all the ecclesias shall know that I am the searcher of reins and hearts." There were those in the ecclesias, crowded as they were with worthless pastors and people, who discerned the signs of the times. The faithful deplored the evils, and justified God in His chastisements, which were "according to their works." Exhortations to duty would have made no impression upon them; nothing but the sword could arouse them to a due perception of their position. Avarice, under the teaching of Balaam, had taken deep root among them; and, as soon as the times became dangerous, vast numbers lapsed into idolatry immediately. Even before men were accused of being christians, "many ran to the forum and sacrificed to the gods as they were ordered; and the crowds of apostates were so great that the magistrates wished to delay numbers of them till the next day, but they were importuned," says Cyprian, "by the wretched suppliants to be allowed to prove themselves heathens that very night." If Cyprian had lived in the nineteenth instead of in the middle of the third century, he could not have given a more accurate description of the pastors and people who call themselves christians, than is contained in the foregoing extract; and if tribulation such as the Decian were to come upon "the church" now, the multitude of professors would be as hasty and importunate as his contemporaries to protest that they belonged to anything else than the sect proscribed by the ruling power.




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