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



Chapter 3


7. Laodicean State





The "little strength" of the Philadelphian state of the christian community was now exhausted, at the end of the "little season" of ten years, during which the "fellow-servants and brethren" were being killed by Diocletian, Galerius, and Maximin, as foretold in the prediction of the Fifth Seal. The revolution of the Sixth Seal had taken that which hindered the revelation of the Man of Sin out of the way, and had consequently restored peace and worldly prosperity to "the Church," of which the emperor Constantine had become the Head. The Laodicean state, which had been forming previous to and during the Diocletian persecution, was now fully inaugurated, and emblazoned in the legislative union which Constantine decreed. Henceforth, appears before the world, not the "One Body" of the faithful in Christ Jesus, but a new thing, or wonder in the heaven, styled by its admirers "THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH." In contemplating this Laodicean institution, the spirit of pure and undefiled religion, which is unspotted by the world, is not seen. Pompous apparatus, augmented superstitions and unmeaning forms of piety, much show and little substance appear. This is the impression which the account given by Eusebius leaves upon the mind.

The following extract from Milner strikingly illustrates the Laodicean character of the time. "If we look at the external appearance of christianity," says he, "nothing can be more splendid. An emperor full of zeal for the propagation of the only divine religion, by edicts restores to the church every thing of which it had been deprived, indemnifies those who had suffered, honors the pastors exceedingly, recommends to governors of provinces to promote the gospel; and though he will neither oblige them nor any others to profess it, yet he forbids them to make use of the sacrifices commonly made by prefects; he erects churches exceedingly sumptuous and ornamental, with distinctions of the parts corresponding in some measure to those in Solomon's temple; discovers with much zeal the Sepulchre of Christ at Jerusalem, real or pretended, and honors it with a most expensive sacred edifice. His mother Helena fills the whole Roman world with her munificent acts in support of religion; and after erecting churches, and travelling from place to place to evidence her zeal, dies before her son, aged eighty years. Nor is the christian (properly the catholic) cause neglected even out of the bounds of the Roman empire. Constantine zealously pleads, in a letter to Sapor, king of Persia, for the christians of his dominions; he destroys idol temples, prohibits impious pagan sights, puts an end to the savage fights of gladiators, stands up with respectful silence to hear the sermon of Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, the historian; furnishes him with the volume of the scriptures for the use of the churches; orders the observation of the festivals of martyrs; has prayers and reading of the scripture at his court; dedicates churches with great solemnity; makes christian orations himself, one of which, of considerable length, is preserved by the historian, his favourite bishop; directs the sacred observance of the Lord's day, to which he adds that of Friday also, the day of Christ's crucifixion; and teaches the soldiers of his army to pray by a short form made for their use.

"It may seem invidious," continues Milner, "to throw any shade upon this picture; but though the abolition of lewd, impious, and inhuman customs must have been of great advantage to society, and though the benefits of christianity compared with paganism, to the world, appear very strong by these means, yet all this, if sound principle be wanting, is but form and shadow" -- a mere improvement on paganism. "As it was difficult to clear Origen of depreciating the divinity of Christ, so it is still more difficult to exculpate Eusebuis, with whom he was a favourite author. There seems to have been both in Eusebius and some of his friends, and probably in the emperor himself, a disposition, of which, perhaps, they were not conscious, to lessen the honors of the Son of God. His sermons breathe little of christianity, so far as I have seen them; and he is so rhetorical and indistinct in his theological discourses, that it is difficult to extract any determinate propositions from his writings.

"It was to be expected that great defectiveness of doctrine would not fail to influence practice. External piety flourished, monastic societies in particular places were also growing, but faith, love, heavenly mindedness, appear very rare; yet among poor and obscure christians there may have been more godliness than could be seen at courts, and among bishops and persons of eminence. The doctrine of real conversion was very much lost, or external baptism was placed in its stead; and the true doctrine of justification by faith, and the true practical use of a crucified saviour for troubled consciences, were scarcely to be seen at this time. There was much outward religion, but this could not make men saints in heart and life. The worst part of the character of Constantine is, that as he grew older he grew more culpable, oppressive in his own family, oppressive in the government, oppressive by eastern superfluous magnificence; and the history of the times shows how little true humility and charity were now known in the christian world, while superstition and self-righteousness were making vigorous shoots, and the real gospel of Christ was hidden from men who professed it."

Such was the pass at which christianity had arrived at the opening of the Sixth Seal, A.D. 311. Laodiceanism had extinguished the little strength of the Philadelphian state which preceded it. In this, the Spirit had "come quickly," or suddenly, upon them in the judgments of the Fifth Seal for the abominations of the existing and previous states. Christianity was now paganized; and as ministered by the bishops and presbyters of the churches, was ineffectual for the salvation of men. It was no longer of use in their hands for the taking out of a people from among the Gentiles for the Name (Acts xv. 14). The time had therefore come to spue them out of the Spirit's mouth. As Milner says, "their external appearance was splendid;" and they imagined that, being enriched and increased with goods by Constantine's munificence, "they had need of nothing;" but the Spirit declares, that they were ignorant of their true spiritual condition; and that they were really "miserable, and pitiable, and poor, and blind, and naked." For the great mass of them, he had no love. They preferred to bask in the imperial sunshine, and to enjoy the favours of the glorious emperor. He therefore left them to their own folly; and as they had set their affections upon things that perish, "God sent upon them a strong delusion unto their believing in the lie; that all might be condemned who believe not the truth, but have pleasure in the unrighteousness" (2 Thess. ii. 11). "As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten;" but these Laodiceans, of what had become under Constantine's patronage "the Holy Roman Catholic Church," were without chastisement, and were therefore "bastards, and not sons." The sons were still a people subject to tribulation; and we see them in Apoc. xii., as a fugitive woman fleeing for refuge into the wings of the Great Eagle, far removed from the presence of the new Imperio-Episcopal Despotism -- a tyranny constituted by the unhallowed union of church and state.

Let the reader understand then distinctly, that the Constantinian era was that in which the Apostasy from true christianity as originally set forth by the apostles, was perfected; and that being perfected, the Spirit withdrew himself from it entirely. It became as completely separated from the Anointed Jesus and his love, as the loathsome ejecta vomited from the stomach of the person vomiting. The Holy Catholic Church so-called, is a mere spue; and all the churches of which she is "the Mother," are "the Abominations" that have effervesced from its putrefaction. They are mere forms of Laodiceanism -- the genuine progeny of the Roman Jezebel. Since the period of the Sixth Seal, the true believers of the gospel must be sought for in a different channel. They are not to be found among catholics, Greek or Latin; nor among any that recognize catholics in faith, practice, and spirit, as christians. They are not to be found among infant sprinklers of any "name" or "denomination;" nor among adult-immersionists, who understand not "the gospel of the kingdom" preached by Jesus and the apostles. Christians are a separate and distinct class from all these, who are but Laodiceans in faith, spirit, state, and practice. These have been the persecutors of the saints in all ages; that is, from the time the Spirit vomited them out of his mouth in the beginning of the fourth century to the time in which I am now writing; and they will continue to persecute in word or deed, or in both where they are able, "until the Ancient of Days come;" for the Laodicean State being concurrent with the Seventh Seal the judgments of which have been appointed especially for the punishment and tormentation of the Laodiceans, not for their chastisement as sons beloved, but for their destruction as despised bastards -- it does not terminate till "the wrath of God" contained in the Seventh Vial section of the Seventh Seal, is poured out to the last drop (Apoc. xv. 1,8). In my "Chronological Tableau" I have, in the third column, inscribed certain names which are familiar to the readers of history. They are by no means all that might have been appropriately inserted there. They are but a specimen of an immense multitude who have figured in the arena of the Laodicean Apostasy in its internal strifes and agitations. I have inscribed them as names illustrative of the principal genera and species of the class, APOSTASIA; which Paul taught was to precede and extend to the epiphany of Christ's parousia, or manifestation of his presence. All the popes from Constantine, and their cardinals, bishops, priests, and so forth; and all in fellowship with them; and all the several orders of monkery; and the hierarchies of protestantism, which is but a modification of Romanism, might have been detailed. But such an enumeration is unnecessary. The few we have selected will illustrate the whole, and stand as the representative of those who boast in them as the stars, and constellations of their pietism. Many of them have been useful in their day and generation. Justin, Origen, Clemens, and others, though corruptors of the faith, were useful in transforming paganism into Laodiceanism; which, though intrinsically contemptible and worthless as a means of salvation, is an improvement upon paganism. So Huss, Jerome, Luther, Calvin, Knox, and such like, all of them Romanists and ignorant of the gospel of the Kingdom, which consequently they never obeyed, were useful in blindly developing protestantism, which, with all its imperfections and worthlessness as a means of eternal life, is an improvement on Romish superstition and immorality. The last names on the list are representative of contemporary dilutions of protestantism. Whether they be improvements upon the original is questionable; they are at all events better than Romanism, if we except Mormonism, which is cruel as the grave. They are forms of error, which, however diversified among themselves, are essentially Laodicean; yet, are not without their use in contributing to antagonize the rich and powerful sects; and to prevent them from coalescing into a colossal despotism, by which the gospel of the kingdom might be utterly suppressed. Pious faithlessness of the word is characteristic of them all. They are without exception the exact counterpart of the Laodicean Angel contemporary with John. The characteristics of this are equally those of Laodiceans from Constantine to the manifestation of the presence of the Christ -- "miserable, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." The Spirit, in the present advocacy of the gospel of the kingdom, "counsels them to buy of him gold tried in the fire, that they may be rich; and white raiment that they may be clothed, and that the shame of their nakedness do not appear; and to anoint their eyes with eye-salve that they may see." Thus "he stands at the door and knocks;" and ready to come as a thief (Apoc. xvi. 15). But for the most part they pay no heed. Yet, if any will open, he will enter in, and sup with him. Who then will hearken to what the Spirit saith to the churches?





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