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



Chapter 12

Section 23

The Flight of the Woman



"And the Woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place of the Deity, that they may sustain her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days" - Verse 6


The ANTIPAGAN BODY, compared in the prophecy to a WOMAN, consisted of Catholics, Novatians, Donatists, Valentinians, Marcionites, Paulists, Cataphrygians, and others, whose names are no longer remembered. Out of this heterogeneous community, which agreed only in its Opposition to the reigning idolatry, the Man-child of Sin was developed, A.D. 312,313. The fall of Maxentius was the crisis of his birth. Being decreed by the Senate the first of the three Augusti of the Roman world, and being in intimate alliance with Licinius, then seemingly favorable to his policy, he published jointly with him the famous Edict of Milan. This was the great charter of toleration. It granted to "the whole body of the christians," as well as to others, the free choice to fol-low that mode of worship which they may wish; and that no freedom at all shall be refused them. No distinction was made between christian and pagan in this matter; so that each might have the privilege to select and worship whatsoever divinity he pleased. Nor was there any distinction made with regard to sect in "the whole body." When the edict was published, Constantine's mind was either undecided as to which religion was absolutely true, or he hesitated to speak plainly that he might not offend the latent prejudices of his colleague. This indiscriminate toleration, he said, "has been done by us, that we might not appear in any manner to detract anything from any manner of religion, or any mode of worship."

But, though well disposed to Antipaganism, the Man-Child of Sin, at the time of the edict of Milan, did not know his own Mother. He was too young to be able to discern her. He did not know to which sect of "the whole body of christians" he belonged. It was not long, however, before the worst of the sects was able to establish its ascendancy over the untutored mind of this ambitious and fortunate soldier. This was the sect which styles itself, and taught him so to style it, "THE HOLY CATHOLIC CHURCH." This was that sect which was preeminently "wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked;" but which said, "l am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing." It was the sect in which the rage of faction exploded in frequent and violent seditions; and the blood of its members was shed by each other's hands. Hilary, a contemporary of the times, writes to Constantine's successor, and declares concerning the catholic clergy, that "in the wide extent of the ten provinces of Asia, to which he had been banished, there could be found very few prelates who had preserved the knowledge of the true God. It is a thing equally deplorable and dangerous that there are as many creeds as Opinions among men, as many doctrines as inclinations, and as many sources of blasphemy as there are faults among us; because we make creeds arbitrarily. The Homousion is rejected and received and explained away by successive synods. The partial or total resemblance of the Father and of the Son is a subject of dispute for these unhappy times. Every year, nay every moon, we make new creeds to describe invisible mysteries. We repent of what we have done, we defend those who repent, we anathematize those whom we defended. We condemn either the doctrine of others in ourselves, or our own in that of others; and reciprocally tearing one another to pieces, we have been the cause of each other's ruin."

Such was the sect which Constantine concluded it would be to his interest to ally himself to. He, therefore, used the altars of catholicism as a convenient footstool to the throne of universal dominion. He came to imbibe the piety peculiar to it, and with it its sanguinary spirit of persecution, and murderous hostility to all who dissented from it. The catholic church became the especial object of his care and favorable legislation; and he was taught by its bishops to believe that its members were his only real and trustworthy adherents. Impressed with this conviction he established it by law; and set it up in the heaven as the "Woman invested with the sun, and the moon underneath her feet, and upon her head a wreath of twelve stars." And there she has remained over fifteen hundred and fifty years, even to this day. She has never been a fugitive in the wilderness: but has always (except in the short reign of Julian, who apostatized from her communion) retained her position in the heaven, by enacting the part of a Harlot with the kings of earth, until with her whoredoms and sanguinary abominations, she be-came "the Great Harlot sitting upon many waters, drunken with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the witnesses of Jesus" (Apoc.17:1,2,6).

But when Constantine came to recognize the catholic sect as his Mother Church, what became of the rest of the Anti-pagan Body "the whole body of the Christians" besides, namely, of the Novatians, Donatists, Valentinians, Marcionites, Paulists, Cataphrygians, and others? They were still "the Woman," only minus the catholic sect. Whatever other differences obtained among them, they were generally opposed to the union of church and state; for, as all of them could not be the world's church, they were displeased at any one sect enjoying that preeminence over the rest. "What," said they, "has the emperor to do with the church? What have Christians to do with kings, or what have bishops to do at court?" Hence, without ceasing to be anti-pagan, they now became an ANTI-CATHOLIC BODY. This was the Woman" of the sixth verse of this twelfth chapter - the ANTI-CATHOLIC WOMAN. Between this woman and the Sun-clothed Harlot in the heaven, there has been, and can be, no fellowship. They are essentially hostile Organizations. Not that the anti-Catholic woman as such is what Mr. Elliot styles "Christ's faithful orthodox church;" for there were sects in her communion whose principles and practices were both worldly and unscriptural; but there were to be found in her anti-Catholic pale hoi loipoi tou sper-matos autes, remnants of her seed, who were characterized by "keeping the commandments of the Deity, and holding the testimony of the anointed Jesus" (verse 17). These were anti-Catholic of the intensest character; but they were also opposed to all other sects of the anti-Catholic woman, which did not keep the commandments of the Deity, and did not hold the testimony of the anointed Jesus. This is illustrated by the position of CHRISTADELPHIANS in regard to all sects at this day.

They are intensely anti-catholic, and are, therefore, an ecclesiastical element of the anti-catholic woman; but they do not, therefore, recognize as Christians, the anti-catholic sects of "Christendom" so-called.

The edict of Milan(*) had confirmed to each individual of the Roman world the privilege of choosing and professing his own religion. But this inestimable privilege was soon violated; for with the knowledge of Catholic principles, the son and protector of the Catholic church, imbibed the maxims of persecution; and the sects which dissented from it were afflicted and oppressed by the triumph of Laodiceanism. Constantine easily believed that Heretics who presumed to dispute his opinions, or to oppose his commands were guilty of the most absurd and criminal obstinacy; and that a seasonable application of seventies might save those unhappy men from the danger of an everlasting condemnation. Not a moment, therefore, was lost in excluding the ministers and teachers of the separated congregations from any share of the rewards and immunities which the emperor had so liberally bestowed upon the Catholic clergy.

An imperial persecuting and represent influence was thus brought to bear upon the anti-catholic woman, who under the hostile pressure would set her face fugitively towards the wilderness - eis ten eremon. The anti-catholic sect that took the lead in Opposition at this crisis was that of the Donatists. It was in feud with the catholic sect before the overthrow of Maxentius; and, therefore, before the Roman Africa became subject to Constantine. It was such a feud as might be supposed to exist in the Baptist denomination, resulting in the development of the Campbellite sect. There was, doubtless, error and wrong-doing both with the Donatists and Catholics; but, as from among the Anti- baptist  Campbellites was originated to foutro tou hudatos en remati, by the laver of the water with doctrine (Eph. 5:26), the CHRISTADELPHIAN DENOMINATION; so from among the anti-catholic Donatists began to be manifested in the three years of their trials before Constantine and his bishops, by the sealing angel that had ascended from the East (Apoc. 7:2), the first of "the remnants of the woman's seed, who keep the commandments of the Deity, and hold the testimony of the anointed Jesus." The name of this first remnant, if it had any other than Donatist, has not come down to us. But it matters not what it was called in its beginning  it was the sect composed of "the servants of the Deity sealed in their foreheads." This is the apocalyptic description of it. Arising in the epoch of the Donatist trials, and being with the Donatists intensely anti-catholic, it is very likely to have been confounded with them, without having at all been mixed up with the feud between the party of Caecilian and that of Majorinus.

This feud is styled in history "the African Controversy." The provinces south of the Mediterranean, from the confines of Cyrene to the columns of Hercules, A.D. 312, were distracted with religious discord. The source of the division was derived from a double election in the Catholic church of Carthage, the second in rank and opulence of the ecclesiastical thrones of the West. Caecilian and Majorinus were the two rival bishops of Africa, and the death of the latter soon made room for Donatus, who, by his superior abilities and virtues, was the firmest support of his party. The advantage which Caecilian might claim from the priority of his ordination was destroyed by the illegal, or at least indecent haste, with which it had been performed without awaiting the arrival of the bishops of Numidia. The bishops of the contending factions maintained, with equal ardor and obstinacy, that their adversaries were degraded, or least dishonored, by the odious crime of delivering up the Holy Scriptures to the officers of Diocletian to be burned. In this state of bitter partisanship, the divided church was incapable of afford-ing an impartial judicature. Application was, therefore, made to Constantine by the Donatist bishops of Africa, A.D. 313, desiring him to appoint bishops of the church in Gaul to settle their difficulties. "Good emperor,' said they, "as you are of a just family, of all the emperors your father alone having never persecuted, and as Gaul is now exempted from that outrage, we ask you in your piety to appoint bishops from that province who may judge between us and the other bishops of Africa, with whom we are at variance." Their request was granted, and the controversy was tried in five successive tribunals, and the whole proceeding, from the first appeal to the final sentence, lasted above three years. A severe inquisition taken before the praetorian vicar and the proconsul of Africa; the report of two episcopal visitors who had been sent to Carthage; the decrees of the Councils of Rome and Aries, and the supreme judgment of Constantine himself in his "sacred consistory," were all favorable to the cause of Caecilian: and he was unanimously acknowledged, by the Civil and Ecclesiastical Powers, as the true and lawful catholic primate of Africa. The honors and estates of the church were attributed to his suffragan bishops, and it was with difficulty that Constantine was satisfied with inflicting the punishment of exile on the principal leaders of the Donatists

The punishment of exile was banishing, or causing to flee into a wilderness state. This was the imperial sentence upon the anti-catholic, or anti-state-church woman in the African wing of the empire. Her seed were banished from the high places of church and state, and made to seek refuge in the wild and uncivilized places of society.

Speaking of this "schism of the Donatists" A.D. 315, Gibbon remarks: "This incident, so inconsiderable that it scarcely deserves a place in history, was productive of a memorable schism, which afflicted the provinces of Africa above three hundred years, and was extinguished only with Christianity itself. The inflexible zeal of freedom and fanaticism animated the Donatists to refuse obedience to the usurpers, whose election they disputed and whose spiritual powers they denied. Excluded from the civil and religious communion of mankind (driven into the wilderness), they boldly excommunicated the rest of mankind, who had embraced the impious party of Caecilian, and of the Traitors, from whom he derived his pretended ordination. They asserted with confidence that the prerogatives of the catholic church were confined to the chosen portion of the African believers, who alone had preserved inviolate the integrity of their faith and discipline. Whenever they acquired a proselyte, even from the distant provinces of the east, they reimmersed and reordained him, as they rejected the validity of the baptism and ordination administered by heretics or schismatics. Bishops and virgins were subjected to the disgrace of a public  penance, before they could be admitted to the communion of the Donatists. If they obtained possession of a temple which had been used by their Catholic adversaries, they purified the unhallowed building with the same jealous care which a temple of idols might have required. They washed the pavement, scraped the walls, burnt the altar, which was commonly of wood, melted the consecrated plate, and cast the 'holy eucharist' to the dogs, with every circumstance of ignominy which could provoke and perpetuate the animosity of religious factions. The narrow and solitary path which their first leaders had marked out, continued to diverge from the great society of mankind; so that they could affirm that when Christ should descend to judge the earth, he would find his true religion preserved only in a few nameless villages of the Caesarean Mauritania."

From this condensed quotation from Gibbon the reader will easily discern the feeling that existed between the Woman Jezebel in the heaven, and the Woman, by oppressive imperial edicts, caused to begin her flight into the wilderness. No enlightened professor of the doctrine which is according to godliness would think of looking for the true believers in “the heaven" where all was sunshine and imperial favor. "All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution" (2 Tim. 3:12). This testimony is true and not to be gain-said, and directs us in our search for "the remnants of the woman's seed, who keep the commandments of the Deity, and hold the testimony of the anointed Jesus," to that anti-catholic community of professors, which has been ever since the great Donatist repudiation of the self-styled "Holy Catholic Church." and "Church of God," A.D. 315, an oppressed, proscribed and persecuted people - persecuted in some form or shape, if not by governments, by the machinations and slanders of scribes, pharisees and others; of all professors, in fact, whose foreheads are unsealed by the truth, and whose hearts, consequently, are unpurified by "faith that works by love" of the truth believed.




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