« PreviousContinue »
patriarchs, exarchs, metropolitans, archbishops, bishops, &c. and the Church at Constantinople had no less than one hundred deacons. , All this I have observed says the Lord, and inspected their administrations :
Verse 20. But I have against thee, that thou sufferest that woman Jezebel. There certainly was no Jezebel at Thyatira, as some ancient expositors, supposed from this passage. This is a figurative expression, by which the Lord alludes to a woman of far more importance. Jezebel was the wife of Ahab, 1 Kings xvi. She established the idolatrous worship of Baal, in the very heart of the Church of the Old Testament, and killed the prophets of Jehovah in such numbers, that Elijah laments, he was only remaining. Jezebel assumed and exercised the highest civil and ecclesiastic authority, contrary to the custom and the express laws of the state, by a criminal negligence and condescension of her husband, the king. And can the antitype and thing signified be of less importance than its shadow? Let us note her actions and the different traits of her character, by which she stands distinguished, and then see, who this Jezebel is.
1. Jezebel was the wife of Ahab, a stranger at first, and daughter to the king at Sidon. She no doubt had once forsaken her idolatrous worship, and embraced the religion of the people of God; since the laws of the Jewish state did not admit, to niarry strange and idolatrous women.
2. She returned again to her former worship of Baal, and grasping the supreme power of Church and state, in a criminal manner, persecuted the worshippers of Jehovah, and killed his prophets.
3. To this the Lord adds; she calleth herself a prophetess and teaches doctrines, by which she seduces the servants of Christma. To commit fornication. To eat things sacrificed unto Idols.
4. She committed fornication herself, and others adultery with her.
We all know, that it is customary in prophetic and figurative language, to represent a Church by the emblem of a woman. Thus the Church of God is represented as a chaste woman, and idolatrous Churches by prostitutes, in numerous places of scripture. Isaiah Liv. 6. Jer. iii. 1. Ezekiel xxiii. 2. xvi. 41. Hos. ii. 2. Rev. xii. 1. xix. 7. xxi. 9. xvii. 3, 4. This Jezebel therefore, must signify a certain separate religious society in Christendoni, wheresoever it exists, which bears the character above described, not only in farfetched similarities, but in an obvious and striking manner, and all united in that one body of people.
According to the series of prophetic views in these charges, we ought not look for this Jezebel before the commencement of the eighth century. Because the preeeding charges take up that time in the following order:
I. The apostolic age, and falling from first love
to 104. II. The period of the martyrs and persecution
to 324. III. The period of confounding Paganism with Chris
tians--to 700. IV. The period of Jezebel's corruptions. This then is the period of time, in which we must search the history of the Church for this Jezebel. And I would ask the accurate historian, what power, or religious society in all Christendom could the Lord have intended in this place, which would fully answer the above character, except the see of Rome?
I am even sorry to find so striking a resemblance between this Jezebel and a reverend bishop of a Christian society, whom otherwise I would desire to respect. But to sacrifice truth and duty to an ill timed charity, would only subject us to the same censure with the angel at Thyatira ; whose great fault consisted in being too indifferent
to defend the truth in Jesus against error, and not bearing his testimony sufficiently loud and pointed against this woman, as the duties of his station required. He ought to have protested with a becoming zeal against every corruption of the religion of his Lord, without respect to persons, or to his own fame. The ignorant and deluded would probably have called him an uncharitable, restless and intolerant man: but what are all the accusations of an ungrateful world in matters of conscience. We have reason to fear, that the indifference of the present protestant Churches, concerning Popery and its corruptions, may afford them the praise of the world, but not of God. Many seem even ignorant of the depths of Satan, on which its foundation is laid. And we have all fallen short in this respect of the more glorious example of our first reformers.
But before I go a step farther, I will make a necessary distinction, which truth and charity require. By this woman Jezebel I do not understand the Roman Catholic community--not the private members of that Church, or the different congregations to which they belong, but the Papal see at Rome: and that only so far, and since it pretends to be an infallible authority, and the supreme head of the Church of Christon earth, as a right derived from heaven. Otherwise the Roman church is respectable, though corrupted in doctrine and practice, far more than any of the Protestant churches; yet the Lord has many of his children and faithful witnesses in it, whom he will call from thence before the destruction of Jezebel. Rev. xviii. 4.
During the first century the bishop of Rome was considered inferiorin point of eminence to the bishop at Jerusalem, that being the Mother-Church, and the apostolic pattern for imitation. And during the first three centuries he was no more than another bishop; except an assumed pre-eminence of order, on account of the respectability of the Church at Rome among the western churches. He was
exalted to the dignity of patriarch, at the same time, with the bishops of Antioch, and of Alexandria, by the council of Nice, A. D. 325, to which number, the council at Constantinople, A. D. 381, added also the bishop of that citysince it had become an established maxim in those days, to determine the precedence and authority of bishops over others, by the rank of the cities where they resided. Thus it remained to the close of the sixth century, during which the name and idea of universal bishop was held a mark of Antichrist. Nothing was known as yet, of the bishop of Rome's superiority in point of power, or of his since pretepded infallibility; all his pre-eminence consisted in the pomp and splendour, that surround the Roman see, in which he surpassed all his brethren. He yet obtained his office by an election of the common people.
But a great change took place during the seventh century. Early in the commencement of it, these lordly prelates began to arrogate to themselves a pre-eminence over all others, under the pretence of being successors of St. Peter, and vicegerents of Christ on earth; though as yet chiefly in opposition to the patriarchs of Constantinople. The Papal supremacy, however, was first introduced by Boniface III, who engaged that abominable tyrant, Phocas, to confer the title of universal bishop upon the Roman pontiff; and this arrogant stride to title, all his successors endeavoured to improve into actual power. These ambitious views of the bishop at Rome, were for a long time opposed by emperors, princes, and whole nations, till the close of the seventh century. Since that time he was acknowledged by most of the Western churches as supreme. head of the Roman Catholic party, and pretended to be exclusively, bishop of the world. By the famous donation of Pepin and other kings of France, since A. D. 753, he also became possessed of several important territories, and rose to the dignity of a sovereign among the princes
of the world; which largely supported the see, in its aspiring views to ecclesiastic supremacy. This authority they now laboured to enlarge and confirm, by encroachments upon the rights and jurisdiction of inferior ecclesiastics, so as to make them dependent on the Papal chair, and by attaching the whole body of the monks to their service. And in order to complete this vast scheme of establishing a spiritual monarchy on a lasting foundation, the bishops of Rome, by a criminal negligence and condescension of the kings and princes, grasped also the right of investiture; the confirmation of the newly elected ecclesiastics; the disposal of the most profitable benefices and prebendaries. By this additional power, their authority and influence rose to an enormous pitch. They held the lifestrings of the whole body of the clergy in their hands, and were perfectly sovereign. See Professor Walch's Hist. of the Popes.
Thus this Roman Jezebel rose into existence. And now we will compare her actions and character, with the prophetic description before us. Popery,
I. Is of Heathen extraction, begotten of the pontifex Maximus, or supreme priest of Paganism in the Roman empire, of whose office rights and privileges, this is an imitation. Constantine the Great, had already begun to model the administration of the Church after the constitution of tlie Roman empire, by creating four patriarchs, or visible heads of the Church, in imitation of his four praetorian prefects. But the Roman bishop grasped the power and eminence of the supreme priest, in which he was much supported and assisted by the Pagan notions, rites and ceremonies already blended with christianity. Of this, Popery stands convicted, both by history and the New Testament.
II. Where will the accurate historian find another power in all Christendom, beside this Papal hierarchy, which es