Lonely Port

Chapter 6

Christening of Paganism

 We have from ancient records the stories of many brave men and women who suffered and died for their faith, rather than yield their allegiance to God and Jesus Christ. One of these was Perpetua. About twenty-six years old, she was married and had an infant child. Seized as a Christian, she was thrown into prison, where her father came and tenderly pled with her to give up Christianity. When she refused, he became angry, beat her and left, declaring she would never see his face again.

Then Perpetua was brought before the Roman proconsul, Minutius, and was commanded to sacrifice before an idol. A shrine was in a prominent place of the large room, and a statue of a heathen god was standing within it. A small box of incense was handed to her husband and he held it out to her. All she need do was to take a pinch of the fragrant herb and place it on the smoking incense plate that lay before the unspeaking idol. A large number of people had gathered for the occasion, for she was known and liked by many. On one side stood her husband and close friends who pled with her. On the other, stood the Roman pro-consul, Minutius. By his side was a scribe prepared to pen "not guilty" in a record book if she would but offer the incense.

But Perpetua refused the command to sacrifice to idols, for in this way she would have proved to all that she had renounced her faith in Christ.

Taken back to prison, she was again visited by her father who, sorry for having earlier beaten her, again pled with her. But her only reply was that she must obey God. At the urging of her husband, relatives and friends, the judge himself then went and pled with her.

While awaiting the day of execution in prison, she was joined by another young woman who had also refused to renounce Christianity. Her name was Felicitas.

When the day of execution arrived, they were taken out into the amphitheatre, where wild beasts were turned loose upon them. It was March, A.D. 205.

If faithful, someday you will meet them in heaven. The Bible is worth it; Jesus is worth it; eternity is worth it. Give to God all that you are and have, and obey His Written Word. And you will never be sorry for having done so.

But back in those early centuries, just as today, there were many professed Christians who were not faithful to God and the teachings of the Bible. The last writer of Scripture had laid down his pen, and although many were dying for the Christ of Christianity, there were yet others who decided to follow an easier way. And there were those who decided to gain power and prestige by so doing.

Here is a description of a church service at approximately the time when Perpetua and Felicitas laid down their lives for Christ:

"The daily ritual of Isis, which seems to have been as regular and complicated as that of the Catholic Church, produced an immense effect on the Roman mind. Every day there were two solemn offices, at which white-robed, tonsured priests, with acolytes and assistants of every degree, officiated. The morning litany and sacrifice was an impressive service. The crowd of worshippers thronged the space before the chapel at the early dawn. The priest ascending by a hidden stairs, drew apart the veil of the sanctuary, and offered the holy image to their adoration. He then made the round of the altars, reciting the litany and sprinkling the holy water from the secret spring." Samuel Dill, "Roman Society from Nero to Marcus Aurelius," pp. 577-578. London, Macmillan, 1904.

What you have just read sounds exactly like a Roman Catholic "sacrifice of the mass," —but instead you have read about the service that gave birth to the later Roman Catholic services: The Egyptian worship of Isis, the "Queen of Heaven," and her infant, Horus, the "Son of the Sacred Heart."

Long robes—"tonsured" heads (cut bald in the center with a ring of hair on the outside, in honor of the Sun god)—in a sacred procession with acolytes (men and boys dressed in robes)—carrying an image of the Mother god and her infant son—as the holy priest recited the "litany" (mystic words spoken in an unknown tongue)—while making signs with his fingers and sprinkling holy water upon the faithful bowed before him as he passed by.

All this was taking place in the Near East, and down in Egypt, years before the local Christian Church at Rome decided to begin copying it.

But it was not long before the worldly Christians at Rome discovered that if they modeled Christianity closely enough after the heathen pattern, they would cease to be persecuted.

And the plan worked. While the true Christians, who loved God and obeyed Bible teachings were thrown to wild animals in the Coliseum, the Christian modernists decided to be more progressive. Blood wasn't worth the price of obedience to God, they decided.

We have already mentioned the tonsure (read Lev 21:5, and Deut 14:1) in honor of the Sun god; and holy water for sprinkling, instead of baptism by immersion as given in the Bible (Acts 8:35-38; Rom 6:3-5), It was a proverb that everything finally came to Rome. And the worldly Christians there were among the first to accept it. From India came the practice of ascetics (monastic hermits) and rosary beads. The burning of candles came from the worship of the Sun God, Mithra. Tertullian (A.D. 196-220), one of the few authenticated Christian writers before 300 A.D. (whose writings we know to be genuine and not later forgeries), who advocated Sunday keeping by Christians, gives careful instructions how to keep Sunday in place of the Bible Sabbath. And he then adds a brand new heathen practice for the faithful to observe: "the sign of the cross."

"At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign of the cross."

And what were the faithful Christians doing all this time in Rome? While the bishop of Rome (shortly to call himself the "pope") was gaining in wealth and power through an alliance with heathenism, the men and women who loved God were struggling to keep alive. And their number included some who formerly were civic leaders.

Flavius Clemens (first cousin of the Emperor, Domitian), and his wife Domatilla; were martyred instead of yielding their faith in Christ. Another prominent victim was Acilius Glabrio, a member of one of the foremost families of Rome. During those long centuries Christians fled to the Catacombs. The famous Catacombs of Rome were forgotten for long centuries and only rediscovered by accident in 1578 by Antonia Bosio, when he dug underneath the home of Domatilla,

In the centuries that followed Christ, Rome became the largest inhabited city in the entire world. Christians who were there, in an effort to flee from persecution, dug hiding places for themselves below the city of Rome. These were long tunnels cut out of the porous tufa rock that lay beneath this great metropolis—the capital of the Empire. A labyrinth of passageways went for miles in every direction. Here Christians lived and worshiped, died and were buried in crypts by kind friends. It is estimated that if the passages were placed in a straight line, they would extend more than five hundred miles.

But there were only two ways to escape the terrible persecutions that so frequently came at that time: Either by renouncing one's faith in Christ—or by living so much like the pagans that one's religion hardly seemed different. And this, many chose to do.