When I was a lad I
remember there was a film that caused quite a sensation. It
was entitled “I am a fugitive from the chain gang” starring
one of America’s most famous actors, Paul Muni. It was a
dramatic exposure of conditions in Sing Sing prison. Few films
made such an impact as this one did.
Today I am going to
speak about chains. As a matter of fact the title is “In
Chains”. Not so much chains of iron although that would be
quite true, or chains of ignorance, or chains of immorality;
but chains of human corruption.
Chains of Darkness
Millions of human
beings, from the time of CHRIST to the present have been bound
and shackled in chains of wretchedness.
Today we are going to
picture the great struggle that has taken place through the
centuries; in presenting the Gospel, and the hardships,
persecutions, and suffering of those who have carried aloft
the banner of truth.
Matthew 24:9 Jesus says, "Then shall they deliver
you up to be afflicted, and shalt kill you: and ye shall be
hated of all nations for my names sake."
Christians were to
have a hard time, and those early years were far from easy.
Matthew 24:22 Jesus added this warning, "And except
those days should be shortened there should no flesh be
It was Satan who
forged the chains of darkness that bound the inhabitants of
The early church was
attacked by Satan on three major sides. He attacked the
persons, properties and doctrines of the early church.
Threefold Attack on the Church
At first there was a
direct attack against the persons of the church, such as the
apostles, ministers, laymen, and the sympathizers of Christ.
Then there followed a
clever attack against the doctrines and practices of the
church. Next a destructive attack against buildings and
properties of the church.
All three of these
approaches: attacking the persons, properties and doctrines of
the church proved disastrous for the purity of the apostolic
faith. But God still preserved a remnant who were faithful to
Chains of Superstition
The chains of
superstition and ignorance held the masses in cruel bondage,
in darkest heathenism.
The pagan world of
Jesus’ time was an age of magnificent buildings and
architectural splendor. Many of these temples can still be
seen today beautifully adorned with ornate carvings and
skilful sculpture work depicting their various gods and
On the hillsides, in
the valleys, in the city squares; everywhere paganism
displayed idols and images in honour of their favourite
deities. Many of these pagan Roman temples were later taken
over by the Christian Church.
The worship of images
was even continued in them, and many so called Christians
merely carried on where the pagans left off.
One of the beat known
temples was the Parthenon, a magnificent Greek temple
dedicated to the Goddess Parthenos. Even though it is in ruins
today, the beautiful pillars and distinctive lines are the
finest examples of Doric architecture, and have been copied in
thousands of buildings all over the world since the days of
The Pantheon, a
magnificent pagan temple built in the city of Rome by Agrippa
about 25 B.C. to commemorate the many gods of the Roman
We must remember that
paganism was not a dull witless world bordering on the
primitive but it was a world of intellectual brilliance which
recognized beauty and culture, but used it in the
glorification of paganism.
of Immorality, Custom and Tradition
The tragedy was that
amidst all these splendors lived a civilization as corrupt as
any ever known. In these temples licentiousness was not only
allowed but commanded as an act of religion. Thus heathenism
had turned lust into religion and so the followers were bound
in chains of immorality, chains of custom, and chains of
Christ came to set men
free from these chains which bound them so effectively.
Athens and Rome were
two heathen capitals that were the very centre of incest,
sodomy, adultery, and fornication. And this unfortunately
proved to be a problem in the early Christian church.
St Paul’s writings are
full of warnings and admonitions to those who would corrupt
the church with their evil behavior.
another widespread evil of the early centuries. This cruel
practice of putting to death weak and unwanted children was
done either by simple exposure or direct murder. Countless
thousands of infants were born and disposed of in the most
heartless manner. Only God has a full record of the deaths of
These pagan people
were truly in chains of bondage, chains of pleasure seeking,
chains of superstition.
Epicureanism was the
outgrowth of heathen philosophy. Their motto is found in
1 Corinthians 15:32. "…let us eat and drink; for to
morrow we die."
You see many believed
in no future life, unlike the Christians. So the pagans meant
to live this life to the fullest without a twinge of
As the pagans looked
forward to neither heaven nor hell after death, they just
gorged themselves and dissipated their energies in sensual
combats were held before thousands of gleeful spectators in
the great Roman Colosseum, before large and distinguished
audiences men dueled with spears until one fell mortally
wounded while the other received adulation and honor. So cruel
were these exhibitions that only a hardened populace could
have enjoyed then.
It requires only the
touch of inspiration to complete this picture of the early
centuries. Let the Apostle Paul tell it as he saw it in the
city of Rome.
Romans 1:21-23 says, “Because that, when they knew
God, they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful; but
became vain in their imaginations, and their foolish heart was
Verse 22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,
Verse 23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into
an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and
fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.”
Romans 1:24-28 Paul continues to paint this picture
of Rome. "Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness…
Verse 25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and
worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator…
Verse 26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections…
Verse 28 …God gave them over to a reprobate mind…”
Persecution Against the Christian Church
Into such an age
stepped the leaders of the early Christian church. It is
little wonder that the power of Satan and the jaws of hell
should be unloosed against any who should try to reform from
such habits and vices.
The hatred that burst
upon the early Christians is almost unbelievable. Paganism
foresaw that should the gospel triumph, her temples and altars
would be swept away.
Summoning all her
forces to try and destroy Christianity the fires of
persecution were kindled and mass carnage ensued. Multitudes
were executed without trial.
It was at this time
that Nero fiddled while human torches lighted the city.
Thousands of men, women and children, aged and feeble, strong
and robust, fled to the rocks and caves for shelter. More were
nightly fed to the wild beasts in the great Colosseum of Rome.
Thousands were burned alive to the delight and applause of the
heathen society. Countless others suffered every form of abuse
and torture conceived or devised by Satan.
It was to those who
suffered for the Gospel that JESUS made the promise found in
Revelation 2:10, “…be thou faithful unto death,
and I will give thee a crown of life.”
This was a living
hope to the thousands upon thousands who found shelter and
refuge under ground in the massive catacombs near the city
of Rome and in the hills off Italy. But even here many were
discovered and chained to the walls until death in mercy
ended their frightful existence.
From the time of
Christ to the reign of Constantine in the year 325 AD more
than ten major waves of persecution rolled over the world,
each intended to end, once and for all, the religion of
Jesus. Each wave of persecution was more violent than the
preceding, until it seemed as if all Christians would be
wiped from off the face of the earth.
of the Persecutors
Through tears and
bloodshed came forth a strong and virile church. In vain had
heathenism attempted to corrupt and destroy the church of
God. Satan realized that his persecuting of the Christians
had failed miserably.
He knew that he must
devise a more effective way to make null and void the Gospel
of Christ. He had already laid the groundwork for another
method of attack.
Against Church Doctrines
His second step in
eradicating the Christian faith was a massive attack against
the practices and doctrines of the Church.
In The Great
Controversy pg. 42, I read these two brief statements. "The
great adversary now endeavoured to gain by artifice what he
had failed to secure by force. Persecution ceased, and in
its stead were substituted the dangerous allurements of
temporal prosperity and worldly honor. Idolaters were led to
receive a part of the Christian faith, while they rejected
other, essential truths... but they had no conviction of
sin, and felt no need of repentance or of a change of
heart.... Now the church was in fearful peril. Prison,
torture, fire and sword were blessings in comparison with
Many of the
Christians lowered their standards and formed a union with
paganism, and so compromise was the outcome of a clash of
pagan concepts with Christian doctrine.
It was at this time
that the real chains were forged from which millions are not
yet free. Yes it was many of the early fathers of the church
that brought into the church a compromise of faith, for many
of them were unconverted men.
Idolatry now came into
the church as a form of worship and beauty. Mysterious pagan
rites were given a Christian tint, and pagan ceremonies were
reshaped and placed in the church ritual.
to Pagan Idolatry and Customs
doctrines were revamped to make them more acceptable to the
heathen. Certain vestments and sacraments of paganism were
adopted by this new church of compromise.
God tells us in
Jeremiah 2:21, "Yet I had planted thee a noble
vine, wholly a right seed: how then art thou turned into the
degenerate plant of a strange vine unto men."
God through Jesus,
having planted a pure doctrine, a pure gospel, a pure church;
the question is "HOW ART THOU TURNED INTO A DEGENERATE PLANT?”
How could God’s chosen
people, the inhabitants of the world Christ came to save,
became chained to pagan idolatry and customs? How could the
church of Jesus Christ fall into such a state of
licentiousness, immorality, Biblical illiteracy, idolatry and
barbarian cruelty as to cause hundreds of Reformers to choose
death rather that to continue any longer in such paths of sin
The answer stands out
clearly. It is found in one word “compromise”. Webster says
that COMPROMISE is blending qualities of two different
things." And so we find there was a blending of pagan concepts
with Christian doctrines.
As persecution ceased,
and Christianity entered the courts and palaces of Kings, she
laid aside the humble simplicity of Christ, for the pomp and
pride of pagan priests and rulers.
In Great Controversy
pg. 49 it says, "Almost imperceptivity the customs of
heathenism found their way into the Christian Church."
and superstitions of pagan origin were incorporated into the
worship of the professed Christians.
of the Church
The writings of Greek
and Latin apologists are highly honored and quoted by clergy,
and accepted as the source and authority for certain rituals
and ceremonies practiced today, ceremonies which the Bible not
only does not authorize but even forbids. These men, living
through the first few centuries after Christ are called THE
FATHERS OF THE CHURCH, but they were among the first to
compromise the Gospel of Jesus with the pagan religion.
These famous men
repeatedly disagreed among themselves as to what was the right
thing to do, and sometimes the writings of the same men
disagreed from book to book.
Dr Adam Clarke, famous
Methodist expositor of the Bible, says of these church
Fathers, "There is not a truth in the most orthodox creed,
that cannot be proved by their authority, not a heresy that
has disgraced the Romish Church, that may not challenge them
as its abettors. In points of doctrine, their authority is,
with me, nothing. The Word of God alone contains my creed."
I agree with Dr
Clarke. Let us throw off the chains of tradition and accept
the Bible as our rule of faith.
Ignatius, born about
50 A.D. was one of the first of these often quoted church
Sir W. Domville says,
"Everyone at all conversant with such matters is aware that
the works of Ignatius have been more interpolated and
corrupted than any other of the ancient Fathers."
much error into the doctrines of the church, the writings of
Ignatius have since been twisted and changed so as to
establish even more error. The reformer Calvin, more than 300
years ago passed a sweeping condemnation of these writings.
The oldest Book in
existence, the most precious Book in your library, is the Holy
Bible, God’s Word to man. Just as a safeguard to this Book,
God has added a frightful penalty to any one tampering with
Revelation 22:19 says, "And if any man shall take
away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall
take away his part out of the Book of Life…”
This is a serious
injunction. One could well add the words of Jesus, found in
Matthew 15:3, "Why do ye also transgress the
commandments of God by your tradition."
But listen to what is
taught in the Catholic Church today: "Of the dogmas and
teachings preserved in the church, we have some... transmitted
to us in a secret manner from the traditions of the apostles;
both these (Bible and Traditions) have the same force in
forming sound doctrine." Catholic Belief pgs. 40, 41.
It was the well known
church Father Iranaeus, born about 114 A.D., who ardently
advocated the philosophy that the Holy Scriptures were no more
sound than the traditions supposedly handed down from the
It was the extensive influence of
Iranaeus in those early centuries that helped to open the
flood gates of error, and keep the multitudes bound by the
chains of tradition.
The Catholic Church
even claims that many parts of the Bible are not truly
inspired of God. On the flyleaf of the Douay Version, the
official Roman Catholic Bible, appears this amazing comment on
the Books of Mark and St Luke. These quotas, remain
uninspired; their authors not being Apostles. So according to
this; Mark, Luke and Acts are supposedly uninspired Books.
JUSTIN MARTYR was born
about 115 AD and his writings are frequently quoted by both
Protestant and Roman Catholic scholars. It is well known that
this man’s religious outlook was so deeply tinged with
paganism as to be astonishing.
This man's major
contribution to the mounting number of false doctrines
introduced into the church was the anti Biblical teaching,
“THERE SHALL BE NO MORE LAW. NO COMMANDMENTS.”
Tertullian, born about
160 AD and still regarded as an early Church father, came into
Christianity from rank heathenism.
The historian Wharey
says, "Tertullian, certainly brought opinions into the church
that are a blight to Christianity to this day. Tertullian...possessed
great genius, but it was wild and unchastened. His piety was
active and fervent, but also gloomy and austere. It is
difficult to say which were greater, his excellence or
defects.” Church History Century 2, pg. 34.
brought opinions into the church that are a blight to
Christianity to this, day: Salvation by works, fasting,
virginity, self-depreciation, and abuse of the body through
hunger and painful afflictions were a part of this man's
gloomy understanding of religion.
Origen was born about
135 AD and is known as the Father of Roman Catholic Theology.
This man, possibly more than any other was responsible for
working out a compromise between the early church and rank
Origen especially held
the common view that men’s souls must pass through purgatorial
fires to burn away the sins of mankind.
This concept was very
widespread among the heathen in the days of the early church,
and this pagan concept of a hereafter was early introduced
into the teachings of the church.
The Apostles' Creed is
tinged with this purgatorial doctrine. This amazing document
written and rewritten by a host of different church Fathers
contains this anti Biblical doctrine of hell, Hades, and fires
It reads thus: "I
believe in God the Father Almighty; Maker of heaven and earth
and in Jesus Christ His only (begotten) Son our Lord; who was
conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary; suffered
under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead, and buried; He
descended into Hell.”
Now the fact of the
matter is this that CHRIST NEVER DESCENDED INTO HELL. He
rested in the tomb.
Purgatory is an evil
doctrine, doing away with the need of a resurrection at
Christ’s second coming. For through this pagan doctrine all
souls, sinner and righteous, apostles and even Christ Himself
are consigned to hell or Hades.
The Bible tells us
clearly that Christ came forth from the tomb on the third day
and yet millions of poor unfortunate people because of this
heresy, believed that their loved ones were suffering burning
torture day and night for thousands of years. It is easy to
see just what these celebrated Church Fathers have done for
Purgatory and the Resurrection
No more wonderful
teaching exists in the Holy Bible than the doctrine of the
RESURRECTION OF THE DEAD as taught by Jesus Christ. Not only
did Jesus teach this doctrine Himself, but He became a living
example of it.
Jesus intended that
not one righteous soul should be laid away without hope. Yet
this marvelous teaching of the resurrection is today so
shrouded with nebulous theories as to be amazing.
This question of
purgatory was a most vexing one to all the Reformers.
Martin Luther believed
in the resurrection of the dead for he says, "Almighty God,
who by the death of thy Son hast destroyed sin and death, and
by His resurrection hast restored innocence and everlasting
life-- Grant that with our whole hearts we may be able to
believe this and finally with all thy saints, share in the
joyful resurrection of the just.”
It is impossible for a
person to believe that Jesus is going to return and raise them
from the dead, if they still believe that the dead are living
Martin Luther speaks
of the Church Fathers, of what they did to the pure gospel
truths. "When God’s Word is by the Fathers expounded,
construed and glossed...it is even as when one strains milk
through a coal sack.....God’s Word of itself is pure, clean,
bright and clear, but, through the doctrines, books and
writings of the Fathers it is darkened, falsified and
No doubt the most
influential in affecting compromises, was Emperor Constantine,
born in 283 AD.
In the "New Twentieth
Century Dictionary" we read, CONSTANTINE ESTABLISHED OF THE
CHRISTIAN RELIGION AS THE OFFICIAL RELIGION OF THE EMPIRE.”
Constantine is often
referred to as the FIRST CHRISTIAN EMPEROR and THE PROMOTER OF
THE CHRISTIAN RELIGION.
distinguished titles, but the real question is, "just how
Christian was this man”?
Facts reveal that
this conniving Emperor was more interested in consolidating
his empire than in promoting the Gospel of Christ.
Constantine grew up
in the pagan religion, and worshipped in pagan temples. He
gave huge sums of money for the building of pagan shrines,
which were adorned with pagan gods and goddesses. Apollo was
his patron god, and he was also an ardent SUN WORSHIPPER
bowing daily to the rising sun in his pagan devotions. But
what about his personal life? Well Constantine murdered his
own son, his own wife, his own brother-in-law, his nephew,
and attempted to murder his own sister, but she fled and was
able to escape.
Many scholars openly
deny that he was anything more than a rank pagan with a
shrewd political bias to patch together a war-torn empire.
It was this
semi-pagan, semi-Christian emperor who introduced Sunday,
the day of the pagan SUN GOD into the church to replace
God’s holy day. As Sir William Domville says, "History does
not furnish us with a single proof… that it (Sunday) was at
any time so observed previous to the Sabbatical edict of
Constantine, AD 321."
And so we find the
Christian Fathers bowing to paganism’s demand by celebrating
the Lord’s resurrection on the first day of the week, while
the pagans worshipped their gods on the same day; THE DAY OF
Bible Teaches Jesus is the Head of the Church
The Bible teaches that
JESUS CHRIST IS THE HEAD OF THE CHURCH. Christ intended that
no one should err on this simple matter. He is referred to as
the KING OF KINGS
THE FOUNDATION OF THE CHURCH
TRUTH AND LIGHT
JUDGE, PRIEST, PROPHET AND SAVIOUR
plus many other titles.
Teaches Peter is the Head of the Church
challenges this doctrine and in Christ’s place has put Peter,
then a long line of Roman bishops and Pontiffs, each
officially claiming successorship to Christ, all this in spite
of the fact that Jesus openly warned against false Christs
arising and claiming to succeed him.
Every year thousands
of Petros Cultos worship and pay reverence to the huge bronze
statue of Peter to be found in Rome. I am sure that if Peter
were here today he would with thunderous denunciation rebuke
this idolatrous act, just as he rebuked Cornelius 2000 years
Acts 10:25,26 tells us, " And as Peter was coming
in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet and
worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up: I
myself also am a man.
If Peter could only
hear himself discussed as heading a long list of men who
practiced celibacy, he would rend his clothes for he was a
married man according to
The real Peter of
history and the Peter of tradition are two vastly different
men. The Peter of the Bible was a simple fisherman, frank,
quick, kindhearted, ardent, hopeful, impulsive, changeable,
with a tendency to go from one extreme to another. He accepted
Christ, praised Christ, cursed Christ, advised Christ and was
rebuked by Christ.
Peter of Tradition
The Peter of tradition
has been unjustly exalted and glorified. He is pictured as a
proud man, rising above Christ, taking the leadership from
Christ, dethroning Christ and becoming Christ's vicar, using
force, grasping wealth, and accepting the worship from
millions of mortals.
Up till very recently
intense efforts have been under way to establish Peter’s
Primacy as the first pope. Archaeological excavations have
been going on at the Vatican searching in the deep, dark
crypts under St Peters, hoping to find the bones of St Peter.
From the 1960 tour
book of Rome, "The Eternal City” pg. 176 we read, “THE HIGH
ALTAR RISES OVER THE TOMB OF ST PETER.”
For many centuries the
Roman Church has hinted of the possibility of finding the
remains of St Peter.
At the express wish of
Pope Pius 12, many years of his reign were spent in
extensively searching under the massive grounds of the
Basilica. However, on December 23, 1950, even the Pope
admitted that it was impossible to identify these remains with
those of the apostle.
Recently Pope Paul
announced that the bones of St Peter had been discovered and
the scientists had no doubts that these were really and truly
the bones of St Peter. This is an attempt at making Peter the
head and foundation of the church.
Peter knew nothing of
being the head of the church. According to the Bible James was
the head of the church at that time.
Too often fiction becomes accepted as
fact and there are a number of fictions about Peter that are
not acceptable to unbiased Bible scholars.
1. It is not
true that Peter was the first Pope.
2. Christ, not Peter was the Rock, the foundation of the
3. Peter did not have sole power to bind and unloose.
4. Peter was not the first disciple to perform miracles.
5. Peter was not the Chief Shepherd.
6. Peter was not the supreme adjuster in Church disputes.
7. Peter was not Christ’s successor on Earth.
8. Peter was not a single man.
Consequences of a Human Head of the Church
With a fallible human
being at the head of the church, there came a staggering
harvest of astonishing and offensive religious abuses. Men
began to confess their sins to the human head of the church or
to his servants the priests and to receive supposed
forgiveness and absolution.
With the confessional,
there came many abuses and immorality. The confessional became
a powerful weapon in the hands of the Confessor, who could
absolve or refuse to absolve sins at his own whim or fancy.
Unless we keep our
eyes upon Jesus, and look to Him as our example, there is no
way to overcome sin and selfishness in our lives. But with a
human hand at the helm of the church was seen every evil,
fraud, exploitation, political graspings, greed, lusts, and a
thousand other evils.
Men simply compared
themselves with men, peasants with priests, priests with
bishops, bishops with cardinals, cardinals with Pontiffs, only
to discover that flesh reigned supreme.
Foundation of Protestantism
From the Protest of
Spires we read, "There is no sure doctrine but such as is
conformable to the Word of God... We are resolved with the
grace of God to maintain the pure and exclusive preaching of
His Word... without adding anything hereto that may be
contrary to it. This Word is the only truth; it is the sure
rule of all doctrine and of all life, and can never fail or
deceive us. D Aubigne, Vol. 4 book 13, chap. 6. pg.75.
This is the foundation
of Protestantism, even though many Protestants have drifted
away from these standards, it is the only real stand that a
true Christian can take, Christ says, "Therefore whosoever
heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken
him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock. And
the rains descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew,
and beat upon that house: and it fell not: for it was founded
upon a rook."
Matthew 7:24, 25.
us build upon the rock of God's Holy Word; prayerfully
studying His Word each day so that when He returns for His
faithful ones, we will be among that number who will return
with Him to enjoy the ages of Eternity.