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Scripto | Transcribe Page
Proceedings of the National Conference of Colored Men of the United States, Held in the State Capitol at Nashville Tennessee, May 6, 7, 8 and 9, 1879.
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unless we, credit it with chameleon-like properties. Nothing can be truer than the axiom: If the Roman theory of ecclesiasticism be Christianity, then the Greek theory and the Protestant theory cannot be accepted as Christianity, but only as approaches to it. And so of each and all the systems which are equally the glory and shame of Christendom. If one of these systems be exactly true, the others, to the extent that they differ, are exactly false. But we comfort ourselves with the fact, as we have said, ecclesiasticism—Roman, Greek or Protestant—is one theory ; Christianity is another; and so of their respective theories. That we may the more readily comprehend the theory of Christianity let us for a moment look at those forms of ecclesiasticism which govern Christendom, for it should be remembered that the agencies heretofore recognized are even more prolific in producing the one than in giving individuality to the other.
As we have intimated, Christendom may be said to have three leading ecclesiastical theories.
The first of them is, possibly , the Roman theory. We say possibly, for we prefer not to touch the question of priority as respectively urged by the Latins of the West and the Greeks of the East. But it could not be expected that we should present here the hundred and one shades of belief which go to make up this theory, a theory which claims to be the exact and only counterpart of Christianity. It is sufficient to say that it is roundly autocratic; that it finds the Word of God, not only in the written word, as received by the ancient Christians and the more ancient Jews, but supplemented by the apocryphal books, lifted by the Tridentine council to the level of the canonical. These, with the traditions of the early Church, and the decisions of the councils as held from time to time, constitute the sources of its authority. That, however, which destinguishes this theory of Roman ecclesiasticism from the ecclesiasticisms of the world is the recognition of the Bishop of Rome as Christ's vicegerent, and consequently clothed with the largest possible plenipotentiary powers.
Quite similar to the theory of the Latins is the theory of the Greeks ; so similar indeed, that to characterize it, it is only necessary to show wherein it differs from the Roman or the Latin. All that Rome accepts in the shape of scriptures and traditions, rites and ceremonies, with the Apocrypha and slight differences in the service, Constantinople—the recognized head of Greek ecclesiasticism accepts, rejecting only the claims of the Pope to universal primacy. This they stoutly deny, and when called upon to submit, curiously enough make answer in the words of the great Gregory, (himself one of the popes,) that the title of "universal bishop, by whomsoever assumed, is profane, anti-Christian and infernal."
The third and last of the ecclesiastical theories is Protestantism.
Whatever else Protestantism may or may not be, it certainly is not what the Pontiff, the venerable Leo XIII declares it to be. Says he, in his famous Eucyclical of 18th December, 1878: " You, reverend brethren, very well know that the object of the war which ever since the sixteenth century has been waged by the innovators against the Catholic faith, and which has every day increased in intensity down to the present time, has been that, by the setting aside of all revelation and the subversion of every kind of supernatural order, an entrance might be cleared for the discoveries, or rather, the delirious imaginations of mere reason."
With due deference to the saintly character of the Pontiff, it is only necessary to say that, as a Roman is justly supposed to know more of the Roman theory of ecclesiasticism than any one else, and the Greek of the Greek theory, even so ought Protestants to be credited with a more exact knowledge of the theory they accept than any one else. Protestantism, as its name indicates, is indeed a protest against what its early founders
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