The Paulicians

About the year 653 A. D., a body of religious dissenters came into notice in Armenia, under the name of Paulicians. A man by the name of Constantine resided in the city of Mananalis, in Armenia. A prisoner among the Saracens, in Syria, having obtained his release, was returning home through this city, and stopped several days at the home of Constantine. He had with him the manuscripts of the four gospels, and the epistles of Paul, which he gave to Constantine to requite his hospitality. It appears that this strange visitor was a member and deacon of a Christian church. From the time that Constantine became acquainted with these sacred writings he would study no other books, and soon became a teacher of the doctrine of Christ and his apostles. He became very much attached to the writings of Paul, and advocated the doctrine of that inspired apostle with burning zeal. Those who gathered about him, and were formed into churches, obtained the name of Paulicians from the doctrine advocated by this influential preacher. "The distinctive character of the doctrine of the Paulicians was the rejection of the worship of the Virgin Mary, the saints, and the cross, the denial of the material presence of Christ in the Eucharist, and the assertion of a right freely to search the scriptures;" - Chamber's Encyclopedia. It is to be regretted that the writings and lives of their eminent ministers were totally lost, having been destroyed by their enemies, the Catholics, who persecuted them as heretics.

Constantine assumed the name of Sylvanus, and preached with great success. Pontus and Cappadocia, regions once renowned for Christianity, were again blessed with the gospel through his exertions. The body of Christians in Armenia joined in with the Paulicians, and their influence spread with remarkable success. It is said that their principles were propagated even in Rome. Churches were formed by them upon the plan and model of the apostolic churches, and their evident aim was to bring back the Christian profession to its original simplicity. The Catholic party became alarmed at the progress of these novel opinions, and tried by bitter and virulent arguments to draw these faithful advocates of a pure gospel into an alliance with them and an abandonment of their sacred principles. Failing in this, the Greek Emperor began to persecute them with great severity. Simeon, a Greek officer, placed Sylvanus (Constantine) before a line of his followers, and commanded them to stone him to death as the price of their pardon. Only one among the number could be found who would sling a stone at their spiritual instructor. All the rest turned away while the stones dropped from their filial hands. This one apostate, Justus, put the devoted minister to death.

Finally, Simeon was struck with astonishment at the readiness with which the Paulicians could die for their religion, and was induced to examine their arguments, and became convinced that they were right. He renounced his honors and fortune, and in the year 692 became a zealous preacher, the successor of Constantine Sylvanus, and at least sealed his testimony with his blood.

During the greater part of the eighth century these people were severely persecuted by the emperors of Rome. In 795, the Emperor Nicephorus restored to them their civil and religious privileges, at which time they widely disseminated their opinions and became quite formidable in the East. In 811, the persecution laws were renewed and enforced with redoubled fury. Capital punishment was inflicted upon such as refused to return to the bosom of the "church." These decrees drove the Paulicians to resist, and their power was such as to suggest the policy of allowing them to enjoy tranquility and worship in their own way.

In 845, the Empress Theodora passed severe decrees against them, which were executed with unsurpassed cruelty. It is said that one hundred thousand of them were put to death during this wicked persecution. As a result they became somewhat scattered, but the spirit of independence was not subdued. It is said that in conjunction with the barbarous Saracens they maintained a war with the Grecian nation for one hundred and fifty years. We find that they existed in large numbers in various parts of Europe during the eleventh century. If we may believe what their enemies have written concerning them, it is admitted that they held to some erroneous notions, but we can but admire their zeal in opposing the Catholic church, which had become so basely corrupt during this period as to beggar description. It is very strange that Protestant historians, who denounce the Roman Catholic Church as being manifestly anti-christ, the "Man of Sin," and the "Son of Perdition," and who teach that there has ever been those who dissented from her evil practices since the second century and would have no communion with her, are so presumptuous as to trace the history of the church of Christ through her line of descent and thus acknowledge her to be the church of Christ from the time of the first division down to the Reformation of the sixteenth century - a period of thirteen hundred years! How very absurd! The question arises at once, Why do they thus plunge into the absurdity of self-contradiction? The answer is self-evident. To acknowledge the dissenting party of Ana-baptists, as they were termed during this period, to be the true successors of the apostolic church, would be to destroy at once their own claims and admit the claim made today by the Primitive Baptists. Therefore, they choose to contradict themselves, rather than admit the just claims of a "sect that is still everywhere spoken against."

- Elder John R. Daily, Primitive Monitor, pp. 366-369.

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