which extended from Scotland to the Persian Gulf, from the Atlantic Ocean to the
borders of what is now Russia and the eastern shore of the Black Sea, thus including North
Africa, Egypt, Palestine, Syria, Asia Minor, Turkey in Europe, France, Germany, Austria,
Spain, Portugal, Britain, and other lands. Although the whole might of the Roman Empire
long continued to strive to root out Christianity, yet the Christian Church, like an
impregnable fortress, successfully withstood these attacks in the might of God Most High.
Thus was fulfilled Christ's promise that the gates of Hades or Destruction should not
prevail against His Church (Matt. xvi. 18). Nay more, the number of Christians steadily
increased, in spite of persecution, until in many places the temples of the idols were
almost deserted and the sacrifices at an end. Although they were so numerous, yet the
persecuted Christians never rose in rebellion against their persecutors, but patiently
endured all that the cruelty of their enemies could devise against them.
At last the Emperor Constantine received the Christian faith about the year 314 of the
Christian era, though he was not baptized until at least several years later. The
Christians were then delivered from persecution; but this led many people to enter the
Church without true conversion and proper instruction. Many of them brought heathen ideas
with them, and these led to the gradual corruption of religion. The Sacred Scriptures were
not properly studied, saint-worship was introduced and spread. The love of many became
cold, and religion began to grow formal and external, losing spirituality and purity.
Hypocrisy and contentions prevailed, heresies multiplied. Instead of loving God and their
fellow-men, too many of these baptized heathen began to hate one another, to quarrel about
forms and ceremonies, and even to persecute one another. Hence many of them fell into
deadly sin, and many introduced the worship of the Virgin Mary, of the saints, and of
images. This was an abomination