WHAT is the Orthodox Church? The Orthodox Church is a body or community of people, who, 1—correctly believe in divine revelation; and 2—who obey a lawful hierarchy instituted by our Lord Jesus Christ himself, through the holy apostles. In order to belong to the Orthodox Church two principal conditions are required: First—to accurately accept, rightly understand and truthfully confess the divine teaching of faith; and secondly— to acknowledge the lawful hierarchy or priesthood, to receive from it the holy mysteries or sacraments, and generally to follow its precepts in matters concerning salvation.
It may be necessary before we proceed to explain the word anathema; it means condemnation and excommunication until restored after sincere repentance. In some cases it may not be only a temporal ban, but a curse. Indeed, there are some members of the Church today, Christians, who do not fully realize that the Church of Christ is a living organism, which, through the supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit, exists as a moral being, empowered within her sphere not only to bless, but also to curse. Such ones of course do not read the Bible. Those who studied the Epistles of the Apostles know that it was required of the Corinthians to put away from among themselves that wicked person (1 Cor. v: 13). Likewise the command was given to Titus, hear: A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject (Tit. iii: 10). Did not our Lord Jesus Christ say: If thy brother neglect to hear the Church, let him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican? (Matt. xviii: 17.) And again our Lord speaks: Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven (Matt. xviii: 18).
“The land of the Gadarenes was a place favored by the legion of darkness. The people disobeyed the law of Moses, if not by using as food the flesh of swine, then by keeping swine for commerce. These people were ungrateful, malicious, and mercenary. When the Lord Jesus Christ delivered the two possessed with devils, and the people lost their herd of many swine, they did not think of the sin of breaking the law, nor did they even wonder at the pity shown by the great Miracle-Worker, but they came out, in a matter of fact way, and besought Jesus that he would depart from their borders. My dear brethren and sisters, let us look to ourselves, that for the appetites of the flesh, the pleasures of frivolous society and false philosophy, and that for gain and business, we lose not Jesus, our Saviour, and fall a prey to the adversary of our eternal salvation. Amen.”
“Yes, the two men of the Gadarenes were possessed with devils. They were not common maniacs, nor persons with a disordered function in the cerebral region ; for they knew, while the inhabitants of that country did not know, that Jesus Christ was the Son of God. The devils knew that a time was coming when their freedom, which they abused and made such evil use of, would be checked. The devils would not give up the darlings which so readily gratified their passions. It was torment for them when the merciful Lord liberated poor mankind. The two unfortunate ones, that were possessed by demons were exceeding fierce so that no man could pass by that way. If the evil spirits torment those whom they possess in such a horrible manner, then what must be the suffering of sinners in hell, where they are bound in company of the devils for all eternity?”
“Rouse yourselves ! The world which you worship only flatters you. The heaviness of your flesh should not keep you back from our Saviour—the God of spirits and of all flesh. If you continue to drowse, you will imperceptibly fall under the influence of the evil spirits, who are anxious for the company even of swine. Be careful that you become not possessed by a devil.”
“I have heard people say that there are no demons or devils. . . . . the Devil surely will not reveal himself to people who do not believe ; for, should he do so, they might believe, and that would be against his own sly, diabolical policy, as he would have all in the dark, so terrible is his enmity against the Eternal Source of Light and Treasure of Goodness—God Almighty.”
“Beware of self-delusion! Beware of the deceptions of the enemy! Do not think that a man is a real scholar of the Bible because he can quote by memory ever so many passages. Did not the first one who fell from the most elevated condition into the lowest hell, did not Satan know the Word of God? Yea, before it was written into a book by human hand. Look and see how the Devil quotes from the Bible when he tempted the Lord in the wilderness, and said: ‘He shall give His angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.’ [Psalm 90:11-12 LXX] The Devil withheld the words that follow immediately after these, which read: “Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder; the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under foot.’ [Psalm 90:13 LXX]”
“He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; said Jesus Christ [John 14:12]. And in truth, the deeds of an Elias, a Moses, the works of a Peter, a Paul, and the wonders of a Panteleimon, a Nicholas, are not a strange thing in the Holy Orthodox Church. The like is repeated again and again in the Church, whether you see it or not.”
“We hear it frequently remarked that it matters not what one believes if he does right. But if one does not believe right, he does not do the right thing—that is, if his belief is sincere and carried out in practice. If one believes that which is wrong, and still acts otherwise from force of circumstance, he is wrong in heart. A man may believe in polygamy, but the law and common custom may forbid its practice. He would be in outward life aright, but in heart would be a virtual polygamist. And if circumstances were favorable, his life would bear its legitimate fruit. And this is just as true of every other moral evil. It is all-important to believe right. Every false religion which has cursed mankind has started in a wrong belief. It might not have affected practical duties for a time, but the fruit finally developed. Thus belief in that first lie of Satan’s (Gen. iii: 4) has borne its legitimate fruit in—first, the deification of the beautiful, and unnatural curiosity; second, self-love, delusion, and idol-worship; third, free-thinking, protesting, infidelity, and anarchy.”
“Many a searching, although blind, mind has mistaken religion for some philosophical system. Too irreverent and profane handling of religion often makes of it a science, a pastime study. Now and again we come by the way of such who make religion a speculation; yes, and a speculation without a question as to its nature. Do you not know that religion is one of the qualities of your soul? An essential substance, I might say, to be plain, of your self-recognizing, self-satisfied, living spirit? Those who are convinced of this fact are not indifferent to religion. Indifferentism has no place in the serious life of one who seeks to be right-minded.”