THE BIBLE OR THE CHURCH
SIR ROBERT ANDERSON
THE subject of these pages is one of the highest interest, and it is only those who are in some way behind the scenes who can judge aright of its peculiar urgency at the present moment.
"The greatest achievement in English history" is a distinguished historian’s estimate of the Reformation ; but in this flippant and shallow age we seem to be letting slip what the Reformers won for us. For a national lapse toward superstition upon the one hand, and rationalism upon the other, is one of the marked characteristics of the day. And altogether apart from religious controversy these movements deserve the earnest attention of the thoughtful. For the dethronement of the Bible eliminates the most important factor in the formation of our national character, and it is not easy to estimate the effect which this will have on the life of the people of this country.
The superstitious phase of the apostasy, with which the following chapters chiefly deal, was the burden of a volume published ten years ago, with the title The Buddha of Christendom. And as that book is now out of print, the greater part of it is incorporated with the present work.
The title, The Bible or the Church? implicitly raises the question whether the Bible can still be accorded the place which it held with the Reformers as a Divine revelation. And I intended to deal with this question in a concluding chapter. But a defence of the Scriptures within such narrow limits would necessarily be so inadequate that it might serve only to prejudice the issue. I have decided therefore to omit it, trusting that my other writings will be accepted as proof that I do not ignore the subject in any aspect of it. I will only add that my deepening and now settled belief in the authenticity and Divine authority of the Bible owes much to the study of rationalistic criticism.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
"IT was the main purpose of the then rulers of the Church to put prominently forward the supremacy of the Bible."
These words are quoted from the Archbishops' decision in the famous Incense case; and they indicate the chief aim of the leaders of the Reformation in England. For the Reformation was not merely a revival, it was a revolt. And ecclesiastical supremacy was the bondage from which those brave and noble men delivered us.
That Church which is the vital unity of the Body of Christ Rome confounds with the visible Church on earth - the public organisation entrusted to human administration. But more than this, the Church on earth, which, according to Scripture, is the congregation of the faithful, the Romish system represents as an authority established to govern the faithful, with power to control not only their acts but their beliefs.
The following words of Cardinal Newman will afford an admirable text for the discussion of the question here at issue. With reference to the dogma of Transubstantiation, he writes: "I had no difficulty in believing it as soon as I believed that the Catholic Roman Church was the oracle of God, and that she had declared this doctrine to be part of the original revelation." Transubstantiation, the Reformers maintain, "overthroweth the nature of a sacrament."’ Simple and clear though this statement be, people fail to grasp its meaning. A sacrament is merely a sign or symbol to represent some spiritual reality. In the Eucharist, for example, the bread is bread and nothing more, but it represents the Lord’s body. If therefore the bread be regarded as being in fact His body, it is no longer a "sacrament" at all. But let us analyse Cardinal Newman’s words. Why should we believe that a piece of bread is flesh, seeing that, judged by every possible test, it is not flesh but only bread? The Roman Catholic replies that we should believe it on the authority of the Church, for the Church is the oracle of God. But why, we demand again, should we believe the Church to be the oracle of God? We should believe it, the Roman Catholic tells us, because the Church is thus accredited by Holy Scripture. Is it not then our plain duty to test this claim by referring to the Scripture? "Certainly not," is the emphatic rejoinder; "that is Protestant heresy of the worst kind. For the Church is the oracle of God, and therefore the authoritative exponent of Scripture; and instead of using our own judgment or reason, we must accept the Church's teaching on the subject." To the enlightened this may be the highest wisdom; but to the benighted Protestant it bears a sinister resemblance to the artifice which, in another sphere, the vulgar describe as "ringing the changes."
"Why, even of yourselves, judge ye not what is right?" the Lord demanded of the unbelieving Jews. But while faith is the highest exercise of reason, Newman's position is the complete abnegation of reason. "Come now, and let us reason together," was the Divine appeal to His people in the old time, even in days of apostasy. And coupled with that appeal was the Divine lament, "My people doth not consider." and the word is emphatic and significant. It means using their intelligence, and thinking for themselves, instead of blindly following their reigious leaders, or in other words "obeying the voice of the Church."
That the Church is "the oracle of God" is a figment unsupported by evidence and disproved by facts. But no matter how able and pious a man may be, if he stultifies his reason by accepting it, he has "no difficulty in believing" that a piece of bread is the flesh of the Lord of Glory. In the same way he would have "no difficulty in believing" that this earth is not a planet but a fixed plane and the centre of the solar system; that the drivel contained in some parts of the Apocrypha was divinely inspired; and that the tortures of the Inquisition and the fires of Smithfield were divinely sanctioned and blessed! Superstition such as this explains the advice which Pascal gave to those who found a difficulty in accepting the dogmas of the Church. Take to religion, he said in effect, "for that will make you stupid and enable you to believe."
(Footnote - He is dealing with the difficulties of people who say they cannot believe, and he urges them to act as if they believed, using the ordinances, holy water, masses, &c. &c., and he adds:
"Naturellement même cela vous fera croire et vous abétira." The passage is given by Matthew Arnold in the preface to God and The Bible. No wonder that Pascal's Port Royal editors suppressed words so cruelly cynical, though so true. For while Christianity elevates or ennobles the whole being, human religion seems to make men either fools or fiends.
It is important to notice, first, that the Church for which this monstrous claim is made is not "the Catholic Church of undivided Christendom," but that section of it called the "Catholic Roman Church"; and secondly that the claim is not based on a history marked by purity of faith and morals such as might be deemed proof of divine calling and favour. Any appeal to considerations of that kind would be fatal; and Rome discreetly founds its claims upon the figment of "Apostolic succession." This was made emphatically clear by the Papal Bull of September, 1896. Exposing the duplicity and ignorance of the Anglican Romanisers,. who sought Papal recognition of Anglican Orders, that Bull declared : - - - "A new rite was publicly introduced under Edward VI.; the true Sacrament of Orders, as introduced by Christ, lapsed, and with it the hierarchical succession."
While the Anglican conspirators sought to ignore the Reformation, the Pope of Rome thus insisted on its importance. To quote Cardinal Vaughan, "They have persuaded themselves that their clergy are really sacerdotal ; - that they possess sacrificing powers, and that they hold direct continuity from the old Catholic Church of England, as founded by St. Augustine." A "strange and almost incomprehensible belief," he justly calls it, for a main object with the Reformers was to break that continuity of guilt, and to set the national Church upon a basis only and altogether divine.' (Footnote - I am reminded of one of my visits to the Cardinal. It was in connection with an unpleasant Police case. I gave him certain facts which led me to believe that one of his priests was a thoroughly evil man. He listened with an incredulous air, and then, opening the " Clergy List," he showed me that the delinquent was a beneficed clergyman of the Church of England. My apology for troubling him was, that the man called himself a Catholic priest, and my officers never doubted that he was a Roman Catholic. To which the Cardinal replied, "My dear Mr. Anderson, these men call themselves Catholic priests, but they are double - dyed Protestants!")
And what was the action of the English Archbishops in this matter? Instead of seizing the opportunity to reaffirm the principles of the Reformation, they openly took sides with the conspirators. Their "letter" of 19th February, 1897, was in effect an appeal to their "venerable brother Pope Leo XIII." to acknowledge that the Clergy of the Church of England were sacrificing priests and that they ought to be recognised as such by Rome. Did the Prelates never stand by the Martyrs' Memorial at Oxford? Or were they so blinded by the superstitions to which they thus pandered that they failed to realise that Cranmer and Ridley and Latimer, who were there burned to death, stood for the Church of England, or rather for the truth of God, and that the guilt of that hideous crime rests upon the apostate Church with which they thus basely sought to ally themselves? Was there ever a more shameful betrayal of the National Church!
In the days of Pagan Rome the Church was on the side of the martyrs. But under Papal Rome the martyrs were the victims of "the Church." The Reformers of the sixteenth century were the proscribed antagonists of the religion of Christendom. The struggle for the truth, and for the liberty which we owe to the maintenance of the truth, was waged by men who dared to stand out against "the Church," denouncing its errors and defying its power. But in these strange days of ours, the great question which till lately we supposed the Reformation had settled for ever, is again reopened in all kinds of insidious ways. And a superstitious and false view of "the Church" is the main cause of our troubles. According to the Reformers "the visible Church of Christ is a congregation of faithful men in which the pure word of God is preached." But, according to Rome, the Church is, as already noticed, an institution set up to lord it over the "congregation of faithful men," and to mediate between them and God. Such a conception of the Church is essentially anti-Christian; and even if the Historic Church of Christendom had been always pure, and true to its high ideals, it would be none the less an outrage upon Christians and Christian truth.
But there are many who, though they have no sympathy with Rome, consider that the work of the Reformation was marred by fanatical excess. The Reformers, they would tell us, ought to have been content to fall back upon "the Primitive Church of the Fathers." But those great men acted with full knowledge of facts and truths which are now forgotten or ignored. They knew that the much vaunted Church of the Fathers was tainted with the errors and evils which were afterwards developed in the Romish system.
While at Scotland Yard I watched the excavations for the building which has been erected on the then vacant ground across the way. The removal of a deep layer of river mud, permeated by the foul refuse of centuries, disclosed a rich bed of sand which had been thrown up by the sea in an earlier age. That sand was pure and wholesome in comparison with the filth which had been heaped upon it. But it was cleared away, and the foundations of the new building were laid on the rock which lay beneath. This parable needs no interpreting. The Reformers knew well what they were about when they refused to build even upon "the Primitive Church of undivided Christendom," and insisted on going back to Apostolic times, and laying their foundations deep and firm on the bedrock of Holy Scripture.
In his exposition of the parable of Matthew XLI 43 - 45, Dean Alford, after explaining its primary reference to the Jewish people, goes on to notice its application to "the Christian Church." Here are his words: "Strikingly parallel with this runs the history of the Christian Church. Not long after the Apostolic times, the golden calves of idolatry were set up by the Church of Rome. What the effect of the captivity was to the Jews, that of the Reformation has been to Christendom. The first evil spirit has been cast out. But by the growth of hypocrisy, secularity and rationalism, the house has become empty, swept and garnished: swept and garnished by the decencies of civilisation and discoveries of secular knowledge, but empty of living and earnest faith. And he must read prophecy but ill who does not see under all these seeming improvements the preparation for the final development of the man of sin, the great repossession, when idolatry and the seven [more wicked spirits] shall bring the outward frame of so-called Christendom to a fearful end."
These words have no reference to the Church regarded as the Body of Christ, the vital unity. Between the Bible and the Church in this its first and highest aspect, there can be no conflict, no antithesis. The Lord’s promise is eternal, "I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it." Dean Alford’s words refer to the Professing Church on earth, "the outward frame" entrusted to the care of men. And keeping this clearly in view - we shall recognise that the Church on earth has apostatised from the place divinely given to it, and has utterly failed to fulfil its mission. And justifying the conduct and attitude of the Reformers, we shall avoid the superstitions and errors from which they sought to deliver us. To defend their acts and words is my main purpose in these pages. And my method will be to give plain facts and clear testimony for the consideration of the thoughtful. "Muck-rake" work in the filth of pre-Reformation times is not sufficient. It is necessary to go farther back, and by an appeal to the writings of the Fathers themselves, to throw light upon the condition of the "Primitive Church."
But all this suggests a preliminary inquiry. The history of all ages and of every land gives proof that in the sphere of religion man always drifts away from God. What explanation can be offered of this strange and sinister law of gravitation in the spiritual sphere? The following investigation of the problem is conducted on new lines. And it is here placed first, because the solution of it will prepare the way for all that follows.
UNIVERSALITY OF RELIGION
"As soon as man grew distinct from the animal he became religious." No one gifted with a sense of humour could have gravely penned a suggestion so grotesque as this. That the remote descendant of an ape might become intelligent, philosophical, mathematical, musical, poetical, scientific - all this possibly we could understand; but why should he become religious?
And yet this dictum of Renan's is most important as a testimony from such a quarter to the fact that man is a religious being. The universality of religion has, indeed, been denied ; but the denial is based on grounds that are inadequate.
"The statement," says Professor Tiele, "that there are nations or tribes which possess no religion, rests either on inaccurate observations, or on a confusion of ideas. No tribe or nation has yet been met with destitute of belief in any higher beings, and travellers who asserted their existence have been afterwards refuted by facts. It is legitimate, therefore, to call religion, in its most general sense, an universal phenomenon of humanity." And in quoting these words, Professor Max Muller declares: "We may safely say that, in all researches, no human beings have been found anywhere who do not possess something which to them is religion."' And Charles Darwin himself admits that "a belief in all-pervading spiritual agencies seems to be universal."
Accepting the conclusion, therefore, that man is by nature religious, the question remains, How can this fact be accounted for? Philosophers may amuse themselves with the theory that it is due to his losing a tail and learning to talk; but all who acknowledge the reign of law, and insist on seeking a cause for an effect, will see in it a proof of that, as even heathen poets taught, man is in a special sense the offspring of God. This conclusion suggests the inquiry why it is that he is so unworthy of his origin. Were there a competent court to issue the writs, what damages human nature might obtain in libel actions against biological science and Augustinian theology! Bad as it is to proclaim that man is the child of an anthropoid ape, it is almost worse to declare that, through and through, and in every sense, he is only and altogether bad. True it is that the history of the race has been black and hateful. No less true is it that wrong-doing is easy, whereas well-doing calls for sustained effort. But in this connection such facts, important though they be, are not everything. In a real sense the truest test of a man is not what he does, but what he approves; not what he is, but what he would wish to be. Vicious indulgence may have so depraved him that vice seems no longer vicious, for just as his physical faculties may be destroyed by abuse, so his conscience may become "seared as with a hot iron;" but this in an abnormal condition.
What is called the "moral" law is so described because it is the law of our being. It was not the commandment which made thieving wrong. It was because it was wrong that the commandment was given. It has been said, indeed, by a modern disciple of Hobbes, that "Thou shalt not steal" is merely the selfish precept of the hog in the clover to warn off the hog outside the fence. But such teaching is the outcome of a reprobate mind, and merely exemplifies the fact that a man may sink morally to the level of a hog. But, it may be urged, we can point to communities that see no evil in theft. True; and we could also point to a nation whose women have stumps instead of feet. But let the lowest savage and the Chinese woman be removed in infancy from the influences which distort the conscience of the one and the limbs of the other, and in both cases nature will assert itself.
A full discussion of this problem would fill a volume. But no such discussion is necessary here. For no infidel will raise the question; and in the case of the believer an appeal to the Scripture should settle it. Its testimony is clear:
"When Gentiles which have no law do by nature the things of the law, these, having no law, are a law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience It may be useful to note that it is not the law, but the work of The law, which is written in man's heart by nature bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them." Words could not be plainer. A heathen, though destitute of a Divine revelation, has a knowledge of good and evil, for that is inherent in man. That such a knowledge was implanted in him by his Creator will be very generally admitted, but the popularity of a belief is no pledge of its truth. According to Scripture man was created innocent, and it was his lapse from innocency that brought him the knowledge of evil. But the knowledge of good and evil would not of itself make man religious. He was religious before he acquired that knowledge, and the atheistic evolutionist is theoretically right in holding that he might possess it now apart from religion. The fact is that what is so commonly mistaken for "conscience" is but a subordinate characteristic of conscience. For it is what may be termed God-consciousness, and not the knowledge of good and evil, which constitutes man a religious being ; and it was this that the Creator implanted in him when He made him a spiritual being.
Here then is the question : Man being the "offspring of God," and having instincts befitting his origin, how is it that he does not always choose the good and turn from the evil? Who will dare to answer that it is because he cannot? Not the Christian, certainly ; for his Scriptures assert the responsibility of man; and indeed the whole doctrine of future judgment is based upon that truth. Nor yet the infidel, for the dignity of humanity is his favourite theme. But the fact remains that while some, not only among Pagans, but even among those who, like Renan for example, affect to ignore all religions, can lead worthy and excellent lives, these are few and exceptional. The lives of the vast majority of men are evil. And they choose the evil in spite of knowing that it is evil, and in spite of a fitful desire to shun it. Apart from special depravity, a man's higher nature turns toward the good even while he yields to the evil. He praises virtue though he practises vice. It is his will that is paralysed, not his judgment. He is like a bird with a broken wing, whose instincts prompt it to fly while it flounders helplessly on the ground.
Man has instincts and aspirations which indicate for him a noble origin and a still nobler destiny, but yet he is practically a failure. How is this to be accounted for? In the whole range of nature, man excepted, there is nothing to correspond with it. It must of course be due to the operation of some law which applies only to the human race. All other creatures fulfil the patent purpose of their being; man alone not merely falls short of this but out-rages it. How is this mystery to be explained? It may be said perhaps that man's vices are merely the natural propensities of the brute from which he is derived. But here we can silence the evolutionist once again by appealing to the phenomena of religion. The religious instincts of the race are certainly not derived from the brute, and it is precisely in this sphere that the corruption and perversity of human nature are most manifest. If it were merely a question of animal-worship among Pagan races, the evolutionist might again bring in his theories. But the fact to be explained is that, in the most advanced civilisations, whether of classic heathendom or of modern Christendom, religion has invariably tended to degenerate, and to make its votaries a prey to superstition.
Let us approach the matter from another standpoint. The bird is unable to fly: is it unreasonable to suppose that some mishap must have occurred to it? Let us then tentatively adopt the suggestion that some disaster in the moral and spiritual sphere befell the human race in primeval times; and let us consider what results might be expected as the consequence of such a catastrophe? Man's moral equilibrium would of course be disturbed. The machinery of his moral being would, so to speak, be thrown out of gear. But the effect upon his spiritual nature, by reason of its greater delicacy and sensitiveness, would be absolutely disastrous. A broken water-pipe may in a measure serve its purpose, but no electricity will pass along a broken wire.
And is not this precisely in accordance with experience? In the sphere of morals men differ vastly from one another. Apart from Christianity altogether, some men lead pure and excellent lives. Others are steeped in vice. And the fact that some are moral is proof that all might be so. In this limited sphere, indeed, we may, even at the risk of being made the quarry in a heresy hunt, adopt the dogma of Pelagius, "That as man has ability to sin, so has he also not only ability to discern what is good, but likewise to desire it and to perform it." And the truth of this is recognised when our selfish interests are involved. If a man steals his neighbour's cash, he goes to gaol; for "original sin" is no defence to a criminal charge. True it is that a thief comes in time to weaken his moral power to keep his hands out of his neighbour's pocket. But prison discipline is rightly deemed a useful tonic in such a case. And what the fear of human judgment is to the criminal, the fear of Divine judgment is intended to be to the sinner. But orthodoxy so dins it into men's ears that they have no power to live moral and virtuous lives, that they naturally believe it, and cease to make the effort. That they can, but will not, is the righteous basis of the judgment that awaits them.
The vital error of the Pelagian heresy was the application of it in the spiritual sphere. But in the fifth century, revealed truth had been so obscured by theology that the distinction was ignored. A traveller who has missed his way in a forest can stand upright and walk like a man; but so long as the heavens are shut out from his view, he cannot direct his steps, he is lost. The morality of Saul of Tarsus, the profane persecutor, was as unimpeachable as that of Paul, the inspired apostle; but his splendid morality only served to bring into stronger relief the depth of his spiritual blindness and depravity.(Footnote - Some people are held in high esteem by all who do not know them: the Apostle Paul could appeal to those who had known him from his youth (Acts xxvi. 4, 5). "I have lived in all good conscience before God until this day," he could declare in the scene of his early life (xxiii. i). His life throughout had been blameless (Phil. iii. 6). Never perhaps did any other mere man live a life so perfect. therefore it was he wrote the words: "Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief" (i Tim. i. 15). The claim to stand forth as "first" in all the long line of sinners, was not inspired (as with thousands who since have adopted the words) by "the pride that apes humility;" it was due to the fact that while he had had advantages which raised him above all other men, his religion had served only to make him a God-hater, "a blasphemer and a persecutor." Mere religion always drags a man down spiritually.)
Man, then, is a religious being, not moral, merely, but religious. And he is religious because he is spiritual. Here is the parting of the ways, where we must break once for all with the mere evolutionist. It is idle for him to talk to us of "embryonic developments "-dog's teeth and donkey's ears, and any amount besides. Even if we accept his account of the origin of man's animal structure, the fact remains that the spiritual element in his complex being must have come from God.
But this only serves to emphasise our difficulties. Were we to reason out the matter a priori, we should expect to find complete unity in the religious beliefs of the race, and they would have for us the same certainty as the truths and facts which are apparent to reason or the senses. And further, religion would always and inevitably tend to elevate and en-noble mankind. But if we could imagine any so ignorant and simple as to cherish such dreams, the records of the past and the facts of life on earth should bring them a rude awakening. As for the religious beliefs of the world, there is nothing too crude, too wild, too false, too monstrous, to find enthusiastic adherents. And whenever a great teacher has appeared, and has sought to elevate the religion of men, his system has soon been perverted and depraved.
It has ever been so. Of the early Egyptian religion, all that was sublime was demonstrably ancient, and its last stage was the grossest and most corrupt. In China the lofty system of ethics formulated by Confucius has suffered the utmost deterioration. In India the pure nature-worship of the Vedas has ended in superstitious puerilities. And the teaching of Gautama, sublime in its rejection of all idolatry and priestcraft, has ended in the gross asceticisms and superstitions of modern Buddhism. The Divine revelation of Judaism was degraded to the level of "the Jew's religion," which made the race the common enemy of God and His people. And Christianity itself has been almost swamped by "the religion of Christendom," that tangled skein of Divine truth and Pagan superstition. The whole history of the race records no exception to the rule. It is a law, like that of gravitation, that religion ever tends to degenerate, and in its decadence to corrupt and deprave mankind. This subject will claim further notice in these pages. The question here is, What explanation can be given of facts so patent and yet so extraordinary?
In the moral sphere we have to account for the phenomenon of a right judgment thwarted and violated. But in the spiritual sphere the problem is stranger still. It is not that the bird has a broken wing, but that instead of endeavouring to fly, its normal instinct is utterly perverted, and it clings to the ground and even struggles to burrow into it. How is this mystery to be accounted for? Only one solution of it has ever been proposed, and that is the story of the Eden Fall. And that explanation is so entirely reasonable and adequate that if it had been left for some thinker to suggest it, the discovery might well have evoked an exclamation such as that with which Huxley is said to have greeted the Darwinian theory of the origin of species, "How stupid not to have thought of that "
I do not stop to inquire whether the story of the Fall should be taken literally or as an allegory, for I desire to avoid here all side issues. If any choose to regard the forbidden tree as a "sacrament" (I use the word in the classical, not the superstitious and pagan, sense), it will not affect the argument.
Is "Christian Religion" True
ONE of the most obvious consequences of the conclusion reached in the preceding chapter is neglected or refused by many who profess to accept that conclusion most unreservedly. If it be the spiritual side of man's complex being that has suffered most by the disaster which has befallen him, it is here that the result will be most apparent. And while his moral nature may be capable of self-adjustment, we shall expect to find that, in the spiritual sphere, he is absolutely dependent upon a Divine revelation. In fact, nothing relating to man should be regarded with so much distrust as his religion, and yet this is precisely the sphere where self-satisfaction most prevails.
The phenomenon is all the stranger because every one is convinced that all religions are wrong save one; the exception of course being the particular cult of which he himself is a votary.
And, the unanimity felt by people who agree becomes to them a strong confirmation of their faith. After shouting "Great is Diana of the Ephesians!" "with one voice, about the space of two hours," the worship of Diana is raised to the level of "things that cannot be spoken against."
At the close of his Essays on Religion, John Stuart Mill states thus the result of his argument:
"It follows that the rational attitude of a thinking mind towards the supernatural, whether in natural or revealed religion, is that of scepticism as distinguished from belief on the one hand and from atheism on the other." This position is generally regarded as hostile to faith; but our nature being what it is, it becomes a test and safeguard of faith. No matter how excellent my chronometer may be, I am glad at all times to test it by the sun in the heavens. And as I belong to a fallen race, and it is in the sphere of religion that the effects of the catastrophe are most felt, I ought to be ever ready to test my religious tenets by whatever standard is the true one. Men may differ as to the standard, and as to how the testing process should be carried out, but all will agree upon the principle here enunciated."
What guarantee have we that the religion which prevails in Christendom to-day is true? To many the very statement of the question will seem scandalous and profane. They will set themselves angrily to shout it down, as the Ephesian Diana worshippers treated what they deemed to be the Christian heresy. But thoughtful people will welcome the inquiry. Assuming that Christianity is a Divine revelation, the question still remains, How far may we not have departed from "the faith once for all delivered"? We know how we can test our chronometers. Is there any standard by which we can test our religion?
"All who profess and call themselves Christians" will reply with united voice in pointing us to the Bible. But this unanimity is merely apparent, not real. The vast majority of Christians will object to our appealing to the Bible directly and immediately. We must, in turning to it, subject our minds to an authority that claims to be its interpreter. Every citizen is supposed to know the laws of his country; but though the statute-book is the standard of authority, the interpretation of the statutes does not depend on the citizen's private reading of them, but on the decisions of competent tribunals. So also in the religious sphere. The Bible is the only, as it is the infallible, standard of faith and practice, but the Church claims to be its authorised exponent.
At first sight nothing can be simpler than this, nothing more reasonable, nothing more practical. But no sooner do we attempt to act upon it than difficulties overwhelm us. What is the Church? and where are we to find it? There are rival claimants to the title; to which of them shall it be accorded? Answer will be made that the Eastern Church is heretical. But what tribunal has so decided? And by what standard? The tribunal, we shall be told, was the Catholic Church, and the standard was the common faith. But this is a most transparent begging of the question. What took place was that the head of the Western Church excommunicated the Eastern Church for refusing to acknowledge his supremacy, which supremacy the Eastern Church denounces as "the chief heresy of the latter days." Which, then, is in the right?
If we appeal to the Church of England, her answer will be definite and clear, that both are wrong, and that they have "erred, not only in their living and manners of ceremonies, but also in matters of faith." Nor need we look to the Church of England to claim for herself the place she refuses to accord to any other Church, of being "the witness and keeper" of the truth. Hers is the humbler position of being "a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ"; and to that supreme authority she appeals as the only sanction for her practice and her teaching.
But, we are told, Christ did not write a book; He founded a Church; and He speaks in and through the Church; our part, therefore, is to commit ourselves to the Church's teaching and guidance.
This is merely an attempt to get behind the question which it pretends to solve. How do I know that Christ founded a Church? And how do I know that I can trust myself to the teaching of what claims to be the Church? The only, possible answer to these questions is an appeal either to the Church itself or else to the New Testament. IF the former, then I am to trust the Church because the Church claims my confidence - a flagrant case of what in another sphere is known as "the confidence trick." If the latter, then by all means let me turn to the New Testament. But no "thimble-rigging" can be tolerated here. If the Church speaks with inherent authority, I must render unreasoning obedience to her teaching; but if she appeals to Holy Scripture, she must place an open Bible in my hands.
If we accept the former alternative we find ourselves again at the point from which the argument has moved away. What, and where, is the Church? Is this question to be decided by a plebicite? Are we to be content to settle it by blindly joining the biggest crowd? Or are we to yield to whichever authority presents its claims with the greatest arrogance? It is not thus that in sublunary affairs the thoughtful direct their conduct. But it is precisely thus that in highly-favoured England, in this enlightened age, people of culture decide a question which concerns their eternal destiny!
If our choice must be limited to one or other of the two most ancient Churches, it is extraordinary that educated Englishmen, acquainted with the history of both, should hesitate for a moment which to choose. That Rome should loom greater in our view is natural, but that Rome should engross our attention can be accounted for only by our insular ignorance and prejudice. For, as Dean Stanley writes- "That figure which seemed so imposing when it was the only one which met our view, changes all its proportions when we see that it is overtopped by a vaster, loftier, darker figure behind. If we are bent on having dogmatical belief and conservative tradition to its fullest extent, we must go, not to the Church which calls itself Catholic, but to the Church which calls itself Orthodox."' And yet the fact is clear that in a book addressed to English readers the Eastern Church may be ignored as absolutely as though it had no existence.
Papal supremacy is the special characteristic of the Western Church. Even if the history of Christendom had run differently, and this dogma were accepted by Christians of every name, a sceptic would be none the less entitled to ask on what authority it rests. Christ, we are told, entrusted to the Apostle Peter the keys of the Church, thus conferring upon him the primacy of the Church. Peter became Bishop of Rome, and every after occupant of the See of Rome has succeeded to the Primacy. The Bishop of Rome, therefore, is supreme Pontiff, Christ's Vicar upon earth.
By all means let us investigate this without prejudice or passion. Let us refuse to be influenced by the fact that some of those who have filled the Papal throne were shameless profligates of infamous character. Let us refuse also to take account of the high personal qualities of its present occupant. And his environment is nothing to us. Gorgeous vestments, a magnificent ceremonial, regal dignity and pomp - all these serve but to prove the faith of those who accept his claims. What concerns us is the evidence on which those claims are based.
Suppose it be conceded that the Apostle Peter held the place thus claimed for him, what ground is there for believing that his successors in the See of Rome had equal precedence and power? The only ground is that they themselves have asserted it, and that half Christendom has yielded them the position. Evidence there is absolutely none. What ground, again, is there for believing that the Apostle Peter was ever the Bishop of Rome? The only ground is that the Roman Church asserts it. Evidence there is absolutely none.
Indeed the very statement itself implies an anachronism as glaring as if it were asserted that the apostle was a cardinal. Of course there must have been bishops in the Church in Rome, as in the other Churches, but the thought of a bishop with a diocese or see, belongs to post-apostolic times; the New Testament knows nothing of it. And as Dean Alford bluntly says, "The episkoftoi of the New Testament have officially nothing in common with our bishops." Moreover bishops were appointed by an apostle, and therefore if Peter was a bishop in Rome he must, instead of being superior to any of his brethren, have become subordinate to them - a complete reductio ad absurdum. It is proverbially difficult to prove a negative; but the absence of all reference to Peter in Romans makes it reasonably certain that he had no relations with the Church in Rome when that Epistle was written : the last chapter of The Acts makes it practically certain that he was not in Rome during Paul's first imprisonment; and the last chapter of 2 Timothy leaves no doubt whatever that he was not there during Paul's last imprisonment. And to turn to a witness of post-apostolic times, Clement of Rome will confirm us in this conclusion. He was admittedly bishop of the Church in Rome before the end of the first century, and his Epistle to the Corinthians is admittedly genuine. Can any honest-minded man believe that his Epistle was written with the knowledge that the Apostle Peter had ever preceded him in the bishopric? (Footnote - The letter in question was written in the name of the Church of Rome. The only reference which it contains to Peter is in the following passage: "Peter by unjust envy underwent not one or two, but many labours, and thus having borne testimony unto death, he went unto the place of glory which was due to him)
Lastly, what ground is there for supposing that the Apostle Peter was entrusted with the." keys of the Church? The only ground is the fact that to him were given "the keys of the kingdom of heaven," and the Church which proudly boasts of being the keeper of Holy Writ is so ignorant of Scripture that it confounds "the kingdom of heaven" with the Church!
Every well-instructed Sunday-school child is aware that the book which records these words is the Hebrew Gospel, "The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham" - in a word, the book which presents Him as Israel's Messiah. It deals only with the favoured nation - the covenant people - to the exclusion of Gentiles altogether. The gospel of the Grace is not in it. The very word "Grace" does not occur in it even once. And the reason why the Apostles were twelve in number was because the "tribes of Israel" were twelve in number. And among the twelve, Peter held the foremost place. To him were committed "the keys of the kingdom of the heavens "-an expression that is found only in connection with Israel. To him, therefore, it was that, at Pentecost, the proclamation of the great amnesty to Israel was entrusted.' And when "the word which God sent unto the children of Israel" was to be carried to Gentile proselytes, he was the appointed messenger. Throughout what theologians describe as "the Hebraic portion" of the Acts, his ministry is pre-eminent. He is the foremost, the commanding figure. But when Israel proved again impenitent and finally rejected the gospel of the kingdom, the very name of "the Apostle of the Circumcision" disappears from the narrative. Nay, more, it disappears from the New Testament, save for his two Epistles addressed to "the elect who are sojourners of the Dispersion" (that is of Israel), and for a passage in the Epistle to the Galatians, which proves to demonstrate that he had no precedence whatever except in relation to Israel. In the Church of this Gentile dispensation the pre-eminence is with "the Apostle of the Gentiles."
We are not dealing here with deep theological problems beyond the power of common men to investigate. And the conclusion is clear; first, that even if it could be shown that Peter was "the Vicar of Christ on earth," the fact would give no such precedence or dignity to the Roman Popes - a bishop might as well claim to be a cardinal or a marquis because his predecessor in the see wore the hat of the one or the coronet of the other; secondly, that the story that Peter was ever Bishop of Rome is the merest legend, and absolutely inconsistent with his office of Apostle; and, thirdly, that the figment of his having had a position of supreme authority in the Church is not supported by the Scripture to which appeal is made in its support.
Some errors are based on misread passages of Scripture. Others grow up apart from Scripture altogether, and Scripture is afterwards perverted to support them. In this latter category is the figment of the supremacy of Rome. It had its origin in the pride begotten of citizenship in the Imperial city - in what Augustine himself described as "the insolence of the city of Rome." Such is the foundation upon which rests the claim of the Pope to be the Vicar of Christ on earth. And yet his pretensions are acknowledged, not merely by ignorant peasants and superstitious women, but by educated and sensible men; by men reputed to be thinkers and scholars; by some even who are trained lawyers, holding high judicial offices. How, then, is the phenomenon to be accounted for? In presence of such facts evolution - talk is idle. When human ingenuity can suggest an answer, it will claim consideration. Meanwhile the story of the Eden fall holds the field.
Until I came to pen these pages I had not read any Roman Catholic work on this subject; and I have always supposed that a fair prima facie case could be made out for the Papal claims. But a perusal of Rev. Luke Rivington's Primitive Church and the See of Peter - work of high repute, to which Cardinal Vaughan contributed a preface - has destroyed that illusion. Any one who is either versed in Holy Scripture or accustomed to deal with evidence will search these 480 pages in vain for either. All that the writer proves may be freely conceded - namely, that the Pope has been acknowledged by vast numbers of people from very early times.
Dr. Pusey's Teaching
A THEORY, a legend, and a blunder - such, as we have seen, are the pillars upon which rest the proud pretensions of the great Western Church of Christendom. And the discovery may well lead us to distrust that Church's teaching, and fearlessly to investigate the truth of every dogma for which she claims our faith.
Now if these dogmas be true, they are transcendental truths; and therefore it is idle to appeal to any human experience or authority in their support. A Divine revelation alone can justify our accepting them. Have we such a revelation? And will an appeal to it convince us of their truth? To the first of these questions Christians of every name and creed will reply in perfect Unison. But when we come to the second, our suspicions will be aroused, not only by the fact that some of these doctrines the Churches of the Reformation repudiate, but also by the reluctance of those who champion them to permit an unfettered appeal to the authority on which they are supposed to rest. The Church is to limit and control our access to the Scriptures, either directly, in virtue of its own mystical authority - one of the very points at issue - or else in - directly, by insisting that we shall interpret the Scriptures in accordance with the writings of the Fathers.
Scripture, we are told, is "reverenced as paramount." "The Old and New Testaments are the fountain, the Catholic Fathers the channel, through which it has flowed down to us. The contrast, then, in point of authority is not between Holy Scripture and the Fathers, but between the Fathers and us." They are not "equalled, much less preferred, to Holy Scripture, but only to ourselves: i.e. the ancient to the modern, the waters near the fountain to the troubled estuary rolled backward and forward by the varying tide of human opinion, and rendered brackish by the continued contact with the bitter waters of the world." '
This is the language of Dr. Pusey - a teacher than whom no one has borne bolder testimony to the supreme authority and value of Holy Scripture. In the preface to his Daniel The Prophet, he writes: "No book can be written in behalf of the Bible like the Bible itself. Man's defences are man's word; they may help to beat off attacks, they may draw out some portion of its meaning. The Bible is God's Word, and through it God the Holy Ghost, who spake it, speaks to the soul which closes not itself against it." That one who wrote such words as these should seek to identify the Bible with the writings of men, gives proof how well he knew that, apart from the writings of men, the Bible would lend no sanction to the system with which his name is associated.
And yet how plausible it is! It seems the perfection of reasonableness. The simple reader might suppose that in regard to doctrine and practice the Fathers were agreed. But the Fathers differed, and the Churches with which they were severally connected differed; and their differences led to many a division, many a feud. And so Dr. Pusey goes on to warn us that no one Father in particular is to be accepted as our guide, and we are to follow them only so far as their teaching was "universally received." "It is this only," he adds, "which according to Vincentius' invaluable rule, was received 'by all, in all Churches, and at all times,' which has the degree of evidence upon which we can undoubtedly pronounce that it is Apostolic." More plausible still! But, in fact, it is but dust flung into our eyes. If the "Catholic faith" is to be thus limited to doctrines universally accepted, we shall jettison at once not only certain Pagan superstitions which are "undoubtedly pronounced to be Apostolic;" but also some of the great fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. And who is to decide for us what is the residuum of mingled truth and error which is to serve as a creed by which we shall mould our character and shape our course in view of the solemnities of our existence? The most honoured of the Fathers were men whose minds were impregnated by the superstitions of Pagan religion, or the subtleties of Pagan philosophy: are we to assume that nineteen centuries of the Christian religion have so enfeebled or depraved the intellect of Christendom that we are less capable of understanding the Scriptures than they were? They were "near the fountain" of Christianity, forsooth; yes, but they were nearer still to the cesspool of paganism. And inquiry will show that it is to the cesspool that we should attribute every perversion of the truth which today defaces what is called the Christian religion.
The Christian turns to the Bible to hear in it the voice of his living Saviour and Master and Lord, who, by the Holy Spirit, sent down from heaven to that very end, "speaks" in and through that Word, "to the soul which closes not itself against it." But the founder of this religious system is the dead Buddha of nineteen centuries ago, the pure waters of whose teaching are now dissipated in "the troubled estuary rolled backward and forward by the varying tide" of the opinions of the Fathers, and "rendered brackish by the continued contact with the bitter waters" of a corrupt and apostate Church.
Let those who thus appeal to the Fathers hear the Fathers. No one among them is held in higher esteem than Chrysostom. The most famous of the Greek Fathers, he has been canonised by the Roman church; and both Greek and Roman Churches celebrate his festival. And with abundant reason. For he lived a pure and floble life in an age when this much-vaunted "primitive Church" was characterised by shame-less profligacy and corruption. Here is Chrysostom's testimony to the Scriptures -
"And why does he bid all Christians at that time to betake themselves to the Scriptures? Because at that time, when heresy hath got possession of those Churches, there can be no proof of true Christianity, nor any other refuge for Christians wishing to know the true faith but the Divine Scriptures. For before it was shown in many ways which was the Church of Christ, and which heathenism; but now it is known in no way to those who wish to ascertain which is the true Church of Christ, but only through the Scriptures. Why?
Because all those things which are properly Christ's in the truth, those heresies have also in their schism: Churches alike, the Holy Scripture alike, bishops alike, and the other orders of clergy, baptism alike, the eucharist alike, and everything else; nay, even Christ Himself. Therefore, if any one wishes to ascertain which is the true Church of Christ, whence can he ascertain it, in the confusion arising from so great a similitude, but only by the Scriptures? .
"Therefore the Lord, knowing that such a confusion of things would take place in the last days, commands on that account, that the Christians who are in Christianity, and desirous of availing themselves of the strength of the true faith, should betake themselves to nothing else but the Scriptures; otherwise, if they should look to other things they shall stumble and perish, not understanding which is the true Church."
These were the words of the most famous of the Greek Fathers: now let us hear the testimony of Augustine, the most famous of the Latin Fathers. He says - "I declare unto you that the Holy Scriptures which are called canonical, are the only books in the world to which I have learned to pay such honour and reverence, that I most firmly believe that none of their authors has committed any error therein. Other authors are read by me with the persuasion that however they may excel in holiness and learning, what they write is not true because they write it, but because they can prove it to be true either by Scripture or reason."
In "all things that pertain to life and godliness" the words of Holy Writ are so simple and clear that a little child can grasp their meaning. Thus the apostle could write to Timothy, "From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures which are able to make thee wise unto salvation." But who is to interpret the Fathers for us? Rival schools of Christian thought appeal to them in support ortheir opposing tenets; who, then, is to arbitrate between them? And by what standard? And why should we turn from what is plain and simple to writings which are maze of mingled heresy and truth? "Near the fountain!" These men talk as though the apostles left behind them a pure and united Church, and the Ante-Nicene Fathers had entered without a break upon the heritage. But what are the facts? "While the apostles wrote, the actual state of the visible tendencies of things showed too plainly what Church history would be." and the writer goes on to say - "I know not how any man, in closing the Epistles, could expect to find the subsequent history of the Church essentially different from what it is. In those writings we seem, as it were, not to witness some passing storms which clear the air, but to feel the whole atmosphere charged with the elements of future tempest and death. Every moment the forces of evil show themselves more plainly. They are encountered, but not dissipated. .
"The fact which I observe is not merely that these indications of the future are in the Epistles, but that they increase as we approach the close, and after the doctrines of the gospel have been fully wrought out, and the fulness of personal salvation and the ideal character of the Church have been placed in the clearest light, the shadows gather and deepen on the external history. The last words of St. Paul in the second Epistle to Timothy, and those of St. Peter in his second Epistle, with the Epistles of St. John and St. Jude, breathe the language of a time in which. the tendencies of that history had distinctly shown themselves; and in this respect these writings form a prelude and a passage to the Apocalypse." In very truth those "last words" were wrung from men depressed by patent signs of general apostasy. The same apostle who had exulted in the fact that "all they which dwelt in Asia heard the word of the Lord Jesus," lived to pen the sad lament, "This thou knowest, that all they which are in 'Asia be turned away from me." And then, taking a still wider view of the condition of the Church, he indited the solemn forecast, "Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." And for more than a century before Ireneus - the earliest of the Patristic theologians - appeared upon the scene, the leaven had been working. That heresies should be the subject of the only treatise we possess from his pen, may indicate the state into which the Church had already passed. "Dogs," "evil workers," "the Concision," warned against even in apostolic times, increased in number and in influence, as the traditions of apostolic times lost their power in the Church. Such men were ever at work - lowering the standard of Christian life, and corrupting the purity and simplicity of the Christian faith and the Christian ordinances.
Error is a weed of rank and rapid growth. But it was not until more than a century after Ireneus had gone to his rest, when the last and fiercest of the persecutions had ended, and, with the advent of Constantine, the wolf of paganism openly assumed the sheep's clothing of the Christian religion," that the errors, which were in the very 'warp and woof of that religion, began to ripen and spread unchecked; and ere another century had passed, the standard even of outward morality in the professing Church sank to the level of that of the heathen world.'
The Church of God is "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets"; the Church of Christendom is built upon the foundation of the Laiin Fathers. What the Apostle Paul was to the one, Augustine of Hippo was to the other. Though inferior to Jerome in learning, he was practically the founder of the Latin Church. The personal greatness of the man - beyond question. His writings give proof of it. Throughout the Middle Ages their authority was supreme, and their influence is felt to the present hour. And though till recently his Confessions were known only to the theologian and the student, the book now finds a place in thousands of English homes. But, as the inspired apostle wrote, "God accepteth no man's person," so we may fearlessly bring the teaching of Augustine to the test of Scripture.
Can any spiritually intelligent Christian read the Confessions without being struck by the ignorance it betokens of Christian doctrine? It reveals the experience of a great and pure and earnest soul reaching out after God in the midst of mists and darkness which the sunlight of Christianity would have dispelled. Intense reverence for God, and desire to please Him - these are manifest in it throughout. But it all savours of what the apostle describes as the effort to be "made perfect in the flesh." Indeed it is startling to notice how little there is of Christ in it all, even in the theology of it. It is possible of course that men unknown to fame, of whom no record has come down to us, may have been spiritually in advance of their ecclesiastical superiors. What is true in our own day may have been true in the days of the Fathers. But if the Patristic literature is to be our guide, the great truth of Grace disappeared from the Church with the Apostles who were its heralds. And ignorance of grace will go far to account for the differences which marked the systems of Greek and Latin theology, and for the heresies by which the one and the other were corrupted.
Before the law of gravitation was discovered, many problems in astronomy were solved as clearly and accurately as they are today; but there was no unity in the science, and much pertaining to it was incomprehensible. And so, if Grace be unknown, various Christian doctrines may still be understood, but the central principle which binds them together is wanting, and there are elements not only of darkness, but even of seeming contradiction. The truth of Grace having been lost, the doctrine of Divine wrath, eternal and inexorable, against human sin, became overwhelming and intolerable; and the theologies of the Fathers struggled to bridge over the chasm which separated God from men. The Greek school, under the influence of the Neo-Platonism of which Alexandria was the cradle and the home, leant toward the conception of a deity "immanent" in the world, and especially in humanity. The incarnation, not the cross, was to them the climax of the Divine revelation to men. But though a climax it was not a crisis. It was rather the unfolding and display of the principle on which the Supreme had been working throughout the ages. Thus it was that God restored relations with the fallen race, alienated and lost by sin. Thus was humanity redeemed; for the true emblem of Redemption was not the Cross of Calvary, but the manger of Bethlehem. It was Paganism in a Christian dress.'
The theology or the Latin Fathers, on the other hand, was governed by the old Platonic conception of the "transcendent" Deity, a God far removed from men; whose alienation, moreover, was rendered more terrible by the doctrine of original sin. In their view the benefits of the work of Christ were limited to a privileged few, and their system aimed at extending the number of that minority, and mitigating for them the perils of their position. The simple baptism of the New Testament - a public confession of Christ by those whom the gospel had won to the ranks of His disciples - was remodelled on Pagan lines as a mystical regeneration and cleansing from sin, bringing the sinner from under the stormcloud of Divine wrath into the sphere where a mystically endowed priesthood could minister to him further grace.
For in this theology Divine sovereignty became sheer favouritism; election was degraded to mean no more than immunity from wrath; and grace, instead of being, as in the New Testament, the principle of the Divine action, and the characteristic of the Divine attitude toward mankind, was regarded rather as a sort of spiritual electricity, to be communicated to the favoured few by ordinances which owed their validity to a sacerdotal class. The Church, which in their system meant practically the clergy, was the mediator between an alienated and angry God, and men depraved and doomed. The horrors of the system became further alleviated by the figment of a purgatory, prayers and masses for the dead, the invocation of saints, and all the superstitions which, to the present day, characterise the religion of Christendom. Paganism, again, in a Christian dress.
It is not that these conflicting views were taught thus plainly by all the leaders of the rival schools of Christian thought. Far from it. But in varying degrees the writings of all are tainted by them. Clement of Alexandria, rival claimant with Ireneus to the title of father of Greek theology, and Augustine of Hippo, so specially honoured by the Latin Church, are the most pronounced exponents of them. Though the fame of Clement is eclipsed by that of his brilliant disciple and successor as head of the Alexandrian catechetical school,' he remains to the present hour the "patron saint" of "the sect of the Sadducees." It was not till two centuries after his time that the Roman Church was moulded by Augustine into the form it has ever since maintained. Of all the errors that later centuries developed in her teaching there is scarcely one that cannot be found in embryo in his writings.
"The Church to him," Dean Farrar writes, "was an external establishment, subjected to the autocracy of bishops, largely dependent on the opinion of Rome. It was a Church represented almost exclusively by a sacerdotal caste, cut off by celibacy from ordinary human interests, armed with fearful spiritual weapons, and possessing the sole right to administer a grace which came magically through none but mechanical channels. And this Church might, nay, was bound to, enforce the acceptance of its own dogmas and customs even in minute details and in outward organization. It was justified in enforcing unity by using the arm of the State to fetter free consciences by cruel persecution.
And outside this Church, with its many abuses, its few elect, its vast masses arbitrarily doomed to certain destruction, its acknowledged multitudes of ambitious, greedy, ignorant and unworthy priests - there was no salvation! Augustine substituted an organised Church and a supernatural hierarchy for an ever-present Christ. To Augustine more than to any one else is due the theory which is most prolific of the abiding curse inflicted on many generations by an arrogant and usurping priestcraft.
"The outward Church of Augustine was Judaic, not Christian. The whole Epistle to the Hebrews is a protest against it. And all that was most deplorable in this theology and ecciesiasticism became the most cherished heritage of the Church of the Middle Ages in exact proportion to its narrowest ignorance, its tyrannous ambition, its moral corruption, and its unscrupulous cruelty."' Farrar's Lives of the Fathers, vol. ii. 603.
"THE extravagances which disfigure the record and practice of Buddhism are to be referred to that inevitable degradation which priesthoods always inflict upon great ideas committed to their charge." Thus writes Sir Edwin Arnold, in the preface to his great Indian poem; and the words may serve to "point a moral" here.
In its origin Buddhism was no more than "a mere system of morality and philosophy, founded on a pessimistic theory of life." It was lacking in the essential element of a religion, for it had no God. And yet it had much in common with Christianity. It resembled it notably in its repudiation of idolatry and priestcraft and asceticism, and in its contempt for everything unworthy, material, and base. And not only in these respects, but also in its doctrine of the "path," it comes nearer to Christianity than does the historic religion of Christendom. A. man's acts and words, important though they be, are in one respect not so important as his aims, and the beliefs that inspire them. For his acts and words may, like the clothes he wears, be assumed; but his aims bespeak the deeper currents of his inner life, and his beliefs are part and parcel of himself.
But though the teaching traditionally attributed to Gautama was thus beautiful and pure, the Buddhism of today is one of the most degraded forms of Paganism. And what concerns us here is to mark that, though Buddhism and Christianity have flowed in channels wholly separate, the corruptions of both are of the same type, both having developed errors and superstitions so precisely similar that the errors of the one cult could easily be adapted to the other. The following most striking language is used by Dr. Rhys Davids in describing the Lamaism of Tibet :- The principles of "the noble eightfold path" are (1) right belief; (2) right aims; (3) right words; (4) right actions; (5) right means of livelihood; (6) right endeavour; (7) right mindfulness and (8) right meditation. The more this is studied the more will the order be approved.
"Lamaism, indeed, with its shaven priests, its bells, and rosaries, its images, and holy water, and gorgeous dresses; its service with double choirs, and processions, and creeds, and mystic rites, and incense, in which the laity are spectators only; its abbots and monks, and nuns of many grades; its worship of the double Virgin, and of the saints and angels; its fasts, confessions, and purgatory; its images, its idols, and its pictures; its huge monasteries, and its gorgeous cathedrals, its powerful hierarchy, its cardinals, its Pope, bears outwardly at least a strong resemblance to Romanism, in spite of the essential difference of its teachings, and of its mode of thought."
Such is Buddhism in countries where it has made its home. Is it any wonder that when Roman Catholic missionaries settled in certain provinces of China, they were amazed to find all the externals of their own religion ready to their hand; and that a change of images and of nomenclature alone seemed needed to "Christianise" the native cult?
But more than this, both Christianity and Buddhism in their decadence bear a family resemblance to the religions of classic Paganism, and to the old-world cults of Babylon and Egypt. What is common to all is the presence of some material representation of the God, a priesthood and an altar, and mystical rites and ceremonies
This intensely interesting fact has escaped the attention it deserves. How is it to be accounted for? Evolution-talk about "cells and sacs and nerves" and "abnormal reversions" will throw no light on it. Neither dogs, nor donkeys, nor anthropoid apes, display the least appreciation of images, or priests, or millinery, or "incense used ceremonially." Therefore, even if it were only among degraded races that these frauds and fooleries of human religion prevailed, evolution could claim no hearing. Not so, indeed, if men turned naturally to atheism; for the lapse might fairly be described as an "abnormal reversion." But atheism is always a revolt against a false religion, and it never maintains its hold upon the minds of men. The problem here, however, is that the superstitions which prevail in the midst of Western civilisation are essentially identical with those of Buddhism in its most depraved form, and with those of the Pagan religions of the ancient world. Quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus! The same phenomena apparent everywhere, whether in ancient Babylon or in modern England; whether in the decaying civilisations of the East or the advancing civilisation of the West. One explanation only is possible, and it is that already urged. Man is by nature the slave of perverted religious instincts. The existence of such instincts is proof of the Divine origin of the race; the perversion of them is proof of a great catastrophe in its primeval history. Man is God's creature in a special sense; but he is a fallen creature, and it is in his religion that the effects of the fall first and most declare themselves.
And not only is man, regarded as a spiritual being, thus subject to a law of "degeneration," but there is some mysterious influence which so guides the operation of that law, that it invariably leads to similar results. No matter what the point of departure, no matter what the environment, man's religion assumes the same phase, and displays the same general characteristics.
In a world so full of doubt it is not easy to find a "rough and ready" test by which to distinguish truth from error. But "Vincent's famous rule,"' already cited, will rarely fail us. (What has been accepted always, everywhere, by all) The method of its application, however, must depend upon the sphere in which it is to be applied. Speaking generally, what mankind in the mass approves is seldom wrong. And the intuitive judgment of the many is not infrequently a safer guide than the reason of the few. But in one province, at least, the presumption is reversed. In the religious sphere anything which satisfies this threefold test we may with reasonable confidence reject. It may generally be taken as an authentic "hall-mark" of falsehood.
In no other sphere save that of religion do men of intelligence and culture willingly subject their minds to delusions. The "historic Church" once tried to compel belief that this planet was the fixed centre of the solar system; but who believes it now? Men cannot be made to believe that water runs uphill, or that five and five make anything but ten. In no other sphere can they be induced to stultify reason and common sense. But in religion there seems to be no limit to their credulity. And in every age, and in all kinds of different environments, credulity fastens, and feeds itself, upon errors and superstitions of a kindred type.
One exception only has there been to this rule. In the ages when His people were in a state of tutelage, God gave them a religion. It was a concession to the weakness of human nature. That Divine religion is expressly described as "a shadow of the good things to come," namely, Christianity; for, to the spiritual discernment, Christ Himself was the sum and substance of it all. It was the only Divine religion the world has ever known; for Christianity is not, strictly speaking, a "religion" at all, but a revelation and a faith, And how did it differ from human religions, not excepting that which calls itself Christian? It differed essentially in these respects :-
(i) In the absence of any material representation of God.
(2) In the absence of mystical rites.
(3) In the absence of a mystically endowed priesthood.
(4.) In the absence of tradition. It was based altogether upon a Divine revelation which every Israelite was expected to study and obey.
And though in their apostasy the Jews lapsed into idolatry, the evil was eradicated by the judgments which fell on them in the era of the Captivity; and after the great revival under Ezra it never again declared itself. The post-captivity apostasy was not due to idolatry, but to the prevalence of human tradition, by which, as the Lord declared, they "make the word of God of none effect," "teaching for doctrines the commandments of men."'
But never even in the darkest period of the nation's history was, their religion corrupted by the Pagan conception of priesthood. "The Jews' religion" was, I repeat, an apostasy; but it never sank to the level to which "the Christians' religion" has fallen. It never knew the degradation of openly displaying those brand-marks of Paganism - mystical ordinances and a priesthood with mystical powers. "Sacraments" abounded. The priest himself, the appointed rites which he discharged, the altars at which he ministered, the sacrifices which were offered on them, the shrine, and every detail of its divinely ordered furniture - each and all proclaimed some spiritual truth, and pointed forward to the Messiah who was the reality of every type, the substance of every shadow, of the national religion. But there was not a single act, a single rite, in the prescribed ritual, even for the high-priest himself, which would have been beyond the capacity of any member of the congregation to discharge. The priest's position was unique, his privileges and duties were exclusively his own; but mystical powers he had absolutely none. The prophets in Israel were specially inspired. They uttered God-breathed words: they "spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." But if the members of the Aaronic house were, like the prophets, a class apart, it was solely and altogether in virtue of the Divine appointment which separated them to the service of the altar. In no respect did they differ from the people in whose behalf they ministered.
The book has yet to be written which will describe what Israel might have been, and the world would have been, had the favoured nation been true to the revelation God entrusted to them. Solomon's prophetic prayer at the dedication of the temple gives a transient glimpse of the vision. Blessed with the knowledge of the true God in a world that had wilfully lost it, they would have been a rallying centre to which earnest souls of every kindred might have come to seek and find the light. Professing a sublime faith, and commending it by noble and blameless living, they would have been missionaries to all the nations. The traditions of Eden, which even now still linger in some of the old religions of the world, of a coming deliverer, destined to bring blessing to mankind, would have been voiced by every part of their national cult. But that ritual was maintained solely in the interests of a carnal and corrupt priesthood. False prophets were honoured in proportion to the audacity with which they pandered to the nation's pride, and God's sent messengers were persecuted and slain. Appeal followed appeal, warning succeeded warning, one judgment after another fell on them; but all without avail. Their divinely taught religion became utterly degraded, arid in its degradation dragged down the nation to still lower depths; until at last, in the name of that religion - in the name ot the God who gave it them - they became "the betrayers and murderers" of the Son of God.
And these were nominally "the people of God," and their priests were "the priests of God"; and during His life on earth our blessed Lord acknowledged them, and called them to repentance on the ground of their divinely given promises and covenant. If ever there was a people who had seemingly a right to boast of knowing the true God, and of having a divinely ordained religion, it was the Hebrews. In every detail their cult was ordered by an express revelation. During all their pilgrimage from the house of bondage to the land of promise the tabernacle of Jehovah was in their midst. But what was the judgment of God who reads the heart? We here recall the words of the prophet, quoted by the martyr Stephen: "Have ye offered unto me slain beasts and sacrifices forty years in the wilderness? Yea, ye look up to the tabernacle of Moloch."' Outwardly and with their hands they bore the tabernacle of Jehovah; but inwardly and with their hearts they were carrying the tabernacle of Moloch.
Who was the god they served when they stoned the prophets and persecuted the messengers of heaven? That god was Moloch, the god of blood; though Jehovah was the name by which they called him. Who was the god they served when they "killed the Prince of life"? That god was Moloch, though the name they gave him was Jehovah. The nation as a whole had in all respects the same ordinances, and used the same nomenclature, as those among them who were the true "Israel of God"; but they knew nothing of their spiritual significance; they were dead to their spiritual power.
It will be said that the making of the golden calf is proof that the Jews were always idolaters, whereas the Christians' religion has a pure and spiritual worship. The plea will not avail. Idolatry in the sense this argument implies has no existence save perhaps among the most degraded races of mankind. The golden calf was to fill the place of Moses, not of God. But yesterday, Moses the mediator of the covenant had offered the sacrifice by which the covenant was dedicated, and now he had gone up to the Mount, where for forty days he remained with God. The tabernacle had not yet been made -the daily ritual had not yet been appointed. So they cried out for something to represent to them: and make vivid to their minds the solemnities of their religion. And to this end they made an effigy of the calf which was the appointed victim in the great sacrifice of the covenant'; and Aaron forthwith proclaimed a feast, but it was a feast to Jehovah. It is crassly stupid to suppose that these men believed the calf to be the God of their deliverance. It was nothing but an outward symbol. It met the craving of man's fallen nature for something material in religion. It was idolatry, no doubt, but it was idolatry of the kind in which the Christians' religion is steeped. Altars and crucifixes, images and pictures, relics and the "hocus-pocus " of the mass - these fill precisely the same place in the religion of Christendom which the golden calf was designed by Aaron to hold in the cult of Israel. But "God is Spirit, and they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit." All such idolatry is hateful to Him. And are we to learn nothing from all this in our judgment of Christendom? The religion entrusted to the Jews was Divine, but yet "the Jews' religion" was false; false, moreover although in externals it had right ordinances, and it used a correct nomenclature. Why, then, should we suppose that the religion of Christendom is different? Like apostate Judaism, it is a human religion based upon a Divine ideal; and, as we have seen, every human religion gravitates towards error and evil.
THE great religions of the world appeal to sacred writings for their sanction. But the religion of Christendom differs in this respect from the religions of the East, that its pretended appeal to Scripture is but a juggler's trick. It claims our acceptance of doctrines which none but the credulous would believe on mere human testimony; and when we demand to know when and where has God revealed them, the answer given us is that "He has founded a Church, and in and through the Church He speaks to us." When we seek authority for this we are referred back to Holy Scripture; but when in turn we claim to be allowed access to Scripture, human tradition is foisted upon us instead. This sort of thing is well known in another sphere: "ringing the changes," I again repeat, is what the vulgar call it!
How different, this, from the attitude and language of the great men who, in the sixteenth century, sought to free England from the toil and tricks of priestcraft. Here are their words:-
"It is not lawful for the Church to ordain anything that is contrary to God's Word written; neither may it expound one place of Scripture, that it be repugnant to another. Wherefore although the Church be a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ, yet, as it ought not to decree anything against the same, so, besides the same, ought it not to enforce anything to be believed for necessity of salvation."(Art.20)
This was precisely the question at issue in the sixteenth century. Obviously so; for the Reformation was essentially a revolt against the pretensions of "the Church," and an appeal to the supreme authority of Holy Scripture. Different sorts of men of course were moved by different motives. With the devout, the ruling influence was love of truth: with others, it was detestation of the Church's immoralities and tyrannies. As for Henry VIII, he cared little for either piety or morals. What he wanted was to be master in his own realm. Roman Catholics seek to discredit the movement in England by representing Henry as its leader. But they are on dangerous ground. They forget that it was from the Pope that Henry obtained the title of "Defender of the Faith." Immorality and hypocrisy were no bar to Papal favour. Let them paint the King as black as they can, and brand him as hypocrite and scoundrel, the fact remains that he was no worse than the man who then sat in "the chair of St. Peter." The vices of Henry VIII. were of a kind that the Church habitually condoned. But what shall be said of Paul III.? This "Vicar of Christ on earth," so far from being ashamed of his immoralities, flaunted them in the face of the world. The Duchies of Parma and Piacenza he conferred upon his illegitimate son Lewis, and he made provision for two of his schoolboy grandsons, by appointing them Cardinals. These things need to be remembered in these days when the salaried servants of the Church of the Reformation are trying to undermine the work of the Reformation.
Nothing is more unfair in controversy than to state in our own words the tenets of others from whom we differ. And to many the discussion of principles, apart from the men who champion them, seems too academic to be interesting. Let us then select an exponent of the views it is here desired to challenge. Dr. Gore, now Bishop of Birmingham, who was Dr. Pusey's immediate successor, as head of the House which bears his name, will serve the purpose admirably. All the more so because of his high personal character and his Christian spirit. His personal contribution to Lux Mundi gave prominent expression to certain of the errors here assailed, and The Ministry of the Christian Church was written in defence of them.
"How irrational it is," he says, "considering the intimate links by which the New Testament canon is bound up with the historic Church, not to accept the mind of that Church as interpreting the mind of the apostolic writers." The logic of this is charming. Let us test it by a parallel case. "How irrational it is, considering the intimate links by which the Old Testament canon is bound up with the Jews (and they, moreover, were the divinely appointed custodians of them), not to accept the mind of the Jews as interpreting the Messianic prophecies." The glaring fallacy of this argument lies in confounding questions of fact with interpretations of doctrine. The question of the genuineness of the books of the New Testament is of the same character as issues of fact such as are dealt with every day in our courts of justice. We owe our obligations to the historic Church in early times for settling and preserving the sacred canon. But this does not blind us to the fact that the hatred of the Scriptures which it displayed in later times was the natural fruit of the false teaching of the Fathers.
But the statement above cited calls for further criticism. First, it raises the whole question whether we possess a Divine revelation at all. Secondly, the question again presents itself, What is the Church? The argument assumes that it means the clergy - a figment which no one accepts who has not already given up his Bible. And, thirdly, waiving that point, how is the mind of the Church to be ascertained? If by the decrees of Councils, then we are met by the fact that the mind of the Church was not declared until after the epoch when "the mind of the apostolic writers" would, by lapse of time, have been lost. If by the writings of the Fathers, then the fact obtrudes itself that the Councils were convened to detect and expose their heresies, and, therefore, they cannot be safe guides to the "apostolic mind."
But our author is logical enough to see that this position is untenable, so he abandons it for another. Pusey reverenced the Bible as supreme, but his disciple is unembarrassed by any enthusiasm of faith in Holy Scripture. In his opinion "the Scriptures have suffered greatly from being isolated." "Nor can a hard-and-fast line be drawn between what lies within, and what lies without, the canon." And lest any one should miss the meaning of these monstrous statements, he explains them by an illustration. "The Epistle to the Hebrews and St. Clement's letter are closely linked together." And, he adds, "How impossible to tear the one from the other." Suffice it to say that in the letter referred to, appeal is made to the Pagan myth of the Pheonix, not incidentally, nor as an, allegory or illustration, but gravely and as a fact, to establish the truth of the resurrection. Impossible to tear apart the Scriptures from puerilities and blunders like these! Could any one have written the sentence above quoted who believed the New Testament to be a Divine revelation?
(Footnote - And yet the letter which is traditionally attributed to Clement of Rome is in some respects vastly superior to the writings of the later Fathers. Suffice it here to say that while expressly connected with the apostolic Epistles to the Corinthians, it has nothing whatever in common with the Epistle to the Hebrews. Why then bracket them thus together? The answer to this question may be gleaned from the following sentence: "For Clement interprets the high-priesthood of Christ in a sense which, instead of excluding, makes it the basis of, the ministerial hierarchy of the Church." Now, first, this appeal to Clement is an admission that Scripture will not support what is pleaded for. And, secondly, the view here attributed to Clement the ordinary reader will search for in vain. In the clause referred to he enforces the maxim of 1 Cor. xiv. 40 (that "let all things be done in order ") by referring to the Jewish orders of chief priest, priest, levite, and layman, each having his fitting duties; but in the next clause but one he gives clear proof (as has been noticed by numberless writers) that he knew nothing of a "ministerial hierarchy.")
Having thus undermined confidence in Holy Scripture, the writer goes on to set up the authority of "the Church" in its place. In a word, he falls back upon the position of medial superstition which was repudiated at the Reformation by the Church of which he is a minister. The immense importance of the subject must be my apology for pursuing it; for this is the teaching by which the people of this nation are being insidiously drawn back to the darkness, the intellectual and spiritual degradation, from which the Reformation delivered our forefathers.
Proceeding with his argument upon inspiration, he says:- "Let us bear carefully in mind the place which the doctrine holds in the building up of a Christian faith. It is, in fact, an important part of the superstructure, but it is not among the bases of the Christian belief. The Christian creed asserts the reality of certain historical facts. To these facts, in the Church's name, we claim assent; but we do so on grounds which, so far, are quite independent of the inspiration of the evangelic records. All that we claim to show at this stage is that they are historical; not historical so as to be absolutely without error, but historical in the general sense, so as to be trustworthy. All that is necessary for faith in Christ is to be found in the moral dispositions which predispose to belief, and make intelligible and credible the thing to be believed; coupled with such acceptance of the generally historical character of the Gospels, and of the trustworthiness of the other apostolic documents, as justifies belief that our Lord was actually born of the Virgin Mary. . . ." (p. 340). Here in a single clause - and it is the climax of an argument - we have the root error of the apostasy, as definitely formulated by Augustine. As Professor Harnack expresses it,
"The Church guaranteed the truth of the faith, when the individual could not perceive it."' "To these facts, in the Church's name, we claim assent." If ever there was an appeal to ignorance and superstition it is here. Having regard to the Church's history the effrontery of it is amazing. Its folly will be apparent to any one who brings reason and common sense to bear upon the question at issue.
(Footnote - In the same connection he says, "When he (Augustine) threw himself into the arms of the Catholic Church he was perfectly conscious that he needed its authority not to sink in scepticism or nihilism" (History of Dogma, vol. v. ch. iii.). We are asked to follow the teaching of Augustine, and yet he himself was simply following the crowd - superstition calls it "the Church "- because, like a timid man in the dark, he could not trust himself to be alone!)
The first of "these facts," upon which all the rest depend, is that the Nazarene was the Son of God. The founder of Rome was believed to be the divinely begotten child of a vestal virgin. And in the old Babylonian mysteries a similar parentage was ascribed to the martyred son of Semiramis, Queen of Heaven. What reason have we, then, for distinguishing the birth at Bethlehem from these and other kindred legends of the ancient world? These men disparage the Scriptures, and, though yielding a conventional assent to their claim to inspiration, they refuse even to pledge themselves to their truth; and yet in the Church's name "they claim assent" to that to which no consensus of mere human testimony could lend even an a priori probability.
All we need for faith is to be found, forsooth, in "the moral dispositions which predispose to belief." When the weak-nerved guest who has been plied with tales about the haunted room, retires to rest with "the moral dispositions which predispose to belief" in ghosts, the ghost is certain to appear! And so also here: if we will but allow our minds to be hypnotised by priests, we shall be prepared to believe in the Incarnation, the sacrifice of Calvary, the sacrifice of the Mass, apostolic succession, and the mystic efficacy of the sacraments. And we shall swallow all these doctrines without any exercise of mind or heart or conscience, and without any capacity to distinguish between Divine truth and human error and superstition.
If, on the other hand, the New Testament is a Divine revelation; if "the evangelic records" are, in the language of the Apostle Paul, "God-breathed Scriptures," then indeed the Christian can face his fellow-men with the confession of his faith that the crucified Jew was the Son of God. But, apart from such a revelation, faith in anything which is outside the sphere of reason and the senses is mere superstition. The foundation fact of Christianity is of that character; and those who accept it on the authority of "the Church" are poor superstitious creatures who would believe anything.
And such these men prove themselves to be. They believe that the Nazarene was the Son of God; they believe the same, and on the same authority, of a piece of bread from the baker's oven. They are like the schoolboy who answers that six and seven are thirteen, and later on, in reply to a further question, says that six and eight are thirteen. The wrong answer destroys the value of the right one, by showing that it rests on no intelligent basis. And so here. Faith in that which is true is not necessarily true faith. In this instance it would seem to be sheer credulity. One quotation more to make clearer still the anti-Christian character of this system :-
"If we believe . . . that our Lord founded a visible Church, and that this Church with her creed and Scriptures, ministry and sacraments, is the instrument which He has given us to use, our course is clear. We must devote our energies to making the Church adequate to the Divine intention - as strong in principle, as broad in spirit, as our Lord intended her to be; trusting that, in proportion as her true motherhood is realised, her children will find their peace within her bosom. We cannot believe that there is any religious need which at the last resort the resources of the Church are inadequate to meet."
What does a man need in the spiritual sphere? Forgiveness of sins ?-the Church will grant him absolution. Peace with God? -he will find it in the Church's "bosom." "Grace to help in time of need"? Comfort in sorrow? Strength for the struggles of life, and support in the solemn hour of death? The whole burden of his need "the resources of the Church" are adequate to meet.
The Lord Jesus Christ is all in all in Christianity. But the Christ of this religion holds a position akin to that of the Sovereign in the British Constitution. Supreme in a sense, of course, the King must be regarded; but the King never touches the life of the ordinary citizen. And so here. Professor Harnack describes it admirably in a single sentence: "Christ as a person is forgotten. The fundamental questions of salvation are not answered by reference to Him; and in life the baptized has to depend on means which exist partly alongside, partly independent of Him, or merely bear His badge."
These words, descriptive of the Romish system under Gregory the Great, might be fitly placed upon the title-page of The Church and The Ministry. Witness the prevalence of such language as "salvation through the Church," "grace communicated from without"- expressions and ideas wholly foreign to Scripture, but well known in Romish theology. The work opens, of course, with an appeal to tradition. As soon as the writer comes to Scripture he at once betrays hopeless confusion between the kingdom of heaven and the Church of God. The kingdom was the burden of Hebrew prophecy; the Church was a "mystery" revealed after Israel's rejection of Messiah. He goes on to confound the Church regarded as "the body of Christ," with the Church as an organised society on earth. The former is the whole company of the redeemed of the Christian dispensation; the latter consists of the professing body upon earth at any particular time. Distinctions of this kind, so clear upon the open page of Scripture, a false theology ignores; and ignorance of them makes the New Testament seem a maze of inconsistencies and contradictions.
(Footnote - Such distinctions explain, ex. gr., how the Lord could say, "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" ; "Go not into the way of the Gentiles," &c.; and yet how He could speak of I_ivine love to the world, and eternal life for "whosoever bëlieveth .. in Him." And as regards the twofold aspect of the Church, we find in Eph. iv. Ix, the ministry designed to fulfil the Diiiie pur-pose for the one, and in r Cor. xii. 28, we have the provision for the needs of the other. "For the building up of the body Of Christ" (Eph. iv. 12) we have (in addition to apostles, prophets, and teachers, which are common to both) evangelists or preachers of the gospel. In the Church as organised on earth we have no evangelists (for the Church is supposed to be composed of those who have been brought in by the gospel), but we have "helps, governments," &c. The sphere of government is the Church on earth; the sphere of the ministry of the gospel is the world. The Apostle Paul had this double ministry. "The gospel . . whereof I am made a minister"; and "the Church whereof I am made a minister" (Col. 1. 23-25).
Apostolic Succession, which is the burden of the book, is the special subject of the second chapter. The pundits of the Council of Trent had to face the fact that the Papal system rested upon a single text; the figment of Apostolic Succession has not even one perverted text to support it. It is not a question whether provision has been made for a true ministry in the Church until the end; that is assured by Divine faithfulness and power. But what we are here asked to believe is that Christ set in motion a mechanical system which, by a process of finger-tip touches, to be repeated generation after generation, would transmit to all posterity certain mystical influences, for the maintenance of what is called "grace."
Now this may be considered from the standpoint either of Christianity or of reason. As regards the latter, suffice it here to ask, Is it any wonder that in view of such teaching, so many intelligent and honest-minded men of the world should come to look upon religion as a jumble of silly fables and shameful frauds? And as regards the former, it would be idle to expect that the ordinary reader would follow an exhaustive exegesis of Scripture on the subject; but perhaps a clear statement of the error will render unnecessary an elaborate exposition of the truth.
The case stands thus. In the Apostolic Church there were apostles, bishops (or elders), and ministers. The apostles held a unique position. They admittedly had to do with the foundation of the Church. That they have successors is a mere inference. To establish that inference is the object of the treatise here under notice. A perusal of it will suggest to the intelligent reader a juggler's attempt to place a ball at rest half way down an inclined plane. Ordinary folk would place it either at the top or at the bottom. The Christian takes his stand upon Scripture; the Romanist falls back upon tradition; but these Romanising Anglicans are the advocates of an unintelligent and impossible compromise. It is a clever piece of casuistry, nothing more.
Not "deacons." There was no word in the Greek language for steam-engine when the New Testament was written; neither was there for deacon; and for the same reason! See Appendix IV., Note II.
No one can fail to mark the contrast between the tone of this book and that of the volume cited on p. 46, ante. As we read Canon Bernard's Lectures we seem to be breathing the pure air of heaven; when we turn to Canon Gore's treatise we are oppressed by the atmosphere of the crypt and the cloister. In the one we have Christian theology; in the other the theology of Christendom.
Here is the scheme: As there were three orders at the first, there must be three orders now. But as we no longer have apostles, the "bishops" of the New Testament are moved up to fill their place; and the position thus vacated by the promoted bishops is occupied by "priests" -not "presbyters writ large," but priests. The Romanist, more intelligent and more consistent than his imitators, recognises that above the apostles there was Christ, and so he sets up a Vicar of Christ, the Pope.
In the sublime arrogance of Rome there is something which almost commands an unwilling admiration; but this halting imitation of Rome evokes feelings of a very different kind. And there is nothing more pitiable about these men than their repudiation of the name of "Protestant." If their position be not a protest against Rome, it must be designed as a half-way house to Rome. If they are not Protestants they must be Jesuits. But whatever their intention, the tendency and results of their teaching are clear. Cardinal Vaughan writes: "The recent revival of Catholic doctrines and practices in the Church of England is very wonderful. It is a hopeful sign. It exhibits a yearning and a turning of the mind and heart towards the Catholic Church. It is a national clearing the way for something more."'
This religion bears a relation to Christ, akin to that which the Buddhism of to-day bears to Gautama. Nineteen centuries ago, as already explained, its Founder injected into His apostles the "grace" upon which our salvation depends; and the stock of the commodity now available has come down to us on the finger-tip touch system through a long succession. Salvation is thus "through the Church," by means of the sacraments; and therefore, apart from Apostolic Succession in an episcopacy, there can be no "Church," no valid sacraments, and of course no salvation. No, not quite that; for, we are told, "God's love is not limited by His covenant"; He is not bound to His sacraments. Which suggests that, considering the long ages during which the "sacramental grace" was flowing through the filthiest channels, sensible people will do well to distrust the orthodox "grace," and to cast themselves upon the "uncovenanted mercy" of God.
The Christian of course takes higher ground and denounces the whole system as both false and profane. It is false; for this theory of salvation "through the covenant" by "sacramental grace" denies the great characteristic truth of Christianity. This shall be demonstrated in the sequel. And it is profane, for it assumes that a "holy, holy, holy God" can recognise immoral and wicked men as His specially accredited ministers. What would be thought of the army - what would be thought of the Sovereign - if men convicted of crime, or disgraced by flagrant and notorious acts of immorality, were allowed to hold the King's commission? The only Scripture that can be cited in support of the profanity refutes it. For it was not the death of Judas which determined his apostleship, but his sin. All the apostles died; but Judas "by transgression fell." The man who stands upon Apostolic Succession may be indeed a minister of "the Christians' religion," but he has no valid claim to be acknowleged as a minister of Christ. He is separated from Christ by nineteen centuries of time,, and by an impassable slough of moral filth and spiritual apostasy.
To the superficial the grossness of the imposture is not apparent in the case of those whose life and character give them personal claims to respect and veneration. But if the position be tenable at all, such men are "in the same boat" with the vilest of the miscreants who disgraced the clerical office during the centuries before the Reformation shamed "the historic Church" into a show of outward decency, and compelled it to set its house in order. They moreover were "nearer to the fountain" than are their successors of to-day. And they, forsooth: were pillars of the Church, and custodians' of "grace," while men like a Chalmers or a Spurgeon are mere interlopers, whose deliverance from the doom of Uzzah is due to the uncovenanted mercy of God! That educated men can be deluded by such a system is proof of the baneful influence of human religion upon the mind.
IN the Church's name! "Great is Diana of the Ephesians." The only sacred thing on earth is "the Church." As for Holy Scripture, that may be patronised or mangled at pleasure: the dissecting knife of criticism cannot be applied to it too remorselessly. But to question the Divine authority of "the Church" is profanity beyond forgiveness. Just as in Pagan Rome men were free to believe in anything or in nothing, as it pleased them, so long as they were willing to burn incense at the appointed shrine, so is it in "Christian" England. There is but one God, and "the Church" is His prophet.
"In the Church's name!" With these men "the Church" is the one mediator between God and men. No, they will exclaim, not the Church but Christ; the mediator is Christ, speaking in and through the Church. How plainly and fully the Divine Spirit anticipated this plausible falsehood when He inspired the words, "There is one God and one Mediator between God and men, THE MAN Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all."' Not the Church, not Christ in the Church, not the "mystical Christ"; but Christ THE MAN who died for men; HE is the only mediator between men and God.
Society is occasionally startled by some notable secession to Rome; and the inference is a natural one that if "men of light and leading" take a step so momentous there cannot but be the most cogent reasons in its favour. As a matter of fact every one of these perverts has been angled for individually,(2) and the bait by which they have all been tempted is "the Church." (3) As the champions of the Neo-Romanism, so popular today in England, have taught them the foundation lie of the apostasy, that salvation is in and through "the Church," 4 they are easily drawn into the net, and duly make their submission to Rome.
(Footnotes, -(2) I have myself been honoured in this way. See Appendix II. (3)The lie is a venerable one. "Outside the Church there is no salvation" was a favourite maxim of Cyprian.)
The great Orthodox Church being ignored, this result is inevitable. A simple process of negative induction leads to it. For the position claimed by the ritualists for the Church of England is obviously that of a schismatical sect, severed from and repudiated by that Church to which it owes everything which they deem vital; and Protestantism regarded as a religion is rightly rejected as a transparent fraud. It was a common saying in the days of the Council of Trent that the Bible was the religion of Protestants. Protestantism in itself affords no anchorage for faith. But it provides a breakwater which makes our anchorage secure: it shields us from influences which make Christianity impossible. While priest craft would set up a Church to mediate between God and man, Protestantism places in our hands an open Bible, and pointing us to the only mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, leaves us free to "obey the gospel."
Christianity makes salvation a personal matter between the sinner and God. It is not a question of subjection to ordinances of religion, but of personal submission to the Lord Jesus Christ. The contrast is presented in the most emphatic way in the great doctrinal treatise of the New Testament. At the close of his parting charge to Israel, Moses spoke as follows :- "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not hidden from thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it? But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in the heart, that thou mayest do it (Deut. xxx. 11-14).
And now, mark how the inspired apostle uses these words. Addressing the Romans, he says :- "For Moses writeth that the man that doeth the righteousness which is of the law shall live thereby. But the righteousness which is of faith saith thus, Say not in thy heart, Who shall ascend into heaven? (that is, to bring Christ down:) or, Who shall descend into the abyss? (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead.) But what saith it? The word is nigh thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; because if thou shalt confess with thy mouth Jesus as Lord, and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved" (Rom. x. 5-9 R.V.). According to the Divine revelation of Judaism, the way of life was obedience to ordinances; according to the Divine revelation of grace in Christianity, it is faith in Christ, and the acknowledgment of Him as Lord. And thus the apostle adds, "For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. . . . For whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved." And the inspired definition of the Church is, "All that in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ."'
Salvation therefore is not by the Church, but the Church is composed of those who are thus saved by Christ.
But this is mere Christianity, and what men crave for is a religion. For their "affairs" they have a lawyer; for their bodies, a doctor; and for their souls they want a priest. Christianity is Divine and therefore, as men deem it, supernatural and visionary; whereas religion is human and natural, and therefore practical.
Here, and throughout these pages, the word " religion" is used in its proper classical meaning - the only meaning in which it is used in our English Bible. "How little 'religion' once meant godliness," says Archbishop Trench, "how predominantly it was used for the outward service of God, is plain from many passages in our homilies and from other contemporary literature." So Thomas Carlyle writes that, "In Scotland, Dr. Laud, much to his regret, found 'no religion at all,' no surplices, no altars in the east or anywhere; no bowing, no responding; not the smallest regularity of fugleman ship or devotional drill exercise; in short, 'no religion at all that I could see - which grieved me much."'
In these days the secular press has taken up "religion." Priests and altars, confession and absolution, "the ornaments rubric" and "incense used ceremonially "- these and kindred topics are freely discussed in the daily newspapers. But no letters in the interests of Christianity appear in their columns. Letters of that kind gravitate to the waste-paper basket, while every one has been free to air his faith in the superstitions of human religion - superstitions which, formerly, the manhood of Christendom, especially in Roman Catholic countries, treated with cynical contempt.
(Footnote - Carlyle's Cromwell's Letters and Speeches (Introduction). Archbishop Laud was an authority upon religion, but not upon Christianity. For the Christian, "pure religion" (the Apostle James declares) "is to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted in the world." And in commenting on this, Archbishop Trench remarks that the very (Greek word) of Christianity "consists in acts of mercy, of love, of holiness." In other words, Christianity is not a religion at all. (See The Silence of God, pp. 43-45, and Note II. of the Appendix.)
The following is a typical specimen of the sort of effusion above alluded to. After referring to the charge that "a clergyman who has a High celebration with Catholic ritual" cannot teach the doctrines of the Church of England, he proceeds "So I used to think, but I found I was mistaken. I had never read any theology in those days; I had only glanced at my Prayer-book; I knew nothing of the Ornaments Rubric, the Act of Uniformity, the Tractarian movement, &c. Consequently I bore false witness against my neighbour - viz., the ritualistic clergy. But when God revealed the truth to me and I understood what conversion meant, and what the Incarnation, the Catholic Church, the Eucharistic Sacrifice, the Real Presence, Confession and Absolution, and all the rest meant, then a new light dawned on my soul and I found a beautiful peace in the Church of England. Then I saw that what looked to me in my ignorance to be idolatry, formalism, treachery, was really love of Jesus, faith in God's promises, and loyalty to, the Church of England as part "of the one true Church."'
It is not easy to gauge the spiritual, or even the intellectual condition of men who in presence of the awful solemnities of "sin and righteousness and judgment to come" can find "a beautiful peace" through the study of the ornaments rubric and the Act of Uniformity, Were it not indeed for the solemnity of the subject, it would be exquisitely amusing. But it is too serious and too sad for ridicule. Of course ecclesiastical doctrines and practices may be discussed in a cold and formal way, without reference to experience.
But here the writer discloses his own spiritual history and the ground of his soul's peace. And yet there is not a word about Christ and His atoning sacrifice. "Christ as a person is forgotten; the fundamental questions of salvation are not answered by reference to Him."' Instead of Calvary we have the "Eucharistic sacrifice" of the mass, that the Church of which the writer is a paid servant describes as a "blasphemous fable." A discussion of the many questions here raised would fill a volume; but let us seize upon this vital error of "the one true Church," "the Catholic Church."
The haughty isolation, the dignified reserve, of the Greek Church is well fitted to impress the imagination, as is also the lofty intolerance of Rome. We know what "the Church" means with them, and we know what the Reformers meant by it. But what is "the one true Church" of these Neo-Romanists? Not the company of "all that call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ," but the aggregate of the Episcopal communities, including that Church which rejects their fellowship with such disdain. The Reformers defined the Church as "a congregation of faithful men in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments be duly administered";' and judging the Greek and Roman Churches by these tests, they in express terms excluded them from the category.
Mark what this implies. Prior to the Reformation, the English Church was but a branch of the Church of Rome; but the Reformers openly seceded from the Roman Communion; and in doing so they expressly repudiated its claims to be a true Church at all, and denounced its most characteristic ordinances as "blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits." But the Reformers were not so narrow-minded and silly as to imagine that there was no Church on earth save in the southern half of this little island of Britain. Rome limits the Church to those who are within her pale; but they, refusing the place of a mere sect, which is the position occupied by the Neo-Romanists to-day, so defined the Church as to include all Christians everywhere who took their stand with them upon the truth and practice of primitive Christianity.' The Church founded by Augustine of Canterbury was not the Church of England, but a branch of the Church of Rome in England. Pope Gregory's mission corrupted and eventually stamped out, so far as the southern kingdom was concerned, the purer Christianity of the ancient Church of Britain - a Church founded in apostolic times by apostolic emissaries.
Was the Reformation then no more than a surface cleaning of the English branch of the apostate Church, or was it a repudiation of that evil system, and a return to the purer faith of earlier days?
Great issues depend upon the answer given to this question. The time foretold in prophecy is not yet, when there can be no salvation within the professing Church of Christendom. Not until the earthly people shall have been restored to favour as "the Bride" will the Church of Christendom be openly revealed as "the Harlot." - And then the command will be peremptory; "Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues. For her sins have reached even unto heaven, and God hath remembered her iniquities."
(Footnote - Rev. xviii. 4, 5. I would not be understood as palliating the sin of remaining in the communion of an apostate Church. And if the Church of England were a branch of "the Catholic Church," in the sense in which the Romanisers use that term, no Christian should remain in it for a single day; not because there is no salvation within the historic Church-this may not asserted-but because the Christian has to stand before the judgment. seat of Christ. 2 Luke xi. 5o, 5i.)
For Divine judgments are cumulative. He is "a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Him." It is not that the innocent suffer for the guilty, but that succeeding generations of God-haters, by identifying themselves with the sin of those who have gone before them, become heirs of guilt. Thus it was that, as the Lord Himself declared, the Israel of Messianic days guilty of "the blood of all the prophets, which was shed from the foundation of the world." And by her own deliberate acts the "historic Church" entered upon the awful heritage of guilt; and when, at the close of this day of grace, her sins shall come up for judgment, upon her shall be avenged His holy apostles and prophets for "in her," we read, "was found the blood of prophets and of saints, even of all that have been slain upon the earth."' The Churches of the Reformation sought to "break the entail" of guilt, but these Neo-Romanists are determined, so far as in them lies, to restore it. Upon every man who stands upon "the continuity of the historic Church," "the blood of the martyrs" calls aloud for vengeance.
The question here involved is the pivot on which the pending controversy turns. The ritualist regards the Reformation as merely an incidental episode in the Church's history, and the Thirty-nine Articles as a passing ebullition of Protestant ignorance and bigotry. Therefore he practically ignores both. Therefore it is that he dreads the jurisdiction of the ordinary tribunals, knowing - well that every lawyer will regard the Reformation and the Articles as vital. The Articles are the Church's confession of faith, framed after the Prayer-book was compiled; and therefore the Prayer-book must be interpreted by the Articles, not the Articles by the Prayer-book. Men of the world are Gallios in all that concerns religion. Why should they take sides with one Church or party against another? But the revival of the confessional is fitted to put an end to this indifference. Men are beginning to understand that the question here at issue is one which touches all that is most precious and sacred in private and family life. And the more fully this is realised, the stronger will be the tide of popular indignation.
The standard theological treatise prepared for the guidance of priests in questioning penitents in the confessional, and actually used for this purpose, is so indescribably filthy that a pamphlet containing bare extracts from it in English, although admittedly published and circulated with a good motive, has been condemned for obscenity; and an enthusiast who sought thus to excite public feeling against the system has suffered imprisonment for his offence.
"If in these days," says Froude, "the Church of Rome were to persuade any secular power to burn a single heretic for it - as in past centuries it burned thousands - I suppose the whole system would at once be torn to atoms." And if some English gentleman should be sent to gaol for horsewhipping a "priest" who has received his wife's confession in matters relating to the secret confidences of married life, the event would do more than the bishops are likely, to effect to put down this iniquity in the land.' - Confession to a man is an outrage upon men; hence the popular clamour against the infamy of it. Absolution by a man is a far greater outrage upon God; but of this men seem to be unmindful. And yet there is in it something appallingly profane. It belongs to the Pagan conception of priesthood, by which the primitive Church was so soon corrupted. The Jew knew nothing of it. Even in the days of his deepest apostasy, he never forgot that the forgiveness of sins is a Divine prerogative.
(Footnote - Said Archbishop Tait, when speaking on this subject in the House of Lords on 14th June, 1877, "I am sure it would be the duty of any father of a family to remonstrate with the clergyman who had put the questions, and warn him never to approach his house again." I mean nothing more than this, save that I could suggest a method of "remonstrating" that would be efficacious!)
And no great knowledge of Scripture is needed to satisfy any one that the apostles themselves never claimed the power to which these priests of Christendom so impiously pretend. To point sinners to the Lord Jesus Christ was the aim of all their ministry. "To Him give all the prophets witness, that through His name, whosoever believeth in Him shall receive remission of sins."' Such was the Apostle Peter's testimony. And the Apostle Paul's was to the same effect: "Through Him is proclaimed unto you remission of sins; and by film, every one that believeth is justified from all things."
There was nothing distinctively apostolic about this. To give such a testimony to Christ is the privilege of every Christian. Indeed, until ecclesiasticism corrupted Christianity it was plainly recognised as his responsibility. In the persecution which followed the martyrdom of Stephen, the Christians, we are told, were all scattered abroad, and the record adds, -"They that were scattered abroad went everywhere, preaching the Word." That is to say, not only was missionary work of this kind not "an apostolic function," but at that particular stage of the Church's history the apostles alone refrained from entering upon it.' Priestly absolution, like Papal supremacy, depends on the perversion of a single text. The precept, "Confess your sins one to another," is the only Scripture to which it can appeal. Here is the passage in full
"Is any among you suffering? let him pray. Is any cheerful? let him sing praise. Is any among you sick? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord: and the prayer of faith shall save him that is sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, it shall be forgiven him. Confess therefore your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The supplication of a righteous man availeth much in its working" (James v: I3-I6, R.V.).
(Footnote - Under Divine guidance, no doubt. While the testimony was specially addressed to Israel (that is, during the Pentecostal dis-pensation), Jerusalem was the divinely appointed centre.)
If men did not take leave of reason and common sense in all that concerns religion, could any one find priestly absolution here? "Confess your sins one to another," means, forsooth, "confess your sins to a priest, and "pray for one another" means, "and the priest will absolve you"! Forgiveness is with God; and if the weak would invoke human aid, that aid will be found in "the supplication of a righteous man," or (as the Reformers suggested) the counsel of a "minister of God's word," who, "by the ministry of God's holy word," may be able to quiet the conscience of the penitent.'
If the Apostle Peter had known of the power to prescribe a penance, and to absolve the penitent, would he have said to Simon Magus, "Pray God, if perhaps the thought of thy heart may be forgiven thee"? If Simon had ever heard of it, would he have replied, "Pray ye to the Lord for me"?
(Footnote - "The ever memorable Mr. John Hales, of Eaton," an Oxford Professor in his day, and altogether a notable person-he got preferment from Laud-wrote as follows: "Your Pliny tells you 'that he that ,ls stricken by a scorpion, if he go immediately and whisper it into the ears of an ass, shall find himself immediately eased.' That sin is a scorpion and bites deadly, I have always believed; but that to cure the bite of it it was a sovereign remedy to whisper it into the ear of a priest, I do as well believe as I do that of Pliny." )
Paul alone of all the apostles, compelled by the attacks of the Judaisers, "magnified his office," insisting upon the dignity and power which pertained to the apostleship. Yet he it was who wrote, "What then is Apollos? and what is Paul?" And the answer is - not "Priests to stand between you and God," but "Ministers by whom ye believed." The same might have been said of any one of the thousands of the scattered Pentecostal Church. And he further emphasises this by declaring, "In nothing am I behind the very chiefest apostles, though I be nothing."'
The apostles had a position of undoubted pre-eminence and power in the Church - a position absolutely unique, though these sham priests pretend to share it; and yet so far as the remission of a sinner's sins was concerned, an apostle was no more than the humblest Christian. At this point man is absolutely nothing, and his intervention is indeed the sin of Korah - a sin compared with which the foulest immorality ever disclosed in the confessional is trivial. If such an outrage upon the Divine Majesty does not bring down swift and signal vengeance, it is because this is the age of a silent Heaven, the age of the reign of grace. Its punishment awaits the awful day when the priest and his dupe shall stand together before the throne of God.
But while, as already noticed, the question in this aspect of it is altogether a religious one, it has another side, in which it closely concerns the national character and the future of this realm. "It is yours, Right Reverend Fathers," said Cardinal Manning' in addressing the English Roman Catholic prelates, "to subjugate and subdue, to bend and to break the will of an imperious race, the will which, as the will of Rome of old, rules over nations and people, invincible and inflexible." And no method can be more certain of achieving this fell purpose of humiliating the spirit of Englishmen than that of habituating them to the degradation of confession to a priest. The ritualistic controversy abounds in questions respecting which wide differences of opinion must be tolerated in a Church which claims to be national. But here no toleration is possible.
Persecution? Yes, if needs be - persecution of the kind that sends men to gaol for fraud, or for dispensing poisons without a label. Let these men join the Church of Rome, and they can follow the practices of their religion unhindered. But the salaried servants of the National Church, the Church of the Reformation, must not be permitted to destroy the work of the Reformation. If the bishops will not, and the courts cannot, put down this abomination, the constituencies must deal with it. God forbid that the appeal should need to be carried further. But our liberties have been won at the cost of revolution, and we are prepared to maintain them, let the further cost be what it may.
HERE is an infant, born but yesterday, and yet so frail and sickly that its young life may flicker out at any moment. The question arises, If it should die, what is to be its future? If it dies in its present condition, we are told it must be lost, heaven it cannot enter. But, we plead, the poor creature does not know its right hand from its left ; it is absolutely innocent. Why should it be thus punished?
Personally innocent, yes, we are answered; but by natural generation it belongs to the fallen race, and Adam's sin must banish it to hell, unless by regeneration it is brought within the family of God. But by the sacrament of baptism this change can be brought about without delay or difficulty, and thus the child's salvation can be secured if death should seize on it. Any one, perhaps, can perform the rite; but, as that is a disputed point, it may be well to make assurance still more sure, and call in the aid of one who is divinely appointed to administer the sacraments. But suppose the man we summon to our aid should be false to his profession, and prove to be of evil character and immoral life?
That, we are assured, will in no way affect the validity of the sacrament, or the reality of the change which it will produce in the child. If the man be lawfully ordained, God will acknowledge him as His minister, notwithstanding.
In a case of this kind nothing is gained by an appeal to passion. But will thoughtful and fair minds consider the matter, and honestly answer the question, whether even in the superstitions of Pagan races to whom we send out missionaries, there can be found a conception of God more unworthy, more revolting than this.
What kind of God is this that is thus presented to us? A Being, unjust, unloving, and cruel, who devotes an innocent and helpless infant to destruction. A Being, unreasonable, arbitrary, and capricious, who will change its eternal destiny if a few drops of water are sprinkled upon it, accompanied by the utterance of a few cabalistic words. An unholy, an immoral Being, for He employs and recognises agents no matter what their character and life may be.
(I have therefore dismissed it to the Appendix. See App. I.)
And yet this gross and profane misrepresentation of God is an essential part of the historic religion of Christendom. And not only does Western civilisation tolerate the system, but even in England, in these days of vaunted enlightenment, "men of light and leading" are turning back to it. And notwithstanding this proof of the power of religion to blind and deprave the human mind, men who pretend to be freethinkers sneer at the truth of Adam's fall, and refuse to believe in the spiritual apostasy of the fallen race! Although the figment of baptismal regeneration is but one link in a catena of errors, it is the first and most important; and if this can be pulverised and destroyed the rest will crumble and disappear. But how is the discussion to be conducted? Of course the vital question is, What does the Bible teach upon the subject? And yet the majority of those who will read these pages would refuse to follow such an inquiry. This indeed is the secret of the influence of priests. I will here content myself therefore with calling attention to three plain and salient facts, which any one with the help of a concordance can verify.
The first fact is that in not a single passage of the New Testament where baptism is mentioned is it connected with regeneration or spiritual birth. The next fact is still more significant, namely, that in those passages where the doctrine of baptism is unfolded it is definitely and emphatically connected with death, which of course is the very antithesis of birth. The third fact shall be stated in borrowed words. In combating these errors the late Bishop Ryle of Liverpool writes:
"It is most extraordinary that there is so little about baptism in the Epistles of the New Testament. In Romans it is only twice mentioned, and in 1 Corinthians seven times. In Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians Hebrews, and 1 Peter, we find it named once in each Epistle. In thirteen of the remaining Epistles it is neither named nor referred to. In the two pastoral Epistles to Timothy, where we might expect something about baptism, if anywhere, there is not a word about it! In the Epistle to Titus the only text that can possibly be applied to baptism is by no means clearly applicable (Titus iii. 5). Nor is this all. In the one Epistle which mentions baptism seven times, we find the writer saying that 'Christ sent me, not to baptize, but to preach the gospel'; and actually 'thanking God' that he had baptized none of the Corinthians save Crispus and Gaius."
To recapitulate. Baptism is nowhere connected with regeneration in the New Testament; it symbolises death and not birth and it has a comparatively small and incidental place in the teaching of the New Testament. How then, it may well be asked, could it have come to assume a meaning so different, and to hold a place so engrossing, in the religion of Christendom? In this connection the fact claims notice that while the writers of the New Testament, and the teachers whose names the New Testament has made familiar to us, were, without exception, men whose minds had been formed by the study of the Hebrew Scriptures, there was scarcely one of the post-apostolic Fathers of whom this could be averred. What the Scriptures and the Jewish faith were to the writers and teachers of the New Testament, the writings of the Greek philosophers and the cults of classic Paganism were to the Fathers.
Then again, we must clear our minds from the views which ordinary Christians hold of these cults. They were not the brutal and brutalising systems so commonly supposed. They had many characteristics which made them not only practically useful, but congenial to human nature at its best. So much so, indeed, that vast numbers of nominal Christians turned back to them, not merely under pressure of persecution, but after the persecutions had ceased, and in spite of penal laws of drastic severity. And lastly - a matter of principal importance - those cults gave pre-eminence to baptism, and therefore it was easy to confound the Pagan with the Christian rite, and to associate with the latter the superstitions of the former.
The religion of ancient Rome was marked by formalism and coldness. Every element of religious emotion and enthusiasm was due to the foreign cults which prevailed during the period of the Empire. Isis worship, which had its home in Egypt, and the Mithras worship of Persia, were widely popular. The former had its tonsured priesthood and its initiatory rite of baptism. And the latter had still more in common with the religion of Christendom. Its baptism of neophytes, its rite of confirmation, its oblation of the consecrated bread, its expiation from sin by washing in blood, its symbolic teaching of the resurrection, and its festival of the god on the 25th December, marked it out as a dangerous enemy of the so-called Christian religion. Thus it was regarded by the early Christhins; and Renan goes the length of surmising that, if Christianity had received same fatal check, it might have become the religion of the Western world.
But great as was the influence of the cults of Isis and of Mithras, it was not from these chiefly that the Fathers derived the leaven which corrupted the doctrine and perverted the ordinances of the Christian faith. All that was noble and true in Greek philosophy these men attributed to the Hebrew prophets. Justin Martyr, himself a thorough Platonist, went so far as to declare, in referring to the Greek Sophists, that "they who lived agreeably to reason were really Christians." It was only natural therefore that they should look upon the Greek religion as a reasonable cult, worthy of the race and the age to which it belonged.
(On this whole subject see Professor Dill's Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, pp. 66.-70. Apol. i. 6r. And see what he says in 57 and 76 about Plato's borrowing from the Bible. This is asserted still more plainly by Tertullian. "Who is there of the poets and sophists (he demands) who hath not drunk at the fountain of the prophets?" (Apol. xlvii.).
But, like the religion of old Rome, the national religion of Greece had lost its hold on the popular conscience. It failed to deal with the subject which troubled the minds of men - sin, a future life, and punishment for guilt. "But the mysteries concerned themselves precisely with these very subjects; they provided a series of preliminary purifications of their votaries; they turned men's minds to the deeper problems of life and death, and gave them new ideas; they made some attempt to reach and touch the individual mind." The human mind is the same in every age; therefore it is, that religious movements in different ages have so much in common. Just as, in our own day, wherever mere Protestantism is made a cult, instead of being regarded as a bulwark behind which spiritual Christianity can develop and flourish, men turn away from it to a system which parodies the great realities for which they instinctively crave; so in ancient Greece the mysteries marked a popular revival of religion.
The chief shrine, of world-wide fame, was at Eleusis, a city some fourteen miles from Athens. The great yearly celebration took place in the month Boedromion, which answered to the Jewish Tisri, in which fell the great day of expiation and the Feast of Tabernacles. All classes were admitted to the festival, but the immoral and the impure were warned off by a solemn initiatory proclamation. Notorious sinners were peremptorily excluded, while others were left to the judgment of their own conscience. They were asked to confess their sins before taking part in the rites. Confession was followed by a baptism. The candidates, having bathed in the sea, came from the bath new men: it was a layer of regeneration. This was followed by a sacrifice, which was known as "a sacrifice of salvation." Then, after an interval, took place a great procession of the candidates, bearing torches and singing the praises of the god. The sixth day of the festival was known by the name of Iacchus. To him, "the holy child," and "to his death and resurrection" the Homeric hymn in covert terms refers.
The climax of the celebration was the mystic plays. Their torches were extinguished; they stood outside the temple in the silence and the darkness. Then the doors were opened, and in a blaze of light there was acted before them the great drama of the festival. "There was probably no dogmatic teaching - there were possibly no words spoken - it was all an acted parable. But it was all kept in silence. There was an awful individuality about it. They saw the sight in common, but they saw it each man for himself. It was his personal communion with the Divine life. The glamour and the glory of it were gone when it was published to all the world. The effect of it was conceived to be a change both of character and of relation to the gods. The initiated were by virtue of their initiation made partakers of a life to come. 'Thrice happy they who go to the world below having seen these mysteries: to them alone is life there, to all others is misery."
The question before us is how the simple baptism of the New Testament, administered to those who professed belief in Christ, as an acknowledgment by them of submission to His lordship over them and their identification with Him in death, was supplanted in the cult of "the historic Church" by a mystic rite by which the sinner is cleansed from sin and, as Augustine has it, "born of the bowels of the Church." Here is the solution of the problem! This brief notice of the Eleusinian mysteries has been given almost entirely in borrowed words, lest any should suppose the facts are mis-stated for a purpose. In the sequel, for the same reason, the language of another shall be followed still more closely. My purpose is to show to what extent the influence of the mysteries, and analogous religious cults, modified and corrupted the Christian ordinance of baptism. "In the earliest time (i) baptism followed at once upon conversion; (2) the ritual was of the simplest kind; nor does it appear that it needed any special minister." Both these points are clearly established by the narrative of the Acts of the Apostles.
"A later, though still very early stage, with significant modifications, is seen in the Teaching of the Apostles: (1) No special minister of baptism is specified, the vague 'he that baptizeth,' seeming to exclude a limitation of it to an officer; (2) the only element that is specified is water; (3) previous instruction is implied, but there is no period of catechumenate defined; (4) a fast is enjoined before baptism. These were the simple elements of early Christian baptism. When it emerges, after a period of obscurity- like a river which flows under the sand - the enormous changes of later times have already begun.
"The first point is the change of name..
(a) So early as the time of Justin Martyr we find a name given to baptism which comes straight from the Greek mysteries - the name 'enlightenment.' It came to be the constant technical term.
(b) The name 'seal,' which also came from the mysteries and from some forms of foreign cult, was used partly of those who had passed the test and who were 'consignati,' as Tertullian calls them, partly of those who were actually sealed upon the forehead in sign of a new ownership.
(c) The term musterion is applied to baptism, and with it comes a whole series of technical terms unknown to the Apostolic Church, but well known to the mysteries, and explicable only through ideas and usages peculiar to them." After enumerating a number of words expressive either of the rite or act of initiation itself, - or of the agent or minister, or descriptive of the mysteries - and the communication of it was an important preparatory rite. Sometimes the newly baptized received the communion at once, just as the newly initiated at Eleusis were permitted, after a day's fast, to drink of the mystic cup and to eat of the sacred cakes.
"The baptized were sometimes crowned with a garland, as the initiated wore a mystic crown at Eleusis."
Mention has been made of the blaze of light which marked the climax of the initiation festival at Eleusis; "so Chrysostom pictures Christian baptism in the blaze of Easter eve; and Cyril describes the white-robed band of the baptized approaching the doors of the church when the light turned darkness into day."
Baptism was no longer administered, as in primitive days, at any place or time, but only in the great churches, and, as a rule, only once a year. "The primitive 'See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized?' passed into a ritual which at every turn recalls the ritual of the mysteries."
The following is the account given of the administration of the baptismal sacrament at Rome as late as the ninth century :-
"Preparation went on through the greater part of Lent. The candidates were examined and tested; they fasted; they received the secret symbols, the Creed, and the Lord's Prayer. On Easter eve, as the day declined towards afternoon, they assembled in the Church of St. John Lateran. The rites of exorcism and renunciation were gone through in solemn form, and the rituals survive. The Pope and his priests come forth in their sacred vestments, with lights carried in front of them, which the Pope then blesses; there is a reading of lessons and a singing of psalms. And then, while they chant a litany, there is a procession to the great bath of baptism, and the water is blessed. The baptized come forth from the water, are signed with the cross, and are presented to the Pope one by one, who vests them in a white robe and signs their foreheads again with the cross. They are arranged in a great circle, and each of them carries a light. Then a vast array of lights is kindled; the blaze of them, says a Greek Father, makes night continuous with dawn. It is the beginning of a new life. The mass is celebrated - the mystic offering on the Cross is represented in figure; but for the newly baptized the chalice is filled, not with wine, but with milk and honey, that they may understand, says an old writer, that they have entered already upon the promised land. And there was one more symbolical rite in that early Easter sacrament, the mention of which is often suppressed - a lamb was offered on the altar, afterwards cakes in the shape of a lamb. It was simply the ritual which we have seen already in the mysteries. The purified crowd at Eleusis saw a blaze of light, and in the light were represented in symbol life and death and resurrection."
Utter Paganism in a Christian dress. To us who recognise the essential distinction between spirit and matter the thought of washing the soul from sin by water baptism is sheer nonsense. But it was otherwise with those whose minds were steeped in Pagan philosophy. The Greeks knew no such distinction. With them the soul was matter, as well as the body-matter in a more subtle form. There was nothing incongruous, therefore, in the thought of washing it with water. And the practice of exorcising or blessing the water sprang from the Gnostic belief that evil attached to everything corporeal.
What further proof is needed of the Pagan origin of the baptism of Christendom? The early corrupters of Christianity transferred to their new religion a rite with which their old religion had made them familiar, and this they described by the term which Holy Scripture provided. Nor was it confined to the Eleusinian mysteries. In Prescott's Conquest of Mexico a description is given of the rite in use in that country when the Spaniards landed on its shores. The priestess midwife sprinkled water on the head of the infant, and then, after exorcising the unclean spirit (as does the Roman priest), she used these words: "He now liveth anew and is born anew; now he is purified and cleansed."
And in his work on Buddhism Sir Monier Williams describes' a similar rite practised in Tibet and Mongolia. The child is baptized on the third or tenth day after birth. "The priest consecrates the water, while candles and incense are burning. He then dips the child three times, blesses it, and gives it a name." It was not from Greece that these superstitious rites were derived. All had a common origin, and that origin is to be sought in the mysteries of ancient Babylon.
(Footnote - The Gorham case decided that baptismal regeneration is not the doctrine of the Church of England. The then Bishop of Exeter refused to institute Mr. Gorham to a living in his diocese because he rejected this doctrine, and the Dean of Arches Court of Canterbury upheld the bishop's decision. But the judgment of the Court below was reversed on appeal by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council (March 8). It is an interesting fact that, as the result of that judgment, one of Bishop Philpot's chaplains "verted" to Rome, and the other became a thorough evangelical. In those days men had a conscience and acted upon its dictates.)
The corruption of the other "sacrament" proceeded on similar lines. First the doctrine of it became leavened by that of the mysteries, and at a later stage the ceremonial was altered to suit the corrupted ordinance. The Paschal Supper was a memorial of Israel's redemption from the house of bondage; the Lord's Supper was a memorial of the great antitype of that redemption. No mind formed upon the teaching of Scripture could miss its meaning as a celebration of the Lord's death until He returns. Pliny's famous letter to Trajan gives proof of the simplicity of the rite in those early days; and the Apology of Tertullian' bears testimony that, so far as the ceremonial of it was concerned, the rite was still uncorrupted a century after the close, of the apostolic age. Not so its doctrine. In the same passage in which Justin Martyr gives proof how entirely the Pagan view of baptism had obtained, he uses language about the Eucharist that may fairly be appealed to in support of "transubstantiation," the "mixed chalice," and "the reservation of the sacrament"
The conception of the table as an altar came in later; and of the elements as "mysteries," later still. By a natural sequence of error the minister in due course became a priest. But it was not until the fifth century that the ordinance had been completely paganised. The following extracts describe the simple ritual of the middle of the second century and the beginning of the third. In the passage already referred to from his Apology, Justin describes the assembling of the Christians, and the order of service, and then proceeds :- "After which, there is brought to that one of the brethren who presides, bread and a cup of wine mixed with water. And he having received them gives praise and glory to the Father of all things through the name of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and gives thanks in many words for that God hath vouchsafed these things. And when he hath finished his praises and thanksgiving, all the people who are present express their assent, saying, 'Amen,' which in the Hebrew tongue means, 'So be it.' The President having given thanks, and the people having expressed their assent, those whom we call deacons give to each of those who are present a portion of the bread which hath been blessed, and of the wine mixed with water; and carry some away for those who are absent." And Tertullian writes:- "Our supper sufficiently shows its meaning by its very name. It is called by a term which in Greek signifies love. . . . We do not sit down to eat until prayer to God be made. . . . Our conversation is that of men who are conscious that the Lord hears them.
After water is brought for the hands, and lights, we are invited to sing to God, according as each one can propose a subject from the Holy Scriptures, or of his own composing. Prayer in like manner concludes the feast."
The following is the description of what is ostensibly the same supper, as "celebrated" a few generations afterwards
"Then the sacred hierarch initiates the sacred prayer and announces to all the holy peace; and after all have saluted each other, the mystic recital of the sacred lists is completed. The hierarch and the priests wash their hands in water; he stands in the midst of the Divine altar, and around him stand the priests and the chosen ministers. The hierarch sings the praises of the Divine working, and consecrates the most Divine mysteries, and by means of the symbols which are sacredly set forth he brings into open vision the things of which he sings the praises. And when he has shown the gifts of the Divine working, he himself comes into a sacred communion with them, and then invites the rest. And having both partaken and given to the others a share in the thearchic communion, he ends with a sacred thanksgiving; and while the people bend over what are Divine symbols only, he himself, always by the thearchic spirit, is led in a priestly manner, in purity of his Godlike frame of mind, through blessed and spiritual contemplation, to the holy realities of the mysteries."
"THE illuminated mind of primitive Christendom" is a favourite illusion of modern Christian thought. It is the popular belief that in the early centuries of our era, in the days of "the undivided Church," the faith was pure, and a high morality marked the lives of those who professed it. To dispel so pleasing an illusion is an uncongenial task. But the role of the iconoclast is sometimes a useful one. When the brazen serpent became a fetish in Israel, and the people burned incense to it, the good king Hezekiah contemptuously "called it a bit of brass," and "brake it in pieces."' And since "the Church" has become an idol and an enemy to Christianity, it becomes a duty to expose the falseness of its pretensions. The position accorded to it in the religion of Christendom is itself a mark of the apostasy; and in the place which God in fact designed that it should holy the world, it has utterly failed.
In this respect its history in no way differs from that of "the Church in the wilderness."' In the one case as in the other, it is a story of Divine forbearance and of human failure and sin. When Israel's redemption was accomplished, and the mediator of the covenant had gone up to God, the people forthwith showed themselves to be "stiffnecked" by making the golden calf. And thereupon, Moses "took the tabernacle and pitched it without the camp, . . . and every one that sought the Lord went out unto the tabernacle of the congregation, which was without the camp." Organised religion proved a failure at the very outset. And so has it been in Christendom. Even in apostolic times incipient apostasy had declared itself; and the very Epistle which was written expressly to unfold the right of access to God in virtue of "eternal redemption" secured in Christ, gives prominence to the exhortation to "go forth unto Him without the camp." Upon Him, only and altogether, spiritual blessing depends.
Of the Church of the martyrs we would speak with deep and unfeigned respect. The noble testimony rendered by the devoted lives of Christians, amidst the indescribable sufferings of those awful times, is the heritage of the Church in all succeeding ages. And yet it is a startling fact that, even in presence of the constant danger of terrible persecution, abounding false doctrine produced its "kindly fruit" in lowering the standard of Christian morality.
Cyprian, the enthusiastic admirer and disciple of Tertullian, was born about the beginning of the third century. The child of heathen parents, he lived the life of a heathen until, at about 45 years of age, he was converted to Christianity. Within a few months after his baptism he was ordained presbyter, and some three years later (248) he became bishop of Carthage. Ten years afterwards he suffered martyrdom in the persecution under Valerian. In those early days a bishop was appointed with the consent of the whole Church," or by popular acclamation; and never was the popular voice more thoroughly justified than in the case of Cyprian. But what concerns us here is not the excellence of the man, but the condition to which organised Christianity had sunk at this early stage of its history.
The first eighteen months of Cyprian's episcopal rule were the close of a period during which the Church had rest from its enemies. In the absence of persecution Christianity had spread, but it had deteriorated. "Serious scandals existed even among the clergy. Bishops were farmers, traders, and money-lenders, and by no means always honest. Some were too ignorant to teach the catechumens. Presbyters made money by helping in the manufacture of idols."' But this was not all. With the close of the apostolic age the great truth of Grace had disappeared. No statement of it is to be found in the Patristic literature. And in the century and a half which had passed since the last of the apostles disappeared from the scene, Christian doctrines had become corrupted by the teaching of Greek paganism. As already noticed, Pagan baptism had superseded Christian baptism as the initiatory rite of Christian fellowship. Christian thought had become leavened by the Gnostic philosophy which regarded everything corporeal as evil. The result was an attempt to set up a more fastidious morality and a more exalted piety than were taught by Christianity itself. Christianity raised the marriage relationship to a dignity it had never before possessed;' but gnosticism taught the Church to disparage it, and to confound asceticism with sanctity. And even in those early days a system of pledged celibacy led to the deplorable evils which have always characterised it.
There is no sadder reading than the story of "saints" shut up in lonely cells, and wasting their lives in wrestling with evil passions which Christians who make noo special claim to saintship overcome, as God intended they should be overcome, by turning away from them to the healthy activities of Christian work, or the no less healthy duties of a useful life. The Divine command, like all Divine commands, is intensely reasonable: "Flee youthful lusts; but follow after righteousness, faith, love, peace, with them that call on the Lord out of a pure heart," not abstract virtues to be spun out, like a spider's web, in solitude and gloom, but Christian graces to be cultivated in an active life helped and gladdened by Christian fellowship, the companionship, not of monks or nuns, but of all like-minded.
(Footnote - "Why," the apostle demands, "do ye subject yourselves to ordinances . . . after the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a, show of wisdom in will-worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but are not of any value against the indulgence of the flesh" (Col. ii. 20-23, R.V.).)
But the religion of Christendom, in violation of the truth of God and of the common sense of mankind, has ever taught that the better way is for men and women in the flush of youthful vigour to turn away from all that forms the Christian character, and constitutes the true discipline of Christian life, and to shut themselves up to the morbid contemplation of evil, and the effort to overcome it by unchristian ascetism and penances. The result has too often been utter shipwreck of both faith and morals. And not a few who seem to have succeeded have become, not saints, but pharisees.
As regards women the subject is a delicate one. The vows of a nun are no longer the introduction to a life of sin. In England at least, where the Reformation is a power, it may be assumed that morality is not outraged in a nunnery. But English law and the rights of citizens are outraged there. Although our gaols are open to inspection of the fullest and most systematic kind, official and unofficial, we do not tolerate life imprisonment even for the worst of criminals. But religious women who have been trapped into taking vows are shut up for life, where no inspection whatever is allowed. And can any one doubt that not a few of them eat out their very hearts in hopeless yearnings for liberty, and sink at last in madness or despair? Mahometans would not be permitted to entomb women thus in this country; but paganism which shelters itself under the name of Christ can override the law, and outrage the very principles of our constitution.
Tertullian, the founder of Latin theology, was the originator of the sanctimonious sentiment about marriage to Christ, which has in every age. betrayed so many thousands of impressionable young women into wrecking their lives by taking vows of celibacy.' His letters to his wife disclose the extent to which these baneful errors had obtained even then. The New Testament prescribes that "a bishop must be the husband of one wife": the Church had already reached the point of substituting may for "must." Indeed, the word celibacy had practically taken the place of "marriage" in the New Testament injunction, "Let marriage be had in honour among ALL."
2 Cor. xi. 2 lends no sanction to the sentimental and pestilently mischievous idea that a woman who devotes herself to a life of religious asceticism becomes "the spouse of Christ." The words referred to were not addressed to a young woman, but to the Christians at Corinth as a body. Moreover they are not doctrinal, but hortatory, and purely figurative. The figure of "the bride" is the expression of a truth, but the figure here used is merely illustrative. Not even the Church corporately is the bride - a vagary of religious doctrine which Scripture negatives; first by never asserting it; secondly, by teaching that the Church holds a relationship which is inconsistent with it, namely, that of the body of Christ; and thirdly, by assigning the bridal relationship to Israel. It was to Israel that John the Baptist referred in John iii. 29, and the bride then disappeared from the New Testament until in the Revelation we read of the New Jerusalem - the future glory of the true Israel ("our mother "-see Gal. iv. 26). But Eph. v. 25-33 is conclusive. The earthly relationship is readjusted according to a heavenly standard, and as the Church is the body of Christ, the Christian is to love his wife "even as himself." Mark 'the force of "nevertheless" in verse 33.
'Heb. xiii. 4, R.V. The words which follow in the text prove conclusively the meaning of the exhortation. The marriage intended was no Platonic union such as Tertullian might have approved.
The results of this pestilent system, even at that early period, may be learned from Cyprian's words. He charges the nuns (the word had not yet been coined) with "frequenting public places sumptuously arrayed, alluring the eyes of youth fomenting lawless passions, and kindling the sparks of desire." He charges them with "hearing and taking part in licentious conversations, hearing what offends good morals, and seeing what must not be spoken of." "What have the virgins of the Church to do," he exclaims, "at promiscuous baths, there to violate the commonest dictates of feminine modesty! The places you frequent are more filthy than the theatre itself: all modesty is there laid aside, and with your robes, your personal honour and. reserve are cast off."'
To appreciate this we must remember that. these "virgins of the Church" were held in special honour for their supposed sanctity. The state of things here described would have been impossible if the general standard of piety, and even of morality, had not been utterly lowered.
Nor was this peculiar to Carthage. The writings of some of the earlier Fathers disclose their distress at the condition of the Church. Half a century before Cyprian wrote the words above cited, Clement of Alexandria had bewailed the worldliness and the low morality which prevailed around him even when, as he said, "the wells of martyrdom were flowing daily." His testimony, moreover, is the more striking because, unlike the majority of the Fathers, his teaching on the subject of marriage and celibacy was, in the main, Christian. "Those who make profession of Christianity," he urges, "should be all of a piece." But in contrast with this he charges the Christians with bearing one aspect while in church, and as soon as they left it, mingling in the crowd so as to be in no way distinguished from it. "After having reverently waited upon God and heard of Him," he says, "they leave Him there; and without, find their pleasure in ungodly fiddling and love-songs and what not - stage-plays and gross revelries."
But the true test of the teaching of the Fathers is to be found in the state of things which prevailed in the halcyon days when the persecutions had finally ceased, and the Church was free to shape her destiny and pursue her mission to the world unchecked. The condition of this much vaunted primitive Church in the days of Chrysostom may be judged by the fact that at a single visitation that great and good man' deposed no fewer than thirteen bishops for simony and licentiousness. Referring to the means by which men obtained election to bishoprics, he says: "That some have filled the churches with murders, and made cities desolate when contending for this position, I now pass over, lest I should seem to say what is incredible to fact it proved, a death sentence. He practically died a martyr - one of the first of the great arm; whose blood cries to God for vengeance upon the "historic Church."
Nor were licentiousness and simony evils of recent growth in the Church; nor were they peculiar to the See of Chrysostom. In 370 an Imperial edict was read in the churches of Rome, prohibiting clerics and monks from resorting to the houses of widows or female wards, and making them "incapable of receiving anything from the liberality or will of any woman to whom they may have attached themselves under the plea of religion; and (the edict adds) any such donations or legacies as they shall have appropriated to themselves shall be confiscated."
This edict, sweeping though were its terms, had to be confirmed and strengthened by another twenty years later. And here is the comment of Jerome on the subject: "I blush to say it, heathen priests, players of pantomimes, drivers of chariots in the circuses, and harlots,, are allowed to receive legacies; clergy and monks are forbidden to do so by Christian princes. Nor do I complain of the law (he adds), but I am grieved that we deserve it."' According to Jerome, so great was the evil, that men actually sought ordination in order to gain easier access to the society of women, and to trade upon their credulity. He at least maintained no reserve about the vices of the clergy of his day. And the picture he draws of the state of female society among the Christians is so repulsive that, as a recent writer remarks, we would gladly believe it to be exaggerated; but, he adds, "if the priesthood, with its enormous influence, was so corrupt, it is only too probable that it debased the sex which is always most under clerical influence."
Among Chrysostom's enemies was Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria, whose nephew Cyril succeeded him in the patriarchate about the year 412, some five years after Chrysostom's death. Cyril inherited his uncle's antipathy to Chrysostom, and opposed as long as he could every effort to cancel the infamous sentence pronounced against him. He is held in fame as a "Saint" and a "Father": in his lifetime he was famous as a mob leader. He violently closed the churches of those whom he deemed heretics, attacked the synagogues, and drove the Jews in thousands from Alexandria, giving up their houses to pillage. As Dean Milman writes of him: "While ambition, intrigue, arrogance, rapacity, and violence are proscribed as un-christian means - barbarity, persecution, blood-shed, as unholy and unevangelic wickednesses, posterity will condemn this orthodox Cyril as one of the worst of heretics against the spirit of the Gospel."'
This turbulent Pagan was the ruling spirit in the third of the "Ecumenical" Councils held at Ephesus in 431 to deal with the Nestorian heresy. This is not the place to discuss the controversy then at issue; but the intelligent Christian will recognise, first, that all, orthodox and heretics alike, ignored the Lord's solemn warning that "No man knoweth the Son but the Father"; and, secondly, that the prominence given to the charge that Nestorius refused the title of "Mother of God" to the Virgin Mary, is proof that the so-called orthodbx had no monopoly of the truth. But Nestorius and his adherents were condemned and banished. Cyril secured this "ripe decision" of "the illuminated mind of primitive Christendom. Disgraceful as were the scenes which characterised this Ecumenical Council, they were far surpassed by those which marked the "Council of Robbers," as it is called, which assembled in Ephesus eighteen years later. On that occasion the violence of the orthodox majority was unrestrained. They openly called in their hired bullies, and the unfortunate Flavian, bishop of Byzantium, was so brutally beaten by them that he died from his injuries. That there were men of God among these bishops, whose hearts were filled with shame and sorrow by such proceedings, we may well assume. But the majority of them must have been a set of baptismally regenerated Pagans.
But some may think perhaps that the proceedings of these councils did not fairly represent the state of the Church in this post-Nicene era of its history. The testimony of a contemporary writer of the highest repute will silence all such generous doubts. Salvian, a presbyter in the Church at Marseilles, was born about the year 390. He was thus a contemporary of Jerome and Augustine, and his celebrated treatise on Providence appeared some twenty years after the death of the former, and ten years after the death of the latter, of these great lights of Latin theology. If ever there was a time when the teaching of the Fathers might fairly be judged by its fruits it was then. "The silence of God" was a favourite theme with the Fathers. If there was indeed a sovereign and righteous administration of human affairs-.--. if God was indeed the God of His people, why was the Church left to its fate? Augustine had attempted a learned and elaborate reply to the cavil. Salvian answers it bluntly thus: "See what Christians actually are, everywhere, and then ask whether, under the administration of a righteous and holy God, such men can expect any favour? What happens every day under our eyes is rather an evidence of the doctrine of Providence, as it displays the Divine displeasure, provoked by the debauchery of the Church itself."
The scope of this indictment shall be given in Salvian's own words. The following passages are culled from pages full of earnest, and at times pathetic, appeals, and of scathing denuncia-tions of abounding profligacy and evil. Roman Catholics of course resent his unsparing disclosure of the state of the "primitive Church," but no honest mind can fail to be impressed by the transparent truthfulness of his language, and the evident pain which it cost him. Here is his testimony' :-
"How can we wonder that God does not hearken to our prayers, seeing that we listen not to His commands?
Not merely do we neglect what is enjoined, but with our utmost endeavour we do the very contrary. God commands us to love one another; we rend each other.
He commands us all to impart of our substance to the needy; we encroach upon each other's rights. God commands that the Christian should be pure, even as to the eye; but who among us does not roll himself in the mire of fornication? And what more? Alas, how grievous and doleful is what I have to say! The very Church of God, which in all things ought to be the pacificatrix of God, what, in fact, is she but the provoker of God? And a very few excepted, who flee from evil, what else is almost every assembly of Christians but a sink of vices? For you will find in the Church scarcely one who is not either a drunkard, or a glutton, or an adulterer, or a fornicator, or a ravisher, or a frequenter of brothels, or a robber, or a murderer;-and, what is worse than all- almost all these without limit. "I put it now to the consciences of all Christian people, whether it be not so, that you will hardly find one who is not addicted to some of the vices and crimes which I have mentioned: or rather, who is it that is not guilty of all? Truly you will more easily find the man who is guilty of all, than one who is guilty of none. As to this 'none,' my imputations perhaps may seem too serious: I will go further - sooner will you find those chargeable with every crime, than not chargeable with any; sooner those addicted to the greatest crimes than those guilty of the less. I mean to say, more are living in the perpetration of the greater as well as of the lighter vices, than of the lighter alone. Into this shameless dissoluteness of manners, is nearly the entire ecclesiastical mass so sunk, that throughout the Christian community it has come to be 'regarded as a species of sanctity, if one is a little less vicious than others. And so it is that the churches, or rather the temples and altars of God, are by some held in less reverence than the most inferior courts and common magistrates' rooms. . .
"The churches are outraged by indecencies, and by the irreverence of those who rush thence, after the formal confession of their past sins, to the perpetration of more. You may well imagine what men have been thinking about at church when you see them hurry off, some to plunder, some to get drunk, some to practise lewdness, some to rob on the highway. . "Let us then see whether any of this rank the rich and noble can plead exemption from one of these two capital crimes -murder and adultery. Who is there, that if his hands do not reek with human blood, is not soiled with foul impurities? And yet, though one of these burdens is enough to sink a man to perdition, hardly is there a rich man who is not chargeable with both!"
He goes on to assert plainly that the Christians were actually worse than the heathen around them, differing from them in nothing save in "the knowledge and profession of Catholic doctrine." And he goes on to say :- "I must not be understood as affirming this absolutely of the entire mass of the Roman world. For I except, first, all the monks,' and then some even of the seculars, not inferior to them, or, if that be saying too much, at least comparable to the monks in virtuous behaviour. As for the rest, all, or nearly all, I affirm to be more guilty than the heathen. Reader, art thou angry at seeing this stated? Condemn me if I lie; condemn me if I do not make good what I assert."
If the writer had declared that most of the monks were free from these charges it would be a grateful relief from the terrible darkness of the picture. But when he says "I except all the monks" it is too obvious that he does so merely on grounds of policy. The sequel, moreover, makes this clear. Later on he breaks through the reserve he had imposed upon himself, and speaks out thus:- "But it is only the laity, I warrant you, who sin, at this rate! surely not some of the clergy; worldly men, but surely not many of the monks? Aye, indeed, under a colour of religion, sold to worldly vices, these men who, inscribing themselves with a title of sanctity after a course of shameless profligacy and crime, differ from what they were in profession only, not in conduct. . . Can any one believe that men should have been thinking anything of conversion and of God, who, abstaining from intercourse with their own wives, have made no scruple of trenching upon the rights of others; and who, while they make profession of bodily continence, act like bacchanals in the debaucheries of the mind? . .
One quotation more :- "How should we exult and leap for joy if indeed we could believe that the good and the bad were nearly balanced in the Church as to numbers. . . . Yea, how could we be but happy in so thinking, when, in fact, we have to mourn over almost the whole mass as guilty.
If all are not equally bad, they would fain be so if they could, and even display an ambition not to be outdone in wickedness."
These are but extracts. There is far more besides of the same character. He refers, for example, to the infamous profanity of swearing by the name of Christ - a habit that had long been common with the monks, and in Salvian's time had apparently become habitual. "They seem to think (he says) that when they have sworn by Christ their crimes are in some way sanctioned by religion." He cites cases even where men committed shameful acts of wrong because they had already sworn to Christ to do them!
The morality of the Early Christians is one of Gibbon's "Five causes of the growth of Christianity. And Tertullian could boast that among those who were brought to justice for offences against the law no Christian could be found, "unless, indeed, the name of Christian were his only offence." Any, he declared, who transgressed the strict rules of Christian discipline and propriety were no longer considered Christians at all.' And yet, two centuries later, "ALMOST EVERY ASSEMBLY OF CHRISTIANS HAD BECOME A SINK OF VICES." If the ages which followed were "dark," as indeed they were, it was because the Church had utterly failed of its mission, and was sunk in error:, and evil of every kind. God has never left Himself without a witness and doubtless there were those who feared Him and thought upon His name. But organised Christianity had disappeared from the earth. When Pagan baptism became the initiatory rite of Christian fellowship, the Church of Christendom morally ceased to be the Church of God; and when, the fear "of persecution having ceased, Pagans flocked in through that open door in thousands, the entire mass soon sank to the level of the heathen world. Indeed, the case might be stated still more strongly. Even the heathen world was scandalised by the exhibition of impurity and hatred presented by what is blasphemously called the Church of God. "See how these Christians love one another" had given place to "See how these Christians hate one another." In the fight for the Popedom between the faction of Damasus and of, "Ursinus one hundred and thirty-seven corpses were left on the pavement of one of the churches of Rome in a single day.' What wonder that a Pagan historian of that age - a man whose writings are praised for the moderation with which he speaks of, the Christians - declared that no savage beasts could equal the cruelty of Christians to one another! What wonder that penal laws of merciless severity were needed to keep the baptismally regenerated Pagans from turning back to paganism !
If the reader will but bring an 'honest atid intelligent mind to bear upon the problem he cannot fail to recognise the moral of it. A tree is known by its fruits. In no possible circumstances could Christianity produce results such as have here been depicted. As surely as ever effect followed its cause, these results were the natural outcome of the doctrinal teaching - the christianised paganism which had taken the place of Christianity in this much vaunted primitive Church - the Church of the Fathers. The theory that that Church entered the Dark Ages united and pure, and that the corruptions which, characterised it when the light of a brighter age began to shine in Christendom are to be attributed to Rome - this is a delusion.
And the delusion is a mischievous one. The misguided men who are now seeking to drag England back into the darkness are only embittered by charges based upon this error. Among them there are Jesuits, who from base motives cling to the Church which they betray. But these are an unworthy minority. The Ritualists as a body are sincere. And they know that the main doctrines for which they contend are derived, not from Rome, but from "the primitive and undivided Church" of the Fathers. The Reformers knew this also; and therefore they appealed, not to the cult of primitive Christendom, but to the Christianity of the New Testament. And no other appeal is worth struggling for. In the sixteenth century "The Bible was the religion of Protestants"; and if "the Evangelical Party" to-day is powerless to rally the country round them, or to stem the rising tide of error and superstition, it is because the Bible is no longer the labarum of the Evangelical cause.
There are very many of the evangelical clergy, and vast numbers of the laity, to whom my words do not apply. But I am speaking of the party as a unit; and the influence of the party is destroyed by the attitude of compromise maintained by the majority of its clerical members. If the evangelical party stood to-day where it stood half a century ago, it would have the country behind it, and it could dictate terms to those in authority. But instead of taking their stand upon the Bible, these men seek to go as far as they possibly can with the Romanisers, and slavishly follow them in many of their evil practices. How can such men excite enthusiasm for the principles of the Ref ormation? Fancy a temperance movement led by men who drink with the drunkards, stopping short only at getting drunk themselves! The old evangelicals put Christ first in everything; the modern ritualists put the Church first in everything. The one position is Christianity; the other the Christian religion. Modern evangelicalism in the Church of England is a feeble attempt at compromise between the truth and the error. Instead, therefore, of being a barrier against ritualism, it is but a halfway house on the road to it; as ritualism is a halfway house on the road to Rome. We can understand the position of those who hold that the Episcopal Churches of Christendom constitute the Church. But what can be said for men who imagine that the Church of England is the Church, though they have reserves about the Ritualists? They are like the old Scotch woman who narrowed the pale of orthodoxy to herself and her husband, adding, after a pause, "And I'm no' sure about my husband!"
"THE Jews' religion" was a human system based upon a Divine revelation, and so is it with the religion of Christendom. But the Judaism of Messianic times was not an apostasy in the sense in which that can be averred of the religion of Christendom. For the Lord could sanction by His presence the services both of the temple and the synagogue. The cult was right: it was the men who were wrong. "God is Spirit, and they who worship Him must worship in spirit." With unspiritual men, therefore, even a religion which in itself was true became of necessity false. "For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly . . . but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God." "For the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink; but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost."' And if this was true in regard to a cult in which ordinances and the external element filled so large and prominent a place, how intensely true must it be of Christianity.
Moses was the Apostle of "the Jews' religion." And in externals at least there was no wilful departure from his teaching. Any blunders in this respect were made honestly and through ignorance. Blunders there were, as for example in the celebration of the Day of the Firstfruits. This error, which has escaped the notice of theologians, destroyed the significance of one of the great characteristic types Of the law. The law enjoined that "on the morrow after the Sabbath" of Passover week, the first sheaf of the harvest should be cut and carried to the temple, to be "waved before Jehovah." The true " Day of the Firstfruits," therefore, always fell upon the "first day of the week." But in Ezra's revival, misreading the injunction, they took "the Sabbath" to mean the festival day of the passover. And thus it came about that on that Sabbath day during which the? Lord lay in the grave, the Jews were celebrating a rite divinely ordained to typify His resurrection from the dead.
See Lev. xxiii. 10, 11, 15, 16; and Deut. Xvi. 9. Also John xix. 31 ("that Sabbath was an high day," because it was "the day of the firstfruits"). I have dealt more fully with this in The Coming Prince, Chapter IX., and have there pointed out that the true "Day of Pentecost," as divinely ordered, was not the Sabbath upon which the Jews observed it, but that "first day of the week" on which the Holy Spirit was given. iCor. xv. 20, 23 especially refers to the firstfruits as a type of the resurrection. Just as God's accepting the first sheaf gathered was a token and pledge of His acceptance of the whole harvest, so the resurrection of Christ is a token and pledge of the resurrection of His people. I have seen it stated that one of the points on which the Karaites differed from the "orthodox" Jews was that they followed the Scriptures in celebrating the Day of the Firstfruits, and therefore also the Day of Pentecost, upon the first day of the week.
But while those who honoured Moses sought to follow his teaching with scrupulous care, the New Testament has received very different treatment in the religion of Christendom. When the Lord and His disciples met to eat the paschal supper, the rite was essentially the same as in the days of Hezekiah or of Samuel. And if a heathen stranger could have passed from that "upper room" to other kindred scenes in Jerusalem, no difference in the ritual would have attracted his attention. Here, was Israel's Messiah surrounded by His disciples; there, were apostate Jews who on the morrow would clamour for Messiah's death. But disciples and apostates alike were celebrating the same ordinance according to the same ritual. The only difference between them was that while the disciples were spiritually quickened and enlightened, the apostates were spiritually in darkness and in death.
And if a Jew of those days could now come back to life he could again take part in the familiar rite in the home of any pious co-religionist. But imagine one of the primitive disciples present in St. Peter's at Rome today during the celebration of a baptism or a mass! A devotee of the old Eleusinian mysteries would find himself at home in the scene; but the disciple would shrink away from it, as from a specially profane development of paganism. Between the religion of Christendom and the revelation upon which it claims to be founded there yawns a gulf which is impassable.
To the apostasy of Christendom Judaism affords no parallel. As regard externals, Judaism appears to be an exception to the strange law of degeneration which marks the religion of mankind. The Scriptures are still read in the synagogues, and the paschal supper is still celebrated in simplicity. And in the Scriptures and the paschal rite may yet be found the means of their spiritual restoration. The altar is there and the wood for the sacrifice: all that is lacking is the fire from heaven to kindle it - a signal proof of the truth that "God has not cast away His people."' For though in this age of a silent Heaven, He does not declare Himself as the God "that repayeth them that hate Him to their face," He is none the less "the faithful God which keepeth covenant . . . to a thousand generations." Paganism is not less evil or less hateful because it masquerades in a Christian dress, and uses the language of Christianity. The guilt and infamy of Judas were all the greater because he ranked as an apostle of the Lord. And if there be indeed apostolic succession in the historic Church, we know to what source to trace its origin ! The Judaism which crucified the Lord was essentially a true religion: it became a false religion only because the very truth of God when administered by carnal men is changed into a lie. But the religion of Christendom is essentially a false religion, and so lost to shame, moreover, that it makes no effort even to cover itself with a Christian terminology. About the priest and the altar the New Testament is silent, save in that Epistle which was written expressly to teach that they belong in type to Judaism and in anti-type to Christ. And as for baptismal regeneration, and the mass, with its vestments and "candles vainly lighted at noonday" '-these are the well-known stock-in-trade of a Pagan priesthood, and the New Testament knows absolutely nothing of them.
Judaism, I repeat, affords no parallel to such an apostasy as this; but a counterpart may be sought in Buddhism. Just as the principles and practices of Buddhism are marked by the most flagrant opposition to the teaching of Gautama, so also the religion of Christendom stands out in open contrast with the teaching of Christ. I would not be understood as bracketing Gautama with the Lord Jesus Christ. I deplore such profanity. But again I appeal to the history of Buddhism as a striking instance of the working of that same law of spiritual gravitation which has been so apparent and so disastrous in the history of what - if it be lawful to coin a much needed word - might be described as Christianism. For while in the sphere of morals and of mind man is master of himself, the ruin of his spiritual nature is complete. Here he is so entirely the slave of perverted religious instincts that, apart from Divine grace, his recovery is impossible.
But even here we must distinguish. Divine grace is needed for the apprehension of Divine truth, but not for the detection of human error. No grace is needed to save a man from card sharpers and "confidence trick" men; and his native wit might equally avail to save him from the artifices and errors of human religion. In the only address to a heathen audience recorded in the New Testament, the Apostle appealed to reason and common sense to teach his hearers that their cult was false.
But while the victim of the criminal is eager to hide his shame, the dupe of the priest seems always ready to glory in it. Not many years ago one of our great city houses was defrauded of £20,000 in gold by a very clever, but very transparent trick; but their chief.anxiety was to avoid the ridicule which publicity would have brought 'upon them.
True it is that in the most solemn prophecy world, ever uttered-for the words fell from the lips of our Divine Lord - a time is foretold when false prophets shall arise who "shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch that if it were possible they shall deceive the very elect." ' But that time is yet to come. "Great signs and wonders"! The victim of the "confidence trick" can plead that with his eyes he saw the sheaf of counterfeit bank-notes, and he took them to be genuine. But what excuse can the victim of these sham priests set up to excuse his credulity ?An honest-hearted schoolboy might well be ashamed of being duped by them. As for priestly absolution, if even-handed justice were meted out to all, the Vagrant Act would suffice to deal with it. Ignorant women are sent to gaol for deceiving people about their future in this world, but educated men are allowed to deceive them with impunity about their future in the next.
And yet human religion has a terrible power behind it. Satan is not, as men suppose, the instigator of their crimes. Religion is the special sphere of his influence. What other meaning can be given to the awful title, "the god of this world," accorded him in Holy Writ? Were it otherwise the religion of Christendom would never have survived the sixteenth century. When that century opened, the infamous Alexander VI. was on the papal throne. The letter of a devout Roman Catholic, recorded in the diary of a high official in personal attendance on the Pope, describes life in the Vatican under the Borgias. Here are extracts from it :
"Everything can be had for money. Crimes grosser than Scythian are committed without disguise under the eyes of the Pope. There are rapes, murders, incests, debaucheries, cruelties, exceeding those of the Neros and Caligulas. Licentiousness past description is paraded in contempt of God and man. Sons and daughters are polluted. Harlots and procuresses are gathered together in the mansion of St. Peter. On All Saints' day fifty women of the town were invited to dinner."
At this point the historian from whom the foregoing is quoted breaks off the narrative by adding: "The details of what followed are barely mentionable." ' The letter goes on to speak of the universal sale of indulgences, to provide a portion for the Pope's daughter, Lucretia, and also to mention his son Cesar Borgia as being as great a monster as himself. And as for the Sacred College, not a single voice is raised in warning or remonstrance..
Was it any wonder that when Charles V. ascended the Imperial throne the laity everywhere were in revolt against the Church? But the Emperor was no friend of Luther, no patron of the Protestants. The Edict of Worms, which devoted Luther to the flames, gave proof of his zeal for the Church; and it was no fault of his that that edict was frustrated. But the dream of his life was the calling of a Council which, by dealing with the flagrant immoralities of the clergy, and allowing the voice of the laity a hearing, would prepare the way for his putting down the Protestants by force. Pope succeeded Pope, however, without his achieving his purpose. Neither Leo X. nor Clement VII. had any wish to be "reformed"; and when, a quarter of a century alter Charles's accession, Paul III. found himself compelled at last to yield, he took care that the Council should neither parley with the laity nor meddle with the vices of the clergy.
The secret history of the Council of Trent has been laid bare by its "incomparable historian," as Gibbon calls him - Paolo Sarpi of Venice, that amazing prodigy of genius and learning. The shameful story is before the world.' There a Lot even in Sodom, and doubtless there were not a few such at Trent - the Spanish bishops were believed to be pure; but the Italian majority were for the most part men of the same kidney as Pope Paul - that "Vicar of Christ" who openly pensioned his bastard children upon the State, and made cardinals of his schoolboy grandsons.
His friend and biographer, Cardinal Pailavicino, pleads that he was no worse than his contemporaries! One might expect a "Vicar of Christ" to be better; but this perhaps is proof of Protestant ignorance and bigotry.
And these men, unknown to fame as theologians, and bound by their ordination oath to obey their master the Pope, settled the creed of Christendom, not omitting to devote to eternal damnation all who refuse the blasphemous lie that a thrice-holy God accredits licentious profligates as His ministers.
The Council of Constance had claimed jurisdiction over the Popes, and proceeded to try and depose the rival claimants to the chair of St. Peter, including John XXIII., of whom Gibbon writes, "The Vicar of Christ was only accused of piracy, murder, rape, sodomy, and incest; the most scandalous charges were suppressed."' But the Council of Trent established the supreme authority of the Pope.
Nine years after it was finally dissolved, occurred the "Massacre of St. Bartholomew." The leading Protestants of France were invited to Paris by the French king, Charles IX., to celebrate the marriage of his sister. They had been granted solemn and oath-bound pledges of safety, but at midnight on the festival of St. Bartholomew (21st Aug., 1572), the signal was given for their butchery. Ten thousand Huguenots, men, women, and children, including some five hundred persons of rank, were massacred. Their mangled bodies were flung into the streets; the gutters were choked with their blood. In other towns like butcheries were perpetrated." According to the estimate of Sully, the defenceless victims numbered seventy thousand. But when Charles, repenting too late of his hideous guilt, sought to palliate it by inventing charges of political conspiracy against the Huguenots, the "Vicar of Christ" rebuked his repentance by celebrating a Te Deum and ordering public rejoicings in honour of the crime. More than this, he sent Cardinal Orsino to convey his congratulations to the king. At Lyons, on his way to Paris, the emissary sought out the leader of the butchery, and gave him absolution and his blessing. And on reaching the capital he urged Charles to claim openly the credit of his acts, which future generations would attribute to zeal for the Catholic religion, now purified from heresy by the Council of Trent and by the extermination of the Protestant sect within his realm.
And this "Vicar of Christ" was not a depraved sensualist like some of his predecessors, but a theologian and a scholar.' Gregory XI,J'!. had much in common with his successors of 13ur own times. But on this very account his n~rnory is branded with eternal infamy.
And yet the Council of Trent has settled it that the Popes of our own times, notwithstanding their personal claims to veneration, have no better title to the homage of Christendom than an obscene monster like Alexander VI., or a monster as hateful, though of another kind, like Gregory XIII. That Pius X. is the successor of the Apostle Peter is a mere theory; that he is the successor of these men is a plain fact. Just as a family or a nation can morally separate itself from its past, so can a Christian Church for it depends only on the living Christ in heaven, the Divine Spirit present upon earth, and the inspired Word of God. But the Church of Western Christendom is united to its past by a chain that reaches back through all the centuries of our era, and if one link be broken the chain is destroyed.
And yet if we ask the way of life, we shall get answer, "Submission to the Church." And when we press the inquiry and ask, What is submission? we shall be told, "Not the profession of Catholic doctrines, but obedience to the voice of the Shepherd." For "the sheep hear the voice of their Shepherd and they follow Him. He chooses the pastures; He leads His sheep into them. The relations of sheep and Shepherd correspond to those of disciple and Teacher. And hence it is clear that no one ought to be received into the Catholic Church unless he comes into the fold through the gate, of which Peter the Chief Shepherd is the Keeper."
The words are Cardinal Vaughan's. Referring to the difficulties and prejudices which have to be overcome, he proceeds: "Now, instead of entering into a maze of objections, into a labyrinth of difficulties, a shorter and more satisfactory course should be taken. Find the Divine Teacher, find the Supreme Shepherd, find the Vicar of, Christ. Concentrate all your mental and moral faculties upon finding the Head of God's Church upon earth. This is the key to the situation."' The daring profanity of this is accentuated by the use of capital letters, which lead the reader to suppose that the Divine titles so familiar to the student of Scripture refer to his Divine Lord., But he is startled and shocked to that they are applied to an Italian priest, whose claim to them is, as we have seen, no better than that of the incarnate fiends of eternally infamous memory, who ruled the Church of Rome in other days.
Nothing ever penned by Edmund Burke has been more often challenged than the statement - in the most brilliant passage of the most brilliant of his treatises, that, "vice itself lost half its evil in losing all its grossness." By parity of reasoning it might perhaps be urged that the superstitions of Christendom are less degrading than those of Pagan cults. But the true contrast is between human superstitions on the one hand, and Christianity on the other. And this explodes the fallacy of Macaulay's well-known problem "Whether England owes more to the Roman Catholic religion or to the Reformation." "For political and intellectual freedom," the historian goes on to say, "and for all the blessings which political and intellectual freedom brought in their train, she is chiefly indebted to the great rebellion of the laity against the priesthood." This is her debt to the Reformation. To the Church of Rome she owes it that the dawning of that bright day was delayed for centuries; that by her hideous cruelties, and the debasing influence of her teaching, the chains were riveted which at last made that "rebellion" a necessity.
It is commonly assumed that religion, if earnest and sincere, must be pleasing to God and a benefit to men. But Scripture and history combine to refute such an error. The religious zeal of those who crucified the Lord was altogether exemplary. Nor was religion with them what it has so often proved in the history of Christendom -a mere cloak for immorality. In the terrible denunciations of the Pharisees, which fell from the lips of Christ Himself, the secret sinfulness of their hearts was exposed, but there was not a word to justify the charge that they were outwardly immoral. Nor was any such reproach ever cast upon them by the great Apostle who had been trained in their school, and whose knowledge of their lives was intimate and full. "I bear them witness," he declared, "that they have a zeal for God." And if such men were branded by the Lord Himself as a "generation of vipers," "children of hell," and farther from the kingdom than publicans and harlots, why should we doubt that there are men among" us today of scrupulous morality and intense religious zeal, who, like them, are "children of hell," and farther from the kingdom than the openly dishonest and impure?
The religion of Christendom has so lowered the standard of rrrorals that morality has come to mean no more than freedom from one special lust. But God makes no such distinction between sins; and even men of the world have often juster thoughts. It was not thus that John Stuart Mill used the word when recording how his father taught him to regard religion as "the greatest enemy of morality."' The indictment is a terrible one; but in the light of notorious facts, who can resist the charge, inspired though it be by the bitterest prejudice?
From the murder of Abel to the supreme tragedy of Calvary, and down through all the ages of the history of Christendom, religion has been the fruitful cause of more wickedness and hate and cruelty and bloodshed than all the common lusts and vices of humanity. These lusts and vices have degraded men to the level of the brute, but religion has changed them into flends. Hence it is that in every age religion has been the most implacable enemy of God, the most relentless persecutor of His people.
The following is Hume's account of the massacre of the Protestants in Ireland in 164I : "But death was the lightest punishment inflicted by these rebels. All the tortures which wanton cruelty could devise, all the lingering pains of body, the anguish of mind, the agonies of despair, could not satiate revenge excited without injury, and cruelty derived from no cause. To enter into particulars would shock the least delicate humanity. Such enormities, though attested by undoubted evidence, appear almost incredible. Amidst all these enormities the sacred name of RELIGION resounded on every side, not to stop the hands of these murderers, but to enforce their blows, and to steel their hearts against every movement of human or social sympathy." This quotation is an adequate defence of the memory of the great man who, in 1649, meted out well-deserved punishment to the authors and abettors of these crimes.
"It cannot be," the Lord exclaimed, "that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem!" With common men the prophet's mantle would insure immunity from outrage. Religion it was that made it the outward badge and emblem of martyrdom. "Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute?" was the martyr Stephen's scathing charge against the religious leaders of his people-" They killed them which showed before of the coming of the Righteous One, of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers." Religion it was that crucified the Lord of Glory, and stoned His faithful servant.
It was the Lord's misinterpreted words about the temple which most excited the malignity of the religious Jews (Mark xiv. 18, xv. 29). Stephen received a patient hearing until, referring to Isaiah's words, he declared that God did not dwell "in temples made with hands" (Acts vii. 48). This evidently provoked an outburst of opposition which led to his breaking off his narrative, and launching the rebuke of verses 51-53. Just as in the case of Paul, the declaration that he had been charged to preach to the Gentiles so exasperated his hearers that in a frenzy of passion they exclaimed, "Away with such a fellow from the earth... for it is not fit that he should live." And but for the intervention of the Roman power they would have murdered him then and there (Acts xxii. 21-24). Such is religion
Religion inspired the persecutions even of Pagan Rome. For though in the case of a monster like Nero it was no more than a cloak for his infamies, in the case of emperors of a different type it was the genuine motive of their cruelties. Nor will it avail to plead that theirs was a heathen cult. It is a matter of common knowledge, astounding though the fact may be, that the persecutions of the Christian centuries, perpetrated in the name of the Christian religion, equal in fiendish malignity and cruelty the atrocities of Pagan Rome. As a matter of fact, in the case of such men as Trajan and Marcus Aurelius, persecution was not the outcome of malignity at all. The State required that every man should have a religion. But Christianity had not yet degenerated into a religion, and so the Christians ranked as Atheists, and they were punished accordingly.' Christianity was aggressive. It proclaimed a revelation, and inculcated a faith, that drew away men from all religions. It thus came to be regarded as an enemy to religion; and rightly so. Religion therefore became the enemy of Christianity. Such it has ever been. As Renan tersely puts it, the temple has always been anti-Christian.
This accusation is mentioned by both Justin (Apol. i. 5, i6) and Tertullian (Apol. x.). And Eusebius records that when the Roman pro-consul called upon Polycarp to renounce his fellow. ship with Christians, he did so in the words, "Repent: say, 'Away with the Atheists,'"
But here mark the contrast. In his famous letter to Pliny, Trajan enjoined upon his pro-consul not officiously to press inquiries concerning the Christians, and on no account to receive charges made against them by informers. How different this from the spirit and the methods of the persecutions inspired by the so-called Christian Church in the name of Christ! In the passage already quoted, Mill goes on to say that a hundred times he heard his father declare that the Christian's God was "the most perfect conception of Wickedness which the human mind can devise." And if the Christian's God be the 4od of "the historic Church "- the god of the religion of Christendom, is not this true? If the judgment which we mete out to men in other spheres is to be applied to this, and guilt is to be measured by enlightenment and privileges neglected and abused, the Church of Christendom stands out as the most hideous inpersonation of evil which the world has ever known. "No means came amiss to it, sword or stake, torture chamber or assassin's dagger. The effects of the, Church's working were seen in ruined nations and smoking cities, in human beings tearing one another to pieces, like raging maniacs, and the honour of the Creator of the world befouled by the hideous crimes committed in His name. All this is forgotten now," the writer here quoted sorrowfully adds-" forgotten, or even audaciously denied."
We judge of a Pagan god by the acts of his worshippers, committed in his name and in his honour. Let us be consistent and fair, and apply the same test here; and instead of denouncing Mill as a coarse blasphemer, we shall hang our heads as we deplore the ignorance which confounds the god of Christendom with the Christian's God, and the Christ of Christendom with the Christ of the New Testament.
The god of Christendom is a god who can own as his specially accredited agents and ministers men whose lives were marked by immoralities and crimes so flagrant and so shameful that the record of them here would render these pages unfit for the eyes of the innocent and pure; a god who can sanction and bless atrocities as hideous and hateful as any that we associate with the names of Nero and Diocletian. With all the passion of which we are capable we protest against the blasphemy of confounding this god with the God of the Bible, or the Christ of "the historic Church" with our Divine Lord and Saviour.
ANY one who approaches the study of theology with a mind trained and formed by full and systematic study of Holy Scripture enjoys an immense advantage over those who, reversing the process, have been taught to read the Scriptures in the light of theology. In dealing with the ritualists and sacerdotalists of apostolic days, the Epistle to the Hebrews attributes their errors to ignorance of the first principles of the oracles of God,"' the rudiments, that is, of revealed religion, the - A,B, C of the Divine revelation of the Old Testament. To what extent, then, has the theology of Christendom fallen under a similar reproach?
The Old Testament Scriptures admit of a fourfold division - the historical, the typical, the prophetical, and the devotional or experimental. Of these, the first and the last - history and spiritual experience - are not specially the domain of the theologian at all. What then of the others? It is notorious that theology ignores them altogether. Prophecy it rejects with deliberate purpose; and as regards typology the dictum of Hengstenberg still holds good, that "the elucidation of the doctrine of the types, now entirely neglected, is an important problem for future theologians." ' But in this intensely valuable and interesting study, "now entirely neglecled," may be found landmarks to guide us in our search for truth, and safeguards against the errors by which at this moment Christianity is assailed, and our liberties as Englishmen are endangered.
By one school of theologians, now both popular and active, the Divine revelation of Judaism is bracketed with old-world paganism; by others it is dismissed to the sphere of archaeology. But the Mosaic types are the alphabet of the language in which the truths of Christianity have been delivered to us; or, if the illustration may be permitted, the Divine guide-book to the City of God. Without further preface, then, will the reader bear with a brief excursion into this wonderful field of inquiry?
Though in a sense the Bible is a literature, its unity must never be ignored. Regarded as a book, Genesis constitutes its introduction. Adam and the history of his world for thousands of years are dismissed in a brief preface of eleven chapters, and the rest of the Old Testament concerns itself with Abraham and his race.
"The elucidation of the doctrine of the types" must not be confounded with the allegorising of Scripture which renders the exegesis of the Fathers so fanciful-a system derived from the Greeks, who had learned to treat their classics in this way.
The narrative of Genesis closes by recording how the descendants of Abraham came to be sojourners in the land of Egypt. As we turn the page, the opening chapter of Exodus tells how they had lapsed into a condition of hard and degrading servitude. This is the point at which the history of Israel in its typical character begins. Man's condition by nature is that of slavery in the house of bondage. He is absolutely dependent on a Divine deliverer. The narrative opens, then, by representing the Israelites as the slaves of Pharaoh, and it proceeds to unfold the story of their deliverance.And here the essentially typical character of the history is apparent. First, the fact of their deliverance is made subordinate to its purpose:
"Let My people go, that they may serve Me" was the Divine demand. And secondly, as the deliverance must be in the way of redemtion, the history leads up to the promulgation of a death sentence: "All the firstborn in the land of Egypt shall die "'-the firstborn being typically the representative of the family. This was not a sentence upon the Egyptians, but upon the inhabitants of the land. The doom fell upon Egypt and upon all who dwelt in Egypt. There was no difference here between the Israelite and the Egyptian. And a death sentence can be satisfied only by death. But God provided a redemption.
The story of the Passover is known to all. Every Hebrew family was to sacrifice a lamb, and the blood of that sacrifice was to be sprinkled upon the lintel and the door-posts of every Hebrew hut. For the Divine word declared, "I will pass through the land of Egypt this night, and will smite all the firstborn in the land if Egypt. . . . And when I see the blood I will pass over you." Or, as Moses explained it to the people, "The Lord will pass over the door, and will not suffer the destroyer to come into your houses to smite you."' Death was the appointed judgment upon Egypt; but upon the blood-stained house death had already passed. They were redeemed from death by a death already accomplished - redeemed by the blood of the paschal lamb. And that bloodshedding typified the great sacrifice of Calvary: hence the inspired words-" Redeemed . . . with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
But this was merely redemption from Egypt's doom. Redemption from Egypt's bondage was to follow. But let us keep clearly in view the moral order of it; for this is a truth which theology has mystified. Who is there who has not pictured to himself that midnight scene when the Egyptians "rose up in the night," and "there was a great cry in Egypt "-a nation lamenting its dead! And that same night the Hebrew slaves arose as freemen, and set out upon their march to the promised land. The redemption in Egypt was followed by redemption from Egypt The sinner is saved in his sins, but that is not all: he is saved from his sins. Israel's redemption in Egypt was only and altogether byj the blood of the lamb: redemption from Egypt was by "the strong hand and the outstretched arm" of Israel's God.
The passage of the sea was the first in that wonderful journey. "The waters divided," and the redeemed people passed through as on dry land. But when the Egyptians press after them, the waters returned and overwhelmed them. The people had already been taught the atoning efficacy of death: they had now to learn its separating power. Death rolled between them and the scene of their bondage. Death to sin is no mere theory of doctrine; it is a great fact in the Christian's heart and life.
Now, these things, we are expressly told, were "types." And, as a matter of fact, the crucifixion of Christ took place upon the anniversary of the Exodus; and "that self-same day" was again the anniversary of the covenant with Abraham. The resurrection therefore was on the anniversary of the passage of the Red Sea; as that again was on the anniversary of the resting of the ark on Ararat. Every part of the wonderful story, indeed, is rich in typical teaching. The manna from heaven for their food was a type of Christ. The rock that gave out water for their thirst was a type of Christ. The Lord is not a mere turnkey who releases us from the prison-house of sin: the christian learns to say of Him, "The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want."
But passing by all this, the events of Sinai claim special notice here. Then it was that the I law was given - not the ten commandments merely, but the ritual of the national worship; not till then was it that the covenant was dedicated. At this point the typology of Exodus becomes of transcendent importance in delivering us from the errors and superstitions of the religion of Christendom. For the 24th chapter of Exodus, which fills so large a place in the doctrinal teaching of the New Testament, is very generally ignored in the theology of Christendom.
A few weeks only had passed since the Israelites had groaned in Egyptian bondage: now they stood a redeemed people around Mount Sinai, and God had given them a law, and prescribed for them a religion. But while His purpose was to have His people near Him, the scene only emphasised the distance which separated them from Him. Great and wonderful though the blessings were which they had already proved, their redemption was wholly incomplete. Moses, indeed, could approach, but this was only because of his typical position as mediator of the covenant. As for the rest, not even the elders of Israel, not even Aaron, could stand in that awful presence. The Divine command was clear: "Moses alone shall come near the Lord; but they shall not come nigh, neither shall the people go up with him."' When Moses had thus received "all the words of the Lord and all the judgments," he came and told them to the people, and then recorded them in writing. This accomplished, he set up an altar, and the great sacrifice of the covenant was offered; and by the blood of that sacrifice, sprinkled both upon the book and upon the people, the covenant was dedicated. in other words, Israel was thus brought into covenant with God, and became a holy people, as befitted the relationship.
And now mark the change. THEN (the next verse records) went up Moses, and Aaron and his sons, and the elders of Israel, "and they saw the God of Israel." The very same men who had been warned off the mountain at the peril of their lives were now bidden to participate in its most dread solemnities. And as expressive of the fulness of their welcome and the peace which ruled their hearts in that holy presence, it is recorded that "they saw God, and did eat and drink."
The very first command which followed this Priesthood had no part in obtaining redemption: that was the work, not of Aaron, but of Moses not of the priest, but of the mediator. The great redemption sacrifices, offered once for all, and never to be repeated, to which Israel owed the position of a saved and covenant people, were not priestly offerings at all.
Repetition may be pardoned here, because the truth in question is outraged and denied by the Pagan conception of priesthood which prevails in Christendom. The moral order of these types is clear. The deliverance of Israel by the blood of the Passover was accomplished in Egypt - in the very scene of their bondage: God saves the sinner in his sins - as he is, and where he is. Then the Israelites were delivered out of Egypt, and permitted to see the destruction of the power which had held them in servitude: God saves the sinner from his sins and teaches him that sin has no longer the power to enslave him. Finally, the Israelites we are brought near to God as a holy people, through "the blood of the covenant," and taught to be at peace in His holy presence "But now" (we read) "in Christ Jesus, ye who once we're far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ: for He is our peace."
1 And all this apart from priesthood. Where, then, did the priest come in? Not, I repeat, until redemption was complete, and the tabernacle - the dwelling-place of Jehovah - was set up. Then, and only then, the priest was consecrated.' His functions had to do with the worship of a redeemed people. But the teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews is clear and emphatic, that the repetition of the sacrifices in Israel was due to the fact that those sacrifices were but "a shadow of good things to come." They could not "take away sins"; therefore they could not "make the comers thereunto perfect." "Else would they not have ceased to be offered?" But what the typical sacrifices could not do, Christ has done. "He appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself." And this He has actually accomplished. "For by one offering Hehath perfected for ever them that are sanctified." Hence the language of the new covenant, "Their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." And the words which immediately follow declare, "Now, where remission of these is there is no more offering for sin."
The types teach in part by comparison and in part by contrast. While the continually repeated sacrifices of the law were a Divine protest and warning that sin was not actually put away, the great redemption sacrifices, offered once for all, foreshadowed the accomplishment of the Divine will on Calvary. What those sacrifices prefigured, Christ has accomplished. What those sacrifices were in type, He is in reality. To the sinner who believes on Him He is, in fact, what the passover and the burnt-offerings of the covenant were to the Israelite in type -"both righteousness and sanctification, even redemption."' And as it was in the type, so it is here. Redemption being now complete, the exhortation which immediately follows is "Let us draw near." This is the climax of the doctrinal teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews. The purpose of that Epistle is not to teach how a sinner can be redeemed. Redemption is assumed. The passover has no place in the doctrine of it. That is past; and it is to the great burnt-offering of the covenant that the parting words of the Epistle refer. Just as Moses made purification of sins, and then went up to God, so also did the Lord Jesus Christ.' And the teaching of the Epistle, pursued with many a digression rendered necessary by prevailing ignorance and error, is that there is now no need for further offering or sacrifice, no need for a human priest; but that, in virtue of the great sacrifice, and of what Christ is to the redeemed sinner, there is access even to the Divine presence.
At this point the type becomes confused. The Divine intention was that the mediator of the covenant should himself have become the priest. But this failed, owing to the unbelief and wilfulness of Moses, who claimed to have Aaron associated with him. But Christ is both Mediator and Priest. And His priesthood is of the order of Meichisedek, whose ministry was not to sacrifice for sins, but to succour and bless. It began therefore, not with Calvary, but with His ascension to the right hand of God. Then it was that He was "named of God a priest." Save in the sense in which every Christian is a priest, there can be no priest on earth apart from the family of Aaron. This rule is so absolute that it applies even to Christ Himself. As the Epistle to the Hebrews emphatically declares,' "If He were on earth He would not be a priest at all." Therefore if any one claims to be a priest, he must be a Pagan priest. A Christian priest! If "priest" here means a sacrificing priest, a man might as well call himself a Christian atheist. It was not narrow intolerance, but appreciation of truth, that led the Reformers to describe the sacrifice of the Mass as not merely a "fable," but a "blasphemous fable."' The following sentences, quoted from Bishop. Liglitfoot of Durham, will be a fitting conclusion to the present chapter. Referring to "the Kingdom of Christ" he says :-.
"It has no sacred days or seasons, no special sanctuaries, because every time and every place alike are holy. Above all it has no sacerdotal system. It interposes no sacrificial tribe or class between God and man. . .
"For communicating instruction and for preserving public order, for conducting religious worship and for dispensing social charities, it became necessary to appoint special officers. But the priestly functions and privileges of the Christian people are never regarded as transferred or even delegated to these officers. They are called stewards or messengers of God, servants or ministers of the Church, and the like; but the sacerdotal title is never once conferred upon them. The only priests under the Gospel, designated as such in the New Testament, are the saints, the members of the Christian brotherhood. As individuals all Christians are priests alike. . . . The most exalted office in the Church, the highest gift of the Spirit, conveyed no osacerdotal right that was not enjoyed by the humblest member of the Christian community."
THE intelligent reader will have noticed that the blessings enumerated in the preceding chapter were only for the covenant people, "the Israel of God." But men by nature are "aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise :"' How, then, can the gulf be passed which separates these positions?
This is a question to which we may reasonably demand a plain answer. Latin theology, ignoring Divine grace, points men to priestly mediation and mystical rite as the appointed means of bringing them within the covenant, which is thus widened and lowered to reach men in their natural condition. Here, for example, is the opening sentence of the treatise on "Apostolic Succession," already referred to: "Jesus Christ founded a visible society, which, as embodying God's new covenant with men and representing His goodwill towards them, was intended to embrace all mankind."' This amazing state ment, so pregnant with error and yet so "orthodox," merits close attention and careful analysis.
It tells us (i) That Jesus Christ founded a Church. (Not the Lord Jesus Christ, and the omission is significant.)
(2) That the Church embodies God's new covenant.
(3) That the new covenant is with men, i.e., with the Adamic race.
(4) That the Church therefore represents His goodwill toward men; and this being so,
(5) That the Church was intended to embrace all mankind
These propositions display the hopeless confusion which Latin theology makes between the' Church and the Kingdom - the Church of this dispensation, and the Kingdom which was preached in the early period of the Lord's earthly ministry, and which will again be preached hereafter, when Israel is restored to Divine favour. The very word (Greek) refutes the error. The Church is not the world Christianised, but an election out of the world. In these days it may seem hypercritical to distinguish thus between the Church and the Kingdom; but it was this blind and guilty ignorance which led the historic Church to burn the martyrs.'
God was on the side of the martyrs; the devil was on the side of the Church and its theology. And yet we are told that the Church represents the goodwill of God toward men! If it were so, we might well pray to be delivered from His goodwill! In view of the Church's actual history, the statement is an insult to our intelligence. And, whatever the Church's history, to put it thus in the place of Christ is an outrage upon Divine truth, and a hall-mark of apostasy. "IN THIS was manifested the love of God toward us, that God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him."
Underlying all this is the fiction of salvation ' through a covenant made with men as men - an error from which acquaintance with "the first, principles of the oracles of God" (to quote Hebrews again) would guard us. The covenant, as we have seen, was made with a people already redeemed and saved. And "the new covenant" is not for the race of Adam, but for "the seed of Abraham," "the house of Israel" '- not "Israel after the flesh," but the "Israel of God."
But this only brings us back to the question, How can we, who by nature are estranged from the covenant, be brought within the covenant?
Some who are teachers of the teachers of Christianity, in ignorance of the very alphabet of the language in which the New Testament is written (namely, the typology of the Old Testament), point to the difference between Matt. xxvi. 28 and 1 Cor. xi. 25 as an "inaccuracy." Its significance is that whereas the Jew, reached Christ in virtue of the covenant, the Gentile becomes a partaker of the covenant in virtue of union with Christ. In the one, therefore, it is, "This is My blood of the new covenant"; in the other, "This is the new covenant in My blood."
The answer is to be found in the great characteristic truth of Christianity, the forgotten truth of Grace - a truth which has dropped out of human theologies. Men are ready to believe in Divine benevolence to a favoured class. The popular description of this class would be that of good, religious people. Some would define it as the elect; others as the sacramentally initiated; but all would agree in setting limits to the Divine benevolence. And this, in fact, characterised the Old Testament revelation on the public side of it. And the same is true even of the Lord's earthly ministry. Hence such words as, "Salvation is of the Jews "; " I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." He was Israel's Messiah, "a minister of the circumcision."' But the ministry and death of Christ were infinitely more than this. They were the supreme revelation of Divine love to a lost world. In the estimation of Christendom, the crucifixion of Christ was merely an event in history, the greatest of all events perhaps - what the Exodus was to Israel - the basis of religion and the beginning of a new era. But in fact it was the world's "crisis." And it was this, because it was the supreme manifestation of Divine love to man, and of man's hatred to God. "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son"; man so hated God that he crucified His only-begotten Son The Jew has thus lost the position of religious privilege under the covenant. Every covenant has been broken, every promise forfeited. Man's probation has closed: he is shut up to wrath, and there is no appeal and no escape. The whole world has become guilty before God. Nothing remains but the day of judgment. But this was made the occasion for "the revelation of a mystery which was kept secret since the world began "the great "mystery" of Grace in the Gospel. To the Son the Father has assigned the Divine prerogative of judgment; and His own throne is a throne of judgment. But judgment is postponed. The only Being in the universe who can condemn a sinner is the Crucified of Calvary, and He is now sitting on the throne of God as a Saviour. When the day of judgment comes He will be only a Judge; but in this day of grace He is only a Saviour. It is not that there is grace for the elect, or the good, or the sacramentally initiated; but that grace is the principle on which God is dealing with a lost world. Grace is supreme. Grace reigns, "through righteousness, unto eternal life, by Jesus Christ our Lord."'
The Epistle to the Hebrews is given to teach us how a redeemed sinner can draw near to God as a worshipper, in virtue of the blood of the covenant, with a great Priest to bless and succour him. The 'Epistle to the Romans is given to teach how a lost sinner can be saved, and reach the place where alone worship is possible and the need of a priest arises. The one begins with the burnt-offerings and peace-offerings of the covenant; the other with the passover in Egypt. And it is the full display of that which the passover prefigured but dimly. The Gospel has revealed God, but it has not changed Him. Grace there always was, but it was veiled.
The distinction here made is one that ordinary intelligence can grasp. Grace may lead a man to write a money bill, or to adopt a child; but it is not grace that makes him meet the bill when due, or support the child he has adopted. And when God took up the Hebrews as His favoured people and brought tlem into special relationship with Himself, covenant superseded Grace as the characteristic of the Jewish dispensation. But when that people became the betrayers and murderers of Christ, when the Cross stood between an outraged God and a guilty and doomed world, then the only possible alternatives were grace and judgment. God must either deal with men according to their deserts, or else, in infinite mercy and love, pardon and bless them in spite of all.
And this, and nothing less than this, is "the Gospel of the grace of God." "God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved."' "By grace are ye saved, through faith, and that (salvation) not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not of works, lest any one should boast." "The wages of sin is death" (that is what men have earned), "but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."' A gift may be deserved, but these words are the climax of an argument in which it is emphatically called "the gift by grace."
This will not be quoted in the newspapers. Neither will men believe it. The religion of Christendom is a systematised denial of it. But human religion is always anti-Christian. The Lord Jesus Christ preached the Gospel to sinners, and "the common people heard Him gladly," for they owned that they were sinners; but the religious people retaliated by crucifying Him. And when His Apostle, addressing his co-religionists, announced that he had been commissioned to preach this gospel to the heathen, they flew into a frenzy of passion, cast off their clothes, threw dust into the air, and shouted, "Away with such a fellow from the earth; it is not fit that he should live." He had not committed odious crimes, like some of his "successors" he had only preached forgiveness to common sinners in their sins, not through religion, but through Christ. And if this preaching excited fury in the days of real priests with real altars, need we ponder at opposition to it in these days of sham priests with sham altars! Theirs is the religion of Christendom, which, like a pirate, holds the tortuous channel of salvation by ordinances; while Divine grace has cleared the way right out to the open sea.
This doctrine is met by the profane taunt that it makes every one "his own absolver," and tends to levity and sin. But, in fact, it is "the truth which is according to godliness."' Writing to men who were converts from paganism, the Apostle declared that everywhere it brought forth fruit, even from the day they "heard and knew the grace of God in truth." This Gospel changed Onesimus, a runaway slave who robbed his master, into a "profitable" servant and a "faithful and beloved brother." For grace not merely saves a man, but it moulds his character and controls his conduct. "For" (we read) "the grace of God hath appeared, salvation-bringing to all men, instructing us, to the intent that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly and righteously and godly in this present world."
"Love your enemies and do them good," said the Lord to His disciples, "and ye shall be sons of the Most High; for He is kind loward Me unthankful and evil."
Is this true? Or is the prevailing belief well founded, that Divine benevolence is for those who give proof in some way that they deserve it, or who have by religious ordinances attained some vantage-ground of favour? No one can pretend to be indifferent upon such a question, for the issues at stake are of overwhelming interest and importance. If the popular belief be false- if the words of Holy Writ be true - then even one who may hitherto have led a godless life, ignoring alike the claims and the benefits of Christianity, is nevertheless an object of Divine pity and love, and may cast himself upon God with the certainty of being accepted and forgiven. "For He is kind to the unthankful and to the evil."
THE Bible or the Church? To the "Catholic" the antithesis here implied will seem not only fanciful but false. For, he will tell us, "Christ did not write a book; but He founded a Church, and it is to the Church that we owe the Bible." If this means that the Church on earth was established by the Lord's personal ministry the statement displays strange ignorance and error. "I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the House of Israel," He declared with reference to the limitations of His earthly ministry. It was vicariously, by the ministry of the Spirit, and by human agency, that He founded the Church. And by that same ministry and through similar agency He wrote the Book. "When the Spirit of Truth is come, He will guide you into all truth," was His word to the Apostles gathered round Him at the Last Supper; and He added, "He shall glorify Me, for He shall take of mine and shall show it unto you."' The Scriptures of the New Testament are one result of the fulfilment of that promise.
But while the Church soon lapsed from its high position of purity and privilege, the Bible remains unchanged. Not only is it unaffected by the apostasy of the Church, but its authority and its value are all the greater just because of that apostasy. In the days of pristine purity and power the Church might possibly have been a trustworthy guide. But in view of its actual history and its present condition the effrontery of the claims now made for it is amazing. Said one of the greatest of the Fathers, in face of the incipient apostasy of sixteen centuries ago, "there can be no refuge for Christians wishing to know the true faith, but the Divine Scriptures." With what emphasis may these words be re-peated to-day!
But the " Catholic" will reply, It is the Church that has given us "the Divine Scriptures". Let us investigate this. The Jew was the divinely appointed custodian of the Hebrew Scriptures. And, moreover, they bear the imprimatur of our Divine Lord, given with such fulness and definiteness, that we need no human testimony to accredit them. "A transparent fallacy" will be the "Catholic's" rejoinder; for while the Lord's testimony to the Hebrew Scriptures is admittedly conclusive, we are dependent on the Apostolic writings for the records of His teaching. And therefore, as the Church bears to the New Testament the position which Israel held to the Old, its authority is supreme in regard to the Bible as a whole."
Now, in the first place, while the Scripture declares expressly that the "oracles of God" were entrusted to the Jew, it contains no similar declaration on behalf of the Church. And, recognising this, the Reformers rightly claimed no higher place for the Church than that of being "a witness and a keeper of Holy Writ." But, secondly, even if this "Catholic" position were tenable, it would in no way support the figment that "we owe the Bible to the Church." Not more absurd would be the assertion that it is to the Trustees of the British Museum that we owe the ancient inscriptions entrusted to their care.
All these pretensions, moreover, depend upon a wholly false conception of the Church. The Church on earth was designed to be the whole congregation of Christian people, and not a governing authority set over them. As the Lord so plainly taught, it was to be, not even the sheepfold, but the flock; whereas, according to the popular belief, it is not the flock at all, but the sheepfold plus the shepherds and the sheep-dogs!
(Footnote - "Not one fold, but one flock; no one exclusive enclosure of an outward Church." Alford on John x. r6. "One fold" is the Vulgate perversion of the Lord's words, reproduced in our own Authorised Version.)
There is nothing in Scripture to suggest that the Professing Church was designed to be a great ecclesiastical corporation, such as "the Catholic Church" became under the patronage of the Christianised Pagan Emperors. In pristine and brighter days, when the Disciples were characterised by moral purity and spiritual power, they were scattered everywhere by persecution. But while this precluded the maintenance of any ecclesiastical curia to deal with questions of doctrine or discipline, it led to the spread of Christianity in the world, and the great mission of the Church on earth was thus fulfilled. The Church has given us the Bible! It would be as reasonable to maintain that the Corinthian Church gave us the Corinthian Epistles, or that we owe the Book of the Revelation to the seven Churches in Asia. In the old dispensation "the Church in the Wilderness" was not "the oracle of God." Neither was it the giver of the "living oracles," but only the recipient of them. And so it was with the Pentecostal Church. God who spoke in times past to the fathers has in these last days spoken to us.' The Scriptures were given to the Church - not through the Church. Indeed the figment that an ecclesiastical corporation could be "the oracle of God" appears grotesquely false to all whose thoughts upon this subject are formed upon Scripture. In no single instance recorded in either Old Testament or New has God ever given a revelation save through individual men chosen by Him to that end. If an exception were possible it would be found in the record of the Jerusalem Council of Acts xv. But it was by the light of Holy Scripture that the Apostles and Elders decided the questions upon which that Council adjudicated.
But, it will be objected, was it not the Church that settled the Canon of the New Testament? True it is that the genuineness and authenticity of these sacred writings were guaranteed by competent authority; but the question here involved was entirely one of evidence, and not of inspiration in any sense whatever.
And lastly, appeal is made to the Lord's words, "He that receiveth you receiveth Me,"' and again, "He that heareth you, heareth me." But these sayings were addressed, the one to His Apostles, and the other to the missionaries whom He accredited to the Jewish cities in the days of His earthly ministry. Rome, however, not only misapplies them to the Church which was founded by the Apostles after the Ascension, but profanely appropriates them to the apostasy of Christendom.
All this is so plain upon the open page of Scripture that it is idle to discuss the question whether, supposing the professing Church originally held the position which Rome would assign to it, that position could still be claimed for it to-day. The true Church, the Body of Christ, can never fail; but here we are dealing with the Church in its outward and earthly aspect In the days of the ministry, "the Jewish Church " was an apostasy It had killed the prophets, and it was about. to crucify the Son of God. And though as to its calling and responsibilities it was Divine, our Lord emphatically designated lt "the world" in His words recorded in John xv. 19-24, and kindred passages. And surely these are among the things that are "written for our learning." Though the professing Church of Christendom is as regards its calling and responsibilities the Church of God on earth, all who are spiritually enlightened recognise that it is in fact a specially insidious and dangerous phase of "the world."
What then should be our attitude toward it ? In "using the world" we are not to use it, unduly,' but with intelligent discrimination. If in such a matter we appeal to the teaching of the Reformers it is oniy because we believe their teaching was in accordance with Scripture. And here we have abundant guidance. We have, first, the Lord's plain warnings to His disciples respecting their relations with "the Jewish Church." Secondly, we have the Apostolic writings of the Epistles. And finally we have the Lord's last words in the Book of the Revelation, which deals explicitly with the difficult circumstances in which we find ourselves as, we near the close of this "Christian dispensation."
We cannot recover lost privileges and blessing by denying facts and taking our stand upon the historic continuity of the Church. But we can in this way, set up again the awful "entail" of guilt, which the Reformers sought to break. For while the martyred prophets of "the Jewish Church" were reckoned by tens, or possibly by hundreds, "the Christian Church," in its evil history, has murdered untold myriads of the saints of God. And their blood cries aloud for vengeance; for while grace is boundless in the case of the individual sinner, God never forgives a "corporation."'
(Footnote - When we evangelise heathen races our first effort is to give them the Scriptures in their own language. And a beginning is made by translating some selected book of the New Testament. But can we conceive a proposal that the Apocalypse should be chosen for this purpose! Why then was it that Wyciiffe began his great task by placing this very Book in the hands of the people of this country? The answer is not doubtful. It was because "the Church" placed its ban upon the circulation of the Bible, and it was necessary to destroy the superstitious belief in the Church before the Bible could get a hearing.)
Apart from the testimony of Scripture, the light of reason, if unclouded by superstition, would, suffice to teach us that God would never own the apostasy of Christendom as His Church. But the teaching of Scripture is full and clear. Not until an election from the earthly people is manifested as "the Bride" is the Professing Church of this dispensation openly branded as "the Harlot." And then the command will take effect, "Come out of her, My people, that ye be not partaker of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues." Meanwhile, the Epistles to the Seven Churches - words, be it remembered, that come to us from the lips of the Lord Himself- are given for our present guidance. Our duty is not to separate ourselves from "the Professing Church," but to keep ourselves clear of the evil that abounds in it. And this is precisely the position which was taken by the Reformers.
But we who thus stand for the Bible are accused of Bibliolatry. If we charged those who bring this taunt with making an idol of the Church, they would plead that they reverence and obey the Church because of Him who speaks to them in and through it. But this is precisely our position respecting the Book. We reverence and obey it because of Him whose Word it is, and of whom it speaks. It is not the Bible that we worship, but the Christ of the Bible. And if you filch the Bible from us, or disparage its authority, you rob us of Christ.
And this brings us to the vital issue which this controversy too often obscures. That a Christian is one who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ may seem to be a mere platitude, but it is really a truth which needs to be asserted with sustained emphasis. That Christ must have the first place is a statement which is not only inadequate but deceptive. The Divine religion of Judaism was given to lead men to Christ. Its rites and ordinances were like the sign-posts we set up to guide the wayfarer. Christianity is the realisation and fulfilment of that religion. And if we are to use words with strict accuracy, Christianity is not a religion at all, but a revelation and a faith. The Jew had a religion; So also has the "Catholic" to-day; and the mere Protestant is in the same category. But the Christian has Christ. The impatience with which most people will dismiss this aphorism only proves what need there is to assert it. It is not that the Lord Jesus Christ should have the first place, but that to the Christian He is "all and in all." .
Though Abraham had a second wife, Sarah enjoyed an unquestioned pre eminence in his homage and love But would any true woman now consent to be a chief wife on such conditions? And yet this parable illustrates the place which "Christian religionists" accord to the Lord Jesus Christ He holds the first place, but "the Church" claims a share of their homage. Or, to change the figure, their "high altar" is dedicated to Him alone, but they have a "Lady Chapel" and a side altar in honour of the Church Once, and only once, is the word "religion" used in Scripture in relation to Christianity And when the assembled Christians first heard the words, "Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this" with what confidence they must have expected an enumeration of Christian rites in contrast with the Jewish And with what surprise they must have heard the sequel-"to visit the fatherless and the widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world" These exhortations 'have nothing to do with eccelesiastical ordinances, nor do they relate to Sunday worship or services They concern the ordinary week-day life of the Christian. The words are intended, not to mark a parallel, but to suggest a contrast. As Archbishop Trench remarks, "St. James is claiming for the new dispensation a superiority over the old in that its very consists in acts of mercy, of love, of holiness."'
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law or the prophets," said the Lord in the Sermon on the Mount; "I am not come to destroy but to fulfil." In this sense alone it is that Christianity has superseded Judaism, namely, by fulfilling it. And a "Christiaic religion" which consists of ordinances in the Jewish sense is essentially anti-Christian. Judaism was the renewal of an earlier revelation. ,Did any sane man, whether savage or civilised, ever evolve from his own brain the thought that if he offended his neighbour the way to appease him would be to make a mess opposite his door by the slaughter of an ox or a sheep? And the man who could imagine that his god would be thus propitiated must suppose his god to be as thorough a lunatic as himself! How, then, can the universality of the practice of sacrifice be explained? Neither reason nor instinct will account for it. It must be due to a tradition common to the whole human race, and such a tradition must have sprung from a primeval revelation. God thus sought to teach the truth that man is a sinner, that the penalty of sin is death, and that therefore pardon is possible only by atonement. When we are dealing with full-grown men we declare our wishes and expect: them to be observed. But we teach our children. by lessons given "line upon line and precept upon precept," repeated day by day. And the Jewish cult was the divine "kindergarten" of religion. The daily sacrifices, and every part of that ritual, testified to the fact of sift and the truth of redemption. "All that were looking for the redemption" is the beautiful and apt description of those who knew the spiritual meaning of the cult. And while the redemption was then a hope, it is now a reality. For in Christ "we have redemption."' Not in religion, but in Himself, and not through ordinances, but "through His blood." Of course the "blood" is a figurative expression, but the figure is neither poetical nor pagan. The Jewish ritual supplies the grammar of the language in which Christian truth is given us in the New Testament; and the blood points to the death of Christ on Calvary as the fulfilment of all which that ritual prefigured. But Christianity is more than this. It is not a mere "plan of salvation" for men, it reveals God. Christ is called the Word of God just because He is the expression of what God is- "the effulgence of His glory and the very image of His substance."' Hence the Lord could say, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father." Therefore it is that to the Christian, Christ is "all and in all."
And the underlying controversy here is not of Protestant against "Catholic." The questions involved concern that deeper problem of human nature which has been discussed in these pages. No one who is versed in Patristic literature will traverse Harnack's statement that in the full development of the Church of the Fathers, when the purifying and testing influence of persecution had ceased, "Christ as a person was forgotten. For the natural propensities of the human heart were then free to work unchecked. Christianity became merged In "the Christian religion," and the Lord Jesus Christ was overshadowed by the great organisation which claimed the proud title of the "Holy Catholic Church."
"In the years of transition from the ancient to the modern world, when all civilised society seemed to be disintegrated, the confederation of the Christian Churches, by the very fact of its existence upon the old imperial lines, was not only the most powerful, but the only powerful organisation in the civilised world. It was so vast and so powerful, that it seemed to be, and there were few to question its being, the visible realisation of that Kingdom of God which our Lord Himself had preached - of that 'Church' which He had purchased with His own blood.
This confederation was the 'city of God'; this and no other, was the 'body of Christ'; this and no other, was the 'Holy Catholic Church.'" The Reformers recognised the evil of this. But instead of boldly repudiating it, they had recourse to a feeble compromise; they sought to mask the evil by re-defining "the Holy Catholic Church." Archbishop Whately noticed that the errors of Rome have their roots in human nature, and "human nature" it was that evolved the errors here in question. "The Church " and the crucifix are the outward expression and symbol of them. With Protestants the crucifix generally gives place to the empty cross, but the underlying principle is the same.
A dead Christ -"Jesus" is his familiar designation '-has supplanted the Lord Jesus Christ; and by "the Church" the benefits of His passion are dispensed to the faithful. Originating in the halcyon days of the Fathers, these errors reached their full development in Rome, but the principle they involve may be found in the teaching of our Protestant communities. Even among spiritual Christians, indeed, there are but few who are not in some degree corrupted by them. And while all who accept this false conception of the Church are on a road which logically leads to Rome, those who hold with the Reformers are separated from Rome by a barrier which is impassable.
(Footnote - "The modern familiarity of use of 'the simple name 'Jesus' has little authority in Apostolic usage. . . . So common in the Gospels, it is rare in the Epistles. . . . Whenever it occurs it wiii be found to be distinctive or emphatic."
The quotation is from Bishop Eliicott's note on Eph. iv. 20-" Ye did not so learn Christ . . . as truth is in Jesus." That is, as truth is exemplified in the life He lived as a man on earth. The popular cant phrase, "truth, as it is in Jesus," is intended to connote a system of evangelical doctrine. In all the Episties of Paul there are only eight passages in which "the simple name Jesus" is used (it occurs also eight times in Hebrews); and in every instance some special significance attaches to the use of it.)
CHRISTIAN BAPTISM AND BAPTISMAL REGENERATION.
ALL Christians recognise that baptism is - in the true, as distinguished from the superstitious sense of the word - a sacrament; that is, it is an outward symbol to represent a spiritual truth. But most even of those who reject that root error of apostasy, baptismal regeneration, cling to the belief that the truth which the rite symbolises is the new birth.
This is one of the many amazing vagaries of religious thought. For, as already noticed, Scripture in the plainest possible way connects baptism with death; and there is not one solitary passage in which it is mentioned in connection with regeneration or birth; not one which connects it in any way with the operation of the Holy Spirit, or the communication of spiritual life.
But, it will be said, there are two passages in which, though not expressly mentioned, it is clearly referred to, For the Christian, death implies resurrection ; but we must not confound the resurrection with the new birth. which negative this statement. I allude of course to i John iii. and Titus iii. With these passages therefore I now propose to deal.
The occasion of the Nicodemus sermon was the first Passover of the Lord’s ministry. The fame of His miracles was abroad, and many were led thereby to “believe in His name” They were miracle made dis ciples. Theirs was a political faith, for the hope of a Messiah was part of the politics of every Jew. Nicodemus, however, seems to have had deeper aspirations, which led him to seek out the Lord, albeit he came to Him in secret. The multitude thought only of a greater Judas Maccabus; Nicodemus hailed him as a God sent teacher. He was as much in advance of the sensual crowd as is the Pharisee of our own day, but he was just as far from the Kingdom. Therefore he was "answered" at the very threshold by the overwhelming announcement," Except a man be born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God."
The retort of Nicodemus was not the expression of ignorant coarseness. Coming from such a man, it betokens rather his impatience at being met by what may have seemed to him an enigmatical subtlety. Possibly it was a weariness of such subtleties, the stock-in-trade of the Rabbis, which brought him to the Saviour. But his question only brought out the still more explicit statement, "Except a man be born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God."
Now, first it is essential to notice that this is not a twofold birth (of water, and of the Spirit), but emphatically one - a birth of water-and-Spirit, in contrast with the birth which is of flesh. This is not obvious in a translation; but in the original it is unmistakable. And the context emphasises it, for in the very next sentence, and again in verse 8, the water is omitted altogether, and the new man is spoken of merely as "born of the Spirit." It follows, therefore, that whatever the water signifies it must be implied in the words "born of the Spirit," and every one who has been "born anew" has been "born of water and the Spirit."
Secondly, it is certain that the doctrine here implied ought to have been known to Nicodemus; for the Lord rebuked his ignorance of it. But what is called "Christian baptism" had not yet been instituted. Even "the Twelve" knew nothing of it: how then could Nicodemus have known of it? The only baptism then known was that of the Baptist, and that baptism was expressly contrasted with the Spirit’s work Matt. iii. ix). It was a public confession of failure and sin, preparatory to receiving a coming Messiah. But "Christian baptism" was a public confession of faith in Christ already come and gone back to heaven, and a public submission to the Lordship of Christ on the part of those who professed to have been already "born of the Spirit."’ That is to say, baptism followed the new birth.
When Cornelius and his household were brought in, the question was not "Why should not baptized persons receive the Spirit?" but "Can any man forbid water that these should not be baptized, who have received the Holy Ghost as well as we?" Their baptism was not the completion of the new birth, but the recognition that they were already born of water and the Spirit.
(Acts xix. i - 6 gives in a marked way the contrast between the two baptisms. The disciples then were re-baptized, not to make them Christians, but because they were Christians. And the coming upon them of the Holy Spirit, as theiEe mentioned, had reference expressly to the exercise of Pentecostal gifts. )
But all this is negative. The water of John iii. does not refer to baptism: the question remains, What is its symbolism ? Here we must keep prominently in view that the truth involved ought to have been known to Nicodemus. "Art thou the teacher of Israel, and knowest not these things?" the Lord exclaimed in indignant wonder at his ignorance. Therefore in speaking of the new birth by water and the Spirit the Lord referred to some distinctive truth of the Old Testament Scriptures, which ought to have been familiar to a Rabbi of the Sanhedrin.
Before we turn to the Old Testament, it is important to inquire whether any further light can be obtained from the New. The second passage already mentioned at once suggests itself: "According to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost" (Titus iii. 5).
Each of the prominent words here used occurs but once again in the New Testament: "renewing" in Rom. xii. "regeneration" in Matt. xix. 28; and "washing" in Eph. v. 26. The word rendered "washing" is a noun, not a verb. This loutron is, strictly speaking, not the washing, but the vessel which contains the water. Certain expositors of course wish to read it "font" or "laver" ; but this is a false exegesis. The New Testament is written in the language of the Septuagint version of the Old; and we turn to that authority to settle for us the meaning of any doubtful term. Appeal may here be made to a weighty minority of theologians, from Calvin to the late Bishop Ryle (of Liverpool). Dr. Ryle’s "six reasons" for rejecting the popular exegesis are conclusive. In his Commentary on John iii. 5 Calvin writes, "I cannot bring myself to believe that Christ speaks of baptism; for it would have been inappropriate."
And for this purpose the Apocryphal books are sometimes as useful as the sacred Scriptures. Now, loutron is not the rendering for "laver" in the Greek version. The LXX use it twice; namely in Cant. iv. 2 (where it is the washing place for sheep); and in Ecclesiasticus XXX1. 25, where the Son of Sirach writes: "He that washeth himself after the touching of a dead body, if he touch it again what avails his loutron?"
This last passage is of the very highest importance here, and gives us the clew we are in search of. The reference is to one of the principal ordinances of the Mosaic ritual - a type, moreover, which fills a large place in New Testament doctrine - especially in Hebrews - namely, the great sin-offering as connected with "the water of purification" (Numb. xix.).
In Titus iii. 5, as in John iii. 5, a false exegesis depends on separating the words in a way that the original will not permit. The absence of both preposition and article before "renewing," requires that the words shall be construed together : - " the loutron of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit." The reference here is not to a mystical rite established in after times by the Church in its decadence, but to one of the greatest of the types of the divinely ordered Hebrew religion. The great sin- offering of Numb. xix. was burned outside the camp, and water which had flowed over the ashes had cleansing efficacy.
But does Scripture connect this type with the Spirit’s work? First let us note that in Matt. xix. 28 - the only other passage where the word "regeneration"’ is used - it refers to the fulfilment of the Kingdom blessings to Israel, the epoch described in Acts iii. 21 as "the of the restoratian of all things, which God hath from the mouth of all His holy prophets." With this to guide us, we turn to one of the most definite of the prophecies, Ezek. xxxvi., xxxvii. We there read: "I .. take you from among the heathen, and gather you of all countries, and will bring you into your own. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you. . . . A heart also will I give you. . . . And I will put My heart within you." Then follows the vision of the valley of dry bones. The prophet is commanded to say, "thus saith the Lord God, Come from the four winds, 0 beat and breathe upon these slain, that they may live." - once again the words are repeated, " I shall put My heart in you, and ye shall live."
Here then is the most characteristic of all the propheci of that great revival which the Lord’s own lips have described as the "regeneration " - a prophecy to which the Jew clung with special earnestness, a prophec ignorance of which in a Rabbi of the Sanhedrin was a disgraceful as if an English theologian knew nothing of the Nicodemus sermon! And it was the great truth of this prophecy - salvation through the sin-offering in the powez of the Divine Spirit, that the Lord enforced in His words to Nicodemus, and which the Apostle emphasised in th Epistle to Titus. Thus only could the sinner enter the Kingdom.
We conclude, then, that whatever the water typified ii Ezek. xxxvi. and Numb. xix., it symbolised also in John iii. How could the defiled Israelite gain access to the sacrifice of the great sin-offering for purification? Water which had flowed over the ashes of the sacrifice was sprinkled upon him. We know what the sacrifice typified, what did the water typify? What is the means by which the defiled sinner is brought into contact, as it were, with the great sin-offering, of Calvary? By "the word of the truth of the Gospel." And so we find in the only other passage where the word loutron occurs, the cleansing is by "the loutron of water in the Word" (Eph. v. 26).
Baptism is a public act performed by man, for which man can fix the day and hour. The new birth of water and the Spirit is altogether the work of God; and as our Lord so expressly declares, no man can forecast, no man can command it. "The Spirit breathes where He wills, and thou hearest His voice, but knowest not whence He cometh and whither He goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit." It was presumably the obvious reference to Ezekiel which led our translators to render irvEisa by wind. Of course it may have that meaning; just as in English "spirit" may mean alcohol. But the word occurs 370 times in the New Testament (23 times in John), and yet nowhere else is it translated wind.
But the need of all this discussion depends solely on necessity of clearing away the accumulations of error prejudice which obscure and distort the teaching of the passage. In added words the Lord Himself has made His meaning unequivocally clear. In the ninth verse Nicodemus repeats as a humbled seeker after truth, the question which he has previously raised (verse 4) petulant unbelief, "How can a man be born anew And now the answer is vouchsafed to him: "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life." The new birth is not the result of a mystical human rite, but of faith in Christ - not as a teacher or an example, but as the ant type of the great sin-offering; as "lifted up," that is, crucified (comp. chap. viii. 28, and xii. 32). And as other Scriptures tell us, "Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God." "We are born again by the living and eternally abiding Word of God" (x Pet. i. 23) Every one who sanctions the baneful delusion that the water of John iii. refers to baptism, serves as a decoy not only for the advocates of baptismal regeneration but also for those who preach salvation apart from the great sacrifice of Calvary.
In this matter Christendom is in direct conflict with Scripture. Christendom teaches that baptism symbolises birth. Holy Scripture declares that it symbolises death. Christendom teaches that it is the putting away of the filth of the flesh. Holy Scripture declares it is "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the answer of a good conscience toward And in the same passage (i Pet. iii. 21) the apostle enforces the symbolism of death by declaring that baptism is the antitype of the Flood. The water which overwhelmed the world bore up the ark.
Noah was thus saved from death by death; as is the sinner who on believing in Christ becomes one with Him in death. But if it be a question of the new birth we are "born again BY THE WORD OF GOD.’ (i Pet. . 23).
The word "baptism" occurs 22 times, and the verb "baptize" 77 times, in the New Testament. But this statement might leave a false impression as to the prominence given it in the doctrinal teaching of the Scriptures. Of these 99 occurences, 55 are in the Gospel narratives, and 27 in the Acts of the Apostles. The rest only are in the Epistles, and in only nine passages. Of these, one (i Cor. x. 2) relates to the Israelites being "baptized unto Moses," another (i Cor. xii. 13) to the Spirit’s baptism and a third (i Cor. xv. 29) to "baptism for the dead."
But a further analysis will show results still more startling. In i Cor. i. 13 - 17, not only is the mention of baptism not doctrinal, but the Apostle there thanks God that he himself had not baptized, and declares that Christ had not sent him to baptize. Could he have possibly used such language if he had been acting under the commission of Matt. xxviii. 19, or if baptism held the place which Christendom has given it?
It appears, therefore, that in the theology of the Epistles there are but five passages where baptism is doctrinally mentioned. They are as follows : - "Are ye ignorant that all we who were baptized unto Christ Jesus were baptized unto His death? We were buried therefore with Him through baptism unto death" (Rom. vi. 3, 4). "For as many of you as were baptized unto Christ did put on Christ"(Gal. iii. 27). "One Lord, one faith, one baptism" (Eph. iv. 5). "Buried with Him in baptism "(Col. ii. 12). "Which also [i.e., Noah’s flood] in the antitype doth now save you, even baptism, not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the interrogation of a good conscience toward God, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ" (i Pet. iii. 21). The words of i Cor. vi.ii have been adapted by both translators and revisers to suit the popular reference of them to baptism. But the margin of R.V. gives what the Apostle actually wrote. He specifies sinners of the worst type, and adds: "And such were some of you; but ye washed yourselves, but ye were sanctified, but ye were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and "in the Spirit of our God." Now, the "washing" is a figure; sanctification and justification are facts : what, then,, does the figure denote? The typology of the Mosaic ritual will supply the answer. Washing with water always means practical cleansing.’
Ignorance of this has had baneful effects on Christian doctrine, tending, as it does, to make the great Atonement seem an excuse for neglecting practical purity of life. The Apostle’s meaning is thus clear: "You turned from your sins, you were sanctified, you were justified." And this will enable us to understand Acts xxii. (the only other passage where the same expression occurs). The Apostle records the words which Ananias addresseci to him at his conversion: "Arise and be baptized, and wash away thy sins, calling on the name of the Lord." To suppose that, in direct opposition to his definite, teaching about baptism, the Apostle in this didactic and incidental way intended teach that it was a purging from sin, is too wild for discussion.
Such is its meaning, ex. gr., in Heb. x. 22. It is a reference to the ritual of Numb. xix. The Israelite was cleansed by being sprinkled with the water which had flowed over the ashes of the great sin-offering, and then by bathing himself in water.
His meaning again is clear: "Arise and be baptized, and turn away from your evil courses, calling on His name."
This note would be incomplete without some reference to Matt. xxviii. iv. But the questions to which the passage gives rise are much too large to allow, of their being adequately discussed here. The fact that the commission there recorded remained a dead letter is wrongly used to discredit the authenticity of the words. That the commission was not acted on by the Apostles is clear to every student of the Acts. It directed them to go out and make disciples of the Gentiles, whereas they preached to the Jews only. A special vision was needed to lead Peter to visit the house of Cornelius; and the Apostle to the Gentiles declared emphatically, "He sent me not to baptize." At the Council of Acts xv. no one of the inspired apostles was led to refer to this commission, and there is no mention in Acts of any case of baptism in the name of the Trinity.
All this is urged as proof that the passage is an interpolation. But here the answer is obvious that, were this so, the passage would have been so framed as to avoid such a criticism. The solution of the difficulty is to be found in the essentially prophetic character of the first Gospel, and the well-known distinction between ultimate and intermediate fulfilment. If this distinction be overlooked, many a page of Holy Scripture musts be rejected on the same ground.
Regarded as a prophecy, the commission belongs to the day, still future, when "the Lord shall be king over all the earth," and "all peoples, nations, and languages shall serve Him." And when that day comes, the question will not be of individual faith in an absent and rejected Saviour and Lord, but of submission to Divine sovereignty, openly declared and enforced on earth. And baptism will become "the outward and visible sign" of that submission. The intelligent Bible student will here turn at once to passages like Daniel vii. 13,14, Zechariah xiv., and the many "kingdom" Psalms (such as xcvi. to c.). And now we can understand still more fully why it should be at the close of Matthew’s Gospel that this commission is recorded, and why it is to the Gentile nations that the messengers are sent forth, blessing to Israel being assumed. The reason is simple and clear, namely, that prophetically the commission belongs to the age when the Church of this dispensation shall have passed to heaven (i Thess. iv. i6, 17), and When the true remnant of Israel - the "all Israel" of Romans Xi. 26 (see ix. 6, 27), typified by the "five hundred brethren" who gathered round the Lord upon the mountain - shall be the missionaries to the world.!
( It is generally admitted that this was the appearing mentioned in x Cor. xv. 6. If not, then this, the most important event of the "forty days," is unnoticed in the Gospels - an incredible suppositioh. I may here remark that the English reader is apt to be misled by the "then" and the "they’s" of Matt. xxviii. i6, i7. These words, which seem so emphatically to limit the appearing to the Eleven, are in fact not in the Greek at all. "Then" is "the 8s resumptive," often untranslatable, sometimes (as in verse z) left untranslated. It here marks that verse s6 is not a continuation of a consecutive narrative, but the record of a special event, and the pronouns are merely implied in the verbs used. The Eleven are expressly mentioned, no doubt, because every one knew that the "five hundred brethren" were there, and the Lord’s command to the Apostles to remain in Jerusalem might have a cast a doubt upon the fact that they were present.)
May I add that any one of "the five hundred" could have framed a narrative of all the appearings of the "forty days"? The omission of such a record in Matthew is not to be explained by ignorant talk about "fragmentrary materials," &c. As I have said elsewhere, those who profess to account for the Bible on natural principles can give no explanation of the omissions of Scripture. The first Gospel ignores the Lord’s appearances in Jerusalem for the same reason that it ignores Jerusalem altogether, so far as it was possible to ignore it, in the record of the Lord’s ministry from first to last.
The purpose of the four Gospels in the Divine scheme of revelation is to present Christ in different aspects of His Person and work, as Israel’s Messiah, Jehovah’s Servant, Son of Man, and Son of God. It is with the first that we have here to do. Galilee was prophetically and dispensationally connected with the godly remnant, which, in the apostasy of the nation, was divinely regarded as the true Israel. Therefore it is that to the Lord’s ministry in Galilee such prominence is given in the Hebrew Gospel. According to Matthew, the last words spoken to the Eleven before the agony in Gethsemane were that after He was risen again He would go before them into Galilee (Matt. xxvi. 32). And the first message sent to His "brethren" after the resurrection, first by the mouth of the angel who appeared to the woman at the sepulchre, and afterwards by His own lips, was that He would meet them in Galilee (Matt. xxviii. 7, so).
What then was needed to complete the book? But for the guiding and restraining Spirit of God, the Apostle would doubtless have given a record of the events of those forty days. From a practical and common-sense point of view, it is idle to talk here of "fragmentary materials." Any one of the disciples could have compiled such a narrative, but it would have been wholly foreign to the scope and purpose of the first Gospel. As it is the Galilee ministry which is the burden of it, all that remains is to record how, in the scene of that ministry, the Lord gathered His disciples round Him, and gave them the pregnant and prophetic words with which that Gospel closes.
As regards the meaning of this difficult text, 1 Cor 15:29, Bengel declares that "baptism for the advantage of the dead came into use from a wrong interpretation of this very passage." "Nor is it to be believed," Bloomfield writes, "that the Apostle would for the sake of a very precarious argument countenance so grovelling a superstition." And yet we are told that the reference is to "a practice not otherwise known to us" (Alford). If it be so, it is a most pitiable collapse of a sublime passage - " a splendid outburst of mingled rhetoric and logic." Indeed the suggestion is as silly as it is irreverent. If, as Alford supposes, it is an ad hominem argument, it must be an appeal to the common faith and practice of all Christians everywhere. The solution of the enigma is to be found in correcting the punctuation. Verses 20 - 28 are in a separate paragraph. And resuming at verse 29 the argument of verse 19, the Apostle exclaims, "What shall they do who are baptized?" For while baptism connotes death it implies resurrection; and if this be gone both the blessing and even the meaning of the ordinance are gone with it. "It is for corpses if the dead rise not: why are they then baptized for them?"
See Dr. Bullinger’s Figures of Speech, pp. 41 - 44). 15
A FEW years ago I received a letter from a gentleman living near London, expressing solicitude for my spiritual welfare, and an earnest desire to see me within the fold of the Catholic Church.
Though the writer was a stranger to me, the tone in which he wrote was such that I was careful to reply in terms befitting the courtesy and grace which marked his letter. My acknowledgment drew from him a rejoinder of several sheets, in which, still more urgently, he pressed his appeal. In answer to this I wrote in terms which I supposed would be deemed final, and enclosed a copy of one of my books (The Gospel and its Ministry), to which I referred as proof that I already possessed in Christ every blessing which he imagined the Church could give; and moreover, that I was, from his point of view, a hopeless heretic. My surprise therefore was great at receiving again a prompt reply at considerable length, assuring me of the pleasure with which he had read my book, and of the increasing desire be felt that I should be in my right place, namely, within "the Church."
My kind and courteous, though unknown, friend, never failed promptly to renew his appeals to me, whenever, by replying to his letters (which I did generally after long intervals), I afforded him the opportunity. I fear my Protestant zeal led me to say many things that were galling and some that were unjust ; but nothing from my pen availed to betray my correspondent into an expression of anger or even of disappointment.
Towards the close of our correspondence he sent me a copy of a Catholic treatise, to show me how grievously I misjudged his Church. His letter, enclosing the book, gave me the first definite hint of what I naturally guessed, that his letters to me were part of a systematic effort to lead selected Protestants to make their submission to Rome. This fact renders the correspondence worthy of mention in these pages. Nor is there any breach of confidence in my giving extracts from his letters, for I exclude everything that could possibly betray his identity. Such are the methods by which the perverts to Rome are won. Here are the arguments which influence them.
In returning the book I wrote refusing to listen to the Church and appealing to Holy Scripture.
The following is an extract from his reply :—
You refuse to listen to the Church, and you turn with confidence to a Book—a Book which you have received from the Church, and apart from which you cannot understand. Christ referred you to no book. He told you to hear the Church, and no one for 16oo years after His ascension ever thought that faith came by reading a book or a collection of books, but by humbly hearing the voice of the Divine Teacher. I know the Book is the written Word of God, and I value it and reverence it as such; but the written word and the spoken word are to me one and the same Word. God does not speak one thing, and cause men to write as His Word another thing. God’s Word is one, spoken and written; and He cannot contradict Himself. What the Church teaches is Divine; she is God’s voice speaking to the unbelieving world; qui vos audit me audit. What has been preserved to us of the written Word confirms the teaching of the Church. The Church received her teaching, not from the Bible, but from Christ. She taught before a word of the New Testament was ever written, she could have gone on teaching for ever if it had never been written, or if it had perished. The living Word of God can never perish, the Church’s voice is eternal and it is world-wide.
To this letter I wrote a reply at once, but my letter lay unposted for more than six months. I then sent it with an explanatory note, again expressing my appreciation of his kindness and zeal, and making one more appeal to him. The following is copied from the enclosure
"You refuse my appeal to the written Word of God, and point me to "the Church." But when I ask, "Why should I trust ‘the Church’?" you refer me to the written Word of God! It amazes me that an intelligent man like yourself cannot see the inconsistency of such a position. Either "the Church" can justify its pretensions by an appeal to Scripture, or it cannot. If it cannot there is an end of the matter. If it can, then let us turn to Scripture and bow to its decision. The passage you have quoted again and again (Luke x. i6) consists of words spoken by the Lord to a company of Jews who were sent out as Jews to preach the kingdom to Jews, in a dispensation before the Church was constituted ! .
I accept your clearly implied, but courteously veiled, taunt that I am setting up my judgment against that of Christendom. And I am not afraid of this. Even if I stood alone I should not swerve. But behind me are the apostles and prophets and the million martyrs who have dared to stand for God and His Word against an apostate Christendom, and have sealed their testimony with their blood. And speaking of martyrs, may I ask in the name of common fairness and common sense, how is it that if your Church believes, as you say, that God alone, and His grace alone, can produce the change of mind and heart which is called conversion, that same Church has tortured and murdered the unnumbered victims of her persecutions -for not getting "converted" ? Do you not know that if my lot had been cast in darker days, your Church would have burned me at the stake, or torn me to pieces on the rack? You seem to me to shut your eyes both to history and Scripture, and blindly to accept a theory which Scripture knows nothing of and history refutes. Have you not read such passages as the close of Matt. xxiii.? If the Church of the last dispensation merited such scathing words, may not the Church of this dispensation be equally apostate ?- Have you never read 2 Tim.? And pray look at the close of chap. iii. In the midst of error and apostasy, even then leavening the whole lump, "the Holy Scriptures" are declared to be the true safeguard and guide."
This brought me a reply, from which I quote the following
"I am much obliged to you for your letter of yesterday’s date, enclosing your reply written last September. My correspondence is rather voluminous, and I regret to say that I forget what I then said.
I am always very grateful to any one who wishes and tries to do me what he conscientiously believes is good, however misled and mistaken I may myself find him to be. It is therefore no mere form when I cordially thank you for your kind wishes and kind expressions. I value both, but I believe your religeous opinions to be in many important matters entirely erroneous arid, indeed pernicious and contrary to revealed truth and to the revealed will of God. Therefore it would be the greatest calamity to me if I were able and perfectly impossible to adopt such opinions in lieu of the one eternal truth revealed by God, and taught by the Divine Teacher sent by God, i.e., His Church. If I lost confidence in the Divine Teacher, I should at once lose confidence in the Deity whose mouthpiece she is. If the Catholic Church is not true, not Divine, therefore fallible, "apostate," &c., &c. (as her enemies suppose), then to me Christianity is an illusion a mythology, a falsehood, a merely human thing on a level with Buddhism, Islamism, &c., &c., in many respects superior to them, doubtless, but no more Divine than they. I see no alternative between Catholicism and Agnosticism. I accepted the former in exchange for the latter, and I daily see more and more its holiness, beauty, perfection, divinity, truth. You are surprised at this. No wonder. You see the painted window on the outside, I see it from within—that is the difference. . . . You trust the New Testament which came after the Church and which she has declared to be the written word. I require no Bible to convince me of the truth and divinity of the Holy Church of God. I value the Bible because the Church tells me it is the written word. . . . -
You ask me how it is that the Church "has tortured and murdered the unnumbered victims of her persecutions for not getting converted." The answer is most simple. The Church has never "tortured or murdered" any one whatever! Did not Fénélon say, what all her best divines approve: "By force hypocrites and not converts are made." You read "history" written by bigots, who distort and pervert the truth. The cruelties inflicted by kings and statesmen for State reasons cannot with justice be referred to the Church. . . . The Church is not the author of those uncivilised methods, and they form no part of her teaching; - The Church and Christ are one. Her voice is His voice and so long as we hear that, and obey, we are doing God’s will. That is our position. Conversion is the work of God alone—no force, argument, or persuasion of man’s invention can accomplish it.
Place yourself on your knees before God and ask light and grace from Him, tell Him you will sacrifice all things for His sake; that you are ready to do His will and to obey; and you will rise up, if He will, as new a creature as Saul of Tarsus after he had heard the voice."
His last letter remains unanswered ; for I am utterly at a loss to know what answer is possible to one who thus ignores or distorts both history and Scripture, and honestly and earnestly believes in what he calls "the Church." Here, I repeat, are the arguments by which the perverts to Rome are being won. Here, in its most advanced development, is the pestilently evil and profane view of "the Church" which is slowly but surely undermining Christianity in the Church of England at this moment.
PAOLO SARPI AND THE COUNCIL OF TRENT.
OF Paolo Sarpi it has been said that “there was no department of human knowledge about which he did not know everything that had been ascertained by others, and few to which he did not make substantial contributions.” In truth, he seems to have been one of the most extraordinary men of his own or of any age. Born in Venice in 1552, he joined the Servites at thirteen years of age, and was immediately put forward as their champion at the great annual disputation in the Frari Church, where, before all the noble and great and wise of Venice, he held his own against all disputants. Five years later, at eighteen, he was appointed to the chair of Positive Theology at Mantua, and became private theologian to the Duke. In 1575 he returned to Venice, where he held the chairs of Philosophy and Mathematics in the monastery until, in 1579, he became a Principal of his Order. His high character, his intense piety, and his altogether phenomenal erudition and genius, secured for him the friendship of all who were best qualified to supply him with materials for his history of the Council of Trent.
His quarrel with the Vatican came later, and was brought about as follows: In 1606 the Senate of Venice, in order to secure his services, created for him the office of Theological Counsellor; and in the fierce struggle of that year between the Republic and the Pope, Paolo Sarpi was the adviser of the Senate. Paul V. launched his Bull of interdict and excommunication against Venice. Sarpi held that this action was ultra vires; and, acting on their Counsellor’s advice, the Senate confronted and thwarted the Pope at every point. The Pope ordered the clergy to close the churches and suspend all services and sacraments. The Republic threatened to punish any priest who acted on the order. The Pope ordered the clergy to leave the country and repair to Rome. They were warned that if they attempted to act on the order they would be hanged at the frontier. The Pope was brought to his knees, and after pleading in vain for some way to save his dignity, he was compelled to issue another Bull, withdrawing the interdict; and this the Senate, acting on Sarpi’s advice, would not permit to be read in the churches. Never since has any Pope dared to issue such an interdict.
Needless to say, the result was to make the Pope the bitter enemy of Paolo Sarpi. Having tried in vain every artifice to get him to Rome, he determined to be revenged by other means. Though, honours and money were pressed upon Sarpi, he refused to change his mode of life and while his days were spent in the public service, he insisted on returning nightly to his cell in the monastery. On the night of the 5th October, 1607, he was waylaid by assassins hired by Paul V., and left for dead within a few hundred yards of the monastery. But to the bitter disappointment of the Pope, and to the amazement of everybody, he recovered. For another fifteen years he continued his career of service to Venice and the world, and notwithstanding further Papal plots against his life, he died peacefully in his cell on the 15th January, 1623.
His fame may be judged by the fact that his death was formally reported to all the Courts of Europe, and that he was voted a State funeral and a public monument. But the malignity of the Vatican is undying. Plot after plot was hatched to desecrate the dead friar’s tomb and scatter his ashes. Ten times those ashes were disturbed, and secretly reinterred to save them from the Papal emissaries; and for 270 years the decree of the Senate to erect a monument to his memory remained in abeyance. It was not till the 20th September, 1892, that, in pursuance of that decree, the statue which now stands in the Campo di Santa Fosca was unveiled in honour of that truly great and noble man.
“To magnify the importance of the Council of Trent I believe to be impossible,” says Froude; and for the sake of those who may not have access to such a book as his, I give the following brief outline of the wonderful story.
The Papal Bull summoning the Council bore date the 22nd of May, 1542, but the ecclesiastics who came together at Trent in the August following were too few in number to enter on their task. France, in alliance with the Turks, had declared war against the Emperor, and neither French nor German bishops could attend. England, of course, stood aloof; for Cardinal Pole represented no one but himself and the Pope. And the Spaniard had not yet arrived. Thus the year passed away, and when in the winter the Italian bishops, impatient of delay, seemed about to proceed to business, Granvelle, the Imperial chancellor, was despatched to stop them. On January 9, 1543, he delivered in peremptory terms his master’s orders; and though Pope Paul would have gladly disregarded them, the fear of man restrained him; for not sixteen years had passed since Rome had been stormed by a German army, and what had happened so recently might happen again. After many delays, the 15th of March, 1545, was fixed by another Bull for the Council to reassemble, but it was not until May that any of the bishops arrived. Cardinal Del Monti, afterwards Pope Julius III., was the chief Papal Legate.
His first trouble was the claim of the Emperor’s representative, Mendoza, Spanish ambassador at Venice, to sit next to him, and above the bishops. Next came Mendoza’s demand for further delay: By the end of May only twenty bishops were present, all Italians. They must wait for the Spaniards. Again the year almost ran out, and it was not till the 13th of December that the opening ceremony at last took place. But Monti’s patience and skill were sorely taxed. One of the first dangers he had to meet was a demand on the part of the bishops to make the Council independent of the Pope. This was with difficulty avoided. The next was the Imperial demand that the question of morals should have precedence of discussions upon doctrine. This was regarded by Paul as a covert attack upon himself. There was too much glass about his house to make stone-throwing pleasant or safe. Del Monti was ordered to force forward the examination of doctrine and to thrust aside reform. But all he was able to attain was a compromise, that doctrine and morals should be dealt with in alternate sessions. The Imperial representative remonstrated that three cardinals and forty bishops, all of whom were personally insignificant, were incompetent to settle the faith of the world: but the forty bishops thought otherwise, and the Council proceeded to redress. On the motion of Cardinal Pole, they began by affirming the “Apostles’ creed.” The next proposal, to declare allegiance to “the apostolic see,” might have caused a division had not the news of Luther’s death (February 18, 1546) come opportunely to put every one in good humour. They proceeded to consider and anathematise the arch-heretic’s doctrines. The Vulgate, that most depraved translation, was canonised as being itself (including the Apocrypha) Divine Scripture; human tradition was raised to the same level as the Scriptures themselves, and the laity were declared incompetent to interpret, or even to understand them. Explosions occurred from time to time, as one bishop or another paraded his personal grievances against the Pope or the Curia; but in spite of these interruptions the formulating of dogmas went on apace by the obedient vote of “the Pope’s brigade” of Italian bishops. The Emperor was itidignant. It was a reform of morals he wanted, and a fair hearing for the Protestants. But he was helpless. Twenty Spanish bishops had joined the Council, but the Spaniards, though personally abler and purer than the Italians, were, as ecclesiastics, still less disposed to parley with heretics. They forced to the front, however, the question of the corruptions which allowed the Roman Cardinals to live in splendid idleness by drawing the revenues of benefices which they never visited; and it taxed the firmness of Paul and the diplomacy of Del Monti to save the offenders.
The winter of 1546 was exceptionally severe, and the effeminate Italians were miserable at Trent. It was the Emperor’s determination alone which had fixed a German town as the meeting-place, and it was fear of the Emperor that kept them there. But the action of the Spaniards threatened to wreck the whole fabric of the Papacy, and in the following spring, under Del Monti’s advice, the Pope decided to remove the Council to Papal territory. A rumour was started that the plague was in Trent. Paolo Sarpi declares that two physicians were secretly instructed to encourage the belief. The Papal Legate arranged the scheme in spite of the protests of the Imperial representative, and the Council adjourned to Bologna, Don Francis of Toledo and most of the Spaniards alone remaining in Trent. But the work of the Council was practically accomplished. The creed of Christendom - that astounding monument of narrow intolerance and base superstition - had been settled.
The rest is easily told. In November, 1549, Paul III. died, and Del Monti succeeded to the Pontificate. Willing to propitiate the Emperor, he offered to send the Fathers back to Trent. But doctrines had been settled, and the reform of morals was hopeless. Paolo Sarpi narrates that on one occasion when the question was brought up, the bishops set to discussing whether their own exemption from the jurisdiction of ordinary courts ought not to be extended to their concubines! All that remained, therefore, of Charles’ original scheme was to get the German Reformers to the Council. But the Council of Constance had decided that a safe conduct granted to a heretic need not be respected; and, with the fate of Huss before their minds, the Reformers were cautious. The Council was to reassemble on May 2, 1551, but another year passed, and these difficulties still blocked the way. And even then the only Germans who attended were laymen.
The full Council met, and the foreign ministers of State were present in their robes. In plain language Leonard Badehorn addressed the brilliant assembly, repudiating the authority of the Council, because the Scriptures were not the rule of controversy with them, and the members were the servants of the Pope who ought to be on his trial with the rest of them. He scouted the idea that sixty such bishops could settle the faith of the world. He spoke, he declared, as the representative of the Elector Maurice of Saxony. The next day, after Mass in the cathedral, the reply of the Council was read, acceding to the full the German demand for a safe conduct such as they could trust. But it was made plain that the Protestants were to be heard only to please the Emperor. They were to have no deliberative voice, nor were the decrees already passed in condemnation of their doctrines to be reconsidered. Melanchthon and the divines of the Augsburg Confession therefore never attended. The events which followed in Germany - the march of Maurice of Saxony upon Innspruck, and the flight of the Emperor - are among the enigmas of history. But Innspruck was only three days’ march from Trent; and when the news reached the Council, the Italian bishops stampeded, as the historian describes it, “like a gang of coiners surprised by the police.” ‘The Papal Legate, Cardinal Crescentio, and a few of the Spaniards, lingered long enough to pass a vote declaring that all their decrees should be valid for ever.
The Council of Trent of ten years later was, in everything but name, a new assembly. Such in briefest outline is the story of a Council which was repudiated, not only by England and Germany, but even by Catholic France. Thus was the faith of Christendom decreed by a gang of some three-score Italian and Spanish priests. Thus ended one of the most transparent, and yet one of the most successful, impostures in the history of the world.
NOTE 1. - BISHOPS.
THE Epistle to the Philippians is addressed to "all the saints," "with the bishops and ministers." Upon which Dean Alford remarks, "The simple juxtaposition of the officers with the members of the Church, and indeed their being placed after those members, shows the absence of hierarchical views such as those in the Epistles of the apostolic Fathers." And again, in his comments on Acts xx. 17, 28 (which records that Paul addressed the elders of the Church in Ephesus as bishops), he refers thus to the perversion of the passage by Ireneus: "So early did interested and disingenuous interpretations begin to cloud the light which Scripture might have thrown on ecclesiastical questions." And he notices the mistranslation of verse 28 in A.V. ("overseers" in lieu of bishops), as concealing "the fact of elders and bishops having been originally and apostolically synonymous." This is obvious from Tit. i. 5, 7, which enjoins the appointment of "elders in every city . . . if any man is blameless . . . for the bishop must be blameless." And so again in Acts xiv. 23, "And when they had appointed for them elders in every church."
And in his essay on "The Christian Ministry," (Philippians, p. 97) Bishop Lightfoot of Durham writes:
"It is a fact now generally recognised by theologians of all shades of opinion, that in the language of the New Testament the same officer in the Church is called indifferently 'bishop' and 'elder' or 'presbyter.'
Some who would despise these great Protestant theologians, and who would regard a layman who discusses such subjects as being "in the gainsaying of Korah," will listen perhaps to the most learned of the Latin Fathers. In Jerome's Commentary on Titus they will find all this in the plainest words. He says, "A presbyter is the same as a bishop and. . . Churches were governed by a common council of presbyters." And again, "Therefore, as we have shown, among the ancients presbyters were the same as bishops; but by degrees, that the plants of dissension might be rooted up, all responsibility was transferred to one person."
NOTE II. - "DEACONS."
The word deacon occurs in two passages in our English Bible, viz., Phil. i. i and 1 Tim. iii. 8-13. It there represents the Greek word, which occurs eight times in the Gospels and twenty-two times in the Pauline Epistles, and nowhere else. In the Gospels it means servant in the common sense of that word, save only in John xii. 26 ("There shall My servant be"). The Apostle uses it only in the higher sense, save in Rom. xiii. 4. But by an extraordinary vagary of Christian thought, the seven men appointed, as recorded in Acts vi., to take charge of the collections are called deacons; and the word having thus acquired the meaning of a subordinate minister, it was then, with an ecclesiastical bias, introduced into the two passages above indicated. Its use there is not translation but exegesis ; for when the New Testament was written the Greek language possessed no word corresponding to it. And "using the office of a deacon" (A.V.) or "serving as a deacon" (R.V) in verses io and 13, is a sheer mis-translation. The verb thus rendered is the kindred term used thirty-six times in the New Testament, and it ought to be rendered "to minister." The New Testament knows nothing of "the office of a deacon." Besides the apostles, there were in the Church "bishops" and" ministers." The functions of an elder or bishop were not ministry, but rule. If he ruled well he was to be doubly esteemed, and still more esteemed if (in addition to discharging the duties of his office) he "laboured in the word and in teaching" (i Tim. v. 17). The " bishop" was generally appointed by an apostle or his delegate (Tit. i. 5). But the practice of appointing "ministers" belongs to post-apostolic times. The call to the ministry was altogether of God. They who claimed to have received the call were duly tested; the command was, "Let them first be proved, and then, if they be blameless, let them minister" (i Tim. iii. io). This survives in the service for "the making of deacons," which is very ancient. (The service for "ordering of priests" belongs to a later and more corrupt era.) Before the bishop proceeds to ordain the candidate he requires him to declare that he is "truly called, according to the will of our Lord Jesus Christ, to the ministry." The call itself is neither of men nor by men.
NOTE III.-"THE CHURCH"
In controversies of the kind raised by "the Oxford movement" and by the present ritualistic revival, the real question at issue is "the Church." On the one side there is the Romish view; on the other is that of the Reformers. Which is right? This question is of vital importance. No one, whatever his opinions may be, can fail to be struck by the silence of Scripture respecting that which is the paramount reality in the religion of Christendom. Prominence is given to "the Church which is His body" ; but about the Church as an organised society on earth, there is, if we except i Cor. Xii. 28 and i Tim. iii. 15, practically nothing in the New Testament, save warnings of its apostasy. Latin theology, however, maintains its position, first, by ignoring all this; secondly, by confounding the Church with the kingdom; and thirdly, by taking words spoken to the apostles in the days of the Lord's earthly ministry as applicable to "the Church" of Christendom.
John xx. 23 may seem an exception to this. But let the objector answer this question, Whether were the Lord's words addressed to the whole company of the disciples there assembled, or to the Apostles as such? If the former, there is an end of the matter from the Romish standpoint; if the latter, then let those who claim to have the powers of Apostles in the spiritual sphere, give proof that they possess such powers, in the sphere where we can test them.
Since the beginning of the "Oxford movement" to the present hour, no one has seceded to Rome who has not taken that step as the result of deciding the question, Whether is the Church of Rome or the Church of England the Church? It is like one of those catch questions which are framed so to fix the attention on a side issue that the real issue involved escapes notice. Of course we answer, with the Reformers, "Neither the one nor the other." - According to them "the Church" is "a congregation of faithful men, in the which the pure Word of God is preached, and the sacraments duly administered according to Christ's ordinance in all those things that of necessity are requisite to the same" (Art. xix.). This is the creed of the Church of England. And if any bigot should set up the plea that by these concluding words the Reformers intended to limit their definition to episcopacy, he is answered by the language of the 55th Canon of the Convocation of 1603, which is as follows: "Before all sermons, lectures, and homilies, the preachers and ministers shall move the people to join with them in prayer, in this form, or to this effect, as briefly as conveniently they may; Ye shall pray for Christ's Holy Catholic Church, that is, for the whole congregation of Christian periple dispersed throughout the whole world, and especially for the Churches of England, Scotland, and Ireland." Such is " the Catholic Church" for whose "good estate" prayer is made continually in our churches. In 1603 the only Episcopal Churches outside the kingdom were those which Article xix. expressly excludes; and the Church of Scotland (which is here expressly named) was Presbyterian. All that Dean Hook has here to urge is that, as othe Archbishop who presided at the Convention was (he declares) a bitter and unscrupulous bigot, it is "monstrous to suppose" the Presbyterian Church of Scotland was intended. But the fact remains that there was no Episcopal Church in Scotland. The plain truth is that the Church of England does not teach this anti-Christian figment of Apostolic Succession in an episcopacy. Article xxiii. could never have been framed by men corrupted by such an error. And Hooker-a high authority upon the doctrines of the Church-repudiates it. "Some do infer" (he says) "that no ordination can stand but such only as is made by Bishops, which have had their ordination likewise by other Bishops before them till we come to the very apostles, . . . to this we answer, that there may be sometimes very just and sufficient reason to allow ordination made without a Bishop" (Eccies. Pol. vii. i4).
If Rome has paramount claims to the position she assumes, it is as being indisputably the most distinctive and advanced embodiment of the apostasy. When the historic Church adopted the pagan rite of baptism (see ch. viii) it ceased to have any moral right to be considered the Church of God; and when in a later age it gave up the Lordship and Headship of Christ its fall was complete. For if baptismal regeneration is un-christian, apostolic succession is antichristian.
In Christianity the Church holds its true place as "a congregation of faithfulmen," and the test of faithfulness is that the Lord Jesus Christ is all in all. But in "the Christian religion" the Church is everything. Indeed there is more about "the Church" in many an evangelical sermon than in the whole of the New Testament.!
(Footnote - The expression "Church of Christ" is not found in Scripture, though "Churches of Christ" occurs (Rom. xvi. i6). The word "Church" in 'the singular occurs but fifty times in the Epistles; in the vast majority of these occurrences it is used narratively, or with reference to some local congregation. Eph. and Col. deal with the Church as the vital unity-the body of Christ; and all that the New Testament has to say of the visible or professing Church corporately, will be found in i Cor. xii. and xiv. and i Tim. iii. 15.)
NOTE IV.-"THE PRIEST IN ABSOLUTION"
In the course of official duty I have read many obscene books, but I have seldom read anything more gratuitously filthy than the standard works intended for the guidance of priests in questioning penitents. Compared with Romish treatises, those in use among the Romanisers in the Church of England seem mild. Dr. Pusey's Manual for Confessors (based on Abbé Gaume's work) entirely omits the section relating to the seventh commandment-an acknowledgment that, in his day, Englishmen would not tolerate it. But impurity is an evil plant of rapid growth, and no such reserve was used by "The Society of the Holy Cross" when, in 1866, they issued The Priest in Absolution. Part I. of this work, a tract of 90 pages, was published and sold openly, and reached a second edition in 1869. Part II., a book of 322 pages, was "privately printed for the use of the clergy." It was dedicated "to the Masters, Vicars, and Brethren of the Society of the Holy Cross," and its circulation has been chiefly among the conspirators of that Jesuitical organisation. I have been fortunate enough, however, to see a copy of it, and I have made extracts which I intended to set out here. But this purpose I have abandoned, for I have sought to exclude everything from these pages which would render them unfit for general readers. When the late Lord Redesdale brought the book before the House of Lords (June 14, 1877) the extracts he read from it were deemed too indecent even for the secular newspapers; and the Archbishop of Canterbury (Dr. Tait), who followed Lord Redesdale, declared "that it is a disgrace to the community that such a book should be circulated under the authority of clergymen of the Established Church."
The history of this shameful book, and of the controversy to which it gave rise, will be found in Chapter IV. of Mr. Walsh's Secret History of the Oxford Movement-a work which ought to be in the hands of every voter in the country. With his usual coldness he discusses them question as though these "priests" who practise this abominable system were all excellent men, whose only error is doctrinal. But suffice it to say - for the subject is a delicate one - that those who claim to be priests with authority to forgive sins need expect no quarter when they outrage morality. The scandal is still recent respecting one leading member of the Society of the Holy Cross, whose name figures in Mr. Walsh's pages; and were I to refer to others it would not betoken Protestant bigotry, but special knowledge.
NOTE VI.-THE "VIRGIN MARY" MYTH
If, in the face of the plain statements of the 19th, 20th, and 25th verses of the first chapter of Matthew, people can deny that the mother of our Lord became Joseph's wife, it is idle to argue the question. Jerome it was who first formulated the Virgin Mary myth in a systematic way. With reference to the verses above cited, he exposed the fallacy of holding, as Hooker expresses it, "that a thing denied with special circumstance doth import an opposite affirmative when once that circumstance is expired." Sound logic this, provided "the thing denied" be something against the doing of which there exists a presumption, on account of its being vicious or wrong. And this Jerome's argument assumes, thus begging the whole question. If we deny that a man committed some grossly immoral act on the day when a wife whom he dearly loved lay dying, we do not imply that he committed such acts on other days, but merely give a special reason for rejecting the charge that he did so on the day in question. But if we assert that a man did not eat meat during Lent we do distinctly imply that he did do so at Easter. Some who deplore Mariolatry may perhaps shrink from the thought that Mary became the wife of Joseph. But the question arises, how far that feeling may be due to the very error which God intended to correct by recording so plainly that she, whom all generations call blessed, entered into the marriage relationship. "Let marriage be had in honour among ALL", (Heb. xiii. 4, R.V.).
NOTE VII.-THE APOSTLE PAUL ON CELIBACY.
The Apostle Paul's words in i Cor. vii. 25-40 have been misused in support of pernicious teaching on the subject of celibacy. But as Dr. Chr. Wordsworth writes
(Church History, vol. iii. chap. vi.), he "qualifies his commendations of celibacy by grounding them on considerations of the present distress (in i Cor. vii. 26) in which the Christian Church was, in tha.t age of persecution; and he condemns in the strongest terms those who forbid to marry, even as contravening the divine truths which flow from the doctrine of the Incarnation, and as led astray by seducing spirits and doctrines of devils, and declares his will that younger women should marry and bear children. (i Tim. V. 14), and that every man should have his own wife, and every woman her own husband (i Cor. vii. 2), and that marriage is honourable in all (Heb. xiii. 4) and 'a great mystery,' being a figure of Christ's union with His Church (Eph. V. 23-33)."
But the Bishop overlooks the fact that the Apostle never contemplates pledged celibacy. A life pledge not to do that which God sanctions to be done is entirely beyond the scope of his words. And any suggestion of monasticism is absolutely abhorrent to his teaching. And further, not only are these words of counsel framed with special reference to the persecution then prevailing, but the Apostle prefaces them by the express warning, "Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord." Such reservations are of immense importance as indicating the meaning of inspiration, and the supreme authority of inspired Scripture. "The exception proves the rule," and of the rest of the Epistle the Apostle could write, "If any man think himself to be a prophet or spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord ' (i Cor. xiv. 37). Nothing can be more explicit than the distinction. In the one case it is, "I command, yet not I, but the Lord" ; in the other case it is, "But to the rest speak I, not the Lord'? (i Cor. vii. 10, 12).
NOTE VIII.-" WE HAVE AN ALTAR."
The language of Heb. xiii. 2o is freely used against the truth which it is the main object of the Epistle to establish. Here is the passage: "We have an altar whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle. For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp. Wherefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people with His own blood, suffered without the gate. Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."
The briefest summary of the views of commentators upon the words "We have an altar," would fill many a page. And it would convey the false impression that the statement is a hopeless enigma; whereas, in fact, its meaning is simple and clear to those who understand the language in which it is written, i.e., the typology of Scripture, "now entirely neglected" (as Hengstenberg so truly says). But let us keep in view:
(i) That the passage belongs, not to the doctrinal, but to the practical teaching of the Epistle;
(2) That so far from its being the promulgation of some deep or mysterious truth, it is merely an incidental appeal to one of the plainest and best known ordinances of the law, and this, as the basis of the practical exhortation of verse 13; and
(3) That there is no emphasis on the pronouns "we" and "they": as a matter of fact they are not expressed in the original at all.
We may therefore at once rule out any explanation which makes the " we refer to Christians and the "they" to Jews; or which "involves the anachronism of a distinction between clergy and laity, which certainly then had no place" (Alford). The words are equivalent to "There is an altar." And as the words were addressed to Hebrews, and no one versed in the teaching of the law would tolerate the thought of eating the great sin-offering, we may rule out also any exposition which rests on a blunder so gross. The priests were to eat of the ordinary sin-offerings, but not of those of which the blood was carried into the holy place (Lev. vi. 30; x. i6, i8). Having regard to (3) we dismiss also of course the, exegesis, "We have an altar," namely, the Cross. Moreover, this also rests upon ignorance of the types; for under the law no victim was ever killed upon the altar, and there was no altar of sin-offering at all. The blood of the sin-offering was put upon the altar of burnt-offering, and in certain specified cases, upon the altar of incense. The use of the word " altar" in the passage is merely an instance of the familiar figure of Metonymy; as when, ex. gr., we say that a man keeps a good table, meaning thereby that he has goodfood.
To conclude: the passage may be thus amplified and explained :-We know that in the aspect of His work, which was typified by the great sin-offering, Christ stood absolutely alone and apart from His people. But the Cross does not speak to us merely of the curse of God upon sin; it expresses also the reproach of men, poured out without measure upon Him who was the Sin-bearer. We cannot share the Cross in its aspect toward God; but let us on that very account be eager to share it in its aspect toward the world-"Let us go forth, therefore, unto Him without the camp, bearing His reproach."
It is the Hebrews version of Galatians vi. 14. And as the tense of the verb makes clear in the original, it is not a call to some heroic act of renunciation, but (like the "Let us draw near" of ch. x. 22) an exhortation to the habit and attitude of life and heart which become those who profess to have been saved by the Cross of Christ.
Space forbids my noticing, important though it be, either the way in which this passage brackets together Exod. xxiv. 8 and xxxiii. 7, and Lev. xvi.; or those other aspects of the great Sacrifice of Calvary in respect of which His people are "partakers of the Altar" (in the Passover, ex. gr., the people fed upon the lamb whose blood brought them redemption). In repudiating the very word "altar" the Reformers gave proof of spiritual intelligence. Just as the only Priest known to Christianity is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself,' so the only altar is in the scene of His priestly ministry - the Divine presence in heaven. An altar upon earth must be either Jewish or Pagan. The. Church of England knows nothing of it; albeit her paid servants revel in the apostasy betokened by the revival of the name, and the re-introduction of the abomination itself, in violation of the truth of God and of the law of this realm.