CONCLUDING REMARKS ON THE PRACTICAL BEARING OF THE SUBJECT
We trust that the lectures to which you have listened have produced in your minds the profound conviction that the existence and character of Romanism ù the entire history of the Papacy was foretold in the Bible long ages before that evil power arose in the earth. If so, the conviction will bear fruit, for knowledge influences conduct. Several practical results of an important nature should follow, otherwise we should not have cared to expound to you, this great subject.
And first, let your knowledge of this truth confirm and deepen your confidence in the divine inspiration of Scripture. None but God can thus foresee and foretell the events of a long series of unborn ages. In these symbolic prophecies the history of twelve or thirteen centuries is written in advance. Compare them with anything else in the entire circle of literature, and you will realize that they stand apart as a thing unique, like a living man in a gallery of statues.
The miracle of the existence of these prophecies in the book, and of their fulfillment in the facts of history, is so great that few minds can grasp it. That not only twelve or thirteen, but twenty-five centuries of history should have fallen out exactly as it was foretold in the days of Daniel they would, is a marvel that nothing but the Incarnation itself can exceed. It is a stupendous miracle in the world of mind, that world which rises high above the world of matter. It evinces more markedly the finger of God than any mere physical sign, however great, could do. It appeals to the intelligence of the human mind; it challenges the recognition not of the senses, but of the conscience. It sets a seal of supernatural wisdom on the entire Bible. None but God could have delineated beforehand the Papal power. Its very unnaturalness forbids the possibility of its being the fruit of human imagination. That a power claiming to act for God, to be "as God," and enthroned in the temple of God or of the Christian Church, should yet be His most determined enemy, the opposer of His truth, the destroyer of His saints, the great agent of Satan in the earth; that it should, by fraud and corruption and false pretenses, rule the world for ages from the very same seven-hilled central city whence it had already been ruled for other ages by military force; and that Roman rule should, in its Christian stage, shed more saintly blood than in its pagan stage ù all this could never have been anticipated by man, but only foretold by God. It is a demonstration which candor cannot resist of the divine inspiration of this holy book.
Is not this a practical result? Let criticism carp as it may, it cannot blind our eyes to this gigantic fact, that twenty-five centuries of history have, in their leading outline, exactly corresponded with Bible predictions. We are bound to conclude that the page that bears the prophecy was written by a divinely guided pen. The tremendous importance of this conclusion I need not indicate. I solemnly charge you to reverence this book. It will judge you in the last day. Heaven and earth may pass away, but not a jot or tittle of the word of God shall ever fail. Trust its promises! They are as true as its predictions. Tremble before its warnings and its threats! They will as assuredly be fulfilled as its prophecies have been. Study its sacred pages, never think you know it all; it is as fathomless in its wisdom as is the mind from which it emanates. I have been studying it for more than thirty years, and I am convinced that it has oceans of truth which I have not yet explored. How few really study it? and yet it has riches of wisdom which exceed those of all the libraries on earth. And remember that as certainly as it unveiled beforehand the past history of the Church in the world, so surely does it unveil and illuminate her critical present and her glorious future. The guide book that has proved true thus far may be trusted till we reach the goal.
Secondly, there are personal, social, and civil duties as regards Romanism and the Reformation arising from the truth we have learned which are of primary importance, and which I must indicate and urge on you before I close.
What is the present position of Romanism in the world? and what the condition of the Reformed Churches? You must be able to answer these questions before you can clearly see your own practical duties in relation to this subject.
As to Romanism, I have shown you that its present stage is that of decay, and swiftly approaching destruction. Its rise took place one thousand three hundred years ago; it reached the height of its dominion five hundred years ago; it received its first fatal blow in the Reformation over three hundred years ago, its second in the French Revolution at the end of the last century, and a third in the unification of Italy and the liberation of Rome itself from Papal rule in 1870. The final blow is yet to fall, at the fast approaching advent of Christ, as described at the end of the nineteenth chapter of Revelation.
To enable you to realize the extent and steady increase of this consumption and decay of Romanism, I will mention a few facts and give you a few figures.
1. Just before the Reformation Rome boasted that heresy was extinct in Christendom. Not a Protestant existed; she had slain the witnesses of Jesus. Now the number of Protestants is variously estimated at from one hundred and thirty-six to one hundred and fifty millions of mankind. In the national convention of Protestants held last year in Glasgow, the last figure was given as the correct one. Including the Greek, Coptic, and Armenian Churches, there are two hundred and fifty millions of professing Christians opposed to Rome, and only one hundred and eighty millions subject to her. She has therefore no claim whatever to supremacy or universality, but is in a minority, as compared with other Christians.
2. Romanists have, during the present century, increased sixty millions, owing to the natural growth of population. At the end of the last century they numbered one hundred and twenty millions; now they are one hundred and eighty millions. But Protestants have in the same period grown from forty millions to one hundred and fifty millions. In other words, Romanists have increased fifty percent, and Protestants two hundred and seventy-five percent. Going on at the same ratio, Protestants will, by the end of this century, equal or exceed Romanists in the world. Had they increased at the same rate, the Papacy would now have had four hundred and fifty millions of adherents, instead of only one hundred and eighty millions. It is a decadent cause throughout the world.
Among the English-speaking populations the proportions are still more remarkable, and when it is remembered that this section of mankind includes the most enterprising, prosperous, and powerful nations of the earth, the facts are most suggestive. Out of the hundred millions who speak English, only one-seventh are Romanists, including all the Catholics in Ireland and America, in Africa and our colonies. Everywhere among the intelligent, educated English-speaking races Romanism is an effete religion, and its votaries are being absorbed by the purer and more vigorous faith. In America it declined twenty per cent in the ten years between 1863 and 1873. In Montreal alone there are five congregations of ex-Romanists. Even in Ireland Romanism is decreasing and Protestants are increasing; that is, the disproportion between the two grows less each decade.
As regards the United Kingdom, the facts are most remarkable and cheering. At the beginning of this century the Romanists numbered one-third of the population. Now they are only one-seventh. The proportion of Romanists has decreased from one-third to one-seventh, and that of Protestants has increased from two-thirds to six-sevenths. In other words, whereas in 1801 every third man was a Papist; now only every seventh man is such. The population has in this interval increased from sixteen to thirty-five millions. Protestantism has trebled its numbers, and now reaches over thirty millions, while Romanism remains stationary at about five millions. Had it thriven like Protestantism it would have had fifteen millions.
Now these statistics tell their own tale. As surely as Romanism rose in the sixth century and culminated in the thirteenth, so surely is it decaying and falling in the nineteenth. Not only has it lost all temporal sovereignty and all direct political power, but it has ceased to hold its own in the world, and especially in the foremost nations of it, even as regards its adherents. It is consuming and wasting, diminishing while others are increasing, and losing even the semblance of a right to the proudly arrogated title of catholic.
But this is only one aspect of the subject. There is another, and a very important one. Romanism is, and has been all through this century, and especially during the last fifty years, MAKING A DESPERATE EFFORT TO SECURE A RENEWED ASCENDANCY IN OUR OWN EMPIRE, AND ESPECIALLY IN ENGLAND. It has enormously increased its working staff and its working centers. During the last quarter of a century, that is from 1850 to 1885, its priests in Great Britain have increased by 1,641, its churches, chapels, and stations by 866, its monasteries and convents by 558, and its colleges by
20. This immense and rapid growth is not owing to any proportionate increase of adherents, though it is of course designed to secure such an increase. But it indicates "the determination of the Papacy to try issues on the grandest scale with Protestantism in its stronghold." We have to face a deliberate and desperate effort on the part of this wealthy, highly organized, and centralized system, to weaken and, if possible, subjugate the champion of Protestantism in the earth. The present perplexities of England are the result.
Whether we believe it or not, we are again in the old battle, which we thought had been won at the Reformation and at our Revolution. It is the struggle for power between the priests of Rome and the people of England. The one, a party small in number, but organized, united, and unwearied. The people, the majority, but divided, distracted, and deceived.
The Church of Rome has never concealed her claim. Her chief, Dr. Manning, has repeatedly asserted it. She is to lay down the laws which we are to obey. Our Government is to receive and enforce them. Her success now in Ireland is only a step in her imperial progress. She will never rest till she has gained her ends, till our throne has ceased to be Protestant, and our Parliament is subservient to her will. Nor is her scheme unreasonable, though, as yet, incomplete. She has gained a section of the Anglican clergy, who adopt her principles, use her worship, and teach her dogmas. She returns a considerable section of the members of the House of Commons, who think, speak, and vote as she desires. She uses this section to bring pressure to bear on Government and parties. To the Liberals she speaks the language of Liberalism; to the voluntaries she is a voluntary. A large body of the English dissenters, and two-thirds of the Free Church of Scotland, have fallen into her trap, and are now her tools. In Parliament she is strong. She moves members through their constituen-cies. She fills some of the public offices with her creatures.
She assails all by importunity, flattery, or threats. She has gained a premier, who is possibly her disciple certainly her accomplice; through him she commands a cabinet. She works incessantly through the press. No publication is too small for her hand, none too strong for her agency. She is served by a host of devoted troops, who work with all their soul for her, under all sorts of names, in all places and disguises; reporters, writers for the press, literary and scientific men, ministers of State, preachers in the pulpits of the Church and of dissent, masters of schools, inspectors and examiners. She enters families by governesses, tutors, nurses, and domestics. She has secured a large section of our upper classes, and every day she gains more. She draws them by shows, by music, by taste, by frivolity and reflection, by dissipation and remorse. She works on the hearts of women by their fancies, their love of pleasure, and their fear of pain. She makes the wealth of men her exchequer, and the influence of the rich becomes hers. From the marquis down to the carpenter, she considers none below her notice or too strong for her power.
Against this disciplined and able confederacy, you the English people ù have to stand. And for such a fight you are ill prepared. Your impulse is right, your disposition is good; but impulse and feeling are insufficient against unscrupulous and unwearied conspirators. You are divided by parties, distracted by business, weakened by indifference. Yet the issue is great. It is, whether we are to keep the rights and liberties which our forefathers gained? Your freedom stands on your faith; and if your faith fails, your freedom will fail. That is the lesson of your own history; for all that we ever won of liberty was had through the strength of Protestant convictions. I ask you to weigh the issue. It is no light matter. It is your life. Dont despise or underrate your adversary, but dont flinch or quail before him. Rome has in her service the highest intellect and the most untiring zeal. She is served with the talents of the ablest and the passions of the keenest. She uses the vices of men as well as their virtues; and she has no restraints. She adapts herself to all forms of government and all states of society. She plies every class with arguments suited to its habits, and she can prevail as well with the accomplished and jaded man of fashion as with the illiterate peasant. The history, which I now put before you, tells you what strides she has made in England in the last forty years. It is for you to decide whether she will go on till she has mastered you, or whether you will re-assert your power and compel her to obey your laws. That is the real question. I have given you the facts; draw your own conclusions, and act like thoughtful men." 1
We urge you carefully to study the pamphlet to which these words form the preface. It is a catalogue of facts, and they prove that all our Protestant privileges are in peril, and that it behooves us to be on our guard. Rome makes no secret of her object; it is to reunite England to Latin Christendom by reestablishing the Papal supremacy here. "If England is ever to be reunited to Christendom," says Cardinal Manning, "it is by submission to the living authority of the vicar of Jesus Christ. The first step of its return must be by obedience to his voice, as rebellion against his authority was the first step of its departure." 2 He proceeds to show that religious toleration is a complete delusion, that the true Church can tolerate nothing but absolute and unconditional submission. "Neither true peace nor true charity recognize tolerance; the Church has a right to require every one to accept her doctrine"; that "the duty of the civil power is to enforce the laws of the Church, restrain evil doers, and punish heresy." "It is astonishing," he writes, "how small is the space rightfully left to the exclusive domination of the civil power..Even in passing laws, Parliament must defer to the Church. The State may enact a law, but it must see that it in no way contravenes the higher laws of the Church." 3
Dr. Manning plainly asserts that Rome has entered on a struggle between the supremacy of the pope and that of the Crown, that it is a struggle for life and death, and that it embraces the whole question of the Reformation in these countries. As Colquhoun remarks, "It is the old battle fought under the Plantagenets, whether the law of England is to be sovereign and supreme, or whether we are to have a confederacy of Roman priests, aided by treacherous English priests, braving English law, defying the British Parliament, and trampling on the sovereigns crown."
One of the avowed objects of the "Catholic Defense Society" is the removal from our statute book of the coronation oath and the Act of Settlement, which limit the possession of the crown of England to Protestants. Cardinal Manning considers that Rome has the full right to depose a Protestant sovereign.
The election of a prince in a Christian community cannot be put in the category of a purely civil act. If therefore an heretical prince is elected, or succeeds to the throne, the Church has a right to say, "I annul the election, or I forbid the succession." Or again, if a king of a Christian nation falls into heresy, he commits an offense against God,..and against his people..Therefore it is in the power of the Church, by virtue of the supreme authority with which she is vested by Christ over all Christian men, to depose such a prince, in punishment of his spiritual crime, and to preserve his subjects from the danger of being led by his precept and example into heresy or spiritual rebellion. 4
There is no mistaking this doctrine. Leo XIII has a perfect right to depose Queen Victoria; nay, more, it would be a bounden duty for him so to do, if he had the power. He has not, and he is never likely to have that power; but meantime we have foolishly given him the power to cause serious political trouble in her realm, and he is availing himself to the full of the opportunity.
This is, be it observed, no antiquated claim quoted from mediaeval times; it is published in England in this nineteenth century by one who is styled the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster. And it is no mere theory, no mere fancy sketch; it is a working drawing, as architects would say, a practical scheme which Rome is steadily endeavoring to carry out.
The chances of his ever bringing England back under his sway are very remote; but if "home rule" could be obtained for Ireland, it becomes atonce a Papal kingdom and a perpetual menace to England. This therefore is an object to be attained by any and every means. The chief result of home rule is to be the extirpation of Protestantism in Ireland. "The woes of Ireland are due to one single cause ù the existence of Protestantism in Ireland. The remedy can only be found in the removal of that which causes the evil..Would that every Protestant meeting-house were swept from the land! Then would Ireland recover herself and outrages be unknown." 5
That this attempt would be made is not to be questioned. Cardinal Manning insists that it is a sin, and even an "insanity," to hold that men have an inalienable right to liberty of conscience and of worship, or to deny that Rome has the right to repress by force all religious observance save her own, or to teach that Protestants in a Catholic country should be allowed the exercise of their religion.
"Catholicism," says a Romish magazine, "is the most intolerant of creeds; it is intolerance itself, because it is truth itself. The impiety of religious liberty is only equaled by its absurdity."
Conceive what home rule in Ireland would be in the light of these statements!
A most important point to be borne in mind in the consideration of this question is, that Romanism is not a religion merely, but a political system. We are of course bound to allow the Roman Catholics the liberty of conscience which we claim for ourselves; but we are not bound by any law, human or divine, to allow them the right of conspiring for the overthrow of our liberties, Government, and empire. Adam Smith well says: "The constitution of the Church of Rome may be considered the most formidable combination that was ever formed against the authority, and security of civil government, as well as against the liberty, reason, and happiness of mankind." 6
Peace and prosperity are impossible under Papal and priestly rule, as all history attests. "The Papacy," says Prince Bismarck, "has ever been a political power which, with the greatest audacity and with the most momentous consequences, has interfered in the affairs of this world." The question before our country now is, whether we are willing to make a further and most decisive advance on the road in which we have already traveled too far, and to grant to an alien and antagonistic political power a most real practical supremacy over five millions of the queens subjects in Ireland, including a million of loyal Protestants in that land.
I cannot close these lectures without urging you to study the subject more thoroughly, and to get well grounded in your Protestant principles. A dangerous laxity on doctrinal matters marks the present day.
Multitudes hardly know what they believe, or why they believe what they do. In Reformation days people knew the ground on which they had become Protestants; but we have been so long sheltered behind the bulwarks erected by our fathers, that we have forgotten that we may have to defend our own civil and religious liberties, and neglected to furnish ourselves with arms for the conflict. It does not do however to be unprepared and defenseless in these perilous times. Let me urge you to read up carefully the history of the Reformation and something of the Romish controversy. Read up also the history of your country in the days of the Stuarts, when a dark conspiracy existed to enthrall England once more, and to force our free Protestant land back under the terrible tyranny of Rome. A similar conspiracy exists again now. Call at John Kensits, 18 Paternoster Row, and purchase some of his cheap and popular Protestant pamphlets.
They will open your eyes as to this great subject. Get some armor, and gird it on, for believe me, you will have to do battle for the liberties that have made England what she is this day. Ignorance is weakness; knowledge is power. When you know with some degree of fullness and accuracy what it is to be a Protestant, how you will prize the privilege of bearing the name, and resolve that none shall rob you of it!
Above all, ground yourselves firmly in a comprehension of the three Bible foreviews of Romanism to which I have directed your attention, for the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God.
Lastly, I would urge you to avoid all tampering with the bastard Romanism which is called RITUALISM, or High Churchism, and which abounds, alas! all over England. It is simply Romanism slightly diluted, Popery disguised with a thin veil. Wherever you have a "priest" instead of a preacher, an "altar" instead of a communion table, wax candles instead of the sunshine of divine truth, ceremonial instead of sound doctrine, sacraments instead of saving grace, intoned liturgies instead of spiritual worship, gorgeous vestments instead of gospel truth, tradition and "the Church" instead of "as it is written," and crossings instead of Christ ù there you have Romanism, no matter what it may be called. Beware of it, however attractive the architecture and the incense, the music and the solemn ceremonial. Think of the apostles and their upper chamber; remember that Judaism gave us "a shadow of good things to come," not a model to be imitated, and that all this outward show is not worship "in spirit and in truth," such as God our Father seeks from His people now. The Apostle Paul styles this sort of thing a return to "the weak and beggarly elements," to bondage, and says of those who in his day had been beguiled by ceremonies, "I am afraid of you," etc. Let not these things beguile you from the simplicity in Christ. What! will you play with a poisonous snake because it has a gaily speckled back? Keep clear of all danger to your eternal interests. The pitfalls of Popery are concealed by fair flowers, but they will none the less be your ruin if you fall into them. The Bible brands it as antichristianity, and traces its origin to Satan. I warn you to stand aloof from the whole thing if you would not be involved in its solemn judgments.
Remember that there is only "one Mediator between God and man"; that there is but "one sacrifice for sins," offered "once" for all and "for ever." Through the "one Mediator," by the "one sacrifice," "draw nigh to God, and He will draw nigh to you." You need no mediator between yourself and Christ. The priest is a false intruder there. Jesus calls you to come to Himself. He is both human and divine. He is bone of your bone, and flesh of your flesh, yet without sin. God is in Him. He is one with us and one with God. Suffer nothing to come between your soul and Him. Suffer no saint, no angel, no virgin, no priest, to come between you and Jesus Christ. Go to Him for the pardon of all your sins. Make to Him your confessions. He can absolve you, and will, yea, does, if you truly believe in Him. Priestly absolution is a lie. It is a blasphemous pretense. The sentence, "I absolve thee," whether from the mouth of Romish priest or Protestant minister, is profane. Be not deluded by it. Your fellow sinner cannot absolve you from the sins you have committed against God. Turn from these idols and vanities. Jesus is all you need. His blood is sufficient to atone, and cleanses those who simply trust in Him from all sin." "Search the Scriptures," they testify of Him. Come to Him that you may have life. His heart is touched with the feeling of our infirmities; none can sympathize as He can; none can help as He. To you, to each one, He says, "Him that cometh unto ME I will in no wise cast out." "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but MY WORDS shall not pass away."
"Lord, to whom shall we go? THOU hast the words of eternal life." Thou alone art ALL we need, for Thou alone art "ALL IN ALL."