Christendom cannot be Reformed

C H McKINTOSH

Has the church failed in its responsibility?

Has the church failed in its responsibility?  Has the Christian religion broken down?  Has Christianity failed as a witness, a steward, and a light-bearer for Christ in this world?  99% of Christians look at Christendom as a splendid success.  Christendom will claim that, like the rider on the white horse, the gospel has gone forth to conquer, and achieved many glorious triumphs.   Church people look back to the opening of the fourth century as a glorious epoch when persecution ceased, and Constantine adopted Christianity.  They claim Christendom has gone on increasing in brightness from that day until now.

CHM said that he was thoroughly persuaded that Scripture did not support those who hold this view.  all support this.  Paul’s farewell address to the elders of Ephesus and his closing ministry in the letters to Timothy prove the anticipated ruin of the church in its earthly service and testimony.  Peter and Jude, as well as the parables of the leaven, the tares, the mustard tree and the ten virgins, confirm this too.

The seven churches in Revelation indicate the phases of the church’s history, leading to its present Laodicean state.  Lift up your eyes: look upon Christendom: say if you can trace a single feature of resemblance to the church as presented in the New Testament.

 

The One Body

Where is the one body? Suppose a letter was addressed, “To the church of God in London;”.  To whom should it be delivered?  Who could claim it?  The church of Rome might, but not truthfully.  The established Church of England would not claim it, but an uninstructed postman would probably deliver it there by default.   None of the sects and parties into which Christian profession is divided, could rightly to call at the post-office and demand the letter: not one of them is the church of God (even if some have such a name).   We must admit that Christendom, far from being a splendid success, has proved to be a most deplorable and humiliating failure.

The history of the church is one of failure and ruin, sin and judgment: all human efforts to mend or remodel must prove as utterly vain and hopeless as building the tower of Babel.  Look at our own bodies:  Can they be restored?  They must die or be changed; never reconstructed.  God will give us bodies of glory; He will never patch up bodies of sin and death.

 

The True Church vs. the Profession

Christ, blessed be His Name, will present the true church to Himself, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing (see Eph 5:27).  That glorious body will be seen descending from heaven, like a bride adorned for her husband, shining in all the brightness of the glory of God and the Lamb.  But for the false, faithless and corrupt church – that vast mass of baptised profession which calls itself Christian, nothing remains but the winepress of the wrath of Almighty God – the lake of fire – the blackness of darkness forever.

What must we do?  We have learnt that the church is a ruin, and that it is not God’s purpose to restore it.   Instead of asking, ‘What is to be done?’, let us be truly broken and penitent before our God, and cast ourselves on His rich mercy and sovereign goodness.  Though He will never reconstruct a fallen church on earth, God will sustain, feed, strengthen and encourage all those who humbly rely on His faithfulness and love.   It will be our privilege to tread a holy path and enjoy communion as the disciples knew it in the early days of this dispensation.  May we make the church’s sin our own, and put away from us any proud pretension and futile effort to set up another church of our own devising and workmanship.

 

God’s Standard

Unfortunately, there is a constant tendency to lower the standard of devotedness to the level of the general condition of things publicly.  It is destructive of all service and testimony, and we must guard against this.  In 2 Timothy 2: 19 it says, ‘The foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are His. And, Let every one that nameth the Name of Christ depart from iniquity’.  God is faithful: His standard remains the same. His foundation can never be moved; and it is the privilege of the individual believer to rest on that foundation and abide by God’s standard, come what may.  Faith can count on God, and draw upon His inexhaustible resources, despite the hopeless public ruin. Were it not so, what would have become of the faithful through the ages?

Take as an example the golden calf.  Aaron made it, but it was blatant idolatry.  Moses insisted that Jehovah and the golden calf could not reside together.  If a calf was in the camp, Jehovah must be outside – such was the simple reasoning of faith (faith always reasons aright). When the public body is totally awry, the path of individual faith is outside it. The call is to depart from iniquity. ‘Every one which sought the Lord’(Ex 33:7) had to go outside of the defiled place to find Him: they even had to leave the camp of Israel, the place Jehovah had taken up His abode.

Elijah is another example.  The ten tribes had been broken off from the two, and Israel’s visible unity was gone.   But ‘Elijah took twelve stones, according to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob, unto whom the Word of the Lord came, saying, Israel shall be thy name. And with the stones he built an altar in the Name of the Lord’(1 Kings 18: 31). Elijah confesses the indissoluble unity of Israel’s twelve tribes in the presence of Ahab, Jezebel and eight hundred false prophets.   It could have been said that this was not the time for an altar of twelve stones, the day for that was gone .  However, God’s standard remained. ‘For ever,O LORD, thy word is settled in heaven’(Ps 119:89). We must maintain the eternal stability of the truth of God, even if that truth exposes our fallen condition.  Faith takes its stand on God’s own ground, acting according to the integrity of divine revelation.

The Authority of the Holy Scriptures

If there is one feature of the present moment more deplorable than another, it is the loose way in which the truth of God is held: there is a strong tendency to lower the standard of obedience.  It is deemed narrow-minded to insist on the paramount authority of the Holy Scriptures. The Word of God is fast losing its place in the hearts and minds of professing Christians. The motto, ‘The Bible, and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants[*]’, if it ever was true -is certainly not true now.  There is a most determined effort in the media and the pulpit, to dispense with the Word of God as a paramount infallible authority.  This is not an over-statement.   [Has it not gone much further in the 21stcentury, where quoting the scriptures, especially as to sexual morality, brings out allegations of criminal hatred? – and the iniquitous agenda of the liberal gay rights movement is being endorsed by the Established Church and promoted in Christian schools.]

Mackintosh was thoroughly persuaded that the professing church is hastening on to a fearful moment in her history, in the which she will utterly reject the Word, the Christ, and the Spirit of God.   Ignorance, superstition and impudent infidelity are fast gaining sway over the minds of millions.  Towards the close of the nineteenth century, millions professed their deluded belief in an immaculate woman (Mary) and an infallible man (the Pope).[†]  At the same time, they audaciously tampered with the Word of God, with blasphemous assaults on the Person of the Son of God.

 

 Our Call

Does this not make us prize, all the more, the faith and faithfulness of those worthies, who stood in the face of a hostile world, and boldly maintained the truth of God, despite of the palpable ruin and failure of the that which publicly espoused Christ’s Name.  Like Elijah before the prophets, and Moses going out of the camp, there is a blessed platform of faith on which each true believer can take his or her stand, in calm and holy confidence, and there abide with God.

[*]Attributed to William Chillingworth (1602–1644)

[†]Immaculate conception – Pope Pius IX 1854 and the assumption of Mary – Pope Pius XII 1950;  Papal infallibility – First Vatican Council 1868

 

Edited and extracted from C H Mackintosh ‘LETTERS TO A FRIEND ON THE PRESENT CONDITION OF THINGS’ – /var/folders/rq/t4tbmlbn6zx9kw44_g_7ghpw0000gn/T/com.microsoft.Word/WebArchiveCopyPasteTempFiles/f.gif/var/folders/rq/t4tbmlbn6zx9kw44_g_7ghpw0000gn/T/com.microsoft.Word/WebArchiveCopyPasteTempFiles/f.gifReprinted from ‘Things New and Old’ Vols. 17 – 18, 1874 and 1875.

Click here for original

 

What Man starts, ends in Failure

C H McKINTOSH

We learn from Scripture that, in every instance in which man has been set in a place of responsibility, he has utterly failed. Total failure has marked man’s history, from Paradise to Pentecost. There is not a single exception to the dark and melancholy rule. Let man be tried under the fairest possible circumstances, and he is sure to break down. Let a business start with the very brightest prospects, most often hopeless bankruptcy will be the end. There is no denying this fact – no getting over it. It runs like a dark, broad line along the page of human history, from first to last.

 

Adam’s Sin

When at first, man was placed in the garden of Eden, surrounded by all that the hand of an Almighty and Beneficent Creator could do to make him happy, he believed the serpent’s lie, and turned his back on God. He proved, in an unmistakable manner, that he had more confidence in the serpent than in Jehovah Elohim – more respect for the word of the devil than for the Word of the blessed Creator.  He trusted Satan rather than God, blessed throughout the everlasting ages. This is our first proof.

It could be said that Adam did not know he was listening to the devil. But how does that affect the real merits of the case? Satan would never say, ‘I am the devil; and I am come to slander Jehovah Elohim, and get you to turn your back upon Him altogether”. Yet this was precisely what he did, and Adam accepted serpent’s lie.  That led to the word of God being replaced by human superstition.

 

Noah’s Drunkenness

Man progressed until at length his iniquity rose to a head, and God sent the deluge.  Noah was carried safely through the judgment, and placed at the head of the restored earth, and given the sword of government.  How does Noah carry himself? He gets drunk and degrades himself in the presence of his sons. Whatever excuse he might have given, he got drunk and exposed himself.

 

Israel’s Sins

When Israel was redeemed out of Egypt, the people solemnly pledged themselves to do all that Jehovah had spoken.  What happened?   Just after receiving the tables of the law, no less a person than Aaron made a golden calf and said, ‘These be thy gods, O Israel, that brought thee up out of the land of Egypt’ (Ex 32:4).  Jehovah displaced by a calf – How terrible! – and how deeply humiliating.  Consequent on this the priesthood failed and Aaron’s sons offered strange fire;

So man fails always – the results: Adam was driven from the garden; Noah was despised by his son, and Israel saw the tables of testimony shattered to atoms, and Aaron never appeared in the presence of God in his garments of glory and beauty.

Failure continued – Israel got a king.   What followed? – strange wives, gross idolatry, and a divided nation.

 

Now the Church

It need not surprise us to find that in the Christian church similar sad failures occur.  All started well:

They that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.  And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.  And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.  And all that believed were together, and had all things common; and sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.  And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’  (Acts 2:41-47).

And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul: neither said any of them that ought of the things which he possessed was his own; but they had all things common. And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus: and great grace was upon them all. Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold, and laid them down at the apostles’ feet: and distribution was made unto every man according as he had need’ (Acts 4:32-35).

 Here we have a lovely sample of true Christianity – some rich clusters of the fruit of the Spirit – the glorious triumph of grace over all the narrow selfishness of nature – the exquisite merging of all personal interests and considerations in the common good.  It displays of the moral glories of heaven – a fair and touching illustration of what it will be in a future day, when our God shall have things His own way, with new creation in view and the heavens above and the earth beneath under the benign influence of the Saviour’s reign.

 

The Church’s Failure

 But alas, in the public church, this lovely picture was marred.  Covetousness and deceit soon broke out in Ananias and Sapphira, and the murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, proving that man is the same, always and everywhere.   Unfaithfulness, failure, sin and ruin are stamped on every page of man’s history, from first to last. It is perfectly useless for anyone to deny this.

Of course, we are not looking on the church as the body of Christ.  In this aspect, thank God, there can be no failure.  Christ infallibly maintains His church according to the divine integrity of His own work. He will soon present His church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. He has expressly declared that the gates of hell shall not prevail against His assembly.

Paul had to warn the Ephesian elders, ‘Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which He hath purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of (or from among) your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them’(Acts 20: 28-30).

– This was a warning about the church fathers who insisted on their own authority – and held questionable doctrine.

Paul told Timothy ‘Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth’(1 Tim 4:1-3)

– This describes Romanism and popery.

And ‘This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away’(2 Tim 3:1-5).

– This describes Protestantism and infidelity.

Another great principle which we need to bear in mind is that God never restores a fallen witness. When man fails in his responsibility – which, as we have before proved, he always does – God does not reinstate him. He brings in something better, as the fruit of His own sovereign grace; but He never puts a new piece upon an old garment.  What is of man cannot be reformed.

 

Edited and extracted from C H Mackintosh ‘LETTERS TO A FRIEND ON THE PRESENT CONDITION OF THINGS’ – /var/folders/rq/t4tbmlbn6zx9kw44_g_7ghpw0000gn/T/com.microsoft.Word/WebArchiveCopyPasteTempFiles/f.gif/var/folders/rq/t4tbmlbn6zx9kw44_g_7ghpw0000gn/T/com.microsoft.Word/WebArchiveCopyPasteTempFiles/f.gifReprinted from ‘Things New and Old’ Vols. 17 – 18, 1874 and 1875.

Click here for original

 

What did John Nelson Darby and the Brethren hold?

Darby and the brethren held to all the fundamentals of the Christian faith:

There is one God, eternally blessed – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,.
The Lord Jesus was and is human and divine. He was born of a virgin and was raised from the dead and is now glorified at the right hand of God.
The Holy Spirit, having descended on the day of Pentecost, dwells in believers who are waiting for the promised return of the Lord Jesus.
The Father in His love has sent the Son to accomplish the work of redemption and grace towards men. Jesus, the Son, finished the work on earth which the Father gave Him to do. He made propitiation for our sins, and ascended into heaven. Now He is the great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.
As to the brethren, nobody would be received into fellowship who denied any of these fundamental truths, and any who undermined them would be excommunicated. They are essential to living faith and salvation, and to the life which all Christians live as born of God.

 

lefrancaisA summary by Sosthenes of a letter entitled ‘ A letter to the Editor of Le Français’ – published in J N D’s letters Volume 2 page 431.

In 1878 the editor of ‘Le Français’, a catholic newspaper wrote to J N Darby asking him about what he and the brethren held.  Although he did not like writing articles for newspapers, believing that they were not compatible with the Christian’s heavenly calling, Darby said, ‘I have given him in all simplicity what he asked for. He avowed himself a Catholic and devoted to Catholicism. His letter was simple and honest: I replied to him as Christian.’

 

A summary of his reply:

Darby and the brethren held to all the fundamentals of the Christian faith:

  1. There is one God, eternally blessed – Father, Son and Holy Spirit,.
  2. The Lord Jesus was and is human and divine. He was born of a virgin and was raised from the dead and is now glorified at the right hand of God.
  3. The Holy Spirit, having descended on the day of Pentecost, dwells in believers who are waiting for the promised return of the Lord Jesus.
  4. The Father in His love has sent the Son to accomplish the work of redemption and grace towards men. Jesus, the Son, finished the work on earth which the Father gave Him to do.  He made propitiation for our sins, and ascended into heaven.  Now He is the great High Priest, seated at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

As to the brethren, nobody would be received into fellowship who denied any of these fundamental truths, and any who undermined them would be excommunicated.  They are essential to living faith and salvation, and to the life which all Christians live as born of God.

 

Darby’s early Christian Days

After John Darby was converted he spent six or seven years under the rod of the law, feeling that although Christ was his Saviour he did not possess Him, or that he was fully saved by Him.  He fasted, prayed and gave alms, but did not have peace.  He felt that if the Son of God had Himself forgiven him, he owed Him his body, soul and means.

At length God gave him to understand that he was in Christ, united to Him by the Holy Spirit.  Though he had always accepted that the word of God was the absolute authority as to faith and practice, God had now implanted in his heart the conviction of it.  Scriptures which bore on that were:

  • At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you’ (John 14:20)
  • He that is joined unto the Lord is one spirit’ (1 Cor 6:17)
  • Your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost who is in you’ (1 Cor 6:19)
  • There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus’ (Rom 8:1)
  • I will come again and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also’ (John 14:3)
  • Having believed, ye have been sealed for the day of redemption’ (Eph 1:13)
  • For by one Spirit are we all baptised into one body’ (1 Cor 12:13)
  • Even when we were dead in sins, [he] hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved)’ ( 2:5)
  • Our citizenship is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, who shall transform our body of humiliation into conformity to his body of glory’ (Phil 3:20-21)

From the above scriptures he deduced that the Holy Spirit has given us as believers the full assurance of salvation.  We have been set apart from this world, sealed to do God’s will here.  We are citizens of another world, awaiting the return of our Lord and Saviour.

 

The body of Christ is composed of those who are united by the Holy Spirit to the Head – Christ in heaven.  We are seated in the heavenly places in Christ, and are already there in spirit, just waiting to be actually place us up there, our bodies changed.

 

The Public Church

This brings us to the thought of the church and of its unity.

Let us look around we see how far we as Christians have got from what God had set up on the earth.  Where is the church?   Darby said that he gave up Anglicanism as not being it. In his early days he had been attracted to Rome.  But then he realised that the idea of a sacrificing priesthood down here was inconsistent with Heb 10:14-18  ‘For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. . . . Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin’.  As a result of the work of Christ, we have direct access to God in all confidence. ‘Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus.’ (Heb. 10:19).  Rome pretended to be the whole, but that excluded half or more of Christendom.  Protestant sects were divided amongst themselves – unity was not possible.  In fact, most of those who call themselves Christians are of the world, just as much as a pagan might be.

 

The Fall of the early Church

 

The church was formed on the earth at the descent of the Holy Spirit.  It ought always to have been clearly identifiable, as something distinct, separate from the world.  Alas this has not been the case.  The Lord foresaw this: ‘The wolf catcheth them and scattereth the sheep’ (John 10:12) but, thank God the same faithful Shepherd also said,  ‘No one shall catch them out of my hand’ (v.28).

The apostle Paul, bidding farewell to the faithful of Asia, said, ‘I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock, and of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.’ (Acts 20:29-30).  Moreover, Jude noted that deceitful men had crept in among the Christians, ‘Certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men’ (Jude v.4).  This would lead to apostasy, those inside the public confession entirely abandoning the Christian faith. ‘There are there many antichrists: whereby we know that it is the last time. hey went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us’ (1 John 2:18-19).

 

What the Faithful should understand

Paul tells us, ‘Nevertheless the foundation of God standeth sure, having this seal, The Lord knoweth them that are his. And, Let every one that nameth the name of the Lord depart from iniquity. But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and of silver, but also of wood and of earth; and some to honour, and some to dishonour. If a man therefore purge himself from these, he shall be a vessel to honour, sanctified, and meet for the master’s use, and prepared unto every good work (2 Tim 2:19-21).

The public church is a great house with vessels of all kinds: a call comes to the faithful man to purify himself from the vessels to dishonour.  In the next chapter he speaks of perilous times.  Men will be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud etc., but also ‘Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof’ (2 Tim 3:5).  They were evidently in the professing church, not pagans as in Romans 1.  And it goes on, ‘All that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution. But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse’ (2 Tim. 3:12, 13); but true believers have assurance through the scriptures, given by inspiration of God, making them wise to salvation, by the faith which is in Christ Jesus.

At the beginning, ‘the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved’ (Acts 2:47)  Soon false brethren crept in, tares were sown, the house was filled with unholy vessels, from which the faithful were to purge themselves, persons with a form of godliness without power, from which the faithful were to turn away.

Evil in the church continued.  ‘The mystery of iniquity doth already work’ (2 Thess 2:7). The wicked would be destroyed by the brightness of His coming.  Elsewhere the Lord speaks of the good grain and the tares growing together until the harvest (See Matt 13:24-30).  We must distinguish between the work of Christ, and what is done by men – heresies and schisms.

However, the gates of hell are not to prevail against that which Christ has built. The enemy will never destroy what Christ has built (the church of God).  That is the house made of living stones, and the holy temple in the Lord (See 1 Peter 2:5 and Eph 2:21.  Alongside all that, the Word declares that where two or three are gathered to the name of Jesus, He would be in their midst. (See Matt 18:20).

 

The early Brethren

This is what Darby recognised.  Initially only four met together, not in a spirit of pride or presumption, but deeply grieved at seeing the state of that which surrounded them, and praying earnestly about it. Darby said they were not thinking of forming a new sect.  Indeed, they did not believe that the thing would have gone any further. They were just satisfying the need of their souls according to the word of God and found the promised presence of the Lord.

Independently following the same road, the work extended in a way they did not expect – in the British Isles, France, Switzerland, Germany, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, and on through the rest of Europe, the British Colonies, the United States, Asia, Africa, and elsewhere.  As the gospel was preached, the Spirit of God acted, and produced soul yearnings that the established religious systems could not meet.

Those brethren rested on the authority of the word of God.  They saw our Saviour:

  • first as accomplishing redemption on the cross,
  • then as seated at the Father’s right hand, the Holy Ghost being down here,
  • and finally, as coming back to take His own to be with Himself.

These Christians had the full assurance of their salvation  They had faith in the efficacy of Christ’s redemption, and being sealed with the Holy Spirit, they were waiting for the Son of God to come from heaven without knowing when it would happen.  Bought with a great price, they felt bound to regard themselves as no longer belonging to themselves, but to please the Lord Jesus in everything, and to live only for Him.

 

The Brethren’s Walk

Whilst Darby had to admit that not all the brethren walked at the full height of the heavenly calling, they acknowledged the obligation to do so.  Brethren walked in a morally right way, excluding any who held heresy or engaged in immorality.  They abstained from the pleasures and amusements of the world.   Evening parties would be occasions of encouraging one another and discussing the word.  Brethren did not vote or get involved in politics.  They submitted to the established authorities, whatever they may be, so long as they were not called upon to act contrary to the will of Christ.  They took the Lord’s supper every Sunday, and those who had gift, taught from the scriptures and preached the gospel of salvation to sinners.  Everyone felt bound to seek the salvation or good of his or her neighbour, as they were able. Feeling that Christendom was corrupt, they were not of the church-world.

Asked as to how many such believers followed this course, Darby had no idea.  Brethren did not number themselves, wishing to remain in the littleness which becomes Christians. In any case, they reckoned as a brother or sister in Christ every person who had the Spirit of Christ.

 

Conclusion

What is the advantage of this course?  We acknowledge Christ as the Son of God and  know that we have been saved by Him.  In obeying Him, in spite of our weakness, faults and failures, we have as an indescribable source of joy.  Looking ahead, we have an earnest or advance of eternal happiness, with no failures, where our Lord will be fully glorified in all believers.

Sosthenes

November 2016

 

Romanism and True Faith

True faith is believing God, because he has said it. Faith in God believes in His word without any other authority than His word itself. If you require the church’s sanction of the word, you do not have faith in God. Anything else is human superstition.

To my dear Roman Catholic Brethren

I admire the devotion of many simple souls in the Roman Catholic church. Your sacrificial generosity is evident from buildings which, I am sure you have in good faith dedicated to the glory of God.  You also hold some correct doctrine:  the divinity of Christ, the Trinity, Christ’s atonement for sin – and more.romanism

But I am sorry for you. The teaching of your church leaves you with uncertainties, the prospect of purgatory, and a dependence on God’s word being set aside by unscriptural practices. Indeed, Christ’s true church of which you individually are members, if you have faith in the perfect work of Christ on the cross does not teach – it testifies and worships.

I have produced the following based on a paper by J N Darby entitled Superstition is not Faith; or, The True Character of Romanism. Though written in the 19th Century it is applicable to the 21st.

Forgive my using the word ‘superstition’. Darby uses it. It may have changed its meaning over the years but I am sure you will understand its use over against that of God given ‘faith’.

May you, after prayerful consideration of this, realise that your sins were born by Jesus on the cross. Your standing before Him is secure. No mass is needed, no confession to the priest, no extreme unction and certainly no purgatory is necessary for you to enjoy Christian blessings NOW. And who more tender to speak to directly than your Lord and Saviour, Jesus?

Sosthenes

May 2015

 

What do we mean by ‘Superstition’?

Superstition is the unwarranted religious subjection of the mind of man.

This may be:

  1. Man’s rational thinking
  2. Something of man’s own imagination;
  3. A real, evil and malignant satanic influence
  4. Something or some one good, but the object of worship.

There is no warrant for such worship in scripture. Faith, on the contrary, is the reception and belief of God’s testimony to the soul.

Superstitious reverence includes:

  1. Animals (the Egyptians)
  2. The earth, sun, moon, planets and stars
  3. Mythology (fauns, satyrs etc – the Greeks)
  4. Serpent (evil power) worship (Africa, American Indian)
  5. Saints and angels.

Even John nearly fell for the latter when he fell down to worship at the feet of the angel. Paul speaks of ‘a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels’ (Col 2:18).

Superstitious reverence acknowledges God, even if it does not know Him. Because it gets between the soul and God, God is hidden and usurped. It is often called faith, but really it is the opposite. Faith brings us into God’s presence – we receive God’s authoritative testimony. Faith is the revelation of a loving God, who has revealed Himself in Christ our Saviour. God gave His own Son who, on the cross, purged our sins, thus freeing us from guilty consciences, and giving us peace and reconciliation with God, so we can walk in newness of life. Hence faith is exactly opposite to superstition.

Superstition hides the true God, giving false notions of Him, attaching the authority of His name to moral degradation. Human conscience revolts against this, as it is contrary to what even an unbeliver would consider God to be. Superstition would tend to exalt man above his own religion, producing infidelity and even atheism (if such a thing exists which Darby doubted). The human will is always atheistical, for it is not subject to God’s will, and will seek to reason against the existence of whatever it does not like. But God has given man a conscience, which the will can never get over. As a result people use religion – that which bears God’s name, as an excuse for throwing off God’s authority.

 

What is Faith?

Faith must be founded exclusively on the testimony of God, otherwise it is not God who is believed. I must believe when God Himself has spoken, or I do not believe God at all. John says, ‘He that received his [the Lord’s] testimony hath set to his seal that God is true’ (John 3:33). Had God’s testimony been founded solely on the miracles, it would have been without value, since man is unchanged. ‘Many believed in him when they saw the miracles which he did; but Jesus did not commit himself to them, for he knew what was in man’ (John 2:23).

Having received the testimony of the God of love we know the Saviour, are reconciled, and have peace and communion with Him. We know the Father, through the Son, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, and we approach God without fear, however poor and guilty we may be. Such is the Christian’s portion.

God has reconciled us to Himself, and we freely enjoy His perfect and gracious love, even in our weakness. Because we are reconciled, we have a direct relationship with God, so anything that is put in the way militates against the entire, perfect putting away of sin by the blessed Saviour. It is a human invention and a denial of Christianity. There is one Mediator between us sinners and God – Christ. Anything else is infidelity.

 

Why Rome is not based on Faith

Now we will see that the Roman system is not founded on faith. Romanism is in doctrine and practice, really infidel, though of course it would claim otherwise. A sincere person may believe that the liturgical worship of God is right and conform to religious habits. This is not faith. Alternatively, a poor ignorant, but pious, soul might even believe the in system, but be almost overwhelmed by its errors.

Between the Romanist and the Evangelical Christian is vast system of apostate error. Two questions are at issue:

  1. Are the doctrines that Rome teaches true?
  2. How can any one be sure of the authority of what is taught?

We shall see that the teaching is false and without authority. For example:

 

Roman Catholic Teaching The Truth
An unbloody sacrifice (the Mass) is efficacious for the remission of sins The blood of Jesus Christ his [God’s] Son cleanseth us from all sin (1 John 1:7).
Purgatory is needed to complete our cleansing (except for some special cases) We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb 10:10).
The Mass is an offering for the sins of the living and the dead. By one offering Christ has perfected for ever those that are sanctified. (Heb. 10:14.)
The saints and the Virgin Mary are more accessible and tender-hearted than Jesus We have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15)

 

 

The Mass

Christ suffered and shed His blood. His perfect offering was so efficacious, that it never needed to be repeated – He did it only ONCE. The Roman Catholic Mass pretends to offer this sacrifice again and again, therefore denying the efficacy of Christ’s offering of Himself on the cross. God’s word declares that there is no more offering for sin (see Heb 10:18). Furthermore, as the Mass is an unbloody sacrifice, which Rome maintains to be efficacious for the remission of sins. However, scripture says that ‘without shedding of blood there is no remission’ (Heb. 9:22). Consequently the Catholic doctrine contradicts scripture.

 

Purgatory

Now another false doctrine, that of of purgatory, teaches that the blood of Jesus does not purge me completely, even though I have accepted the gospel, and have lived a good religious life. I must suffer in some fire in order to be fit for God’s presence. Even if I have confessed to a priest, received absolution, the last rites and extreme unction (which is supposed to wipe away the remains of sin), and have had masses said for the repose of my soul, I still need to go through purgatory and pay the last farthing. As a result I retain a guilty conscience down here, and sadly the church maintains its power over me.

But scripture says ‘He has by HIMSELF purged our sins’ (Heb 1:3). The doctrine of purgatory is infidelity as to the efficacy of Christ’s blood and God’s word. The blood of Christ has cleansed the true Christian from all sin, so that we might have peace in our souls through His Name.

 

Jesus, the Mediator

The scripture declares there is one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus. It teaches us that a divine and gracious person, the Son — one with the Father, who is God over all, blessed for evermore — came down so low in grace, that even the poorest and vilest sinner could find free access to Him. Such grace and tenderness, was in Jesus. Now to us He a merciful High Priest, bearing our infirmities, and sympathising with our sorrows, entering into them as none other could, with a heart such as none other had (Darby’s words) (See Heb 2:17).   He was without sin, so we can come boldly to a throne of grace as He intercedes for us.

 

Mary

But how does this tally with the doctrine of Mary? Can I not go to Jesus directly and count upon His tenderness? Is He too high and far off?   Has Mary a tenderer heart as being a woman, must I go to Him either through her or the saints? Did Mary, however blessed, come down from heaven to seek me in my sorrow and in my misery? Or has Christ changed, and become hard-hearted, since He ascended up on high? No; the doctrine of many mediators, including the Virgin Mary, is infidelity as to the grace of Christ. It denies His glory as a compassionate High Priest.  I trust His kindness more than that of all the Marys and all the saints, however blessed they might be. (Darby’s words)

 

The Word of God

These are just a few examples of the way in which Rome, on the authority of what is called the church, undermines the truth, taking away all the value of the precious truth of the gospel. It calls you to believe things that are not in scripture, and, in doing so, makes you disbelieve the truth of God. However, because Rome does not deny the expiation for sin made at the cross – or the Trinity , – or the incarnation, or the divinity of Christ, one would not suspect it of infidelity. But because it has denied the actual value and application of these wonderful truths, it has destroyed the them, and taken away the way of peace to the sinner’s soul.

But another point: everything in the above discussion has been based on the premise that the true believer accepts the authority of the inspired word of God. But Rome does not agree. It tells me that I cannot know the Bible, or the word of God, without the authority of the church. If God has written a book, and addressed it to men in general or to those called Christians, He has put them under the responsibility of receiving and submitting the authority of His word. If the teachings of Rome were right, no ordinary Christian could know that it is the word of God, and receive it as such. He must either deny it to be God’s revealed word, or assert that it is not binding on those to whom it is addressed. Otherwise God would have failed in His word: What blasphemous infidelity!

What kind of church it can be that makes itself more competent, and its authority more obligatory, than that God Himself?  If I need the church’s authority in order to believe the word, I do not believe God at all. I am not to judge God’s word: it judge me. The Lord said, ‘The words that I have spoken unto you, the same shall judge you in that day’ (John 12:48). Whether it is the church, the pope, or a general church council, it is something besides the word, without which God’s own word is not binding on the conscience. This is high treason against God and His truth.

 

Accepting God’s Testimony

If Paul wrote an inspired epistle to a certain church, say to Corinth, the Christians there were bound to receive it as God’s word. The church has to receive the apostle’s letter, not pronounce on it. If God gives a testimony of Himself, the church is bound to believe it. If not, it is despises the testimony of God. Woe to it if it refuses the testimony; woe to me if I do too.

Even in creation, God has given a testimony. Man is guilty if he does not see God in it. There may be many things that he cannot explain; but the testimony is sufficient to condemn those who do not believe in God the Creator.

So when the blessed Lord appeared, many infidel hearts refused to accept who He was. But He said, ‘If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins’ (John 8:24). John said that by not believing we make God a liar, and are therefore guilty of infidelity (See 1 John 1:10). So in the word God has given a testimony, and man is bound to believe it. Difficulties may be raised by infidel minds; but God’s testimony is adequate to bind men and women to believe it, and for it to govern the conscience.

True faith is believing God, because he has said it. Faith in God believes in His word without any other authority than His word itself. If you require the church’s sanction of the word, you do not have faith in God. Anything else is human superstition.

Romanism is infidelity as to the most precious and fundamental truths of Christianity: it is infidelity as to the authority of God’s own word.

 

Based on Superstition is not Faith; or, The True Character of Romanism. By John Nelson Darby (1800-82).

 

A summary by Sosthenes.

 

The original is published in Collected Writings of John Nelson Darby Volume 17 (Doctrinal 4). Kingston Bible Trust, Lancing, England. Downloadable from Stem Publishing.

For some further reading I recommend J N Darby’s Familiar Conversations on Romanism:

 

Familiar Conversations on Romanism

J. N. Darby.

Conversation  1 Faith is in God and His Word, not in the Church
Conversation  2 The Forgiveness of Sins: Purgatory 1
Conversation  3 The Forgiveness of Sins: Purgatory 2
Conversation  4 The Word of God and the Church 1
Conversation  5 The Word of God and the Church 2
Conversation  6 The Word of God and the Church 3
Conversation  7 Infallibility
Conversation  8 Infallibility
Conversation  9 Holiness
Conversation 10 Apostolicity and Succession 1
Conversation 11 Apostolicity and Succession 2
Conversation 12 Apostolicity and Succession 3
Conversation 13 Apostolicity and Succession 4
Conversation 14 The Mass
Conversation 15 Transubstantiation 1
Conversation 16 Transubstantiation 2