[This is the third chapter of the booklet Pope Benedict XVI and the United Kingdom published in 2010 in protest against the Pope’s visit to the UK that year. It exposes Roman Catholicism for the utterly false religion that it is.]
In nineteenth-century Britain it was not uncommon for clear views to be held on a number of topics which flowed directly from an understanding of the Bible and a grasp of theology. Among these topics were the Sabbath, Romanism and the role of religion in education. Hence the contrast seen between the British Sabbath and the Continental Sunday, the intelligent opposition made to Romanism and the widespread desire that Bible-based religious instruction form part of the curriculum of schools maintained by the State. Despite much worldliness, it would not be inappropriate to say that the United Kingdom had for generations been a Protestant nation. Britain sent out a host of preachers and missionaries, taking with them the message of salvation in Christ Jesus to the uttermost parts of the earth.
In contrast to this, the first half of the twentieth century witnessed a wholesale departure from Biblical Christianity. The beginnings of this change were becoming clear in the late-Victorian Church with the abandonment of Westminster Calvinism in Scotland and the Downgrade Controversy among the English Baptists and similar movements in other branches of English Nonconformity. In Scotland, the fathers of the Free Presbyterian Church witnessed valiantly against this backsliding; among the Baptists, Charles Haddon Spurgeon raised his voice in opposition. Regrettably, the Churches paid little heed and the landmarks of past generations were removed; modernism and theological liberalism gained control of most of the UK’s Protestant denominations. The authority and the inspiration of Scripture and many of the central doctrines of the ancient creeds and confessions were virtually repudiated. Belief in redemption by the precious blood of Christ, in justification by faith alone through grace alone and regeneration by the sole work of the Holy Spirit were themes seldom heard in the pulpits as being unsuited to modern intellects.
Whilst the second half of the twentieth century witnessed a measure of recovery, seen particularly in the making available again the treasures of the Church’s heritage in the form of Christian literature, the doctrinal standards of previous generations have not been recovered in most of the old denominations. The Reformed faith and Evangelical Calvinism are largely restricted to a few small denominations and to independent evangelical churches which, because of their lack of organisation, are unable to influence the nation’s affairs. Romanism has taken full advantage of this regrettable situation.
Romish error continues unabated into our day with less and less opposition from a much divided and theologically illiterate Protestantism. As Protestantism has abandoned its heritage, popery has advanced its claims and paraded its credentials. Its progress in recent days is undeniable. It would have been unthinkable for the Government in the nineteenth century to have invited the pope to visit the United Kingdom. It may be asked: “If Protestantism has abandoned its witness in the face of the onslaught of unbelief, why has Romanism not been affected in a similar way?” The answer is not far to seek: if men repudiate truth they are in danger of receiving a strong delusion that they should believe a lie. There is a certain glamour about popery that attracts the natural man. The ear is entertained and there is an appeal to the aesthetic. In the world’s eyes both the present and the previous holder of the papal office dominate the ecclesiastical world. They go on pilgrimages and the world wonders after them. The natural man is undoubtedly attracted by such a phenomenon; he there sees stability in a chaotic world, an institution that has stood the test of twenty centuries and which appears like a rock in a surging world of change.
The secular newspapers readily take up the papist cause and an Anglican Bishop who claims to be an evangelical, and whose books are published by the Inter-Varsity Press, has invited him to his Cathedral. In the name of unity, Protestants are invited to attend the mass and to see for themselves how delightful it is for long-divided brethren to dwell together in Romish unity. To refuse the overtures of friendship is viewed by the majority to be boorish and an affront to an ancient highly respected world Church. Do not leaders of Protestant Churches visit the Roman pontiff? Are not Rome and Canterbury very similar? Rome doubtless smiles to herself at the naïvety with which so many of the “separated brethren” fall for her claims. A significant part of the witness of any Bible-believing Church is to let their people know what Rome stands for and what are the main theological tenets of the Popish Church.
The purpose of this chapter is to highlight three of Rome’s peculiar doctrines that are inconsistent with, and highly hostile to, Scripture truth. The object is to demonstrate that anyone with an understanding of Scripture cannot fail to see the vast difference between Romanism on the one hand and Biblical Christianity on the other, and that the Pope is at the head of a false religion. Christians must not be ignorant of Satan and his devices. They are to be resolved to war a good warfare and to seek as good soldiers of Jesus Christ to fight the good fight of faith and so lay hold on eternal life. The ecclesiastical freedom of future generations hinges, under God, on the stand we take now.
1. The Rule of Faith
Rome does not believe, as true Protestants do, that special revelation from God ended with the completion of the New Testament canon. Rome claims a continuing and continuous revelation. Whilst saying the Bible is the Word of God, Rome claims that tradition is equally authoritative with Scripture and is as equally binding as Scripture. For Romanism the Bible is insufficient – the decrees of Church councils, particularly the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the pronouncements of Popes (especially the Tridentine Creed of Pius IV, 1559-65), ecclesiastical customs which have had a long history of use in the Church, and the consensus of patristic interpretation, are also binding on the conscience.
The Council of Trent, which viewed Luther as a heretic and whose main purpose was to rebut the teaching of the Protestant Reformers, formulated a notion of the Rule of Faith as far removed as possible from Sola Scriptura. In its fourth session it made clear Romanism’s twofold source of truth: Scripture and tradition –
[The Synod] following the examination of the orthodox fathers, receives and venerates with an equal affection of piety and reverence, all the books of the Old and New Testament – seeing that one God is the author of both – as also the said traditions, as well those appertaining to faith as to morals, as having been dictated, either by Christ’s own word of mouth, or by the Holy Ghost, and preserved in the Catholic Church by a continuous succession.
The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), hailed by many as the great renewal Council which changed the whole direction of Romanism, is as firm as Trent and the First Vatican Council  on the twofold role of Scripture and tradition. It stated:
Therefore both Scripture and Tradition should be accepted with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence. . . . Sacred Tradition and Holy Scripture form a single sacred deposit of the Word of God entrusted to the Church.
The recent Catechism of the Catholic Church is equally clear:
The Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of revelation is entrusted, does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the Holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honoured with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.
In Rome’s view, whilst the content of Scripture is fixed, it considers itself to be a living organism that is the depository of tradition. Rome’s concept of tradition means that it is ever free to assert as doctrines ideas that are the very antitheses of Scripture teaching whilst claiming divine authority for these doctrines. Instances of this are its doctrines of Mary’s Immaculate Conception in 1854, papal infallibility in 1870 and the Assumption of Mary in 1950.
Two other matters must be recorded relating to Rome’s view of the Rule of Faith:
(I) When Romanists speak of Scripture they mean more than the Old and New Testaments. They include within the Old Testament eleven Apocryphal books. These books were never accepted as canonical by the Palestinian Jews; their canon of the Old Testament was the same as that of the Protestant Churches. Neither the Lord Jesus Christ nor the writers of the New Testament ever cited these books. When Paul declared the Jews possessed the “oracles of God” (Romans 3:2) he was implicitly excluding the Apocrypha from these oracles. The Protestant view of the canon is detailed with precision in the Westminster Confession of Faith, Chapter 1:3:
The Books commonly called Apocrypha, not being of divine inspiration, are no part of the canon of Scripture; and therefore are of no authority in the Church of God, nor to be any otherwise approved, or made use of, than other human writings.
(ii) Another key feature of the Romish view of tradition is her claim that the Church alone is able to decide the meaning of Scripture. These interpretations are supposed to be according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers. Romanists close their eyes to fact that the idea of the “unanimous consent of the Fathers” is a complete illusion – such a consent being historically non-existent and intellectually indefensible. It is important to note that in Rome’s view tradition is not merely a body of doctrine handed down orally from the apostles that is independent of Scripture, but includes the Church”s interpretation of Scripture. The Council of Trent asserted:
Furthermore in order to restrain petulant spirits, it decrees that no one relying on his own skill, shall, – in matters of faith and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, – wresting the sacred Scriptures to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, – whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, – hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers; even though such interpretations were never (intended) to be at any time published.
This statement was reaffirmed at the First Vatican Council in 1869-1870.
Rome’s claim amounts to this: the untutored layman is incompetent to decide what Scripture means and that the “infallible Church” will decide this matter for him. The Roman Catholic Church alone, it is asserted, has the authority to interpret Scripture correctly.
2. The way of salvation
The question of a troubled soul under conviction of sin in all ages is the question of the Philippian jailor, “What must I do to be saved?”. Rome’s answer to that question is very different from how the question would be answered by a Bible-believing Protestant. Rome’s answer to the enquirer who asks, “Tell me how I can be saved from my sins”, is that you must do what lies within you and God will not deny His grace to those who do their best. For Rome, salvation is not the result of God’s free grace to a sinner, it is achieved rather by a combination of the sinner’s works and God’s grace.
Romanism has developed a system that, in its view, is the way of salvation. It is called the sacramental system. The church provides a series of sacraments and if their followers make good use of them they will be the means whereby they will eventually get to heaven. Rome asserts that there are seven sacraments. They are baptism, confirmation, eucharist, penance, extreme unction, marriage, and ordination. These are the means of grace that comprise the “Sacramental System”. It is the first five of these that in the view of Rome are the steps to salvation.
In this system the first step is baptism. This step is crucial because, according to Rome it removes original sin and all the guilt of a person’s pre-baptismal sins. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
Through Baptism we are freed from sin and reborn as sons of God; we become members of Christ, are incorporated into the Church and made sharers in her mission: Baptism is the sacrament of regeneration through water in the word.
Elaborating slightly on this the post-Vatican II Catholic Code of Canon Law states:
Baptism, the gateway to the sacraments, is necessary for salvation, either by actual reception or at least by desire. By it people are freed from sins, are born again as children of God and, made like to Christ by an indelible character, are incorporated into the Church. It is validly conferred only by a washing in real water with the proper form of words.
The next sacrament is confirmation. It is so called because it is considered to confirm and strengthen baptismal grace. In the rite of confirmation the Bishop anoints the person being confirmed with “Sacred Chrism” (oil mixed with water and consecrated by the Bishop). The Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church answers the question, “What is the effect of Confirmation?” in these terms:
The effect of Confirmation is a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit like that of Pentecost. This outpouring impresses on the soul an indelible character and produces a growth in the grace of baptism. It roots the recipient more deeply in divine sonship, binds him more firmly to Christ and to the Church and reinvigorates the gifts of the Holy Spirit in his soul. It gives a special strength to witness to the Christian faith.
The third step in the Sacramental System is the eucharist or the mass. This is the central rite of Romanism. It is asserted that the sacrifice of the mass and the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross are one and the same. The priest, it is claimed, re-enacts the sacrificial work of Christ and that his actions have saving efficacy both for the living and the dead. There are two parts to the mass; the first is the “miracle” performed daily by popish priests when they turn bread and wine into the actual body of Christ. This is called transubstantiation which guarantees the real presence of Christ.
The second part is the mass itself in which Christ, now bodily present, is re-offered to God as a sacrifice. During the mass the consecrated wafer is held aloft and worshipped in accordance with the belief it is no longer bread but the very body of Christ. The popish practice of withholding the cup from the laity and permitting only the officiating priests to partake of it is an outcome of the belief in transubstantiation, as it is asserted that the wafer in itself is a complete Christ.
The fourth step in the Sacramental System is penance. Baptism takes care of original sin and any sin a person has committed up to the point that they were baptized, but it does not guarantee that a person will not sin again. It is here that penance plays such a vital part in the Romish way of salvation. There are a number of parts to the sacrament of penance. First, there is sorrow for sin – that is called contrition. Then the penitent must go and confess their sin to a priest, telling him what they have done. If he is satisfied with the degree of sorrow he will pronounce absolution or forgiveness. The person is then forgiven until the next time they sin, whereupon they will have to do it all over again. However, even though the priest has pronounced absolution which gives forgiveness, the individual is still liable to temporal punishment which requires satisfaction to be made.
The priest will then tell the individual what they must do to make satisfaction in order make up for their sins. Satisfaction can be made in a number of different ways. They might be required to say a prayer, like the Lord’s Prayer, many times. Alternatively, the priest may tell them to fast for a certain number of days or give some alms (money) to the church or to the poor. In the past he might possibly have told the person to go on a pilgrimage to a shrine of one of the saints. In Rome’s view it is proper to pray to the saints as well as seeking the saints’ help with their own prayers. A pilgrimage to a shrine associated with a saint is viewed as a vital part of penance just because the prayers of the saints are considered more effective at their shrines. So if the penitent wants to get greater credit for what he is doing it is necessary to go to the very place where these saints are remembered. Pilgrimages are acts of penance as they require a sacrifice both of time and money. In popish devotion a desirable feature about going on a pilgrimage is that it brings the pilgrim into contact with the relics of the saints. To pray at the very place where the bones of a saint are placed is considered in itself to be a penitential act.
It is within the concept of penance and making satisfaction for sin that indulgences began to play a part in Romanism. In medieval popery the idea of a “treasury of merit” was devised. Most people do not do enough good works in this life for themselves. Their evil deeds are greater than their good deeds, so their spiritual account is always in arrears. But there are some people, according to Rome, who in this life not only do enough good works for themselves, but they are able to perform some extra good works. Those who are able to do these extra good works are the saints and especially Mary. Rome teaches that the good works of the Virgin Mary were far more than she required for her own salvation. In addition to this there are the good works of Christ Himself. This produced in Rome’s thinking a huge treasury of merit in heaven which was available to the Pope. The idea of an indulgence was that the Pope could take some of these good works, and use them for people who do not have enough good works for themselves. However, the Pope did not just give out these indulgences – they had to be bought. Rome was alive to the charge that this gave the impression that people were buying forgiveness. Their response to this charge was that the purchaser of an indulgence was not buying forgiveness but doing the good work of giving alms.
The final sacrament in this popish system of salvation is called the “anointing of the sick” or “extreme unction”, which is sometimes also called the “last rites”. Like baptism, it is a sacrament that is done for the individual by the Church, in this instance when the person is dying. A priest anoints the dying with oil and prays for them. Penance, Rome asserts, “restores the justification lost by sin, extreme unction takes away the infirmity left by sin; it removes that state which might be an obstacle to the clothing with glory of the resurrection”. Rome believes this doctrine is based on James 5:14-15. The Council of Trent’s pronunciation with regard to the effect of this sacrament which is to be given to the gravely ill was this, “For the thing here signified is the grace of the Holy Ghost; whose anointing cleanses away sins, if there be any still to be expiated, as also the remains of sins, and raises up and strengthens the soul of the sick person, by exciting in him great confidence in the divine mercy”.28 It is the one last thing that the Church can do in this sacramental system for the souls of their followers.
Romanists admit that at the end of this sacramental system of works’ righteousness it is very unlikely their followers will immediately reach heaven after death. Heaven is only for those who have made full and faithful use of the Church’s sacramental graces, and very few achieve that. The wicked that die with unforgiven mortal sin and the excommunicated go directly to hell. The rest of the baptized with unforgiven venial sin, they believe, go to purgatory where they will eventually be cleansed of their remaining sins and then enter heaven. It is here, according to Rome, that the departed can be assisted by their friends and relatives. It is possible to pray for the dead that they will not be long in purgatory and, in addition, a friend or relative could buy an indulgence on behalf of the dead that would remove some or all of their unforgiven sin and shorten their time in purgatory. In the sixteenth century rich Romanists endowed monasteries in order that masses would be said for their souls after their death. These were private masses for the souls of the individual and possibly his family. The idea was that money would be left to a monastery and in return masses would be said frequently for the souls of the dead to shorten their period in purgatory. The mass was considered the most powerful form of prayer. Most people could not afford to arrange for masses to be said in this way in order to shorten their time in purgatory, hence the indulgence system was a cheaper way for ordinary people to reduce the period of time their friends and relatives spend in purgatory.
A Bible believer, on understanding the Romish sacramental system, immediately asks several crucial questions.
The first is: “Where is God’s grace in all of this?” The Romanist’s answer would be to direct our attention to the works of one of their leading theologians – Thomas Aquinas. He taught that this whole process of salvation begins with grace. Sinful man cannot do what is within him until God energizes him by His grace. So God comes first in grace and gives enough grace to enable him to add to that grace the merit of good works. Consequently God’s grace plus man’s works brings a person to salvation.
A second crucial question is: “Where does saving faith and justification enter into the Romanist view of salvation?” Roman Catholicism teaches that justification is by grace through faith on account of Christ. Such a statement sounds quite orthodox, but on closer examination it becomes clear that what Rome means by faith, justification and grace are quite different from the teaching of Scripture. According to Scripture saving faith is based on knowledge – we must know who Christ is, what He has done and what He is able to do. This knowledge leads to conviction – we must not only know the truth respecting Christ we must also believe it to be true. Conviction in turn leads to resting on Christ alone for salvation. John Murray has written:
Faith is knowledge passing into conviction and conviction passing into confidence. Faith cannot stop short of self commitment to Christ, transference of reliance upon ourselves and all human resources to reliance upon Christ alone for salvation. . . . Faith is trust in a person, the person of Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of the lost.
The Shorter Catechism’s definition of faith clearly embodies “trust in Jesus Christ” as a central component of saving faith. Rome denies that trust in Christ is a central aspect of saving faith. In its view faith is purely intellectual; it is the belief of a set of dogmas. Thus, the decrees of the Council of Trent and Vatican I and the papal decrees on Mary form part of the doctrinal content of saving faith. All these matters are necessary beliefs in order to be saved. To deny any of these teachings would place a person under an anathema with the loss of saving faith. In Rome’s view in order to be saved a person must believe that the Pope is infallible when teaching ex cathedra, that the apocrypha is part of Scripture, that there is no salvation outside of the Roman Catholic Church, in the immaculate conception of Mary and the whole range of Romish dogma. The Biblical teaching of resting on Christ alone for salvation is completely missing in the Romish view of faith.
With regard to justification, Rome teaches that it is a result of grace infused into the soul of man enabling him to do works of righteousness, which then become the basis of a person’s justification. The faith involved in these works of righteousness is not the faith that trusts in Christ but, what one of its leading conservative theologians calls “theological or dogmatic faith”. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Justification includes the remission of sins, sanctification and the renewal of the inner man”. This teaching is a far cry from that of the Shorter Catechism which defines justification as, “an act of God’s free grace, wherein He pardoneth all our sins, and accepteth us a righteous in His sight, only for the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and received by faith alone” (Question 33).
This is a sin which has been especially denounced by God. It was the sin above all others to which the Jews seem to have been most inclined before the destruction of Solomon’s temple. There is nothing that is as comprehensively condemned in Scripture as idolatry, yet it is one of the chief sins of which Roman Catholicism is guilty. Bishop J. C. Ryle makes the following trenchant charges:
To my mind, it is idolatry to have images and pictures of saints in churches, and to give them reverence for which there is no warrant or precedent in Scripture . . . it is idolatry to invoke the Virgin Mary and the saints in glory, and to address them in language never addressed in Scripture except to the Holy Trinity . . . it is idolatry to bow down to mere material things, and attribute to them a power and sanctity far exceeding that attached to the ark or altar in the Old Testament dispensation . . . it is idolatry to worship that which man’s hands have made, – to call it God, and to adore it when lifted up before our eyes.
With respect to this latter point Ryle indentifies, “the notorious doctrine of transubstantiation, and the elevation of the host” as idolatrous. Ryle continues –
To my mind, it is idolatry to make ordained men mediators between ourselves and God, robbing, as it were our Lord Christ of His office and giving them an honour which even Apostles and angels in Scripture flatly repudiate. And if this be so, with the honour paid to popes and priests before my eyes, I say there is idolatry in the Church of Rome.
Dr. Lloyd-Jones in his pamphlet on Roman Catholicism places idolatry as the first of the main errors of popery. He then points out that in St. Peter’s in Rome there is a statue representing the apostle Peter and one of its toes is worn away. Lloyd-Jones then adds –
Why? Because so many poor victims of Roman Catholic teaching have been kissing this toe! They bow with reverence and they worship images, statues and relics. They claim to have relics of certain saints, a bit of bone, something he used, and it is put in a special place and they worship it and bow down before it. This is nothing but sheer idolatry.
Rome’s teaching on these matters is clear and has not been changed by Vatican II. The twenty-fifth session of the Council of Trent held on the 3rd and 4th December 1563 dealt with the invocation, veneration of the relics of saints and of sacred images. Trent taught as follows:
The holy Synod enjoins on all bishops, and others who sustain the office and charge of teaching, that . . . they especially instruct the faithful diligently concerning the intercession and invocation of saints; the honour [paid] to relics; and the legitimate use of images: teaching them, that the saints, who reign together with Christ, offer up their own prayers to God for men; that it is good and useful suppliantly to invoke them, and to have recourse to their prayers, aid, [and] help for obtaining benefits from God, through his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who is our alone Redeemer and Saviour.
Also, that the holy bodies of holy martyrs, and of others now living with Christ . . . are to be venerated by the faithful; through which [bodies] many benefits are bestowed by God on men.
At this stage Trent adds that those who oppose the veneration due to relics and saints are,
. . . wholly to be condemned, as the Church has already long since condemned, and now also condemns them. Moreover, that the images of Christ, of the Virgin Mother of God, and of the other saints, are to be retained particularly in temples, and that due honour and veneration are to be given them . . . the honour which is shown them is referred to the prototypes which those images represent; in such wise that by the images which we kiss, and before which we uncover the head, and prostrate ourselves, we adore Christ and we venerate the saints, whose similitude they bear.
Lest it be thought that this is merely the popery of the sixteenth-century Counter-Reformation, consider the statements in the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church:
All the signs in the liturgical celebrations are related to Christ: as are the sacred images of the holy Mother of God and of the saints as well. They truly magnify Christ, who is glorified in them. . . . The beauty of the images moves me to contemplation, as a meadow delights the eyes and subtly infuses the soul with the glory of God. Similarly, the contemplation of sacred icons, united with meditation on the Word of God and the singing of liturgical hymns, enters into the harmony of the signs of celebration so that the mystery is imprinted in the heart’s memory and is then expressed in the new life of the faithful.
In a later section the Catechism states:
The religious sense of the Christian people has always found expression in various forms of piety surrounding the Church’s sacramental life, such as the veneration of relics, visits to sanctuaries, pilgrimages, processions, the stations of the cross, religious dances, the rosary, medals, etc.
An even more recent witness to Romish idolatry is the Compendium Catechism of the Catholic Church, issued by the Catholic Truth Society in 2006 with an introduction by Joseph Ratzinger – then Pope Benedict XVI.
Question 92 asks, Did Christ have a human body? The answer supplied is, Christ assumed a true human body by means of which the invisible God became visible. This is the reason why Christ can be represented and venerated in images.
Question 240 asks, What is the purpose of holy images? The answer given is, The image of Christ is the liturgical icon par excellence. Other images, representations of Our Lady and of the Saints, signify Christ who is glorified in them. They proclaim the same Gospel message that Sacred Scripture communicates by the word and they help to awaken and nourish the faith of believers.
Romish idolatry is nowhere more manifest than in its veneration of the Virgin Mary. Karol Jozef Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) gave a great impetus to Mariolatry by his utter devotion to Mary. His prayer, “totus tuus” – “completely yours” – was not directed to God the Father, nor to Christ the Lord, but to the mythical woman who had taken the place of the true Mary of Nazareth, and who seemed to dominate so greatly his devotional life. In his book, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, he explained that to pray, “I am completely yours, O Mary”, meant an “attitude of total abandonment to Mary”. At the conclusion of his encyclical letter, Veritatis Splendor (The Splendor of Truth), he calls upon all the bishops of the Catholic Church to entrust themselves, not to Jesus Christ, but to Mary, “the Mother who obtains for us divine mercy”. Wojtyla demonstrated his “Marian piety”, not only in his preaching and writing, but in his obvious zeal in going on pilgrimage. He went to most of the Marian shrines, including Guadelupe in Mexico, Czestochowa in Poland, Fatima in Portugal, Lourdes in France, Knock in Ireland and the so-called holy house of Loreto. He went to Loreto in order to prepare for his visit to Ireland and in doing so endorsed the fanciful legend that the house of Mary in Nazareth had been miraculously transported first to Dalmatia and then to Loreto in Italy.
Loraine Boettner has written:
It cannot be denied that the Roman Church has made the second commandment of no effect among her people, and that she teaches for Christian doctrine her own precepts, which are the commands of men. She has not dared to remove the commandment from her Bible, but she has withdrawn it as much as possible from view. Since her practices are contrary to the Bible, she covers up her guilt by omitting that commandment from her version of the Decalogue and from her catechisms and textbooks! She then re-numbers the commandments, making the third number two and the fourth number three and so on. And in order to cover up this deficiency, she splits the tenth in two, thus making two separate sins of coveting – that of coveting one’s neighbours wife, and that of coveting one’s neighbour’s goods. As a result of this sophistry, multitudes of people are misled and are caused to commit the sin of idolatry.
After discussing Marian devotion, Robert Reymond observes, “By its exaltation of Mary the Roman Catholic Church makes itself the largest cult in Christendom – the Marian cult”. J. C. Ryle’s conclusion with respect to popish practice is this:
Romanism in perfection is a gigantic system of Church-worship, Sacrament-worship, Mary-worship, saint-worship, image-worship, relic-worship and priest-worship, that it is, in one word, a huge organised idolatry.
The Reformed Church’s necessary witness against Romanism
We have four concluding observations:
Firstly: Romanism has added through the centuries to the Biblical Gospel to such an extent it is now an apostasy. Because of these additions, some of which are idolatrous, Roman Catholics are in danger of losing their souls and going at death to a lost eternity. To this assertion some would reply: “How can you make such comments when Romanists are orthodox on the doctrine of the Trinity and the Person of Christ?” Robert Reymond answers that objection this way: “There is no saving value in holding an ‘orthodox view’ of the person of Christ if one is at the same time holding to an ‘unorthodox view’ of the work of Christ.”
Secondly: The Church has a duty to witness against the soul-ruining errors of Romanism. From the pulpit, in Church Courts and as private Christians we must warn men and women of the false doctrine and the idolatry of popery. The only correct stance for a Romanist who is converted is for him or her to leave that communion immediately. When the mind of God is so plain with regard to idolatry it is the height of infatuation to countenance Romanism in any way. The exhortation of Scripture is plain (Revelation 18:4-5, 1 Corinthians 10:14).
Thirdly: Man as man is directly responsible to God for all his actions. When a man holds a high office of state his responsibility to God is not lessened but considerably increased. Being the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom does not lessen a man’s responsibility to God but immeasurably enhances it. Accordingly, for the former Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, to invite the Antichrist to our shores is a grave sin. The Bible teaches the doctrine that we call the Establishment Principle, namely, that those in high office are to be nursing fathers to the Church of Christ. They are not to harm the true Church by inviting the Pope to the United Kingdom. The theological blindness of the former Scottish Secretary, Jim Murphy, is abundantly clear when he commented on 14th November 2009:
This is a fantastic honour and an enormous responsibility. A papal visit would be a historic event and I am delighted Gordon Brown has asked me to work on this. We have already been inundated with invites for places the Pope to visit and people to meet. I know that across Britain, people of all faiths would give the Pope a wonderful welcome.
If the visit takes place it seems the Pope will conduct an outdoor mass in Bellahouston Park in Glasgow. It is our duty to witness against this visit and to pray that the Lord, in mercy, would intervene and prevent it taking place.
Fourthly: Professor John Murray ended his 1953 Evangelical Library Lecture on Reformation Principles with this exhortation:
The Reformation polemic is not obsolete. It will continue as long as there are souls burdened with the sense of the wrath of God and emancipated by the righteousness of God through faith of Jesus Christ. As long as Rome . . . enslaves the souls of men and gives them hope of life by a religion that has its issue in the blackness of darkness, as long as she propounds human righteousness as the way of meriting eternal life, it will be necessary to burn with holy indignation against that well-organised and articulated system, claiming the allegiance of hundreds of millions of souls, a system built upon the principle of human autonomy unsurpassed by no other bearing the Christian name. We must burn with the holy ire which animated the apostle when he wrote, “Though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9).
1 For Scotland’s abandonment of Westminster Calvinism, see Donald Maclean, “The Declaratory Act Movement” in One Hundred years of Witness, Free Presbyterian Publications, 1993; Andrew L. Drummond and James Bulloch, The Church in Late Victorian Scotland 1874-1900, Edinburgh, 1978; Kenneth R. Ross, Church and Creed in Scotland – The Free Church Case 1900-1904 and its Origins, Rutherford House, Edinburgh, 1988. For the theological change in English Nonconformity, see John W. Grant, Free Churchmanship in England 1870-1940, London, not dated; Mark Hopkins, Nonconformity’s Romantic Generation, Paternoster Press, Carlisle, 2004; Dale A. Johnson, The Changing Shape of English Nonconformity 1825-1925, Oxford University Press, 1999; and Willis B. Glover, Evangelical Nonconformists and Higher Criticism in the Nineteenth Century, London, 1954.
2 See Iain H. Murray, The Forgotten Spurgeon, Banner of Truth Trust, 1966, pp. 145-191; and Hopkins, op. cit., pp. 193-248.
3 For a more detailed analysis of this wholesale departure from Biblical Christianity within Protestantism, see S. M. Houghton, The Advance of Romanism, The Bible Christian Unity Fellowship, 1964, pp. 1-6.
4 John J. Murray, Catch the Vision: The Roots of Reformed Recovery, Evangelical Press, 2007.
5 See English Churchman, Issue 7779, Fridays 6th and 13th November 2009, p. 1, for an account of Bishop N. T. Wright’s leading a consortium in issuing an invitation to the Pope to speak in Durham. The evangelical publisher Inter Varsity Press (IVP) in the United States publishes a vast array of Wright’s books. Though IVP in the United Kingdom do publish his material, they do so to a lesser extent.
6 For lists of the actions of Free Presbyterian Church Courts against mass attendance and protests against popish idolatry and compromise with Romanism, along with the witness of the Free Presbyterian Magazine against popery, see Free Presbyterians and the Requiem Mass, Settle, 1989, Appendices 1-2, pp. 45-49. Rome is renowned for its subtlety, and when it suits her purpose she hides her teachings from view. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones observes, “How many faces has the Roman Catholic Church in reality? I mean this. Look at her in this country, then look at her in Ireland, Southern Ireland. Look at her in the United States of America, Then look at her in some of those Latin states in South America, and you will find it difficult to believe it is the same institution. Look at her in countries like Spain and Italy and other similar countries, and contrast her as she appears in Germany or somewhere similar – she is quite different. You would not imagine she is the same institution. But it is. She is able to change her colour and her appearance and her form: she is, I say, all things to all men everywhere, she is everything. You remember that the apostle has told us that it is one of the characteristics of the devil himself that he can transform himself that he can transform himself into an angel of light. So can this Church. There is no limit, there is no end to the various ‘guises’ in which she can appear. Here in this country she appears as highly intellectual and encourages her people to read the Bible; in other countries she prohibits their doing so, and is not only not intellectual, but deliberately encourages superstition. Here she seems to be tolerant, ready to listen and to argue and concede and to be friendly; in other backward countries she is utterly intolerant, vicious and vile in her persecuting zeal – but still the same body, the same institution, the same people. That is my evidence for saying that this is surely the devil’s masterpiece.” Roman Catholicism, Evangelical Press, London, not dated, pp. 4-5.
7 See William Webster, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, Edinburgh – Banner of Truth Trust, 1995, p. 23.
8 The Canons and Dogmatic Decrees of the Council of Trent in, The Creeds of Christendom, With a History and Critical Notes, Volume II (The Greek and Latin Creeds), edited by Philip Schaff, revised by David S. Schaff, Harper and Row, 1931 (reprinted by Baker Books, 2007), Vol. II, p. 80.
9 It is hardly surprising that Vatican I (1869-1870) supported the doctrine of Trent. The Council was called by Pope Pius IX (Giovanni Maria Mastia-Ferretti) chiefly for Romanism to state explicitly its belief in papal infallibility. Rome certainly needed the idea of extra-Biblical tradition to propound such a doctrine as it is totally devoid of any support in Scripture.
10 “Dogmatic Constitution of Divine Revelation”, Chapter II, 9-10, in Walter M. Abbot S.J., The Documents of Vatican II, New York, 1966, p. 117.
11 This historic publication was launched on 11th October 1992 – the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Council. It represents the first comprehensive statement of Roman Catholic beliefs for more than four centuries and was intended to draw together the documents of Vatican II and provide an up-to-date presentation of the teaching of Catholicism. The Catechism demonstrates very clearly that Rome has not modified the teaching of the Council of Trent. In the introduction to the catechism Pope John Paul II (Karol Jozef Wojtyla) states, “In 1986, I entrusted a commission of twelve Cardinals and Bishops, chaired by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, with the task of preparing a draft of the catechism requested by the Synod Fathers” (p. 3). The printed volume extends with indices to 691 pages. In 2005 an abridged version was issued by Ratzinger (by then Pope Benedict XVI). The English translation is called Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic Truth Society, 2006.
12 The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Geoffrey Chapman, London, 1994, paragraph 82.
13 Romanism accepts as fully canonical those books and parts of books which Protestants call the Apocrypha, except the Prayer of Manasseh and 1 and 2 Esdras, which both regard as apocryphal.
14 For more extended comment on the Romish position on the Apocrypha, see Robert L. Reymond, The Reformation’s Conflict with Rome – Why it must continue, Fearn – Christian Focus Publications, 2001, pp. 21-29; R. Laird Harris, Inspiration and Canonicity of the Bible, Grand Rapids – Zondervan, 1957, pp. 131-153, 180-195; Roger Beckwith, The Old Testament Canon of the New Testament Church and its background in Early Judaism, Grand Rapids – Eerdmans, 1985, pp. 338-437.
15 One of the main purposes of William Webster’s volume, The Church of Rome at the Bar of History, is to demonstrate the falsity of Rome’s claim that its teaching is in line with the early Church Fathers. Webster clearly demonstrates the diversity of view among the patristic writers and that any claim of universal consent is unsustainable.
16 “The Canons and Dogmatic Decrees of the Council of Trent” in Schaff, op. cit., Vol. II, p. 83.
17 “Dogmatic Decrees of the Vatican Council” as found in The Creeds of Christendom, With a History and Critical Notes, Volume II (The Greek and Latin Creeds), edited by Philip Schaff, revised by David S. Schaff, Harper and Row, 1931 (reprinted by Baker Books, 2007), Vol. II, p. 242.
18 The Catechism of the Catholic Church, op. cit., paragraph 1213.
19 The Code of Canon Law, prepared by the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland, Collins Liturgical Publications, London, 1984, Canon 849, p. 158.
20 Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, op. cit., Question 268. The popish and High Anglican view of confirmation has been a major reason why these bodies have been open to the “Second blessing” teaching of the Charismatic Movement.
21 The Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1364, states: “As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which ‘Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed’ is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out.”
22 Transubstantiation was first defined as an article of faith in the fourth Lateran Council of 1215. It was held in the Lateran Palace in Rome. The Council also stated that every Catholic should partake of the mass at least once a year. The Catechism of the Catholic Church’s definition is as follows: “By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and his Blood is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity” (paragraph 1413).
23 The consecrated wafer is called the “host”, a word derived from the Latin term for “victim”.
24 The Romanist view of the priesthood is diametrically opposite to how the Bible describes the Gospel Minister. The Catholic theologian, John Hardon, describes the primary ministry of a priest in these terms: “The primary ministry of a priest is to consecrate and offer the Holy Eucharist and to forgive sins. In this, priests differ from deacons who do not receive the power to consecrate the Eucharist, and offer Mass, or forgive sins by sacramental absolution.” The Question and Answer Catholic Catechism, New York, 1981, p. 294. Hardon (1914-2000), was a prominent American Jesuit who wrote many books on theology. His Catholic Catechism (Doubleday & Company, New York, 1975) was a significant post-Vatican II work that brought modern Catholic teaching into one book. Mother Teresa said that Hardon’s Catechism was “a clear exposition of the teachings of the Church”. He served as a consultant for drafting the later 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church.
25 As a corrective to such popish teaching, see John Calvin’s devastating critique of relics in his treatise, An admonition showing the advantages which Christendom might derive from an inventory of relics, in Calvin’s Tracts, Volume 1, Baker – Grand Rapids, 1983 Reprint, pp. 287-341.
26 It was the Romish practice of granting indulgences that was one of the main contributory factors behind Martin Luther writing his Ninety-Five Theses. In Thesis 28 Luther objected to a saying attributed to Johann Tetzel (1465-1519), “As soon as the coin rings a soul from purgatory springs”. In 1502 Tetzel had been commissioned by the Pope to preach the Jubilee indulgence – which he did throughout his life. Such an indulgence was plenary, which meant it was supposed to absolve the person for whom it was obtained from all temporal punishment due to their sin. Such temporal punishments according to Rome would otherwise be purged by a period of time in purgatory. In 1517 Tetzel was selling a plenary indulgence to raise money for the ongoing reconstruction of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. For details of Johann Tetzel, see The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, edited by F. L. Cross and E. A. Livingstone, Oxford, 1997, p. 1594; also the article “Henry Ganss” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 14, New York, Robert Appleton Company, 1912. Accessed on 12th March 2010 at <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14539a.htm>.
27 See Josef Neuner, Heinrich Roos, The Teaching of the Catholic Church: As contained in her documents, editor Karl Rahner, Cork, 1966, pp. 331-338.
28 “The Canons and Dogmatic Decrees of the Council of Trent” in Schaff, op cit., Vol. II, p. 161. Among the Canons of Trent that pronounce anathemas is this: “If any one saith, that the sacred unction of the sick does not confer grace, nor remit sin, nor comforts the sick . . . let him be anathema.” op. cit., p. 169.
29 Iain Murray has recently shown how the indulgence system is far from being an obsolete Reformation issue. He writes: “The 1998 Papal Bull, Incarnationis Mysterium, states in detail how by obtaining an indulgence the pains of purgatory may be reduced for oneself or for the dead One current way to obtain a ‘full indulgence of sins’ is to climb the now restored Sancta Scala, or Holy Stairs, in Rome. The twenty-eight steps, said to have been brought from Pilate’s palace to Rome, and stained with Christ’s blood, are so ‘holy’ that they must be climbed on one’s knees. Benedict XVI has promised further indulgences for the year 2008.” See Iain Murray’s review of Mark A. Noll and Carolyn Nystrom, “Is the Reformation Over?”, Baker, 2005, in Lloyd-Jones: Messenger of Grace, Banner of Truth, 2008, pp. 257-267 – the citation is on p. 260. The review was first printed in the Banner of Truth Magazine, January 2008, Issue 532, pp. 7-14.
30 John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied, Banner of Truth Trust, 1961, p. 111.
31 “Faith in Jesus Christ is a saving grace, whereby we receive and rest upon Him alone for salvation, as He is offered to us in the gospel”, Shorter Catechism, question and answer 86.
32 For extensive citations from Romish authorities on the nature of saving faith, see William Webster, Saving Faith: How does Rome define it? Christian Resources Inc, 1997, pp. 13-22.
33 Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, Rockford – Illinois, 1960, p. 253. In Canon XXX, following its decree on justification, Trent makes clear the Romish position. It states: “If any one saith, that, after the grace of justification has been received, to every penitent sinner the guilt is remitted, and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such wise that there remains not any debt of temporal punishment to be discharged either in this world or in the next in purgatory, before the entrance to the kingdom of heaven can be opened (to him): let him be anathema.” “The Canons and Dogmatic Decrees of the Council of Trent”, in Schaff, op cit., Vol. II, p. 117.
34 Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2019.
35 John Charles Ryle, Knots Untied, London, 1896, pp. 495-496. This chapter by Ryle on idolatry is also reproduced in J. C. Ryle, Warnings to the Churches, Banner of Truth Trust, 1967, pp. 142-171. The citations are on pp. 155-156.
36 D. M. Lloyd-Jones, op. cit., p. 6.
37 “The practice of placing sacred images in churches so that they may be venerated by the faithful is to be firmly maintained.” “Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”, paragraph 125 in Walter M. Abbot S.J., The Documents of Vatican II, New York, 1966. p. 175.
38 “The Canons and Dogmatic Decrees of the Council of Trent”, in Schaff, op. cit., Vol. II, pp. 199-202.
39 Catechism of the Catholic Church, op. cit., paragraphs 1161 and 1162.
40 op. cit., paragraph 1674.
41 Compendium Catechism of the Catholic Church, Catholic Truth Society, 2006, p. 46.
42 op. cit, p. 83.
43 John Paul II, Crossing the Threshold of Hope, Jonathan Cape, 1994, p. 212, cited in H. M.
Carson, The Faith of the Vatican, Evangelical Press – Darlington, 1996, p. 108.
44 Veritatis Splendor, paragraphs 118, 120, cited in Robert L. Reymond, The Reformation’s Conflict with Rome – Why it must continue, Fearn, 2001, p. 118.
45 For a recent analysis of Mariolatry see H. M. Carson’s book, The Faith of the Vatican, op. cit., pp. 107-122.
46 Loraine Boettner, Roman Catholicism, Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Company – Philadelphia, 1968, p. 280. As indicated by Boettner, the way Rome hides the second Commandment is by merging it in with the first Commandment. See Catechism of the Catholic Church, op. cit., paragraph 2083. However, question 446 of the Compendium Catechism of the Catholic Church asks in the context of the first Commandment, “Does the commandment of God ‘You shall not make for yourself a graven image’ (Exodus 20:3), forbid the cult of images?”. The answer supplied is: “In the Old Testament this commandment forbade any representation of God who is absolutely transcendent. The Christian veneration of sacred images, however, is justified by the incarnation of the Son of God (as taught by the Second Council of Nicaea in 787 AD) because such veneration is founded on the mystery of the Son of God made man, in whom the transcendent God is made visible. This does not mean the adoration of an image, but rather the veneration of the one who is represented in it; for example, Christ, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Angels and the Saints” (p. 135). This line of defence has been used by idol-worshippers in all ages when they are faced with the question – Why do they pray to idols? It was the answer given by the Israelites when they worshipped the golden calf in the wilderness; after making the idol they said: “These be thy gods, O Israel, which brought thee up out of the land of Egypt” (Exodus 32:4). Aaron’s sin was not to encourage the worship of an idol but that the God of Israel should be worshipped by means of an idol.
47 R. L. Reymond, The Reformation Conflict with Rome – Why it must continue, Fearn, 2001, p. 109.
48 J. C. Ryle, Knots Untied, op. cit., p. 498.
49 R. L. Reymond, op. cit., p. 126.
50 Free Church Witness, January 2010, p. 11.
51 John Murray, Reformation Principles, Evangelical Library, 1953, p. 14.