Grace of Gospel

The Grace of the Gospel

The first public meeting of this Association was held on Monday evening, the 30th of June, at the Theatre, which was densely crowded in every part — stage, boxes, pit, and gallery; a lecture being delivered on the occasion by the Rev. Stowell, who selected for his subject: “The Grace of the Gospel: How Popery Mars It.” The chair was occupied by the President of the Association, the Rev. J. Owen Parr, Vicar of Preston, and Rural Dean. The Chairman said:

My dear fellow Christians: I am sure you will agree with me that it will be a proper course for us to take to commence the business of this evening by asking the blessing of God upon us; I will therefore call upon Mr. Page, Secretary of the Preston Protestant Association, to offer up prayer to God for his presence and blessing on this occasion.

The Rev. S. F. Page having offered several appropriate prayers, the Chairman resumed:

I have a very simple and a very pleasing duty to perform this evening: it is merely to introduce the lecturer of the evening, the Rev. Hugh Stowell, Canon of the Cathedral Church of Chester, who has been kind enough to come over to deliver us a lecture on a subject with which he is especially familiar, and in the illustration of which he is, as you very well know, gifted with more than ordinary eloquence. I am sure that you will listen to him tonight with attention, and that our proceedings will be distinguished by a peaceful and orderly spirit. I trust it shall not be said of us, after this meeting is over, that we manifested anything that looked like personal hostility. We are indeed bound, I take it, to foster and encourage by all means in our power, a Protestant spirit in this people and nation. Our constitution is a Protestant constitution, our sovereign a Protestant sovereign; and while we are willing that all our countrymen should have, like ourselves, the freest exercise of the rights of conscience, and all liberty to worship God according to that conscience, we do yet resist all encroachments upon the Protestant constitution of the country, and all attempts to overthrow the law that is founded upon a protest against Rome. It is our bounden duty, in all places and by all means, to confute error and confirm truth. We do it in our churches — we do it on the Lord’s Day. And because we have not all around us on every occasion, we come here that we may summon together a more numerous assembly, and speak perhaps with more freedom on the subject than we can within the precincts of houses consecrated to the worship of God. For these reasons it has seemed good to us, in endeavouring to uphold the Protestant religion of the land in these times of peril, to request our kind friend Mr. Stowell to come and inform and animate us, by offering to us arguments in favour of our Protestant Church, and also such arguments as will show you that the truth which we, as Protestants hold, is founded upon the Scriptures, while the doctrines of Rome are opposed to the Word of God. With these few remarks, in order to occupy as little time as possible, I beg now to request of Mr. Stowell, if he feel himself prepared, that he should address this meeting.

The Rev. Hugh Stowell rose amid reiterated plaudits, and said:

Mr. Vicar and my Christian friends: It is with no common feeling of interest that I find myself in the midst of the Christians of Preston, assembled in their combined character of a Protestant Association. Time was when a degree of mistrust was felt as to the utility, as to the expediency, and as to the necessity of Protestant associations. But that time is assuredly past; and whatever doubt there might have existed as to the necessity of combination on the part of the children of light, the children of darkness have made it so apparent what the end of their combination is — how fatal to our civil and religious rights, our privileges, and our freedom — that the man who hesitates about joining some Protestant combination to resist the great Papal combination, is not worthy of the liberty he enjoys nor the honoured name he bears. It has passed into a proverb, that when bad men confederate, good men must combine; and without combination, assuredly, however numerous the troops, our efforts will be of little avail; for we are marshalled against, brought front to front with an enemy exceedingly crafty and exceedingly combined — an enemy that knows every response of subtle warfare, and, whatever else it may lack, possesses despotic power over all that march under its banners, and renders it formidable even in its decrepitude.

I have long looked upon Preston with a considerable degree of interest, as being the Papal citadel of Lancashire. They are strong here, and have boasted of their strength; and I heartily rejoice to find that our brethren in Preston have at length girded themselves to the righteous conflict. I will venture to say that the Popish priests considered it a dark and perilous day on which a Protestant association was formed in Preston. There is nothing Popery so much wishes as to be let alone, but nothing she will do so little as leave us alone. She will work and worm underground as long as she can, and the more you leave her to work and worm underground without letting light in upon her dark recesses, the more she will be obliged to you; but thank God, we have arisen to the necessity of unearthing the mole and the badger from their underground holes. We have felt called upon to let light in upon the dark falsehoods of Rome, exhibited under the guise of truths — to strip her of her meretricious ornaments and of her painted visor — and to expose the haggard features and the loathsome form that lurk beneath the purple and the paint with which she decorates herself.

In doing so, we are anxious to maintain a spirit of all charity and kindness to individuals, while we must maintain a spirit of all fidelity and boldness towards the system that enslaves and debases them, and that would enslave and debase us if it had the power. We are anxious at the same time that the controversy should not take a kind of secular and political tone, for, after all, that is subordinate and subservient to the spiritual and theological aspect of the question. If it were merely a question that affected our civil and our political immunities, however the clergy of the church and the ministers of other Christian denominations might feel themselves bound to wield their elective franchise on behalf of political and civil liberty, they ought not to take a leading part in a great struggle of that nature, because they have higher objects to engage their energies and their attention. But it is because we think that apart from political and secular considerations, there is an aspect of the subject that bears on the glory of God, on the grace of the gospel, on the interests of immortal man for time and for eternity — it is therefore we think that the ministers of the Church are bound to stand in the fore-front of the battle; and however there may be flung in our face the charge of incendiarism, of agitation, and of political partizanship, we must cast such considerations to the wind, and having the approval of conscience, the smile of God, and the authority of the Bible, look with indifference upon the scorn of those who would thus seek to divert us from our course.

It was with a view to this aspect of the great controversy that I made selection of the subject for my lecture this evening — of a theme that may be considered perhaps too sacred and spiritual for the building within which we are assembled. I had rather anticipated this meeting would have been held within the walls of one of your sanctuaries. But nevertheless, a minister of Christ must preach his gospel in season and out of season, whether within the walls of a church or of a theatre. He has one master to serve, one truth to proclaim; and he ought never to waver or to falter in the discharge of this important duty. Therefore, without further preface or preliminary, I address myself at once to that theme to which I stand pledged — a theme of the highest and holiest character — a theme for which I must bespeak your devout and earnest attention, and one on which I should be doing utter injustice to my conscience and to truth if I did not first endeavour to lay before you the glorious grace of the gospel; that then I may bring before you the dark caricature and libel on that grace which the Church of Rome has inflicted upon her deluded votaries. I shall pause in the midst of my subject, so that after I have given you the foreground of light, we may sing a hymn of praise to our Lord and Master, the Saviour of all grace and of all hope; and then I will furnish you with the less congenial side of the subject, the dark background of Popish heresy and superstition.

Heaven is the scene of God’s love; Hell is the scene of God’s justice. There is no pardon in the one, for there is no guilt there; there is no pardon in the other, for there is no atonement there. But this marvellous and mysterious world of ours, so far as we know, is the chosen and select theatre for the display of the glorious grace of the blessed God. It is here that God is known in the blessed aspect of a pardoning God. This is the wonder and the glory of earth. This draws the attention of all the heavenly hosts and hierarchies to this little speck of clay. This causes the great God himself to have his heart and his eyes ever set upon his church militant here upon earth; for it is by means of this church, and by means of his redemption, that he displays to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places his manifold wisdom and his fathomless mercy.

The grace of the gospel! Time was when it was not needed in the world; for the grace of Christ is love shown towards the unworthy and the undeserving. But man in primitive purity stood in the image of his Maker, walked in the light of his complacency, and needed no forgiveness, for there was no sin to forgive. But so soon as he transgressed, then came the fearful question. Was there forgiveness with God for man, or must man be left in irremediable guilt and to hopeless destruction? Then it was that there appeared to an enraptured universe the new manifestation of the Godhead, and it was seen before all the principalities and powers in heavenly places that the God of justice, of love, of truth, of holiness, of immutability, would be the God of grace to a fallen family on this little speck of clay, in the boundless regions of his sovereignty. And so, in that first promise, “the seed of the woman shall bruise the serpent’s head,” there broke on the midnight of man’s ruined state, the first beam of Heaven’s mercy towards the guilty and the lost.

Now the glory of the Word of God is this: it is the revelation of God’s grace to fallen man. No man understands the Bible who does not understand it by means of this Key. The great object of this revelation is salvation — salvation through grace by Christ Jesus, the only hope of ruined and wretched man. Here is the glorious clue to guide us through all the various portions of divine revelation. The man who walks through the intricacies of revelation with this clue in his hand, will thread his way through its seeming mazes and perplexities; he will see light where before he saw but darkness, beauty where before he saw but deformity, order where he saw but confusion.

Further, this glorious grace of God is everywhere free. The word “grace” means free favour; it means free love; it means free kindness, free forgiveness. Take away the freedom of grace, and you take away the essence of grace. This is the condemning sin of the Church of Rome, that she takes the grace out of the gospel, and then it is the gospel no more to fallen man. Let me, for a little while, I pray you, though it may be less stimulating, and, in some respects, perhaps, less interesting; yet it ought not to be, for to every humble man it is the one great subject that involves his hope for time and his prospects for eternity: — let me lay before you the glorious freeness of the grace of the gospel. The prophet Micah, when contemplating this glorious subject, exclaimed — “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger forever, because he delighteth in mercy.” (Micah 7:18) And when God himself speaks of his own mode of pardoning, he says — “Look how high the heaven is above the earth: even so my ways are higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isa. 55:9)

How free is God’s grace! Before man was created, God had provided for his redemption. Before the crime for which he fell was committed, God had prepared the means of his salvation; for we read — “I have loved thee with an everlasting love.” (Jer. 31:3) And again, it is said of the Lamb that “he was slain from the foundation of the world.” (Rev. 13:8) Look again at the freeness of God’s grace. Did he wait for us to seek it? Did he wait for anything on our part? O, no! While we were his enemies, Christ died for us. “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16) “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10) While we were ungodly, Christ in due time died for the ungodly. What was there on man’s part to induce God to compassionate him? What made him the object of the divine compassion, except the depth of his misery and the hopelessness of his ruin? He had mercy because he would have mercy; he showed grace because he delighted in grace.

How free, then, is the mercy of God from first to last! The Good Shepherd goes after the stray sheep into the wilderness and brings it in rejoicing: he is not sought of the sheep first, but he seeks the sheep. If we apprehend him, it is because he has apprehended us. If we return to him, it is because he put into our mind good desires. O, how freely does God forgive! The man that comes to bring anything like money or price, he must say to him — “Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God was to be bought with money!” You can never buy salvation; for it is the gift of God, which is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. These are his words — “Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isa. 55:1) Again: “Whosoever will, let him take of the waters of life freely.” (Rev. 22:17)

O, how freely the sinner can partake of it! Let him come as he is, poor, sick, wretched, naked, undone. Let him come for the eye-salve that, anointing him, will restore his sight. Let him come for the white raiment that will clothe his nakedness. Let him come for the blessed fine gold of Christ’s merits that he may be rich. Let him come to receive all that the Almighty has provided for him. Christ asks nothing more than this — his heart, his body, his soul, and his spirit. This is all that Christ requires.

O, how freely does God forgive through Christ Jesus! My dear Christian friends, look again at the freeness with which God forgives. There is none that forgives so promptly as God does. Look how readily he shows compassion. There is no reluctance on his part; there is no giving grudgingly. Listen to his words — “Before they call, I will hear; before they ask, I will answer.” (Isa. 65:24) He calls on them first, you see. Hear his voice again — “Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to him and will sup with him, and he with me.” (Rev. 3:20) Thus, you see, it is he that calls upon us, not we that call upon him. So again, look at his glorious language — “He is slow to anger, but is ready to forgive.” This is beautifully rendered in the Manx version of the Psalms, thus: —

His anger moves with halting pace, his mercy flies to save.

Swifter is he than the seraph’s wing or the lightning’s flash in succouring those who require his aid. Look how beautifully this is represented in God’s picture of himself in the parable of the prodigal son. A poor prodigal, clothed with rags, the consequence of his own viciousness, returns at length to his father’s house with trembling step and throbbing heart, and thinks that not even a hired servant’s place will be vouchsafed to him. “But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck and kissed him.” (Luke 15:20) Before he can confess, the father has forgiven and embraced him. He does not wait to see how the son would behave himself; it is sufficient that he is a returned prodigal; and the father says to his servants — “Bring forth the best robe and put it on him: and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf and kill it: and let us eat and be merry: for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (Luke 15:22–24)

Such is the joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth. On this subject, I can enter into the feelings of a dear little Christian child: when she heard that parable read, or when, arrived at a competent age, she read it herself, the tears would trickle down her little cheek, and she would exclaim — “O, mama, how kind is God to a poor sinner! How tender is he to one that comes back to him!” It was just the sentiment of the child’s heart, so true was the divine picture presented to her. Slow to take vengeance, but prompt to pity, he has no pleasure in the death of the sinner, but rather that he should repent and live.

Look again at the freeness and completeness with which God pardons sin. He does not partially grant forgiveness, making it a wretched patch-work robe that can never cover the nakedness of the poor sinner. No, he enwraps the sinner with a robe of perfect righteousness, that covers all his transgressions and blots out all his iniquities. Look at the language employed in Holy Scripture; listen to a few of the passages — “Let the wicked forsake his way and the unrighteous man his thoughts, and let him return unto the Lord, and he will have mercy upon him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.” (Isa. 55:7) Again: “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” (Isa. 43:25) So will God wash away the guilt of the believer in Jesus. And again — “I have blotted out as a thick cloud thy transgressions, and as a cloud thy sins; return unto me, for I have redeemed thee.” (Isa. 44:22) Can there be stronger language still? Yes — “Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.” (Isa. 1:18) Can you conceive a greater contrast — scarlet and snow, crimson and the whitest wool?

Can there be stronger language still? Yes! “The iniquity of Israel shall be sought for and there shall be none, and the sins of Judah, and they shall not be found.” (Jer. 50:20) Can there be stronger language still? Yes, if possible — “I will cast their sins behind my back” (Isa. 38:17), and, “I will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:19) If you wanted to bury iniquity forever, could you bury it deeper than in the abyss of ocean? I cannot conceive anything more glorious than such language as this; it is so unlike man’s poor, angry way of pardoning. He must qualify and modify; the great God pardons like himself, divinely.

What infinite harmony and consistency there is in God’s mode of pardoning! If one man pardon another, he often does it weakly and at the expense of truth, and justice, and honour. In human legislation and human judicature, it is difficult to harmonise justice with mercy, and pardon with the rights of the community at large. God must show how he hates sin, while he pities the sinner. He must harmonise truth and justice, and mercy and grace, with faithfulness and holiness, in man’s salvation. And how is this done? It is done in the cross of Jesus. It is done in the finished work of Emmanuel. It is done by that glorious archway of atonement, the first stone of which is here on earth, and the top stone of which is on the throne of God, “for he is God”; and so, as God and man in one mysterious person, can Christ Jesus stand our surety — merciful to his brethren on earth, and faithful to his Father in heaven. What can you add to that which is infinite? What can you attempt to supplement to that which is in itself almightily perfect?

Such is the salvation of Christ Jesus. By his own body once offered, once for all, once and forever, he took away the sins of them that believe. The poor believer does not bring anything; he comes to get all; he owes everything to Christ from first to last; and yet, it is grace in harmony with justice — grace that makes the law more adorable, and awful, and immutable than hell itself would make it, by the punishment of all that had broken it. It is in the cross of Christ that the justice of God is seen more fearfully than in the fire that can never be quenched.

I hope, my dear Christian friends, you see the glory of the grace of the gospel, in that it is grace in harmony with holiness, in consonance with justice, in perfect accordance with divine law; meeting all the requirements of fallen man, and satisfying all the demands of an outraged God. The gospel offers full, free, and perfect redemption. It is suitable to God, for it gives his law, his truth, and his justice, infinite reparation and infinite vindication; so that all the hosts of heaven cry — “Salvation to him that sitteth on the throne, and to the Lamb, forever and ever.” (Rev. 5:13) There is nothing they so glory in, nothing they so adore, nothing that so enkindles their ceaseless song, as “the Lamb that was slain,” the mystery of mysteries, the wonder of wonders, the mercy of mercies; there is nothing in the universe of God like a crucified Saviour. And as there is none that thus shows grace so harmoniously, so becomingly, as the great God; so there is nothing can be more complete, nothing more efficacious and effectual than this way of displaying his grace. It provides at once for the hope and for the happiness of the fallen sinner. It is all-sufficient pardon, and he may get it even at his dying hour. It requires not to be pieced out by priestly absolution, and priestly masses, and priestly extreme unction, followed, perhaps, by purgatorial torment that may last till the day of judgment. No, this miserable pardon is unworthy of God and unfit for man.

The gospel promises glorious and complete forgiveness. The sinner is told to “go and sin no more.” In the language of the apostle — “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth: who is he that condemneth?” (Rom. 8:33) Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord. And we glory in this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. A pardoned sinner ought to be a happy sinner. He needs no angel, or virgin, or saint, to come between him and his God; for he has a living way of access by which he may draw near immediately to the Father — the one great High Priest who, having died on earth, intercedes for him in heaven. Woe to the man that regards the grace of the gospel as incomplete! Away with all the wretched figments, and superstitions, and will-worship, and formalism, and all the other monstrous excrescences with which the Church of Rome would defame and deform this glorious manifestation of the divine will! It is so complete that nothing could possibly be added to it; for it is divine, and what could be added to divinity? Do we, then, make void the law by faith? God forbid! Yea, we establish the law.

We are not afraid to compare the general holiness and morality of Protestant countries with that which obtains in Popish countries. “The tree is known by its fruits.” Though we may have less of asceticism and less of servile bondage in the presence of priestcraft, yet this is but our privilege and our birthright; for if truth makes us free, then are we free indeed. It is the glorious birthright of the Protestant to exercise his judgment, to think for himself, under the guidance of God’s holy word, and, it may be, under the teaching of his ministers, but only so far as their teaching is in accordance with that word, and no further. Yes, we are not afraid to say, look at the comparative freedom, the comparative morality, the prosperity, the intellectual culture, the domestic virtue and endearment, the moral tone and character of happy England, of Protestant England. Though far from what she ought to be, yet, making every abatement, compare her with Italy, the model garden of the world. Compare her with Rome, the Pope’s model family. Compare her children with the children of “Papa.” We know that the Pope dare not ride abroad; he dare not go to give his blessing to his children; in fact, he is obliged to be surrounded with French bayonets to keep him from their loving embraces.

Compare the miserable state of Rome itself with the happy state of old England. Look at Queen Victoria going to the Great Exhibition, morning after morning, as I have been privileged to see her; and I said, as an Englishman, “God bless my Queen!” To see her going with her worthy consort — aye, well worthy of the hand of Victoria is that excellent Prince Albert! See her there with her children round her, the monarch is an example as a mother, and a pattern as the mistress of a family. See her going morning after morning, talking with working men, inspecting machinery, and asking questions that show a great amount of intelligence; and, to use a Scripture expression, “there is not a dog that moves his tongue at her.” Not a hand is lifted up, except to cheer her; not a voice is uttered, except to say “God save the Queen!”

Contrast that happy loyalty, that palladium round about our Queen formed of the hearts of Protestant Christian Englishmen, with the wretched peril, the miserable bondage of poor Pio Nono! Then I say, here is what the gospel of the grace of God has done for Protestant England, and there is what the gospel according to Trent has done for Rome and poor Pio Nono. The Roman Catholic is not a free man; he does not walk like a man that enjoys peace in his heart. Wherever you find an earnest, devout Papist, you will always find that he serves in a spirit of bondage. His downcast eye tells you it; he cannot look you in the face. His general demeanour betrays him. How different the spirit in which the Protestant believer serves his God! We love him because he first loved us. Our love is a reflection of his — just like the sun you see mirrored on the waveless lake: it must shine on the water in the first instance before its reflection can appear. In like manner, the sun of righteousness must shine on man’s heart before he can manifest his love for God.

I have now given you some slight sketch of the glorious foreground of our subject, “The Grace of the Gospel” — the glory of God, the hope of earth, the foundation of salvation, the essence of the Bible, the one great central truth that is like the sun of revelation, from which all the other truths in the Christian system borrow their light and derive their gravitation. We will now sing a hymn to Emmanuel’s praise, and then I will turn the picture, and having shown you the gospel according to Christ, I will give you the gospel according to Trent — according to Rome.

How Popery Mars It

The Rev. S. F. Page gave out the 113th hymn:

All hail the great Emmanuel’s name!
Ye angels, prostrate fell:
His glorious grace and power proclaim,
And crown him Lord of all.

Crown him, ye martyrs of our God,
Who from his altar call;
Extol the stem of Jesse’s rod,
And crown him Lord of all.

Let every kindred — every tribe,
Let nations great and small,
To him all majesty ascribe,
And crown him Lord of all.

O that, with yonder sacred throng,
We at his feet may fall,
Join in the everlasting song,
And crown him Lord of all!

At the close of the hymn, a collection having been made, the Rev. Lecturer again rose and said:

In resuming the thread of my lecture, it is no affectation to say I would gladly pursue the line that I have, with so much interest to my own heart, been pursuing, even to the close of my address; but I feel that however painful it may be, I am bound to bring before you the way in which Popery mars the grace of the glorious gospel. You have seen a little of the glory of that grace as I have endeavoured to bring it before you in the mirror of the gospel. We must now bring before you the dark picture and the dark caricature of that glorious grace as it is presented to us in Rome’s own description of her own views.

I will endeavour to treat her with that fairness and justice with which we ought to treat every man. We have no right to calumniate any one, even though it were Satan himself: and God forbid that we should calumniate a poor, apostate, fallen body, such as the Church of Rome is! Would that she were not so black as she actually is! But, black as we find her, we are under the necessity of giving you the dark original, however dark the colours in which we may be called upon to delineate her. It is true she has a bright side as well as a dark one. Her name is mystery. It is mystery because it seems to hold the truth, and yet it only holds it in order to deny it. It gives with the right hand, as it were, some truth; whilst with the left it deals out falsehood. It betrays Christ with a kiss, and is willing to lift up its hand against him. When we say that Popery mars the grace of the gospel, we do not mean to say that Popery has done this exclusively. Man’s heart is a great traitor to the grace of the gospel. Every human heart is Papistical in its nature, and Popery is the full development of the natural heart in its disfigurement of the glorious gospel of grace. If you want to find where Popery first began, you will find it in your own hearts. You will find it in the love of our own merit, in the love of our own goodness that was born in us all. Therefore, there is an immense deal of Popery in other fallen churches — in the Greek churches and in the Abyssinian churches. And there is a good deal of Popery in our own beloved church — though not in her Articles and Ordinances. But there is a good deal amongst her insidious and her Romanising sons — who are not her sons, in fact, for they are step-sons, and their mother disowns them; — and the sooner they go over to their true mother on the banks of the Tiber, the better will it be for their own honesty and the happier will it be for England.

Yes, and believe me, there are many zealous Protestants, yet who, to a certain extent, are Papists in this matter; for they do not accept the gospel freely as it is offered, but think they must bring some price in their hand to help on their own salvation — that they, must do something to merit heaven. This is all a mistake. Christ will help you, and must help you to become holy and fit for heaven; but all your fitness, all your good works do not add one jot to your title. We owe all to Christ’s finished work. St. Paul, when become one of the holiest of men, did not trust in his holiness. Listen to his language — “This is a true saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” (1 Tim. 1:15) He did not say “of whom I was chief”; but, “of whom I am chief.” His meetness for heaven was part of Christ’s gift. Christ’s favour brought his holiness, his faithfulness, and everything else; and from first to last it was a free gift. This is what the gospel teaches, and nothing but the gospel.

Every Pharisee, every self-righteous man that thinks to buy heaven and make Christ his debtor, is a Papist. Therefore, we are not going to cast the first stone at the members of the Church of Rome, and say, “You are worse than us by nature.” They are not worse than us by nature: if we differ, to Christ alone be all the glory. I am not a whit better by nature than the poorest Papist; he is my brother, and if I differ from him, it is because God has given me a clearer light; it is because I have been brought up in the light of the gospel, while he has been brought up in the wretched twilight of the Church of Rome, where there is little light, and that little like the misty glimmerings we meet with on marshy ground, which only serve to delude the traveller, and thus lead him into deeper quagmires and more hopeless embarrassments.

How, then, did this great, stupendous disfigurement of the gospel of grace arise? It began to work in the apostolic days. See how St. Paul denounced it. What says the apostle? Here are his words written in the Epistle to the Galatians — “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Let our Tractarians hear that! Let every Popish priest hear that! I wish every Popish priest in Preston would preach next Sunday from that text, and let us see what they would make of it. Be assured that if they preach the gospel according to Trent, it will be another gospel, and yet not another, for it is no gospel at all: — “They have taken away my Lord, and I know not where they have laid him.”

This system, as I have already remarked, began to work in apostolic times. It gradually spread more and more, until at length it took up its favourite seat and centre in Rome. There, the bishops and the priests began to arrogate to themselves a power and an authority that Christ never intended them to enjoy. They wanted to be “lords over God’s heritage.” They wanted to set up themselves, by means of Christianity, to be a kind of demigods upon earth. But they found they could never be so by the simple gospel of God. That makes the sinner too independent of the priest; it makes him far too free from the church — too much under the gracious yoke of Christ’s service, to answer the purposes of ambitious men. Therefore, the Pope, and his archbishops, and bishops, and priests, and cardinals, cherished and fostered this spirit of self-righteousness more and more; and they gradually began to add to Christ’s salvation sundry sacraments of their own devising and invention. At length, they began to make salvation depend on sacraments, and not upon the Saviour — to depend on the church’s manufacture, and not on the Saviour’s finished work — to depend on priestly absolution, and priestly extreme unction, and priestly intercession, and not upon grace alone. They put the church between the righteousness of the people and their God. They made the church like the moon in an eclipse, coming between the sun and the earth, darkening his brightness and obscuring the earth from his glorious rays. They began gradually to transform Christ’s appointed officers, or ministers and ambassadors of grace, into men that clothed themselves in purple, and feasted themselves sumptuously, and came out to be admired and adored. They gradually more and more disfigured and marred the grace of the gospel, that it might serve their own purposes; for they felt that the more salvation was made a manufactured thing, the more they could lay the people under their dominion, so much the more could they become master of their consciences and so of the entire man. And so it was partly from the apathy and indifference of the human heart, and partly through the working of Satan, and partly by the love of self and power on the part of the priestly order, that it came to pass that the Church of Rome gradually merging itself into the Papacy as its crowned head, there arose that great anti-christian antagonist to Christ and his gospel which has done more to impede the progress of God’s word, to ruin sinners, to increase infidelity, and to hinder the evangelization of the world than any and every other obstacle besides that has arisen since the day when that gospel was given to man.

Now this wondrous perversion of the gospel, making man’s salvation not a complete gift of Christ, but rather consisting of a manufacture of the church — this fatal system was enunciated most fully and most finally in the Council of Trent, a great assembly of Roman bishops and cardinals that met soon after the Reformation, and enunciated in a complete form the doctrines of their church. They receive the Bible from the church, not as we do, the church from the Bible. We say, prove the church by the Bible; they say, prove the Bible by the church. This is turning things upside down — putting the Bible second, man first! We say, prove all things by the Bible — the Bible first. I am not calumniating the Church of Rome, but merely giving you what they themselves admit.

The Church of Rome never goes to the Bible when she can help it, and when she does, it is by a kind of back door. She will say to the poor Romanist — “Hear the church! You have no right to think or to say what is wrong and what is right. You are bound not to understand the Bible for yourselves, but to receive it from your church.” And where is this church, this strange thing, this “will-o’-th’-wisp” that is here and there and everywhere? Where is it? You can find it nowhere except at the high altar, or in the confessional, or in that awful personage the priest himself.

The priest is the church to the poor layman; the priest is the Bible to the poor layman. What does he know of the Bible but through the priest? What does he know of salvation but through the priest? What does he know of Christ but through the priest? What does he know of God but through the priest? What does he know of purgatory but through the priest? Poor, unhappy, degraded man, cradled and bound up in the faith of Rome: the priest is his church and his Bible — in a sense his Saviour, and, in short, his God! Awful usurpation on the part of the priest! Fearful enslavement on the part of the layman!

Now I will give you what every layman and priest in the Church of Rome professes, in the creed of Pope Pius the Fourth, with regaled to justification by faith:

I receive and embrace all and every one of the things which have been defined and declared in the Holy Council of Trent, concerning original sin and justification.

First of all, the Church of Rome mars the grace of the gospel, because she denies justification to be the simple acceptance of a sinner through faith in the finished work, the blood and righteousness of Christ. She denies that we are justified by what was done for us. She holds that we are justified rather by what is in us. She confounds justification with sanctification — blends the blood with the water that flowed from the smitten side of Jesus. They flowed together, it is true; but they flowed distinctly — they did not mingle one with the other. Sin is cleansed by the blood, uncleanness by the water. How different is justification from sanctification! One is the finished work of Christ for us; the other is the gradual work of the Spirit of Christ in us.

How broad the distinction between justification and sanctification! Ever connected, yet ever distinct; entirely different, yet always combined; the one following the other as light follows the sun, and as good fruit follows a good tree. But Rome destroys his beautiful sequence, this glorious concatenation of harmony, by confounding and blending sanctification and justification.

Now I will read to you on this subject:

Justification itself (says a decree of the Council of Trent) is not only omission of sins, but also sanctification and renovation of the inner man, by the voluntary reception of grace and gifts, whereby a man from unjust, becomes just (ex injusto fit justus), from an enemy a friend, so that he is an heir according to the hope of eternal life.

That is part of her decree; but she goes on much stronger:

Finally (says the same decree) the only formal cause of it (justification) is the righteousness of God, not that by which he is himself righteous, but by which he makes us righteous; (sed qua nos justos facit), with which, to wit, being gifted by him, we are renewed in the spirit of our minds, and are not only accounted, but are truly called just, and are so, receiving righteousness in us.

Here it declares that we are righteous because of the righteousness in us — because of the robe wrought in the sinner (no that which is put upon him), so that he himself becomes his own clothing and covering. What a difference between robe on a man and a robe in a man! Here is the first vital difference between the Church of Rome and the gospel of Christ. But this is not all. The decree goes on to say:

Although no one can be righteous except he to whom the merits of the passion of our Lord Jesus Christ are communicated, yet that is done in this justification of a sinner, when by the merit of the same most holy passion, by the Holy Spirit, the love of God is shed abroad in the hearts those who are justified, and becomes inherent in them.

Again:

If any one shall say that men are justified either by the alone imputation of the righteousness of Christ, or by the alone remission of sin exclusive of grace and charity, which is shed abroad in their hearts by the Holy Ghost, and remains within them; or that the grace by which we are justified is only the favour of God — let him be accursed.

Is that another gospel? But this is not enough. They go on to add:

If any one shall say, that the righteousness received, is not preserved and even is not increased before God by good works; but that the work themselves are but fruits only, and signs of the justification obtained, not the causes of its increase — let him be accursed.

St. Paul says, “If a man preach any other gospel but the gospel of free salvation through Jesus Christ, let him be accursed.” (Gal. 1:8) Which will you hear — the Apostle or the Pope? Which will you stand by — the gospel according to St. Paul, nay, according to the Holy Ghost, or the gospel according to Trent and the wretched cardinals and bishops that met there? But this not all. Take another extract: —

Whereas the apostle saith that a man is “justified by faith without the deeds of the law” — [here they quote Scripture — not to submit to but to torture and twist it to suit their own purposes] — these words are to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic Church hath held and expressed, namely, that we are said to be justified by faith for this reason, because faith is the commencement of human salvation; the foundation and root of all justification; without which it is impossible to please God, and attain onto the fellowship of his sons; and we are for this reason said to be justified freely, because none of these things, whether faith or works, merit the grace itself of justification.

The words of the Apostle, we are told, are “to be understood in that sense which the perpetual consent of the Catholic church hath held and expressed.” This Catholic church is a most convenient thing. There is nothing that the so called “Catholic” church cannot be made to swallow — nothing it cannot be made to cover and to sanction. But where is the real Catholic church? Where the gospel of Christ is, and wherever living professors of it are to be found. Where there is not that, though all human decrees in the world support the system, it is not Christianity, but antichristianity. But this is not enough. They go on far more boldly than this, and say:

Through the observance of the commandments of God and of the Church, faith co-operating with good works, we increase in the justice received through the grace of Christ, and are still more justified.

There you see at once the thin end of the wedge driven in. If we are justified infinitely and perfectly by the divine righteousness of Christ, how can we be justified more? If it is a partial and progressive justification, in the hands of a poor sinner, more or less, then he may be justified more and more, or less and less. In that case, it is a mere debtor and creditor account in the book of Rome, not a glorious entry in the book of God. This point was beautifully illustrated by a poor deaf and dumb boy, who, in answer to the question, “Are you a sinner before God?” exhibited a slate covered with figures innumerable, to represent the amount of his sin; and to show that he understood that the Lord Jesus passes his blood stained atonement over it and it is all gone, he blotted out every figure from the slate. That poor deaf mute knew far more of the gospel than Pio Nono and the whole conclave of cardinals; and I have no doubt that if St. Paul or an angel from heaven stood here as judge, he would give his verdict in favour of that poor deaf mute.

But this is not all. I have got the Decrees and Canons of the Council of Trent here, and if any priest should happen to be present and doubt the accuracy of my quotations, I will give him the Latin, and perhaps he will favour us with a translation. The 12th canon of the Council of Trent, in the session on original sin and justification, is as follows:

Whoever shall affirm, that justifying faith is nothing else than confidence in the divine mercy, by which sins are forgiven for Christ’s sake; or that it is that confidence only by which we are justified — let him be accursed.

Paul says — we are “justified by faith without the works of the law.” The language of Rome is, let the man be accursed that says so. Therefore Rome pronounces Paul accursed. I don’t see how they can escape from this noose. But again: take the 24th canon:

Whoever shall affirm, that justification received is not preserved, and even increased, in the sight of God, by good works; but that works are only the fruits and evidences of justification received, and not the causes of its increase — let him be accursed.

Take also the 32nd canon: —

Whoever shall affirm, that the good works of a justified man are in such sense the gift of God, that they are not also his worthy merits; or that he, being justified by his good works, which are wrought by him through the grace of God, and the merits of Jesus Christ, of whom he is a living member, does not really deserve increase of grace, eternal life, the enjoyment of that eternal life if he dies in a state of grace, and even an increase of glory — let him be accursed.

Is not that placing the sinner on a parallel and level with the Saviour, and making him owe as much to his own works as to the finished work of the cross? If it is not, I do not understand language. But I will just give you a specimen how Rome carries out these views by some of her leading doctors.

I am well aware that when we refer to the writings of these men, she frequently finds it very convenient to repudiate them. But did Rome censure these men when they published these doctrines? She has her Index Expurgatorius and her Index Prohibitorius; in the former she places portions of the writings of men to which she objects — in the latter she forbids certain books altogether; and I contend that when her own bishops and canonised men have published books which are neither put in one index nor the other, she is bound to accept them. Rome is very fond of playing “fast and loose” with us: she will avow one thing to a Papist and another to a Protestant. Her great art is to deny, and deny, and deny; and yet, when you seek to fasten upon her these denials, she will at once repudiate them. Such is her brazen brow, she will tell you without winking, if it suits her purpose, that black is white, and white is black — that truth is falsehood, and falsehood truth. I will give you the names of a few of her leading doctors, from whose works I purpose quoting: — Maldonatus, Bellarmine, Vasquez, and the Rheimish annotators, who wrote the notes appended to the Douay Bible. Maldonatus says,

We do as properly and as truly merit rewards, when with the grace of God we do well, as we do merit punishment, when without grace we do evil.

I will just quote one passage in connexion with that: “The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life; through Jesus Christ our Lord.” (Rom. 6:23) Any poor man that hears me can draw the distinction at once. His wages he has toiled for and earned, and he can claim them as an act of justice; but a gift is without any merit or desert on his part — it is free, being given by the kindness and generosity of the person that bestows it. Yet this doctor of Rome says we just as much deserve God’s favour when we do good works by his grace, as we merit punishment when without grace we do evil!

Cardinal Bellarmine (a very favourite authority with them) says,

That the good works of just persons do merit eternal life condignly, not only by reason of God’s covenant and acceptation, but also by reason of the work itself*; so that in a good work proceeding from grace, there may be a certain proportion and equality unto the reward of eternal life**.

Vasquez writes as follows:

1st. — That the good works of just persons are of themselves, without any covenant acceptation, worthy of the reward of eternal life, and have an equal value of condignity to the obtaining of eternal glory.

2nd. — That no increase of dignity doth come to the works of the just, by the merits or person of Christ, which the same should not have otherwise, if they had been done by the same grace, bestowed liberally by God alone, without Christ.

What awful blasphemy! Setting Christ aside altogether! O, fellow Protestant believer, do you ever venture to offer a prayer to God — do you venture to offer any service to God you hope he will condescend to accept, except through the hands of the Great Mediator? What awful blasphemy, that sets aside the Saviour! God forbid that this nation should ever bow down to it and become enslaved by this antichristian system!

Vasquez goes on to add:

3rd. — That God’s promise is annexed, indeed, to the works of just men, yet it belongeth no way to the reason of the merit (ad rationem meriti), but cometh rather to the works, which are already, not worthy alone, but meritorious.

Here again we say, what awful blasphemy! You would suppose it emanated from Tom Paine, and not from a canonised doctor of the Church of Rome. But he says further,

Yea, the merit of every just man, hath somewhat peculiar in respect of the just man himself, which the merit of Christ hath not: namely, to make the man himself just and worthy of eternal life, that he may worthily obtain the same. But the merit of Christ, although it be most worthy to obtain glory of God for us, yet it hath not this efficacy and virtue to make us formally just and worthy of eternal life; but men, by virtue derived from him, attain this effect in themselves.

Listen now to the Rheimish annotators:

All good works (say they) done by God’s grace after the first justification, be truly and properly meritorious, and fully worthy of everlasting life: and therefore heaven is the due and just stipend, crown, or recompence, which God, by his justice, oweth to the persons so working by his grace.

Again:

It is most clear to all not blinded by pride and contention (say the Rheimish doctors) that good works be meritorious, and the very cause of salvation, so far, that God should be unjust, if he rendered not heaven for the same.

O, how will that poor sinner stand and look his judge in the face on such a foundation as that! And how practically it is carried out!

A gentleman recently gave me a copy of an inscription that he took down from over a mass-house in Ireland; it was to this effect: — Such an individual “Esquire, (I have the name at home) built this house. He died after having so served God, that he not only by his good works satisfied heaven, but he left heaven’s justice debtor to his mercy!” Now this was not in the “dark ages,” but occurred across the Channel, in poor Ireland, a few years ago. And you would have it in Preston, depend upon it, if they could get it as dark as Ireland. But, my friends, whilst Ireland, I rejoice to tell you, is being enlightened, we must never let England be darkened. They have a glorious reformation going on in the sister country.

Let my Lord Fielding and a few such shallow-headed spriglings of nobility — a few ill-taught Aristotelians, rather than sound Bible Christians — let them go over to Rome: we will set off ten thousand good converts in Ireland against them; and the soul of the poorest bogman in that country is as precious as the soul of Doctor Newman or my Lord Fielding. We must convert Popery to Protestantism, and not be afraid to face Rome: that is what must be done. We must no more act upon the cowardly, wretched defensive. I believe that since you have begun to act upon the offensive, the Popish priests in Preston have been very quiet. I hear that they even cut short their course of controversial sermons. Depend upon it, your cowardice is their courage, but your courage is their pusillanimity. If you are attacked by a bullying, impudent cur, and run from him, he will snap at your heels; but if you resist him, he will at once turn tail and make off.

There is one awful doctrine of the Church of Rome that may here be noticed — I don’t know whether you are aware of it — a doctrine that does seem to me to have been suicidal: I refer to the doctrine of intention. On this subject she makes the following declaration:

Whoever shall affirm, that when ministers perform and confer a sacrament, it is not necessary that they should at least have the intention to do what the church does [1] — let him be accursed.

There is not a single Romanist or Romish priest who can prove without doubt, or without the least indistinctness, that there ever was a true Pope — that there ever was a true priest — that there ever was a true bishop — that there ever was a true celebration of the Lord’s Supper — that there ever was a true baptism — that there ever was a true confirmation — that there ever was a true solemnization of matrimony, or that there was any one of their seven sacraments that was ever real or true, and not administered under the penalty of their church’s anathema; because how can she prove the intention of the priest, of the administrator? If she cannot prove that, she is uncertain in her whole fabric and structure, so that from the foundation-stone to the top, it is a poor, rickety, dislocated thing — a mere castle in the air — like the mirage upon the surface of the desert, which looks like a beautiful garden to the traveller when at a distance, yet is nothing but a mere mockery and a picture after all. I cannot conceive anything more suicidal than this doctrine of intention. So long as this continues to be part of the decree of the Council of Trent, every minister of the Romish Church is bound to abide by it.

If there be a Romanist here, I assure you, in all kindness and affection, you have no certainty that you have been rightly baptised; you have no certainty that you have ever received proper absolution; you have no certainty that you will receive proper extreme unction when you die. You have no certainty of anything in your own wretched church. Notwithstanding her profession of infallibility, she has actually shut herself up in the utmost uncertainty, for she makes everything depend on the intention of a poor fallible mortal, who may be thinking of something else, who may be wandering in his thoughts far away from what he is doing; and if so, he destroys the efficacy of the act, for there is no intention in its performance.

But this is not all. The Church of Rome leaves the poor sinner in the hands of the priest. If he sins mortally after baptism, there is no salvation for him without the sacrament of penance. The priest grants absolution for venial sins, but he must appoint certain punishments for those of higher magnitude. Christ is thus represented as forgiving the little, but not the great sins. But what says the word of God? “The blood of Jesus cleanseth from all sin.” (1 John 1:7) Which will you believe — the gospel according to St. John, or the gospel according to Trent? Which will you have — the glorious, all-sufficient efficacy of the blood omnipotent to cleanse, or the wretched, muddy pools from the banks of the Tiber?

But, further, the Church of Rome holds that if a man does not finish out his temporal punishment whilst living, he must go into purgatory when dead. The priest, however, she maintains, can help the poor wretch even in purgatory; if paid money enough, he can quench its fires, unlock the door, and let the poor man safe out again — as if the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the God of the universe had given the keys of heaven and hell into the hands of poor priests, and that for money they could open or shut heaven and hell! God himself does that, “without money and without price.” Christ alone can open heaven; Christ alone can shut the door of hell. All is in Christ’s hands.

Again, the Church of Rome holds that she can grant indulgences; and I will give you a specimen of them. It is very strange that she should hold any of her sons in purgatory, when they can have an indulgence for twelve-pence that would set them free! In the days of Leo the Tenth (about the time when Luther rose), the Pope issued rescripts, declaring that if any man would pay so much for letters of indulgence, he should receive remission of his sins; the money to go towards the erection of St. Peter’s at Rome. If I were to enter that building, magnificent though it be, I should be filled with righteous horror; for almost every pillar of it has been raised by money obtained by fraud, and falsehood, and forgery, and unrighteous and wicked practices on the part of the Papacy. I will give you some specimens of the manner in which the Pope gave these traffickers in holy things authority:

May our Lord Jesus Christ (said the accredited agent of the Pope, when draining the people of their wealth for this object) have mercy upon thee, and absolve thee by the merits of his most holy passion. And I, by his authority, that of his blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and of the most holy Pope, granted and committed to me in these parts, do absolve thee first from all ecclesiastical censures, in whatever manner they have been incurred; and, then, from all thy sins, transgressions, and excesses, how enormous soever they may be; even from such as are reserved for the cognizance of the Holy See; and as far as the Keys of the Holy See extend, I remit to you all punishments which you deserve in purgatory on their account; and I restore you to the holy sacraments of the church, to the unity of the faithful, and to that innocence and purity which you possessed at baptism; so that when you die, the gates of punishment shall be shut, and the gates of the paradise of delight shall be opened; and, if you shall not die at present, this grace shall remain, in full force, when you are at the point of death. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.

Again:

If any man (said the vendors of this blasphemy) purchase letters of indulgence, his soul may rest secure with respect to salvation. The souls confined in purgatory, for whose redemption indulgences are purchased, as soon as the money tinkles in the chest, instantly escape from the place of torment and ascend to heaven.

Did you ever see such a literal fulfillment of that passage in the Book of Revelations which defines the mystic Babylon? She made merchandise of the “souls of men.” The dealers in these indulgences say that “as soon as the money tinkles in the chest,” the souls confined in purgatory for which it is paid instantly escape from the place of torment and “ascend to heaven.” Now I am not quoting from some libeler of the Church of Rome. I am quoting from Robertson’s History of Charles the Fifth, [2} a standard book. Take a few other specimens of the language of these wretched traffickers in holy things:

This is the unspeakable gift of God, in order to reconcile men to himself . . . The cross erected by the preachers of indulgences (a great red crucifix which they carried about) is as efficacious as the cross of Christ itself . . . Lo, the heavens are open; if you enter not now, when will you enter? For twelve-pence you may redeem the soul of your father out of purgatory; and are you so ungrateful, that you will not rescue your parent from torment? If you had but one coat, you ought to strip yourself instantly and sell it, in order to purchase such benefits, etc.

I will now give you the prices of a few of these letters of indulgence. There does not appear to be any settled rule for determining the market price of indulgences; occasionally, however, a graduated scale of charges was presented; and the following quotations from the celebrated Paris edition of the work entitled “The Taxes of the Apostolic Chancery,” will serve in some measure to show the estimate at which the immutable claims of God were sold by those who professed themselves to be the only expounders of his will: — “Absolution for perjury, 9s.”; “Incest, 7s. 6d.”; “Assault on a clergyman without effusion of blood, 10s. 6d.”; “Murder of a layman, 7s. 6d.” Ah, laymen, they sometimes tell you that this question is a clerical question — that you have no interest in it. We say it is a struggle of the laity against the usurping priestcraft of the Church of Rome — that you have all your liberty, your freedom of conscience, and your safety of life at stake. If we on this platform were Popish priests, and if one of you were to strike any of us, though he should not draw blood, he would have to pay 10s. 6d.; whilst if one of your neighbours was to murder you, he must only pay 7s. 6d.; — so that assaulting a priest without drawing blood is worth 3s. more than the murder of a layman. That is Rome’s standard; that is her admeasurement of the elevation of the priesthood over the poor laity. We are your brethren, God forbid that we should seek to be lords over you! You are only required to listen to us as we preach the Bible. That is Protestantism.

Further — “Murder of a father, mother, or wife, 10s. 6d.” Ah, wives, take care: if you get under Romish dominion, your life will be only worth 10s. 6d.! “Eating flesh or white meats in Lent, 10s. 6d.” From this it appears that eating flesh or white meat in Lent is as great a sin as murdering a poor wife, father, or mother! I feel that this may almost pass for ridicule, but it is a grave and solemn fact — a fact proved in history, and which has never been satisfactorily disproved. Though Rome is now more cautious about her indulgences, still she cleaves to them even at the present time. It was only the other day that I saw an indulgence that had been granted in Manchester. It was only lately that the Pope sent over a great many indulgences, when he sent us Dr. Wiseman — I won’t call him “Cardinal”; he is no Cardinal here. And, thank God, Sir Frederick Thesiger’s good amendments on the Papal Aggression Bill will, if carried, go far to remedy this state of things; and if Lord John Russell and his Cabinet are not prepared to entertain those amendments, let them abandon office and appeal to the people of England to send up a Protestant Parliament.

But I have not yet done with the way in which Rome mars and disfigures the gospel. She mars it more by representing the sacrifice of Christ, not as complete and once for all, always and forever taking away the sins of them that believe, but as needing to be repeated again and again, times without number, by poor wretched priests, who pretend to bring down Emmanuel from the throne of the universe, and turn him into a little bread and wine, and then adore and worship him, and then eat their God! They profess that the body, soul, and divinity are eaten by the poor, unhappy individuals, who thus first worship and then consume the Deity! The priest says that whenever he celebrates the Lord’s Supper, he offers up a sacrifice for the living and the dead — that Christ is offered afresh. Can anything be more derogatory, anything more dishonouring to the glory of his person than this?

But this is not all. The Church of Rome dishonours the Saviour, as by destroying the perfection of his sacrifice and the consummation of his atonement, so by altogether darkening and obscuring his glorious compassion, his free grace, his ever-living intercession. Does she point the poor sinner to the living Saviour? Does she say to him — “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”? No, the Romanist is dependent on the priest to the last hour of his life. The church, the Pope, and the priest, fill the whole foreground of their system; Christ must be content to be put behind the scenes. The Church of Rome represents Christ’s intercession and mediation as unapproachable to us. Instead of saying “No man cometh to the Father but through Christ,” she teaches that we must come to Christ by the Virgin Mary, by St. Joseph, by St. Barnabas, by St. Dominic, by St. Andrew, by St. Bartholomew, by St. Thaddeus, by St. Lawrence, by St. Stephen, by St. Gregory, by St. Augustine, by St. Thomas a Becket, and all her dark galaxy of so-called saints. These are our intercessors. Christ is represented as a formidable Saviour, needing to be propitiated and persuaded — nay, entreated and commanded by his mother! The Virgin Mary is more the goddess of the Church of Rome than Christ himself is God. The mother is made the prominent object in the Papal system. The child is hidden, or presented to us, not in the glory even of his manhood, but as a fondled babe in the arms of its mother, who strikes the eye as most assuredly his superior. The mother is ever surrounded with a blaze of glory; the child is sometimes seen with a little halo round his head. If we refer to the Bible, where do we find the Virgin Mary? She disappears. But her song was this — “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God, my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46–47) Thus she acknowledges Christ as her Saviour. Mary is indebted for heaven to her Son as much as any poor sinner that ever entered there. The wretched figment of her immaculate conception is nowhere to be found in the Bible; it is a miserable invention of Rome’s decrepitude and dotage.

What, the mediator need to be mediated with? The merciful High Priest, whose bowels yearn over us, require to be entreated and commanded by his mother to intercede for us? Away with such a wretched, miserable caricature and misrepresentation of the Scriptures of truth! No mother feels for a poor sinner like Jesus. The joy over a repenting sinner begins with Christ on the throne: — “There is joy in the presence of the angels over one sinner that repenteth.” (Luke 15:10)

O, miserable misrepresentation of the merciful Saviour to say that we must have mediators to persuade him to look favourably upon us! Dear Roman Catholic friends and fellow immortals, cast aside your Breviary, and your Missal, and your Litany to the Virgin, and your Garden of the Soul, and all the wretched garbage, and all the miserable and poisonous leaves that have been gathered from the banks of the Tiber, and come to the tree of live itself and gather leaves healthy for your soul. Don’t mention the Virgin Mary or any of the catalogue of saints, but acknowledge one Name, one King, one Mediator, one Saviour — Christ, for all and in all.

My Christian friends, did I then give you a theme that was libelous, that was incapable of proof, that was calumnious, when I gave you, as the theme of my lecture this evening — “The Grace of the Gospel: How Popery Mars It”? Look at it in the original, as we have it given in the Bible: what more bright, more beautiful, more perfect, more divine? Look at it in the wretched caricature, finished by the doctrines of the Council of Trent: see how it is mangled, and blotted, and disfigured, and distorted. They have taken away the Lamb, and where is he laid? They have taken away the foundations of the sinner’s hope. They have taken away the free, living grace of Christ Jesus, and made angels, and saints, and poor sinners more merciful and gracious than “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.”

O, that every Papist would sit down to his Bible, indifferent to the Missal, and the Breviary, and the priest, and everything else, and look to the Spirit of God to be his teacher! A friend of mine lately visited Rome, where he copied from the front of a chapel this inscription: — “Let us go boldly, through the Virgin Mary, to find mercy in time of need.” Here you see illustrated this wretched caricature of the gospel, under the very eye of the Pope.

I received a letter two weeks ago from a highly intelligent man, a gentleman and a scholar, who wrote to this effect: “I was brought up and educated as a Roman Catholic. My family are all Roman Catholics still. Some years ago, I saw such contradiction, such absurdity, such inconsistencies in the system, that I abandoned it altogether, and knowing no better, I became first an infidel and then I became an atheist. But I felt sometimes an awful shuddering and misgiving when I came to reflect upon the matter, and last Sunday I attended your church, though I hated you and believed you anything but that which was good. You preached upon the text — ‘Fear God.’ I then saw what was truth. I discovered that I had mistaken error for truth. I began to reflect and to tremble, and I am now praying to God for his mercy and assistance. I write to express my gratitude to you, and to inform you that I shall be again at your church on next Sunday.” I was from home that Sunday, but I preached last Sunday with a special object to him, from the words addressed by Elisha to Naaman — “Wash and be clean.” I mention this to show you how many there are in the Church of Rome, who, knowing nothing of Christianity, are rejecting Romanism and becoming infidels. If Popery were Christianity, I must reject it; for I never could believe Popery to be the religion of that God of truth who hates a lie — that God of love in whom there is no darkness — that God of love in whom there is no bitterness or hatred, and that God of sovereign grace who is willing to save to the uttermost all such as come to him through Christ. But, thank God, I have no such alternative. I can reject Popery and hold fast by Christianity; and the more I hold fast by one, the more I must be opposed to the other — the more loyal I am to Christ, the more implacable I must be to antichrist.

Let us not be content with Protestantism in name, but let us have Protestantism in deed and in truth. Let us not be content with simply repeating the orthodox creed and the articles of our faith, but let us see that that creed is written on our hearts, and that those articles are the guide of our life. Let us show the poor Romanist the purity of our faith, in the godliness, the integrity, and the consistency of our conduct. Let us show that nothing so ensures purity of life as simple faith in the sovereignty of God through Christ Jesus. If you ask me the cardinal error of the Church of Rome, I should point to the disfigurement of the grace of the gospel, her destruction of justification by faith. This is the master error, this the parent figment from which all others spring up. If she held justification by faith only, there would be no room for will-worship, no room for meritorious acts, no room for priestly authority and power, no room for indulgences, no room for purgatory, no room for all that manufacture of merit that the priest and the people carry on together. The axe would be laid to the root of the upas-tree of Romish superstition and heresy.

Let me show the Romanist how his church contradicts the word of God. I would refer him to the Epistle to the Romans. Ο, I would not wish a Romanist to meet me on any other ground. Here is the doctrine held by the church in the days of the apostles. If you can show me any one of your figments in the Epistle to the Romans — if you can there point out anything about the worship of the Virgin Mary, or bowing down to images, or auricular confession, or purgatory, or manifold mediations, I will become a Romanist tomorrow. But I stand by ancient Rome — not by modern Rome; I stand by the old, and not by the new church. You say yours is the old faith, and that ours is the new; but we reverse that order, and say ours is the old, and yours the new faith. Yours is as new as Trent; ours is as old as Rome — nay, as old as Jerusalem, as old as the promise made in the Garden when man fell; for salvation by grace was the first dawn of heaven’s light on a dark and ruined world. If one should ask you where your religion was before Luther, reply that it was in the Bible. There it was, there it is, and, thank God, there it will be. I rejoice to know that twenty-five thousand copies of the Scriptures have recently been circulated in Rome, and the Pope, with the aid of all his cunning emissaries, has only been able to find out twenty or thirty of them. We used to be too cowardly and courteous in our controversy with Rome.

Now speaking of her faith, we say to her boldly, yours is a poor, miserable upstart, half-grown creature. Ours is a venerable, hoary-headed faith — a faith that was held by the goodly fellowship of the prophets; that was sealed by the noble army of martyrs; that was proclaimed and triumphed in by the glorious company of the apostles; that is resounded in heaven by myriads of angelic voices: “Salvation to him that sitteth upon the throne and to the Lamb forever and ever” — a faith that will wake the songs and call forth the echoes of eternity in praising salvation through the blood of the Lamb.

Let me here give you a reason for our anxiety at the present crisis. If Popish power only endangered our civil liberties, we might sit down with it and rest comparatively quiet; but if Popery got political power in England, adieu to spiritual liberty! She would take away the Bible if she could; she would deprive us of our simple sacraments, and substitute her own; and she would set up her Inquisition — that merciless tribunal whose dread fiat consigned so many holy men to the dungeons of Rome, and doomed them to an appalling death in days gone by — men whose souls cry out for vengeance on that apostate church. Romanists! Escape for your lives! Tarry not in that doomed city! Listen to the warning voice of God — “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.” (Rev. 18:4) Believe me, our great struggle is to protect our right, the freedom of preaching the gospel and of holding the truth. What did an honest Romanist lately say in Parliament? I allude to Lord Arundel and Surrey. He said, “Popery and Protestantism were antagonistic, so that one or the other must be crushed.” Popery will destroy us, if we don’t keep Popery under. We don’t want to crush her: we want rather to convert her poor victims. We will give her the liberty of conscience that she would not give us.

Look, for instance, at the new Constitution of Spain, where no religion is to be tolerated but Romanism! O, Rome, you bleat like a lamb in the British House of Commons; but you roar like a lion in poor Italy! She shows one side of her face to cheat unwary Protestants, and the other she turns to her poor slaves across the channel. Popery, what a wretched, hybrid, piebald thing it is! Like the chameleon, she is ever changing and yet pretends to be unchangeable. Now she is green, now black, now white; but if you get her into a true light, you will find her a dirty brown after all. Believe not her fond pretensions to liberalism. We are the liberals; we are the free men; we give them free liberty to worship God as they like. But we won’t give them civil power to carve up our country at the will of the Pope. We won’t give them freedom to take away our freedom. We won’t put a sword into their hands with which to aim a blow at ourselves. Old England is Protestant, and she shall be Protestant!

Yes, fellow Protestants, they told us the good spirit of Protestantism would soon be calmed down, but it is rising higher and higher in Old England. We will echo it from the pulpit, and re-echo it from the platform. It shall be heard in the domestic circle — it shall be heard on the steam-boat deck — it shall be heard in the railway carriage — it shall be heard on the hustings when we have an election. It shall be heard in St. Stephen’s — it shall be heard in the cabinet — it shall be heard by Popish Europe — it shall be heard by the civilized world, that England is Protestant, and, by the grace of God, Protestant she shall remain.

Thank God, I am not very much alarmed at these efforts of Pio Nono. I believe they are his expiring efforts on behalf of his church. I believe that Popery is playing her last part. I believe she has cast her great stake into a lottery, and that she will find her card come out a blank. I was reading some time ago an account of travels on the Alps, and mention was made of one of the ladies of the party having a favourite spaniel lap-dog, which she took about with her like a child, as some silly ladies do. One day the animal fell to the bottom of a fearful chasm, and the feelings of the lady were agonized as though it had been a child. On looking over the precipice, she exclaimed, “O, send one of the guides round, for I believe the dog is still alive: his tail and his legs are shaking!” “Ah!” said a medical man who formed one of the party; “the worst indication possible: it shows that life has left the head and got to the extremities; it is the convulsive, spasmodic shake that ushers in death.” Now I believe that Popery is like the poor lap-dog. I believe it has fallen down a precipice, because Protestantism has made it fall down by the power of light and truth. I am sure that life has left the heart of Rome, for it is dead enough there; and I am sure it seems to have left the head of the Pope, for he does not seem to know what to do. He is like a man in a dream — now a liberal, and now a despot, and appears to be in a state of dotage and superannuation. We may say, therefore, that all wisdom has gone from the head; but there is still a little life in the extremities. The tail and the legs have been wagging over Ireland; they have been shaking a good deal in Spain; and, strange to say, they are trembling amongst our Puseyites in England. But after all, I believe these are the convulsive struggles of the beast, and not signs of its vitality: it is struggling in the agony of its approaching dissolution.

Whilst I would not have poor Papists lost — and would to God that they would come to Christ and be saved! — I tell you what I wish to the system: I wish from my heart Popery may be destroyed, and the sooner the better; — for I believe that when the kingdom of the beast shall have her death-knell rung, the birth chime of the coming day of earth’s regeneration will be the echo and the answer to that sound — when it shall be cried in heaven, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen,” there shall be a counter cry, “Jerusalem is risen, is risen, and the kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our God and of his Christ.”

On the motion of the Rev, T. Clark, seconded by the Rev. S. F. Page, a cordial vote of thanks was presented to the lecturer for his excellent address, and the evening’s proceedings closed by singing the Doxology.

Notes

[1] “Representing, as he does, in the discharge of his sacred functions, not his own, but the person of Christ, the minister of the sacraments, be he good or bad, validly consecrates and confers the sacraments, provided he make use of the matter and form instituted by Christ, and always observed in the Catholic Church, and intends to do what the church does in their administration.” (Pius V, The Catechism of the Council of Trent, translated by Rev. J. Donovan [New York: Catholic Publication Society, 1829], 108) (Editor)

[2] William Robertson, The History of Charles V (Paris: Foreign Library, 1828) (Editor)