Should Protestantism Be Liquidated?
I want to read from the second chapter of the epistle to the Galatians, beginning with verse 11:
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face,” (Now the apostle Paul is speaking and he is speaking of a protest that he made to a fellow apostle, the apostle Peter)
“But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.
“For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.
“And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.
“But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?
“We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles, knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.”
What “Protestant” Means
As announced, I want to try to speak to you tonight on the subject, “Should Protestantism Be Liquidated?” That term Protestantism is often used in a very loose and careless way. It is perfectly true that in the beginning it bore not only a religious but also a political significance. But we need to remember that in the times when the Protestant movement was first brought into being, church and state were very intimately connected in every European country so that it was almost impossible to protest against anything of a religious character without at the same time making a protest concerning things political. Evangelical believers were first designated Protestants in the year 1529 after a formal protestation had been handed in at what was called the Diet of Spires, when a great company of ecclesiastics met together to consider the Lutheran movement and what their attitude should be toward it, and a number of the German princes and the representatives of fourteen different cities entered a protest to the Diet when they refused to consider the liberty of any German principality to rid themselves completely of Romanism and endorse the new evangelical program if they so desired. The Diet of Spires held that the mass must be everywhere recognized and that no German principality should be permitted any other form of religious service than that of the Roman Catholic except the few which had already become what we today call Protestant. They themselves were simply called evangelicals. But after putting in this protest, the name Protestant was applied largely by the Roman Catholic adversaries to the evangelical group. Eventually, however, they took it over for themselves for they felt there was something in the name which was worth preserving. They were protesting against certain great doctrinal principles and certain practices which they honestly believed to be contrary to the Word of God.
Protestantism Arose Because People Longed To Have Assurance Of Salvation
Now Protestants accept, and always have accepted, all the great fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith which were preserved in the Roman church down through the centuries as well as in the churches of the East. Protestants hold to the doctrine of the Trinity, to the incarnation of the Son of God, to the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ, to His physical resurrection to His Ascension to God’s right hand in Heaven, and to the fact that He is coming again as Judge of the quick and of the dead. In these doctrines Protestants and Catholics so-called are in unanimity. We who are called Protestants have nothing new to offer as to them. We maintain what the church has maintained all down through the centuries. How, then, did the cleavage between the old church and the newer group come in? It was not the result, as some supposed of the political upheavals in Europe, though these did come in connection with it; but it was the result of a wide-spread exercise among the common people of Germany, France, Switzerland, Holland, and the Scandinavian countries as to how a troubled conscience could find pardon and peace and become sure of personal salvation.
Now I am not saying anything unkind in regard to our Roman Catholic friends or their views when I remark that there is no certainty of eventual salvation for anybody in the Roman Catholic church as long as he is in this life. For instance, when I was in Rome some time ago, I found they were still celebrating masses for the repose of the soul of Pope Leo XIII. Now Leo died a good many years ago. Many of us here who are middle-aged or older remember when he passed away. Nobody in the church of Rome knows today whether Pope Leo XIII is in Heaven, in hell, or in purgatory, but they hope that he has at least gotten as far as purgatory. Masses are still being offered in the thought of getting him out of purgatory and eventually getting him into Heaven. That is not a singular thing. Rome promises no assurance of salvation to anybody in this life.
In the little paper, Our Sunday Visitor, published by Bishop Noll, in the April 23 issue, 1939, are found these words: “We do not know with certainty what the eternal destiny of any individual may be unless he is canonized by the church.”
Of course, no individual is canonized by the church until he has been at least one hundred years dead so that what I said in the beginning is true. Rome gives no assurance of personal salvation to anybody while he is still in this life.
You can take the history of a good Catholic,—and I have great respect for my Catholic friends and I would not want to say one unkind thing about them, but they, of course if they were speaking of my views, would feel free to point out what they thought was erroneous in them, and I feel free to do the same thing in regard to their views. But you take a person born into a good Catholic family. As a child, he is baptized and his baptism is supposed to deliver from the defilement of inbred sin. After the little child has been baptized, suppose it should suddenly die and I ask, “Has that little child gone to Heaven?” Nobody can tell me. Nobody knows for certain. But if he grows up, he is instructed in the teachings of the church and when he comes to the proper age and shows an understanding of the instruction received, he receives his first communion, having been confirmed into the membership of the church. He comes home from the first communion happy to have had that wonderful privilege. But I say to the officiating priest or I say to the parents, “Are you absolutely certain now that this dear child is saved, saved for eternity?” “No, nobody can be sure of that.”
What then? Well, the child is now called upon to persevere in good works, to be sure and make a good confession whenever he is conscious of having sinned, to do the prescribed penance put upon him by the father confessor, to attend every church service he possibly can, and above everything else, to be present at Easter time. And as he grows up from boyhood to young manhood and does all this, is he eventually certain of salvation? I have put the question definitely, I have often put it to Roman Catholic priests with whom I have been in conversation. I remember one answering me in the words of the Roman Catholic translation of the book of Ecclesiastes, “No man knoweth whether he is worthy of favor or hatred.”
Well, suppose this person perseveres all through life. He is very faithful in walking according to the ordinances of the church. He is very regular in attending the sacrifices of the mass, receives the communion as frequently as he possibly can. Is he then sure of salvation? No, he is still left in absolute uncertainty. Perhaps he enters into the marriage relation. Marriage is called a sacrament and is recognized as lasting as life itself and this person observes the rules of the church in everything in regard to marriage and finally at old age, a father or mother having carried out all that was laid before them as to church order and regulation, I put the question, “Is this person saved? Are you certain now that this person will spend eternity in Heaven?” “No, no, nobody can be sure.”
Finally this one comes down to death and a kindly, well-meaning priest is sent for and he gives the last rites of the church and perhaps lays a crucifix upon the breast of the departing one and this one breathes his last and goes out into eternity and I turn to the officiating priest and say, “You are sure, aren’t you, that this dear one has gone to Heaven?” “No one can tell, nobody knows. Very few people in the hour of death are good enough for Heaven. Many are too good for Hell but too bad for Heaven and so there is a state called purgatory in which they enter in order to be eventually cleansed and friends are asked to pay for masses for their souls in order that they may pass from purgatory to Heaven.”
I have before me a little paper. It is a parish paper from one of the churches of this city, I won’t mention which one but I notice a little item in it of striking importance. It says here: “You are often wondering to whom to make a gift, and what to give….But have you ever thought of sending a gift to the Poor Souls, to your friends and relatives still held captive in Purgatory? And yet, they are craving for something you can give to them: the soothing drops of Christ’s precious Blood to extinguish the cleansing flames. This year, be resolved to include your beloved dead when you prepare your Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts. Have for them MEMBERSHIPS in the EUCHARISTIC WEEKS ASSOCIATION. There is no gambling, no insecurity, no loss in the investment we propose. The SHARES offered are drawn from the Eucharistic Treasury. Christ, the King, is the Backer: His Sacred Heart is inexhaustible, His generosity is infinite….The SHARES are the Poor Souls. Some of them are probably your actual creditors. They can do nothing to redeem themselves. Unless you pay off their debts of sin to God, they may have to stay a long time in the fiery prison…”
Now listen, I did not write that. No Protestant critic of the church of Rome wrote that. That is a statement in the parish paper, put out by a local priest, urging his friends, his members, his parishioners to do what they can, give of their money for masses in order as he puts it in so many words, to redeem the Poor Souls in Purgatory.
Well, after masses have been offered for years, then I turn to the officiating priest as he comes down from the altar and I say, “Now are these souls redeemed from Purgatory? Are they in Heaven at last?” He says, “No one knows, no one can know.” That was the best that the church of the Middle Ages was able to give to anxious, troubled, conscientious, distressed men and women who were facing eternity. And they said, “We want assurance, we want to know for certain how a man may find peace with God; we want to know how one may be sure that his sins are forgiven, that he has life eternal, that he has been freed from guilt and that he is certain of going to be with God in Heaven when death takes him from this world.”
It was the attempt to answer those questions from the Word of God that resulted in what has been called Protestantism. And there is as much need for the testimony that was given back in the sixteenth century in regard to those questions today as there was then.
Protestantism Insists That Each Individual Must Come To God Directly Through Faith In Christ, The One Mediator, Not Through Priests, [The] Pope, Mary, Nor The Church
What were the great doctrines that the Protestants affirmed and for which they have sought to stand throughout the centuries?
First of all the soul’s direct relation with Christ Himself. In other words, Luther, Calvin, Ecolampadius, all the great reformers, Wm. Farel and many others, some of whom laid down their very lives for the truth’s sake insisted on this, that the statement of Scripture as given in the First epistle of Timothy, the second chapter, verses 5–6 be taken exactly as it stands. “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus: who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.”
How can any one, in the face of a Scripture like that, any one who professes to believe that this blessed Book is the Word of the living God, believe in Mary or the saints as mediators? And mark you our Roman Catholic friends profess to believe just as truly as we Protestants do, that this Book is the Word of the living God. They insist on it. We honor them for it. We insist on it, too. But they tell us we can only understand the Word as we read it in the light of the teachings of the church, but we turn to the Word and read this to them, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches.” It does not say, “Let him hear what the church says to him,” but “What the Spirit saith unto the churches.” God’s Word is addressed to the churches of God and the churches of God are responsible to hear what is written in this Book.
One of the first fundamental statements is that which I quoted, “There is one mediator,” only one, “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all.” And therefore we, as Protestants insist that each individual soul is responsible to God and must deal directly with our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. We search our New Testament in vain to find any intervening priestly class coming in between believers and the blessed Son of God Himself. There is not a shred of evidence in the New Testament that there was ever such a person as an officiating priest in the early church. There is no such word used. There is no such individual mentioned. But on the other hand, all believers are called priests and that by the blessed apostle Peter himself. Catholics tell us that Peter was the first pope, and that the pope speaks “ex cathedra,” with absolute authority. And the apostle Peter, addressing all believers, calls them “a holy priesthood” and also, “a royal priesthood.” But Peter does not know anything, Paul does not know anything, no other New Testament writer knows anything of an intermediary class coming in between people and God. Christ is the one mediator between God and man; not Christ’s blessed mother, precious and wonderful as her life was. When our blessed Lord was here on Earth, as He was on His way to the cross an excited, emotional woman shouted out, “Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked,” that is, “Blessed be your mother,” and Jesus said, “Rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.” He would not have anybody glorifying His mother and turning away from Himself. He alone is the mediator between God and men. There is no other.
The last recorded mention that we have of the mother of our Jesus Christ in the Bible is in the first chapter of the book of Acts and there we read that the disciples were gathered together for prayer in an upper room in Jerusalem with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with the women, the holy, godly women. Notice, they were not praying to Mary; they were praying with Mary. She knelt with them as on one common level, and together their prayers were going up to the Lord. That is the last mention of Mary, the mother of our Lord in the Word of God. There is not another passage that refers to her in all the New Testament after that time. I know, of course, the application that is often made of that mystic woman in the twelfth chapter of Revelation, the woman who has a crown of twelve stars upon her head, the moon under her feet, and clothed with the sun, but as you study that, it would take a strange imagination to make that refer to the blessed virgin Mary. It refers clearly to the people of Israel. It is God’s marvelous picture of the people, Israel, of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God, blessed for ever.
Shall we then as Protestants give up the great truth that we go to God directly through His Son? We can not afford to do it. We dare not do it. We have found such joy, we have found such peace, we have found such blessed assurance in coming to Christ direct that we could not think of turning to any other, neither His mother, nor saints, nor a priesthood on Earth. We will put no mediator between our souls and God save our blessed Lord Jesus Christ.
Protestants Accept The Bible Alone As The Divine Revelation Of God’s Will, Not Church Traditions Or Decrees Of Church Councils Or Of Popes
As Protestants, we stand on the Bible. The Romanist says, “Well, the Bible can only be understood in the light of the teachings of the church.” But we maintain that God gave the Bible in order to instruct the church. He gave it through holy, inspired men in order to show the church how to behave and to make clear to them what the truth of God really is. Letter after letter in this New Testament is addressed to one or another of the different churches. There is a letter to the church in Rome, two letters to the church in Corinth, a letter to the churches in Galatia, a letter to the church in Ephesus and so on. These messages to the churches contain the truth that we as Christians need to know and we take our stand upon the statement of Chillingsworth of old in the sixteenth century who when he was challenged as to the ground of authority as recognized by Protestants said this, “The Bible, the whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, is the religion of Protestants.” We dare to stand on that. And we are sure of this, that God’s Word will never fail us because it comes from Him who is immutable.
We are told in 2 Timothy 3:16–17, “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.” Observe the Word of God; the Scripture, is profitable for four things: “for doctrine”—for the unfolding of the divine truth; “for reproof”—to show where we are wrong; “for correction”—to show us how to get right; “for instruction in righteousness”—to show us how to keep right. And as we give heed to the holy Scripture, not to the teaching of some body of men, however sacred their office may seem to be; as we give heed to the holy Scripture we may “become perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
Evangelicals Believe Christ Was Sacrificed Once For All, And Need Never Be Offered Again
Perhaps the greatest cleavage between the Roman church and the evangelicals is that in connection with the sacrificial work of our Lord Jesus Christ. Both, as I have said, believe in His atoning work, both believe that He offered Himself on the cross for sinners, but the great difference between the two is this: the one believes that although He offered Himself there on the cross for sinners, this is not enough to save souls, but there must be a continual unbloody sacrifice offered on Rome’s altars day in and day out, year after year for the sins of the living and of the dead and that only as men avail themselves of this constant sacrificing of Christ in the mass can they have some hope of eventual salvation: hope, not assurance, because as I have said, nothing is known of assurance there.
But now I turn to the Word of God and what do I read? This is Hebrews 9:24–26,
“For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; for then must he often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.”
What does that tell us? It tells us this, that Christ’s one offering on Calvary’s cross is all-sufficient to settle the sin question, that nothing can ever be added to it, nothing can ever be taken from it. It is not necessary that He should offer Himself often.
I was having a friendly talk with a priest in Santa Barbara, California. He had come out of the monastery. Talking to him, I said, “Now listen, you officiate at the altar, at the sacrifices of the mass?”
“And you affirm that when you officiate that you offer up Christ for the sins of the living and the dead. Is that true?”
“Our Bible says, ‘Without shedding of blood there is no remission.’ Do you believe that when you thus offer Him, it gives more efficacy to His blood?”
“But it means, then, that you yourself immolate Him, you kill Christ afresh.”
“Oh, no,” he said. “It isn’t that exactly. Christ is both offerer and sacrifice and in the person of the priest He offers Himself in the mass every time that sacrifice takes place.”
“Well, then,” I said, “explain this: ‘Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others’” (Hebrews 9:25).
He looked at me a moment and he said, “Well, I don’t think we had better discuss it,” and he walked away.
There is God’s own word for it, that there is no other offering, no other sacrifice contemplated, no other atonement for sins possible. The one offering of the Lord Jesus has settled the sin question forever.
Salvation By Faith—The Watchword Of The Reformation
The great text of the Protestant Reformation was that which is found in the Old Testament, in the book of Habakkuk and three times in the New Testament as though to draw special attention to it; in the Epistle to the Romans, in the Epistle to the Galatians, and in the Epistle to the Hebrews—“The just shall live by faith.” That text I might say was the mainspring of the Reformation and it is the great truth that we are seeking to stress today, and we need to stress as long as there is a poor sinner seeking salvation. “The just shall live by faith,” “By the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight.” Paul said, speaking in the synagogue at Antioch of Pisidia, “Be it known unto you therefore, men and brethren, that through this man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins: and by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38–39). Look at that. Through personal faith in the Lord Jesus one may be assured that his sins have all been forgiven and that he stands justified before God.
What is justification? It is the sentence of the judge in favor of the prisoner. And when man, a guilty sinner, comes before God and confesses his sin and puts his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ, God says this man is justified. “Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God” (Romans 8:34). God will not hear one charge against the man who has put his trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
These are the great outstanding truths for which thousands upon thousands of men and women and even little children actually laid down their lives; and these are the truths for which Bible Protestantism stands today.
Should Protestantism be liquidated? Liquidated? That would mean throwing overboard all these precious truths! It would mean turning away from the simple Word of God, and putting our faith in the statements of men as fallible as ourselves. It would mean ignoring the one Mediator, the Lord Jesus Christ, and turning to lesser mediators. It would mean refusing to believe that by one offering He has perfected forever them that are sanctified, and instead seeking salvation through many offerings that can never put away sin. It would mean endeavoring to save ourselves by works of righteousness that we might do, by human merit, by deeds of kindness, by charity, by reformation of life, by prayers and supplications, by penances. And the Scripture declares that all these are but as dead works from which we have to turn in order that we may be saved by grace. Someone may say, “But don’t you believe in charity, don’t you believe in alms-giving, don’t you believe in reformation of life, don’t you believe in good works, in penitence for sin?” Yes, we believe in them all, but not as having anything to do with the salvation of our souls but rather the results, the effects of that salvation wrought in us by the Holy Ghost when we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.
“I would not work my soul to save,
That work my Lord has done:
But I would work like any slave
For love to God’s dear Son.”
The Joy Of Resting On Christ’s Finished Work
So I stand before you tonight a confessed and convinced Protestant and yet with a heart, I trust, filled with love for all my brethren who do not see as I see. I have no unkind thought for my friends in the Roman Catholic group or any other great groups who do not see these things. From the depths of my heart I long that they may be brought into the same joy and the same assurance that I have myself; for there is the wonderful thing about it; when you rest in the Word of God, you have absolute confidence. I have stood sometimes at the brink of the grave and I have watched many a Christian slip away into Eternity and I have never known one who did not bear witness that all was well. And as they bade goodbye to friends on Earth, they had the assurance that they were going out to be forever with the Lord. John Wesley said when people were criticizing his followers, “Well, the wonderful thing about Methodists is that they die well.” And that is a great testimony. When one has risked everything on the finished work of the Lord Jesus Christ, and then he comes down to facing eternity, there is no fear, there is no dread, nothing but perfect rest and joy and assurance based upon the work of Christ.
As a dear man was dying he looked up and somebody said, “Well, is it all right with you?” He said, “Yes, it is finished. Upon that I can hang my whole eternity.” What did he mean? Christ on the cross finished the work that saves and he could risk his all on that, and he knew that all would be well forevermore.
“Upon a life I did not live,
Upon a death I did not die:
Another’s life, another’s death,
I hang my whole eternity.”
If Christ fails me, then everything is lost. But if Jesus Christ abides, if He is the same yesterday, today and forever, then everything is well for eternity for God in grace links up with Him all who put their trust in Him. I would not want to be without Him. I would not turn from Him to any church or any sacramental observances, to any ritualistic services, to any efforts of my own. I would not turn from Christ to trust in anything that might be presented for I find absolute satisfaction in Him. He has met every need of my soul and He has settled the sin question to the divine satisfaction. No, we will not attempt to liquidate Protestantism. We will go on preaching, in love and in the power of the Holy Ghost, as the Lord enables us, the blessed realities that were recovered for us at the glorious Reformation through which all the centuries since, millions of people have found the full assurance of faith, and millions before the Reformation knew and trusted Christ alone and would not rest on church or sacraments for salvation. We stand today for these same precious things, and by the grace of God, we will proclaim them as long as He gives life and strength.