Familiar Conversations on Romanism

Third Conversation

The Word of God and the Church

J. N. Darby.

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N*. Well, James, you expect M., as it was arranged.

James. Yes, sir; he will be here, no doubt, directly. Pray sit down, sir.

N*. Thank you. How are you getting on?

James. I find my spirit happy and at peace. I enjoy the word now with Mary and the children. I feel I am very weak, but I am conscious that my peace rests on Christ's perfect work, and as to the certainty of it, on God's own word; while I enjoy it within in my own soul. It makes me wonderfully happy, for I see it all flowing from God's blessed love. I know He loves me, unworthy as I am, but then, I have no difficulty in believing it because of Christ. I hope I may be able to glorify Him through His grace.

N*. The Lord be praised, James; and this is but the earnest of a more perfect enjoyment still of what now we know in part and see through a glass darkly. Our present Christian joys have the stamp of eternity on them.

James. Yes, sir; poor as our feelings are, we know that what makes us happy now will make us still more happy for ever. We shall know then better what gives us our joy now. But He who has brought me to peace is the one who loves me, and whom I hope to see in glory.

N*. And did your mind get clear the last time as to purgatory?

James. It could not but be clear when once one knows Christ's precious blood cleanses from all sin. I had no thought that they had such strange notions that so deny Christ's work. It is dreadful. I did not understand all about the Fathers, but what sets the soul clear is the knowledge of Christ and His grace. I was thinking since, sir (though there is nothing about purgatory in it), how the beautiful parable of the prodigal son sets all thoughts of it aside — how that parable would prevent one who really knew the grace of it from ever thinking of such a thing. However could the Father, when the poor prodigal had all his rags off and the best robe on, that is, Christ Himself, put him in purgatory after? It is like putting Christ Himself there. And then I see plainly that once I leave this world I have not the flesh at all, so that I do not know what is to be purged away. Here, where I have it, I can be exercised and sifted and tried, and for my good, because the flesh is still here in me.

2 N*. You are quite right, James. It is a complete confusion between penal suffering and purifying. If it be really purifying, it is a cruel thing to get it shortened by indulgences. If it be penal, it is contrary to all the testimony of the gospel

James. What are indulgences?

N*. They are decrees of the pope, by which, in virtue of the merits of Christ and the saints, he delivers souls in purgatory from a part or all of the punishment they have to go through.

Mrs. J. Dear, who would have thought of such things? Why, it is not Christianity at all, sir.

N*. Surely it is not. I dare say we shall get upon this subject before we have done. It was the immediate occasion of the Reformation. They sold them in the most shameful or shameless way to get money to build St. Peter's, the magnificent cathedral at Rome.

As to the Fathers, James, you have no need to think of them. They are no authority for anything, and indeed contradict each other continually like other men: only there was more superstition and ignorance in them than in most cultivated persons now, with real piety in some; as to others, it is very doubtful if they had any. I have referred to them because it was necessary to meet what was alleged. And now that their doubts and contradictions are shewn, we may dismiss them without passion and without fear. They have indeed been altered, and passages cast out by the Roman Catholics, but not so as much to affect such a mass of writings. But Rome has what is called an index expurgatory, by which some books are prohibited, and others are directed to be printed without such a passage, or changing it, or the like, when any passage militates against the doctrines of the Roman system. And this has been done.

James. Dear, what a crafty system!

N*. It is a system little known. They have published a kind of imitation of the Psalms, one hundred and fifty of them in number, just like the Psalms, and with a general resemblance, but have put the Virgin Mary instead of the Lord.

3 Mrs. J. What wickedness! It is all planned so. I am glad, James, you knew what it was before you got drawn in.

James. So am I, I am sure; it is a mercy to be kept from it in any way, but more still when it is by knowing the grace of God, which makes me see not only that there are wrong things, but that the foundation of their whole system is wrong. They do not build on grace and redemption, but on man and works. That I see plainly. But here is M. Good day, Bill, sit down.

N*. Good day, M. We have waited to go on with the subject proposed till you came. We are to speak of the word of God and of the church. We can still take Milner, who, in a brief way, will say all that is to be said.

M. Yes, we must seek the right rule of faith, and that is the written and unwritten word, the church being the interpreter and judge. We must have a living judge of controversy, or there is no end to disputes.

N*. The thing to be ultimately judged is not doctrines, my good friend, but souls. And the difference is most serious. I am not going to avoid the other question, that is, the means of discovering the truth; but while you profess to have the true church where alone salvation is, you have people in crowds who are lost, and none who know whether they are saved after all. But when you speak of judging what is the truth, your principle is wholly false. God does not judge of truth; He reveals it. Man is not to judge of truth, but, if God has revealed, he is bound on his peril to receive it. Men will be judged according to the truth they have before them. They that have sinned without law shall perish without law, and they that have sinned under law shall be judged by the law. If they have rejected Christ, they are still more guilty. The Holy Ghost was to convict the world of sin, because they had not believed in Him, and if they did not, they would die in their sins. If they do believe from the heart, they are saved, at least if God's declaration is to be believed.

M. "Saved?" you mean hope to be saved.

N*. I do not, they are not yet out of trial and temptation, but they are reconciled to God, have peace with Him. As scripture speaks: — He has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our own works, but according to His own purpose and grace; 2 Tim. 1:9. So Titus 3:5; but according to His mercy He saved us by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Ghost, which He shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour. They have eternal life.

4 M. That is, they hope to have it.

N*. Not at all. Of course, in all its fulness and glory they have not got it yet. But the scripture says, "This is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He that hath the Son hath life: and he that hath not the Son hath not life." Again, John the baptist says, "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life, and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abideth on him." What proves the Roman Catholic system to be so utterly false is that it teaches men as if the grace of God had not brought salvation at all. Men are just where they were if there was no Christ; they have to make their peace with God, whereas Christ has made peace by the blood of His cross. According to Romanism they have to gain eternal life, as the law required, "Do this, and thou shalt live." Christianity says he that hath the Son hath life.

M. And must not a man work to get life?

N*. Surely not. How can he work if he has not got it? He believes on Christ as a poor sinner, and has life in Him; and then works to serve God and glorify Him, and grow on in the life he has got. "He that heareth my words, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life," says Christ. Nothing is more false than supposing that no good works can be done unless we are to gain life by them; I should say none can be done till we have life. Do angels do good works?

M. Yes, of course they do.

N*. Do they do it to gain heaven?

M. Well, no, they are in heaven.

N*. What do they do it for, then?

M. Why, they are blessed things, they do nothing else.

N*. Well, M., we can hardly say we do nothing else, but as to the motive it shews that there is another way of doing right besides gaining life and heaven by it.

Besides, all real duties and right affections flow from the relationships we are already in. I mean this. If you were my servant it would be your duty to act and feel as such. James' children's duties and their right feelings flow from their being his children, and living in the consciousness that they are so. They have not, cannot have, such towards you and me, because they are not our children. So with a wife and every relation of life. Now, we must be really children of God before the duties of children can apply to us, and before we can have the affections suited to that place. We are children of God by faith in Christ Jesus, and our duties and right affections flow from this — can have no existence till we are in that relation. We have never to work to get into any true living relationship, for the duties cannot exist till we are in it; indeed, it is not possible in the nature of things. The Christian has duties, and has to cultivate holy affections, but it is because he is a child of God, and knows it. For he can have neither the feeling nor the conscience of his duty as a child till he knows he is such. We have difficulties and temptations to overcome, and God does encourage us by the reward of glory, the crown of life; but He never tells us to gain life by our works: the law, if indeed this can be said, does. But we are all condemned on that ground, because we have not kept it. The gift of God is eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord. What are good works, M.?

5 M. Well, I suppose, works done purely out of love to God and our neighbour.

N*. Then you never can do any according to your system, because you do them to gain eternal life, to merit heaven for yourself.

M. But you would look for something above human nature.

N*. Surely I should; I look for grace — grace and life from Jesus Christ working within. He has saved by His death. The Roman Catholic system is (not theoretically perhaps, but practically) the deadly heresy of Pelagianism.

James. What is that, sir?

N*. Believing that there is strength in man to do good and merit life by his works. And though they talk of grace, it is practically man's own efforts; there may be sacramental grace referred to, but no personal practical dependence on grace. The Roman Catholic system hides it under hard words, and distinguishes between grace of condignity, that is, what a man sufficiently deserves — merit in which the works deserve a reward for their own worth; and grace of congruity, what fits a man to receive, though he be not worthy in the way of merit; but, in point of fact, a man merits eternal life by his own doings and efforts, which in principle and substance and verity is Pelagianism. Christ delivered the Old Testament saints, they say, out of limbo, and set us to keep the new law.

6 James. Well, I am sure I never had merit, or fitness, or anything, unless as a poor sinner is fit for grace, because he is one and wants it.

N*. But tell me, M. You believe that life is given, and pardon too, in baptism, do you not?

M. Surely I do.

N*. Very well, according to Rome we are born of God in it, — and have remission of sin, original and all actual sins, if we have committed any. It cleanses from sin, makes us Christians and children of God. We are born of water and of the Spirit, and what a child has contracted by generation is cleansed by regeneration.*

{*Any authorised Romish catechism on the baptismal service may be consulted, or Cat. Conc. Trid. 42; and Conc. Trid. 5, 4, for the last words of the sentence. The Roman doctrine on baptism speaks very little of giving life in it; much more of taking away sin, original and actual, and insists on taking it away, not removing imputation only, adding that concupiscence which does remain is not properly sin, as Cat. Conc. Trid. on Baptism 43. It teaches it, however, distinctly, not only in the term made children of God, in every catechism and the baptism service, but very definitely also Cat. Conc. Trid. (Lord's Prayer) sect. 10. It is altogether remarkable how very little is said of life in authorised Romish teaching. Eternal life is wholly in the future, Cat. Conc. Trid. (on the Creed), art. 12. They are replenished with divine grace, a divine quality. See on Baptism 50, and Cat. Conc. Trid. 6, 7, where hope and charity must be added to have eternal life. However, they are said to be born again, made children of God, and incorporated in Christ by baptism.}

And it never can be repeated.

M. Never.*

{*Conc. Trid. Sess. 7, 9; Cat. Conc. Trid. 54.}

N*. Then they have received life?

M. Of course, they are regenerated by water and the Holy Ghost.

N*. Do you think any other sacrament confers life?

M. None.

N*. So again Rome teaches, We may lose grace but not faith, and it is true faith, though it be not living faith (Council of Trent, 6, 28, 54, cap. 15, 46). The character imprinted by baptism can never be lost.

Note, then, if divine life be lost, it never can be had again. And if life be not lost when man dies in mortal sin, a man may go to hell and yet have faith, as born of God — only no grace.

7 M. But life is lost by mortal sin, but there is the sacrament of penance to restore grace.

N*. T know you hold that. But a man is not born again by the sacrament of penance; so that if he has lost life, he is ruined for ever, for he cannot be baptized again; or he must have the life still, though he have lost grace — a very strange notion if it be the life of Christ; but quite consistent with going to hell in mortal sin though having faith. But this is what is taught in the Council of Trent.*

{*There is a strange and startling anomaly on the point of mortal sin, surely a very grave one, of which Irish catechisms furnish an example. Each gives a catalogue of deadly or mortal sins, but they are different. One is by the Right Rev. Dr. Plunket, thirteenth edition, Dublin, 1827. How many are the chief kinds of mortal sin? Seven, called capital sins. Which are the seven capital sins? Pride, covetousness, luxury, anger, gluttony, envy and sloth. The other is by the Most Rev. Dr. Reilly, Dublin, 1827. Both are printed by the same printer, Wogan. How many capital or deadly sins? Seven: pride, covetousness, lust, gluttony, envy, anger, sloth. So in two dioceses in Ireland, the sins which would take a man to hell and kill his soul were different.}

But the matter really stands thus: The doctrine of catechisms and every Roman authority tell us that mortal sin, as the word indeed implies, is the death of the soul, deprives the soul of life or sanctifying grace which is the life of the soul. I take the words of one of many catechisms, "Why is it called mortal? Because it kills the soul, by depriving it of its true life which is sanctifying grace, and because it brings everlasting death and damnation on the soul." Another, "By destroying the life of the soul, which is the grace of God." Another, "that which killeth the soul in a spiritual manner, because it deprives us of the grace of God, which is the spiritual life of the soul." The two first are American, sanctioned each by a different prelate of New York, the last Irish, drawn up by the Most Rev. Dr. Reilly. Now we are taught by the Council of Trent itself, That they are cleansed by regeneration from what they contracted by generation, referring to John 3. They are born again of water and the Spirit. They are frequently called 'born again' (renati). And in the Catechism of the Council of Trent it is insisted that baptism cannot be repeated: "that this accords with the nature of the thing, and with reason is understood from the very idea of baptism which is a certain spiritual regeneration. As then, by virtue of the laws of the nature, we are generated and born but once, and as St. Augustine observes, there is no returning to the womb; so, in like manner, there is but one spiritual generation, nor is baptism ever at any time to be repeated."*

{*I give a translation submitted to the authorities at Rome, and printed at the Propaganda. Those in mortal sin have a true but not a living faith. VI, canon 28 on Justification.}

8 Here though I might quote many authorities to the same effect, we have the highest assuring us that a man cannot be born twice, and hence he cannot be baptized twice. But then, if his soul is killed by mortal sin, deprived of life, what is to be done? He cannot be born again. It is all very well to talk of forgiveness by the sacrament of penance, only with increased trouble, and purgatory to boot; but where is life to be had? It is lost by mortal sin. No one pretends that it is given by the sacrament of penance. Its being given in baptism is declared in the Catechism of the Council of Trent, as we have seen, to be the reason why that sacrament cannot be repeated. No man can be born again, twice. It is a fatal objection to the whole sacramental system of popery, fatal upon a fundamental point. Falsehood is always inconsistent and breaks down somewhere. Forgiveness may be talked of, justification regained, but the soul is killed, deprived of life, and cannot be born again. It is a curious part of the same system that baptism puts away all sins and all penalties, freely and absolutely, from a child who has none; penance leaves a large and awful part, though forgiving them, on those who have. People who have no sins are cleared people; those who have, are not, though reconciled to God. All this to a soul taught of God shews the folly of human inventions. Ah, M., to a soul that feels its need and looks to Christ, such darkness on vital points will never do.

But I return to the point we were upon. God reveals truth, and man is bound to receive it at his peril. He does not judge, nor is there any one to judge, what is truth. God has judged what is truth, since He has revealed it Himself; nobody can judge about it after that. Men will be judged by it. "The word I have spoken to you, the same shall judge you in the last day," John 12:48.

M. But have I not to ascertain the truth?

N*. You are responsible for receiving God's truth that He has revealed. When anything professes to be a revelation, I must of course first know that it is of God. For that I have a promise: Christ says, He that will do His will shall know of the doctrine whether it be of God or whether I speak of myself.

9 M. Well, we must ascertain, or know, whether it is a revelation of God, and for this we must have an infallible judge in order to know as a matter of faith whether it be so.

N*. It is a mere blasphemy to say so. God has given a revelation, and called upon me to believe. Is it necessary after this for some one to authorize me to believe? Then God's calling on me for faith by a revelation has no force: because, according to you, when God has spoken and claimed my faith, another must judge about it.

M. But supposing I do not receive it? How can you help a man's being a Socinian or an infidel?

N*. You cannot help it. Rome cannot help it — cannot give faith in the heart by authority; but the man will be lost because he has made God a liar. But your notion excuses the Socinian and the infidel, because, according to you, though God has revealed the truth, they are not bound to believe without the church. The whole question lies there. Has a revelation which God has made to us authority over me — a claim upon my belief — without any judgment of man? Your system says it has not. We must have, you say, a tribunal to judge about it, that is, to judge whether God's revelation has a claim on my soul. This is an outrage upon God. If you, M., came to me, and I say, "Your word I cannot receive till James authenticates it," it is quite clear I do not believe what you say because you have said it. Now, if I cannot believe God's revelation because He has said what is in it, and for no other reason, I do not believe God at all.

James. That is clear, Bill; God's word must have authority over us by itself or it has none at all.

M. But we must know that it is God's word.

N*. It is a sad thing you should call it in question, when you know it is so; but we will pursue the point. I never knew a Romanist who did not on this point take the ground of the infidel: indeed he has no other. For, if the word has direct authority over my conscience, all his argument about the church falls to the ground.

M. We'll take what Dr. Milner says: That the rule of faith or means of discovering Christ's religion must be secure and universal; and it is evident that He has left some rule by which those persons who seek it may with certainty find it.* These, as Dr. Milner says, are fundamental maxims. Letter 5.

{*Dr. Milner's book is craftily written. He introduces the whole inquiry by essays, etc., of members of the supposed society, by which the truths of natural and revealed religion are proved true as a starting point. But if I am to discover a true religion, this cannot be, for the true one is discovered, and fundamentally the true faith in the revealed religion already demonstrated. Else I have not the true religion. But that is found, it seems, without the church at all, and what is the professed inquiry in the book is settled. But this avoids admitting openly the authority of scripture in itself. But then, having the true religion of true faith, I have not to discover it, but whether Romanism is consistent with it. Every true Christian believes in the authority of the word of God: with this I do not discover a religion at all, but, having it, judge the pretensions of the Romanist to the possession and the exclusive possession of it. The whole statement of the case is a subtle fallacy, for which the way has been paved by what precedes. We are not discovering a religion, but judging Romanism, and Protestantism too, if you please, when I am a Christian. In a word, if I have natural and revealed religion demonstrated, I have discovered the true religion, for the demonstrated revealed religion is the true one. Our inquiry is not then the discovery of Christ's religion; it is discovered and demonstrated. We are inquiring if Romanism, the state of the church, is according to what has been demonstrated.}

10 N*. All Dr. Milner's book depends on them, I know, and indeed he admits it; but I stop you at once here by saying that, as his book does all depend on this, all is totally false. What do you mean by establishing a religion on earth, and then having a rule of faith or means of discovering it? If Christ has established a religion, there is nothing to discover. And, further, a rule of faith and a means of discovery are totally different things, and the confusion of these two is the source of all the sophistry of the book. How did Christ establish a religion on earth?

M. Why, by His own teaching, and the teaching of the apostles.

N*. Quite right. And who judged of their doctrine so that men might discover the true religion? Who was the living judge?

M. Why there could be none: they must believe Christ and the apostles.

N*. Then all Dr. Milner's and your theory about a living judge is false. There were what we may call ecclesiastical authorities then. The scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses' seat, and they were all against God's testimony by Christ. But men were bound to receive what Christ said (and the same of the apostles), because they said it. Now that is always true.

11 M. Yes, but they were alive to say it.

N*. They were; but has what they said lost its authority now they are dead? So far from this, that the Bereans searched the scriptures to know if Paul's preaching was according to them, and they are commended for it, and therefore many of them believed. The scriptures were an authority to judge of an apostle's teaching whether it were of God, that is, when he first came, to know if what he said were really of God. And when the rich man is described as praying that Lazarus might be sent to his brothers to warn them, the Lord answers, They have Moses and the prophets (that is, their writings), let them hear them; for "if they believe not their writings, how shall they believe my words?" We have no need to say what the authority of Christ's words is for all of us; but, as an instrument of authority, the Lord puts writings before words. But the truth is, the condition of Christians — and it is with those professedly so we have to do — was exactly the same as now. The apostles sent the writings we have to different Christians to whom they had been particularly blessed, or published them for general use. Were Christians not to receive these writings as having authority?

M. Of course they were.

N*. And so are we. Now supposing at the first, the Jews had waited for the church to sanction the Lord, or the Jews or Gentiles to sanction the apostles, to discover the true religion, what would have happened?

M. Why, there was no church.

N*. Quite so; where Christ taught and the apostles preached, there was none, and there never would have been. That is, faith in the word goes before the church, not faith in the church before the word. Without faith in the word there never would have been any church at all; and, in point of fact, the religious authorities (when Christ was there) did everything they could to hinder people believing in Christ. And people believed in spite of them. So it has really been as to Rome. But further: when the apostles wrote epistles to the churches or general epistles, were the churches to wait for them to be sanctioned by others, by some church authority, in order to receive, believe, and obey them?

12 M. Of course not. If the apostles wrote, they were bound to believe and obey.

N*. And so are we. Was there any reference to any church authority in order to their receiving them?

M. No; they were bound to receive them. How could there be church authority about the apostles when the Lord sent them, and they were the highest authority in it?

N*. All right; and so are we bound to receive what they have written for the same reason. But there is another point. Were they addressed to a clergy who were to receive and interpret them, or to all the faithful? That is a material point for us to settle.

M. It is; and I cannot say exactly. I have not the Bible just at my fingers' ends.

N*. You could not be where you are if you had, M. I would affectionately urge you to read it and see for yourself what these blessed servants of our Lord and Master, the Son of God, have said, and His own blessed words too. There cannot but be a blessing with it if done humbly trusting in God's grace. I remember a case in Ireland where a Testament had been torn up and the leaves thrown to the winds. A poor man, who found one of the leaves and picked it up, could read, and saw, "And Jesus said," "And Jesus answered and said," "And Jesus said," and so on. He said to himself, What! has the blessed Lord said so many things, and I did not know them? Struck by these simple but solemn words, "Jesus said," he went off to the neighbouring town and bought a Testament, was converted, believed what Jesus said, and was happy in a known Saviour.

But you may say, How did he know it was true that Jesus said these things? Well, God guides the humble simple soul. Jesus had said it, and His word had power over his soul by grace. But, as I have related to you one history, I will tell you another.

I was in a cabin in Ireland where I was known, and began speaking to the brother-in-law of the man of the house about the scripture; his niece, a young woman, who was present, said, "But they tell me, sir, this is a bad book — that the devil wrote it." She was very ignorant, and could not read. I said, "That is a shocking blasphemy. (I know they excuse themselves when any intelligent person is there by saying, It is only because of the false translation; however, so it passed.) But I will not reason with you, but read you a bit, and you shall tell me yourself if the devil wrote it."

13 I read to her what are called the Beatitudes: "And he opened his mouth, and taught them, saying, Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."

I then said, "Well, what do you think? Did the devil write that?" "No, sir," she said, "the devil never wrote that; that came from nothing but the mouth of God." The word of God had laid hold of her; she lived and died most happy, dying three years after of a fever in a hospital. That is, the word of God proves its own truth and power to the soul.

But to return to our point. I will help you. None are addressed to what can be called in the modern term "clergy" at all save three: two to Timothy and one to Titus. These three were addressed to those specially engaged in the service of Christ. The rest are addressed to all the Christians either of a locality or in general, the elders among them in Peter being noticed in their place among the rest, and the bishops and deacons along with all the rest in Paul's to the Philippians.

Thus that to the Romans, "To all that be in Rome beloved of God, saints called." Here you could not tell from the Epistle if there were such a thing as elders or bishops. 1 Corinthians: "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints called, with all that in every place call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours." I suppose that all saints, and there were many ignorant ones, ought to have received and obeyed the apostle's teaching. Here too we have not a hint about any elders. The receiving the apostle's orders was a test of the spirituality of their state, "If any be spiritual, let him acknowledge that the things that I write unto you are the commandments of the Lord." And so John says, "He that is of God heareth us." In 2 Corinthians it was to all the saints which were in all Achaia, the province in Greece where Corinth was. The Epistle to the Galatians is addressed to the churches of Galatia. Here the whole body of saints is addressed too.

14 I need not notice every Epistle, because it is only to repeat the same thing; they are addressed to all the faithful. I may notice an expression in the first Epistle to the Thessalonians, which shews it in a distinct manner. Paul says at the end of it, "I charge you by the Lord that this epistle be read by all the holy brethren." Colossians and Laodicea were to exchange Epistles, and they were to be read in the churches. Peter's Epistles were addressed to all the dispersed residing in various provinces. In John's we get if possible a stronger evidence. He distinguishes the Christians, while addressing all in general, into classes of fathers, young men, and little children, and writes more special words to these last, pressing on them their competency in virtue of having the Holy Ghost to understand everything, and says, though warning and teaching them with all affection, they had not need of any one to do so. And in his second Epistle he writes to a lady and desires her to judge those who came teaching and preaching by the doctrine they brought.

Thus we have ample evidence that the scriptures were addressed not to the teaching body (with the exception of three Epistles of Paul, which, however, are full of instruction to all, because he tells Timothy and Titus how all ought to act), but by the teaching body to the mass of the faithful. If Rome has reduced the faithful to a state of ignorance which makes them incapable of it, the guilt is on her shoulders. It is a proof that she cannot enlighten them. The only thing to do is for them to go back to the scriptures which she has practically deprived them of

M. But they are written in Greek or Hebrew. What can the unlearned do? How can they now use this rule, or means of discovering Christ's religion?

N*. This is another fallacy. The means of discovering Christ's religion (and we are speaking now of places where the profession of Christianity is established), and a rule of faith, are not at all the same thing. A minister preaches, a mother teaches her child, a schoolmaster in a school, a friend-in a word, the means of communicating truth, or leading a person to discover it, are various. The scriptures may be the direct and blessed means in many cases, but any Christian, and in particular parents and ministers, may be and are the regular instruments in God's hands of communicating the truth contained in the word to souls, but none of these are the rule of faith.

15 Dr. Milner admits that this is so, as regards the heathen, that is, that his principle does not hold good; but then, as he says, there is a special grace accorded. I admit the special grace — there is never any good or blessing without it: but I understand very well what Dr. Milner is about too. It is quite evident that in the case of heathens the church has no authority, for they as heathens do not own it; they must in any case become Christians first. Thus we find that in this case the word of God has power and authority without the church. Men discover the true religion without the authority of the church.

This is a grand difficulty for Dr. Milner; because after all, when Christianity has really to be discovered (as in the case of a heathen), it is discovered by the power of the word through grace, without the church at all. That is, in a word, that, in the only real case where the true religion is discovered, it is discovered without the authority of the church. Now for communicating the knowledge of Christ's religion where it is professed, there are similar means, as I have said, ministers, parents, and the like. And do you mean to say that special grace is for heathens to receive the word, but that there is none needed, and none given for professing Christians? It is needed for every man. But, remark further, this way of discovering Christ's religion is not a rule of faith. A minister, a priest, as you call him, is not a rule of faith; a friend or a mother is surely not a rule of faith. Yet they are the means in an ordinary way of the discovering, or more properly of the reception of, Christ's religion. Now the confusion of these things is the source of all the fallacy; because the means of discovering need not be infallible — need not be, in the sense here stated, secure nor universal; in point of fact, unless when scripture is the means, it never is; on the contrary, it is adapted to the state and capacity of the person evangelized or taught.

A rule of faith must be secure, but as it is not the means of communicating Christ's religion (though it may be such a means), it is not as a rule required to be adapted to such universal communication. It subsists in the form in which it was originally given to be referred to. Now these two things we have without the authority of the church at all: apostles, ministers, parents, and others, communicating Christ's religion according to the language or capacity of hearers and learners; and we have the scriptures the fixed and unchanged rule to which all teaching is to be referred. And note this well: if the truth contained in scripture be not received, if a man remain an infidel, or become a confirmed heretic, the authority of the church is of no use. For such do not acknowledge it. She must in result leave them where they are, unless she burn them (as Rome indeed has done by hundreds and thousands) or banish and imprison them. But that is only copying the heathen who did the same thing.

16 I admit then the ministry to communicate the truth, and even a parent or any other. I admit the need of grace; but I say that you will be lost and condemned, if when God has spoken you do not bow to it, if there were no church at all. In point of fact, there was and could be none when first the word of God was announced, and men were bound to receive it at their peril. "If our gospel be hid," says the apostle, "it is hid to them that are lost, in whom the god of this world has blinded the minds of them that believe not, lest the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them": so the Lord — "he that believeth not is condemned already." Indeed, as I have said, those who stood in the place of authority then opposed the word. All who have to receive the religion of Christ as a new truth necessarily receive it without the authority of the church. They are Jews, infidels, or heathens, and acknowledge no such authority. If I turn to Christians by profession, they have not to discover the truth of Christianity, for they believe it; what is needed is that they should understand the truth, and that it should have power over their hearts and lives, and grace gives this, not the church. And, moreover, the Epistles and Gospels were addressed to the body of Christians in general by those who were gifted of God, as Paul, Peter, and the rest employed by God to write them. And those who received them were bound to receive and believe them, and to understand them and be taught by them. That there is progress in spiritual understanding is readily admitted.

Thus the whole theory of Romanism is a false one. Their analogy of a living judge, which they all make so much of, is none at all. A judge decides a cause by the law, not whether the law is authentic or not. He could not say, I receive the law on the authority of any one, judges or others. He receives the law because it is the law, because the legislator has so prescribed. So the Christian; he receives the revelation of God, because it is His revelation, and for no other reason. A spiritual Christian may be more enlightened in applying the word of God to any given case (a small part of the use of scripture) as a judge may; but neither of them gives authority, but only application, to that whose authority is employed. The church was providentially charged with taking care of the scriptures when they were written; just as anyone may take charge of my father's will, but he gives no authority to it. Its being my father's will gives it its authority. The scriptures were committed to the whole church of God.

17 The only difference as to the Romanist body is, that they have been unfaithful to the trust as regards the Old Testament, having pretended to authenticate as scripture what confessedly is not scripture at all. Her own famous doctor who translated the Old Testament for her, and whose translation she receives as the authentic scriptures though but a translation, declares that the church did not receive the books called apocryphal. Rome is unfaithful in this as in all else. God has not permitted her to be so as to the New Testament; but where she could be unfaithful, she has been so. And you will please remember, moreover, that your rule is as much Greek and Hebrew (in your case I must add Latin) as ours. The written word is the same for both: only that you have only a translation, and your unwritten one is Latin. What you have in any one's mother tongue is mere teaching, as ours may be, not a rule of faith, not secure, for we have seen there are different lists of mortal sins, and even as to the written word you have a confessedly false list of books. You have added what the fathers even say is not to be taken for a rule of faith.

M. But what are we to receive as a rule, if it is not the written and unwritten word, and the church as interpreter?

N*. The written word of God is the only rule. It has divine authority. The other two parts I reject altogether, that is, tradition and the church.

M. But the church was never to fail, nor the gates of hell prevail against her. What do you make of that?

18 N*. I make nothing of it; I believe it, and bless God for it with all my heart. In spite of all the waywardness and wickedness of man, Christ maintains what He builds, and will maintain it till He receives it into glory. And it is maintained. Rome papal, as Rome heathen, has done her best to extinguish and put out this light; but she has failed and must fail. She seemed to succeed, and may apparently in large measure succeed again, for it is announced in scripture that there shall be perilous days in the last time, a form of godliness denying the power; but as God had reserved seven thousand who had not bowed the knee to the image of Baal, when even the prophetic eye of Elijah could not see one but himself, so God has in the darkest times (times confessed by your own popish writers to be times of shame and darkness)* preserved a witness to Himself that no strength or subtlety of Satan, with all the power of Rome at his back, could ever suppress or extirpate. I recognize not the church of Rome, or any other particular professing body, but the whole church to be the dwelling-place of God by the Holy Ghost, until Christ comes and takes the saints to Himself, and that what is called Christendom stands in a particular relationship to God by its profession, and that it will be judged as His house. But the scripture has warned us that evil would come in, and perilous times come, with the form of piety (2 Tim. 3); and the apostle Paul charges the man of God to cling to the scriptures when the professing church should have all gone wrong.

{*Baronius says he must give the names of popes as dates, but how can he own as popes the sons of the mistresses of the Marquis of Tuscany, whom they put in to be popes by their guilty influence? (Bar. An. 912, 7, 8.) There were the two parties, the Roman nobles and the Marquis of Tuscany, who in turn put in the popes, or drove them out, so that there were often two at a time, and each habitually when he got the upper hand quashed all the ordinations of his adversary as invalid. (Bar. An. 907, 3.) Auxilius wrote a book on the ordinations, exordinations, and super-ordinations of the Roman pontiffs. (See Baronius' Account of Sergius, 908, 2.) At last the Emperor came in to introduce some decent order. But this lasted a great while. We may examine this a little more exactly when we come to succession as a proof of the true church. Here I only give the undoubted facts, which may be seen in Baronius as in other historians.}

He tells us (Acts 20:29) that grievous wolves would come in, that of the church itself perverse men would arise; but he never hints at apostles, their successors, or the clergy, as a resource, but, on the contrary, commends them to God and the word of His grace as able to build them up, and give them an inheritance among them that are sanctified. That is, he warns us that the outward professing church would go all wrong, so that the true servant of God would have to fly to the scriptures. The mystery of iniquity was already working; and, note, the apostle's words exclude all idea of his having a successor. He knows that after HIS departure all will go wrong. How so, if another like himself would succeed him? So Peter sees the hour of his departure near, and takes care that they should have the truths he taught always in remembrance, and so writes his epistle; 2 Peter 1:12-15. Thus the apostles foresaw the danger and difficulty; Paul prophesies that all would go on badly, and evil men and seducers wax worse and worse; and, instead of referring to the church as securing the truth, he states that it will go all wrong, so that at last there will be an apostasy, or falling away (2 Thess. 2); and both he and Peter refer to the scriptures as the means of being guarded in the truth.

19 The evil is come and has ripened, and we do refer, as the apostle told us, to the scriptures. You tell me divisions have arisen. I admit it, and admit the evil of it. But divisions have arisen with scriptures and clergy and all; the clergy have not hindered it more than the scriptures — they have been its authors. Rome is one of the divisions — a large one no doubt, but the worst of all — so that she hardly merits to be reckoned as a part of the Catholic church at all since the Council of Trent. But admitting that she be, she is just one part, and the worst part by far. Numbers make nothing when the question of the church is concerned. Christ speaks of a little flock (Luke 12:32) to whom He gives the kingdom, so that there being millions would rather prove it was not that flock. And when Rome had it all her own way in many countries (for she never had it everywhere, far from it, nor in the greatest part of Christendom), she could not help sects.

She slaughtered and killed thousands and thousands to put them down; she burned and hanged, and used every atrocity imaginable, to put down whatever did not bow to her, but by her conduct proved herself not to be the church of God, but the seat of Satan, and thus made natural conscience revolt on one hand, while on the other the plants of God's planting throve in spite of her, and Europe was overrun by the hunted witnesses of Christ, while Rome disgraced herself below even natural conscience by breaking openly and solemnly plighted faith, and teaching men that they ought to do so, and not keep faith with heretics, and acted on it, hypocritically pretending to deliver them to the secular arm, and pursuing with relentless cruelty all who held the truth. She invented tortures and established the Inquisition to destroy all that had divine life. I have said she seemed to have reduced all to silence, when, after a secret working of the truth (particularly in the Netherlands, Germany, Bohemia, and Moravia), her security in wickedness led her to such a course of conduct as made all blaze out again more violently than ever; and now, taking all professing Christendom in, she is a minority in population, and maintains her former place only in her persistence and growth in errors.

20 M. But she is the true Catholic church.

N*. Who says so?

M. Everyone admits it.

N*. Far from it; the majority of professing Christendom condemn her as a dreadful departure from the true standing of the church of Christ. Many count her wholly apostate.

James. But, Bill, you used to say that your church was the universal church, and the oldest; and that all the millions of Christians, except just England that Henry VIII turned away to get rid of his wife he did not like, belonged to it.

M. And so they do.

N*. We will speak of Henry VIII in a minute. But as to the pretended Catholic church, all their assertions are unfounded. I admit that numbers prove nothing, but they impose on the imagination, and hence only I notice this. The majority of professing Christians do not belong to Rome. There are something under one hundred millions of Protestants, and I suppose sixty millions of Greeks, besides Armenians and Jacobites, in the East, whose numbers are not exactly known, but of which there must be a few millions, so that in rough round numbers there are, giving the largest margin, some hundred and thirty millions connected with Rome, and some hundred and seventy millions separate from it. Hence there is no pretension of catholicity. As to antiquity, it is beyond all controversy that Eastern Christendom is more ancient than Rome. Strange to say, the church was not founded at Rome by an apostle, though Paul was in prison there, not in his free apostolic labour — this he never was. But we know from the Epistle to the Romans that there were a number of Christians there before he arrived. We are a little anticipating what comes under the head of proofs of the true church. But facts dispel many illusions, so that we may reason more freely when the imagination is undeceived.

21 James. Well, I am glad to hear all this. I know numbers don't prove truth, of course. We must have, we all admit, a divine foundation for our faith; but it acts on one's feelings to think one is going against all Christians in the world, and I see it is nothing of the sort, and I know from scripture that Christianity did not begin at Rome.

N*. If we were to go by numbers, I suppose we should be Buddhists. They constitute, I believe, by far the most numerous religion in the world. The Mahometans count by many millions — I do not know how many, but I dare say some sixty millions. They own God, and Christ to be a prophet and judge of quick and dead, but not as Son of God. They are spreading rapidly in Africa through having the schools in their hands, and the prohibition for any Mahometan to make a slave of another. The Brahminical religion counts some hundred millions of votaries, other heathens perhaps over two hundred millions. I attach no importance to exactitude in numbers, my object being only to dispel the idea of the Catholic or universal character of Rome — to disabuse the imagination. But that it may not seem a loose boast, in rough round numbers I count them thus: —

Romanists. Protestants.

France … 33,000,000 Great Britain … 26,000,000

Austria … 30,000,000 Germany, including

Italy …     … 21,000,000  Prussia … 22,000,000

Spain …     … 17,000,000 Austria … 4,000,000

Germany out of France … 2,000,000

Austria …  8,000,000* Holland … 2,500,000

Holland …  1,000,000 Switzerland … 2,000,000

Belgium …  3,500,000 Sweden … 4,000,000

Poland …  4,000,000 Denmark … 2,000,000

Switzerland … 1,000,000 Russia … 3,000,000

United States …  2,500,000 United States 26,000,000

Great Britain …  4,000,000

South America  .. 8,000,000

 ________   _________

 133,000,000   93,500,000

{*Perhaps more; chiefly in Bavaria, Baden, Rhenish Prussia, and Silesia.}

22 Besides this, there is Canada, the West Indies, and a scattered population, which cannot very much affect the balance either way. The main numbers are pretty nearly exact; were there five millions wrong in either, it would not affect the question we are considering. Then between Turkey, the Austrian possessions, Russia, and the East, the Greeks must number some sixty millions, besides smaller, but ancient, bodies. So that Christendom not connected with Rome numbers some hundred and sixty, or hundred and seventy, millions; Rome, some hundred and thirty. That is a strange way of being Catholic. Catholic means, you know, James, universal.

That the Greek churches in Asia are more ancient than Rome, as James has said, scripture itself proves. Rome was the last founded of which we have any original history, and Greeks, Nestorians, and Jacobites were all separate from Rome, the earliest in the fifth, the latest in the ninth, century, and have their succession too.