N*. Well, Mrs. James, good evening. I suppose James will be here.
Mrs. James. He will; for he went to see Bill M., and they will come, I expect, together. Sit down, sir, if you please. They will soon be here; and the two gentlemen will, too, I suppose.
N*. Well, Mrs. James, and what do you say to what you have heard?
Mrs. James. I am very thankful for my husband, and for Bill M. It would have been a great grief if James had been led away from the truth. I could only look up that he might be kept. But to think of his being led into what I knew was false; and then the children! It was terrible! but God is very gracious. I was astonished at some things I heard; and it is a sorrowful thing to think that what the blessed Lord planted so fair and lovely by His Spirit, should have become so awfully corrupt. But I think, sir, when persons have known redemption and forgiveness themselves, and rest in Christ, they do not want all this. They have found a sure resting-place themselves in the work and Person of the Lord Jesus Christ—can cry, Abba Father, in the consciousness of the present grace wherein they stand. They know that what they have got is the eternal grace and truth which came by Jesus Christ, who loved us and gave Himself for us; they trust that love; they have known and believed the love that God has to them: and their spirits are at rest in the love and favour of God. And I have found that these Romanists (but I do not say but some of them love Christ) are for slaving to gain His favour, and by penances, as if God wanted to torment them; and prayers, as if praying was not a delight and comfort, and none like it; and, after all, it ends in absolution and purgatory. It is not Christianity in which by divine love and God’s righteousness we are reconciled to God and have peace. They seem never to have real peace. Satisfied some are, but no true peace with God, or they could not want to be working so to make it, seeing that Christ has died for us and we know God’s love.
N*. It is most true; still I do not doubt that some of them love the Lord. There is piety, but no knowledge of redemption.
Mrs. James. I see some of them pious, but their piety is all mixed up with looking to the Virgin, who is not God, and never died for us, and of course could not; and to penances, and mortifying the body, and voluntary humility, as you know the scripture says, sir. Their piety is not true Christian grace and happiness, any more than their doctrines are Christian. I never saw one that had the liberty of the Spirit; and pretending still again to offer Christ must keep them there. They do not know what it is to believe that God has said “their sins and iniquities will I remember no more,” because of Christ’s precious offering of Himself, by which He has perfected for ever them that are sanctified. It is a blessing to think what the love of God has been to us.
N*. And is, Mrs. James: we dwell in it; at least that is the Christian’s abode, even here below.
Mrs. James. It is true.
N*. But you are right; “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.” Well, we must pray for them, and that the word may be blessed to them; for it is sorrowful to think that the pious ones you speak of should be kept from the blessed liberty of divine favour in which Christ set us in Himself, and which we enjoy through the Holy Ghost. The last point you referred to is the one we are to take up this evening. But it is true that when a person really knows redemption, Romanism is at once to them a fable, and the very denial of Christianity j but how many pious persons, and not only among Romanists, but Protestants though mercifully preserved, who do not know redemption! I do not mean they deny it, perhaps have professedly no other hope, but who do not know it so as to possess its present peaceful effect by faith. How many there are who truly own Christ to be the Saviour, who think it presumptuous to be assured of forgiveness and salvation! Yet, Scripture is plain enough. In that day, when the Comforter would be come, they should know, it is written, they were in Christ and Christ in them. How can they cry, Abba Father, which is what distinguishes the Christian state, if they do not know they are children?
But here are your husband and Bill M. Good evening.
James and Bill M. Good evening, sir. I see the gentlemen are not here, so we are not too late.
N*. We were speaking, while waiting for you all, of the assurance of salvation, or at least had got on that point, when you came in.
Bill M. I wish I had it.
N*. Well M., it is the plain privilege of every simple believer. It is written, “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life”; and again, “By him, all that believe are justified from all things.”
Bill M. Well, I suppose then, I do not believe, for I cannot say that I have everlasting life, nor that I am justified.
N*. Your conclusion is not just. Do you not believe in your heart that the blessed Jesus is the Son of God?
Bill M. That I surely do; that is not what I doubt, but I do not know I have any part with Him; and the more I see the blessedness of it, and the more I know myself, the more I doubt.
JV*. All this searching of heart is very useful; but, as to the truth, you see, God has pronounced in your case. You believe on the Son, and the word of God declares that whoever believes on Him has eternal life and is justified.
Bill M. I see; at least in my mind, I see it clear.
N*. What we are going to speak of may clear it up still more for you; still it must be a faith wrought by God in your soul. This doctrine of justification by faith was just what was brought out at the Reformation; and indeed they went too far then, so as yet to cloud it a little. They held that personal assurance of one’s own salvation alone was justifying faith, and that is just what your reply amounted to; and this was condemned by the Council of Trent, as the vain confidence of the heretics. But this was the believing something about oneself, not about Christ; whereas Scripture presents Christ as the object of faith, and tells us judicially that he who believes on Him is justified. But Christ, not our own justification, is the object of faith, and we know it when we submit to God’s judgment about it, instead of forming our own about our state, which must leave us in doubt. And we have to be humbled, and, as to this, emptied of self and self-righteousness in its subtler forms, to bow to God’s way of justifying.
Bill M. But it is said somewhere we are to examine ourselves whether we are in the faith.
N*. The words are there; but it is only half a sentence, and cutting off the first half entirely changes the sense. The whole sentence is, “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me,… examine yourselves whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves.” “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me” is an unfinished sentence; and before concluding it, there is a parenthesis which is evidently such, and then the original sentence is concluded with “examine yourselves,” etc., as already quoted. And the apostle immediately appeals to their certainty that they were Christians to shew their folly in questioning his apostleship. “Know ye not your own selves, how that Christ dwells in you except ye be reprobates?” How did he come there, if Christ had not spoken in him, for he had been the means of their conversion? Paul had been proving he was an apostle, which the false Judaising teachers had called in question, because he was not ordained and sent by Peter and the others. Paul appeals to his miracles and labour amongst them, and every other proof of his apostleship. And at last, reproaching them for their folly, says, “If I am not an apostle, how are you Christians? ‘Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me, examine yourselves.’ If Christ did not speak by me you are not Christians, for, as he says, I have begotten you all by the gospel.” It was an unanswerable argument to them. They denied their own Christianity if they denied his apostleship.
James. I see plain enough; I never noticed that. Why, Bill, it is no precept to examine ourselves at all, but to them a confounding proof he was an apostle.
N*. It is all well to examine if we are walking up to it; but that is another thing. But tell me, M., how should you like your children to inquire if they were your children?
Bill M. Nay, that would never do.
N*. Surely not. It would be ruinous. But if they were to examine themselves, and judge themselves as to whether they were dutiful children, walking up to the place and duty of children?
Bill M. I wish they always did.
N*. We see the difference clearly; and the latter is all right, provided it is done because we are children, and in the true confidence of a child in his father’s love. We all pass through the other; and it is very natural, when we are in earnest, till we see redemption clearly; because we are inquiring what we are for God, not believing what He has been and what He has done for us. Now judging ourselves as to holiness of walk and living to Christ is all very right; but if I connect this with my acceptance, I have not learned God’s love to me when a sinner, nor the efficacy of that work in the value of which I stand before God. It is in principle self-righteousness, though very useful to make us find we cannot make out any true righteousness. So the prodigal talks of being a hired servant before he met his father; once there and the father on his neck, that was all over; his place depended on what his father was for him, not what he was for his father; his fitness to go in was the best robe—Christ. Yet he was going right from the time he came to himself. Never forget, M., that our duties flow from the place we are already in. The duties are not the means of winning it, for they are not duties till you are in it. You cannot have the duties of a servant to me, because you are not such. Your children are bound to obey you, because they are your children.
Bill M. That is plain, but we have a deal to get rid of.
N*. Get Christ as a Saviour and you get power too, and liberty from sin: “Sin shall not have dominion over you, for ye are not under law, but under grace.”
But here are these gentlemen. Good evening, Mr. R.; good evening, Mr. D.
Mr. R., Mr. D. Good evening.
N*. We were waiting your arrival, and have not entered on our subject, but were speaking of the peace we have through Christ.
R. We are about the hour fixed, I think. Peace is a happy thing no doubt, but we must take care we do not deceive ourselves. Presumption is a dangerous thing, and we may most easily deceive ourselves. “No man knoweth love or hatred by all that is before him.”
N*. Assuredly we may deceive ourselves, and there are cases where warning may be timely; but that is the comfort of resting on God’s word. This cannot deceive us. Your quotation from Ecclesiastes has no application to our Christian place. “Hereby know we love that he laid down his life for us.” Do we not know evil in the world’s rejection of him, man’s hatred against God? We know perfect love, and alas! perfect hatred in the cross. To say nothing of our own enjoyment of it, it is monstrous to apply this to the gospel or to the Christian. John says, “we have known and believed the love God hath to us.” “God hath commended his love to us, that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us”; surely we ought to believe in it. Ecclesiastes takes up what is done under the sun—whether mortal man can find satisfying happiness here, and learns that all is vanity and vexation of spirit. It is not the revelation of grace in the Son of God.
James. Pray be seated, gentlemen. We are all anxious to hear you on the subjects you spoke of. Bill M. knows more about it than I do; but we are both glad to hear what you have to say, and to know the truth.
Bill M. I should above all, if you are so kind, desire to hear about the Mass. It was made so much of with me, and seems the great point with the Catholics. They go to hear Mass, and say it brings people out of purgatory, and is for the remission of sins. I shall be glad to hear about transubstantiation, but this is a darker matter for me, which I do not much understand. But everything was made of the Mass with me; and if there is still a sacrifice for the remission of sins, it is a wonderful thing and no one should despise it. I see a great deal more than I did of the good of Christ’s one sacrifice, but about the Mass I am not clear.
N*. If these gentlemen have no objection, then, we will begin with the Mass, and speak of transubstantiation afterwards. “He goes to Mass “is the very definition of a Roman Catholic, so to say. I do not think, important as it may be and is, it will keep us very long.
R. I have no objection, nor I suppose Mr. D. either.
N*. Well then, we will take up the doctrine of the Mass; we have ample authority as to the Roman Catholic doctrine on the subject, but we had better let Mr. R. make his own statement.
R. We must approach so holy and solemn a subject with reverence, but the proofs of the truth of it are as simple as they are strong. No religion in the world was ever without a sacrifice, and when men left the true God to worship idols, they still kept up this thought, identified, as it is, with the instincts of human nature, and sanctioned by the revelation of God, beginning with Abel, who was surely taught of God as to it, and developed in the sacrifices commanded to be offered under the law. It is impossible to believe that Christians—the true religion of God—should be left without any. Moreover it is contrary to the plain revelation of prophecy. Malachi declares as plainly as words can express it, “From the rising of the sun to the going down of the same my name is great among the Gentiles; and in every place there is a sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation.” This is express. So we find in Genesis 14 that Melchisedec brought forth bread and wine, and (or indeed for) he was priest of the most high God. And Christ is a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec; so that bread and wine in connection with priesthood according to the order of Melchisedec is fully confirmed. I might adduce 1 Corinthians 10 where we read, “Ye cannot drink the chalice of the Lord and the chalice of devils; you cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord and of the table of devils,” etc. Now the table of devils was their altar; hence we must clearly conclude that what is called the Lord’s table is also an altar. This makes the institution of it by the Lord very plain which took place on the words, “This do “: in which the sacrifice was instituted, and they were consecrated priests with the command to offer it: for “doing” is a sacrificial word. We have also the uniform testimony of the Fathers from Justin Martyr, Clemens Alexandrinus, Cyprian, all of whom speak of this sacrifice and in the strongest terms. And it is not merely Catholics, but the whole professing church has accepted it— Greeks and all sects which have sprung up—outside the pale of the church.
N*. Well, Mr. R., you have fairly given the proofs alleged by Bellarmine, and even the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Milner does but repeat the same more briefly. One would say, he felt weak on the point. He refers back to what he had said in his letter on the means of sanctity as a motive for being brief—a convenient cover for having little to say, if people do not refer to the letter; for there he has said nothing at all, save quoting Malachi, the universal resource, and the words of institution which he does in this letter on the Mass. Again Dr. Milner’s definition of a sacrifice is clearly false and poor. He says, “it is an offering up and immolation of a living animal or other sensible thing to God in testimony that He is the master of life and death, the Lord of us and of all things.” Now, not to say that there were sacrifices which were not of living or sensible things under the law, as the meat offering, and confining myself to what was sacrifice in the full sense of it, all that he speaks of leaves out the question of sin altogether. The majesty of God is owned as having power over life and death, but upon the face of >his definition no thought of sacrifice for sin has any place. The Council of Trent gives us no definition of sacrifice, but states pretty fully its doctrine of the Mass: only that the church has a visible sacrifice to represent Christ’s bloody sacrifice, and that was to be permanent (Sess. 20, cap. 2), referring to the institution of the Lord’s supper and Malachi’s prophecy.
Into what is said of the sacrifice of the Mass itself, I will go fully though briefly. I only note here how the idea of sacrifice is lost in its true value. Bellarmine’s definition is “an external oblation made to God alone, which in acknowledgment of human infirmity and profession of the divine majesty, the object of the senses and permanent, by a lawful minister, is by a mystic rite consecrated and transmuted” (Bell, de Sacr. Euch. X. Lib. 5, cap. 2, § 26.) This would lead us very little to a just thought of the sacrifice of Christ. The Catechism of the Council of Trent, De Eucharistiae Sacramento, cap. 4, 71, gives its being offered to God as the essential difference between sacrament and sacrifice in the Eucharist. But leaving these generalities, valuable only as shewing the vagueness and unsatisfactoriness of the Roman Catholic idea of a sacrifice, I turn to that on which it is precise enough, the sacrifice of the Mass. That is a propitiatory sacrifice available for the sins not only of the living but of the dead—truly propitiatory. (Cone. Trid. Sess. XXII, 2.) Christ is unbloodily immolated there. The decree of the Council, after grossly misapplying Hebrews 4:16, which speaks of Christ’s priesthood in heaven, not of sacrifice, adds, “for by the offering of him [Christ] the Lord is appeased granting grace and the gift of penitence, forgives crimes and sins, even very great ones [ingentia]: for it is one and the same victim, the same one now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross, the manner of offering alone being different. Wherefore it is rightly offered according to the traditions of the apostles, not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities of the faithful who are alive, but also for the dead in Christ not yet fully purged.” So in the Catechism of the Council of Trent somewhat more fully (Part II De Eu. Sacr. 76.) “The Mass is and ought to be considered one and the same sacrifice with that of the cross, for the victim is one and the same… The bloody and unbloody are not two but only one victim whose sacrifice is daily renewed in the Eucharist… The priest is also one and the same, Christ the Lord.” And alleges as proof that the priest does not say ‘This is Christ’s body,’ but ‘This is my body.’ “It is a truly propitiatory sacrifice by which God is appeased and rendered propitious to us… For so delighted is the Lord with the odour of this victim, that, bestowing on us the gifts of grace and repentance, He pardons our sins. Hence this usual prayer of the church ‘as often as the commemoration of this victim is celebrated, so often is the work of our salvation being done.’”
It is even more distinct in expression than the Council of Trent. Its benefits extend “to all the faithful whether living with us on earth, or already numbered with those who are dead in the Lord, but whose sins have not yet been fully expiated.” This is very plain. Christ offers Himself visibly, permanently, or renewedly (both expressions are used); often, daily renewed, is the expression in the Catechism. This sacrifice, offered by Christ, appeases God, is propitiation for the sins of the living and of the dead in Christ when they are not fully purged, says the Council of Trent; ‘expiated,’ says the Catechism of the Council of Trent, ‘confers pardon of sins,’ besides many other graces.
Does Christianity recognise this? It not only does not do so, but with diligent care expressly denies it in every part. It is instituted, we are told, that the church might have a perpetual sacrifice by which our sins might be expiated and our heavenly Father turned from wrath to mercy. Let me make a remark in passing that the statement that the priest’s saying ‘This is my body’ shews he represents Christ is a mere fallacy. It is in the Mass a recital of what Christ said at the last supper. The canon of the Mass says, “who” (Jesus Christ) “the day before he suffered took bread in his holy and venerable hands … saying, Take and eat all of this, for this is my body.” They are clearly and only the words of Christ the day before He suffered.
To clear my way I would say that sacrifice lies at the basis of all relationship of man with God. But at the same time such an expression as turning our heavenly Father from wrath by it is not by itself a true or scriptural way of putting it; though Protestant confessions have continued it on from Rome. God is a righteous Judge, and the atonement was absolutely necessary that grace might reign through righteousness. But the origin and source of all is left out in this statement. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. The Son of man must be lifted up, the holy victim be offered up. But where to find it? The love of God saw us all lost sinners, and did not spare His own Son for us. Christ “through the eternal Spirit offered himself up without spot to God”; nay, in the same love, said, “Lo, I come to do thy will, O God.” But if righteousness required the propitiation, love provided the victim. “Grace reigns through righteousness unto eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.” And this changes the whole character of the gospel; God’s love was the source and origin of it all, though it became God to make the Captain of our salvation perfect through suffering. As the apostle John states it, “But we have seen and do testify that the Father sent his Son to be the Saviour of the world.” The Father’s wrath indeed is not a scriptural expression at all; God’s wrath is. A Father is the Father of His children.
That the heathen took up sacrifice from corrupted traditions of the truth and the necessity of the human heart, I believe with Mr. R., and do not doubt that Abel’s offering was by God’s will, for Abel we are told offered it by faith; Heb. u. That in Christianity there is a sacrifice, I admit as truth and vital truth, the basis of our relationship with God, as what I need for my own salvation. Indeed, I do not doubt a moment that all other sacrifices from Abel on rested on divine and divinely taught reference to this, the heathen sacrifice, being corruptly derived from this original source, connected with false ideas of God, namely, that the gods were hating and jealous beings who had to be won, a thought which still exists in corrupted Christianity.
But you will remark, Mr. R., that the early sacrifices were bloody sacrifices. The law, in special figures of Christ, introduced meat-offerings along with these, and most interesting is the instruction they afford; but what was essential was that death and the shedding of blood should come in, because therein man owned that sin and death by sin had come in, and that only by the death of another could man come to God. Abel came with this; Cain with what cost him far more toil and labour, but which did not own sin and death, and separation from God, and was rejected with his offering. What first effectually covered man’s nakedness was that God clothed him with the skins of slain beasts. Man’s state in sin, death, and separation from God was owned, and met. This (which is of the essence of the one true sacrifice and carefully set forth in the earliest types to which you and I both refer, as making the essential difference of what was necessary and acceptable to God, as all their sacrifices, and peremptorily the difference of Cain and Abel’s demonstrate) is wholly left out in Milner’s and Bellarmine’s definition of a sacrifice. When we remember what the sacrifice of the Mass is, it is not difficult to understand why. If death and the shedding of blood be essential to an acceptable sacrifice, the Mass, avowedly an unbloody sacrifice, and so called, is not really one at all. A commemoration or memorial of such it may be, but not itself such. It fails in what is essential, and, I must add, denies the whole true ground of relationship with God; it legitimates Cain’s sacrifice which God rejected.
Bill M. That is true, though I believe we must have the death and blood-shedding of Christ itself for forgiveness. How dark one is in one’s thoughts!
R. But the blood is consecrated apart, expressly to shew forth the shedding of the blood.1
Bill M. To shew it forth, it may be; but you do not mean to say, sir, that there is a real shedding of the blood of Christ.
R. Not materially, of course. It is an unbloody sacrifice, and so the church teaches.
Bill M. Then I do not see what it is worth. But I should let Mr. N. go on. I beg pardon for interrupting.
N*. You are quite free, M. I am glad you noticed this truth distinctly. As to its being commemoration of the sacrifice of Christ, and I will add, of Himself, giving Himself in love, and a blessed one too—this is surely true and held by all Christians; but the seventy-ninth Article of the Catechism of the Council of Trent is precise on the other doctrine. “It is not a mere commemoration of the sacrifice of the cross, but also a truly propitiatory sacrifice.” It is propitiation and remission without blood-shedding. We have seen it is a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the living, and for those of the dead in Christ not expiated; appeases God and obtains pardon; is daily renewed, Christ Himself being the offerer. Now what does Scripture say? It declares positively and in formal terms that there is no more sacrifice for sin. The whole Romanist system is founded on, has its practical existence from, that which is formally denied by the word of God. James. That is true though.
N*. But I must be more precise. We are told that it is the same Christ that offered Himself upon the cross that offers Himself daily in a renewed sacrifice. I read in the word of God—I quote your own translation (Heb. 9:25-27): “Nor yet that he should offer himself often … for then he ought to have suffered often from the beginning of the world; but now once at the end of ages he hath appeared for the destruction of sin by the sacrifice of himself.” You tell us that the sacrifice is renewedly offered, permanently in the church. The word says (Heb. 9:28), “So also Christ was offered once to exhaust the sins of many; the second time he shall appear without sin to them that expect him unto salvation “: and again (chap. 10:18), “Now where there is a remission of these [sins], there is no more an oblation for sins.” And He gives the blessed reason in chapter 10:14; “For by one oblation he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” The word of God teaches that by His one oblation He has exhausted the sins of many, and appears the second time to take them to glory; and that the sins being remitted, there is no more oblation. You tell me there is, and that for the remission of sins, and truly propitiatory. If we take your translation— “exhaust the sins of many” —it makes it still more clear, that if exhausted, they cannot be brought up again against the Christian, or any other sacrifice be needed. You tell me that it is an unbloody sacrifice, that blood is not shed there. The word tells me (Heb. 9:22) that “without shedding of blood there is no remission.” That is, in every point the word of God teaches me the exact contrary of what Rome teaches, and teaches too in what is the centre and substance of all her worship.
Bill M. Well, Mr. R., I am astonished. This Mass was their great subject with me, besides the church; and I see the word of God condemns it altogether, and I see too that the abiding efficacy of Christ’s blessed work is in question.
R. But Mr. N. interprets the Scriptures, and we are not capable of doing that; we must learn what the church teaches from it, and in all ages it has held that the Eucharist was an offering made to God.
N*. Excuse me, Mr. R., I do not interpret at all; I set your authorised statements in simple juxtaposition with your own scriptures.
They say Christ does not offer Himself often. You say He does.
They say that there is no more oblation for sin. You say there is.
They say that without shedding of blood there is no remission. You say that it is an unbloody sacrifice, but there is remission.
I need no interpretation; the statements contradict one another. A great deal more might be said, were I to reason and expound; for Hebrews 9 and 10 discuss the point fully, and elaborately, and blessedly, I will add, for us; but it is not necessary. These chapters insist, all their reasonings for blessing and for judgment are founded, on Christ’s offering being one only, and once for all, never to be repeated. Nothing can be stronger or plainer. Either the Scriptures are false, which God forbid, or the Romish religion is, in the very heart and foundation of its worship, and of its teaching on the foundation of all our hopes, the work of Christ.
Bill M. Sure it is not interpreting, Mr. R. Teaching is not wanted. If the word of God says Christ is not to offer Himself often, and you say, He is and does, both cannot be true. It is plain enough how the matter stands. I was somewhat puzzled about the church, but this is plain enough. But what it is to be ignorant of the word of God! But then, to be sure, my soul was not right with God. I do not say I am all right now, but this about the Mass is clear enough.
D. But it is a commemorative sacrifice or offering.
N*. You forget, Mr. D., that we have seen that the Catechism of the Council of Trent, the highest possible authority, tells us that it is not a mere commemorative sacrifice, but a truly propitiatory one. The Mass is a denial of the abiding value of Christ’s work once for all and completely accomplished and accepted of God, so that He sits at the right hand of God, when, as the Rhemish Testament expresses it, He had been once offered to exhaust the sins of many.
James. But what do the Roman Catholics say to this, sir?
N*. The Council of Trent and the Catechism of the Council of Trent prudently say nothing; they are wholly silent as to it. Bellarmine however takes up the objection as to Christ’s not offering Himself again; he replies that He was not to do so in the way of dying, coming out of heaven and dying again, and that the apostle refers to this, for he says, “Then must he often have suffered.” But this wholly misrepresents the apostle’s argument; he does not say He was not to offer Himself in a bloody way, so as to suffer, but that He was not to offer Himself often, for then He must have suffered often. It is an additional proof. The apostle had no idea of an offering of Christ without suffering. His statement is that He was not to offer Himself often; for that if He did He must suffer: the strongest possible testimony against the Mass. To the point of no remission without blood-shedding, he replies, That speaks of Jewish sacrifices. But to what purpose is the apostle using the witness of these sacrifices? In themselves he declares the blood of bulls and of goats could never take away sins, and makes the general and absolute statement that there is no remission of sins without blood-shedding, and applies it to Christ, saying that He has suffered once for all, and gone into heaven itself, not with blood of others, but by His own blood entered in once into the holies, having obtained eternal redemption; Heb. 9:22-25.
Dr. Milner states that the apostle is barely proving to the Hebrews how infinitely superior the sacrifice of Christ is to those of the Mosaic law, particularly from the circumstance which he repeats in different forms, namely, that there was a necessity of their sacrifices being often repeated, which after all could not of themselves, and independently of the One they prefigured, take away sin, whereas the latter, namely, Christ’s death on the cross, obliterated at once the sins of those who availed themselves of it.
Bill M. But that is just a proof that it had not to be repeated. Ah! it is all plain enough.
N*. He adds that this does not militate against the Mass, because it is the same as to the victim and as to the priest, the manner only being different.
Bill M. But even so it is repeated, and according to them has need to be repeated, only in a manner that takes away its reality, for there is no suffering for sin, no blood-shedding. I see through it all. But it is awful to think they should have invented it.
N*. It is awful, but I do not know that we can charge them with inventing it all at once. The Fathers, so-called, though often falsely quoted as to this, used the most glowing language as to the Eucharist, and talked of tremendous mysteries, to act on the superstition of the people who had no real faith. So soon as the full efficacy of the sacrifice of the blessed Lord was lost to the church’s faith, and the testimony that all sins were put away from him that believed by the sacrifice, they were obliged, even for those who really loved the Lord, to have some means of quieting the conscience. Persons of severe habits of mind allowed no known forgiveness after baptism; others allowed it once. The church, with growing superstition, provided means for it in a system which gradually developed itself, as the Eucharist turned into the Mass, and absolution. Then purgatory was invented, at least its first germ, in the seventh century. The Mass was not fully developed till a great deal later; but when once perfect acceptance in Christ was unknown, souls could not find rest, and sought it in superstitious observances, and heathenism was deliberately introduced into Christendom. I have said, “Lost to the church’s faith”; but the language is not exact: the church never had it since the apostles. In the word our acceptance is clear enough; many a poor soul whose record is on high may have enjoyed it; but in the history of the church our full acceptance in Christ is never found.
D. What do you mean?
N*. What I mean is very simple. The apostle Paul tells us that the mystery of iniquity did already work. He tells us too, that as soon as he was gone, both from within and from without the evil would break in, or develop itself. And it is a matter of historical fact, that truth such as Hebrews 9 and 10 afford us, to go no farther, and true faith in the presence of the Holy Ghost were never found in the historical church. Objective truths (and I fully admit their importance), what we may call orthodoxy, were maintained, taking the history as a whole; but the relationships of a true believer with God as perfected in Christ, and the sealing with the Holy Ghost which gave him to know it, and his place as a son with the Father, and the union of true believers with Christ as members of His body, is not found in church history. For example, take Hebrews 10, to which we have referred. The worshippers once purged having no more conscience of sins, that Christ is for ever2 at the right hand of God because by one offering He hath perfected for ever3 them that are sanctified through the offering of His body once for all; not like the Jewish priests, who stood, as priests do now, to offer often because the work was never really done; the consciousness that we are in Christ and Christ in us, by the Comforter given to us, of which we are assured by the Lord Himself in John 14, “In that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you”: and blessed it is to know that we are perfected for ever in Christ, and in Him; and in Him our being sons with the Father, and that He is gone to His Father and our Father, His God and our God: all this is lost, never found in church history, but a system of ceremonies to make good the loss of it. In Scripture it is plain enough.
D. But is it not dangerous to say, however sincere, that we are perfected for ever?
N*. Is it not so written in the word? Is it not very presumptuous to say that what God says is dangerous for the soul? That sinful man will abuse every favour God has given him if he trusts his own heart is quite true; but it is not in denying the truth he is secure. We are sanctified by the truth. One truth too guards another, and, remark, every one who professes to be a Christian professes to be perfected for ever, unless he makes a gospel for himself; for Christ’s gospel so speaks. Indeed, Dr. Milner, in terms, is forced to admit it; he says, as we have seen, “Whereas the latter,” namely, Christ’s death on the cross, “obliterated at once the sins of those who availed themselves of it.” Now every true Christian has, and every professing Christian professes to have, availed himself of it.
R. But he must use the means the church affords.
N*. I fully admit, and am thankful that God has furnished us with means, as prayer, and the word, and the ministry, the Lord’s supper, and fasting if rightly used; but these add nothing to the value of Christ’s work; and you will please to remark that Dr. Milner says—is obliged, in commenting on Hebrews 9 and 10, to say— “Obliterated at once”; but if so, it is all settled, and the conscience purged, and if I am to believe the word of God, we are sanctified to God, by His offering, and perfected for ever. Remark another thing; there can be no spiritual affections without this. How can I feel as a child and a son if I do not know whether I am one or not? How even can I be thankful for acceptance before God, if I do not know whether I am accepted? But however this may be, the Mass is formally condemned by Hebrews 9 and 10. There is no more oblation for sin. Allow me, Mr. R., to ask you, Does Christ die in the sacrifice of the Mass?
R. Of course He cannot.
N*. Surely not; He dieth no more. But then your Mass sacrifice is of no worth at all, for to redeem and put away sin He poured out His soul unto death; He made His soul an offering for sin; and He does no such thing in the Mass. It is utterly without value. There is, says Scripture, of necessity the death of the testator. I need hardly insist on the death of Christ being the ground and basis of all hope and of the very essence of His sacrifice; Isa. 53:10-12; Heb. 9. Is Christ made sin for us now in the Mass?
R. No, He cannot now; He is in glory. That was on the cross.
N*. Then the Mass is no true sacrifice. It is Christ being made sin for us that gives the sacrifice its value, that we may be the righteousness of God in Him. The cross alone is a true sacrifice. Does Christ bear our sins in the Mass?
R. That cannot take place now; He sits on the right hand of God.
N*. Then the Mass is no true sacrifice, and can procure no true remission. It is by bearing our sins in His own body on the tree, that He has obtained forgiveness, and has obliterated them at once, as Dr. Milner says. Again, you admit that it is an unbloody sacrifice; that there is no shedding of blood in the Mass.
R. It may be mystically figured in pouring the wine into the cup; but we all own there is no actual shedding of His blood.
N*. “Mystically figured” we shall not quarrel about. We all own the blessed value of it as a memorial and commemoration, but if there be not, as you admit, and it is evident, the Mass is nothing worth—gives no remission of sins nor makes peace with God; for without shedding of blood there is no remission; and He has made peace by the blood of His cross; Col. 1:20. Thank God, He has made it. Further, is Christ made a curse in the Mass?
R. He cannot be made a curse now.
N*. Then it is no redemption from the curse, for that is by His being made a curse for us—another thing that is so wholly and evidently wanting that I do not ask you about it, but yet is essential to the true sacrifice. There is no redemption in the Mass; for we have redemption through His blood: and if Christ were put to death in the Mass—and the thought would be absurd and blasphemous as a present thing—where is resurrection? As a memorial, I need not bring that in; I commemorate His sacrifice consummated in His death; but if you will have it a real sacrifice, there is no resurrection, and we are yet in our sins. The whole thing is false. Not one element of true sacrifice, the sacrifice of the cross, is there. No death, no blood-shedding, no curse, no cup to drink, no bearing of sins, no being made sin, no suffering the just for the unjust, no forsaking of God—not one single element of what makes the wondrous cross of the blessed Saviour an accomplishment of redemption, on which our salvation rests secure—a perfect and finished atonement through which we have remission, and a perfectly purged conscience, and acceptance with God. It is a mere return to the repetition of Jewish sacrifices, which proved that nothing was really done, only denying thereby that Christ’s work is accomplished, instead of pointing to it, as those sacrifices did. If a sacrifice is still needed, the work of redemption is not accomplished. It is only a vain delusion to say it is the same, it is a repetition, not a thing done once for all, as the Epistle to the Hebrews insists, and is not the same in a single element which gives value to a sacrifice, which makes it true and really such. That is found in the cross and in the cross only.
But allow me to ask you another question, since we are speaking of the value of the sacrifice, Is it not your doctrine that the body, blood, soul and divinity are in the one species, as you call it—what I should call the bread, but which you, of course, would no longer call such after the words ‘This is my body’ are pronounced over it—but in the one kind? and that it is on the ground that it is so in the body, that you declare the communicants at large lose nothing by not having the cup, because the blood is in what you hold to be the body—a whole Christ, as you would say—or what is called the doctrine of concomitancy?
R. Surely we do.
N*. But then, if He be a whole Christ, there is no redemption or remission; for, for this the shedding of His blood was needed. “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone, but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” A whole Christ is the perfect blessed Son of God even if in humiliation on earth, but there is no redemption while He is such. And further, if the pouring the wine into the cup figures the shedding of the blood, how have you the blood still in the body in the one species of bread?
D. But is not this somewhat sophistical?
N*. No, Mr. D.; it is merely exposing the sophistry which is found in the attempt to reconcile what is utterly false in every respect, and to satisfy those whom the system you now delight in deprives of half the institution of Christ, and persuade them they have still all. What is false will never stand examination, though it may puzzle. You speak of sophistry because you have no answer.
R. But we do not deny it is a memorial.
N*. It cannot be a memorial if it be the thing itself. And you make it a true propitiatory sacrifice, denying that Christ finished this, and that it was done once for all.
D. But why cannot we consider it as offered to God so as to present to Him, and call to mind what Christ once did?
N*. Then do not call it a true propitiatory sacrifice, but call to mind to whom? If it call it to mind to us, it is all well, we do it in remembrance. But such a view gives wholly false thoughts of God as forgetful (God, forgetful!) of Christ’s work, or an unpropitiated God who has need to be put in mind of what has been done to appease Him; and also sets aside other parts of truth. For Scripture speaks of the efficacy of that blood being always under God’s eye within the veil, and Christ always appearing in the presence of God for us; so that the eternal efficacy of the one sacrifice is always before God. And explain it as you will, it is a repetition of the sacrifice, if it is a sacrifice at all, as if the value of Christ’s sacrifice were not so present to God. But more than this: the offering to God, though needed, is not the sacrifice properly; the Roman Catholic definitions deny, by omission, what is essential. Christ did offer Himself through the eternal Spirit to God as a victim, but then when the spotless Lamb had thus given Himself to God for this purpose in endless love, God made Him to be sin for us who knew no sin: that was not His offer of Himself, but God making good that for which He offered Himself. The Lord hath laid on Him our iniquity. He offered Himself spotless to God, and God laid the iniquity on Him; 2 Cor. 5:21; Isaiah 53:6. We may look at it as a whole, but when Scripture takes up the question distinctly, it does not confound these two things. Even the Greek words are different: prosphero and anaphero. The first part is Christ offered Himself, prosenegke; secondly, He bore the sins as a victim, and was sacrificed as on the altar—bore the sins there, anenegke. Commonly the Roman Catholic doctors confound these to save the credit of the Mass, but usually they in general take up the first part only, and so really does Bellarmine in his definition, leaving all the true sacrificial part out. Subsequently Bellarmine, feeling the difficulty, treats the question of death when offered: I will speak of it in a moment. Dr. Milner uses the word “immolation,” but then it is only to own God’s title over life and death; no question of sin is raised in it.
D. But what do you say then to those passages to which Mr. R. already referred, as for example, Malachi?
N*. Let us take the passage: “For from the rising of the sun even to the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name and a pure offering; for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith Jehovah of hosts.” Is that fulfilled? Is Jehovah’s name great from one end of the earth to the other? Has not the great mass of the world remained, and do not some three-quarters of it still remain, heathen? Your prophecy, according to your own interpretation of it, is not fulfilled. It is vain to allege that the gospel went out into all the world, as the Fathers sometimes do. In a certain sense nobody denies it; but the essence of the prophecy is, not that it should go forth, but that Jehovah’s name should be great everywhere among the Gentiles, and this is not so: no pure offering is offered.
R. But it will be.
N*. That is no answer; but who told you it will be? That this prophecy will be fulfilled, I am fully assured, but that is another thing from saying it refers to the Mass, for it is not true in fact as to that. Nor is that all; do you own that we Protestants have a pure offering?
R. You have none at all.
N*. Then here is a very large part indeed of Christendom where you would say it had been, where it is not. And the Greeks?
R. Well, they are nearer, but they are heretical as to the Holy Ghost and are in schism.
N*. Is their offering pure?
R. Well, I cannot say it is.
N*. And Mahometans in Asia and Africa, where once there were numerous churches?
R. They of course have nothing to say to it.
N*. Your pure offering then has largely lost ground.
D. But there it is in the prophecy, and you profess to receive the Scriptures.
N*. What is in the prophecy?
D. That Jehovah’s name will be great among the Gentiles everywhere and a pure offering offered.
N*. That I fully believe. But that it is the Mass is another question. Of that it is not true, the limits even of Christendom have receded. Nor is there the slightest ground for saying that the spread of the gospel will accomplish this work. “When thy judgments are in the earth,” says Isaiah, “the inhabitants of the world will learn righteousness,” Isa. 26:9. And Zephaniah is as plain as possible. “Therefore wait ye upon me, saith the Lord, until the day that I rise up to the prey; for my determination is to gather the nations, that I may assemble the kingdoms to pour upon them mine indignation, even all my fierce anger; for all the earth shall be devoured with the fire of my jealousy. For then will I turn to the people a pure language that they may all call upon the name of the Lord to serve him with one consent.” I might multiply quotations, but it would be going too far. These shew distinctly that it is when God’s judgments are executed on the earth that the universal blessing will take place. The Son of man will gather out of His kingdom “all things that offend, and them that do iniquity.” It is Jehovah’s power in judgment, not the Father’s sending the Son in grace, which sets the world as such right. It is the most gratuitous notion, without any ground whatever, that the pure offering to Jehovah is the Mass. It is neither true in fact, nor according to the statement of Scripture. That an offering of heart, and mind, and praise to God, and worship exists wherever grace works, is true, but the application of the prophecy of Malachi to the Mass has no ground whatever.
D. And what do you say to partaking of the table of devils and table of the Lord? The table of devils was clearly an altar, and so must the table of the Lord be.
N*. I reply to these arguments as you all allege them, but they are really only a proof of how little you have to say for your doctrine. You all quote the same texts, because there is nothing else, and prove there is nothing really to plead for your cause, if that could be, against the positive statement of the Epistle to the Hebrews, which formally contradicts your doctrine. The table was in no case an altar, neither with heathens, Jews, nor Christians. The altar was the place of sacrifice and offering; the table the place where they ate, in certain offerings not wholly burnt, a part of the animal which had been offered: but they never did so at the altar. Sacrifice and feasting were never the same; but feasting on what was a part of the animal offered, when done with knowledge, identified him who did so with the altar where the other part was offered. Hence the apostle expressly puts the case of being invited to a feast; in such case what was put on the table they were to eat without any question for conscience’ sake; if it was said this was offered to idols they were not to eat, for that would practically, at any rate in the mind of him who said it, identify them with the idol. But that did not make the table an altar. Take the Roman Catholic system:—the people eat of the wafer. That identifies them with the altar; but their place is not at the altar at all. The table is not the altar in any case; the case actually put by the apostle is a common meal; but if it was said, This is offered to idols, then he did not eat, because the animal of which he ate had been offered to the idol, and part sacrificed actually to it. The table was not the altar, but what he ate identified him with the idol; and the table at which he sat covered with idol meat was figuratively the table of demons. If he sat at meat in the temple, the case was more apparent; but even then they did not eat off the altar, but of the meat offered to the idol on it; and that is the ground the apostle takes. It is the communion of the body of Christ, the communion of the blood of Christ; it is not where it was eaten, but what it was which was in question. Take the offering of Christ; did they eat where He was offered? Eating of the altar is not eating off it, as if the table was an altar. We own an altar spiritually, but it was where Christ was really offered once for all: feeding on Him by faith does identify us with that. Bellarmine himself says he does not urge Hebrews 13:10, because many Catholics take the altar there for the cross. But if this be so, eating of the altar does not mean that the person eats off it so that the table is an altar. We eat of what was on the cross, but not off it as a table. The whole thought is false.
As to Melchisedec, if the bread and wine were an offering to God, a priestly service, is it not strange that the Epistle to the Hebrews makes not the slightest allusion to it? And though Christ be priest after the order of Melchisedec, when the word speaks of the exercise of Christ’s priesthood, it is uniformly a comparison with what Aaron did, and the Jewish sacrifices. In the Old Testament there is not the most distant hint of his offering to God. Melchisedec was a priest on his throne on earth, not a sufferer on the cross; there was no death in his case, but a testimony that he lives. He brings forth the bread and wine, but bringing forth is no offering. You are obliged to say with Bellarmine, We must suppose that he did so, admitting he brought it out to Abraham to eat, but that he must be supposed to have offered it first. In the account, they cannot deny, there is no trace of it. Now Melchisedec is a figure of Christ when He takes to Him His great power, and reigns as king of righteousness over the earth. Now He exercises His priesthood after the similitude of Aaron in the holy place— heaven itself as Hebrews teaches us—which Melchisedec does not at all. But when Christ takes His own throne, it is He who has suffered and offered the one sacrifice, and therefore, as Melchisedec, He has none to offer; He confers the blessing contained in the revelation of the Most High God, possessor of heaven and earth, on those who belong to Him and have conquered. As Melchisedec, He has no sacrifice to offer, because this has been done once for all. Now His service is different; He is gone within the veil, not without blood, and there, we know, sits on the Father’s throne, at the right hand of God till His enemies be made His footstool. Then the rod of His power will go out of Sion. But His present exercise of priesthood is not according to Melchisedec, as the Epistle to the Hebrews fully shews.
I add that Bellarmine’s statement, that Judges 6:18, 19, shews that the Hebrew word used for brought forth signifies priestly offering, has no foundation. Gideon brought out meat, and broth, and cakes, and Jehovah turned it by His power into a sacrifice; but the word does not mean “offering”; habi does, because it is the opposite to this word. Yatsa is “brought out”; bo is “brought in or nigh.” The last is used for bringing up to be a sacrifice, which means the contrary to bringing forth (yatsa). But on their own shewing there is no statement of any offering in Melchisedec bringing forth bread and wine, because they are forced to suppose that the offering had been made before it was brought forth. All this, as I have said, I have answered because it is alleged; but it is a mere lame attempt to get up some evidence out of nothing by far-fetched reasoning, the difficulty of answering being, that there is no tangible reason for it—nothing really to answer. I rest on the great fact that the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the truth of Christianity, deny and reject altogether the whole doctrine of the Mass.
But let me ask you, Mr. R., where does the sacrifice take place in the Mass?
R. I am not a theologian, and it may be somewhat difficult to answer. But our teachers do not enter on that in their ordinary instruction, but speak of its value and blessing. Some attribute it to the priest’s consumption of it in eating it.
N*. And can you really believe that the priest’s eating the wafer is the real propitiatory sacrifice of Christ so as to obtain remission of sins?
James. But do they really say that, sir? Well, I could not have believed it. It is a strange system.
Bill M. Well! I am confounded: to liken that to Christ’s dying when He had offered Himself up to God for a blessed saving sacrifice! It is horrible to think.
N*. Mr. R. however is right; they do say that. Bellarmine holds it; others, owning it as a probable opinion, seek in another part of the Mass the true point of sacrifice.
James. But there is no such difficulty in finding a sacrifice in the blessed Lamb of God. He offered Himself without spot to God, and bore our sins, and was made a curse for us, and died. And then we know His sacrifice is accepted, for He is risen and gone to sit down at God’s right hand. All is plain there.
N*. Because it is a sacrifice: but they are thoroughly puzzled to make one out of the Mass. But why, Mr. R., if this be so, is not the people’s eating it a sacrifice?
R. Well, the priest does it as part of his sacerdotal office, which the people cannot do. But, as you have read Bellarmine, you will know what he says as to it.
N*. Well, he is greatly at a loss; he admits bread and wine are offered, first, as such, but offered to be changed; but then the difficulty arises, that they are not yet Christ at all. However, not to follow all his reasoning, he makes three acts which constitute the Mass a sacrifice: first, what is common is consecrated; secondly, it is offered to God as placed upon the altar; and then adapted to change and destruction which is necessary to a sacrifice, only here done sacramentally and under the form of bread. The priest’s eating it answers to the burning of the burnt offering. The first offering is necessary to the integrity, but not to its essence; so of the consecration; for the Lord in the institution never so offered, nor is the breaking either. But its consumption by the priest is its essence, though not its whole essence. The consecration alone cannot be it, as then mere bread would be sacrifice, not Christ. Still the consecration is essential to the sacrifice, though destruction being necessary, the priest’s eating it is what properly constitutes it a sacrifice. His commentator tells us the opinion of two consumptions or destructions is probable, but the other opposite opinion more probable: that is, that what makes the real essence for Bellarmine is not so at all, but the consecration only. Who could think that all this wretched cavilling was the sacrifice of the blessed Son of God, He Himself offering it? But it is of importance in order to shew that they do not know themselves how to find any truth or reality in it.
The learned editor of the Venetian edition of the works of Gregory the Great, after the Benedictines of St. Maur, published with the permission and privilege of the superior authorities, has another system in his Isagoge (9, B. 169 c, 3, 15, 16), and one that shews more reverence at least. He says that the offering may be of a victim to be immolated, or that has been immolated, confounding the bringing the victim up to be a victim, and the actual offering when slain, on the altar. He holds that Christ offered Himself to God at the institution of the Supper, and was an actual victim on the cross. Now He is offered, though still alive, like the scapegoat, as one who has been slain as a victim. The slaying is thus on the cross; the Mass only an offering. Others, he says, put the force of the sacrifice on the slaying of the victim; we in the offering of a victim slain or to be slain. They will have sacrifice to be instituted as a declaration of God’s supreme dominion over His creatures; we to represent Christ’s death. Surely he has more truth here. Milner takes the other view, but his illustration from the scapegoat is unhappy, because he goes away with his sins on him. Did Christ do that after being a victim? For so he takes it in connection with the goat, whose blood was put on the mercy-seat. The editor of Gregory closes by saying whichever opinion seems the truer and stronger to maintain the Catholic dogma against the innovators, let each follow, mindful of that word, in what is necessary unity; in doubtful liberty; in all charity. But this is a poor uncertainty to get forgiveness and grace by, the evident effect of trying to make a sacrifice of what is not one, resulting too in making uncertain altogether what it consists in. In this writer’s case, the consumption on the altar being the only true offering after being slain, this second offering after being slain cannot take place now. It is really mere remembrance. Indeed he says pretty nearly as much (c. 12, p. 168). There is a sufficiently plain testimony moreover, of the representative nature of our sacrifice in those words of Christ, “As oft as ye shall do these things, do it in remembrance of me”; and he adds a good deal more, that in doing this continually in commemoration of that (the bloody sacrifice), we confess by act that Christ is entered once into the holy place, eternal redemption being found.
R. But these are individual opinions, not the church’s teaching.
N*. Be it so; but when the church has taught it is a truly propitiatory sacrifice, her ablest children cannot find what the sacrifice consists in, because there is none there. It is killing under the form of bread, killing being necessary to sacrifice, but no real killing there. It is a striking proof of the falseness of the whole thing. Bellarmine felt the difficulty, for if consecration were the sacrifice, then bread was what was offered, as is evident, though they think consecration turns it into the body and blood; but then it must be that first to be sacrificed! so he will have it to be essentially the priest’s eating it, though consecration be essential to it.
D. But do not you think we may treat it with more reverence?
N*. The truth of Christ’s sacrifice with the profoundest and Christ-adoring reverence. But treat what with reverence? The Mass, or Christ’s sacrifice on the cross? I am citing what they say. What they say of the Mass, and the utter irreverence of it, the moment we think of the cross of the blessed Lord, is just the proof how utterly distant it is from and opposed to the blessed sacrifice once offered there. As a sacrifice it has no relationship with or resemblance to it. You deceive people by identifying them, and desiring for the blasphemous fable of the Mass, as you once professed to think it, the reverence with which the sacrifice of the blessed Saviour should be spoken of. And I shew you that their language as to the Mass is irreverent folly instead of being the sacrifice of Christ. Just think of the priest’s chewing the wafer being Christ’s giving up His blessed life as a sacrifice for sin. I am almost ashamed to put them in the same sentence.
James. I wonder such reasoning does not open their eyes. I should think it ridiculous folly if it was not so shocking. But people do not know these things.
N*. It is astonishing it does not open them. But we must make allowance for the effect of education, and the fact that all their own importance is connected with it. All worship the wafer, but the more ignorant know nothing of the theological explanations given. In a country where I have known the effect of the system well, it is a common expression, “You would not fear the man that can make God?”
R. But you do not attribute that to Roman Catholics in general.
N*. I should attribute it as an effect to the doctrine they teach. It is with the unlettered the natural expression of their belief that the priest by the word, “This is my body,” turns the bread and wine into the body and blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. But I confine myself to the sacrifice itself at present.
Bill M. Of course they look at it so. How could they sacrifice Jesus Christ, if it was not Himself that was there?
James. Well, I am glad I was kept from such unholy notions.
Bill M. But you know nothing of all this when you are brought in. It is only, Hear the church, and you have a sacrifice and get forgiveness of your sins; and the Protestant has none. And when you do not know that you are forgiven and accepted, that is a comfort. But we will let these gentlemen go on.
James. I understand well what you mean. It all depends on knowing the value of the blessed work of Christ. But you are right; we will let these gentlemen proceed. Mr. D. was ready to say something.
D. I was only going to say that it is the uniform testimony of the Fathers that there is a permanent sacrifice in the church, and that the Eucharist is that sacrifice.
N*. Have you ever examined them for yourself?
D. I have looked at some, but they are quoted by all who have treated the subject.
N*. No doubt. I attach no importance whatever to the statements of the Fathers. No one can have read them, or studied the history of the church, but must know, if he knows the truth at all, how early the truth was lost. If he takes for granted that they have the truth, of course he will receive what they say, if he can receive nonsense and contradictions. But the apostle John warns us to hold fast to what was from the beginning, and that they clearly were not. He tells us that they who are of God hear them (the apostles). You say they were nearer the apostles, and so must be nearer the truth, as they were nearer the source. But we have the apostles and the source itself, and do not want to know what was nearer or farther.
R. But there is the interpretation of the Scriptures, which too are in dead languages.
N*. And there is the interpretation of the Fathers, which are in the same dead languages. For example, on this very subject your most learned men, who quote and read the Fathers, cannot tell what the essence of the sacrifice is in the Mass. But I will refer to them simply because they quoted them. And if we wait on God He will help us to understand His own word, but not mere uninspired writings of men. In these discourses to the people they do speak in the most florid terms, somewhat later indeed, of this tremendous mystery. And they speak generally of the sacrifice, and refer to the passage in Malachi; but it is far from true that they had the thought of a proper sacrifice in the Mass. It was the custom to bring offerings of bread and wine, etc., which were then used for the service or otherwise, as for the poor; and this is constantly spoken of as the sacrifice, which is quite another matter; and the whole service is spoken of in terms which deny the Roman Catholic interpretation of its meaning.
Milner is bold enough to quote Justin Martyr, which, if I mistake not, Bellarmine is too wise to do. Milner refers to his dialogue with Trypho the Jew; but there, after referring to the sacrifice of the great day of atonement among the Jews, and the Lord’s coming when rejected, and His coming again when the Jews will own Him—for this Justin held very positively4—he adds, “And the offering of fine flour, which was ordained to be offered for those to be purified from the leprosy, was a type of the bread of the Eucharist, which Jesus Christ our Lord ordained to be celebrated for a commemoration of the sufferings which He suffered for the purging of the souls of men from all iniquity; and that at the same time we may give thanks to God, that He has created the world, and all that is in it for man’s sake.”5 Again, in the same dialogue, “It appears that this prophecy (Isaiah), concerning the bread which our Christ taught us to offer (poiein6) for a commemoration of His taking a body on account of those who believe on Him, for whose sake also He became a sufferer, and concerning the cup which He taught us to offer,7 giving thanks for a commemoration of His blood.”
But we have Justin’s sober account of their Sunday Service, Ap. II, p. 97, Coloniae, 1686: “When the prayers are finished, we salute each other with mutual kisses; then bread and a cup of water and wine mixed [with it]8 is offered to him who presides among the brethren; and having received these, he sends up praise and glory to the Father of all things through the name of the Son and of the Spirit, and then makes long thanksgiving that He has counted us worthy of these things Himself. And having finished the prayers and the thanksgiving, all the people present assent, saying, Amen… And the president having given thanks, and all the people assented, those who are called deacons among us give to each of those present to partake of the bread for which thanksgiving has been made, and of the wine and water, and carry of them away to those not present. And this nourishment is called by us Eucharist (thanksgiving).” Then after saying it was only given to Christians, he says, “For we do not take it as common bread or common drink; but even as by the word of God, Jesus Christ our Saviour being made flesh, had both flesh and blood for our salvation, so the nourishment for which by the word of prayer which is from Him, thanks are given, from which by change our flesh and blood are nourished, we have been taught to be the flesh and blood of that incarnate Jesus.” He then repeats the account of the service: “that they meet, read the Scriptures, and the president preaches; after that we all rise together and offer prayers; and as we have related, the prayers being over, bread is offered, and wine and water, and the president according to his ability sends up prayers and thanksgiving; and the people assenting, say, Amen. And the distribution and reception of those things for which thanksgiving is offered, takes place with each, and it is sent to those not present by the deacons.” Now there is not a trace of a sacrifice or the offering of anything to God, except bread and wine, and that by the people, not for them. It is not a question of doctrine, but recounting to the Emperor what passed at their meetings.
So Irenaeus. Lib. IV, 18 (34 Old Editions). God is not appeased by a sacrifice—we offer to God the first fruits of His creatures. And he then declares, that they are not common bread and wine, but composed of two things, the earthly and heavenly. Now that superstition as to ordinances sprang up rapidly in the church, I not only admit but insist on. But God not being appeased by a sacrifice, offering the first fruits of His creatures, and the Eucharist being composed of two things, sets aside the Mass and transubstantiation too. The conclusion Irenaeus draws from it is, that our bodies, being nourished by it, will rise. But the notion of a propitiatory sacrifice in the Mass is not to be traced in him or in Justin. From this last Father I must quote another passage which is positive to this purpose. He quotes the prophet, saying, God would not receive the sacrifices of the Israelites dwelling in Jerusalem, but did accept the prayers of the dispersed, and calls these prayers sacrifices. He had declared that God accepted no sacrifices but from His priests, and that Christians were the true priestly race, as God declared, referring to Malachi’s prophecy, and that they offer the sacrifices in His name which Christ taught them—the bread and wine of the Eucharist. Then, after saying the prayers of the dispersion were agreeable when the sacrifices at Jerusalem were not, he adds, God accepts and calls their prayers sacrifices. When therefore prayers and thanksgivings are made by those worthy, I also say, they are the only perfect and acceptable ones to God. For these alone also Christians have received to offer (poiein), and in memory of them dry and moist nourishment wherein also are commemorated the sufferings which God suffered by God Himself. The last phrase is of a singular structure (en e kai tou pathous o peponthe di autou o theos tou theou memnetai).9 But it does not affect our question. If the Eucharist were a propitiatory sacrifice in which Christ Himself, “His bones and sinews,” is offered by Himself, it is impossible Justin could thus speak of it. All Christians, priests; bread and wine the things offered; prayers and thanksgivings, the only true sacrifices acceptable to God, and in the Eucharist a commemoration of the sufferings which Christ suffered: no one who believed in the doctrine of the Mass could write thus. All Christians priests to offer bread and wine; then prayers and thanksgivings offered the only true and acceptable sacrifices; and these prayers God calls sacrifices. He is applying Malachi’s prophecy. The sacrifices of blood in Jerusalem God had not accepted, but their prayers and thanksgivings He did, and so of those offered by Christians at the thanksgiving of bread and the cup (epi te Eicharistia). These statements of Justin Martyr and Irenaeus do not agree with the doctrine of the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice—could not have been used if that had been believed.
Cyprian affords us little help. He uses sacrifice for what the people bring as gifts. (De Op. et El. Pearson, 204.) He says they offered sacrifices for martyrs after their death (seemingly an allusion to heathen celebrations), and in a letter to Cæcilius shewing that there must be wine, not merely water. It does not seems to be His blood, he says, if it be water, and wine be wanting; he refers to Psalm no, and says, Who is so great a priest of the Most High as our Lord Jesus Christ who offered a sacrifice to God the Father, and offered the same that Melchisedec had offered, that is, bread and wine, namely, His body and blood. Here then is no reference to the Eucharist, but to what Christ offered. And, again, Nor is anything else done by us than what the Lord before did for us, that the cup which is offered in commemoration of Him is offered mixed with wine. No trace of any propitiatory offering, nor even of transubstantiation. (Ep. to Csecil.:64. Pearson, 148, 9.)
As to Tertullian, whom Cyprian owned as his master, he knows nothing of such sacrifices as the Mass. In his treatise against the Jews (5), in his book against Marcion (3, 22; 4, 1), in the last referring as all do to Malachi, he insists that it is by praise, simple prayer out of a pure heart, spiritual sacrifices, that Christian and true sacrifice is offered to God, and that in contrast with any external carnal sacrifice. So to Scapula he answers the charge of not sacrificing for the Emperor, that they did it as God had commanded them to sacrifice with a pure prayer to their God and his.
I will only quote one more, because he comes considerably later—Eusebius. Wherever the Fathers are speaking of the contrast of heathenism or Judaism with Christianity, they reject the material sacrifices of blood and incense, and insist on what is spiritual. Eusebius, in doing this, and after largely insisting on Christ’s sufferings and being made a curse, and quoting Moses and the apostle in the Galatians, and that He thus offered to His Father for our salvation a wonderful sacrifice and most excellent victim, adds, “He instituted a commemoration for us to be offered instead of a sacrifice to be offered to God continually,” mnemes ami thusias to theo dienekos prospherein, and subsequently, after quoting Malachi, as usual, states that Christians offer sweet incense and sacrifice to God, but in a new way, according to the new covenant, prayers, hymns, self-consecration in holiness, quoting the Old Testament to prove they were better taught as they were, that they were more grateful to God than a great number of victims with blood and smoke and odour of fat, repeatedly saying it was a commemoration of Christ’s sacrifice which He had instituted. The passage is too long to quote. It is found in Dem. Ev. lib. I, at the end (p. 38-40, Paris ed. 1628).
Now I do not quote these Fathers to prove any point of doctrine whatever; I would not do so for any consideration. We must have what was from the beginning, the word of God. I quote them to shew that the assertion that the Fathers held the Mass as a propitiatory sacrifice is historically not true. But I will now also refer to a proof of the use of sacrifice applied to what the people brought which may seem strange—the Canon of the Mass which originates with the great pope Gregory, famous in such matters. You will see from it at once, that the offering of the people before the service is called ‘offering’ and ‘victim’ even, as we have seen it called ‘offering’ in the Fathers, and the bread and wine called ‘creatures’ after consecration, as they also do.
The priest with various rubrical directions begins by begging the Father that He will “accept and bless these gifts, these offerings (munera), these holy pure sacrifices which in the first place we offer to thee for thy holy Catholic church,” etc. Then for the living—naming the objects of the Mass, and all who stand around, etc.— “for whom we offer to thee, or who offer to thee this sacrifice of praise for themselves, and all theirs for the redemption of their souls for the hope of salvation,” etc. And further on: “this oblation of our service, but also of all thy family, we beseech thee, O Lord, that appeased thou mayest receive and dispose our days in peace, and snatch us from eternal damnation,” etc. Then, “which oblation, O God, we beseech thee, thou mayest deign in all things to make blessed, imputed (adscriptum), sanctioned, reasonable, acceptable: [he makes the sign of the cross once on the victim (hostiam) and once on the cup], that it may become to us the body and blood of thy most beloved Son!” And then follows the prayer of consecration and the consecrating words, “This is my body,” but as recited or said by Christ at the time of institution. And then the cup.
Thus we have the clear testimony that what are called gifts, oblations, and so offered and in the Rubric or direction to the priest, victim (hostia) is so called before it is consecrated, and the offering of the people (omnium circumstantium) referred to; and it is called, as by the Fathers, a sacrifice of praise. Further, after consecration, it is said, “Whence, O Lord, remembering the passion, resurrection, and glorious ascension into heaven of Jesus Christ thy Son our Lord, we thy servants offer to thy illustrious Majesty of thy gifts and bestowings a pure victim, a holy victim, an immaculate victim, the holy bread of eternal life, and the cup of perpetual salvation.” Then, “on which deign to look with a propitious and serene countenance, and accept, as thou deignedst to accept the gifts of thy righteous servant Abel, and the sacrifice of our patriarch Abraham, and the holy sacrifice, the immaculate victim, which thy high priest Melchisedec offered to thee.” Then he prays that the offerings may be carried by the hands of God’s holy angel to the altar on high, etc., and at the close: “by whom (our Lord Christ), thou, O Lord, ever createst, sanctifiest, vivifiest, blessest, and bestowest on us all these good things.” And in saying this he makes at each of the three last words the sign of the cross on the host (hostiam) and the cup. Now the elements are positively called bread and the cup after consecration, and I ask if they really believed that it was Christ offering Himself, could they pray that God would deign to accept it as a pure and immaculate victim, and deign to look on it with a propitious and serene countenance as He had deigned to accept Abel’s sacrifice? Could a believer thus speak of the acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice when He offered Himself, or is it still in question? And further, at the end speaking of the host and cup, he says that God by Christ creates, sanctifies, vivifies, blesses and gives us all these good things, clearly holding the bread and wine still as creatures given of God.
The ancient form which is all confusion by the growing superstition which made the elements after consecration to be Christ’s body and blood, but preserved the forms which treated them as bread and wine and as offered by the people,10 is turned into blasphemy by using language quite appropriate as applied to God’s creatures created by Jesus Christ as if it referred to the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. God by Jesus Christ creates, sanctifies, vivifies, blesses and gives to us all these things. Can that apply to Christ Himself? Yet, according to the modern doctrine of the Mass, nothing else is there. The preservation of the old form which treats them as bread and wine still shews the modern doctrine to be as modern as it is false.
It is evident that the Roman Canon of the Mass bears tokens of an earlier doctrine and usage on the subject, inasmuch as before consecration the priest offers it for the holy Catholic church; then speaks, in the commemoration for the living, of sacrifice of praise; and then, after the commemoration of the dead saints, prays that the Lord appeased may accept the oblation, and that He would deign to make it blessed and acceptable, that it may become to them the body and blood of His most beloved Son. Then he recites Christ’s act and words, “for this is my body,” and then adores the host, then consecrates the cup adding several words to what Christ said, and adores it, and then offers the host, but calling it God’s gift— de tuis donis et datis, and then, strange to say, begs God may deign to regard it with a propitious and serene countenance, and accept it as God did Abel’s, which, if they believed it to be really Christ, would be nonsense or a blasphemy; and then prays that it may be carried by the hand of God’s holy angel to His altar on high in sight of His divine Majesty.
But there is more than this, though this still shews marks of the corruption of a more ancient system which did not view the offerings in the same light. The Roman Mass stands alone among all liturgies. None attributes the transubstantiation, or whatever it is called, for the word though now used and the doctrine generally believed is not a formal doctrine of the Eastern creed, nor the word acknowledged in their symbols, indeed it seems many still reject the doctrine—we can speak of that when we come to the question; but the Canon, so-called, of all other masses or liturgies is wholly different in principle. What they hold to be the consecrating words are entirely absent from the Roman Mass, and approach nearer to more ancient doctrine. The Greeks say it is absurd to suppose that the mere recital of Christ’s words as spoken by Him can make the change—that there must be a positive looking to God to do it. So that after saying, “Take, eat: this is my body which is broken for you, and distributed for the remission of sins,” and “this is my blood of the New Testament which is shed for you, and for many, for the remission of sins,” and subsequently saying, “In behalf of all and for all we offer thee thine own of thine own,” and in that called of St. James, “We offer thee, O Lord, this tremendous and unbloody sacrifice” —they pray God to “send down the Holy Ghost… and make this bread the precious body of thy Christ … and that which is in the cup the precious blood of thy Christ, changing them by the Holy Ghost, so that they may be,” etc.
I have chiefly copied St. Chrysostom’s, so-called, but all are substantially alike. The change is professedly made by the invocation of the Holy Ghost, not by the words of institution, which have been already pronounced when they pray it may be changed. This invocation, which is found in all liturgies, is wholly absent from the Roman Mass.
It is sorrowful to think of the degradation to which, by the superstition of east and west, the blessed commemoration of the Lord’s precious sacrifice has been reduced. In the modern service in Russia they prepare the bread and wine in a side chamber and on a separate table. They have a loaf or loaves, and a spear with a cross generally at the handle; the loaves are prepared with a certain seal or stamp upon them; the priest thrusts the spear into the right side of the seal, saying, “He was led as a lamb to the slaughter”; then into the upper part and into the lower with other words; then into the right side, saying, “For his life is taken from the earth”; then the deacon turning the loaf up says, “Slay, sir,” and he slays it crosswise, saying, “The Lamb of God is slain”; then again turning it on the upper side, reciting what the soldier did; then mixes the water and wine, reciting John’s account of the blood and water coming out of His side. Thus the elements are prepared; then with a procession they are carried to the altar; and the rest of the service already alluded to—invoking the Holy Ghost to make it Christ’s body—goes on. They have no difficulty at any rate where to find the slaying of the victim, and at least have it accomplished before the memory of it is celebrated. For if it be a now living Christ, the slaying Him afterwards by the priests eating the consecrated host, as Bellarmine states, is a perfect monstrosity. How either, degrading and degraded as it all is, can be called worshipping “in spirit and in truth,” is hard for any to understand. But in the Greek form the whole must be taken as a shadow, for the Christ they thus profess to slay in figure is not yet, by the epiklesis, or invocation of the Holy Ghost, trans-elemented into the body of Christ. But how poor, when spirituality is gone, is the effort to work up by superstition some forms of imitative service!
D. But this is not the Catholic service.
N*. No, it is not. There it is done by chewing it in the priest’s mouth. While deepening the darkness of superstition where blindly followed, it produces disgust and irreverence where it is honestly inquired into: as to spirituality of thought or worship, that I cannot say it has destroyed, it has no pretension to it.
R. I do not deny I am perplexed. It is clear the principles of the Roman Canon, and the more ancient ones of St. Chrysostom and St. James, are essentially different; the absence of the invocation of the Holy Ghost, whatever its effect, and which it cannot be denied was of very early date, is a very serious point. I am not of course a Greek and always took for granted they were wrong and schismatic, but thought that on this point they were substantially the same as we were, and so Roman Catholic writers declare and Dr. Milner would make us believe; but there is force in the objection of the Greeks, that the recital of the words of Christ can hardly operate such a change. And, as I have said, the invocation was ancient. But long habit and religious authority are hard to break with, and it is a solemnising thought that we receive Christ.
N*. If it was His dwelling in the heart by faith, feeding on Him spiritually, nothing more precious or important: but I cannot think the mere physical receiving what is material can add anything to what is spiritual. His words are spirit and life. But this we must look further into in speaking of transubstanti-ation, though it is hard to separate the two subjects.
R. Yes; they run into one another.
Bill M. But is all this pretended slaying of Christ before all the people, sir, among the Greeks?
N*. No, that goes on in a kind of side chapel. It is shewn to the people when it has been consecrated on the great altar, as it is after consecration in the Roman Mass, as you know. And masses can be said without their being there at all.
James. Well, I certainly had not a thought of such unholy acting like a play. I do not know which is worst, Greek or Roman, but I am sure neither of them is of God. There is nothing of the simplicity that is in Christ. And it is quite clear that a real living Christ, glorified now, cannot even in a figure be sacrificed.
D. But allow me to repeat, Mr. N., that the Greek service (which I admit, though originally more simple and pure, is stuffed with a vast deal of unprofitable dialogue and ceremonies) is not the Roman Mass.
N*. Quite true; I do not adduce it, of course, as such, but it—and not the Greek only, but all other liturgies, and they are more ancient than the Roman Mass—condemns the Roman Mass in the very essence of its doctrine and structure. The words of Christ at the institution of the last supper do not, according to these liturgies, transubstantiate the bread and wine; that is subsequently sought in the invocation of the Holy Ghost. And you must remark here, that I am not setting one liturgy against another as better or worse one than another. What I say is, that all the ancient liturgies, called by the names of St. James, St. Mark, St. Chrysostom, St. Basil, and others derived from them, all entirely condemn the Canon of the Roman Mass; so that, if these are right, that is, the universal liturgical tradition—and there is little doubt that these in some form or other were the origin of the Roman liturgy itself— there has never been a really consecrated host in any Roman Catholic Mass at all. If transubstantiation were true, there has been none, no true body and blood of Christ.
R. What do you mean? what a strange statement!
N*. It is very simple. That to which all ancient liturgical services attribute the consecration and change in the elements is not in the Roman service at all: the invocation of the Holy Ghost. And Rome is quite aware of this, for, when she has won some who had these ancient liturgies, she has changed her services. The Maronite service I do not know; but for the Abyssinians and Armenians, she has changed them, and not gained much that I see after all. She has retained the invocation of the Holy Ghost for them—I suppose not to scandalise them, and in the Abyssinian has added ‘consecrated.’ Instead of saying, ‘make this bread the body of Christ,’ she says, ‘make this consecrated bread the body of Christ.’ But this makes the matter worse, because it is avowing that what she calls consecrating, all she has in her own Mass, leaves the bread still not the body of Christ. It has still to be made so, so that in her service it is never made so at all. In the Armenian she has been a little bolder, and, instead of ‘make this bread the body,’ says, ‘make this bread, to wit (videlicet) the body of Christ to be,’ etc., for blessing, that is, to the communicants. But further, this change by the invocation of the Spirit is according to patristic tradition also, though the Father’s use of it denies transubstantiation altogether. We have seen Irenaeus declaring that after the invocation there were two things, earthly and heavenly, denying positively transubstantiation, but making the change he did believe in, the consequence of the invocation. I rest my faith wholly on Scripture, but the antiquity you so rest in, in its ancient liturgical services, condemns this Roman Mass. If we are to believe Gregory the Great, the only prayer at consecration was the Lord’s prayer. The Roman Catholic commentators seek to get rid of this, but so he says.11
R. It is very perplexing, and tends to make one doubt of everything.
N*. To doubt of what rests on tradition, but it does not touch what was from the beginning, the inspired word of God able to make us wise unto salvation. There we have divine authority and divine certainty, the truth itself, not human traditions. It is a common effect of gross superstition connected with the profession of Christianity, and all taken as true together, that when the falseness and absurdity of the superstition, of what man has added, is seen, all is rejected together. Infidelity is its natural fruit when the mind begins to work. The word has never had its just authority, and men do not separate what is human and divine. Without the word man believes as he has been taught, that Jesus is God, and that the wafer is the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ. He finds the latter a delusion and, not resting on the word which teaches one and not the other, but as to both alike on human tradition, he throws up both and is an infidel.
When we examine the question of transubstantiation, we shall see that the most famous doctors of the church denied that doctrine five centuries later, and that it was never settled as a defined doctrine till 1215, nine centuries later, so that the Mass was impossible. For if the element be not really the body of Christ, such a sacrifice is impossible. I rest on what is said in Hebrews 9 and 10, which chapters not only teach what is inconsistent with it, but formally contradict it in every part. That Christianity has a sacrifice is a fundamental truth, but that Epistle teaches that it was one, only one, offered once for all upon the cross, never to be repeated, and its not being so repeated essential to its nature and value.
Bill M. Well, what do you say, Mr. R.? For me I confess it is plain enough that, if there was to be no more sacrifice for sins, the Mass cannot be true. What made me like it was that there was forgiveness and a present offering one could think of as offered when we were uneasy in our consciences. But I see God will have us not get our consciences made easy from time to time; but come to Christ and have all we are and have done manifested in God’s sight, and be reconciled to Him through that one sacrifice Christ has made of Himself in wonderful grace on the cross. It goes a deal deeper into one’s soul in the conviction of sin. Of the peace that follows I cannot say much yet, but I see the word of God speaks of it plain enough, and I hope I will find it; but I know that sin is a very different thing when you have to bring it all out before God, and get cleansed there, and when you get your conscience quieted by absolution and receiving at the Mass. It is another thing to be a sinner before God.
James. What to me is so. dreadful is that the blessed efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice is set aside—that which was done once for all at such infinite cost and suffering to Himself, the dreadful cup He had to drink, and the truth that it is done and finished once for all, and accepted of God, so that He sits at God’s right hand when He had made purification for our sins and obtained eternal redemption. They may talk about its being the same sacrifice repeated; but then it is not finished and complete; something more is needed to put away sins. To have a sacrifice for sins still is to say the whole work is not finished on the cross; and it unsettles too all our peace before God. And Christ cannot suffer now. It denies the efficacy of the cross and Christ’s glory in it, and the sure foundation of our peace and rest, and God’s glory too, for all is still unfinished. And what is said in the Hebrews is plain enough. I wonder how persons calling themselves Christians could dare to go so plainly against God’s word.
D. You seem to make nothing of the teaching of the church, but take your own crude and rash opinions as a warrant for a dangerous self-confidence.
James. Excuse me, sir. I do not take up any opinion at all. I trust God’s word as the truth through grace. An opinion is brought to me which contradicts it, and I do not receive it. As to confidence, such grace as was shewn in the gift of God’s blessed Son does give confidence in God, and the work of Christ when believed in, gives peace to the conscience. Confidence in myself would, I know, be as wrong as it would be foolish and dangerous; but it is not in myself, but in God’s love and His word, and the work that Christ has accomplished. Will you forgive a poor man if he asks you humbly, Have you got this peace? “He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself.”
D. I am not accustomed to give an account of my own feelings. The privileges and graces given to the church, I know, are very great, and so wonderful that I feel it presumptuous to appropriate them to myself; but I trust, being found within her pale, I shall have the benefit of the grace conferred upon her through His sacraments and the promises made to her. God alone knows how far we have profited by them, and the day of judgment will make all manifest.
N*. But this is an unhappy state of uncertainty, Mr. D. How can you invite others to come to Christ and they shall have rest, when you have not rest yourself? Either (and God forbid such a thought!) what Christ has said is not true, or you have never come to Him. And Scripture is quite plain, saying, “We have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the Spirit of adoption, crying, Abba Father.” The Spirit of adoption, which is the practical condition of the Christian, cannot exist if I do not know I am a child. In your state you cannot say, Abba Father. I speak only from what you say yourself. “I write unto you, little children,” says the apostle John, “because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.”
D. What do you mean? that I cannot preach the truth if I am not sure of my salvation?
N*. You cannot preach the gospel as Scripture presents it, and the Lord Himself. You may repeat the words, but you can announce the gospel with no personal consciousness that it is true, so as to preach it yourself with conviction, so as to have truth and heart in your preaching.
D. But I am not preaching to heathens, but to Christians.
N*. I admit the difference, and in some respects important difference; but they, or at any rate the mass of them, and yourself too, have not peace, have not the rest of heart and conscience which Christ promises. Neither you nor they are where the gospel sets a man, where it has put James, and, thank God, many others who have found what Paul declares to be true, “Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have access into this grace [or favour], wherein we stand.” Besides, let me ask you, Can the church answer for you in the last day?
D. No; but in following her directions, I shall be able to do so.
N*. Have you followed her directions hitherto?
D. Well, we follow badly the blessed guidance that is for us; still I have as far as I could, faithfully done so, and hope to be able to do so.
N*. And if you were taken away now, you do not know if you would be accepted or not; and when once you leave this, the church can do no more. It has not given you peace, and purged your conscience here, and cannot answer for you there. Conscience must be individual, pardon must be individual, a new life must be individual. Each one must give an account of himself to God individually; and a church and its system which quiets the conscience here, but gives no peace, nor purges it, and cannot answer for us there, is a poor substitute for the perfect and ever-subsisting efficacy of Christ’s one sacrifice, by which the believing soul born of God has peace and constant peace. The conscience, really purged before God, and receiving the Holy Ghost, walks in joy, possessing a power in a living Christ, which destroys the dominion of sin. Do not suppose I think the true doctrine as to the church of no moment. It is most blessed and important; but the word of God always puts the individual relationship with God and the Father first, and then the truth as to the church after; because my personal relationship with God must be settled, bringing me into the privilege of a son, before I enter on our union with Christ, or God’s ways in dwelling in the assembly by the Holy Ghost. And your doctrine of the Mass sets aside the full abiding efficacy of Christ’s blood, hides the love of God, brings uncertainty into the conscience, and fear into the heart; denies the most precious truth of God, and just gives the carnal mind quietness from time to time, without being really turned to God, leaving the heart practically in the world where it was; takes peace from the believer, and gives a quiet conscience to the unbeliever in heart, who has no thought of walking with God. I do not seek to use hard words, but Masses, as you have acknowledged, are really blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits. There is no sacrifice of Christ but one, and once for all.
R. I do not complain of your language, because I know it is only a quotation from the Articles of the Established Church. But do you not think this confidence you speak of is dangerous? Does it not tend to destroy humility?
N*. We spoke a little of that already; still it is so common an objection that I still reply. I know your teachers do and must object to it. It would take the whole matter out of their hands; people would not want them. But a vast body of Protestants too resist it.
But I take the matter up broadly, and say, The scripture never recognises a person uncertain of his salvation as in a Christian state. Certainty or uncertainty has nothing to do with humility. If it be uncertain whether a child be really the child of his parent, this has nothing to do with his humility; he may not have the shadow of a question as to his being such, and be a humble obedient child. But true divinely given certainty brings us into the place of humility, because, where real, it brings us into the presence of God through the rent veil of Christ’s sufferings to walk in the light as God is in the light. There we feel our own utter nothingness, how far we are from having reached the mark; and all is seen in that light. Yet we have confidence, because grace has brought us there, and we know God is love and loves us infinitely. It is said, the love wherewith He loves Jesus, and that He accepts us because of, and by, and according to, the value of the perfect work of Jesus, who appeared once in the end of the world to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. Through His offering we have no more conscience of sins—perfected for ever as to acceptance by His one offering. The Lord has given us the picture of this uncertain state in the prodigal son. When he had not yet met his father, though his heart was turned by grace towards him, he says, “Make me as one of thy hired servants.” There was no certainty or enjoyment of the relationship. When he met his father, there was no such word uttered. What his father was to him was known because he had met him; the thought of being treated as a servant only proved he had not met him yet. There is a new nature in him who is born of God which loves holiness, but there is no true development of holy affections until we are at peace with God. And the Mass denies the ground of our relationship with Him, the holy and righteous God, and the true scripturally revealed value of Christ’s work.
R. Well, Mr. N., you have given me something to think of. I see some have a peace I have not. I do not profess to be convinced, but certainly Hebrews 9 and 10, to a plain mind make the doctrine of the Mass extremely difficult to receive. But Protestants I meet have not that peace which such a statement, if believed, would seem to give. I do not mean now careless men of the world, but serious men. It is a serious thing to give up the doctrine and authority of the church. But I have got subjects for inquiry.
N*. Be assured, dear sir, in looking to the Lord, He will give you light and understanding; only give His word its just authority, I entreat you. We own it all, you as well as we, as God’s word; and let men say or claim what they may, if God has spoken, we are responsible to hear and bow to what He says. He, though patient in grace, will hold us responsible for it when He judges the secrets of men’s hearts, when no priest or church will be of any avail.
R. But we are taught to bow to and avail ourselves of them here.
N*. But they cannot answer for you there; and if God has certainly spoken, and in grace too, we are bound to hear. It is true that multitudes of Protestant Christians have not, nay reject that peace; but I do not ask you to listen to them, but to the word of God itself.
R. We have not touched on transubstantiation yet, which is indeed closely connected with our present subject; and I have been sufficiently interested in what has passed to be glad to enter on that too if it were possible. I really desire to know the truth.
N*. I do not doubt it in the least. I think our friends here who first led us into all these questions desire to hear it too; and I dare say James will still let us make his house our place of meeting.
James. With pleasure, sir, and much obliged to you for coming: and Bill M. of course may be here, and will, I know, wish it.
N*. Well, then, it is understood.
R. I will now then say, Good evening: and we are much obliged to James for his kindly receiving us.
James. It is quite a pleasure to me. Good evening, sir.
R. Mr. D., I suppose, is coming. I wish you all good evening. Good evening, sir.
Bill M. I see more into all than ever I did, and what true Christianity is—how Christ has made peace by the blood of His cross. But I dare not say much yet.
N*. Carry it all to the Lord, M. There it will all be clear with Him.
Bill M. But many pious people do not see all this clear. I did not see it at all, or so understand it, for I was not pious before I turned Roman Catholic. But I did not hear of it either.
N*. No, as Mr. R. said, many, even pious, Protestants do not at all see the holy place where grace has set them. Hence too, they are so mixed up with the world. But, thank God, it is clear in the word: only divine teaching must be there to possess it really. But now I too must say, Good evening.
James and Bill M. Good evening, sir.
Bill M. Well, Jim, what do you say to all we have heard? What I think I feel most is, how awfully I was in the dark, and how sad to think how little the true love of God and work of Christ is known and preached! And glad I am to have heard what I have. I think it is over with the Mass, and all that belongs to it, for me.
James. Well, Bill, I am thankful more than I can tell you, having found peace with God and the salvation of His grace, and surely sovereign grace to me, has brought; thankful too, to have escaped the snare I was just falling into. And it is such a comfort too in the house, and my missus was sorely tried about it. And now we can get on happily together, and look to God together for the children. I do not mind so much now about the rest, because I am all clear myself, but glad to hear.
Bill M. I do not so much mind either; but then it is a great thing with the Catholics, and very hard to get them out of it, because they think it is the very body and blood of Christ; and when they receive, that they receive that, and that they are all perfect-like. So I shall be glad to hear. But now, Good night.
1 Milner, Letter 39.
2 eis to dienekes, uninterruptedly.
4 He says all orthodox Christians did.
5 Dial. c. Tr. 259, 260.
6 Poiein I have translated “offer,” to leave no handle; but it is used for any celebration of a feast, or ceremony for the dead of any kind, to keep a feast, to have an entertainment, dinner, etc. It was celebrated for a commemoration.
8 Kramatos which means wine and water or some other thing mixed, but as water is mentioned I put wine.
9 Dial. c. Te.:345.
10 It is curious enough too that the Canon of the Mass, in speaking of the cup, says (following the Vulgate), not ‘is poured out,’ but ‘shall be poured out,’ referring to the sacrifice as a yet unaccomplished thing. There was no need so to put it according to the Greek. It is simply ‘poured out,’ or ‘being poured out’; but Jerome has given it historically, having no idea of sacrifice in the institution save as it referred to the cross.
11 “Mos apostolorum fuit ut ad ipsam solummodo orationem [dominicam] oblationis nostram consecrarent.” Ed. Ven. 1771. Vol. 8, 56, Ad. Joh. Epis. Syracusanum. Lib. 9, let. 12 (64 Ac).