“A Definition of Protestantism” American Sentinel 14, 19, pp. 287, 288.

AN Episcopalian authority, Canon McColl, is calling for a definition of Protestantism. He maintains that there is no definition of the word which shows it to be suitable as a designation for the Christian Church. He says:—

“In common parlance, a Protestant means anybody who is not a Roman Catholic, and Protestantism is thus a sort of drag-net that ‘gathers fish of every kind,’ from the believer in the Trinity and Incarnation to the Mormon and the agnostic, and even the avowed atheist. What, then, is ‘the Protestant faith’ of which we hear so much? It is a contradiction in terms. The note of faith is ‘I believe.’ The note of Protestantism is ‘I do not believe.’ It is a negative term, and therefore to call the Church of England ‘Protestant’ is much the same thing as to define a human being as ‘not a quadruped.’”

If “anybody who is not a Roman Catholic” is a Protestant, then anybody who is not a Protestant is a Roman Catholic; and anybody who says he is not a Protestant because he finds fault with that term as [288] being a mere negation, might as well own up that he is a Roman Catholic and take his stand openly with that church.

Protestantism is either a lie, or it is truth. If it is truth, it is not a mere negation.

When Wycliffe, “the morning star of the Reformation,” at one time lay sick upon what his enemies hoped would be his death bed, some monks and friars came to him to taunt him with the prospect (as they believed) that the cause for which he had contended was about to perish. They had about the same idea of Protestantism as is held to-day by some who are “not Roman Catholics.” But Wycliffe knew what Protestantism was. Raising himself upon his bed and looking his enemies in the eye, he exclaimed in ringing tones: “With what do you think you are contending? With a feeble old man, trembling upon the brink of the grave? No! but with truth—truth, which is mightier than you, and will one day vanquish you!”

Wycliffe’s prophecy came true. Truth—drawn from the Scripture—vanquished Rome, and that victory established Protestantism in the world.

Truth is always a protest against error; but truth—religious truth—is at the same time the most positive thing in the world.

So long as the principles and doctrines of the papacy are upheld in the world by great organizations of men, so long will Protestantism be a proper designation for the opposing principles of truth. For one who makes no protest against the principles of the papacy, might as well identify himself with the papal party.

“The Protestant faith” presents no contradiction in terms. “I do not believe,” is a phrase of papal coining. Concerning truth, the meaning of Protestantism is, “I believe;” concerning error it is “I protest,“—which, of course, implies non-belief; but papal opponents have taken this negative side of Protestantism and held it up before the world as being the only aspect which Protestantism presents.

It required something very positive on the part of Wycliffe, Luther, and other leaders of Protestantism to make headway against the vast and long-established power of the papacy. It required a very positive belief of gospel truth,—it required true faith. And the fact that Protestantism did make headway against that great system, even through the dungeon, the rack, and the stake, is evidence of the most convincing kind that it was, and is, the most positive thing in the world.

And anybody who will practice true Protestantism to-day will not be long in discovering that it must of necessity be as positive a thing to-day as it ever was in the past.

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