“Christianity Against Ritualism—The Bible Against the Papacy” American Sentinel 10, 7, pp. 49, 50.

February 14, 1895

THE Monitor, a Catholic paper published in San Francisco, in its issue of January 12, contains an editorial notice, nearly a column in length, of the AMERICAN SENTINEL, with especial reference to our “Nine Years’ Experience,” as related in the first number of the present volume. As the Monitor betrays a sad lack of understanding of the real purpose and work of the SENTINEL, and as it seems disappointed that we did not “enlighten” it upon certain points in the articles referred to, we shall endeavor to help our contemporary to a clearer understanding of things.

First, the Monitor says that the SENTINEL’S “ritual is summed up in the observance of the Saturday instead of Sunday; its belief is a wild and incoherent jumble of the Book of Daniel and the Revelations of St. John the Divine; and its morals consist in steady and unlimited abuse of the pope of Rome and the loudly dressed lady who sat on seven hills.”

This is incorrect in all its statements. First, as to ritual: In the sense in which the Monitor knows and uses the word, we have no ritual at all; for we have Christ, and he abolished in his flesh all ritualism. He abolished in his flesh the law of commandments contained in ordinances,—ceremonies, rites (Ephesians 2:11-18),—in a word, all ritualism and ceremonialism; and to all who are in him all ritualism is abolished.

He who has Christ has the very life and substance of all the forms of service and of worship which he has appointed; then these cease to be mere ceremonies or rites, and become the expression of the living presence and power of Christ himself in the life of the believer. This is the end of ritualism, of ceremonialism; the end of “a form of godliness” without the power; the end of any employment of the form of baptism, or the form of the Eucharist, etc., as “means of grace,” as they are employed in the Catholic system.

“The law came by Moses, but the reality and the grace came by Jesus Christ.” John 1:17 (Syriac). Now, the whole Roman Catholic system is only one of forms, of ceremony, of ritual. In that system all such things are used as means,—as “means of grace”—with the hope of thereby obtaining Christ; while with us any such things are used altogether as the expression of the grace, the presence, and the power of Christ which we already have by faith. Rome’s is a system of salvation—justification—by works; while ours is the divine truth of salvation—justification—by faith.

Therefore it is that we say that in the sense in which the Monitor knows and uses the word “ritual,” we have no ritual at all. We do observe the seventh day—the Sabbath of the Lord—it is true. But at the same time it is only as the sign and expression of the living Christ who dwells within the heart and life by faith. This is what Christ appointed it for (Ezekiel 20:12, 20); and this is truly what it is. Without the real presence of Christ himself in the heart and life by faith alone, the keeping of the seventh day—Saturday—or the performance of any other service, is nothing. “For in Jesus Christ neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision; but faith which worketh by love.” Galatians 5:6.

To propose to keep the Sabbath of the Lord—the seventh day, Saturday—without the living presence of Christ in the heart, by faith, is but to bear the sign without the thing signified; is but to have the form without the reality,—the form of godliness without the power,—and is formalism, ceremonialism, ritualism only, and is precisely of the same nature, if it differs in degree, as is the Catholic system throughout. Ours is not this. On the contrary, it is the faith which takes Christ first of all as the most precious gift of God, and which finds in him the beginning and the end, the first and the last, the sum of all things good or right; in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and in whom alone all they that are of faith are complete. This is not ritual: it is life itself, the life of Jesus made manifest in mortal flesh. 2 Corinthians 4:10, 11. And this is the difference between the Roman Catholic system with which the Monitor belongs, and the Christian system with which the SENTINEL belongs. The Catholic system is ritual and iniquity; the Christian system is Christ and the righteousness of God. The Sabbath of the Lord is the sign of the Christian system; the Sunday of the papacy is the sign of the other—the sign of ritualism.

As for our belief being “a wild and incoherent jumble of the Book of Daniel and the Revelations of St. John the Divine,” the truth is, that we simply take the books of Daniel and Revelation, with all the other books of the Bible, as they read, and believe just what they say. If, therefore, what those books say is “a wild and incoherent jumble,” then what we believe is also that; for we believe precisely what those books say.

We rather suspect, however, that what the Monitor says our “morals consist in,” had something to do with its decision that our belief of the books of Daniel and Revelation is “a wild and incoherent jumble;” for it says that our “morals consist in steady and unlimited abuse of the pope of Rome and the loudly dressed lady who sat on seven hills.”

Now, as a matter of fact, we have not indulged in any such abuse at all. We have quoted the scriptures of the books of Daniel and Revelation which apply to the papacy. If that is abuse, then of course we have engaged in abuse; but in that case the Monitor ought not to lay the accusation against us. It ought to lay this charge against the Author of the Scriptures, for all that we have done has been to quote these.

Of course the Monitor does not want to lay that charge directly against the Author of the Scriptures. Yet, knowing that these scriptures do apply to Rome, and not being ready directly to charge the Lord with “steady and unlimited abuse” of Rome, the Monitor would escape the dilemma by deciding that our belief (from which of course spring our morals) “is a wild and incoherent jumble of the Book of Daniel and the Revelations of St. John the Divine.” We have no particular [50] objection to this charge of the Monitor; it has a perfect right to think as it chooses, and to say what it thinks. And so long as we simply use the Scriptures as they speak about the papacy, we can well bear the charge of abuse of the papacy, for we are in good company.

Aside from the Scriptures which speak of the papacy, the only mention that we have had occasion to make of the pope has been in connection with his scheme to unite the Roman Catholic Church with the power of the United States Government, to do with this nation now as “the church” has done with other nations in the past, and so to bring Europe and all humanity once more under the power of the papacy; and in doing this we have only stated the facts as given from the pope through Catholic channels. These plain facts, however, plainly stated, set the papacy in such a wicked light in its dealings with our country that it is easy enough for Catholic papers to see in it only “steady and unlimited abuse of the pope of Rome.”

The second, and only other occasion that we have had or used to discuss the pope was when, last year, he addressed “the Princes and Peoples of the Universe,” and gravely informed us all that “WE [that is, himself] hold the regency of God on earth.” And a mere analysis of the term “regency,” as applied by the pope of Rome to God, showed the statement of Leo XIII. to be so absolutely blasphemous that to a believer in the thing we do not wonder tht it should be termed abusive toward the pope of Rome.

On that point we said: “Now, what is a regency?—This is what it is: A regency is the office and administration of a regent; and a ‘regent is an administrator of a realm during the minority or incapacity of the king;’ ‘one who rules or reigns, hence, one invested with vicarious authority; one who governs a kingdom in the minority, absence, or disability, of the sovereign.’

“Now, if there are any princes or peoples in the universe who think that God is in his minority and is therefore too young, or that he is old enough but is afflicted with some disability and is consequently unable to conduct the affairs of the universe; or who think that he is all right himself, but has gone off somewhere outside of the universe; and if, in addition, those princes and peoples think that the Lord has left Joachim Pecci to run the universe during the period of his ‘minority, disability, or absence;’ then of course it is to be expected that such princes or peoples will listen respectfully to what Mr. Pecci says when he addresses the princes and peoples of the universe. For, as a matter of course, if Mr. Joachim Pecci occupies the throne and conducts the affairs of the universe in the place of God, it follows plainly enough that when he speaks he speaks to the universe, and must be listened to accordingly.

“But if any person believes that God is what he is, ‘the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God,’ then that person knows that it is impossible that such a thing could ever occur as his ‘minority, absence, or disability;’ that therefore it is impossible that there ever could be any such thing as a ‘regency of God;’ and that, consequently, the idea that Joachim Pecci or any other man should ‘hold the regency of God on earth,’ or anywhere else, is too ridiculous for serious consideration if it were not supremely blasphemous. NO; Vincent Joachim Pecci, as ‘Leo XIII., Pope,’ has no more right or authority to assert or claim to hold any ‘regency of God,’ and from such position speak to the princes and peoples of the universe, than has any other Italian or any Hottentot.”

This is what we said as to that. And we say it yet. We have no kind of retraction or apology to make respecting any part of it. And there is no kind of abuse in it anywhere. If this simple analysis of it seems to the Monitor to be abusive of the pope, it should not attack us. Let the Monitor turn its attention to the pope, rather than to us, on this matter; for when the pope sets forth for acceptance by “the universe” such claims on his own part that the mere analysis of the terms used subjects us to the charge of abuse of him, then the proper thing for the Monitor to do is to ask the pope to stop making such claims, instead of charging with abuse those who simply analyze the claims.

As for what the Monitor calls “the loudly dressed lady who sat on seven hills,” we have never spoken of her as a “lady.” That term does not properly belong to her. It is not the term that the Lord uses in referring to her. The Scripture says that she said of herself, “I shall be a lady,” and that she would be called “The lady of kingdoms;” but what the Scripture itself calls her is a term that is absolutely incompatible with any suggestion of a lady. We shall not quote the scriptures which describe her, lest the Monitor and other Catholic papers should not only charge us with abuse, but worse. We shall therefore cite chapter and verse, and the Monitor and all others can read the words for themselves as the Lord has spoken them; and then let them make their charges as they choose. Here they are: Revelation 17:1-6, 15, 16; 18:2, 3; 19:2.

And that the Monitor may the better be prepared to understand the application of these scriptures, we also cite the two standard and popular Roman Catholic authorities—“The Faith of Our Fathers,” p. 131; and “Catholic Belief,” p. 323—both of which say that the Babylon referred to by Peter—1 Peter 5:13—and the early Christians, is Rome. And when the Lord says that she is a harlot herself, and “the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth,” it is not abuse when we say or anybody else says that that is what she is.

When the plain statements of the Word of God seem to any person to be abusive, then the only proper thing for such person to do is so to change his attitude that that Word will not seem so, but can be accepted as the exact truth. To the Scribes and Pharisees it no doubt seemed to be very great abuse when Jesus told them that they were hypocrites, whited sepulchres, serpents, and a generation of vipers. It was the truth, though, and instead of persecuting and crucifying him, it would have been far better for them to have acknowledged that it was all true, and changed their course from that of disobedience to that of faith.

It is altogether likely that the devil would rather still be called Lucifer—Lightbearer—than to be called Satan—the adversary—and Diabolus—the slanderer. It may be that he thinks the Lord is engaging in “steady and unlimited abuse,” when he insists in continually referring to him by these titles. But be that as it may, it is certain that these titles define precisely what he is; and the Lord, in constantly using these terms, is not in any sense abusing him—he is simply telling the truth.

It is just so as between us and the papacy. We have no doubt that the Catholic Church would much rather that we, like most other people, would always refer to her as “the true church,” “a Christian church,” “a branch of the Christian church.” “the Holy Catholic Church,” etc., instead of speaking of her, as the Lord does, as “the man of sin,” “the mystery of iniquity,” “the son of perdition,” “the great harlot,” “Babylon, the mother of harlots and abominations of the earth,” “the beast.” But all these latter things are just what the Lord calls her, and he is right; in all this he simply tells the truth. The Lord is not abusing her when he constantly speaks thus of her—he is simply telling what she is in truth; and neither are we abusing her when we use the terms, and only the terms, which he uses in describing her.

We do not intend to abuse the papacy nor anybody else. But we do intend to tell the truth. We do intend to proclaim the truth of God as it is in the Word of God, the truth as it is in Jesus Christ. We do intend to proclaim this truth precisely as it is, whether it be concerning the papacy—the beast—or whether it be concerning apostate Protestantism—the image of the beast. If this truth—the truth of God—should seem to any one to be abusive, let him change his attitude toward the truth, and then it will cease to appear to be abuse. The change must be in him, for the truth of God cannot change nor be changed.

The rest of the Monitors complaint we must postpone to other numbers. This much was necessary to be noticed, not only upon the merits of the case, but also to “clear the decks” for all our future action.

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