January 31, 1895
WHY is it that now in the last half of the last decade of the nineteenth century the papacy is triumphing over Protestantism in the very countries where in the first half of the sixteenth century the Reformation triumphed so gloriously? Why is it?
IT is not because there are fewer professed Protestants now than then. There are a thousand now to one when the protest of the princes was announced. It is not because Bibles are scarcer now than then. There are a thousand Bibles in Germany now where there was one then. It is not because it is more dangerous to read the Bible and practice its precepts now than it was then. Then why is it?
THE answer is easy. The German Reformation began in the heart of Martin Luther and so wrought upon his affections that he was willing to sacrifice his position, his honor and his life in order to profess and promulgate its principles.
SINCE the Reformation was born and promulgated at the cost of such devotion to principle, it follows that if it is to be kept alive and vigorous it will be at the cost of similar devotion to principle.
WHAT were the principles underlying the Reformation? Let the historian of the Reformation answer:—
“The reformers and the apostles set up the Word of God as the only light, as they exalt the sacrifice of Christ as the only righteousness. By mingling any authority of man with this absolute authority of God, or any human righteousness with this perfect righteousness of Christ, we vitiate both the foundations of Christianity.”
And now we maintain that these principles which were the life of the Reformation have been in effect abandoned by popular Protestantism. On this point we quote and indorse the words of Rev. R. Sailiens, Paris, France, in the Missionary Review of the World, for October, 1894. After pointing out the reaction toward Rome in France, Germany, Russia and England, the writer says:—
“In Protestant countries we are afraid the main cause is the weakness and loss of power of the evangelical churches. As they have grown rich and prosperous, the Protestants have forsaken, to a great extent, that puritanic spirit which was the strength of the Reformation. From their primitive simplicity of worship they have come down to elaborate services, beautiful and luxurious buildings which are imitations of Roman Catholic medieval architecture, and thus have led their sons and daughters to the very threshold of Rome, with which Protestants will never be able to compete, try as they may, for finery, music, and display. Moreover, it is sadly evident that, in Great Britain especially, the work of the Reformation did not go deep enough, and that many Romish errors—such as baptismal regeneration and apostolic succession—were left in the prayer—book as seeds for future apostasy. Wherever a notion of a visible universal church is entertained, logic must lead to the Roman Catholic position.
“But we believe that the main cause of this reaction toward Rome in Protestant lands lies in the fact that the Bible does not hold in those countries the same place that it did three centuries ago. Then people turned away from the infallibility of a man to the infallible Book; but now the Book is no more deemed infallible; the ‘higher’ criticism has submitted it to an ordeal as severe as that of the Inquisition in times past. The Inquisition burned the Bible, but the higher critics are tearing it to pieces. And yet there is a craving in the human soul, and especially in the soul which has come into contact with the gospel, for a moral certainty, for a divine, infallible authority.
“As I am writing these lines, our daily papers are publishing an encyclical letter of the pope—his swan’s song, as some say—which exhibits that wonderful craftiness of which I have just spoken. It is an appeal for reunion, specially directed to the Greek and Anglican churches. ‘Speaking to those nations which have for the last three centuries been separated from the church, the pope shows that there is no certain rule of faith and authority left to them. A large number among them have overthrown the very foundations of Christianity by denying the divinity of Christ and the inspiration of the Scriptures.’
“Is it not the wonder of wonders that the man who incarnates that awful system by which the Bible has been burned, and its disciples, even to this day, persecuted to death; that system which has established tradition above the Bible, has contradicted every Bible doctrine and tried to silence every Bible preacher, should now dare to stand before the world as the advocate of the Bible against—the Protestants! And yet, it is, alas! but too true that Protestantism to a large extent is no more the religion of the Bible. This accounts for the boldness of Rome, and for her success.”
After so clearly giving the cause of Roman Catholic triumph in Protestant countries, he points out the one and only remedy, as follows:—
“But how shall we oppose her growing power?
“I am fully convinced by my experience as a missionary for twenty years among my own people, that it will not be by clumsy imitations of her gorgeous display, but rather by a return to the primitive simplicity of worship manifested in the upper room. To worship God in spirit and in truth, and not in beautiful temples, the cost of which would support two or three missionaries for a whole lifetime; to invite, and not to exclude, the poor, the sinner, the outcasts, who now find it so difficult, even if they would, to sit in our refined places of worship—such seems to me the imperative duty put upon us if we do not wish to see the masses go to Rome, which to them appears so much more democratic than ourselves.
“I have also a deep conviction that it is only through the Bible—as the Reformers did—that we shall withstand popery. Anything, however pious in tone, that helps to destroy the people’s faith in the Bible as an infallible book, works on behalf of Rome. I have no time to dilate on this point, but I beg the readers to  reflect on it. It is to me the vital question, and I do not see any other alternative but this: the Bible or the pope.
“Finally, let us preach Christ, his free forgiveness, his atoning blood. Ethical, political, or social preaching—“sermons for the times,” as they are sometimes termed—will not prevent the drift of the masses toward the old system. But the upholding of the Crucified!—I have seen it, thank God, hundreds of times—will always prove the power of God unto salvation. Rome has many weapons—money, genius, traditions, beauty of forms. It appeals to the lower nature of man, dispenses with the necessity of a second birth, renders sin easy. It deifies mankind, as all heathen religions do. It must, therefore, have a great measure of success, as it corresponds so marvelously to man’s natural cowardice and depravation. But if we are faithful to the Bible and to the crucified, we need not fear defeat; all true Nathanaels, all the sincere and noble hearts who are seeking a real Saviour, will come out of Rome to meet us. The true sheep know the Shepherd’s voice, and, hearing it, follow it.”
This is the remedy which the SENTINEL has prescribed and will prescribe for the universal Romanizing malady. But the remedy will not be accepted and applied, and therefore the drift Romeward will continue until Rome shall once more, but for the moment only, sit as queen over the conquered nations of earth.
No political opposition will stay the progress of Rome when the vital life of the Reformation has disappeared from the minds and hearts of men. The “Iron Chancellor,” Bismarck, may bid political defiance to the pope, and refuse to go to Canossa, but he will eventually go, and a Roman Catholic chancellor will take his place, as is now the case in aforetime Protestant Germany. Oh, that popular Protestantism would return to its first love, take up again its discarded weapon, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God!” “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.” 2 Corinthians 10:4.