May 24, 1894
“HOW shall a man be just with God?”
THIS has been the great inquiry of men ever since the days of the man of Uz, and long before.
IN fact this has been the great inquiry of all men in all ages; it is the great inquiry still; and is yet to be a far more absorbing topic than it is now.
AT each of the three great religious epochs of the world’s history—the deliverance of Israel from Egyptian bondage; the Apostolic Age; and the Era of the Reformation—this has been the one great question at issue; and in our day it is again to be the great question at issue in the great controversy which is to be the culmination of all questions and of all earthly ages.
“HOW shall a man be just with God?” is an always has been the one single question at issue between Christianity and the papacy. And, as we have abundantly shown in these columns that it is now the avowed aim of the papacy to dominate this nation, and even “all mankind,” and “all mankind” through this nation, it is evident that this nation is the pivot of the aim of the papacy. “The saviour from the Vatican” is now proposed as the saviour of this nation and of all the others. And as Christianity is ever uncompromisingly opposed to the papacy; and as the one great question that is ever at issue between Christianity and the papacy is “How shall a man be just with God?” it follows plainly enough that in our day this is to be the great question, not only in this nation, but in all the world.
HOW then are men made righteous—justified, saved from sin—according to the way of the papacy?—It is by penance. Proof?—Here is it: “Penance, by which the sins that we commit after baptism are forgiven.” The sacrament of penance, in which the forgiveness of sins is granted to the penitent.”—Catholic Belief, pp. 80, 366. One of these says that penance is the means by which the sins that we commit “after baptism” are forgiven. It is, therefore, important to know when, according to that system, baptism is to be administered; and by this to know how many sins can be committed before baptism. Here is the authoritative statement on that point:—
From what has been said, you may well judge how reprehensible is the conduct of Catholic parents who neglect to have their children baptized at the earliest possible moment, thereby risking their own souls, as well as the souls of their innocent offspring.”—Faith of our Fathers, p. 313.
Well then, as baptism is to be administered to the child at the earliest possible moment, it were literally impossible for such person ever to commit any sins except after his baptism. And as penance is the means of obtaining the forgiveness of sins committed after baptism, it follows plumply, and as plainly as that two and two make four, that, according to the papacy, penance is the way of forgiveness of all sin, is the way of justification, of salvation. There is no escaping this conclusion from these premises. And indeed the papacy has no desire to escape this conclusion, for this is her specific doctrine. In his discussion of “The Sacrament of Penance,” in his book, “The Faith of Our Fathers,” which was written for the enlightenment of his “separated brethren,” Cardinal Gibbons deals altogether with “forgiveness of sins” and “justification.” This in itself is conclusive evidence that, in the papal system, penance and forgiveness of sins, are one and the same thing. This is “the remedy for sin” and “the means for the justification of the sinner.”
PENANCE being the means of justification, the way of salvation from sin, what then is penance? Here is the authoritative answer:—
In the case of those who have fallen into mortal sin after baptism, when the guilt of such sin and the everlasting punishment due to it are forgiven, there still very often remains a debt of temporal punishment, to be paid by the sinner. This debt remains, not from any imperfection in the power of absolution in the sacrament of penance, nor from any want of efficacy in the atonement of Jesus Christ; but because by God’s will, chastisement for past sins helps us to compensate for the imperfection in our repentance, and serves as a correction.—Catholic Belief, p. 191.
Now when the guilt of the sin, and the everlasting punishment due to it, are both forgiven and so have passed from the sinner, and yet he is not saved until a debt of temporal punishment has been paid by himself; then upon what does his salvation turn? and who is his saviour?—Plainly his salvation turns altogether upon the punishment; and as this debt of punishment is to be paid by the sinner himself, it just as certainly follows that the sinner is his own saviour. And thus penance, punishment, is the papal way of salvation. Nor is this all—but the Lord himself is made responsible for it, so that it is literally set forth as the divine way of salvation and the divine means of justification. For it is plainly said that this debt of punishment, to be paid by the guiltless sinner remains “because by God’s will chastisement for past sins helps us to compensate [to pay for] the imperfection in our repentance, and serves as a correction.” As the Lord forgives both the guilt and the everlasting punishment of the sin, and yet by his own will has fixed it that the sinner must still pay a debt of punishment in order to be justified and saved, then it is certain that, according to the papal system, God has made punishment, which is penance, the means of justification and the way of salvation.
AND indeed this is also further stated by this same authority, as follows:—
From this we see that … He has not dispensed us from doing with the help of his grace what we can to punish ourselves for the offences and outrages we have offered to God. Good sense tells us that this is both right and just.—Ib., p. 192.
Everybody who will think on the subject can easily enough see that instead of its being good sense, it is an utter lack of every element of sound sense that tells a man that it is in any sense either right or just that he should punish himself to save himself from himself. Yet as punishment is the only way of salvation known to the papacy, and as sin is its own saviour, even this thing of a man’s punishing himself to save himself from himself is logical enough. And so essentially is punishment—penance—the papal way of salvation that even the dying thief, whom the Lord Jesus himself pardoned on the  cross, is made to do penance. Here are the words:—
The pardon granted to the penitent thief in the saving words: “Amen, I says to thee, this day thou shalt be with me in Paradise” (St. Luke 23:43), can not be taken as proof that we are dispensed by God from doing works of penance. That was a wonderful and special grace granted under extraordinary circumstances, namely, when the blood of redemption was actually being shed upon the cross; moreover, the dying thief, besides bearing testimony to the divinity of Jesus Christ, confessed his guilt, and, in the spirit of penance, suffered the torment of his crucifixion, and the cruel breaking of his limbs, as penalties justly due to his sins.—Ib., p. 193.
ALL this doctrine that men must punish themselves to save themselves springs from the utterly false, even heathenish, idea that God is harsh, stern, forbidding, and exacting, instead of gentle, loving, winning, and merciful. It looks upon him as so ill-tempered and stern that he has to be “moved” by men’s doings so well that they get him into a good humor, and by punishment making themselves such pitiable objects that he can finally be persuaded by the pope, or somebody else, to yield and “save” them. And here is that thought authoritatively expressed:—
We stand in continual need of actual graces to perform good acts, both before and after being justified…. The good acts, however, done by the help of grace before justification, are not, strictly speaking, meritorious, but serve to smooth the way to justification, to move God.—Ib., pp. 76, 77.
Thus by her own showing, the god of the papacy is of such a disposition and character that it is necessary for men, wicked men, to do “good acts” in order to move him; and then, after they have thus moved him, it is still essential that they shall pay “a debt of temporal punishment,” in order to induce him to allow them the justification which they have so hardly earned. To such a god as that it is no wonder that the Inquisition is a pleasing tribute.
BUT such is not the God of the Bible. Such is not the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Such is not his way of justifying men. Such is not his way of salvation. Here is his own announcement of his name, which is simply the proclamation of his character and his disposition toward all mankind: “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee…. And the Lord passed by before him and proclaimed: The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin.” This is the true God.
“Merciful”—full of the disposition to treat people better than they deserve. Mercy is not to treat people as they deserve. It is not merely to treat people better than they deserve, in an outward way. It is not to wait till one is “moved” by good deeds and punishments to grant what has been thus already earned. No, no. It is the disposition, the very heart’s core of the being, to treat all persons better than they deserve. This is the Lord, the true God. “He doth not afflict from the heart, nor grieve the children of men.” Lamentations 3:33, margin. “He hath not dealt with us after our sins; nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is his mercy toward them that fear him. As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear him. For he knoweth our frame; he remembereth that we are dust.” Psalm 103:10-14. His mercy is great above the greatness of the heavens. Psalm 118:4.
“Gracious”—extending favor. And that without measure; for it is written: “Unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.” Ephesians 4:7. And the measure of the gift of Christ is but the measure of “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” And this is the measure of the full and free favor that God has extended to every soul on this earth, just where he is, and just as he is. And this boundless grace to every one, brings salvation to every one in the same measure as is given the grace, which is the measure of the gift of Christ. For again it is written: “The grace of God which bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men.” Titus 2:11. As the grace, the favor, of God is full and free to every one; and as this grace brings salvation; so the salvation of God is a full and free gift to every one. Though it is freely given, he will compel no one to take it. As it is freely given, it must be freely received. And the receiving of the free gift of God is the exercise of the faith which he has also freely given to every man. “For by grace are ye saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8. “Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace, to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed.” Romans 4:16.
THIS is God’s way of justification: by grace, through faith; and of faith, that it might be by grace. “Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” Romans 3:24, 25. Justification is the free gift of God through the righteousness of Jesus Christ, who is altogether the free gift of God. For “as by the offense of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men to justification of life.” Romans 5:18. And the receiving of this gift of justification, this gift of righteousness, as the free gift of God which it is, this is the exercise of the faith which God has given. And this is justification, this is righteousness, by faith. “Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference.” Romans 3:22. The faith being the gift of God, the righteousness which it brings and which it wrought by it is the righteousness of God. And this is righteousness, justification, by faith alone, of which by her own boast the Catholic Church knows nothing; and in so boasting advertises her utter lack of Christianity.
TRUE, men are to repent, and they will repent when they find God as he is in truth, as he is revealed in Jesus Christ. For “it is the goodness of God” that leads men to repentance; and repentance itself is the gift of God. Romans 2:4; Acts 5:31. True repentance being the gift of God, is perfect in itself, and needs no punishing of ourselves to compensate for the imperfection in it. But when the repentance is of ourselves, it has no merit that can bring to us any good, and all the punishment of ourselves that could ever be inflicted by ourselves or in ten thousand purgatories never could compensate for the imperfection of it. For it is simply impossible for any man to save himself by punishment or in any other way.
THE salvation, the justification, offered to mankind by Christianity, is altogether of God by faith. The salvation, the justification, offered to mankind by the papacy, is altogether of self by penance. The salvation offered by Christianity saves to the uttermost all who will receive it. The salvation offered by the papacy brings to utter destruction all who follow after it. And yet the professed Protestantism of to-day recognizes “Christianity” in the papacy! Than this, nothing could possibly show more plainly how completely apostate such Protestantism is, not only from true Protestantism, but also from true Christianity.
A. T. J.