June 7, 1894
ONE of the Catholic speakers at one of the celebrations in Chicago last year scouted the idea of being “saved by character instead of by dogma.”
LIKE everything else in the line of Catholic teaching, this is directly the opposite of the truth; for the truth is that men are saved by character.
IT was expressly that men might be saved by character that Jesus Christ came into the world in human flesh and lived through the course of human life from infancy to manhood. And without this character which was wrought out in Christ in the flesh, no man can be saved.
BUT even though it were true that men are saved by dogma rather than by character, still it would not by any means follow that men are saved by papal dogma. For the papal dogmas are not true. For instance, it is declared to be “a dogma divinely revealed” that the pope is infallible. This dogma we shall examine upon its claimed merits later on. There is another one that we wish to examine just now, and this is the dogma of
“THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION.
It may be well to remark in beginning that there is a large number of Protestants as well as other non-Catholics who entertain the mistaken view that the doctrine of the immaculate conception refers to the conception of Jesus by the Virgin Mary. The truth is that it refers not to the conception of Christ by Mary, but to the conception of Mary herself by her mother. The official and “infallible” doctrine of the immaculate conception as solemnly defined as an article of faith by Pope Pius IX., speaking ex cathedra, on the 8th of December, 1854, is as follows:—
By the authority of our Lord Jesus Christ, of the blessed apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own authority, we declare, pronounce, and define, that the doctrine which holds that the most blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instant of her conception, by a special grace and privilege of Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Saviour of mankind, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, has been revealed by God, and, therefore, is to be firmly and steadfastly believed by all the faithful.
Wherefore, if any shall presume, which may God avert, to think in their heart otherwise than has been defined by us, let them know, and moreover understand, that they are condemned by their own judgment, that they have made shipwreck as regards the faith, and have fallen away from the unity of the church.—Catholic Belief, p. 214.
IN these days of the general acceptance of Catholicism as Christianity, and the compromises with the Catholic Church, and apologies for her, it is well that we should study such things as this, that we may know for ourselves what is their real effect upon the doctrine of Christ, and what their consequences in those who accept the dogma. The first consequence of it is to make the Virgin Mary, if not actually divine, then the nearest to it of any creature in the universe, and this, too, in her human nature. In proof of this we have the following statements of Catholic fathers and saints:—
The ancient writer of “De Nativitate Christi,” found in St. Cyprian’s works, says: Because (Mary) being “very different from the rest of mankind’s human nature, but not sin, communicated itself to her.”
Theodoret, a father who lived in the fifth century, says that Mary “surpassed by far the cherubim and seraphim in purity.”
In the Greek liturgy of St. Chrysostom, a father of the fourth century … the following words are directed to be chanted by the choir during the canon of the mass: “It is truly meet that we should praise thee, O mother of God…. thou art the mother of our God, to be venerated in preference to the cherubim; thou art beyond comparison more glorious than the seraphim.’
“Theodore, patriarch of Jerusalem, said in the second council of Nice, that Mary ‘is truly the mother of God, and virgin before and after child-birth; and she was created in a condition more sublime and glorious than that of all natures, whether intellectual or corporeal.’”—Id. pp. 216, 217.
These statements show that in the view of the Catholic Church and of the dogma of the immaculate conception, the nature of Mary was so “very different from the rest of mankind,” but “more sublime and glorious than all natures,” and “surpassed by [so] far the cherubim and seraphim” as to be “beyond comparison more glorious than” they, and therefore to be venerated “in preference” to them. This then puts the nature of Mary infinitely beyond any real likeness or relationship to mankind.
Having this clearly in mind, let us follow to the next step. And here it is in the words of Cardinal Gibbons:—
We affirm that the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Word of God, who, in his Divine nature is, from all eternity, begotten of the Father, consubstantial with him, was in the fullness of time again begotten, by being born of the Virgin, thus being to himself from her maternal womb, a human nature of the same substance with hers.
As far as the sublime mystery of the incarnation can be reflected in the natural order, the blessed virgin, under the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost, by communicating to the Second Person of the unalterable Trinity, as mothers do, a true human nature of the same substance with her own, is thereby verily and truly his mother.—Faith of Our Fathers, pp. 198, 199.
NOW put these two things together. First, we have the nature of Mary defined as being but only “very different from the rest of mankind,” but “more sublime and glorious than all natures;” thus putting her infinitely beyond any real likeness or relationship to mankind as we really are.
Next, we have Jesus described as taking from her a human nature of the same substance as hers.
It therefore follows as certainly as that two and two make four, that in his human nature the Lord Jesus is “very different” from mankind, is further from us than are the cherubim and the seraphim, and is infinitely beyond any real likeness or relationship to us as we really are in this world. And in this it follows also that the dogma of the immaculate conception puts Jesus Christ infinitely beyond the reach of mankind: as far beyond our reach indeed as though he had never offered himself at all. Thus completely does the doctrine of the immaculate conception rob the world of Jesus Christ, the Saviour, to just the extent that the doctrine is received.
We know the answer that “the Church” makes to this—that Mary and Joseph especially, and all the other saints, intercede with him for those who would have his help, and that through these he is enabled to reach mankind though he himself is so far beyond us. But this is as great a fraud as is all the reset of the scheme. For the Virgin Mary and Joseph and all the rest of the saints are dead, and can not intercede for anybody. For the Word of  God says plainly that “the dead know not anything.” Ecclesiastes 9:5. And “in death there is no remembrance of thee.” Psalm 6:5. And Jesus said to his disciples all, “Whither I go ye can not come.” John 13:33.
Thus with Mary and Joseph and the other saints, all dead, and consequently unable to intercede to anybody, the fact is doubly demonstrated that the dogma of the immaculate conception puts Jesus Christ infinitely beyond the reach of mankind and robs the world of the Saviour to the extent that that dogma is received.
THE truth is, that the Lord Jesus, in his human nature, was made lower than the angels, and took our nature of flesh and blood just as it is, with all its infirmities. The Scriptures are as plain as anything can be on this point, and are worthy to be set down here against this papal invention. Having found that the papacy puts Christ as far away from men as possible, it will be well to know how near to men he really is.
IN the first chapter of Hebrews, Jesus, the Son of God, is presented in his divine nature as equal with God and as God indeed, the Creator and Upholder of all things as “so much better than the angels,” that he has “a more excellent name than they,” and as so much higher than the angels that “all the angels of God worship him.” In the second chapter of the same book, he is presented in his human nature as “lower than the angels,” even as man himself. Thus it is written: “One in a certain place testified, saying, What is man, that thou art mindful of him? or the son of man, that thou visitest him? Thou madest him a little lower than the angels; thou crownedst him with glory and honor, and didst set him over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things in subjection under his feet. For in that he put all in subjection under him, he left nothing that is not put under him. But now we see not yet all things put under him. But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels.” Thus, instead of his human nature being “beyond comparison” higher than angels, cherubim, and seraphim, it was made as much lower than they as man himself was made lower.
Nor is it only as man was lower than the angels before he sinned. It was not as man was lower than the angels in his sinless nature, that Jesus was made lower than the angels in his human nature; but as man was lower than the angels in his sinful nature, as he is since he by sin became subject to suffering and death. For so it is written: “We see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death…. that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the Captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.” Thus, as man in his sinless human nature was made a little lower than the angels, and then by sin stepped still lower to suffering and death; even so Jesus, that he might bring him back to the glory of God, in his love followed him down even here, partakes of his nature as it is, suffers with him, and even dies with him as well as for him in his sinful human nature. For “he was numbered with the transgressors”—He died as a malefactor between two malefactors. This is love. This is Jesus our Saviour, for he comes to us where we are, that he may reach us and lift us up from ourselves unto God.
YET this blessed saving truth is even more plainly stated, thus: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” He, in his human nature, took the same flesh and blood that we have. All the words that could be used to make this plain and positive are here put together in a single sentence. See: The children are partakers of flesh and blood. Because of this he took part of the same. But that is not all: He also took part of the same flesh and blood as the children have. Nor is this all: He also himself took part of the same flesh and blood as we. Nor yet is this all: He also himself likewise took part of the same flesh and blood as man. Thus the Spirit of inspiration so much desires that this truth shall be made plain and emphatic that he is not content to use any fewer than all the words that could be used in the telling of it. And therefore it is declared that just as, and just as certainly as, the children of men are partakers of flesh and blood, he also, himself, likewise, took part of the same flesh and blood as we have in the bondage of sin and the fear of death. For he took this same flesh and blood that we have, in order “that through death he might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”
Therefore, instead of its being true that Jesus in his human nature is so far away from men, as they really are, that he has no real likeness nor relationship to us, it is true that he is in very deed our kin in flesh and blood relation—even our Brother in blood relationship. For it is written: “Both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying, I will declare they name unto my brethren.” This great truth of the blood-relationship between our Redeemer and ourselves is clearly taught also in the gospel in Leviticus. There was the law of redemption of men and their inheritance. When any one of the children of Israel had lost his inheritance, or himself had been brought into bondage, there was redemption provided. If he were able of himself to redeem himself or his inheritance, he could do it. But if he were not able of himself to redeem, then the right of redemption fell to his nearest of kin in blood-relationship. It fell not merely to one who was near of kin among his brethren, but to the one who was nearest of kin who was able. Leviticus 25:24-28, 47-49; Ruth 2:20; 3:12, 13; 4:1-12.
Thus there has been taught through these ages the very truth which we have found taught here in the second chapter of Hebrews: the truth that man has lost his inheritance and is himself also in bondage. And as he himself can not redeem himself nor his inheritance, the right of redemption falls to the nearest of kin who is able. And Jesus Christ is the only one in all the universe who is able. He must also be, not only near of kin, but the nearest of kin; and the nearest of kin by blood-relationship. And therefore he took our very flesh and blood, and so became our nearest of kin. And so also, instead of being farther away from us than are the angels and cherubim and seraphim, he is the very nearest to us of all persons in the universe.
He is so near to us that he is actually one with us. For so it is written: “Both he which sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one.” And he and we being one, he being one with mankind, it is impossible to have a mediator between him and men, because he and mankind are one and “a mediator is not a mediator of one.” Galatians 3:20. And as certainly as Jesus Christ is one with mankind and “a mediator is not a mediator of one,” so certainly this truth at once annihilates the “intercessions” of all the Catholic saints in the calendar even though they were all alive and in heaven instead of being all dead.
BUT the Scripture does not stop even yet with the statement of this all-important truth. It says further: “For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.” “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15. Being made in his human nature, in all things like us we are, he could be, and was, tempted in all points like as we are.
As in his human nature he is one with us, and as “himself took our infirmities” (Matthew 8:17), so he could be “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” He felt just as we feel and knows all about it, and so can help and save to the uttermost all who will receive him. As in his flesh, and as in himself in the flesh, he was as weak as we are, and of himself could “do nothing” (John 5:31), when he “bore our griefs and carried our sorrows” (Isaiah 53:4), and was tempted as we are, feeling as we feel, by his divine faith he conquered all by the power of God which that faith brought to him and which in our flesh he has brought to us.
And thus “what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” did. The law could not bring us to God nor could it find in the flesh the righteousness which it must have, because the flesh had fallen away from God and could not reach him again. But though the sinful flesh could not reach God, yet God in his eternal power and infinite mercy could reach sinful flesh. And so “the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us full of grace and truth.” “God was manifest in the flesh,” even “sinful flesh, and for sin condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” Romans 8:3, 4.
Oh! His name is called Immanuel, which is “God with us”! Not God with him only, but God with us. God was with him in eternity, and could have been with him even though he had not given himself for us. But man through sin became without God, and God wanted to be again with us. Therefore Jesus became us, that God with him might be God with us. And that is his name because that is what he is. 
Therefore and finally, as certainly as in his human nature, Jesus Christ is one with us, and as certainly as God with him is God with us, so certainly the nature of the Virgin Mary was just like that of all the rest of us, and so certainly the dogma of the immaculate conception is an absolute fraud.