September 20, 1894
ON the eighth of December the Roman Catholic Church celebrates the “Immaculate Conception” of Mary the mother of Jesus.
THE dogmatic term “immaculate conception,” signifies that Mary was not “shapen in iniquity” and conceived in sin like the rest of humanity (Psalm 51:5); and this dogma logically followed the one, previously proclaimed, that Mary never committed a sin; notwithstanding the declaration of God that “all have sinned.”
THIS unscriptural doctrine, which was “infallibly” proclaimed by Pope Pius IX. in 1854, is but one of a series of dogmatic decisions, covering many centuries, by which the mother of our Lord has been transformed into a goddess, crowned “Queen of the whole universe” and “seated on the right hand of Jesus,” “to fill the first place after God in heaven and on earth.”
THE papal discussion of the question of “immaculate conception,” which was “infallibly” settled by Pope Pius IX. in 1854, was carried on for centuries between two powerful Roman Catholic societies, the Franciscans who violently favored it, and the Dominicans who violently opposed it. So furious and bitter was the contention that Pope Sextus IV. published a bull in 1483, threatening to send both parties to heel if they did not stop calling one another heretics. At length the Jesuits took sides with the Franciscans and secured the papal decision of 1854.
THE opponents of the doctrine, besides declaring it to be unscriptural, asserted that it was absurd, and said, “On the same principle you would be obliged to hold that the conception of her ancestors in an ascending line was also a holy one, since otherwise she could not have decended [sic.] from them worthily.” The logic of this objection is apparent, and unless met it would necessitate the “immaculate conception” of Mary’s whole pedigree, which would include David, who, speaking for the race as well as for himself, says: “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.” Psalm 51:5.
IN order to head off this fatal logic, some one who was born in sin, must later rise above this condition, be freed from human sinful flesh, after which, from these superhuman bodies, could be born “immaculate,” or sinless flesh.
ROMAN CATHOLIC tradition, which, according to the teaching of the church, is declared to be “more clear and safe” than the Bible, says that Joachim and Anne were the parents of Mary the mother of Jesus. And it is by them, we are told, that the great feat of lifting the ancestry of Mary from sinful flesh to sinless flesh was accomplished.
OF these traditional parents of Mary it is stated that “they showed themselves always so perfect in their whole conduct, that one need not marvel that from such perfection should come forth the one whose luster is as the mirror of all goodness in ages past and to come.”
BUT “St. Anne” and “St. Joachim” were not born sinless; how then was this perfection attained? Let the cardinal-indorsed work ask the same question and answer it: “By what gradation of virtues and perfection did she [St. Anne] raise herself to make this thing possible? Let us remember what Mary was from the first instant of her creation, and we shall then be able to form an idea of what must have been her mother. Must not the stem be worthy of the flower, and the vase worthy of the perfume it contains? On leaving the hands of God, still under the actions of his creating breath, the soul of Mary was joined to a most pure body, forever virginal and immaculate like itself.” “However holy Joachim and Anne were at the time of their marriage, they were not yet sufficiently so to give such a daughter as Mary to the world. By multiplying their fasts, their alms, through so many long years in order to obtain this grace from God’s goodness, they made rapid progress in perfection and in the love of God, and at length arrived at that degree of purity and holiness desired by the Holy Ghost.” “Thus mortification and sacrifice had done their work in St. Anne and St. Joachim, purifying, refining, and not leaving in them even the shadow of defilement. God could take of that presanctified earth to create his well-beloved daughter,” “who, after God, sees none superior or equal to herself, either in holiness, in glory, or in power,” “purer than the angels, holier than the archangels.”
BUT why all these theological disputes, and furious contentions, and papal bulls of anathema, and infallible decisions in the Roman Catholic Church, concerning the “immaculate conception” of Mary and immaculate purity of St. Anne and St. Joachim? It was to “sanctify the royal blood whence our Saviour was to be born.” Mary was declared sinless because the blood transmitted “to Mary, was to form the Divine Flesh.” “St. Anne and St. Joachim” are represented as making themselves immaculate because “the blood of Joachim and Anne, passing through the most pure heart of Mary, was to become the blood of Jesus.”
AFTER the storm of contention is over and the Franciscans and Jesuits have won, and the thunder of the Vatican finished the creation of a saviour, what do we behold? We see a saviour whose blood was “purified” by “mortification and sacrifice” of his grandparents, and whose “divine flesh” was “formed” by blood “made” “purer than the angels, holier than the archangels” through his “grandmother” and grandfather’s  “multiplying their fasts, their alms,” and “good works.”
OH how this frustrates the grace of God! “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works.” Instead of creating Christ Jesus by mortification and sacrifice, by multiplying fasts, and good works the Christian is created in Christ Jesus unto good works. Instead of saving our Saviour by our works we are saved by our Saviour from our works. Instead of his being the workmanship of our work, “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, unto good works.”
AGAIN this antichristian saviour is represented as clothed, not with the sinful flesh of Abraham, but with “divine flesh,” “purer than the angels and holier than the archangels.” The papal saviour is therefore so high above man, who is “shapen in iniquity” and clothed with sinful flesh that it takes a ladder, reaching from earth to heaven, to touch him. He is so far removed from fallen men that it requires a bridge to span the abyss which separates him from his saviour. This is not only the logical deduction from the doctrine of the “immaculate conception” of Mary and the “immaculate” lives of St. Anne and St. Joachim, but it is the admitted doctrine and daily practice of the Roman Catholic Church. Here it is:—]
She [Anne] is the Mother of her who is purer than the Angels, holier than the Archangels, higher than the Thrones, more powerful than the Dominations, more enlightened than the Cherubims, more inflamed with divine love than the Seraphims. She is the Mother of her who is called and who is the eldest Daughter of the Father, the true Mother of the Son, the Spouse of the Holy Ghost. She is the Mother of her who is “full of grace,” of her who has bestowed, and still bestowes ransom on the captive, strength to the weak, sight to the blind, consolation to the afflicted, hope to the desponding, an overflow of joy to the Angels, human flesh to the Divine Word, a Worshiper worthy of His greatness to the Eternal Father, a temple worthy of His holiness to the Holy Ghost. Anne is the Mother of her who is the ladder to heaven, the anchor of the shipwrecked, the star of the mariner, the bridge whereby God crossed the abyss which separated as from him.
Away with your Mary “ladder” and immaculate “bridge!” Jesus Christ is the ladder and its lowermost round reaches as low as the lowest sinner. In order that he might reach sinful men, “verily he took on him the nature of angels’ but he took on him the seed of Abraham.” “Forasmuch as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same.” What! part of man’s sinful flesh? Yea, verily. “For 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, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” “For we have no an high priest which cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace [without the papal ladder] that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
AND now Pope Leo XIII. has the hardihood to invite us away from this Saviour who is so close to us that he dwells in us and condemns sin in our sinful flesh as he condemned sin in the sinful flesh which he inherited from his mother Mary,—he calls us away from this Saviour to a saviour who was born from “immaculate” flesh, “purer than the angels, holier than the archangels,” and who, therefore, cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and must be touched with a “ladder.” He calls us to a saviour so widely separated from us that there must be a “bridge” constructed to span the chasm. And he asks us to trust our eternal life to this human structure, whose spans are made of “fasts,” and “mortifications,” and “good works.” And besides inviting us to trust our salvation to this phantom “bridge,” he demands toll for the passage of our soul at every span of its almost limitless length; while our Saviour, “without money and without price,” “freely,” reaches over the battlements of heaven and, while holding fast to the throne of the Infinite with the arm of omnipotence, encircles us with his long human arm, that arm that is “not shortened that it cannot save,” and presses us lovingly to that bosom that is “touched with the feeling of our infirmities.”
And now instead of accepting the invitation of Pope Leo XIII. we, on the contrary, invite, with the words of our Saviour, him and all his deluded followers who are trusting for salvation to human ladders and bridges, and all others who know not our Lord: “Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and amy burden is light.” “And the spirit and the bride say, Come. And let him that heareth say, Come. And let him that is athirst come. And whosoever will, let him take of the water of life freely.” Revelation 22:17.