Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Is Popery the Antichrist? by Patrick Fairbairn

Is Popery the Antichrist?

The interpretation which has been given in the text of the strongest terms in the apostle's language respecting the antichrist, by understanding them of a virtual, in contradistinction to a formal and avowed assumption of blasphemous prerogatives, is so much in accordance with the general style of prophecy, and so plainly demanded by the connection, that we cannot refrain from expressing our wonder, at finding interpreters of note still pressing the opposite view. Their doing so must be regarded as another instance of that tendency to literalism, which has wrought such confusion in the prophetical field, and which, at particular points, returns upon some, who in general have attained to a correct discernment of the characteristics of prophecy. The practice of describing things by their real, as opposed to their professed or apparent character, is one that peculiarly distinguishes the Apocalyptic imagery. Thus the worldly kingdoms, both in Daniel and the Revelation, are represented as beasts-not that they actually were, or gave themselves out to be such, but because they pursued a course which partook largely of the bestial nature; they were, one might say, virtual beasts. And the false, seductive power designated Babylon, the mother of harlots an d abominations, we may be sure, was not going to proclaim her own shame by declaring herself to be what those epithets import. Beyond all doubt, she is described according to what she really was, not by what she would profess, to be. In like manner, the names of blasphemy on the head of the beast indicate a real rather than a professed dishonour to the God of heaven; for open profanity and avowed atheism have, with few exceptions, been studiously avoided by the worldly power. It has almost uniformly striven to associate with its different forms of government, and political aims, the name and sanctions of religion. Even in the more prosaic parts of the Apocalypse we find the same characteristic prevailing-as when it describes the soaring spirit of the Gnostic teachers, by their knowing the depths of Satan (not those of God, which they themselves rather affected to understand), and designates them by such epithets as Nicolaitans (people-destroyers), followers of Balaam, Jezebels-which they were so far from professing to be, that they laid claim to the highest gifts and the most honourable distinctions. Nor could it be otherwise with the wolves, of whose coming St Paul warned the Ephesian elders (Acts xx.); they were not going, when they appeared, to avow their own wolf-like character, but would, doubtless, aspire to the place of guides and shepherds of the flock. All prophecy, indeed, abounds with examples of this mode of representation; for, speaking as with Divine intuition, it ever delights to penetrate through showy appearances, and to strip deceivers of their false disguises. Thus the self-deifying pride of the Chaldean conquerors has its representation in the prophet Habakkuk, by their being characterised as successful fishers, sacrificing to their own net (chap. i. 16); and the corruption of degenerate Israel is exhibited with singular boldness by Ezekiel, under the form of their having had an Amorite father and a Hittite mother (chap. xvi. 3); and by Isaiah, under the announcement, as from themselves, that they had made a covenant with death, and come to an agreement with hell (chap. xxviii. 15). By a still bolder figure the prophet Amos calls the tabernacle in the wilderness the tabernacle of their Moloch, because the idolatrous and unsanctified spirit which still clung to them rendered it practically an idol-tent rather than that of the true God (chap. v. 26). These and many similar representations are obviously designed to set before us the real state and character of the parties described, though entirely different from the outward profession and appearance. On any other principle it were impossible to render much that is written in prophecy either intelligible in itself, or consistent with the facts of history.

The violation of this principle in regard to the passages which treat of the antichristian apostacy, by adhering to a mistaken literalism, is the more to be regretted, as it is doing with this portion of the prophetic Scriptures what it has already d one with those which have respect to the promised Messiah-it is altogether destroying in the hands of its abettors their apologetic value. As, with the one class of predictions, Jewish Rabbis find themselves backed by Christian literalists in denying the fulfilment of some of the clearest prophetic intimations in the history of Jesus of Nazareth, so Romish controversialists are sheltering themselves under the wing of Protestant interpreters of the same school, in rebutting the application of the Scriptural antichrist to Popery. Thus, in a small volume recently published on "The End of the World, or the Second Coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by the Very Rev. John Baptist Pagani," a very adroit use is made of the name of the late Mr Faber. An astonishment is first expressed that any intelligent person could ever have thought of identifying the Pope of Rome with the antichrist of Scripture, especially that this could be done in so enlightened a country as England; and then a passage from Mr Faber's "Calendar of Prophecy" is quoted to show how a sensible Protestant writer exposes the absurdity of the idea. In the passage referred to the argument is thrown into what is considered both by Mr Faber and by his Catholic admirer a conclusive syllogism. "I shall throw my argument," Mr Faber says, "into the form of a syllogism, and if any person be able to confute me, I shall be very ready to own myself mistaken. According to St John, he who denies the Father and the Son, this is the antichrist. T he line of the Roman Pontiffs did not deny the Father or the Son; therefore the line of the Roman Pontiffs is not the antichrist." Embracing with satisfaction this triumphant syllogism, Mr Pagani proceeds to give it additional strength by affirming, that so far from denying the Father and the Son, the Roman Pontiffs have always maintained the doctrine of the Trinity against Deists, Sabellians, Unitarians, and other heretics; that they have uniformly held, that Christ has come in the flesh; that they have also been remarkably distinguished for their humility, taking for their ordinary title, "unworthy ministers of Christ," "servants of the servants of God," whereas antichrist is to exalt himself above all that is called God. P. 41, sq.

One might go through a considerable portion of prophecy with this sort of syllogism, and ask in vain for any thing in the transactions of real life, that would answer to the terms of the predictions. What, on such a style of interpretation, could b e made of the passages to which we have been adverting? Must we suspend the veracity of one prophet on the question, whether the proud Chaldeans actually hung up a net in some temple and did sacrifice to it? Or that of another, on the similar question, whether the Israelites literally bore about during their long sojourn in the wilderness an idolatrous tabernacle in impious rivalry to that of Jehovah? (*) Or must we have credible testimony to the fact, that the great worldly monarchies, as they successively arose, did each proclaim their own beast-like and blasphemous character? Or, finally, shall we hold that nothing can verify the description given of the mystic Babylon, which does not set itself openly to establish and avow the prostitution of all righteous principle? If such be the kind of expectations, with which we proceed to examine the prophetic word, we may certainly lay our account to meet with few instances of fulfilment; we know not where they are to be found in the past, and are afraid they shall in vain be looked for in the future. But surely, if the apostle in his day knew persons in the Christian church, whom he could declare to be the "enemies of the Cross of Christ," even while they were avowedly looking to that cross for salvation, the pontiffs of Rome might justly enough be characterized as denying the Father and the Son, if they should be found claiming prerogatives, and upholding a system of error and delusion, which virtually subvert the revelation given of the Father and the Son in Scripture. Let it just be granted, that in the descriptions of the collective antichrist, the apostles had their eye on the realities, not on the mere appearances of things--no very extravagant postulate surely--then the proper syllogism will stand thus: the antichrist, according to St. John, is he who denies the Father and the Son; but the line of the Roman Pontiffs, by their own blasphemous assumptions, and by their system of legalized falsehood and corruption, utterly opposed to the spirit and design of the Gospel, have denied what is revealed of the Father and the Son; therefore the line of the Roman pontiffs is antichrist. This we take to be a truer form of syllogism than Mr. Faber's. But it only meets one fallacy involved in the interpretation. There is another in its taking for granted, that the representations in John's epistles are to be regarded as comprehensive of all that was to characterize the spirit and conduct of the antichrist. He merely points to one of the first forms and manifestations of the evil-that which took shape under the hands of the Gnostic teachers. By and by this was to lead on to others, of which not less distinct intimation was given elsewhere in the New Testament writings. The anti-christian spirit was to assume different phases, according to the peculiar influences of the time, and the changing fortunes of the church. But they were all to have one thing in common: under a profession of Christianity, there was to be something in doctrine or practice, which in effect made void the Christian truth and life. This in every form was to be the characteristic of antichristianism as contradistinguished from atheism, heathenism, or undisguised worldliness. And hence, so far from expecting that the Popes, or any other embodiments of the antichrist, should formally assume what is predicted of this power, we should rather expect the reverse. We should expect a studious effort to disguise the truth of the case, though such a one as should only impose upon the ignorant or the corrupt. And precisely as the Servant of servants can in lordly arrogance place his foot upon the necks of princes, and claim the ascendency over all earthly power and authority, so under a boastful proclamation of the doctrine of the Trinity, an d the conversion of the Cross into a magic charm, may there by found the most substantial denial of the Father and the Son. In a word, the question is, not what Popery pretends to be, but what it really is; with this alone we have to do in determining its relation to the prophetic delineations of Scripture. And when the subject is viewed in this light, he must be strangely blinded or unhappily biased, who fails to perceive the striking correspondence between the one and the other.

* Even Hengstenberg has given too much countenance to this utterly groundless and extravagant idea, when, in discoursing upon this passage of Amos in the first volume of his work on the Pentateuch, he thus unfolds the general sense of the announcement: "T he great mass of the people had, for the larger part of the time during their march through the wilderness, given up honouring the Lord by sacrifices, and instead of Jehovah, the God of hosts, had set up a spurious king of heaven (the Egyptian Pan), whom with the rest of the host of heaven, they honoured with a spurious worship." It is against all probability, that such an openly idolatrous worship, as is here supposed, should have been practised by the mass of the Israelites during their stay in the wilderness. Occasional defections there no doubt were, but we have no reason to think more-at least, nothing approaching to such a regular, systematic, and general idolatry. We are told even of the comparatively smaller and isolated offences of a public nature-such as the gathering of sticks on the Sabbath, and the blaspheming of God's name-being capitally punished; and can it be imagined that an idol-tabernacle should have been allowed to be carried about, and openly frequented? Assuredly not. It is of the state of the heart, of its still unsanctified and idolatrous spirit, that the prophet speaks; this practically turned Jehovah's tent and worship into the interest of heathenism; in God's sight it belonged to Moloch rather than to himself. When thus viewed, also there is no need, with Hengstenberg, of rendering "your king" instead of "your Moloch;" indeed, to do so rather obscures the meaning. The prophet is seeking to identify the idolatrous spirit of his own day with that of earlier times; they w ere then going after Moloch; and so, says the prophet, you have always been substantially doing. You did so through your forefathers in the wilderness; even then you bore the tabernacle of your Moloch, and sacrificed to strange gods, and the old doom mu st return upon you. It is, therefore, the later form of idolatry, which is used to characterize the earlier, not (as Hengstenberg would have it) the earlier the later.

The preceding article was excerpted from Appendix "L," Page 367, of Patrick Fairbairn's The Interpretation of Prophecy, 1864

Friday, October 2, 2015

Reformation Month: Louis Gaussen on the Papacy

In honor of Reformation Month, as I have done in the past, I will be posting various pieces related to the Reformers' view of Rome. This selection comes from Louis Gaussen's Geneva and Rome: Rome Papal as Portrayed by Prophecy and History. 

In this selection, Gaussen is commenting on the Papacy having just read Daniel 7:1-14. 

He writes:

Thirteen or fourteen characters described in it portray the Popedom entirely. I will endeavour to show you, that on looking at each of these features, it is impossible not to exclaim, "It is the Pope!” and also that there is nothing now existing under heaven, nor has existed through all the history of past ages, to which it is possible to apply these descriptions of holy writ, except the Pope, and to no other than the Pope! 

Its first character consists in the nature of this power predicted in the little born. Evidently, according to this prophecy it must be a royal priest, a king, for it is written "there came up amongst them a little horn." And "another king shall rise after them." A king-priest, — for it is written that “he shall be diverse from the other kings;” and all that follows is to show us in what consists the difference, politically as well as religiously. What does he do? He blasphemes, he persecutes the saints, he pretends he has the power of changing the times and the laws. As king, he is weak and insignificant; as king-priest, he is powerful and haughty; he has power to oppress the saints for ages, — “he utters great words” — he rules the world. Now, with regard to this first feature, where shall we find under heaven a king-priest if not at Rome, or perhaps amidst the mountains of upper Asia, in the great Lama? Where shall we find in history a king-priest who has attempted to change the times and the laws, who has reigned with power, and who has made a secular war on the people of the saints? 

The second feature consists in the geographical situation of this power. Where are we to look for the little horn? Where is the seat of Rome? Where is her territory, her patrimony, or the possessions of the Church? Where are we to find the theatre of her evil doings? 

What can be clearer than this prophecy? It is given to lead us straight to the monarchy of Rome and make you place the Holy See in Rome, the possessions of the Church in Italy, and the theatre of this baneful potentate in the vast empire of the ten Latin kingdoms. You know well with what particular care St. John shows us that it is Rome, the city of the seven hills, the Queen City, the Babylon of the latter times. You know also that the Roman Catholics, as well as ourselves, all acknowledge that the Babylon of St. John can be no other than Rome. If, then, this power is a lauded power, this territory, according to Daniel, is a Roman state; if it is a church, this church, according to Daniel, is a Roman church; if it is a pontiff, this pontiff, according to Daniel, is a Roman pontiff; and if it is a great apostasy, this apostasy extends, according to Daniel, between the Rhine, the Danube, the countries forming the Grecian empire, the Adriatic, Mount Atlas, and the great Ocean; that is to say, in all the territory of the 'fourth beast. In other words, we must seek for it in France, Belgium, Spain, Portugal, Savoy, Italy, Bavaria, Austria, and a part of Hungary. 

The third feature of this power is its origin and its increase. How does it first appear in the world? Slowly, little by little, a gradual growth, like the budding horn on the forehead of a young bull. You must remark that the ten first horns, or the ten kingdoms established by the Goths in the Roman Empire, appeared before the eyes of the prophet at their full growth, but it is not so with the eleventh horn; that appears to him after the others, silently, and without any noise, as a horn that is growing. Ask now, any historian, if it is not the exact description of the beginning of the papal tyranny, and if it did not become menacing, noisy, and terrible, without its being possible for them to say in what year it began! 

The fourth feature is the chronology of this apostasy; I mean the time of its beginning and that of its end. According to Daniel, when was it to begin? This fact is very striking. In his vision, the time should be immediately after the divisions of the Latin empire into the ten Gothic kingdoms; and this divided state was to last till the coming of Jesus Christ! Now I ask, is it possible to explain this clear and positive prophecy if the Popedom is excluded? I ask if all the historians of the Popes have not described their power as rising out of the ruins of the Roman Empire, about the sixth or seventh century, and taking its growth in the midst of those ten kingdoms which were built up from those ruins, in the days of Clovis, Justinian and Belisarius! Shew me in the whole worlds and above all in the Roman Empire and in Rome, a king-priest who began to reign twelve hundred years ago, and who still reigns in our days, and will reign till the last coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ. 

The fifth feature denotes the territory belonging to this power, and this too is marvelous. "Three of the first horns were plucked up by the roots, before the little horn/' and these horns St. John shows us as "having each his crown." Take now the map of Italy, and look for the dominions of the Pope, and see of how many of the ten first kingdoms the pontifical territory occupies the site at this day. You will see that it has supplanted these three: the Herules, the Ostrogoths, and the Lombards! And go to Rome itself, and see the pontiff on the banks of the Tiber in all his sovereign pomp, trampling underfoot the ashes of Romulus in the Basilica of St. Peter's, or in his own palace of the Vatican. You will see on his brow that Babylonish tiara, surmounted by the three crowns of the three horns "plucked up by the roots before him," those of Odoacer, of Theodoric, and of Alboin; he, the only king in the universe, who wears this prophetic head-dress. Show me another prince on the face of the earth who binds three crowns upon his forehead! He is also a king-priest, he is in Rome, he has grown as a horn grows, he began to reign in. the sixth or seventh century, and he reigns still! It is written, "Three of the first horns were plucked up before him, and he shall subdue three kings.'' 

The sixth character is extraordinary penetration, most accomplished cleverness, incomparable policy, and continual vigilance. Remark how this characteristic feature is admirably described in the symbols of the vision! From whence could proceed, according to Daniel, that influence exercised by the little horn, which ruled the whole Roman empire, and stirred up the world for so many centuries, while, coming forth as it did after the ten others, it was likewise the smallest? Listen! “It had eyes like the eyes of a man,'' says Daniel; these eyes contain the secret of its power. A horn with eyes! What a singular idea! Yet how admirable when we understand the sense! For twelve hundred years what has given Rome her power in this superhuman penetration, this worldly cleverness, of which these eyes are the emblem? It is the vigilance which she exercises over all the world by means of her priests, by her monkish orders, by her nuncios, by the Jesuits, by her apostolic prefects, and, above all, by her confessionals; it is this piercing eye, ever open and which never slumbers; it is this consummate knowledge of human frailty which the confessional has taught her for eight hundred years; it is her wiles, her perfect cunnings those "depths of Satan, as they speak” as St. John has said. 

The seventh feature is her deceitfulness, her falsehoods. Her pretended miracles are astonishing features, and unparalleled in history. I might have included them in the last feature; but St. Paul has described this particular so well in his second epistle to the Thessalonians, where he says of the man of sin, that his “coming is after the working of Satan, with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceiveableness of unrighteousness," that I have thought it right to give it a place alone. And here it would be necessary to bring forward those false traditions, those false books, those false visions, those false relics, those miraculous medals, those false cures, those false acts, and above all those false decretals, that astonishing lie, which has never had its equal in the world in boldness or in success, for it has deceived all Europe for five hundred years, and alone, in itself, rendered the gigantic usurpations of the Popes possible. 

The eighth feature consists in his more than royal pomp. Daniel tells us, in the twentieth verse, that though this horn was the smallest, yet his "look was more stout than his fellows." Certainly the pomp of Charlemagne, of Charles the Fifth, of Louis the Fourteenth, or of Bonaparte, was very great; hut not to he compared with that of the Roman Pontiff. Nothing less could satisfy him than that the greatest kings should hold his stirrup, wait on him at table— what shall I say? Should prostrate themselves before him and kiss his feet, and he has even gone so far as to place his proud foot upon their prostrate neck! Go and contemplate him in the Vatican as I have done; you will see the painting which represents the emperor Henry the Fourth, stripped before Gregory the Seventh, placed in the royal saloon, through which the ambassadors of all the powers of Europe pass; and in another the heroic and powerful emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, on his knees before Pope Alexander the Third, in the public square of Venice, the Pope's foot is on his shoulder, his scepter thrown upon the ground, and underneath these words; “Fredericus supplex adorat, fidem et obedientiam pollicitus.” One must see this king-priest in his palaces and basilica, to have a just idea of what his pomp is, and to comprehend the full sense of Daniel's words. ''His look is more stout than his fellows.” Where is the king of the west who is carried on men's shoulder? and surrounded by peacock's feathers? Incense is burnt before him as to an idol; he is knelt to on both knees, his slipper is kissed on his foot, and he is adored! “Venite, adoremus,” exclaim the cardinals when they go to him. The present Pope sold in Rome this year, amongst the many medals which are annually struck to record in bronze the glories of his reign, one on which is inscribed, above the likeness of Adrian the Sixth, crowned by his cardinals, these words, '' Quem creant adorant.” How often, whilst I beheld him in the midst of his pomp, has not the words of the Holy Spirit sounded in my ears, “He as God sitteth in the temple of God, calling himself God!" 

The ninth feature is his language, his great words. The little horn “had a mouth that spake very great things,'' said Daniel; and it would seem that nothing in the whole vision so forcibly struck the prophet as the violence, the hatred, and the pride of its language. More than once he expresses his astonishment at it. “I beheld because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake. Then I would know the truth of the fourth beast, even of that mouth which spake very great things;” and certainly this one feature is sufficient to characterize the Pontiff of Rome. What would the least among the students of history in one of our colleges, answer if asked to point out the power which through the nine hundred years of the middle ages, and the four hundred years of modern history, has never ceased to fill the world with the noise of his mighty words, his menacing words, his proud words, his commanding words, his words of cursing and his words of fire, who ordered all people under his authority to undertake distant expeditions and exterminating wars? Will not the student instantly hasten to reply, the Pope, and the Pope alone! And sure it is then that the Pope is unparalleled in the history of men. For twelve hundred years the earth has heard these mighty words, these menacing and anathematizing words: he himself styles them his thunderbolts. Gregory the Sixteenth, now on his throne, when speaking of them in his book on "the triumphs of the Church," borrowing the language of Jove, says that "he thunders." Words of command and violence! he excommunicates kings, he condemns them, he de poses them, he curses them. Words of hatred and bloodthirstiness! For two centuries he hurled the nations of the west all over the east by his crusades; later he destroyed the Christian Grecian Empire; in twenty-seven years, by the means of crusades of Christians against Christians, he effected the extermination of the south of France. Proud words! All historians, whether Christian or infidel, are agreed that the Roman Pontiff was never equaled on earth in proud and haughty words. Daniel therefore had good reason to say, “I beheld then because of the voice of the great words which the horn spake.'' 

The tenth feature of his character is the continuation of this language. According to Daniel, it is to endure till the coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven, and you see, gentlemen, that it does still endure. And who would have believed, without witnessing it, that in Europe, after so much civilization, and after the coming of the glorious Reformation, after twelve hundred years of scandalous conduct, a king-priest could continue the same language from Rome in the midst of the nations? But our God is omnipotent! 

The eleventh feature is his blasphemies. Daniel says, “He shall speak great words against the Most High;" and is there anything more blasphemous than the high pretensions and titles of the Roman Pontiff? He styles himself, “Holy Father!" the name by which Jesus addresses His Father! "The very holy Father! the Husband of the Church! the Head of the universal Church! (the incommunicable name of the only Son of God!) His Holiness! God's Vicar upon earth — God's Vicegerent — God upon earth! Deus in terra, sanctissimus Pater, sua sanctitas!" He declares himself infallible; he puts his decrees above even those of the word of God, and assumes the power of releasing man from fulfilling the commandments of his Creator! He maintains that he only makes priests, and they only in their turn can create their God in a morsel of bread, by the means of three Latin words, and give Him to be eaten by the people! And he can forgive sins committed against the Lord of Lords, and open at will the gates of heaven to whom he chooses! Are these blasphemies enough to be proclaimed openly by a worm of the earth? And has there ever existed under the heavens a power which in this particular resembled the Pope? Will you find in any country his counterpart in all the history of the folly and the pride of man? What shall we say, when we reflect— and no one can deny it— that the priests capable of this excess of presumption were, as to the generality of them, for many generations, the scandal of the universe, by their luxury, their licentiousness, and their cruelty. 

The twelfth feature consists in his murderous hatred and persecution of real Christians. Daniel says, ''I beheld, and the same horn made war with the saints, and prevailed against them;" and he adds, “he shall wear out the saints of the Most High.” Alas! here also the voice of history does but echo the lamentable cry of the prophet. Every one of its pages, down to the last century, when alluding to the Popes, bears witness to their unrelenting pursuit of those who were firm in living according to the Word of God, and of their slaughter in the name of the holy Church! Words would be wanting to describe all that the Popedom has shown forth of this appalling feature for centuries. Who can relate all the tragedies that have been acted for six hundred years in the dungeons and at the auto da fé of the holy Inquisition, that wonderful tribunal whose acts during that period were directed and legalized by the bulls of the court of Rome? All other earthly powers have made men perish by thousands, for the foot of man is swift to shed blood, but the Pontiff of Rome has killed the saints. His decrees curse and condemn to the stake those who may be surprised in reading the Bible in the vulgar tongue! Let it be remarked here that it is no contradiction of the accusation to bring forward the proofs of cruelty committed antecedently for the sake of religion. The cruelties so committed are now condemned and abhorred in every existing communion; but they cannot be so condemned in the communion of the Pope, for they not only form a part of his history, but a part of his doctrine! The duty of executing heretics is inscribed amongst the infallible and irrevocable decrees of his general councils, in the same manner as those of the mass and purgatory; and when Luther dared to declare "that it was contrary to the Holy Spirit to bum men convicted of error,” the court of Rome, in its Bull Exsurgus, inserted this sentence in the number of the forty-one propositions by which it condemned Luther, and ordered, under severe penalties, that he should be seized (personaliter) and sent to the Pope. 

The thirteenth feature is his most audacious heresies; and this one is almost the most striking amongst them, and unlike any other. Daniel says of the little horn, “And he shall be diverse from the first, and think to change times and laws;" and this is precisely the extraordinary infringement which the Pope has committed in the law of his God. He has aspired to the power of changing its sovereignty, its sanctions, its use, its contents, its morality, and its doctrines. I have said its sovereignty; and has he not, the only man on earth, proclaimed himself infallible, and dared to place his decrees, and his traditions, on a level and even above the Scriptures P I said its sanction; and has not he alone of all the earth pretended to forgive those sins which the law of God condemns, and dispense with those duties which that law enjoins? I said its use; and has not he alone on the earth for six hundred and fourteen years, from the Council of Thoulouse in 1229, forbidden the people of God to read the Holy Scriptures? Nothing of the kind was ever known before in all Christendom. The Eastern churches, corrupt as they are, have treated the Scriptures in their councils with the greatest respect; the Pope is the only priest who has ever dared publicly to forbid men to read the word of Him who is his Judge and his God. I said he has changed their contents; for he alone on the earth has dared, in his council of Trent, to add the works of man to the oracles of the Old Testament: the Book of the Maccabees, for instance, acknowledged as uninspired in the days of our Saviour. I said its morality; and to believe me you have only to read those promulgated by the Jesuits, the directions given this year to the confessors of Fribourg, Grenoble, Strasbourg, and all through the popedom; look at the three hundred and twenty-six works of the Society of Jesus, which were condemned in the last century by the tribunals of all European nations as encouraging every crime, and which the parliament of Paris burnt, in 1762, by the hands of the common executioner. All these abominations have been recognized, recommended, and sanctioned by the Roman Pontiff by his solemn re-establishment of the Society of Jesus, in 1814, in the beatification, by Pius VII., of the Jesuit Liguori, the great promoter of the immoralities of Probabilism; by his recent canonization by the reigning Pope, who has thus canonized those detestable maxims, vainly branded two hundred years ago by Pascal, and vainly also burnt by the hang man of Paris, eighty years ago, which treated of "Mental Reservation," of "Probability," and of “Philosophical Sin." I said in its doctrines, when he promulgated by his own full authority heresies the most strikingly opposite to the Word of God, on the worship of images, the dominion of priests, their voluntary celibacy, on auricular confession, on secular priesthood, and on the sacrifice offered in the mass; on the invocation of the dead, on the use of an unintelligible language in all worship, on the adoration of Mary, on relics, on purgatory, on the universal bishopric of the Pope— but, above all, when he exactly professes the four doctrines which St. Paul has signalized as the marks of the Man of Sin: first, lying miracles; secondly, the worship of demigods, or the dead deified, who were worshipped by the Greeks and Romans under the name of demons; thirdly, the doctrine of ecclesiastical celibacy ; and fourthly, the interdiction of meats. These are the words of St, Paul, “Now the Spirit speaketh plainly,” (and it did also in Daniel), “that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.'' 

The fourteenth, and last feature, is the exact period of his persecutions of the people of God. Daniel and St. John both declare, several times, that it will be “until a time and times, and the dividing of time,” or one thousand two hundred and sixty prophetical days, which is understood to be, for many good reasons, as many years. Who could have believed beforehand, that a king-priest, so violent, so luxurious, so cruel, so blasphemous, so opposed to the Scriptures, so exactly described by them, so outrageous against peoples and potentates, would exist twelve years? And the Holy Spirit declares that he would last twelve hundred and sixty, and so it is! I shall not attempt, gentlemen, to inform you of the various calculations which have been made as to his beginning, or as to his ending; I only call upon you to admire this fourteenth prophetic feature of the Roman Pontiff, as we have already admired the others. 

Finally, gentlemen, these same prophecies all equally predict his judgment and his ruin. I shall not enter on this subject, but I must bring it before you in concluding, were it only to give us fresh courage. These are the words of Daniel — “The judgment shall sit, and they shall take away his dominion, to consume and to destroy it unto the end. And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall he given to the people of the saints of the Most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him."

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Review of Louis Gaussen's "Theopneusty."

This volume is, hands-down, the best I have ever read on the subject of Plenary Inspiration. Gaussen has done the Church an inestimable service with this book. It should be required reading for seminary students at any and every level. Much of the theological tomfoolery rampant in American evangelicalism would lose traction if ministers were conversant in the arguments of this book.

Highlights of the book are his handling of the standard objections to Inspiration, his discussion of the relation between the Bible and science, and the treatment of textual criticism.

With regard to the first, he makes mincemeat out of the objection that Inspiration is diminished because we have translations. His response, put simply, is that anyone who knows the original languages proficiently can critique a translation. The translations we have today have been edited and revised many times by language scholars who are all competent in the original languages and can easily spot errors in each others' work. Inspiration, on the other hand, gets one shot. Either the book in inspired by God when the prophet or apostle pens it, or it is not. There is no committee or panel of experts on inspiration who can pool their collective knowledge and assess the quality of the prophet/apostle's work and revise it to attain inerrant status.

In an unusual departure from a normal presentation of a case, Gaussen tackles all of the objections to Plenary Inspiration before he presents a positive case for it. This is actually quite effective, because the reader is not constantly thinking, “What about ______?” One is free to concentrate on the positive case without the distraction of questions in the back of one's mind.

Gaussen also does a great job dealing with the question of science and Scripture. His position is quite simple: Science changes and develops with advances in technology and new discoveries. Scripture does not change because it is the infallible, inerrant Word of the unchanging God. Therefore, Gaussen always places Scripture above science. He warns about the danger of modifying one's view of Scripture based on the latest scientific discoveries and theories, by showing the follies of otherwise reputable scholars of the past whose work is easy to discount for this very reason. Greek and Roman natural histories treat mythological creatures such as the phoenix and the Antipodes as if they were real. What do we say about theologians who appealed to the accounts of such creatures in the interest of the Christian faith? It is embarrassing, of course, and we'd much rather pretend that this never happened. Every such instance in the past is due to the author placing too much confidence in the science of his day and re-interpreting Scripture in the light of such “consensus” knowledge. We are equally foolish to do the same. By taking this tack, Gaussen has protected his volume from aging. His arguments are as valid today as they were in the 1850's.

The treatment of textual criticism is worth the price of admission. Gaussen warns, that while the textual critic does the Church a great service when he works within proper bounds. He admonishes that the textual critic is a “historian, not a conjurer.”

Although Gaussen cites many important Patristic sources in defense of Plenary Inspiration, he refuses to place much weight there, choosing rather to rely on the testimony of Scripture. In fact, he goes so far as to say that this is the ONLY way in which Plenary Inspiration is to be proven. If one were inclined to object that this is begging the question, Gaussen is quick to respond, “There would be a begging of the question, if, to prove that that the Scriptures are inspired, we should invoke their own testimony, as if they were inspired.” But, he notes that this is not what he is doing. He is considering Scripture, firstly, as a historical document worthy of respect by reason of its authenticity. By recourse to its pages, we find out what Jesus believed and taught, just like we search for what Socrates taught by reading Plato. Now, throughout the Bible we find declarations that the whole system of it religion is based upon a miraculous intervention of God in revealing its history and doctrines. This leaves no third option. We either relegate all Scripture to the realm of the mythological, or acknowledge that if what it narrates is true, it is inspired. There is nothing in this line of reasoning that can be called begging the question.

He concludes by asserting that there are only two religions in the world: One that places the Bible above everything, and one which places something else above the Bible. One position believes that all the written word is inspired of God, even to a single iota or tittle; the Scriptures cannot be broken. The other position employs human judges of the word of God. Whether it be science, tradition, human reason, or some new ostensible 'revelation,' it places something above the Bible. At bottom, this is the source of all false religion. Whether it be Judaism with its Targums and Talmud, Islam with its Quran, Romanism with its tradition and 'infallible Pope, Mormonism with its golden tablets and magic glasses, liberal theology with its denial of the miraculous elements of Scripture, or Pentecostalism with its never-ending series of dreams, visions, words of prophecy, and tongues, - in every case, we find a human judge feeling himself competent to sit in judgment of that which claims to be the inspired Word of God.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Louis Gaussen on Textual Criticism

"Let Sacred Criticism be a Historian, not a Conjuror"

We value highly, for the church of God, every labor which makes her understand a passage better; yes, were it only one passage, one single word of the holy Scriptures. But when you pass on to crude hypotheses; when you embrace a thousand conjectures concerning the sacred writers, to make their word depend on the hazard of their presumed circumstances, instead of regarding their circumstances as prepared and chosen of God in reference to their ministry; when you subordinate the nature, the abundance or brevity of these instructions to more of less fortunate concurrence of their ignorance or of their recollections; - this is to degrade inspiration, and to bring down the character of the word of God; it is to lay deep the foundations of infidelity; it is to forget that 'men of God spake as the were moved (φερόμενοι) by the Holy Ghost, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth” (2 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 2:13)

It has been asked, “Did the Evangelists read each others writings?” And what is that to me, if they were all 'moved by the Holy Ghost;' and if, like the Thessalonians, I receive their book, 'not as the word of man, but as it is, in truth, the word of God.' Let this question be proposed in its place, it may be entirely innocent; but it is so no longer when it is discussed as it has been, and when so much importance is attached to it. Can the solution of it throw light on one single passage of the sacred books, and establish their truths more firmly? We do not believe that it can.

When we hear it asked whether St. John had read the Gospels of the other three; if St. Mark and St. Luke had read the Gospel of St. Matthew before writing their own; when we hear it asked whether the Evangelists did anything more than describe with discernment the most important portions of oral traditions; when we see great volumes written upon these questions, to attack or defend these systems, as if faith and even science were truly interested in it, and as if the answers were very important to the Christian Church; when we hear it affirmed that the first three Evangelists had consulted some original document now lost; Greek, according to some; Hebrew, according to others; when we see men plunging still farther into this romantic field; when we see them reaching the complicated drama of the Bishop of Landaff (Herbert Marsh - aku), with his first Hebrew historical document, his second Hebrew dogmatic document, his third Greek document, (a translation of the first); then his documents of the second class, formed by the translation of Luke, and Mark, and Matthew, which finally reduces the sources to seven, without counting three others, peculiar to St. Luke and St. Mark; or even, again, when we see Mr. Veysie in England, and Dr. Gieseler in Germany, deriving either the first three Gospels, of the four Gospels from apocryphal histories previously circulated among the Christian churches; when we see the first of these Doctors determining that Mark has copied them with a more literal exactness than Luke, on account, they say, of his ignorance of the Greek; while Matthew's Gospel, written at first in Hebrew, must, doubtless, have been translated afterward into Greek by a person who modified it to make it correspond with Mark and Luke, and, finally, gave it to us as we have it; when we see these systems exhibited, not in a few phrases in the indulgence of a light curiosity, but so many and such great volumes written upon them as if they involved the interests of the kingdom of God; Oh! we must say it, we feel, in the view of all such science, a sentiment profoundly painful. But, after all, is that science? Is judicial astrology a science? No; and these men are no longer philosophers: they have abandoned facts; they prophesy the history of the past; they are, alas! the astrologers of theology.”

Louis Gaussen, “Theopneusty, or The Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures,” (Sacred Criticism, A Historian, Section II)

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Louis Gaussen On So-called "Trivial" Details in Scripture

Yet we must say before going any farther: we almost blush to defend the word of God under this form; and we feel for this species of apology, a king of conscientious disgust. Is it entirely proper; and can we give ourselves to it without irreverence? Care must be take at all times, as to the manner of defending the things of God; lest we imitate the imprudence of Uzzah, who reached out his hand to hold up the ark of God, because the oxen had slipped. The wrath of God, we are told, burned against his indiscretion (2 Samuel 6:6-7). if it is well understood on both sides, that a word is in the canon of the oracles of God, why defend it as worthy of Him, by human reasons? You might; without doubt, defend it against unbelievers; but with men who recognize the divinity of the Scriptures, is it not to wrong the word; is it not to take a false position, and touch the ark as Uzzah did? If this word should present itself to our eyes as a root out of dry ground; were it without any charm; were there neither form nor comeliness, nor anything in it to make it desirable, still ought you to venerate it and expect everything for it, from Him who has given it. Is it not then to fail of your duty to Him; to attempt when He speaks, to prove by argument, the respect which is His due? Should I not be ashamed, when my Savior and my God has been showed me, rising from supper, taking a basin, girding Himself with a napkin, and coming to wash the feet of His disciples; should I not be ashamed to set myself to proving, that, in spite of all that, His is still the Christ! Ah; I would rather adore Him more than ever! But it is so; the majesty of the Scriptures will stoop even to us. Do you see it there rising from the table, laying aside its robe, putting on the dress of a servant, and kneeling before sinners to wash their feet? 'If I do not wash thee, thou hast no part with me.' Is it not then, in this very humiliation that it reveals itself with the greatest charm, as the voice of the humiliated Word? Could we mistake it and could we rank ourselves for an instant by the side of those who do not know it?

It seems to us, that there is no arrogance comparable to that of a man, who, recognizing the Bible as a book of God, pretends after all, to assay it with his hand; to separate the pure from its impure, the inspired from the uninspired, God from ma. It is to overthrow all the foundations of faith; it is to make it no more a belief in God, but a belief in man. It ought then to be enough for us that a chapter or word makes part of the Scriptures, to induce us to believe it divinely good; for God has pronounced upon it, as upon the creation: 'I have seen everything that I have made, and behold, all is good.' We will never then say, I find this word admirable, therefore it is of God; and still less, I do not see its utility, therefore it is of man. God preserve us from it! But we will say, it is in the Scriptures; then it is from God. It is from God; then it is useful, it is wise, it is admirable; if I do not see it such yet, the fault is in me alone.”

Loiuis Gaussen, Theopneusty, or the Plenary Inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, pp 243-245

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