A dark shadow has fallen across Scotland — the shadow of a great betrayal of Scotland's most precious heritage. That heritage, bequeathed 450 years ago by the agony of faithful men and seated by the blood of martyrs in generation after generation, has been placed in peril by a company of men who have forsaken the guidance and the light of the inspired Word to turn aside to ecumenical fables which obtain credence only through the obscuration of evangelical truth.
One hundred and fifty ministers of the Church of Scotland have but recently assembled behind the walls of a Roman Catholic Convent to be lectured on Roman Catholic “truth” by a French priest The deed has been ratified by the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, when that Parliament of the great Church once purified by the Divine Word from all that welter of medieval error and superstition represented most worthily to this day by cloister and cell of grim and dark conventual’s discipline — that Scottish Parliament, we say, of Scottish Presbyterian divines, ratified the deed by approving, with a decisive majority, a motion to continue “conversations” with Rome.
As though to underline and endorse this grave decision, and show to the world that the Assembly well knew what it was doing when it stretched its hand back over four and a half centuries to grasp the guilty hand of an institution which has proved itself again and again to be the enemy of the human soul and the greatest blight in history ever to fall upon the human mind — as though to endorse this frightening decision, the Assembly voted the very next day by a strong majority to approve of a most significant modification of sabbath observance. And though there were not wanting men who, thank God, fought with great tenacity to persuade the Assembly to hold its hand from committing this further sacrilege, in the end only one solitary man, and he a young man, ventured from his seat and wended his lonely way to the desk of the Assembly clerk, there to enter his name upon the record as dissenting from the unlawful deed. All thanks to God that there are still Gideon’s here and there in a day when Midian prevails.
Henceforth Scotland stands officially for what has been described (with more of acid than of righteous anger) as “the Lord’s Half Day,” an institution unknown to Holy Scripture, but resembling very suspiciously the Sabbath theory so beloved by that very Church of Rome whose hand these divines seem so ready affectionately to grasp. In Roman Catholic Scotland it has been a case of morning Mass to satisfy all possible scruples of conscience, and then on with the bingo, the cards, the dance, the whisky, the sport, and the entertainment. In Presbyterian Scotland it may not be so gross, for we can all be oh! so respectable, but under the euphemism, “healthy relaxation” what fell crimes may not ensue? Already over a large area of Scottish religious life we have closed down the evening service, disbanded the Sabbath School for many months of the year, while the Prayer Meeting and the Midweek Preaching are not even a memory except in some fragmentary evangelical fastnesses where our souls are exceedingly filled with the contempt of those who say. “Where is now thy God?”
THE ECLIPSE OF EVANGELICAL FAITH
There must be some deep reason why such things have become possible in the land of Knox. Melville and Henderson. And such a reason is not far to seek. Scotland today is suffering from the almost complete eclipse of the evangelical faith — a process which began a century ago with the importation of continental theology and has continued ever since with naive or specious experimentation with the doctrine of the Divine Word. The Bible may be carried ceremoniously to the pulpit as in the great days of old and none would dare lay an unhallowed arrest upon that peculiar Scottish symbolism, but over a large area of the land it does not mean a thing, for the Bible is no longer regarded as the only rule of faith and practice; indeed, with the more up-to-the-minute gentlemen in hall and pulpit and on the floor of the General Assembly, it is no longer an accurate guide to anything.
At least we may sympathise with the Romanist who on a subject so direful as religion, feels the need to find infallibility and authority somewhere, even if we heartily repudiate his conclusion that what he seeks is found nowhere else but under the triple crown of the Arch-priest who happens for the time being to be the sitting tenant at the Vatican. But in the degradation of Protestantism today, whether in its presbyterian or its episcopal form, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find any standard of truth, whether in a Book or out of it — unless it be in the heads of a few of the more celebrated contemporary theologians, who, like the old bulls of the herd, maintain their position by their own individual prowess until a fresh generation of younger bulls arises to overthrow them and take over the leadership of the wandering herd.
For the Infallible Book has gone—hooted through the classrooms and out of the College Gate, by herdsmen who speak with a peculiar German guttural. The Book has gone, along with the respect once paid to prophets, apostles and righteous men who, a naive age used to suppose, spake and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. Now the Holy Ghost does not speak at all in Protestantism — or if He does it is only to contradict the last infallible utterance from heaven.
A CRISIS OF THE DIVINE WORD
Small wonder then that the hand of Rome should be taken. Is there not in this, more than a whisper that souls which have lost their moorings in an Infallible Book are so far adrift that they instinctively seek an anchorage where they can find it — and where better than in that historic and age-outlasting institution which has always claimed, and claims still, to be the One True Church founded upon the immovable Petrine Rock ?
Some of us may be pardoned for preferring the Infallible Word to the Infallible Pope or the Fallibility of the latest opinion on the authorship of the Fourth Gospel and the unreliability of the rest.
For make no mistake about it, the crisis facing the church in Scotland and in England today is a crisis of the Divine Word. The question is, whether the Bible is true from the beginning, for if the Bible be not true, then was the Reformation a mistake, John Knox was a disaster, the martyrs gave their blood for a fallacy, and the historic benefits which Scotland has reaped in the past from the preaching of the Bible, the Whole Bible, and nothing but the Bible, are a mere delusion. Some of us cannot take that position.
It may be there are here and there some well-intentioned friends who feel that the times have changed anyway, and Rome is no longer what she was. The time has come for a rapprochement, for a new understanding.
If it were true that Rome has changed, that she has abandoned the weapons of persecution, intolerance and superstition, that her Pope has vacated the throne of personal infallibility, that she no longer exacts blind obedience to her dictates, that she is an ameliorating and enlightening influence in the world, that she has abandoned image worship and the deification of the Virgin, that she has repented of the sin of depriving the laity of the sacred Cup, that she no longer commits the crime of inflicting an unnatural celibacy upon her priests — if, in short, it is true that Rome has reformed herself and come into line with the Word of God, who amongst us would not hasten to take her hand and assist her to yet more painful but necessary reforms so as to make her more like the Bride of Christ than we think her to be?
But this is not the case. Not only has Rome not reformed, but she has declared again and again, even this year, through the mouth of her most distinguished prelates and officers, that she has no intention of abating one of her peculiar doctrines or departing in the slightest degree from any of her non-christian importations in observance and practice.
The ecumenical question (like the sabbatical question) is one which only the Bible can settle, and it is highly significant that it is only since the Bible was set on one side in Scotland, and dethroned from its supremacy as the only guide to faith and morals, that the Reformation lines have become blurred, and our divines have taken the road back to the Convent, the Mass, and the priestly den.
DANIEL IN THE CRITICS' DEN
What then does the Bible say about Rome? Can there be a greater assurance of the Inspiration and Infallibility of the Scriptures than the Book of Daniel which, as we shall presently see, describes with unerring truth the rise upon the page of history of that Apparition of Apostate Christianity which our godly forefathers had no difficulty in recognising as the Church of Rome? If this position can be made good, we shall not appeal in vain to our brethren, whether in the Church of Scotland or any other of the historic Protestant communions, to think again and yet again before they commit the crime against the human soul and against the judgment of God of seeking to grasp the guilty hand of Rome.
It is to no purpose that any reader of these words should set aside the record on the specious plea that Daniel is a discredited book. The recent discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls has assured us that whatever view the critics may take of Daniel it is now beyond dispute that the Book was in the Jewish canon long before the Christian era, and long before the development of the Roman empire. Yet there, hundreds of years before the event could even be remotely guessed, in this Book of Daniel is a clear delineation not only of the fate of that historic empire of Rome — the greatest the world has ever seen or will see — but the peculiar, astonishing, and otherwise incredible development whereby the Pagan Empire should reproduce itself in an institution claiming for itself divine powers and prerogatives — an institution which in its prediction fits the Church of Rome and the Papacy as a glove fits the hand, and fits nothing else in history.
If this be not the finger of God, then has language failed of its purpose and the maddest of all people in this crazy world are those evangelical witnesses who throughout history have been the victims of this great power, pagan or papal, which the inspired Daniel foresaw.
Daniel Seven is the chapter. The vision of four great beasts, readily recognised as the successive monarchies of Babylon (then tottering towards its ignoble end); Medo-Persia, even then in process of rousing itself to a career of great conquest (symbolised by the symbolic Bear raising itself on one side, with three ribs of preliminary conquest already between its teeth); the Grecian Leopard of Alexander the Great, with its wings of rapid conquest, and its four heads of subsequent dominion (for the empire was divided between Generals Cassander, Lysimachus, Seleucus and Ptolemy Soter as every history book confirms); and the monstrous Beast of the Caesars, with its lust of conquest, and its insatiable ambition to crush, devour and trample down all tribes and peoples within its reach. But this is only the background of Daniel's vision. The object of the whole is the consolation of the Covenant People during the long centuries of patient waiting for the Messianic deliverance. God would declare to them that all time is measured and sealed, and under His own sovereign control. The Bible critics who take up the atheistic sneer about Daniel having been slyly written after the event, bear an unintentional witness to the accuracy of the prediction, and at the same time advertise their own folly in view of the fact that on any theory, the writer of Daniel could not have foreseen the Roman Empire, still less the astonishing projection of that empire in its Christianised form, in a career of usurpation and persecution, arrogance and intolerance, to the end of time. Moreover they defeat the counsels of the Most High who ordained that His people should have light in the darkness, and a bridge of faith across the abyss of history — a light which the critics put out and a bridge they send plunging down to ruin, by the half-hidden sneer at the very idea of the Wisdom of God ever having been capable of prophecy. Why should not God predict ? And where, other than in His Word ?
But to our Daniel again. The Roman Beast has ten horns, which are the ten powers or kingdoms into which it fell when it disintegrated in the early centuries of the Christian era. Then, most amazing event of all, the ruined empire of paganism (pagan still, despite the heroic efforts of Constantine to baptise it with a Christian name) perpetuates itself by the emergence at its very centre of a new power, described as a Little Horn which displaces and supplants three of the Ten Kingdoms. This horn is the Papal Horn (as we shall presently show), and its predicted history was to be one of usurpation, blasphemous claim to divine prerogative, and persecuting intolerance against the helpless People of the Covenant — until the time that the saints should possess the kingdom.
If the interpretation can be made good that this is indeed the Papacy, the antichrist, the enemy of God and man, the attitude of all Christian men and churches should be determined thereby, so far as the Papacy is concerned. But can it be made good? Let us attend to the marks of identity.
THE SEVENFOLD IDENTITY
1. The Papal Horn was to arise in the latter days of the Roman Empire. History declares that the Papacy first began to emerge in the times of the Ten Kingdoms which succeeded the empire on its overthrow.
2. It was to emerge from that empire. History is quite definite that the Papacy arose in Italy, its Bishop assuming universal powers in the vacuum caused by the collapse of the Imperial system.
3. It would replace or absorb three of the ten kingdoms (before it, says Daniel, were three of the first horns plucked up by the roots). History is again very clear that the Papacy, in its march to temporal power, supplanted three of its predecessors—the kingdoms of Ravenna, the Lombards and the Roman states—vide, Sir Isaac Newton. To this day the Pope wears a triple crown — the only monarch in history to do so. He is, moreover, the first and only prelate in Christendom to become a temporal king and to be recognised as such in the Chancelleries of the world. His triple crown celebrates his success in obtaining the crowns of three kingdoms which went before him, and Daniel is no out-dated or discredited prophet.
4. This Papal horn would “speak great words against the Most High.” The Pope is the only figure in historic Christendom who claims absolute power over all peoples on earth, and the exclusive divine prerogatives of universal rule, personal infallibility, and the right to define doctrine, faith and morals over and above the Holy Scriptures and outside the control of Councils, whether ecclesiastical or otherwise.
5. It was to be a persecuting power with the "saints of the Most High" as its pecurial target of hate and spite. Here are just a few of the crimes of the Papacy, as any history will tell: In the year 1208 Innocent III proclaimed a crusade against the Waldenses and Albigenses in Southern Europe, so that one million people perished — men, women and children; the Jesuits between 1540 and 1580 claimed 900,000 victims; in thirty years the Holy Inquisition slew 150,000 innocent and helpless women and men. No institution known to history has such a long and bloody record of persecution and massacre, and the experiences in Jugo-Slavia during the last war when millions of Serbs were forcibly converted or put to the sword with the connivance and direction of the Romish hierarchy in Croatia, is too terrifyingly recent to persuade us that Rome's insatiable lust for blood is at all abated. Let the credulous beware. The public has always a very short memory.
6. It would alter religious “times” and laws (Dan. 7:25). The word in the Hebrew denotes doctrines and observances and stated times of religious significance. Rome has specialised in creating of arbitrary Holy Days of universal obligation, to the practical abolition of the Lord's Sabbath; she has interfered with the Commandments by dropping Number Two with its ban on religious images, dividing Number Ten into two parts to make up the number. See any R.C. Catechism. Did our Lord institute the Supper in two kinds? The popes withdrew the cup from the laity, and refuse to this day to acknowledge or correct their error. Will our ecumenical friends in the Protestant ministry do likewise, and will they be prepared to dismiss their wives to convents and hand over the care of their children to others — for ibis is the price they must pay if they would unite with Rome ? If they are not prepared to commit this folly and this blasphemy, whence and whither these “conversations”?
7. The Papacy was to endure for a mystic period expressed in the terms " Time, times, and the dividing of time " — which as every student of the Bible knows or ought to know is the same mystic period elsewhere expressed as the three and a half years or the 1,260 days, a measure of prophetic time (a day for a year) intended to denote a vast period of time, covering the entire Christian era. Here we are on solid ground. No other church, no other bishop, none else besides Rome, has endured so long, survived so much discredit, obtained so much credence and respect among the worldly-minded, and shown so singular a capacity for trampling on its own history and perpetuating itself in age after age with no relenting of its superstitions, intolerances and errors.
It may well be that in this measurement of time, it was never intended there should be a clear beginning or ending, test the primacy of faith should be endangered. Hence there are several beginnings proposed which while not yielding results of unchallengeable satisfaction, are to say the least highly significant, and serve the purpose of identification. In other words, the Papacy is full of significant dates to which the yardstick of prophetic time may be applied, and NO OTHER INSTITUTION THE WORLD KNOWS OF CAN DO THIS.
We are not competent to put on the calendar a date to mark the exact beginning of the reign of antichrist, when the apostle himself could only say, "The mystery of iniquity doth already work, only he who now letteth will let until he be taken out of the way." Antichrist's career was already begun in anticipation, but so long as the hindering power of the Imperial Paganism of Rome still existed, the church could not come under the temporal usurpation of Caesar’s successor.
That this was in fact the fate of the church none but a papist would deny, though it is no longer fashionable to say so. The bearing of so obnoxious a doctrine on the present craze for ecumenism is too disastrous for any but a rank evangelical to endure.
SADOWA AND SEDAN
If we date the reign of antichrist from AD 533 when the emperor Justinian accredited the Bishop of Rome as head of the church, the cryptic period of 1,260 years runs out in 1793, when the French Revolution blew to smithereens the feudalism of Europe and rocked the papal throne to its foundations. If, however, the commencing date be AD 606 when the emperor Phocas is reputed to have confirmed the decision of Justinian against the rival claims of Constantinople, the time runs out in 1866 with the rise of Protestant Prussia, the decisive battle of Sadowa, and the removal of one of the two rotten props which then supported the papacy in its temporal claims. That prop was Austria. The other rotten prop- the French Empire of Napoleon III—was removed by that same power of Prussia four years later, when Sedan sealed the fate not only of France but of the Pope, for the best part of the ensuing century.
By favour of Mussolini (of infamous memory) the Papacy recovered a rag of temporal power shortly before the last war, and with it a tremendous accretion of political power, influence and credit, in the vacuum created by the dangerous decline of Protestantism.
A later date for the commencement of the antichristian system has been recognised in the pant of Pepin in the year 752, conferring upon the Pope the Exarchate of Ravenna and the Pentapolis, by which the Papacy first began to be numbered among the actual sovereignties of Europe, and to exercise dominion with all the pomp and the apparatus of an earthly monarchy. This date runs out in 2012 — a date which seems uncomfortably close.
SITUATION OUT OF HAND
Whatever there may be in such calendar speculations, the fact remains that time is running out, and we must by now be in the last stages of that conspiracy against the human soul which the Scriptures of the Old and New Testament foretell. If there is such a conspiracy, we may expect indeed that it will have the sublety to cover itself up in a tissue of plausible delusions, not the least of which will be to pour discredit on the one great instrument which exposes the Satanism of it all. That instrument is the Bible, and we are living in the days when throughout Protestantism the Bible is discredited as the only and sufficient divine rule of faith and practice. Apart from the Bible Rome cannot be recognised for what she is. The Protestant world is on the brink of accepting Rome's claims, and amongst those now jostling on the Appian Way on the road back to Rome must be numbered those hundreds of ministers of the Scottish Kirk who now vote for "conversations" with the most reactionary and dangerous institution known to mankind. It is to no purpose that many of them think to draw the rein if and when the process seems to be going too far and too fast. As well might one expect to stem the avalanche by the cry of Excelsior, once the awful mass has been loosened from the heights by the incautious shout of the traveller. Already the situation in Protestantism is out of hand.
Only one thing can save evangelical religion in the present crisis — a return to the soul-liberating doctrine of free justification, and that in terms of mighty preaching.
This is no time for the shortened essay on morals, garnished with the savour of the latest public events or religious fads, which in too many cases serves the office of sermon. The Bible can only do its work as it is expounded by men who believe its total message, and who have mastered the simple principle on which divine truth ever works. That principle is the hearing of faith, and it is evangelical. And only the evangelically minded can grasp it and preach it. It is the principle which carved out the Reformation and set half the world free in less than a generation. It is this doctrine which the Holy Spirit baptises with power, because it is only this which can open the prison house of the human soul and set the captive free. “The just shall live by faith.” It is the eternal principle so eloquently laid down in Isaiah 55, with the universal call to buy the wine and milk of gospel grace “without money and without price.” In the gospel, so Isaiah teaches, we hear to live. That is the divine method. “Hearken diligently unto me . . . Incline your ear and come unto me ... Hear and your soul shall live.”
It is a long time since the clear, definite note of evangelical invitation was heard in many of our pulpits. But there is no substitute for it. The evangelical doctrine stands over against all the doctrines of men, for there is no difference in principle between the teaching of Rome and the teaching of apostate Protestantism, or between them both and the teaching of Buddha or of Mahomet, of Mary Baker Eddy or of Judge Rutherford. Shorn of their peculiarities they all teach with one voice the salvability of man by his own deserving. Of true grace and free pardon they know nothing, for they all speak the language of the Covenant of Works. Only the evangelical declares a free market of divine grace — in the language and meaning of Isaiah — “Ho, everyone that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money ...”
It is Christ the sinner needs - a free and sufficient Christ, not a sacramental Christ locked up in the Latin of a magical priesthood, only let out to the sinner upon insufferable terms; not a humanistic Christ relegated to a pantheon of comparable heroes none of whom died, or was qualified to die, for the human race, or clear the sinner's guilt by the sacrifice of his own blood; not a philosophical Christ such as is calculated to satisfy the aesthetic taste of drawing-room loungers who badly need to repent. The evangelical Christ is a Saviour from condemnation, and from sin and death, and the evangelical thunder is, “Grace is free! Christ has made atonement for sin! Repent and believe the gospel! There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus! Being therefore justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him !”
This is the Covenant of Grace -and it is important to recognise that it will not live alongside any other Covenant. It is the business of Protestantism (that is, evangelicalism) to proclaim liberty to the captive in these terms. It is the business of Romanism to challenge and deny this evangelical faith — and right well she has done it. It is the shame of those who have abandoned the evangelical faith, and who are uneasy about the Inspiration of the Bible, to join forces with the enemy on this vital issue upon which there can be no compromise if men are to be delivered and saved.
Not we evangelicals but those who are taking the hand of Rome and the part of those who no longer believe in the inerrancy, infallibility and sufficiency of the Word of God, the Bible - - there are the betrayers of Christ, and the enemies of the human soul. Is it not written, " And the Lord shall send them strong delusion that they shall believe a lie " ?
Editor's Note: The message here reprinted is the substance of a sermon preached during Assembly Week, 1964, to the Macqueen Memorial Congregation in Inverness, by the Rev. Charles D. Alexander, Liverpool, under the auspices of the National Union of Protestants.