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Wednesday, September 20, 2017
Date Posted:

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The Mass

The Advance of Romanism (Part II): The Doctrinal Errors of Romanism

S. M. Houghton MA


While Protestants teach that the Holy Scriptures constitute the sole Rule of Faith, the Roman Church, while acknowledging canonical books of Scripture (and adding the Apocrypha), claims that an unwritten word, termed Tradition, has an authority equal to that of the Scriptures. In addition she asserts that the decrees of Church Councils (particularly those of the Council of Trent, 1545-63 A.D.), and the pronouncements of Popes (and especially the Creed of Pius IV, 1559-65), are binding on the conscience.

Furthermore, she claims that

(a) it is for the Church of Rome to decide on the meaning of Scripture,

(b) her interpretations are 'according to the unanimous consent of the Fathers' (she closes her eyes to the fact that the Fathers were far from unanimous in their interpretations).

Rome's claim amounts to this: that the untutored layman is incompetent to decide what Scripture means, and that the 'infallible Church' will decide this matter for him.

From time to time the Roman Church adds to its dogmas (which are all binding on the consciences of Romanists): in 1854 came the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin Mary, the claim that from conception she was kept free from all stain of original sin. In 1870 the dogma of the Infallibility of the Pope was published; and in 1950 the doctrine of Mary's Corporal Assumption into Heaven. Scripture knows nothing whatever of these assertions.


We need salvation because we are sinners. The Biblical doctrine is that human nature is corrupt and depraved and 'desperately wicked' (Gen. 6. 5, Ps. 51. 5, Jer. 17. 9, Mark 7.21-23, Rom. 3.9-18 and 8. 7). It distinguishes between

  1. original sin (the corruption of human nature derived from Adam) and
  2. (b) actual sin (the breaking of the divine law).

God's forgiveness, and His restoration of the sinner, deal with both kinds of sin, the root and the fruit. Roman teaching, however, does not look upon the fall in Adam as a corruption of man's entire nature, a spiritual bankruptcy, but declares that it merely involves a withdrawal of supernatural grace from the soul.

Correspondingly, we find that Rome's doctrine of justification amounts to this: that, "through the merit of Christ (righteousness) is infused into us of God". This 'imparted righteousness', which is received through faith and penitence, is rewarded by the power to earn by good works increase of grace and eternal life. In other words, justification, according to this scheme, is brought about by faith AND good works which are meritorious in the sight of God.

Further, says the Council of Trent, "the instrumental cause of justification is the sacrament of baptism". Hence the key of admission to God's Kingdom is in the hand of the Roman priest who administers the sacrament.

Protestant doctrine, founded upon Scripture alone, admits 'imparted righteousness' (i.e. sanctification) as the result of regeneration by the Holy Spirit, but asserts that justification is brought about by a righteousness, not in the sinner but in the Saviour and wrought by the Saviour, which is IMPUTED to him when he believes, and by it he is FULLY justified: 'Ye are washed, ye are sanctified, ye are justified, in the Name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God' (1 Cor. 6. 11). (See also Romans 4. 1-9; 5. 1-11; 8. 31-34).

There is a vast difference between the two systems. The one implies some degree of human merit and the necessity for a mediatorial (human) priesthood; the other proclaims that all merit is in the Saviour, that all demerit is in the sinner, and that by grace, through faith (which is the gift of God), the sinner receives a righteousness which completely and eternally justifies him, and gives him a title to heaven and glory. Sanctification, which accompanies justification, gives him a fitness for Heaven, 'making him meet for the inheritance of the saints in light'.

Rome's conception of faith is likewise defective. Faith is trust, trust in and upon the Lord Jesus Christ in His glorious mediatorial all-sufficiency as Way, Truth, and Life. But Rome's teaching is that the faith God requires is "that by which we yield our unhesitating assent to whatever the authority of our holy mother

the Church teaches us to have been delivered by Almighty God". In other words, saving faith is, essentially, submission to the Church of Rome.

Thus the two doctrines are mutually hostile. In fact the Council of Trent pronounces its curse on the Protestant doctrine, in the words, "If anyone saith that by faith alone the ungodly is justified … let him be anathema".


Whereas Protestants hold that two ordinances only were instituted by the Lord, namely Baptism and the Lord's Supper, the Roman Church claims that there are seven sacraments, the other five being Confirmation, Penance (including auricular confession and priestly absolution), Extreme Unction (administered to the dying), Orders (or the offices of bishops, priests and deacons), and Matrimony. The Council of Trent anathematizes all who say that grace is not conferred (ex opere operato, which is almost equivalent to 'mechanically') by the sacramental act. Hence sacraments administered to persons in a state of insensibility are supposed to confer grace. Baptism is supposed to confer the grace of regeneration.

(the central rite of Romanism)

The Roman Church claims that the sacrifice of the Mass and the sacrifice offered by Christ upon the Cross are one and the same, that is, it is alleged that the priest re-enacts the sacrificial work of Christ, and that, in consequence, his act has saving efficacy for the living and the dead. The vestments worn by the

priest at the Mass are fully intended to signify all this. The 'host' (a word derived from the Latin term for 'victim'), that is, the consecrated wafer, is held aloft and worshipped in accordance with the belief that it is no longer bread but 'the very body and blood, the soul and divinity' of Christ Himself. This 'miracle',

performed daily by the priests on ten thousands of altars, is termed by the Roman Church, transubstantiation.

Ligouri, a theologian highly esteemed by Romanists, speaks thus: "St. Paul extols the obedience of Jesus Christ by telling us that He obeyed His eternal Father unto death. But in this sacrament His obedience is still more wonderful, since He is pleased not only to obey His Father, but even man himself. Yes, the King of Heaven descends from His throne in obedience to the voice of man, and remains upon our altars according to his pleasure. In this sacrament He obeys as many creatures as there are priests upon earth".

The Roman Catholic practice of withholding the cup from the laity and permitting only the officiating priests to partake of it is an outcome of the belief in transubstantiation, as it is asserted that the wafer in itself is a complete Christ.

In England, in the days of Roman persecution, not a few were sent to the stake because of their insistence that the body of Christ was in Heaven at the right hand of God, and could not, therefore, at the same time be on multitudes of Roman altars. *

Transubstantiation was first defined as an article of faith at the Lateran Council of 1215 (i.e., a Council held in the Lateran Palace at Rome), and the cup was withheld from the laity by decree of the Council of Constance in 1415.

We claim that the whole of the New Testament is up in arms against the doctrine of the Mass, and particularly the wonderful Epistle to the Hebrews which, in itself, is an almost complete answer to the Roman position. It shows that Christ's priesthood is an untransmissible priesthood (7.24) and that Christ's sacrifice on the Cross is complete, final, and incapable of addition or repetition (9. 11-27; 10. 1-18). The Epistle is a sublime commentary on the final triumphant cry from the tree, 'IT IS FINISHED' (John 19. 30).

* The following is a comment passed by C. H. Spurgeon on certain passages in Foxe's Book of Martyrs:

"I have been often amazed and delighted with the remarkable answers which were given to bishops and priests by poor humble men and women who were on trial for their lives. Perhaps you remember that Anne Askew was asked, in order to entangle her in her speech, ‘What would become of a mouse if it ate the bread of the holy sacrament?' She said that it was too deep a question for a poor woman like her to answer, and she begged the learned bishop on the bench to tell her what would become of the mouse: to which his lordship answered that it would be damned. Now what reply could be given to that but the one Anne Askew gave, 'Alack! poor mouse!' I do not know that anything better could have been said… the Holy Ghost has helped His saints in time of persecution to answer well those who have accused them."

(From Sermon No.2898, published on 25/8/1904).


Roman Catholic priests sit in the confessional as 'judges in the tribunal of penance', and minutely investigate sins, all thoughts of shame being laid aside. The ear of the priest is described by C. H. Spurgeon as 'the cesspool of the parish'. The claim is that the priests have power from Christ according to their discretion to grant or refuse absolution. But according to Scripture the forgiveness of sins comes to a man via the preaching of the Gospel and not by way of a priestly and 'ecclesiastical' act performed by a fellow sinner. The latter is simply a messenger of the Lord commissioned to declare the good news by the preaching of the Word. The Acts of the Apostles (e.g., 2.22-40; 10. 44-48; 13. 38-41; 16. 30-33) is a commentary on the words of John 20. 23 (forgiveness in action), and the forgiveness therein

revealed was not spoken to penitents in a confessional-box, or by priestly lips, but by those who said, "Through this Man is preached unto you the forgiveness of sins, and by Him all that believe are justified …"

Rome divides sins into two classes (a) mortal sins which are deadly, killing the soul and subjecting it to eternal punishment, (b) venial sins, which are defined as 'small and pardonable offences against God or our neighbour'. Mortal sins necessitate the absolution which can be spoken only by the priest; venial

sins (which do not exclude from the grace of God) can be expiated by good works, prayers, extreme unction, and purgatory. The New Testament knows nothing of such teaching.


Rome asserts the existence of a purgatory (a place of punishment and thereby of ultimate cleansing) after this life and before the admission of a Romanist into heaven. It is allegedly a place of fire in which the souls of the pious are tormented, possibly for thousands of years. Relatives of the departed are often urged to pay for masses to be said for the repose of the souls of the departed so that their release from purgatory may be hastened. Prayers for the dead are also urged.

Rome claims that I Cor. 3. 12-15 teaches Purgatory. But it is to be noted that the apostle's teaching here indicates (a) that it is works, not persons, that are tried by fire, (b) that the trial of the

works takes place in 'the day' (i.e., of Christ) not at once after death, (c) that some thereby suffer loss (whereas Rome claims that the Romanist gains by purification in purgatory) and (d) that the faithful (builder) is rewarded, for the 'fire' proves his works to be good.

Indulgences confer the remission in whole or in part of the temporal punishment due to sin, both in respect of this world and purgatory .They are issued by the pope who claims personal jurisdiction over purgatory, and are usually granted through the priests in return for gifts or services rendered to the Church, or as

a reward for other 'good works'. Certain Romish saints are supposed to have performed works of merit over and above what God required of them. These works, known as works of supererogation, constitute a treasury of merit which the popes can utilise as they please. From this the unbiblical system of indulgences is operated. It was one of the evils which deeply stirred the souls of 16th century Reformers.


Romanists are encouraged to worship and invoke saints and angels, the Council of Trent affirming that this is no violation of the decalogue. It is explained that just as the lesser honour given to magistrates is not inconsistent with the greater honour paid to a king, so the adoration of saints and angels is not inconsistent

with the worship of God. Texts which speak of angels refusing such adoration (Rev. 19. 10 and 22. 8-9) are taken to mean that angels decline the honour due to God but not the inferior honour which God permits. In practice the normal Romanist probably makes little distinction between the two. He is also permitted,

if not urged, to venerate statues and relics of departed saints. 'By the images which we kiss', says the Council of Trent, 'and before which we uncover the head and bend the knee, we adore Christ'. Scripture forbids all such practices: they are a form of idolatry (Exod. 20. 4; Matt. 4. 10; I John 5. 21; compare Acts 10.26 and Acts 14. 11-18).


Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus, is for all practical purposes almost raised, in Romanism, to the rank of Deity. They speak of her as the Queen of Heaven (compare the speech of idolatrous Jews in Jer. 44. 17, and 25). Although Romanists distinguish three kinds of worship (I. latria, the worship due to God alone;

2. hyperdulia, the worship given to Mary; 3. dulia, the worship accorded to saints ), and Rome asserts that Mary is not regarded as a member of the Godhead, it is clear from Roman Catholic writings and modes of worship, that Mary is exalted to a position little removed from that of Deity .In other words, hyperdulia

shades into latria. Many Roman Catholic prayers seem to give her precedence over Christ Himself. Indeed, many Romanists believe that Christ is best approached through Mary .But this is entirely foreign to New Testament teaching. Mariolatry is based on evil tradition, not on Scripture. Why does Mary fade out of sight after Acts I. 14 if Romish tradition is true to the Gospel? We certainly need a Mediator between ourselves and God (I Tim. 2. 5), but we do not need a Mediator between ourselves and Christ; we are to come to Him just as we are. And Christ brings us to God. To effect this He ONCE suffered for sins (I Pet. 3. 18).


The entire structure of Romanism is based on the assumption that Christ appointed Peter the first pope and thereby established the papacy (Matt. 16.13-19, and Luke 22. 32 are supposed to certify this). But (a) Christ did not make Peter the foundation of His Church. He did not say to him, 'On thee I will build My Church', but 'On this rock (petra, whereas Peter's name was, in Greek, Petros; Christ uses a different gender) I will build My Church'. The Church is built on Christ as the Rock foundation (I Cor. 3. II), on the apostles and prophets (themselves built upon Christ) as the secondary foundation (Eph. 2.20). Believers are built upon them, tier upon tier, and so the structure rises as 'an holy temple in the Lord', 'an habitation of God through the Spirit'. It is vain to think that an apostle, addressed by his Lord as 'Satan' shortly after his confession of faith (Matt. 16.23), could be a suitable foundation for the 'temple of God'.

In the dispute among the apostles for precedence, the Lord did not say that Peter had already been marked out as first, and therefore James and John and the rest could not be considered (Mark 10. 35-44). Far from it! Indeed, in Gospels, Acts, and Epistles, Peter, though in the front rank of believers, is not accorded any headship. It was not Peter but James who presided over the Council held in Jerusalem (Acts 15. 13, 19). In Galatians 2.11, when a vital doctrine was endangered, Paul withstood Peter to the face because he was to be blamed. Where then was Peter's 'infallibility'?

(b) Peter never claimed supreme authority and precedence over the other apostles or over the Church. In his epistles he makes no claim to an earthly headship over' the Church. He simply terms himself an apostle and fellow-elder (I Pet. I. I; 5.1-3). His demeanour after Pentecost, as depicted in the New Testament, is that of a suffering witness to his Lord. He is seen as humble and contrite, one who, having denied his Master and been restored, was able to strengthen his brethren by testifying to the wondrous grace that recovered him from his fall and recommissioned him for the service of the risen Saviour.

The New Testament yields not a vestige of proof that Peter was ever in Rome. Paul's Epistle to the Romans was written in or about 58 A.D. Romanists claim that Peter was bishop of Rome from 42 to 67 A.D. Yet, though the epistle contains many names and greetings, it makes not the slightest mention of Peter. The Second Epistle to Timothy was written from Rome, yet in it Paul says, "Only Luke is

with me" (4. 11).


The dogma of 1870, promulgated during the papacy of Pius IX, claims that 'the Roman pontiff, when he speaks ex cathedra (i.e., 'when fulfilling the office of pastor and teacher of all Christians'), is endowed with infallibility ... in defining doctrine concerning faith and morals. If anyone shall presume (which God forbid!) to contradict this our definition, let him be anathema (accursed)'. The alleged infallibility is supposed to run through past centuries as well as into future time, backwards as well as forwards. But even a scanty knowledge of History is sufficient to show the complete absurdity of such a claim.


This is the requirement of the Roman Church that its priests monks and nuns should abstain from marriage, contrary to Scripture statement that marriage is honourable in all (Heb 13. 4). It did not come into vogue until about 1000 A.D. Rom, teaches that celibacy is a superior state to marriage. There is much in the New Testament that conflicts with this teaching. Peter, for instance, was a married man. Paul says that a bishop "must be the husband of one wife" (I Tim. 3. 2).


Notoriously Rome has been a persecuting Church. She has claimed that, if her sheep went astray and abandoned her fold it was but the kindness of pastoral care on her part to seek their recovery, and save them thereby from perdition. Thus has Rome attempted to justify the rack, the thumbscrew, and the stake.

But it can only be said that the Inquisition (officially styled 'The Holy Office') has been as unholy an institution as hell itself could have devised. "Judge", said a martyr as he was about to die, "which is the better religion, the one which persecutes or the one which suffers". Where the Roman Church has achieved full supremacy in a State it has been usual hitherto virtually to deny the right of existence to non-Roman Churches, and to demand freedom for herself alone. In modern days, however, she has somewhat changed her voice and is erroneously supposed to have abandoned her exclusive claims. Yet it is only Rome's tactic!

which have changed, not her heart and mind. She claims dominion over soul and conscience, and only bides her time in the hope that her day of power is returning.


Rome may seem to express deep concern for the unity of Christendom and for the spiritual and moral welfare of 'the separated brethren', but since the unity for which she stands includes belief in the doctrines outlined above, and in others akin to them- and she makes no move to alter them, except for such minor changes as the relaxation of the rule of celibacy- it is abundantly clear that we can make no common

cause with her. Should we do so, we should betray 'the blood of the martyrs of Jesus' (see Rev. 17. 6.). Rome boasts that she is 'semper eadem' (always the same); she denies the need for reformation. But her beliefs are in many essential particulars directly contrary to the teachings of God's Word, and we feel it vital to issue words of warning lest any whose faith, though true and saving, is feeble and uninformed, should be beguiled by Rome’s siren voice. We urge all interested parties to compare Rome’s teachings point by point with those of Scripture, and we doubt not that all who are enlightened by the Holy Spirit of God will discern the plain differences which exist, and which make fraternization with Rome an impossibility to those who hold to Bible truth. (John 17. 17)

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