1. THE RULE OF FAITH
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.
2. THE WAY OF SALVATION
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
- original sin (the corruption of human nature derived from Adam) and
- (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
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
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.
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".
3. THE SACRAMENTS
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.
4. THE MASS
(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.
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
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
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).
5. PENANCE (INCLUDING CONFESSION AND PRIESTLY
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;
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.
7. THE INVOCATION OF SAINTS AND ANGELS
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
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
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
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).
9. THE SUPREMACY OF PETER
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
with me" (4. 11).
10. THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE POPE
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.
11. CELIBACY OF THE CLERGY
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.
12. INTOLERANCE AND PERSECUTION
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
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
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)