Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 15, 1957

The Papal Pageantry -- I

Luther W. Martin, St. James, Missouri

(Adapted from "The Giant Masquerade", a book written by Frank C. Raynor, and printed in Scotland in 1925)

"Few things are more calculated to confirm a Protestant in his Protestantism than a study of history... " (Author's Preface.)

The cardinal factor in the life of the early church was the purity in the life of its members. Then, men drank of the cup and partook of the unleavened bread as our Saviour had directed in the gospels. But, as time elapsed, the 'Church' made the prodigious blunder of trying to preserve the apostolic miracles instead of tracing them up to their celestial source. An effort was made to precipitate it into gorgeous ceremonies and `miraculous sacraments'. Men were taught to believe that 'miracles', resided in the dead limbs, bones, hair, dried blood, or concentrated milk of the 'saints' and martyrs. The clothes they wore, the handkerchiefs they used, or the stones that covered their tombs, were regarded as reservoirs of spiritual magic. For ages the church existed — or rather wasted away — on these doubtful preserves, and the grace of God was treated like a specimen in a medical museum.

But a spiritual essence cannot be preserved — or reserved. Like manna, it must be perpetually renewing itself and expanding. To enshrine it in a ceremony, or conjure it into a formula is impossible, as would be an attempt to imprison the perfume of a flower in a line of poetry, or the song of a nightingale in a withered leaf.

The age that attempts to create or maintain a church on the blessings of yesterday or yester-year, must inevitably find, that the foundation has turned to corruption. Thus did the Roman Catholic Church. In the golden renown of the early centuries, when Inspiration had completed the New Testament, and like a sunbeam Christianity streamed across the world, the growing influence of the heathen, pagan philosophies combined with a failing Western Empire; united with dictatorial and power-mad leaders to form and evolve into what became the Latin Church.

It sought to grow, not as the mystic vine whose root was in God, and whose clusters richened in heavenly places, but as an institution and a world-sovereignty, whose ramifications wormed their way into the closets of kings and the houses of State. The sword of dominion was burnished and became far more important than 'the sword of the Spirit'. The liberal use of fraud and forgery, afterwards used to buttress these pretensions, was a clear demonstration of instability and decay. Scholasticism, such as it was, applied itself to a defense of the institution and theory, rather than the propagation of the gospel of Christ, which was, according to Paul, 'God's power to save.' (Rom. 1:16.)

The gold of the lamp became more important than the 'Light of the world', Jesus Christ. Spiritual contact with God through Christ became less important than diplomatic contact with the political princes of the world. Seated upon his towering throne, like a sun in the heavens, dazzling in his priestly splendour, the Pope, by the 7th century, began to dominate nations. As the centuries continued, he threatened rulers by allegedly denying them the comforts of heaven by his interdicts, or laid them in blackened ruins with his thunderbolts. Never had any political empire more complete dominion over the souls and bodies of men, than did the Roman or Latin Church in the Dark Ages.

In the midst of this pageantry of the medieval papacy, when the embroidery of paganism richly overlaid the simple purities of the Gospel: when the golden calf of Mammon was shamelessly worshipped in the Vatican by atheistic priests, and the 'Vicar of Christ' waded breast-high in a red tide of homicidal blood, they at Rome thought, in their insensate pride, that they had fettered the minds of men for ever, and bound the mighty movements of creation, like hounds, to the foot of their throne. But the chariot of fire had swept past them and they knew it not. The cries of Huss and Tyndale at the stake were ignored. The rolling thunders of Savonarola went as if unheard. The bones of Wycliffe were dug up and burned. .. but it was not until the burning indignation of Luther had set half Europe alight, that the Popes raised themselves in their sty to realize that their empire was slipping from their grasp; nor even then did they perceive that the Spirit of the Lord flowed elsewhere than through their 'consecrated' hands.

Thus, as this great pageant' unfolded itself from century to century, it can be readily seen that IN PROPORTION AS MEN PINNED THEIR FAITH TO A POLITICO-RELIGIO INSTITUTION, so did heaven forsake them, seeking, perhaps, by its very absence, to show that it is not by might, but by "another Comforter", "the Holy Spirit", that guided the Apostles into all truth, that speaks today through the written pages of the New Testament . . . . the same New Testament that served to guide the early church after the death of the last of the Apostles. (II Tim. 3:16-17.)

To be continued)