ROMAN CATHOLICISM In the Light of Scripture
F. C. H. Dreyer and E. Weller
Introduction by Ivan Allbutt
Moody Giants No. 25
“Prove all things; hold fast that which is good”
(I Thessalonians 5:21)
THIS BOOK has an unusual origin, the groundwork having been done in Chinese by an American missionary. How it came to be translated into English is explained in the Foreword. Mr. Dreyer frequently quoted from Roman Catholic books printed in English, and Mr. Weller wisely quotes these passages direct from the English books rather than translate them back from the Chinese—which at best would have given a variant reading.
Having worked closely with Mr. Dreyer on several literature projects, I found it a peculiar joy to prepare for Moody Press this revised copy of his last work. With Mr. Weller, I can assure the reader that “no alterations have been made except those which Mr. Dreyer, to the best of our knowledge, would himself have approved.”
February 15, I960
MOST OF THE MATERIAL in this book was gathered by the late Rev. F. C. H. Dreyer of the China Inland Mission in the course of writing his widely used Chinese Commentary on the Four Gospels. Only a part of this material was included in the Commentary. Feeling that the unpublished material was worth preserving, Mr. Dreyer arranged it to be published in Chinese as an appendix-. By mistake it was published as a separate book, to which Mr. Dreyer subsequently wrote a foreword to explain the reason for the inequalities in its contents – more space sometimes being devoted to subjects of lesser importance than would otherwise have been the case, and vice versa.
On account of failing health, Mr. Dreyer was unable to do more than this. After his Home-call, it was felt by some missionary friends working in the Roman Catholic countries of Central and South America, that the book might have a ministry if it could be published in Spanish and Portuguese.
The first step was to translate the book into English. As that work proceeded, the conviction grew that it would be wise to even out the inequalities, and this has been done. No alterations or additions have been made except those which Mr. Dreyer, to the best of our knowledge, would have himself approved.
In view of these changes, it hardly seemed honest to call this book a mere translation. Hence the dual authorship, but in the main what has resulted is still Mr. Dreyer’s book. My small part has been a labor of love, gladly undertaken for a friend greatly beloved.
Pembury, Kent, England.
ROMAN CATHOLICS AND PROTESTANTS have much in common doctrinally. Both groups are monotheists, worshiping the one living God, Creator of Heaven and earth and all that in them is.
Both believe in the Trinity, that in the one Godhead there are three Persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Both believe that God is a spirit, and therefore invisible, yet that He has revealed Himself to men, and that this revelation is recorded in the Bible.
Both accept the verdict of the Holy Scriptures concerning human sin, and the alienation from God which sin has brought, and yet that God loves this world of sinners and gave His only begotten Son to be its Saviour.
Both believe that God the Son became incarnate and was of virgin birth, that He was God manifest in the flesh.
Both accept the records of the four Gospels concerning His teaching and miracles, His suffering upon the cross to atone for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection on the third day, and then His ascension to Heaven after forty days.
Both believe in the judgment to come, and of the existence of Heaven and Hell.
Both use the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer in their worship.
The doctrines common to both Protestants and Roman Catholics are many, but the differences which divide them are also many and very great. Broadly speaking; these differences spring from two fundamental roots.
- The Roman Catholic Church says that the Bible, by itself, does not cover the whole field of revelation, and that it has been supplemented by the teachings and decisions of the “Holy Mother Church” and the Pope as the “Vicar of Christ.”
Against this, Protestants maintain that for all matters of faith and practice, the revelation contained in the Bible is sufficient and of final authority.
- The second fundamental difference concerns the way of salvation. Romanism holds that Peter was the rock upon which the church was founded. The merits of Christ’s death on the cross were entrusted to the church, which, by means of the sacraments, bestows them on those seeking salvation. Moreover, only those ordained as bishops or priests can administer the sacraments; thus bishops and priests stand as indispensable mediators between God and the sinner. The sequence is: Christ, the church, the sacraments, the priest, and the sinner. The sinner comes to the priest, who administers the sacraments by which the sinner enters the church, and therein becomes a partaker of the merits of the cross, by which he is saved.
The Protestant position is that “there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (I Timothy 2:5). The sinner, moved by the Holy Spirit through the preaching of the Gospel, and depending upon the promises of God in the Holy Scriptures, comes directly to Christ, to receive from Him, immediately and fully, forgiveness of sins, and the witness of the Holy Spirit in his heart that he is a child of God and an inheritor of the kingdom of Heaven.
Which is the true way of salvation? Is it from Christ direct to the sinner, or is it through priests and sacraments and church? The answer is of vital importance, for the eternal destiny of souls is at stake.
This book attempts to examine the wide field of questions in dispute. It is not written in any spirit of disputation for disputation’s sake, or just to prove someone else is wrong, but that the truth as revealed in the Holy Scriptures, the Word of God, may be clearly seen.
“Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32).
Jesus, the sinner’s Friend!
We hide ourselves in Thee;
God looks upon Thy sprinkled blood,
It is our only plea.
He hears Thy precious name,
We claim it for our own:
The Father must accept and bless
His well-beloved Son.
He sees Thy spotless robe
It covers all our sin;
The golden gates have welcomed Thee,
And may we enter in.
Thou hast fulfilled the law,
And we are justified;
Ours is the blessing, Thine the curse;
We live, for Thou hast died.
Jesus, the sinner’s Friend!
We cannot speak Thy praise:
No mortal voice can sing the song
That ransomed hearts would raise.
But when before the throne,
Upon the glassy sea,
Clothed in our blood-bought robes of white
We stand complete in Thee:
Jesus, we’ll give Thee then
Such praises as are meet,
And cast ten thousand golden crowns,
Adoring, at Thy feet.
– Mrs. Pennefather
“THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH does not desire the common people to read the Bible.”
That is a statement which will be immediately challenged and denied. Quotations from statements made by various popes and other high authorities of the church will be brought forward to disprove it. For instance, on the title page of the Roman Catholic English Bible, dated April, 1778, appeared a letter from Pius VI to the Archbishop of Florence wherein he urged Catholics to read the Bible:
At a time when a great many books which grossly attack the Catholic religion are being circulated even among the unlearned to the great destruction of souls, you judge exceedingly well that the faithful should be urged to read the Holy Scriptures, for they are the most abundant source which ought to be left open to everyone, to draw from them purity of morals and of doctrine, and to eradicate the errors which are so widely spread in these corrupt times.
Against this pleasing statement we must set the facts of ancient and modern history.
The Council of Toulon in 1239 actually forbade the laity to possess any of the books of the Bible except the Psalter and Breviary—the latter a Service containing portions of Scripture—and strictly prohibited their translation into any vernacular.
Some three hundred years later, in the Index of prohibited books prepared by order of the Council of Trent, that prohibition was renewed. The fourth rule of the Index read as follows:
Since it is manifest from experience that, if sacred books be allowed to be circulated everywhere indiscriminately in the vulgar tongue, more harm than good may arise through the rashness of men in this respect, they must abide by the judgment of the bishop or inquisitor that they may be able to allow the reading of these books translated by Catholic authors into the vulgar tongue to those whom they shall have found capable of deriving from this reading no loss, but increase of faith and piety. This faculty they must have in writing, but any man who, without such faculty, shall presume to read or have them in his possession, cannot receive absolution of his sin till he has first returned the book to the ordinary. But booksellers who shall have sold or in any other way granted these books . . . shall forfeit the value of these books to the bishop.
Thus by the decree of the Council of Trent, which pronounced a curse on all who refused to acknowledge its decisions as infallible and therefore of course unalterable, only those whom the bishops deem suitable may read the Scriptures in the vernacular, and then only when given authority to do so in writing.
Coming down to later times, an Encyclical Letter of Pope Leo XII dated May 3, 1824, reads:
You are aware, venerable brethren, that a certain society called the Bible Society strolls with effrontery throughout the world, which society, contrary to the well known decree of the Council of Trent, labors with all its might and by every means to translate—or rather pervert—the Holy Scriptures into the vulgar language of every nation . . . We, in conformity with our apostolic duty, exhort you to turn away your flock by all means from these poisonous pastures.
The Irish Roman Catholic bishops passed the Encyclical on to their priests in a covering letter from which the following extract is taken:
Our Holy Father recommends to the observance of the faithful a rule of the congregation of the Index which prohibits the perusal of the Sacred Scriptures in the vulgar tongue without the sanction of the competent authorities. His Holiness wisely remarks that more evil than good is found to result from the indiscriminate perusal of them on account of the malice or infirmity of men . . . Hence, dearest brethren, such books have been and ever will be execrated by the Catholic Church; nay, why she has frequently ordered them to be committed to the flames.
With such authoritative backing, the confiscation and public burning of Bibles in the past can hardly be wondered at. Indeed, in countries where the Romish Church has sufficient influence, it is still being done today. Such action would not be tolerated in Protestant countries, and Rome has to bow to enlightened public opinion, but that she is still at heart unwilling to place the Bible in the hands of the common people is evidenced by a statement of Cardinal Wiseman:
But though the Scriptures may be here permitted, we do not urge them upon the people; we do not encourage them; we do not spread them to the utmost. Certainly not.
In spite of Pius VI’s letter, the Scriptures are not “left open to everyone to draw from them purity of morals and doctrine.”
Quite the reverse is true. The established custom of the Roman church is to publish Bibles with notations, so that they shall be read in the sense which accords with its doctrines. The Encyclical Letter of Pius IX, dated December 8, 1849, says: The faithful under your charge . . . may be earnestly reminded with especial reference to the Holy Scriptures, that no person whatever is warranted to confide in his own judgment as to their true meaning, if opposed to the Holy Mother Church, who alone, and no other, has received the commission from Christ to watch over the faith committed to her trust and to decide upon the true sense and interpretation of the sacred writings.
From this it will be seen that although the Roman Catholic Church acknowledges the divine inspiration of the Holy Scriptures, those Scriptures after all are not the final authority, but the Roman Church, which alone has the right to decide and interpret their meaning.
That the Holy Scriptures should of right be in the hands of the common people is evident from the Scriptures themselves, and that provides a very sufficient reason for the ban placed upon them by the papal authorities, since the teachings of the Bible and the doctrines of Rome are often poles apart.
Let us turn to the Bible.
- In Old Testament days the whole multitude of Israel gathered at Sinai to hear God speak.
Moses was ordered to commit to writing all the commandments that God had given him (Exodus 34:27, 28). The writing was to be read in the ears of all the people every seventh year at the Feast of Tabernacles (Deuteronomy 31:9-13).
Gather the people together, men, and women, and children, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the Lord your God, and observe to do all the words of this law: And that their children, which have not known any thing, may hear, and learn to fear the Lord your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over Jordan to possess it (vv. 12, 13).
A record of this being done is found in Nehemiah 8: 1-18 where “also day by day, from the first day unto the last day” Ezra “read in the book of the law of God.” The reading of the Scriptures (Nehemiah 8) led to repentance (Nehemiah 9).
- Joshua was commanded to meditate upon the written law of the Lord day and night that he might observe to do according to all that was written therein.
It was not “to depart out of his mouth,” which meant that all the commands he gave to the people were to be ordered by it (Joshua 1:7, 8).
- The command to the children of Israel was:
And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates (Deuteronomy 6:6-9; see also 11:18-21).
These passages show how the Word of God—first oral and then committed to writing, to form the beginning of the Old Testament Scriptures—was to be known and made familiar by the Israelite people, and woven into the warp and woof of their daily life.
- When the theocracy changed to a monarchy, each new king as he ascended to the throne was to write out a copy of the Book of the Law for himself.
And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them (Deuteronomy 17:18, 19).
- The Psalms abundantly demonstrate that the Old Testament canon, so far as it then existed, was familiar ground to God’s chosen people.
As a standard of faith and conduct it stood at the very center of their national life.
Psalm 1:1-3 describes the blessedness of the man whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates therein day and night. He is like a tree planted by the rivers of water that bringeth forth its fruit in its season and whose leaf does not wither.
Psalm 19 speaks of the perfection of God’s law and of its practical effect in the lives of those who keep it. It is better than gold, sweeter than honey, enlightening, warning, rewarding.
Nearly every one of the 176 verses of Psalm 119 mentions the Word of God under one title or another:
- 9: Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? by taking heed thereto according to thy word.
- 11: Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
- 16: I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word.
- 104: Through thy precepts I get understanding: therefore I hate every false way. – v. 105: Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
- Coming down to New Testament times, we find our Lord Himself as a boy increasing in wisdom until His knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures amazed the doctors in the temple (Luke 2:46, 47).
His mind was saturated with the Scriptures even at that early age. Later, as He met the tempter in the wilderness He could instantly lay hold of the Scripture exactly apposite to His need, and His thrice repeated “It is written” drove the Devil from the field (Matthew 4:1-11).
Our Lord never rebuked the Jews of His day for reading the Scriptures. He rebuked them for refusing to obey what they read: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life” (John 5:39, 40). When the Sadducees scoffed at the resurrection, He said, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God” (Matthew 22:29).
The pope and Roman Church councils say that the ordinary man runs into danger of error when he reads the Bible for himself. Our Lord says that the danger of going astray lies in not reading our Bibles. Whom ought we to believe—God or man? Let the Apostle Peter answer: “We ought to obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
- At Lystra, Paul found a certain young disciple named Timothy, the son of a Jewess, but his father was a Greek.
Paul took Timothy with him to be his companion in service.
Two of Paul’s epistles, written toward the end of his life, were addressed to this young man. In II Timothy 3:15 he says, “From a child thou hast known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” The Holy Scriptures, which Timothy had known from childhood, had not led him into error but into the knowledge, of salvation through Christ. How did he get that early knowledge of the Old Testament Scriptures? We find the answer in II Timothy 1:5. Obviously this knowledge came from his grandmother Eunice and his mother Lois.
- Just one more passage. When the Jews at Berea heard the preaching of Paul and Silas concerning the Lord Jesus Christ, “they received the word with all readiness of mind.” But they did not stop there; they turned to the Old Testament Scriptures, “examining the Scriptures daily whether these things were so.”
They had the Scriptures in their hands, they searched them, and they took them as the standard by which the preaching was to be tested. They were not rebuked for so doing. On the contrary, they received high commendation:
These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so. Therefore many of them believed (Acts 17:11, 12).
All these passages refer to the Old Testament Scriptures, and this could not be otherwise, since at that time the New Testament was not written. But nowhere in the Bible is there the least suggestion that the New Testament Scriptures as they came to be written should be treated differently from the Old. Peter in his epistle (II Peter 3:15, 16) mentions some of Paul’s epistles which at that later date had come into circulation, and classifies them with the “other Scriptures,” thus putting them on a par with the Old Testament books.
The Roman Catholic Church quotes this passage as proving the necessity for the Church to ban the Bible to common people, because Peter mentions certain unlearned and ignorant souls having wrested Paul’s writings, or parts of them which were difficult, to their own destruction. Peter truly warns against the danger of wresting the Scriptures; that is, twisting their meaning, but he certainly does not warn his readers against reading them, or suggest that only the pope and the Councils must read and interpret them! What he says is:
Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness (II Peter 3:17).
Immediately he goes on to say, “But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” How were they to grow in grace and knowledge, and how may we grow in these things? The answer is in I Peter 2:1, 2:
Wherefore laying aside all malice, and all guile, and hypocrisies, and envies, and all evil speakings, as newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby.
Our spiritual growth and development depends upon our regular prayerful reading of the Word of God, with hearts ready to obey its every precept.
According to the Word of God, one of the gifts of the ascended Lord Jesus to His church is “teachers” (Ephesians 4:11). All true children of God recognize the help that comes in receiving the teaching of men of greater knowledge of the Bible and deeper Christian experience than themselves. We are told to “let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honor, especially they who labor in the word and doctrine” (I Timothy 5:17). But that is very different from the teaching that would deny us direct access to the Scriptures, and bid us to accept an interpreter instead.
There is a Teacher promised and given to every believer, whom the Roman Catholic Church forgets or ignores in practice. Before our Lord left His disciples He said to them in His discourse in the upper room:
And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you (John 14:16, 17).
But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, which the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you (John 14:26).
When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth (John 16:13).
The promise of the Holy Spirit was not for the apostles alone, but for all believers. He came upon the 120 gathered at Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 1:15 and 2:14). He was promised to the thousands who believed on that day (Acts 2:38) and that promise extended to generations of believers unborn, both Jews and Gentiles (Acts 2:38, 39). Rome’s insistence on priestly guidance in reading the Scriptures expressly contradicts the statement of I John 2:27, addressed to all believers:
But the anointing which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teacheth you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.
It also runs counter to what Paul wrote to the Corinthian and Thessalonian churches:
I speak as to wise men; judge ye what I say (I Corinthians 10:15).
Prove all things; hold fast that which is good (I Thessalonians 5:21).
In both of these passages the right and duty of private judgment is upheld not merely by Paul, but also by the. Holy Spirit, whose inspiration of these very epistles Rome acknowledges. The exhortations are not addressed to popes or priests, for the papacy did not then exist, nor even to church elders, but “to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ.”