Study of Church History in the Light of the Bible Proves Claims of Church Dignitaries Unfounded
By Pastor Russell Pastor of the New York City Temple and Brooklyn and London Tabernacles
PART II Bible Restored After 1200 Years.
FROM the time the Nicene creed was thus foisted upon the people until twelve hundred years after, the Bible was an unknown Book to the people. During those twelve hundred years there were, I think, seventeen Councils held, and many of these produced creeds having different variations, all with much of nonsense for people to be worried with. And all this was done by those deceived men who thought they were Apostles and were not. It is all this stuff that has given the so-called Christian world so much trouble.
At the close of this period, in the year 1526 A.D., Professor Tyndale, a scholarly Christian man, not fully in accord with the Bishops, because he was too Scriptural, but tolerated because of his learning and good Christian character, translated the Greek New Testament into English that the people might know what were the teachings of Jesus and His Apostles. He felt that there had been too much of the teachings of men. By that time printing presses and paper had been invented. Professor Tyndale was compelled to go to Germany to get his translation printed, after some difficulty succeeding in having it done in the city of Worms. This step was made necessary because of the adverse influence of the English Bishops. The Testaments were then imported to London. They.were placed in the shops for sale. The matter became noised abroad, and the people were anxious to get them. They desired to know just what was taught by Christ and the Apostles. It was proposed that Bible classes be started and educated men employed to read to the people.
What did the Bishops then do? They heard about the movement, and being world-wise men, they knew what the effect would be if the people learned of the real teachings of the Bible. Their own power and influence would soon be gone. The people would be asking, "Where did you Bishops get your authority to make creeds and to call yourselves Apostles? We find nothing of that kind in the Bible." So the Bishops shrewdly determined to nip this matter in the bud. Accordingly they bought up the entire edition and burned the books in front of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. The spot is marked to this day. It is a matter of history. And these were Protestant Bishops of the Church of England! Moreover, this faithful servant of the Lord, Professor William Tyndale, was later apprehended and imprisoned near Brussels, and after
OV415 a protracted trial for heresy, was strangled and his body burned at the stake. How terrible are the blinding influences of Satan!
For forty years after the burning of the New Testament in London the people kept complaining and wondering why the Bishops took the Bible from them. Finally the Bishops concluded that perhaps they were going too far, and that policy demanded that they let the people have the Bible. So they got out a special edition, which they called "The Bishop’s Bible." They put them into the shops and told the people they might buy them. They assured them that it was the Bishops who were giving them the Bible.
However, they solemnly warned the people of the great risk they were incurring in reading the Bible for themselves, and impressed upon them the necessity of giving it no other interpretation than what had been given by the Bishops, because they were sure of going to eternal torment if they did not prove loyal to the creeds.
This warning had its desired effect. Everybody was on the alert to keep in line with the creed. The Catholic Bishops soon were practically forced to do as the Protestant Bishops had done, and they issued the Douay Version of the Bible, prepared at the clerical university of Douay, France. They gave this to their Catholic flocks, accompanying it with the same warnings as the Protestant Bishops had given to their people. Thus the influence of the Bible was for a long time largely nullified, and the people were kept in superstitious fear and under the influence of the Church authorities.
But the Bible could not be fully put down, and in time the entire Scriptures were translated into the various tongues of the people, and as education after the beginning of the Nineteenth Century became much more general, and Bible Societies sprang into existence, the people began to read for themselves as never before, and superstition has been gradually breaking down, the people are daring to think for themselves. Some are still fettered by superstition, but the number is gradually lessening, and the shackles breaking. It is the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church that all of their own people are to go to Purgatory after death to be tortured awhile. No Catholic expects to go at death to Heaven. He must first have certain experiences in Purgatory to fit him for Heaven. To be a heretic, from the Catholic standpoint, is to commit the worst of crimes, and not to believe the creed and their priests is heresy. Heretics are bound, not for Purgatory, but for eternal torture. So a devout Catholic has great fear of being a heretic. Thus we find but comparatively few Catholics even to-day who dare to read the Bible.
Drunk With the Wine of Babylon.
How much trouble all this nonsense and false teaching has caused! Instead of reading the Bible in the light of the creeds, we should read the creeds in the light of the Bible.
Then their absurdity is at once apparent. They have been a sore bondage upon God’s people. But all this will be overruled for good. It will teach mankind a never-to-be-forgotten lesson. The Bible foretold it all. The Apostle Paul declared that "many would depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of demons." (#1Ti 4:1-3; #Ac 20:29,30.) It is upon these seducing spirits that we lay the blame—Satan and his fallen angels. We are not claiming that our Catholic and Episcopalian friends have really intended to perpetrate a fraud. But with the Apostle Paul we claim that they were deceived by the great Adversary and his hosts of evil spirits.
We are beginning to see that a God of Love could never arrange any such Plan for His creatures as is claimed by the creeds. Our loving Creator has been painted blacker than the blackest Devil imaginable. "Oh, that is too strong!" says one. No, it is not, my brother. If you will take a pencil
OV416 and paper and sit down and deliberately write out a description of the worst Devil your imagination can picture—paint him as black as possible—then compare your picture with what the creeds have made out our God to be, what they have declared He has done and is doing, and will continue to do through all eternity, you will find that your description is less black than our great Creator is painted.
We have been in the habit, especially we Protestants, of quoting the text, "God is Love," and also, "Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear Him," and "The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy," and kindred passages of Scripture; we have hung these upon our walls. But there must have come sober thoughts when we have asked ourselves, How can God be a God of Love, and how can He be like a father that pities his children, and how can He be plenteous in mercy, and at the same time make a Plan before the world was created for the eternal torture of the vast majority of His human creatures, brought into the world without any volition of their own, and placed under conditions that made it almost impossible for the majority to do right and to live Christian lives, many of them untaught in the ways of righteousness? We cannot help reasoning, you know!
Now, what does the Bible say about all this? The Lord Jesus declares, in His Message through the Apostle John in the Book of Revelation (17:1-6), that we have all been drunk with the wine of Babylon, the drink mixed by the apostate Woman, the Mother of Harlots. He says that this Woman has held in her hand a golden cup full of abominations and the filthiness of her fornication, and that she made all the nations drunk with the wine of her false doctrines and blasphemies. Now we see where these horrible doctrines came from. The nations are still drunk to-day. Very few know how to reason straight on religious matters even yet. People can reason on any other subject than religion. We have been something like a man having delirium tremens, who sees snakes and lizards around his coat collar. In our bewildered, intoxicated condition we have seen visions of flames, and of devils with tails and pitchforks, of poor humanity writhing in these flames, and the devils taking delight in prodding them and seeing how much they could add to their tortures. Some have come to have a somewhat more refined idea of Hell. They declare that the torture will be eternal, but it will be mental rather than physical, that it will consist of agonies of terror and remorse, which they say will be as bad or worse than physical tortures. And these are the kinds of imaginations we have labored under in our blindness and intoxication.
With Greater Light Came Further Satanic Devices.
Thank God that some of us are sobering up! And we believe the majority of intelligent people are beginning to think a little more rationally. A couple of centuries ago one’s life would have been seriously jeopardized if he had dared to hint at the truth on this subject. Let us rejoice that to-day one dares to think and to express the truth on this vital matter. This is an evidence of much progress. Luther, Knox, Calvin, Wesley and other reformers saw some light, and they were noble men, Christian men, true children of God, living up to their light. But they did not have all the light. We could not expect that at one or two bounds men could get out of all the darkness of more than twelve centuries and into the full blaze of Light and Truth, could we? They all had on creed spectacles. They would smash one set and get another.
But we praise God for the light they did bring in. We surely are thankful for one doctrine that Brother Martin Luther gave us, or that God gave us through him—the doctrine of justification by faith, instead of justification by penances and Masses, etc.
OV417 Bible says, "Being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ." "The just shall live by faith." God does not say that we should wear hair jackets to torture ourselves, nor anything else of that kind, to do penance. All those things came from people who meant well, but who did not have the Bible, and who thus got far away from its spirit.
So we praise God for the Reformers, and I believe that whether we are Catholics or Protestants we will agree that the world has had a great liberation from some of the stupidities and darkness and from the "fog" that was once so dense. But there is plenty to learn yet; for we have not yet come into the full light of the Perfect Day. Respecting the Reformation, through the angel Gabriel in His Message to the Prophet Daniel, the Lord speaks thus: "Now when they (the true Church) shall fall, they shall be holpen with a little help; but many shall cleave to them with flatteries." (#Da 11:31-35.) What did these Reformers do? Well, they also made a mistake. I think again it was the Adversary and not themselves who caused this. They were misled by the flatteries of kings and princes who offered them their backing in return for support of their kingdoms.
The Apostle Paul tells us that Satan is always trying to be a leader, and that he poses as an angel of light, and that his apostles also do the same. The Lutherans and Calvinists and the others each made their creed, and so to speak they fenced themselves off and put down their stake, and said, "Here we stand; we will live and die by this creed." And they got no further; they were fastened right there. Each one said: "There is only one Church, and we are it." We think that is just what the Adversary desired; for each sect persecuted the others. They had gotten this suggestion from the centuries behind them.
So the Catholics persecuted the Protestants and the Protestants persecuted the Catholics, and the different sects of Protestantism persecuted each other. This fact is familiar to all who have studied history. They thought that if God was going to send these people to Hell to roast them forever, why should they not be faithful servants of God and help His work along?
But public sentiment gradually changed. The people became more educated, and the human mind was thus more exercised, and Church Bishops found it less popular to chase people over the mountains, hinder them from holding meetings, etc. Ever since about 1846 we have been in the place where all Christian denominations who are considered orthodox fellowship one another, except the great denominations of Roman and Greek Catholicism and the Church of England. These are still loth to recognize the other churches, or any church except themselves, because the others did not get their ordination from them. But the others have now become so influential that they do not need to care much. They have a sort of general creed among them that all subscribe to.
All must believe in eternal torment and in the inherent immortality of the soul and in the Trinity.
These are all cardinal errors brought down from the paganism of the Dark Ages. None of these doctrines is taught in the Bible! Not a word of them! We would be glad to help these people out of the darkness, but it is not possible with the majority as yet.
Why? Because each creed has set a stake, and there is a sentiment among them: "Don’t be turncoats! Your father and mother were Methodists, or Baptists, or Presbyterians, or Lutherans, and you should be true to the religion of your fathers." This is a narrow, sectarian spirit. Did God ever authorize any of these sects? No! no! Then all these different denominations are without the slightest authority from God or the Book of God. Is not that true? It is true. Would anybody dispute it? No, for it is incontrovertible. Please read #1Co 1:10-13. What does God tell us is the right way? It is that the
OV418 Church of Christ should be united—not federated, each still holding to its own creed, but united, in the one faith once delivered to the saints.
Modern Hypocrisy and Lukewarmness.
The Lord tells us in His Word that "the path of the just is as the shining light, that shineth more and more unto the perfect day." He tells us that we are to walk in the light, and that we are not to become entangled in any yoke of bondage. (#Ga 5:1).
We have neglected the Word of God. We have gotten into bondage and sectarianism.
What is the condition to-day? The condition is a very sad and sorrowful one. We would prefer not to say what we feel that we must say, because it seems like a very severe arraignment. And yet, when you think it over carefully, you will be convinced that professed Christian people in general are living in unrecognized hypocrisy. You ask them if they believe the creed of their church, and the answer will be, "Oh, no, I don’t believe that! None of our—well, I don’t believe it!" No, of course, he does not! "But," some may say, "when a great lot of people are doing the same thing, it doesn’t seem so bad." We answer that if one person professes a falsehood and sails under false colors it is bad. If two do it, it is twice as bad. If a thousand do so, it is a thousand times as bad.
If millions do it, it is millions of times as bad. The more there are who are hypocritical the worse it is. Is not that logical? Of course it is. So if any one tells you he is a Presbyterian and believes his creed, you may be sure that he has not read it. And so with the others.
We had a little discussion in the newspapers some time ago, and the reporters of the papers visited the ministers of the different churches and asked them if they believed their creed. The majority said, "No; we don’t believe the creed; we never read it." But in taking the vow of allegiance to their denomination they profess to believe the creed.
What, then, do these ministers mean? So we see the same condition in both pulpit and pew. All persecution has ceased in these denominations; they are entertained by scholarly dissertations, fine oratory and flowery essays that lull the people to soft repose, and a general condition of apathy and lukewarmness exists.—#Re 3:14-18.
This is a terrible state to be in. Those who are awake, whose eyes are open to present conditions, believe that we are now at the very close of the present Gospel Age. This great war in Europe is the beginning of Armageddon. Right along after this war is coming the great "Earthquake" mentioned in Revelation—a mighty Revolution—so mighty an "Earthquake" as has never been since man has been upon the earth, overthrowing all these kingdoms of the world. In Europe they call themselves kingdoms of God, and represent that they have authority from God. Each kingdom thinks God is on its side and against its foes, the other kingdoms of God (?). None of them have any authority from God whatever. We see the conditions fast ripening that will demolish in a maelstrom of ruin and chaos all these kingdoms and governments of the world, and then, just beyond that, the "fire" of Anarchy, which will utterly destroy present civilization. And beyond that, what? Oh, thank God; the "still, small voice" of the Lord Himself, speaking peace through Emanuel—the Kingdom of God’s dear Son, . the Kingdom in which every true saint of God is to have a share! "To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My Throne."—#Re 3:21.
O WHAT, if we are Christ’s, Is earthly shame or loss?
Bright shall the crown of glory be When we have borne the cross.