Apostasy #12 – Return to Romanism
Roman Catholicism is “Attractive”
The Papacy since Vatican II has become overtly ecumenical. This push toward unity (under her authority) has accelerated over the last fifty years. Why is Rome so attractive to so many people? Here are a few speculations on my part:
1) You can be anything you want at Francis’s Restaurant
Just about any form of apostasy is found in Roman Catholicism itself. Liberal theologians, liberation theologians, signs and wonders followers, charismatic renewalists, unifying ecumenists – all are welcome to submit their belief system under the large tent of the current pope.
2) Reaction to splintered evangelicalism
The more evangelicalism becomes divided, the more attractive the Papacy becomes as a unifying force. Many apostasies are reactions to previous apostasies.
3) The spirit of mysticism found in Roman Catholicism is attractive in an age of experientialism
The end times seductions of Satan, with his false signs and wonders, will lure more and more people to believe the lie.
4) The Gospel of Jesus Christ is irrelevant in an age that knows no sin or judgment
The answer to the question “Why did Jesus have to die?” has changed from one of penal substitution to “to make us feel better about ourselves.” Sin, hell and judgment are downplayed in both Romanism and the current evangelical environment. The temporal has overwhelmed the eternal.
5) The Papacy, as a political organization, is seen as a means of bringing peace to the world
With ambassadors throughout the world, with over one billion adherents, and with its ecumenical teachings, Rome is seen as a promoter of world peace.
The following was written by J. A. Wylie concerning the attractiveness of the Papacy. (From The Papacy: Its History, Dogmas, Genius, and Prospects)
Genius and Influence of the Papacy
Genius of the Papacy.
Volumes would scarce suffice to enable us to do justice to the incomparable genius of the Papacy. Thoroughly to explore and fully to unfold it would form a life-long task to the man of profoundest intellect. Such an one might expend all his strength and all his days in the study, and leave it at last with the confession that there are depths here which he has not fathomed, and mysteries which he must leave to be solved by his successors. Our limits are of the narrowest; and truly it would be a bootless undertaking to attempt a full elucidation of so vast a subject within the stinted space of a few pages. Nevertheless, we may indicate the more salient points of the system. If unable here fully to trace out the sources of its strength, we may be permitted to point out the direction in which they lie. Nor shall we have done so in vain, if we succeed in impressing any one with the singular interest and surpassing importance, as well as the great difficulty, of the study. Elements of great power there must have been in a system which has stood so long, and has exercised so great an influence; and if we can but succeed in rescuing these from the wreck, so to speak, we might employ them with advantage in the re-construction of society and the re-edification of the Church of God. Whole cities have sometimes been built from the ruins of colossal structures which time or violence had thrown down: in like manner, we may take the stones and timber of the Papacy, and consecrate them anew to the good of society and the service of God. A new solution may be awaiting the ancient riddle,–“Out of the cater came forth meat, and out of the strong came forth sweetness.”
There is scarce a department of human knowledge on which the study of the Papacy does not throw light. It affords an amazing insight into the policy of Satan, its real author. It lays bare the innate depravity and the deceitful workings of the human heart; for Popery is but the religion of fallen human nature. It shows what an amount of mischief may grow out of a single evil principle, or out of a good one misapplied. It discloses to us the springs of error, and enables us to trace to the same source all errors, however deep their disguises, various their names, or diverse their forms; and it teaches by contrast the simplicity, consistency, grandeur, and substantial oneness of the truth. It shows, too, that no false system can be eternal; that it carries within itself the seeds of death; and that neither the defences of external power nor the sanctions of a venerable antiquity can save it from the death to which from its birth it is doomed. It has no self-renovating power; and, granting even that it should be let alone from without, the atrophy within would in due time consign it to its grave. But the immorality which falsehood wants truth possesses. Its seeds, sown in the world by the author of Christianity, are indestructible; and though all should perish, and but one survive, that one seedling would in time burst the clod and renovate the world. One atom of truth has more power in it than a whole system of error. We live too near the Papacy to see all the ends why God has permitted this evil system to exist. Some are already known, but the more important are still veiled in mystery; but we cannot doubt that ends there are, great, wise, and beneficent, and that what is dark to us will be clear to posterity. Nor can we doubt that, when these ends are disclosed, they will be found to be such as we have indicated, namely, a demonstration of the necessity of bringing the principles on which society is framed into harmony with those on which the divine government is carried on, in order that society may be saved, in its future stages, from the errors which have misled it hitherto, and the calamities which have overwhelmed it.
Popery we have described pretty fully in its leading principles and aspects; and we now pass from the subject of Popery, strictly considered, to that of the Papacy. We distinguish between Popery and the Papacy, and on just grounds, as we believe. Popery is the principle or error which may be defined to be salvation of man, in opposition to the truth of the gospel, which may be defined salvation of God. The Papacy is the secular organization by which the principle or error became as it were incarnate. This organization formed the body in which it dwelt,–the framework by which it sought to establish itself and reign in the world. The political system of Europe, as it has existed for the past thousand years and upwards, has been this framework. The soul that animated this system was Popery. It was the mind that guided it, and the powerful though invisible bond that gave it unity. Its head sat upon the Seven Hills; and there was not a priest in Europe, from the scarlet cardinals of the Eternal City, down to the wandering Capuchin, with his dress of serge and his girdle of rope, nor was there a king in Europe, from the monarchs of France down to the petty dukes of Germany, who was not a part of that system. All strove together with one heart and soul for the same iniquitous object, namely, the exaltation of the priesthood, and especially of the high priest of Rome, to the dishonour of the High Priest in the heavens. Such was the Papacy. It was the labour of a million of minds, and the growth of a thousand years. For we hold it impossible that the genius of one man, however powerful, could have contriven such a system; nay, we hold it impossible that the intellect of Satan himself, vast as it is, could have conceived beforehand so perfect and comprehensive a scheme. The entire plan, order, and government of the kingdom of heaven, that is, the Church, were sketched out from the beginning, and revealed in the New Testament. Thus, when the apostles began to build, they knew both how their work was to proceed, and to what it was to grow. But the author of the Papacy acted strictly on the development theory. The general outline of his system he plagiarised manifestly from the Scripture-revelation of the gospel kingdom. It is equally manifest, that the more fundamental principles of his scheme he obtained by a process of perversion; that is, he made counterfeits of the leading doctrines of the gospel, and on these proceeded to build. But as the work went on, he introduced novelties both of principle and of form, according as the spirit of the age and the circumstances of the times allowed or suggested. With a rare genius, the exigencies of the times were ever understood, and the modifications and amendments which they required were executed at the proper moment and in the happiest way. Working in this manner, Satan at last produced his masterpiece,–the Papacy.
The Papacy is the most wonderful of all human systems. It stands alone, unrivalled and unapproached, throwing all former systems of error into the shade, and challenging alike the power of man and the cunning of Satan to produce anything in after times that shall surpass it. The ancient polytheisms were comparatively simple in their plan and tolerant in their spirit. Not so the Papacy. It selects the worst passions of our nature,–the sensuality of the appetites, the idolatry of the heart, the love of wealth, the lust of dominion, pride, ambition, the desire to dictate to the faith of others. It gives to these passions the largest development of which they are capable; it combines and arranges them with exquisite skill, and thus enables them to act with the greatest effect. It is the most powerful organization that ever existed on the side of error and against the truth. When perfected, the once humble pastor of Rome occupied a seat which rose not merely above the thrones of earth, but above the throne of the Eternal. In his exaltation Satan recognised his own exaltation. The reign of the servant was the reign of the master. The Pope was Satan’s vicar, and Satan therefore had withheld nothing that could strengthen his power or enhance his magnificence. He enthroned him on the wealth and dominion of Europe; he commanded kings to obey him, and all nations to serve him; he did more for him than he had done for the greatest of his servants before; he did more for him than he will ever be able to do again for the best beloved of his servants; he literally did his all, because the emergency was great. Let us take this into account when we contemplate the surpassing state and dazzling magnificence of these masters of the world. It is the very utmost which even Lucifer can do for a mortal. Like Judas, the pontiff had betrayed his lord, and behold the reward!–all the kingdoms of the world and the glory of them.
In speaking of the genius of the Papacy, it is necessary to distinguish between the real though invisible author of Popery, which is Satan, and the secondary and visible author, that is, the Pope. Viewing the system as emanating from Satan, its genius is of course that of its invisible author. He has thrown into it his whole intellect. Just as the work of redemption is an exhibition of the character of God, and comes stamped with the glorious perfections of His nature, so the Papacy is an exhibition of the character of Satan: it is stamped with the great qualities of his mind; and in studying the Papacy, we are just contemplating those powerful but malignant attributes with which this mysterious spirit is endowed. We gaze into the abyss of the satanic soul. But, to speak more strictly, the key of the Papacy, viewed as an emanation from Satan, is to be sought for in the history of the reduction of our first parents. Satan’s policy has been substantially the same from the beginning. Of course, that policy has been modified by circumstances, and adapted in a masterly manner to each successive emergency. Its front of opposition has been more or less extended, according as it stood arrayed against but a single truth or a whole system of truths; but it has employed substantially the same policy throughout. The general may employ the same rule of military tactics in the preliminary skirmish as in the more complicated manoeuvres of the battle that succeeds. In like manner, Satan employed the identical policy in the assault in the Garden which he developed more fully in the secular and ecclesiastical domination which he set up in an after age in Western Europe. The study of the simpler event, then, furnishes a key for the solution of the greater and more complicated.
What, then, was his policy in the Garden? It may be summed up in one word: it was a dexterous substitution of the counterfeit for the real. The real in this case was, that life was to come to our first parents through the tree as the symbolic cause; the counterfeit which Satan succeeded in palming upon them was, that life was to come to them through that tree as the efficacious cause. They were to have this life not from, but by the tree. The life was not in the tree, but beyond it,–in God, from whom they were to receive it, in the way of submitting to his ordinance. But by a train of subtle and fallacious argument,–not more subtle and fallacious, however, than that which Rome still employs,–the woman was brought to regard the tree as the efficacious cause of the life which she had been promised, and to which she had been bidden aspire; she was brought to believe that the life was in the tree, and that she had only to eat of the tree, and this life would be hers. “When the woman saw,” it is said, that it was “a tree to be desired to make one wise, she took of the fruit thereof.” It is plain that she believed the tree able of itself to make her wise, and that it had been interdicted by God, either because he grudged her the good the tree had power to bestow upon her, or, what is more probable, that she had mistaken the command altogether. This, then, was the prime object of Satan’s policy. He admitted, at least he did not deny, that God had promised her life; he admitted that that life was good, and that she should aim at enjoying it; and he admitted farther, that it was in connection with the tree that that life was to be attained. But the question was made to turn on the sort of connection; Whether did, or did not, the promised good reside in the tree itself? The command of God plainly intimated that it did not reside in the tree, but would be bestowed by himself, in the way of his ordinance, which took the form of a covenant, being observed. But the point which Satan laboured to establish was, that the good was in the tree, and that it was intended as the efficacious means of bestowing that good upon her. Such was the question the woman had to decide; and according to her decision would one of two inevitable issues ensue,–her obedience and life, or her disobedience and death. If she should reject the doctrine of inherent efficacy, so boldly and artfully propounded, she would of course look elsewhere for life, even to God, and would respect his command. Should she, blinded and led away by the subtlety of the serpent, embrace the doctrine of inherent efficacy,–should she come to believe that she had only to eat and to live,–she would of course look only to the tree, and would straightway partake of its fruits. Unhappily she adopted the latter belief, and we know the issue.
But here the whole policy of Satan stands revealed. Brought within the compass of this single transaction, we can study that policy to much more purpose than when displayed along so extended a line of operations as the Papacy presents. Here is the key to Satan’s policy of six thousand years, and especially the key to the Papacy. This transaction exhibits unmistakeably all the worst features of that evil system. Here was the opus operatum of a sacrament the woman was taught that she had only to partake, and, in virtue of the act, would be as God, knowing good and evil. Here already were works substituted in the room of faith: instead of the passive obedience which the covenant demanded, in the faith that God would bestow the life he had promised, the woman was taught to do a certain work by which that life was to be attained. And here was the doctrine of human merit,–salvation of man substituted in the room of salvation of God; for the woman was led to look for life, not from God, but from the tree, in the way of using its fruits. All the master errors of the Papacy,–those errors which in the standard books of Rome take the form of canons or of pontifical bulls, and which in her temples take the form of gorgeous and idolatrous rites,–were promulgated for the first time in Eden, and by this preacher, not, indeed, in express terms, but by implication: the policy of Satan proceeded on a principle which embraced them all. Yet farther, we find Satan teaching Eve that she could not understand the command of God without note and comment, and offering himself as an infallible interpreter, and not more grossly perverting the text than Rome has done in aims of the innumerable instances since. The boastful claims of the Papist and the Puseyite to a high antiquity are not without some foundation after all. In one sense, Popery, and its modern Anglican form Puseyism, are mediaeval error; in another they are but a development of that false principle by which Eve was seduced, and mankind precipitated into condemnation and death.
We can clearly trace the policy of Satan in the early polytheisms; and we find that policy in its essential principles unchanged. The pagan idolatries were manifestly the substitution of the counterfeit for the real. Satan, their author, did not deny that there is a God, or that it is man’s duty to worship him. He reserved these truths as a fixed point, on which to rest the lever by which he was to move the world. But in the room of God, one, invisible, and spiritual, he substituted those material objects which most reflect his glory, or most largely dispense his goodness;–the sun, as in Chaldea; eminent men, the founders of tribes or the inventors of the arts, as in Greece; vile and creeping things, as in Egypt; and, as the course of this idolatry is ever downward, in some tribes we find that the very idea of God had well-nigh perished. Falsehood is its own greatest enemy: its tendency is to destroy itself. Polytheism corrupted the nations; it thus came to lose its power over the human mind; and the world had lapsed into scepticism, when Christianity, young, vigorous, and pure, came forth from her native mountains to renovate the earth,–to restore that faith which is the life of man, and that religion which is the strength of nations. This was the most powerful antagonist that had yet appeared in the field against the interests of Satan. It was the great original truth revived with new splendour,–man revolted from God, redeemed by the Son, and sanctified by the Spirit,–the truth which Satan had supplanted by his LIE of polytheism; and, powerful as true, it attested its power by planting its trophies and monuments above the abjured creeds and prostrate temples of paganism.
This antagonist Satan could confront with but his old policy. That policy took a new form, to adapt itself to new circumstances: its edge was finer, its complications greatly more intricate, and its scale of operation vastly larger; still it was the old policy, radically, essentially unchanged, beneath its new modifications and altered forms. Satan presented over again to the world the COUNTERFEIT; and he succeeded once more in persuading the world to accept the counterfeit and to banish the real. The great primal truth of God’s unity and supreme and exclusive government was supplanted in the old world by the device of making men adore inferior deities, not as God, but as representatives and vicegerents of God. So in the modern world the leading Christian truth respecting Christ, and the oneness of his mediation, has been supplanted by the device of other mediators, and of another Christ,–Antichrist. Popery is the counterfeit of Christianity,–a most elaborate and skilfully contriven counterfeit,– a counterfeit in which the form is faithfully preserved, the spirit utterly extinguished, and the end completely inverted. This counterfeit Church has its high priest,–the Pope,–who blasphemes the royal priesthood of Christ, by assuming his office, when he pretends to be Lord of the conscience, Lord of the Church, and Lord of the world; and by assuming his names, when he calls himself “the Light of the World,” “the King of Glory,” “the Lion of the tribe of Judah,” Christ’s Vicar and God’s Vicegerent. This counterfeit Church has, too, its sacrifice,–the mass, which blasphemes the sacrifice of Christ, by virtually teaching its inefficiency, and needing to be repeated, as is done when Christ’s very body and blood are again offered in sacrifice by the hands of the priests of Rome, for the sins of the living and the dead. This Church has, moreover, its Bible, which is tradition, which blasphemes the Word of God, by virtually teaching its insufficiency. It has its mediators,–saints and angels, and especially the Virgin; and thus it blasphemes the one Mediator between God and man. In fine, it blasphemes the person and the office of the Spirit as the sanctifier, because it teaches that its sacraments can make holy; and it blasphemes God, by teaching that its priests can pardon sin, and can release from the obligations of divine law. Thus has Popery counterfeited, and, by counterfeiting, set aside, all that is vital and valuable in Christianity. It robs Christ of his kingly office, by exalting the Pope to his throne; it robs him of his priesthood in the sacrifice of the mass; it robs him of his power as Mediator, by substituting Mary; it robs him of his prophetical office, by substituting the teachings of an infallible Church; it robs God the Spirit of his peculiar work as the sanctifier, by attributing the power of conferring grace to its own ordinances; and it robs God the Father of his prerogatives, by assuming the power of justifying and pardoning men.
Thus the counterfeit Christianity of Rome is as extensive as the real Christianity of the New Testament: it substitutes other objects of worship, other doctrines, other sacraments; all of which, however, in the letter, have an exact correspondence with the true. The forms of Christianity have been faithfully copied; its realities have been completely set aside. Thus Satan has carried his object, not by erecting a system avowedly antagonistic, but by amusing and deluding men with the counterfeit. The policy adopted in Egypt of old to frustrate the mission of Moses, was that of bringing forward a class of magicians to counterfeit the miracles of the Jewish lawgiver. The same expedient has been adopted a second time. Satan has brought forward the magicians and necromancers of Rome, who have imitated the miracles of the gospel. And as Moses was withstood by Jannes and Jambres, so have the lying prophets of Rome withstood Christianity in its glorious mission of regenerating the world. Christianity has respect to time as well as to eternity; and in both departments of its mission has it been withstood by the Romish soothsayers, and that, too, exactly in the style of their Egyptian predecessors, who “did so with their enchantments.” The temporal end of Christianity they have defeated, by persuading rulers that they were able to secure the good and order of society. Princes have listened to them, and refused to let the gospel have liberty; and thus society has been corrupted and destroyed. The eternal end of Christianity they have defeated, by persuading men that, without parting with a single sin, or acquiring a single gracious disposition, they might attain to heaven. They have thus retained men under the power of corruption, and sealed them over to eternal damnation.
But the Papacy may be viewed as of man. Primarily it is the emanation of satanic policy; secondarily, it is the fabrication of human ambition and wickedness. In order to discover its genius, viewed as the creation of man, it is necessary to keep in view the grand aim of the Papacy. Without this we cannot appreciate its marvellous adaptation of means to their end, and the relation of each part to the whole. There is not one of its arrangements, however minute, nor one of its doctrines, however unimportant it may seem, but has a direct reference to and a powerful bearing upon the object of the Papacy. In the vast and complicated machine there is not a useless cord or a superfluous wheel. The object of the Papacy is, in brief, to exalt a man, or rather a class of men, to the supreme, undivided, and absolute control of the world and its affairs. So vast a scheme of dominion the genius of Alexander had never dared to entertain. The ambition of the popes far outstripped that of the Caesars, and looked down with contempt upon their empire as insignificant and narrow. They aspired to be gods upon the earth. It was the majesty of the Eternal which they plotted to usurp. Pride can go no higher. Ambition finds nothing beyond for which it may pant. They reigned with equal power over the minds and over the bodies of men. They grasped the reins of secular as well as of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. They made their opinions the standard of morals, and their wills the standard of law, to the universe. They claimed not merely to be obeyed, but to be worshipped. They were not monarchs, but divinities. We do not affirm that this object was definitely proposed by the bishops of Rome from the outset. Nay, had they seen to what their early departures from the faith would lead,–that the principles which they adopted contained within them the germ of a despotism beneath which the religion and the liberties of the world would lie crushed for ages,–they would have stopt short in their career. The Omniscient eye alone can trace things to their issues. It was not till ages had passed away, and numerous usurpations had taken place, that the object of their policy was clearly seen by the pontiffs themselves, though the invisible prompter of that policy had doubtless proposed that end from the first. But by the time that object came to be clearly understood, all scruple was at an end. The pontiff panted to place himself upon the throne of the universe, and to prostrate beneath his feet all other dominion. The object surpassed in grandeur all to which man had ever before aspired, and the means brought into operation were vast beyond all former example. A policy unmatched in dissimulation and craft,–a sagacity distinguished alike by the largeness of its conceptions and the precision and accuracy of its conclusions,–a quiet irresistible energy,–a firm unalterable will,–a perseverance which no toil could exhaust, which no difficulty could discourage, which no check could turn from its purpose, which made all things give way to it, and which proved itself invincible,–a vast array of physical force when an antagonist appeared whom its other arts could not subdue,–lavishing its favours upon its friends with boundless prodigality, and visiting with vengeance equally unbounded its incorrigible enemies,–wielding these qualities, the Papacy saw its efforts crowned at last with a success which was as astonishing as it was unprecedented.
In the first place, Popery was exceedingly fortunate in the choice of a seat, when it selected Rome. The possession of such a spot was almost essential to it. It was itself a tower of strength. In no other spot of earth could its gigantic schemes of dominion have been formed, or, if formed, realized. Sitting in the seat which the masters of the world had so long occupied, the Papacy appeared the rightful heir of their power. Papal Rome reaped the fruit of the wars and the conquests, the toils and the blood, of imperial Rome. The one had laboured and gone to her grave; the other arose and entered into her labours. The pontiffs perfectly understood this, and were careful to turn the advantage it offered them to the utmost account. By heraldic and symbolic devices they were perpetually reminding the world that they were the successors of the Caesars; that the two Romes were linked by an indissoluble bond; and that to the latter had descended the heritage of glory and dominion acquired by the former. Herein we may admire that extraordinary sagacity which fixed on this spot,–the first, and certainly not the least striking, indication of the profound and unrivalled genius of Popery,–showing what that genius would become when fully developed and matured. The Seven Hills were the home of empire and the holy ground of superstition; and when the barbaric kings and nations approached the spot, they were fascinated and subdued by its mysterious and mighty influence, as the pontiffs had foreseen they would be. Thus the young Papacy had the penetration to discover that the sway of old Rome had by no means ended with her life, and, by serving itself heir to her name, continued to exercise her power long after she had gone to her grave. The genius that could turn to so great account the traditional glory of a departed empire was not likely to leave unimproved the existing resources of contemporary monarchies.
In the second place, the pontiffs claimed to be the successors of the apostles. This was a more masterly stroke of policy still. To the temporal dominion of the Caesars they added the spiritual authority of the apostles. It is here that the great strength of the Papacy lies. As the successor of Peter, the Pope was greater than as the successor of Caesar. The one gave him earth, but the other gave him heaven. The one made him a king; the other made him a king of kings. The one gave him the power of the sword, the other invested him with the still more sacred authority of the keys. The one surrounded him with all the adjuncts of temporal sovereignty,–guards, ambassadors, and ministers of State,–and set him over fleets and armies, imposts and revenues; the other made him the master of inexhaustible spiritual treasures, and enabled him to support his power by the sanctions and terrors of the invisible world. While he has celestial dignities as well as temporal honours wherewith to enrich his friends, he can wield the spiritual thunder as well as the artillery of earth, in contending with and discomfiting his foes. Such are the twin sources of pontifical authority. The Papacy stands with one foot on earth and the other in heaven. It has compelled the Caesars to give it temporal power, and the apostles to yield it spiritual authority. It is the ghost of Peter, with the shadowy diadem of the old Caesars.
Similar is the tendency and design of all the dogmas of the Papacy. These are but so many defences and outposts thrown up around the infallible chair of Peter: they are so many chains forged in the Vatican, and cunningly fashioned by Rome’s artificers, for binding the intellect and the conscience of mankind. There is not one of the articles in her creed which is not fitted to exalt the priesthood and degrade the people. This is its main, almost its sole object. That creed, superstitious to the very core, exerts no wholesome influence upon the mind: it neither expands the intellect nor regulates the conscience. It does not set forth the grace of the Father, or the love of the Son, or the power of the Spirit. It has been framed with a far different object. It sets forth the grace of the pope, the power of the priest, and the efficacy of the sacrament. The pope, the priest, and the sacrament, are the triune with the mystery of which the creed of Popery is occupied. We have already pointed out the tendency of each of the separate articles as they passed in review before us, and it becomes unnecessary here to dwell upon them. Let it suffice to remark, that by the doctrine of tradition the priests are constituted the exclusive channels of divine revelation, and by the doctrine of inherent efficacy they become the only channels of divine influence. In the one case the people are entirely dependent upon them for all knowledge of the will of God; and in the other, they are not less dependent upon them for the enjoyment of divine blessings. It is easy to conceive how this tends to exalt this class of men. They have power spiritually to shut heaven, that it rain not upon the earth. By sprinkling a little water on the face of a child, the priest can remove all its guilt, and impart holiness to it. A whisper from the priest in the confessional can absolve from sin, or adjudge to eternal flames. By muttering a few words in Latin, he can create the flesh and blood, the soul and divinity, of Christ; and in saying mass, he can so regulate his intention as to direct its efficacy to any person he pleases, whether in this world or in the next. At his word the doors of purgatory are closed, and those of paradise fly open. He can raise to immortal bliss, or sink into eternal woe. These are tremendous powers; and the man who wields them, in the eyes of an ignorant people is not a mortal, but a god. “It is a most execrable thing,” said Pope Paschal II., “that those hands which have received a power above that of angels,–which can by an act of their ministry create God himself, and offer him for the salvation of the world,–should ever be put into subjection of the hands of kings.” The truths which the gospel makes known are intended to elevate the people; the dogmas of Romanism are intended to exalt only the priesthood, and to put the people under their feet. The miraculous power with which the Roman clergy are invested places them above kings;–they are raised to a level with the Deity himself.
Whatever order or government exists in society, Popery has had the art to seize and make subservient to her own aggrandizement. She infused herself into the governments of Europe. She possessed them, as it were, and made them really parts of herself. The various thrones of the west were but satrapies of the fisherman’s chair. The princes that occupied them were always, in point of fact, and not unfrequently in point of conventional arrangement, the lieutenants and deputies of the Pope. They were taught that it was their glory to be so; that their crowns acquired new lustre by being laid at the feet of the successor of the apostles; and that their arms were ennobled and sanctified by being wielded in his service. The pontiff taught them that their life was bound up with his life; that without him they could not exist; and that in no way could they so effectually strengthen their own authority as by maintaining his. Thus did Popery poison at their source the springs of law and government, and bind the kings and kingdoms of Europe in one vast confederation against the interests of liberty and religion, and in support of that divinity who sat upon the Seven Hills. No doubt the members of that confederation sometimes quarrelled among themselves, and sometimes revolted against their sacerdotal master; but even when they hated the person of the Pope, they remained true to his system. They warred, it might be, against the pontiff, but they still were the yoke of the Papacy. They were revellers against Hildebrand or against Clement, but all the while they were obedient sons of the Church. In nothing does the genius of Popery appear more wonderful than in that it could bind to its chariot-wheel so many powerful and independent princes, and reconcile so many diverse and conflicting interests, and unite them all in support of itself.
If Popery has leant for aid upon civil government, and has known how to convert its functions into organs of its own, it has leant not less decidedly upon human nature, and has had the art to draw from it most substantial support. The nature of man it has profoundly studied, and thoroughly understands. There is not a faculty of his soul, nor a feeling of his heart, which is not known to it. There is not a phase of character nor a diversity of taste among the whole human race, of which it is not cognizant. Whatever talent it be which any of the sons of men possess, Popery will speedily discover it, and instantly find a fitting sphere for its exercise. Whether the faculty in question be a good or an evil one, matters wonderfully little, seeing Popery knows the secret of making both alike serviceable. It is a system adapted to man as he is. It runs parallel with the entire range of his hopes and his fears, his virtues and his passions. his eccentricities, his foibles, his tastes. There is no one therefore who will not find in Popery something that corresponds with his own predominant quality and taste. It is the most accomodating of all systems, and has therefore received an equal measure of attachment and support from men differing widely in their intellectual powers, their acquired tastes, and their moral dispositions. To the man of the world who delights in the glitter of show, and yields his submission only where he is dazzled by the splendour of rank, it presents a Church moulded on the pattern of earthly monarchies,–an imposing hierarchy, rising in successive ranks, throne above throne, from the barefooted friar up to Christ’s vicar. To the man who is capable of being captivated with only an outward religion, here is a worship to his heart’s content,–a gorgeous ritual, performed amidst the glories of architecture, of statuary, and of painting, amid the perfume of incense, the glare of lamps, and the swell of noble music. There is no revelation of God’s holiness; there are no humbling views of the sinner’s unworthiness and guilt communicated; everything is so contriven as powerfully to stir, not the conscience, which is left in its profound sleep, but the imagination; and to gratify, not the longings of the spiritual nature, which do not exist, but the cravings of the senses. In short, every ingredient that could intoxicate and madden, that could weaken reason and drown the man in delirium, has Rome mixed in her “witch’s cauldron.” The figure is almost apocalyptic,–the cup of sorcery.
To that large class of mankind who seek to reconcile their hopes of heaven with the indulgence of their passions, the religion of Popery is admirably adapted. The religion of Rome is not a principle, but a ritual; and the observance of that ritual will secure heaven, let the morals of the man be ever so corrupt. It is not necessary to part with any sin; no change of heart, no progress in holiness, is required; obedience to the Church is the one cardinal virtue. The want of this alone can damn a man. More lax and pliant than even Mahommedanism or Hinduism, there is not a ceremonial rite nor a moral duty in the system of Popery from which a few gold pieces may not purchase a dispensation. It is the most demoralizing of all idolatries. It spares the indolent man the trouble of inquiry, by presenting him with the infallibility. In fact, it makes his indolence a virtue, and thus, by sanctifying his vices, makes him more completely its slave. But farther, there is a lurking disposition in the heart of man to claim heaven as a debt due, rather than receive it as a free gift. This propensity Popery completely gratifies. Its grand characteristic, as a religious system, is works, in opposition to faith,–salvation by merit, in opposition to salvation by grace. And thus, while it traverses the grand idea of the gospel, it enlists on its side the pride of the human heart. This lays open to us one of the main sources of Popery’s success. While the gospel is met by the whole force of unsanctified human nature, because it seeks to eradicate those principles which are naturally the most powerful in the heart of man, and to implant their opposites, Popery takes man as he is, and, without seeking to eradicate a single evil principle, finds him a sphere and sets him a-working. Passions already strong Popery nurtures into yet greater strength, and so creates a vast moving force within the man. If her fund of heavenly treasure be imaginary, not so her fund of earthly power. There exist within her pale elements of diverse character and tremendous force, and these Popery knows right well how to guide. The forces are completely under her control; and however noxious in themselves, and however destructive if left to act without restraint, she knows how to make them not only perfectly safe, but eminently serviceable. In few things is the genius of Popery more conspicuous than in this composition of forces,–this combination of elements the most various; so that from the utmost diversity of action there is educed at last the most perfect unity of result, and that result the aggrandizement of the Church. That Church provides convents for the ascetic and the mystic, carnivals for the gay, missions for the enthusiast, penances for the man suffering from remorse, sisterhoods of mercy for the benevolent, crusades for the chivalrous, secret missions for the man whose genius lies in intrigue, the Inquisition, with its racks and screws, for the man who combines detestation of heresy with the love of cruelty, indulgences for the man of wealth and pleasure, purgatory to awe the refractory and frighten the vulgar, and a subtile theology for the casuist and the dialectician. Within the pale of that Church there is work for all these labourers, and that too the very work in which each delights, while Rome reaps the fruit of all. “To him who would scourge himself into godliness,” says Channing, speaking of the Church of Rome, “it offers a whip; for him who would starve himself into spirituality it provides the mendicant convents of St. Francis; for the anchorite it prepares the death-like silence of La Trappe; to the passionate young woman it presents the raptures of St. Theresa, and the marriage of St. Catherine with her Saviour; for the restless pilgrim, whose piety needs greater variety than the cell of the monk, it offers shrines, tombs, relics, and other holy places in Christian lands, and, above all, the holy sepulchre near Calvary. . . . When in Rome, the traveller sees by the side of the purple-lackeyed cardinal, the begging friar; when under the arches of St. Peter, he sees a coarsely-dressed monk holding forth to a ragged crowd; or when beneath a Franciscan church, adorned with the most precious works of art, he meets a charnel-house, where the bones of the dead brethren are built into walls, between which the living walk to read their mortality. He is amazed, if he give himself time for reflection, at the infinite variety of machinery which Catholicism has brought to bear on the human mind.” “The unlettered enthusiast,” says Macaulay, “whom the Anglican Church makes an enemy, and, whatever the polite and learned may think, a most dangerous enemy, the Catholic Church makes a champion. She bids him nurse his beard, covers him with a gown and hood of coarse dark stuff, ties a rope round his waist, and sends him forth to teach in her name. He costs her nothing; he takes not a ducat away from the revenues of her beneficed clergy; he lives by the alms of those who respect his spiritual character and are grateful for his instructions; he preaches not exactly in the style of Massillon, but in a way which proves the passions of uneducated hearers; and all his influence is employed to strengthen the Church of which he is a minister. To that Church he becomes as strongly attached as any of the cardinals whose scarlet carriages and liveries crowd the entrance of the palace on the Quirinal. In this way the Church of Rome unites in herself all the strength of establishment and all the strength of dissent. With the utmost pomp of a dominant hierarchy above, she has all the energy of the voluntary system below.”
But we have been able to unfold but a tithe of the wonderful and unrivalled genius of the Papacy. When one thinks of the amazing variety and endless diversity of qualities which here entered into combination, he feels as if the Papacy had summoned from their grave all the systems of policy and all the schemes of dominion which had ever existed, and, compelling them to lay bare the springs of their success and the elements of their strength, had selected the choicest qualities of each, and combined them into one system of unrivalled power. It united the subtile intellect of Greece with the iron strength of Rome. Qualities which never met before, Popery found out the means of reconciling and joining in harmonious action. The wildest enthusiasm and the soberest reason, the grossest sensuality and the most rigid asceticism, the most visionary genius and the coolest and most practical sagacity, the extreme of fanaticism and the extreme of moderation, Popery taught to dwell together in peace, and to work together in harmony. Nothing was so exalted as to be beyond its reach; nothing was so low as to be beneath its care. It accepted the labours of the peasant and the serf, and it taught the titled noble to stoop to its service. It arrayed itself in purple, and dwelt in the palace of kings; it put on rags, and companied with the outcast. Its marvellous flexibility made either character equally easy and equally natural. It entered with like avidity into the projects of princes, the intrigues of statesmen, the speculations of the learned, and the homely pursuits of the artizan. In this way the spell of its power was felt by all ranks of society and by all grades of intellect. Its spirit was operative at all times and in every place. To elude its eye or resist its arm was alike impossible. So terrible a system never before existed on the earth; and, once overthrown, it will, we trust, have no successor. Well may the Papacy be termed the perfection of human wisdom and the masterpiece of satanic policy.
 Assumed by Pope Leo X. at his coronation. [Back]
 Letter on Catholicism, pp. 10, 11. [Back]
 Macaulay’s Critical and Historical Essays, vol. iii. p. 241. [Back]