1. The Perfect Guide
COULD it be thought possible that an all-wise Creator would bring so many millions of people into existence, as the inhabitants of this earth, and give them no information as to why they are here, or what His will is concerning them? No, that would be unreasonable. Just as surely as there is a judgment day coming, on which we all shall be called to account for our conduct, so surely He must have given us an infallible rule of life. But what is this “infallible rule”? The Roman Catholics say it is “The Church, with its traditions.” But the Church has changed so greatly since its origin that if the apostles could arise from the dead they would not recognize it as the church they established. As for “tradition,” it is like a story that grows and changes as it travels. No government would be satisfied with oral laws. In so important a matter as our eternal happiness we need a rule that is more stable and unchangeable, and this we have in God’s infallible word, the Bible.
The Inspiration of the Bible
The Bible is not the product of man’s thought and planning. “For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost.” 2 Peter 1: 21. (Compare Isaiah 55: 8, 9; 2 Corinthians 3: 5) Peter says: “The Holy Ghost by the mouth of David spake,” and David himself declares: “The Spirit of the Lord spake by me.” Acts 1: 16; 2 Samuel 23: 2. Of Jeremiah we read: “Then the Lord put forth His hand, and touched my mouth. And the Lord said unto me, Behold, I have put My words in thy mouth.” Jeremiah 1: 9. Thus the whole Bible is God’s word spoken through human instrumentality, for “God hath spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began” (Acts ), and His hand guided them while they wrote. “All this,” said David, “the Lord made me understand in writing by His hand upon me.” 1 Chronicles 28: 19. And so, the prophets, after writing of Christ’s coming, were “searching” their own writings to find out “what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” 1 Peter 1: 11.
We have now presented the testimony of the Bible itself to the fact that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God.” 2 Timothy 3: 16. No consistent person can, therefore, receive one portion of it while he rejects another. Jesus says: “The Scripture cannot be broken.” John 10: 35. He, the author of the Scriptures, displayed such implicit confidence in them, that even the devil did not dare to question their authority, when Christ faced him with the words: “It is written.” Matthew 4: 4, 7, 10. Yes, “devils also believe, and tremble” (James ), for they know the Bible is true, while critics today doubt and ridicule (Jude 10). What has caused such terrible unbelief among men? We shall now briefly review the causes and the history of modern “Higher Criticism.”
After the Church had fallen from its
apostolic purity of life and doctrine, it found that, where the Bible was read
by the common people, they lost faith in the Church and opposed her worship as
a species of idolatry. This was particularly true of the Waldenses, who had retained
the Bible in their native language hundreds of years before the Reformation,
and had copied and spread its pages over Catholic Christendom, wherever their
missionaries travelled. It was natural, therefore, that the Roman church,
instead of supplying the common people with the Scriptures in their native
tongue, should oppose this. Cardinal Merry del Val says that on account of the
activity of the Waldenses, and later of the Protestants, in spreading the
Scriptures in the native language of the people, “the Pontiffs and the Councils
were obliged on more than one occasion to control and sometimes even forbid the
use of the Bible in the vernacular.” He also says: “Those who would put the
Scriptures indiscriminately into the hands of the people are the believers
always in private interpretation - a fallacy both absurd in itself and pregnant
with disastrous consequences. These counterfeit champions of the inspired book
hold the Bible to be the sole source of Divine Revelation and cover with abuse
and irate sarcasm the Catholic and Roman Church!”- “Index of Prohibited
Books, revised and published by order of His Holiness Pope Pius XI,” “Foreword”
by Cardinal Merry
These plain words from such an
authentic source need no comment. Ever since the first “Index of Prohibited
Books “ was issued by Pope Paul IV, in 1599, the Bible has had a prominent
place in these lists of forbidden books. And, before the invention of printing,
it was comparatively easy for the Roman church to control what the people
should, or should not, read; but shortly before the Reformation started, the
Lord prepared the way for its rapid progress by the discovery of the art of
printing. The name of Laurence Coster, of
“In the meanwhile, the printing
establishments of Gutenberg and Schoeffer were for a time broken up by the sack
and plunder of Mentz by the Archbishop Adolphus in 1462, when, their workmen
becoming dispersed, and being no longer bound to secrecy, they shortly after
carried with them the invention of the new art into nearly every country in
Europe”-”The Huguenots,” p. 7.
There being so few books to print, and
there being a ready sale for Bibles, the printers risked all hazards from the
opposition of the Church, and printed Bibles in Latin, Italian, Bohemian,
Dutch, French, Spanish, and German. While these were so expensive that only the
wealthy could afford to buy them, and their language was not adapted to the
minds of the common people, yet they “seriously alarmed the Church; and in 1486
the Archbishop of Mentz placed the printers of that city, which had been the
cradle of the printing-press, under strict censorship. Twenty five years later,
Pope Alexander VI issued a bull prohibiting the printers of
The Reformation and the Bible
The time had now come for the light to shine, and God’s word could no longer be kept from the people. Prophecy states that in spite of captivity, fire, and sword, “they shall be helped with a little help.” Daniel 11: 33, 34. But the people had been kept in darkness so long that they could not endure the glaring light of all the Bible truths at once. They had to come gradually, and the hour had struck for the Reformation to begin.
In preparing for the Reformation, the
Lord had worked in marvelous ways to provide protection for the Reformers. The
night before Martin Luther nailed his ninety-five theses on the door of the
castle church at
“I must tell you a dream which I had last night.... For I dreamed
it thrice, and each time with new circumstances. . . . I fell asleep, . . . I
then awoke. . . . I prayed . . . God to guide me, my counsels, and my people
according to truth. I again fell asleep, and then dreamed that Almighty God
sent me a monk. . . . All the saints accompanied him by order of God, in order
to bear testimony before me, and to declare that he did not come to contrive
any plot. . . . They asked me to have the goodness graciously to permit him to
write something on the door of the church of the
“Then I dreamed that all the princes of the Empire, and we among them, hastened to Rome, and strove, one after another, to break the pen; but the more we tried the stiffer it became, sounding as if it had been made of iron. We at length desisted. . . . Suddenly I heard a loud noise - a large number of other pens had sprung out of the long pen of the monk. I awoke a third time: it was daylight.” . . .
“So passed the morning of
One can hardly wonder that the Elector of Saxony became Luther’s protector during his long struggle with the Papacy. The greatest work that was accomplished by these “pens” of the Reformation was the translation of the Bible into the language of the common people. True, there had been some attempts made before this time to produce the Scriptures in the vernacular, but without much success, as the language was almost unintelligible to the common people, and the price prohibitive.
After Martin Luther had spent much time
in the homes and company of the people that he might acquire their language,
he, with his co-workers, translated the Bible into a language that, while it
was dignified and beautiful, was so natural and easy to be understood by the
ordinary mind that it made the Bible at once “the people’s book.” The New
Testament was translated in 1521, and fifty-eight editions of it were printed
between 1522 and 1533: seventeen editions at
In 1522, Jacques Lefevre translated the New Testament into French, and Collin, at Meaux, printed it in 1524. In 1525, William Tyndale translated the New Testament into English. All these New Testaments were translated from the original Greek, and not from the imperfect Latin Vulgate, used by the papal church.
Printing presses were kept busy printing the Scriptures, while colporteurs and booksellers sold them to the eager public. The effect was tremendous.
“Every honest intellect was at once
struck with the strange discrepancy between the teaching of the Sacred Volume
and that of the church of Rome.” - “Historical Studies,” Eugene Lawrence, p.
In the Book of God there were found no purgatory, no infallible pope, no masses for the dead, no sale of indulgences, no relics working miracles, no prayers for the dead, no worship of the Virgin Mary or of saints! But there the people found a loving Saviour with open arms welcoming the poorest and vilest of sinners to come and receive forgiveness full and free. Love filled their hearts and broke the shackles of sin and superstition. Profanity, coarse jests, drunkenness, vice, and disorder disappeared. The blessed Book was read by young and old, and became the talk in home and shop, while the Church with its Latin mass lost its attraction.
“There now began a remarkable contest between the Romish Church and the Bible between the printers and the popes. . . .
“To the Bible the popes at once
declared a deathless hostility. To read the Scriptures was in their eyes the
grossest of crimes. . . . The Inquisition was invested with new terrors, and
was forced upon
“To burn Bibles was the favorite employment of zealous Catholics. Wherever they were found the heretical volumes were destroyed by active Inquisitors, and thousands of Bibles and Testaments perished in every part of France” - “Historical Studies,” Eugene Lawrence, pp. 254-257.
“The council, in consequence, decreed
that those theologians in the university who had studied the original language,
should be obliged, as well as other persons, to give up their Hebrew and Greek
Bibles to the commissaries of the holy office, on pain of excommunication.” - “History
of the Inquisition of
“In 1490, Torquemada [the
Inquisitor-General] caused many Hebrew Bibles and more than six thousand
volumes to be burnt in an Auto da fe at
How many thousands of invaluable
manuscripts thus perished in the flames of the Inquisition, eternity alone will
reveal. It is exceedingly difficult for a Protestant in our days to fathom the
extent of this fear of and enmity against the Bible, manifested by the Roman
church. With her it was actually a life or death struggle! A person must read
the history of the Inquisition, and examine the Roman Indexes of Forbidden
Books, to understand her viewpoint. Inquisitor General Perez del Prado gave
expression to her feelings and her bitter lament when he declared in horror
`that some individuals had carried their audacity to the execrable extremity of
demanding permission to read the Holy Scriptures in the vulgar tongue, without
fearing to encounter mortal poison therein.’” - “History of the Inquisition
The funeral piles were lit all over
“Bibles and New Testaments were seized
wherever found, and burnt; but more Bibles and Testaments seemed to rise, as if
by magic, from their ashes. The printers who were convicted of printing Bibles
were next seized and burnt. The Bourgeois de Paris [a Roman Catholic
paper] gives a detailed account of the human sacrifices offered up to ignorance
and intolerance in that city during the six months ending June, 1534, from
which it appears that twenty men and one woman were burnt alive. . . . In the
beginning of the following year, the Sorbonne obtained from the king an
ordinance, which was promulgated on
“Further attempts continued to be made
“Paul IV, in 1559, put it [Sully’s name] in the first papal Index Expurgatorium.”History of the Inquisition of the Middle Ages,” Henry Charles Lea, Vol. III, p. 587.
“The first Roman ‘Index of Prohibited Books’ (Index librorum prohibitorum), published in 1559 under Paul IV, was very severe and was therefore mitigated under that pontiff by decree of the Holy Office of 14 June of the same year. “Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. VII, p. 722, art. “Index.”
Persecution raged more or less all over Europe: “In 1545, the massacre of the Vaudois of Province was perpetrated”; the 24th of August, 1572, the St. Bartholomew Massacre commenced, and continued until between 70,000 and 100,000 innocent and unsuspecting persons were murdered in cold blood for being Protestants. The massacre was secretly planned by the leaders of the Roman church.
“Sully says 70,000 were slain, though other writers estimate the victims at 100,000.” ‘The Huguenots,” Samuel Smiles, pp. 71, 72.
“Catherine de Medicis wrote in triumph to Alva, to Philip II, and to the Pope. . . . Rome was thrown into a delirium of joy at the news. The cannon were fired at St. Angelo; Gregory XIII and his cardinals went in procession from sanctuary to sanctuary to give God thanks for the massacre. The subject was ordered to be painted, and a medal was struck, with the Pope’s image on one side, and the destroying angel on the other immolating the Huguenots. “-1d., 71, 72.
New Lines of Attack
Finally, however, the papal church discovered that her opposition to the Bible only betrayed the sad fact that, instead of being the divinely instituted church of the Bible, she and the Scriptures were deadly enemies, and that her open fight was furnishing the world with the clearest evidences to justify the Reformation. Her relentless persecution was making martyrs, but not loyal Catholics. She must halt her course and forge new weapons against Protestantism, if she ever hoped to win the battle. But what were these weapons to be? These we shall consider in the next two chapters.