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Hodge on the Visibility of the Church

January 26, 2010 10 comments

I ran across a quote from Hodge a while ago and have been trying to track down the article ever since. I finally found it and wanted to share some snippets from it. [Update: I finally found it online as well in Hodge’s book “Church Polity“] Hodge’s essay in the Princeton Review, Oct 1853 was his response to threat from the Papists. I wish I had a bit more of the historical background, but here is how Thomas Curtis prefaces it: “The Old School Presbyterians began to be attacked by the Episcopalians, who plead the analogy of circumcision and of the ancient Jewish church in favor of admitting good and bad into Christian churches” (Thomas Fenner Curtis)

Hodge refutes the arguments by clarifying what it means for the NT church to be a church of believers, and in so doing raises some interesting consequences.

The Visibility of the Church

Our view of the attributes of the Church is of necessity determined by our view of its nature.

The Romanists argued that the church is the same in nature as an earthly kingdom. Hodge argued it is a spiritual kingdom. He said:

…if the Church is the coetus sanctorum, the company of believers; if it is the body of Christ, and if his body consists of those, and of those only, in whom he dwells by his Spirit, then the Church is visible only in the sense in which believers are visible.

He says the Church is visible in so much as:
(1) “it consists of men and women, in distinction from disembodied spirits or angels.”
(2) “Its members manifest their faith by good works. The fact they are members of Christ’s body becomes notorious… Wherever there are true believers, there is the true Church; and wherever such believers confess their faith, and illustrate it by a holy life, there the Church is visible.”
(3) “…believers are, by their “effectual calling,” separated from the world… The true Church is visible throughout the world, not as an organization, not as an external society [ie a “church” of believers and unbelievers], but as the living body of Christ; as a set of men distinguished from others as true Christians… The Church, in this sense, is a city set on a hill… How unfounded, then, is the objection that the Church, the body of Christ, is a chimera, a Platonic idea, unless it is, in its essential nature, a visible society, like the kingdom of England or Republic of Switzerland!
(4) “The true Church is visible in the external Church, just as the soul is visible in the body… So the external Church, as embracing all who profess the true religion – with their various organizations, their confessions of the truth, their temples, and their Christian worship – make it apparent that the true Church, the body of Christ, exists, and where it is. These are not the Church, any more than the body is the soul; but they are its manifestations, and its residence.”

If all those in every age who professed belief were true believers, then there would be no need of the visible/invisible distinction. However,

We know that in every subsequent [to the apostolic] age, the great majority of those who have been baptized in the name of Christ, and who call themselves Christians, and who are included in the external organization of his followers, are not true Christians. This external society, therefore, is not a company of believers; it is not the Church which is Christ’s body; the attributes and promises of the Church do not belong to it. It is not that living temple built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets as an habitation of God, through the Spirit. It is not the bride of Christ, for which he died, and which he cleanses with the washing of regeneration… In short, the external society is not the Church. The two are not identical, commensurate, and conterminous, so that he who is a member of the one is a member of the other, and he who is excommunicated from the one is cut off from the other…

If, then, the Church is the body of Christ; if a man becomes a member of that body by faith; if multitudes of those who profess in baptism the true religion, are not believers, then it is just as certain that the external body consisting of the baptized is not the Church, as that a man’s calling himself a Christian does not make him a Christian.

Hodge then appeals to Protestants to steer clear of Rome’s logic:

If that is so [the Church is an external organization], then such organization is the Church; then, as the Church is holy, the body and bride of Christ, the temple and family of God, all members of that organization are holy, members of Christ’s body, and partakers of his life… Then, moreover, as Christ saves all the members of his body and none other, he saves all included in this external organization, and consigns to eternal death all out of it… It becomes those who call themselves Protestants, to look these consequences in the face, before they join the Papists and Puseyites in ridiculing the idea of a Church composed exclusively of believers, and insist that the body to which the attributes and promises of the Church belong, is the visible organization of professing Christians.

Finally, Hodge addres “the most plausible argument of Romanists: the analogy of the old dispensation.”

That the Church is a visible society, consisting of the professors of the true religion, as distinguished from the body of true believers, known only to God, is plain, they say, because under the old dispensation it was such a society, embracing all the descendants of Abraham who professed the true religion, and received the sign of circumcision… The Church exists as an external society now as it did then; what once belonged to the commonwealth of Israel, now belongs to the visible Church. As union with the commonwealth of Israel was necessary to salvation then, so union with the visible Church was necessary to salvation now. And as subjection to the priesthood, and especially to the high-priest, was necessary to union with Israel then, so submission to the regular ministry, and especially to the Pope, is necessary to union with the Church now. Such is the favourite argument of Romanists; and such, (striking out illogically the last clause, which requires subjection to prelates, or the Pope) we are sorry to say is the argument of some Protestants, and even of some Presbyterians.

The fallacy of this whole argument lies in the false assumption, that the external Israel was the true Church… The attributes, promises, prerogatives of the one, were not those of the other. [If this is true] we must admit that the true Church rejected and crucified Christ; for he was rejected by the external Israel, by the Sanhedrin… Paul avoids this fatal conclusion by denying that the external Church is, as such, the true Church, or that the promises made to the latter were made to the former.

It is to be remembered that there were two covenants made with Abraham. By the one, his natural descendants through Isaac were constituted a commonwealth, an external, visible community. By the other, his spiritual descendants were constituted a Church. The parties to the former covenant were God and the nation; to the other, God and his true people. The promises of the national covenant were national blessings; the promises of the spiritual covenant, (i.e. of the covenant of grace) were spiritual blessings, reconciliation, holiness, and eternal life. The conditions of the one covenant were circumcision and obedience to the law; the condition of the latter was, is, and ever has been, faith in the Messiah as the seed of the woman, the Son of God, and the Savior of the world. There cannot be a greater mistake than to confound the national covenant with the covenant of grace, and the commonwealth founded on the one with the Church founded on the other.

When Christ came “the commonwealth” was abolished, and there was nothing put in its place. The Church remained. There was no external covenant, nor promises of external blessings, on condition of external rites and subjection. There was a spiritual society with spiritual promises, on the condition of faith in Christ. In no part of the New Testament is any other condition of membership in the Church prescribed than that contained in the answer of Philip to the eunuch who desired baptism: “If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.” (Acts viii. 37)

So much for the unity of the covenants. And so much for paedobaptism founded upon circumcision.

Total Consecration

July 14, 2009 5 comments

I saw the following status update on facebook today:

Cheers to all my friends who have officially begun their 33-day spiritual preparation for Total Consecration to Jesus through Mary in August! I began yesterday myself! †Ad Jesum per Mariam†

I asked him to explain what this was, and he pointed me to an essay explaining the practice.  http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=48156972164 The essay begins:

Total Consecration of oneself to Jesus through the Blessed Virgin Mary is quite simply the greatest devotion there is. It is a total self-giving of ones will to Jesus through His Mother Mary. The idea is that your will is no longer your own but that of Mary and her’s, of course, is totally united with the will of God… No one should ever do one of these consecrations without proper preparation and prayer. There is nothing worse than someone who promises themselves to Mary only for them to neglect and abandon Her.

So we see that Mary’s will is the will of God. The author then quotes Roman Catholic “Saints” in support of this:

“The most perfect and most profitable of all devotions to the Blessed Virgin consists in consecrating ourselves entirely to her, and to Jesus through her, as their slaves. It involves consecrating to her completely and for all eternity our body and soul, our possessions both spiritual and material, the atoning value and the merits of our good actions and our right to dispose of them. In short, it involves the offering of all we have acquired in the past, all we actually possess at the moment, and all we will acquire in the future.”

“This devotion consists in surrendering oneself in the manner of a slave to Mary, and to Jesus through her, and then performing all our actions with Mary, in Mary, through Mary, and for Mary.”

“As all perfection consists in our being conformed, united and consecrated to Jesus it naturally follows that the most perfect of all devotions is that which conforms, unites, and consecrates us most completely to Jesus. Now of all God’s creatures Mary is the most conformed to Jesus. It therefore follows that, of all devotions, devotion to her makes for the most effective consecration and conformity to him. The more one is consecrated to Mary, the more one is consecrated to Jesus. That is why perfect consecration to Jesus is but a perfect and complete consecration of oneself to the Blessed Virgin, which is the devotion I teach; or in other words, it is the perfect renewal of the vows and promises of holy baptism.”

–Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

He then quotes Popes commending this practice:

“This is the best and most acceptable form of devotion to our Blessed Lady.”
-Blessed Pope Pius IX

“Reading this book was a deceive turning point in my life. This perfect devotion is indispensable to anyone who means to give himself without reserve to Christ and to the work of redemption.”
-Pope John Paul II

He then concludes:

The Necessity of devotion to Our Lady in Attaining Salvation

“All the Elect obtain eternal salvation through the means of Mary.”
-Saint Ildephonsus, Bishop, d. 667 AD

“With reason did the Most Holy Virgin predict that all generations would call her blessed, for all the Elect obtain eternal salvation through the means of Mary.
-Saint Ildephonsus, Bishop, d. 667 AD

“Without the Blessed Virgin, a person travels along the road to damnation.”
-Saint Ildephonsus, Bishop, d. 667 AD

“No one will ever be the servant of the Son without serving the Mother.”
-Saint Ildephonsus, Bishop, d. 667 AD

“Devotion to you, O Blessed Virgin, is a means of salvation which God gives to those whom he wishes to save.”
-Saint John Damascene, Father and Doctor of the Church, 676-787 AD

”There is no one, O Most Holy Mary, who can know God except through thee; no one who can be saved or redeemed but through thee, O Mother of God; no one who can be delivered from dangers but through thee, O Virgin Mother; no one who obtains mercy but through thee, O Filled-With-All-Grace!”

-Saint Germanus of Constantinople, Patriarch of Constantinople, d. 733 AD

I had no idea Mary worship was this serious and I have no idea how any person can believe anything written above if they have ever read the New Testament.

1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus

Hebrews 4:14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Romans 3:10 “None is righteous, no, not one;
11 no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
12 All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.”
13 “Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.”
“The venom of asps is under their lips.”
14 “Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness.”
15 “Their feet are swift to shed blood;
16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
17 and the way of peace they have not known.”
18 “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”

Mary was a wicked sinner who was saved by the blood of the spotless lamb! Apart from the blood of Christ, God would have damned her for eternity. Woe to the man who puts his faith in her!

Mary Worship, Mary Ann Collins (PDF)

The Parallel of Mary to Jesus, Richard Bennett (MP3)

The Occult and Roman Superstitions, Timothy Kauffman (MP3)