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HOME > Religious Fiction > Paganism Surviving in Christianity > CHAPTER XIV. FIVE CONCLUSIONS.
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Protestants must Accept the Bible in Fact, as well as in Theory, or be Overthrown—The Bible must be Reinterpreted in the Light of “Higher Criticism” and Deeper Spiritual Life—The Present Tendencies in Bible Study Mark the Opening of the Second Stage of the Protestant Movement—Baptism must Cease to be the Foot-Ball of Denominational Polemics and be Raised to a Question of Obedience to the Example of Christ—Protestants must Return to the Sabbath, Christianized by Christ, and to True Sabbathism, Which is as Undenominational as Faith—Such Sabbathism, and God’s Sabbath, must be Restored to the Place from Which Pagan No-Sabbathism and the Pagan Sunday Drove Them—“Sabbath” Legislation is Unchristian—All union of Christianity with the State must Yield before the Normal Development of True Protestantism.

The facts which have been set forth in the foregoing pages form the basis for certain important conclusions. Unconsciously perhaps, but not less certainly, the Protestant movement was the beginning of a definite reaction against paganism in Christianity. Since humanity must learn all higher truth through long and sometimes bitter experience, errors and evils must ripen before those[283] who have once accepted them will let them go. All great upward movements illustrate this fact. Reformatory action begins when error reaches so low a point that the best interests involved are confronted with strangulation and destruction. When the slow-beating heart threatens the death of the sleeping patient, nature arouses all her forces in a final struggle for life. Thus truth, stifled and trodden under foot by the pagan elements in the Church, awoke for the final struggle as the morning began to dawn, after the ages of midnight.
(1) Reinstatement of the Bible.

As the first step in perverting Christianity was to set aside the authority of God’s book, and to teach error for truth through false exegesis, so the first step toward reformation was the unchaining of that Word. Paganized Christianity had placed itself between men and God, and His Word. Faith, hedged and crippled, trusted in human traditions, forms, and ceremonies, and in priestly absolution from sin. Help could not come, neither could hope arise, until the pagan elements should be so far removed that men could stand face to face with the Bible, with Christ, and with God. Hence the central points in the first stage of the reformatory work were an open Bible, an accessible Christ, and a Father whose law was the[284] ultimate appeal, and whose love was the ultimate source of hope and the foundation of faith. The upward movement started on the same plane of fundamental truth on which the downward movement began. Hence the first struggle, under Luther, centred around personal faith.

But it was in the nature of things that men whose inheritance had come from the centuries made dark and religiously corrupt through pagan residuum, could not rise above all these influences at once.

Though the leaders in such movements build better than they know, their work is always comparatively imperfect. The intensity with which they must pursue a single truth in order to make any progress, prevents them from seeing all truth. This the more, since the public mind, at such times, cannot grasp and hold more than one great truth at a time. The reformers could not wholly free themselves from the idea that “tradition and custom” have authority. They did not actually accept the Bible as the only rule of faith and practice. Protestantism has never done this. As between Protestantism and Romanism, from which it revolted, there can be no middle or common ground. The Roman Catholic claims that the Church made the Bible, and formulated authoritative traditions, and hence that the Church,[285] as law-maker and interpreter of the Bible, is the supreme authority. The Protestant begins by denying the authority of the Church, and appealing to the Bible as the ultimate authority. Logic and history combine to declare that Protestantism must make its theory good, or fail. Hence we draw

Conclusion First.

Protestantism must fully accept the Bible as the ultimate and only standard of faith and practice, or it must be broken between the upper millstone of Roman Catholicism and the nether millstone of irreligious rationalism.

The years are ripe for decision. The backward drift toward Roman Catholicism and rationalism has well set in. The loss already sustained by Protestantism, though an incomplete movement, can be regained only by prompt and vigorous action.

These conclusions relative to the future of Protestantism, having been published in a magazine edited by the author of this book, The Sabbath Outlook, were commented upon by the Catholic Mirror, Baltimore, under date of March 19, 1892, as follows:


“Will ‘Scriptural Simplicity’ Save Protestantism?”

“This development of Christianity—assumed to be pagan and, therefore, corrupt—is naturally cause of much anxiety to Christian people who so regard it. We have said a few words to show how groundless is this concern. But the power and extent of the development gives most trouble. It is seen that the Catholic Church holds the key to the present position; and so Christians are warned that they must return to ‘the simple truths of the New Testament,’ if they would not yield to the development. One of these people, a clear-headed, consistent Protestant, commenting upon Harnack’s researches, boldly proclaims: ‘Protestantism must go back of these Gnostic speculations and rebuild Christian faith and practice on the New Testament records of the first century, or remain hopelessly weak in its efforts to overcome the tide of Roman Catholic influence and history.’ He adds: ‘This is a vital truth which Protestantism must recognize and act upon promptly, or the next century will witness its crushing defeat between the forces of Roman Catholicism, Irreligious Rationalism, and Worldliness.’

“There is a striking admission in this note of alarm. ‘Roman Catholic influence and history’ is the tide setting in with overwhelming power. The warning is clear and strong. There is no uncertain sound.

“It goes without saying that we can have no pleasure (God forbid!), but only sadness in imagining the ‘crushing defeat’ of our Christian brethren by ‘irreligious rationalism’ or ‘worldliness.’ We will not apply the term ‘defeat’ to their being brought to see the truth and submit themselves to the Catholic Church. We are[287] wondering just now whether there is any practical good in the warning given them; whether it is at all likely that Protestantism will ever go back to what are called ‘the simple truths of the New Testament.’ We don’t believe it will, or can.

“When it is considered what the Protestantism of to-day is,—how much it has learned of the Church idea,—the Catholic idea,—it may be seen how useless it is to expect any such thing. To begin with, all or the immense majority of Protestants, in the simple matter of accepting the change from the Sabbath to the Sunday—from the last to the first day of the week,—quietly admit an extra-scriptural authority, the authority of the Church. Chillingworth’s famous maxim, ‘The Bible only, the religion of Protestants,’ leaves this item at least out of the calculation. All unwittingly our separated brethren are here acting upon a Catholic principle, which does not deny or do away Scripture, but makes the Rule of Faith to consist of Scripture and—something else—even Tradition; and by this principle the ever-living voice of the Church speaks with an authority always equal to that of the written revelation, and sometimes apparently transcending it.”

The issue is not one of mere name, or of denominationalism, or of “Church” against “sects.” It is, as said above, a question of the reinstatement of the Bible as the supreme rule of Protestant Christianity. The Protestant movement began in that issue. There can be no Protestantism outside of it. If it be not true, Protestantism is a[288] failure. If it be true, Protestantism cannot remain where it is and survive. If it be not true, Romanism has the logical and historical right to the field. It is master of the situation, and its expectation that erring Protestants will return to “The Mother Church,” or wander hopelessly away from Christianity, will be realized in less time than Protestantism has already existed. These facts challenge the attention of all parties. They sound the same key as do the words of Professor Harnack, spoken in July, 1889. I said to him: “Will the Protestantism of the next century be more spiritual than now, or less?” He answered, “It will be more spiritual, or it will die.” I continued: “If it dies, what will be the next scene in church history?” He said: “Roman Catholicism will take possession of the world as a new form of paganism.” These are not the words of an alarmist, nor a sectarian polemist; they are the legitimate deductions made by a careful student of universal history. Will you ponder them?
(2) Biblical Interpretation; Higher Criticism.

Whoever has read the chapters on gnosticism, and the allegorical method of interpreting the Bible, and has traced the influence of these pagan elements upon the history of biblical interpretation, cannot fail to see God’s guiding hand in the movements[289] of the last half of this century. The revival of Bible study, the development of the “International Lessons,” the call for something yet better, and the growth of exegetical literature form an epoch not less important, though less noisy, because less political, than the rise of Lutheranism, the development of Calvinism, or the birth of the English Reformation. The last half of this century has witnessed what no other century ever saw, the beginning of a systematic study of the Bible by the people. Such an epoch could not do less than create the “higher criticism.” That phase of this Bible-study epoch is as legitimate a result as the “Diet at Worms” was of Luther’s revolt, or as Puritanism was of the English Reformation. Therefore:

Conclusion Second.

Biblical study and biblical interpretation, including “Higher Criticism,” are ushering in the second great feature of the Protestant movement.

Luther and his coadjutors unchained the Bible and opened its pages. They did not, could not, eliminate traditional authority and influence from its exegesis. Traditionalism was largely pagan. It had held sway for centuries, and is yet regnant in many ways. All past exegesis needs retrial in the fires of a devout criticism. That criticism must[290] introduce Christ’s norm,—“By their fruits ye shall know them.” Pour exegetical and theological traditionalism into that crucible. Heat it in the fires of the best and most devout scholarship. Let brave hearts and careful hands take away the dross, fearless as to consequences. The Bible and Protestantism are both on trial in the closing years of the nineteenth century. There need be no fear as to final results if Protestants are true and firm. If they are not, the closing years of the twentieth century will sit in sackcloth at the open grave of a Christianity which began the elimination of paganism well, but had not the bravery, and therefore the strength, to finish the work.
(3) Concerning Baptism.

The paramount question touching the residuum which came in from pagan water-worship does not lie primarily in the mode of baptism; although historically, logically, and symbolically there were no modes of baptism until they were brought in by paganism. Paganism immersed, affused, sprinkled. It immersed once, or three times. In the use of holy water it sprinkled repeatedly and indefinitely. According to the New Testament, baptism is submersion, as the symbol of death to sin and resurrection to righteousness. All beyond that was pagan-born.


The central point of the evil which came from pagan water-worship is found in “baptismal regeneration”; i. e., the idea that by virtue of the power and sacredness of water spiritual purity is produced, and the candidate is fitted for membership in the Church, and for heaven. In so far............
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