PART I

 

MY DAMASCUS ROAD

 

(a Brief Testimony of a Great Personal Experience)

 

"Sirs, what must I do to be saved?"

"And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ,

and thou shalt be saved, and thy house"

(Acts 16 : 30-31)

 

 

 

FOREWORD TO THE FIRST EDITION

by the REV. F. W. MARTIN, L.TH., former Editor of "The English Churchman" and Rector of Great Horkesley, Essex

 

IT is with great pleasure that I accede to a request to contribute a short foreword to Don Francisco Lacueva's testimony. I have had the joy of meeting him and hearing him testify to the saving grace of Christ which he has personally experienced. This experience--spoken of by him as his "Damascus Road"--led him to leave the Church of Rome, counting all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus his Lord.

I find this testimony of great value for several reasons.

First, it shows the Church of Rome as it really is today. Don Lacueva points out, simply and without malice or bitterness, that the Church of Rome is astray from the Bible. Judged by the Word of God, that Church is still in grievous error.

Secondly, it bears eloquent testimony to the sovereign grace of God, calling out our dear brother from the darkness and error, by wonderful paths, into the full light of Gospel Truth. May this little book lead many to the only Saviour of sinful men and women!

Thirdly, it underlines the dangers of some aspects of the modern ecumenical movement. Unity at the expense of truth is worthless. We see from this book that there can be no peace with Rome till Rome makes peace with God. "Unity with any belief which does not have as its basis the rule of faith of Holy Scripture is impossible", says Don F. Lacueva. That is a significant warning for our generation--impatient of true doctrine as it often is.

I wish this book every blessing. May God graciously use it to awaken Roman Catholics to their need, and nominal Protestants to their dangers.

FRANK W. MARTIN.

 

AUTHOR'S PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION

 

THE first edition of "My Damascus Road" was written in 1962, shortly after my conversion to the Gospel. The book was used of the Lord to help many people, and this more than compensated me, in view of adverse criticisms on the part of many of my former co-religionists.

The six years which have elapsed since I wrote it enable me now to assess calmly and impartially its value and its defects.

Its value as the testimony of a sincere and total conversion to Christ remains undisputed. I cannot deny a single doctrinal or spiritual assertion contained in it; I feel the same as I felt then and my opinions remain unchanged. My decision to leave the Church of Rome was premeditated and based on what I considered evidence of its falsity, although this conviction was not so strong then as it is today.

But, perhaps the tone of the book held something of the exaltation of a recent convert. A certain air of challenge, defiance, and self-confidence lay in its pages. On the other hand, the size of the book did not allow me to make a detailed refutation of the basic doctrines of Roman Catholicism. For both these reasons, my brief exposition, almost superficial and somewhat rough and ready, presented weak points, vulnerable to criticism as easy as it was bitter.

Since then, the Lord has allowed me to pass through a serious spiritual crisis which, under the title "What Happened!", I have endeavoured to present in the second part of this book. This crisis has taught me many profitable lessons, and these I should like to share with my readers, so that my experience may bear testimony and bring a message of real help to all who may pass through times of perplexity and spiritual affliction.

I have decided, therefore, to modify somewhat the text of the first edition, omitting nothing of my story or personal convictions, but improving its tone and doctrinal exposition. At the same time, certain details which experience has proved to be weak, unnecessary, and even harmful. I have left out.

Another change in this Second Edition has been made necessary by the book, "Tu Camino de Damasco?" ("Your Damascus Road?"), written by Dr. Manuel Fernández, a former pupil of mine, later fellow-Professor in the Seminary and in the Chapter of the Cathedral of Tarazona, and today Magister Canon of Santander (Spain). He wrote it to refute my own booklet, "My Damascus Road".

Although my future book, "The Problem of Christian Unity", is a complete and detailed reply to all his objections, I have considered it advisable to answer briefly, with the use of foot-notes, the most outstanding of his criticism. It is to be regretted that an author who presumes to be "my best friend" [1] should have written more than fifteen pages (15-30) of personal allusions, some humiliating and in very bad taste, under the pretext of exposing certain weaknesses of my character as the only explanation for my conversion to the Gospel.

 

 

Contents

 

Foreword

PART I

Foreword to the First Edition

Author's Preface to the Second Edition

Introduction

The Road to Damascus

A Light from Above

There is only One Gospel

A Nefarious Principle has become the Leaven of Corruption

Union with Rome?

My New Birth

PART II

Foreword

An Appreciation

Introduction

A Serious Danger

The Dark Night of the Spirit

Escape from the Desert

An Example of Roman Curial Proceedings

The Final Stages

My Return Home

Notes to Part I

PLATES

With my late Mother

The Cathedral of Tarazona

Main Entrance to Monastery of the Benedictines

With my Wife and Daughter

 

Introduction

 

I SHOULD like to commence this account of my deep and intimate experience of my conversion to Jesus Christ and the sublime truth of His Gospel by cordially greeting all my compatriots and Spanish-speaking readers, and especially my former colleagues in the clergy of the Roman Catholic Church. I would to God that all who read this "were such as I am" (Acts 26:29) except for the sufferings of my recent spiritual crisis! I earnestly pray God that they may all be enlightened by His Holy Spirit, and thereby enter into the same happy experience which changed the whole course of my life.

Oh that I could bear testimony of my conversion to the Gospel from the very pulpit in the Cathedral of Tarazona, where for thirteen years I was the official preacher of the Chapter! Unfortunately, this is impossible even after the recent promulgation (A.D. 1967) of the law of religious liberty in my country.

From the outset I would make it quite clear that I have left the Roman Church fully persuaded of the anti-biblical falseness of many of her dogmas [2]. I have come out with the sole purpose of following Christ with sincerity and humility, and I have no ulterior motives. I would redeem the past years of a colourless life, and dedicate myself to a constant and fervent testimony of Christ, as the only "name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12), and to "shew forth the praises of Him ,who hath called us out of darkness into His marvellous

light" (1 Peter 2:9).

I have not run away with any woman, nor have I been bribed to leave the Roman Church in which I enjoyed a very good living and held a high position. Quite to the contrary, the servants of God who led me to Christ did not hide from me the fact that I should be prepared for material loss [3]. But for the true Christian, this should never be a matter for concern, and it is not so for me. I believe in the Providence of God and I know that our heavenly Father only asks that we should "seek first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto us" (Mt. 6:33).

If anyone thinks that I have strayed from the fold I beg him to pray for me and, in grateful response, I shall also pray for him and for all my former co-religionists who remain enchained by a false system, contrary to the Word of God. It should not be forgotten that official representatives of the Jewish faith furiously faced the Apostle Paul with the infamous insult of "this pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition ... throughout the world" (Acts 24:5). Paul's reply is well worth meditation: "But this I confess unto thee that after the way which they call heresy, so worship I the God of my fathers, believing all things which are written in the law and in the prophets" (Acts 24:14).

This shows how, by a way which religious officialdom regarded as mistaken and "heretical", Paul found the true "orthodox" road to worship God according to the Scriptures! Similarly, the Roman hierarchy have branded as apostates and heretics all who rise against the "another Gospel" (Gal. 1:6), and go in search of the pure waters of the Word of God.

I am not attempting now a treatise on apologetics, but wish to set down simply my own personal experiences. I have no personal animosity against any one in particular. Moreover, I am ready, like Paul, to be "anathema" for my former co-religionists. I have only gratitude for many of them and my only desire is that they all may open their eyes to the great truth that the only ground for our salvation is "The righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe: for there is no difference:

"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;

"Being justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:

"Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remissions of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God" (Rom. 3:22-25) [4].

We must be convinced that the Holy Scriptures are the only touchstone by which to discover whether a doctrine is truly "orthodox" or not. This is why even the preaching of an Apostle such as Paul, who spoke what he was taught "by the revelation of Jesus Christ" (Gal. 1:12) could be tested according to the Scriptures of the Old Testament by a group of Jews who, far from having any ecclesiastical authority, were not yet members of the Christian community, as we read in Acts 17:11 of the Berean Jews:

"These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, AND SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, WHETHER THOSE THINGS (which Paul was preaching) WERE so".

Therefore, I exhort all my readers to read the Bible daily, to ponder it closely and to study it deeply with fervent prayer to the Holy Spirit which inspired it. I recommend to my former companions to read also evangelical literature and commentaries on the Scriptures devoid of dogmatic prejudice and mystification. Do not fear the empty "anathemas" of men. The real "anathema" from God Himself, as promulgated by Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, is found in Gal. 1:8,9, and threatens not only those who deny the only true Gospel of justification by faith, but also those who try to mystify it by adding something to the revealed truth:

"But though we or an angel from heaven, preach ANY OTHER GOSPEL unto you than that which we have preached unto you, LET HIM BE ACCURSED.

"As we said before, so say we now again. If any man preach ANY OTHER GOSPEL unto you than that ye have received, LET HIM BE ACCURSED."

When considered honestly and impartially, is it possible really to believe in the fundamental dogmas of the Roman Church? Every sincere reader both of the Bible and of the History of the Church will find immediately that many basic doctrines of the Roman Church such as the sacrifice of the Mass, transubstantiation, obligatory confession of sins made orally to a man and, above all, marian and papal dogmas solemnly defined since A.D. 1854, are not only strange to Scripture but even contrary to all the teaching of the New Testament. If any reader should believe in them sincerely, let him continue to read these pages, especially the second chapter ("A Light from Above") of this first part.

I would not conclude this introduction without expressing my very deep joy and happiness in the Lord, in spite of all my past crises and tribulations, for the blessed assurance of salvation which I share with all true believers. This is not an arrogant presumption, but humble and grateful acceptation of the explicit message of the Word of God, manifest in many passages. Let us read the most relevant of them:

"All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I WILL IN NO WISE CAST OUT ...

"And this is the Father's will which hath sent me, that of all which he hath given me I SHOULD LOSE NOTHING" (Jn. 6:37,39).

"My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:

"And I give unto them eternal life; AND THEY SHALL NEVER PERISH, NEITHER SHALL ANY MAN PLUCK THEM OUT OF MY HAND.

"My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; AND NO MAN IS ABLE TO PLUCK THEM OUT OF MY FATHER'S HAND" (Jn. 10:27-29).

"The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God:

"And if children, then heirs . . . " (Rom. 8:16,17).

Will our Heavenly Father ever disinherit His children?

No!

"For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance" (Rom. 11:29).

"For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have

committed (all the precious things that Paul had put under God's care) unto Him against that day (obviously, the "Parousia") (2 Tim. 1:12).

And, finally, the wonderful hymn of Christian optimism:

"Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? ...

"For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come.

 

"Nor height, nor depth, NOR ANY OTHER CREATURE, SHALL BE ABLE TO SEPARATE US FROM THE LOVE OF GOD WHICH IS IN CHRIST JESUS OUR LORD" (Rom.

8:35,38,39).

The Apostle John emphasizes that this assurance is not presumption, but a sure and certain thing, so that to doubt it is to make God a liar:

"He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made Him a liar . . .

"And this is the record, THAT GOD HATH GIVEN TO US ETERNAL LIFE .          .

"These things have I written unto you that believe on the name of the Son of God; THAT YE MAY KNOW THAT YE HAVE ETERNAL LIFE" (1 Jn. 5:10,11,13) [5].

 

The Road to Damascus

 

IN September, 1948, I was promoted by my bishop to the chair of Special Dogmatic Theology in the Diocesan Seminary of Tarazona (Zaragoza). One year later I was also appointed as Magister Canon, that is, the official preacher in the Cathedral.

Up to that time, all doubts and difficulties which I had experienced with regard to many of the doctrines of the Roman Church which her subjects are taught and obliged to believe as "de fide divina" (by divine faith), I had managed to suppress. This had been achieved partly because of the immediate and unconditional submission which, under the penalty of excommunication, all true Romanists render to the definitions of the Councils and the decisions of the Popes, whose infallibility is a fundamental postulate of Roman Dogmatics [6].

However, when my professional studies of theology led me to the fundamental concepts which became the framework of Romanist theological conclusions, I found myself in many a cul-de-sac out of which I could find no exit. I therefore found I could not give satisfactory answers to my pupils' questions, nor was I able to solve my own intellectual problems.

I see now that there were two main reasons why I could not find the answer to my difficulties:

(A) Firstly because Romanist Theology, in trying to uncover the mysteries of faith, seeks above all to find scientific solutions for every theological problem. Thence, the effort which we, Professors of Dogmatics, had to make in order to satisfy, in some way, the persistent questions of our pupils. The Church of Rome forgets that faith does not require for its defence the metaphysical niceties of a pagan mind, such as that of Aristotle, but the acceptance of divinely revealed truth. To the "we know" of Nicodemus in his dialogue with Jesus, recorded in Jn. 3, the Lord does not reply with reasons to supplement the religious knowledge of the Rabbi, but immediately emphasizes the necessity of a "new birth" in order to be able to "see the kingdom of God" [7].

(B) Another main reason for my not being able to find a satisfactory answer to the doubts that filled my mind, the more I entered into theological theses, was the very inconsistency of many Roman dogmas, studied impartially in the light of the Bible and of the history of the primitive Church, that is, of the oldest and purest "tradition". I shall never forget the powerful effect made during a discussion which flared up at a public theological academy in the main hall of my Seminary in 1957. The subject was auricular confession and the penitential discipline of the first centuries. As the discussion was over, I came to the conclusion that the primitive Church did not practice the confession of every mortal sin to a priest as something absolutely necessary for salvation "by Divine Right", as the Council of Trent defined solemnly (v. Denzinger, no. 1707, formerly 917). If the auricular confession of every mortal sin is necessary for salvation by Divine Commandment, why did not the Church observe this commandment from the beginning? In fact, the practice of putting outside the Church those who offended grievously their Christian communities with some notorious crimes, and the practice of reconciling them after a period of probation, had nothing in common with the "Sacrament of Penance" [8].

So, I said to myself: where, then, is the infallibility of the Church? And, if the Church is not infallible in this particular subject of the confessional, how can I believe that she is infallible in other matters? Because the Roman system is so strongly bound together under the claims of an infallible and irreformable teaching, that if a particular dogma falls down at the evidence of the facts, the whole system must altogether fall down.

But, my discoveries with respect to the inconsistencies in Roman doctrines were, of necessity, as exceedingly slow for me as for any other Roman Catholic priest or layman, for the following reasons: (a) The false security that the Church of Rome seeks to impose on her subjects, that she alone is the repository of all Truth; which obliged us thus, to submit blindly, even in the face of the most serious theological difficulties. (b) The excommunication with which the Canon Law threatens all who dare to buy, sell, read, retain or pass on to others, "prohibited books", amongst which are included all which criticise and pass judgment on the dogmas of Rome. (c) The tendentious, and even slanderous, manner in which the doctrines and characters of the great Reformers of the sixteenth century were presented to us in the Manuals of Theology and History of the Roman Church. There are still Roman Catholics who believe that the Bible is a "Protestant" book, and who, upon hearing the term "protestant", believe it to be associated with heretics to be shunned, enemies, not only of the Church, but, above all, of the Virgin Mary, and even of Jesus Christ Himself; and who teaches doctrines so immoral as that "as long as you believe, you may sin as much as you want".

I do have to acknowledge, however, that during the last ten years, the Roman theologians and historians have been taking a more sympathetic approach to the persons of the Reformers of the sixteenth century. In the official organ of the Roman Catholic Missions in Spain, "Catolicismo" ("Catholicism") in its issue of June, 1961, the Roman priest Manuel de Unciti presented the person of Calvin with considerable impartiality to the point where it even appeared as a rehabilitation of this Reformer. The same author wrote rather on the same lines about Knox in a following issue of the same magazine. The strange thing about this further article is that the "weaknesses" of Cardinal Beaton and other high ecclesiastics of the Roman Church of the time are not glossed over.

Alongside the growing desire on the part of multitudes of Roman Catholics to know the Word of God, another encouraging sign is the foundation of Chairs of Protestant Theology in some Seminaries; and also the meeting together, openly or clandestinely, of Roman Catholics and Evangelicals in some Spanish localities (and even more so in other countries) in order to discuss mutual differences and Biblical foundations of the Christian faith, in a calm, peaceful and friendly manner. I know of evangelical preachers who have been allowed to proclaim the true Gospel in Roman Catholic churches, to the great satisfaction of all in attendance.

Returning to my own experiences I would add that, in view of the insoluble difficulties which the study of theology presented to my mind in the light of the Bible, and not having at my disposal truly Evangelical information, I began to slide down the slope of scepticism, towards religious agnosticism, with all the lamentable consequences of such a state, both in the intellectual and in the moral side.

On the other hand, from a child I had been brought up to the niceties of human behaviour and self-control by trusting in my own strength, trying always to do good deeds and obtain "merits" before God. From my childhood I had been taught, also, to flee to the Virgin Mary in moments of temptation or spiritual danger; whose intercession is presented by Romanist theologians not only as omnipotent, but also as more accessible and certain than that of our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. How contrary this is to such biblical passages like Jn. 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 4:16; 10:19-22, etc. But these passages were either unknown to us or overlooked in the Lectures of the Professors and in the addresses of our "Spiritual Directors".

Only later I realized, by the reading of evangelical literature and the unprejudiced study of the Bible, that: (a) The spiritual victory of a Christian is granted not upon his "efforts" or "merits", but upon his docility to the Spirit of God (v. Rom. 8:14); (b) we are not saved for being righteous, but as repenting and believing sinners, hanging only on God's mercy, saved by pure grace through faith, which is as well a pure gift of God (v. Rom. 3:21-28; Eph. 2:8,9) ; (c) we are justified by the bestowal upon us, sinners, of the righteousness of Christ, our Substitute on Calvary's Cross: "For He hath made Him to be sin for us, Who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Cor. 5:21). (d) We do not need any other Mediator but Christ, "for if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom. 5:10).

Even although I had turned my back on Him, God, from eternity, had had a merciful plan and purpose for me. There is an axiom in Roman Theology which says: "God abandons no man, unless that man first abandons God". But the Word of God tells us something very different: "I was found of them that sought me not; I was made manifest unto them that asked not for me" (Isaiah 65:1; Rom. 10:20). God is not only merciful, but also sovereign in His choice and gifts (Rom. 9:18). Whereupon, when, like Martin Luther, I had completely failed in my struggle for sanctification, and had become a religious agnostic (although not everything worked out for me, even intellectually, since there are certain things in the Gospels, such as the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, which I could not succeed to explain by natural reasoning), then it was that, like Saul, "kicking against the pricks" (Acts 9:5) and blaspheming the name of Jesus, I journeyed along my Damascus Road. Then it was that, without thinking of conversion, but by some mysterious design of Providence, came to my soul . . .

 

 

 

 

A Light from Above

 

TEN years before my spiritual experience, I had read in a Romanist magazine, "Cultura Biblica" ("Biblical Culture"), the name of a Spanish evangelical pastor, Rev. Don Samuel Vila. He was attacked for some remarks he made in his book "To the Fountain of Christianity" with reference to the brothers of Jesus.

After so many years, I still happened to remember the name of this pastor. But, how to find his address? Ten years ago, it was not easy for a priest to contact a Protestant minister. Another providential thing happened. As I was talking with a group of priests along the street in Tarazona, the conversation arose about a pastoral letter of Cardinal Segura against Protestants. "I think there is in Barcelona a Protestant pastor, whose name is Samuel Vila"--I said with circumspect timidity. "No"--the answer came immediately from one of my colleagues--"he lives in Tarrasa".

This is all I wanted to know. Immediately I went to the telephone directory, my eyes went down quickly: A, B, C, D. . . . Vila, Don Samuel: 113 Moragas Barret. This was the address I wanted. The next day I wrote him a letter describing with utter sincerity my spiritual problems.

Pastor Vila replied with a letter full of understanding, serenity, and unction of the Holy Spirit, in which he explained many of the fundamental truths of the Word of God, which nevertheless amazed me.

Against everything which I had supposed, Mr. Vila did not ask me to become a Protestant but told me candidly which was the real matter with me in the following terms:

"My dear friend: the solution of your spiritual problems does not lie in changing from one religious denomination to another, but IN A TRUE CONVERSION TO GOD THROUGH CHRIST. Your salvation depends purely and entirely on your reception, by faith, of Jesus Christ as your personal Saviour. Then, you must consider Christian life as a spiritual, intimate, idyl with Christ, for nobody ought to be called a Christian unless he or she could openly proclaim that the love of Christ has conquered in an irresistible manner his or her heart".

This was to me extraordinary. So these were the maligned Protestants!

Up until then, I was convinced that the justification of the sinner, and his personal salvation, consisted in the duty of keeping oneself in the baptismal grace, and, when necessary, recovering the same by means of an act of confession made to, and absolution received from, a fellowpriest. Like so many Roman Catholics, I did not understand how the sinner could be justified and saved simply by receiving Jesus Christ by faith, as his own personal Saviour. The poetic term "idyl" used by Vila in connection with Christ should have been familiar to me, since we have it in both Testaments. In the Old Testament, Yahweh (Jehovah) calls Himself the "Husband" of His people Israel (Is. 54:5; Jer. 3:14, etc.) and the Church is called the "Bride" of Jesus Christ (v. Mt. 22:2; Jn. 3:29; Eph. 5:23-32; Rev. 19:9; 21:2). And so I had no reason to be surprised. Nevertheless, accustomed as I was to the doctrine of the efficacy of the sacraments "ex opere operato" (that is to say, "by the very performance of the sacramental rite"), and to the spiritual coldness of the great mass of Roman Catholics in their personal relationship with Christ,

this manner of defining true Christianity was, in the truest sense of the word, a complete revelation to me.

I continued my correspondence with Pastor Vila, and, after the first letters I received, he sent me a great deal of chosen evangelical literature. I shall always remember the impression I received from the reading of such books like the above quoted "To the Fountain of Christianity", by Vila (a simple and thorough refutation of Roman dogmas in view of the Bible and the History of the primitive Church); "Evangelical Christianity along the centuries", by the same author; "Peace with God", by Billy Graham (a blessed book for many souls, although I do not agree with the author in his evangelistic methods and ecumenical mind); "Your Christian Life", by Pastor José M. Martínez of Barcelona; "A Great Protestant: The Apostle Paul", by the Spanish ex-priest José M. Rico Avila; the "Commentary on Romans", by W. Newell; the "Commentary on Hebrews", by J. Calvin; and the fascinating book "Christianity is Christ", by Prof. Griffith Thomas.

But the correspondence with Vila and the reading of these books stimulated me above all to devote myself to the detailed and assiduous study and meditation of the Word of God, accompanied by much prayer in which I sought abundant grace of the Holy Spirit to discover the real sense of the Word as He inspired it, to treasure it in my memory and heart, to live it through in my life and communicate it by my conversation and preaching. In a little over a year I read the whole Bible through twice and the New Testament many times. I also studied the best Romanist and Protestant commentaries.

I was soon enjoying the fruits of this very pleasant task. My students were often amazed at the pertinent and varied biblical references with which I supported my theological explanations.

As I say in the second part of this book, it takes many months and sometimes many years for a priest to change completely his mind, however converted he may be, because all the theological background accumulated from the childhood. This was one of the motives of my spiritual crisis in the years shortly following my conversion. But even so, from the very beginning, I saw with meridian clarity, for the first time, the falsity of many of the doctrines which are "dogmas" of faith in the Roman Church, and I could grasp immediately the main points of the message of salvation which constitute the kernel of the Reformed faith, although at that time I did not understand exactly the root of the matter, namely the problems of unity and authority of the Church.

Why had I not realised before the errors of the Roman Church? The answer is quite simple. A Roman Catholic brought up from childhood in the belief that the Church of Rome is the only true Church of Christ, and that she alone possesses the Truth, finds it an almost insuperable difficulty (even though he reads the Holy Bible) to be convinced that all the religious teaching he has received is contrary to the Word of God. This is especially true when he has been moulded in Roman Catholic Philosophy and Theology for thirteen years in a Seminary. There, he has been taught with insistence that the Roman Catholic Hierarchy alone is able correctly to interpret the Bible, since it is "the only really binding rule of faith", and it is enough for him to accept blindly, and without doubts, what the Hierarchy presents as "object of divine and catholic faith". On the other hand, should he be a person with an extremely sensitive conscience, he will not dare to listen to, or read, anything which questions the legitimacy of the authority which the Church claims for herself in matters of religion. To be saved he needs only "believe what the Holy Mother Church believes". This is what is called "implicit faith", --as if one could "believe for another". It is for this reason that a great number of Roman Catholics, and even the majority of the clergy, continue in the false doctrines of their Church, without ever opening their eyes to the pure truth of the Gospel. After all, why should they trouble to "search the Scriptures" (Jn. 5:39), and by so doing avoid exposing themselves to error, as Christ warned in Mt. 22:29, if all they have to do, according to the teaching of their Church, is to know and to acknowledge the decisions of the same Holy Mother Church who claims to be "the only true and sure rule of faith"?

But this ecclesiastical "rule of faith" which has produced the Denzinger or Manual of Symbols, Definitions and Declarations, containing the unappealable decisions of the Councils and of the Popes, in many of its teachings is contrary to the only rule of faith which is the Word of God, indisputable deposit of divine revelation. Where does the Word of God teach the doctrines of the Sacrifice of the Mass, the Transubstantiation, the obligatory auricular confession at the feet of a man, of Purgatory, the dogmas on the Virgin Mary, the infallibility of the Pope, all fundamental doctrines of the Roman Theology? Nowhere in Scripture. [9]

Let us give a brief summary which will convince anyone who has studied THE WHOLE OF SCRIPTURE without dogmatic prejudice, for there is no better interpreter of the Bible than the Bible itself (of course, by the guidance of the Holy Spirit) with its admirable network of references and parallel passages which mutually illuminate, interpret and explain each other. It is not lawful to take one loose Scriptural phrase and from it elaborate a dogma (even the devil can do this (v. Mt. 4:6; Lk. 4:10,11), when the whole weight of the message of God openly teaches the contrary. Let us take a few instances.

 

1. THE SACRIFICE OF THE MASS.

According to the Council of Trent, Christ offers Himself in every Mass, "by the ministry of priests", so that the salutary effects of Calvary may be applied as propitiation for the sins which we daily commit and as expiation for the departed souls who left this earth without having fully satisfied for their sins (v. Denz. 1739-1743, formerly 938-940, and 1751-1754, formerly 948-951).

But the Bible says : "But this man (Christ), after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God" (Heb. 10:12), meaning clearly by this highly symbolical sentence that He has totally finished His offering, since the priest must always stand while he is offering a sacrifice. Now the Holy Spirit goes on saying: "For by one offering he had perfected for ever them that are sanctified . . . Now where remissions of these (sins and iniquities--v. 17) is, there is no more offering for sin" (Heb. 10:14,18). Note here another two important things: (1) Believers are "perfected (Greek "teteleíoken") for ever", so that nothing can be added to the sacrifice on the Cross; (2) Because of this perfection, there can be no more sacrifices for sins.

What, then, must believers do to propitiate God for their daily sins, that is, to apply to themselves "the salutary effects of Calvary"? Only to "come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy" (Heb. 4:16), "having . . . boldness (Greek "parrhesía=familiar confidence to speak) to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus" (Heb. 10:19), Who is there always ready to intercede for any repenting believer: "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: AND HE IS THE PROPITIATION FOR OUR SINS" (1 Jn. 2:1,2).

Does it mean that we "Protestants" are without daily sacrifice or that the prophecy of Malachi (Mal. 1:11) on the universal sacrifice has no meaning at all? No! Paul tells us what is meant by the perennial sacrifice of believers. Romans 12:1 tells us: "I beseech you . . . that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto ,God, which is your reasonable service". And Hebrews 13:15 remarks: "Let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name". Thanksliving and thanksgiving (the true "Eucharist")! These are the perennial sacrifices of all believers! This is why Peter refers not to a special class of priest but to all Christian people, when he says of all believers: "a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people . . . of God" (1 Pet. 2:9). Note well that nobody in the New Covenant, except Christ, is called "hiereús" = priest [10].

 

2. TRANSUBSTANTIATION.

According to the Council of Trent, Christ is truly, really and substantially, with body, blood, soul and divinity, in the Sacrament of Eucharist, by virtue of the "singular change of the whole substance of the bread into the body and the whole substance of the wine into the blood" (Denz.

1651-1652, formerly 883-884).

The Bible teaches us that Jesus, having obtained eternal redemption for us, "entered in once into the holy place" (Heb. 9:12). This "holy place", or `tabernacle", is not the altar nor the "sacrarium" of Roman Churches, but Heaven itself (v. Heb. 4:14-16; 6:18-20; 8:1-4; 9:11, 12,24-28; 10:11-22), and from there HE WILL NOT DESCEND, CORPORALLY, until His Second Coming (compare the references cited with Acts 1:11 --“This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into Heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen Him go into Heaven".)

But, did He not say that He would remain with us for ever? Yes, by His Spirit: "It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you: but if I depart I will send Him unto you" (Jn. 16:7). It is His Spirit that He has left with us, and not His "flesh", and in order to dispel all misunderstanding, He Himself said: "The flesh profiteth nothing; the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life" (Jn. 6:63).

How, then, are we to understand the words, "This is My body"--"This is My blood" (Mt. 26:26,28, and other references), and also, "My flesh is meat indeed, and My blood is drink indeed" (Jn. 6:55)? In a figurative sense (a form of speech familiar to the Apostles), in order to express the truth that our salvation consists in "eating", or making our own, spiritually (Roman Theology admits that the Eucharistic Body of Jesus is not digested), and "drinking" in the same sense. This means that, as true believers, we eat by faith the Body of Christ broken for us on the Cross, just as we eat bread to nourish our physical bodies. This is the communion of the Body of Christ, and a symbol of His death ("shewing the Lord's death until He come" (1 Cor. 11:26). And we "drink" the blood of Christ, thus "making our own" the propitiation obtained for us by the shedding of His blood on Calvary. It is only in the light of Jn. 6:27-29,35,40,47 that we can understand the true meaning of "eat" and "drink" found in verses 51 ff. of the same chapter. It is faith alone, and not the eating of the bread and drinking of the cup, that gives "eternal life" (Jn. 3:16), and satisfies the spiritual hunger and thirst of man. Compare these two key-verses of Christ's sermon in Jn. 6 :

 

"I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst" (verse 35).

 

"Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink His blood, ye have (Greek "échete"--present tense) no life in you" (verse 53, in the Latin Vulgate, 54).

 

Christ's words clearly indicate a "necessity of means" (something absolutely necessary for salvation), whilst Roman Theology declares that the reception of the Eucharistic Sacrament is necessary by "necessity of commandment" (only because communion is commanded). It is clear, then, that Christ did not mean to command that His body should be eaten "literally", nor His blood "literally" drunk.

Finally, it is noteworthy that Jesus, after saying: "This is My blood", goes on to say: "I shall not drink again OF THE FRUIT OF 'THE VINE until I drink it new with you in the Kingdom of My Father" (Mt. 26:29; Mk. 14:25). But, according to Rome itself, there will not be sacramental communion in Heaven. Besides, if there should be such a thing as transubstantiation, Jesus could not have said "the fruit of the vine", but "My blood".

Speaking of the Lord's Supper, Paul repeatedly uses the words "bread" and "wine", in remembrance of the broken Body and the shed Blood (v. 1 Cor. 11:20, 23-29). The subterfuge of Roman Theology, that he spoke in this way because in the Sacrament the Body and Blood of Christ are contained under the "accidents" or appearances ("sub speciebus"--says the Council of Trent. V. Denz. 1652, formerly 884) of bread and wine, is to put into the divinely-inspired pen of the Apostle an error and inexactness that could only be found in the tendentious commentaries of Roman Catholic expositors [11].

 

3. AURICULAR CONFESSION.

I have quoted in a previous chapter the definition of Trent about the necessity to confess every single mortal sin to a priest. But, not once do we find such an obligation in the New Testament. Nor was it known to the primitive Church, as modern Roman theologians themselves admit. The New Testament speaks only of confessing our faults "one to another" (Jas. 5:16), and of forgiving one another (v. Mt. 5:24; 6:12; 18:15-35. The careful reading of this passage reveals that it does not refer to "the sacrament of Penance"), and of the disciplinary function that the local community and not a "priest" ought to exercise towards the believers (Mt. 16:19 and Jn. 20:23 must be interpreted in the light of Mt. 18:17,18).

The only confession necessary for the believer who may sin (and we all sin as we can see in 1 Jn. 1:8,10; Jas. 3:2) in order that our fellowship and full communion with the Lord be maintained and restored, must be made to God alone, through Christ, our Advocate:

"If we walk in the light (by faith--see Jn. 8:12)

...we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin.

"If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.

"If we CONFESS OUR SINS, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness".

"My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. AND IF ANY MAN SIN, WE HAVE AN ADVOCATE WITH THE FATHER, JESUS CHRIST THE RIGHTEOUS: "AND HE IS THE PROPITIATION FOR OUR SINS" (1 Jn. 1:7-9 and 2:1,2).

The only "mortal" sin, in the sense that it leads to eternal perdition (v. 1 Jn. 5:16), is to refuse to believe in Jesus (cf. 1 Jn. 5:1, with 1 Jn. 5:10-12; 16-18; and Jn. 3:18; 8:24; 9:41; 12:48; 15:24), and thus deliberately reject the light (cf. Mt. 12:32 and parallel Scriptures, with Jn. 3:19 and Heb. 6:4-8; 10:26,27--Scriptures which, through lack of Biblical perspective, the Manuals of Roman Theology find extremely difficult to interpret).

If there were Biblical authority for "auricular confession, with absolution from a priest", the most appropriate places to speak of it would be in Acts 8:22 (where the Apostle Peter calls to repentance, without mentioning the confessional), and Heb. 6:6 (where "to renew again unto repentance" is excluded as impossible unless there first be faith--not apparent or superficial, but authentic--vv. 4,5). However, in neither of these Scriptures do we find any mention of the so-called "priestly power of the keys in the Sacrament of Penance" [12].

 

4. DOCTRINE OF PURGATORY.

The Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory (as also that of indulgences, penances and sacramental satisfaction or expiation) is based upon the false assumption that, although sins as far as guilt is concerned, are pardoned, this is not always true in respect to the full punishment such as sins deserve ("dogma of faith" according to the Council of Trent. See Denz., 1712-1715, formerly 922-925).

This is in open contradiction to the New Testament. Hebrews 10:12-18 assures us that Christ, by offering one sacrifice for sins for ever, put away our sins, never more to remember them, and opened for us the way to heaven (see also 9:28). We are told in Rom. 8:1 that there is now "no condemnation", or guilt to be expiated, since Christ has nailed to the Cross the complete list of all our debts to the Law (Col. 2:14) and God laid all the punishment which our sins merited (Is. 53:5) upon the shoulders of His Son, so that we might be entirely cleansed and clothed in the very righteousness of Christ Himself (2 Cor. 5:21).

In a few words: It is impossible for God to demand payment twice for the same debt. Very well--Jesus Christ on the Cross paid the full debt of our sins. So, for God to demand a supplementary payment would be blasphemy against Christ, and slanderous to those whom Christ has washed in His own blood (Rev. 1:5; 3:5; 7:9,13,14; 19:8; 22:14).

This is true not only for those who accept Christ for the first time, by faith in His redemption, but for those who are already justified, since John says of them : "The blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us FROM ALL SIN" (1 Jn. 1:7), and repeats it in verse 9: "AND TO CLEANSE US FROM ALL UNRIGHTEOUSNESS"). On the other hand, we have the following facts: (a) The beggar of Luke 16:22, like the dying thief of Luke 23:43, does not go to Purgatory. (b) The Apostle Paul speaks of "being absent from the body" (to die) as meaning the same as being "present with the Lord" (2 Cor. 5:8). (c) The Holy Spirit Himself says in Rev. 14:13 that "the dead which die in the Lord", that is, all the faithful, are "blessed from henceforth", and "that they may rest from their labours"; and that "their works do follow them". I do not believe that any Roman Catholic would dare to call Purgatory "a place of rest".

It is hard to understand how modern theologians, such as L. Ott, continue to cite passages of Scripture such as Mt. 5:26; 12:32; 1 Cor. 3:12,13 in favour of Purgatory [13].

 

5. THE DOCTRINE OF MARY

If an average Roman Catholic (above all in such countries like Spain) were asked what was his idea of a Protestant, he would say, "He is a heretic who believes that, provided that you have faith, you can do whatever you like, and who does not believe in the Pope nor in the Virgin Mary".

About five years ago, in Belfast, as a Protestant, I preached one of my sermons on "The true Glories of Mary". I showed that, according to the Scriptures, Mary was a model of faith, humility, submission, generosity, tenderness, constancy, knowledge of the Scriptures, prayer, meditation, etc. There is presented to us in the Word of God a beautiful picture of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the Reformers in no wise sought to belittle her true greatness or her high privilege. If Protestants in general tend to make too little mention of Mary, it is a natural caution against the exaggerated and non-Biblical place accorded to her by the Church of Rome.

The corrupted doctrines about Mary began with a misunderstanding of the human generation of the Son of God from Mary. Against Nestorius, who conceived the distinction of the two natures in Christ as a dual personality and so denied Mary the title of "Mother of God", the Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431) defined: "If anyone do not confess that Emmanuel is truly God and the blessed Virgin therefore Mother of God (Greek "Theotókos") because she bore according to the flesh the Word of God made flesh, --anathema sit" (Denz., 252, formerly 113). Although the statement might appear to be correct, the theological conclusions in Roman Theology have overlooked that Mary is mother of Christ only "according to the flesh" and have emphasized the maternal relationship of Mary with the Son of God as far as to exalt Mary above all creation and inside the trinitarian hypostatic order, with all the most blasphemous consequences.

If we realize that the dogmatic definition of the Divine Motherhood of Mary was pronounced in Ephesus, after the massive entrance of heathen into the Church, it will be clear the connection of this declaration with the cult of Diana (v. Acts 19:34). So, from the beginning, we can see the title of "Mother of God" in conjunction with the influence of paganism with its feminine deities (cf. "Queen of Heaven" in the Litany, with the Roman hymns to Vesta, and "the Queen of Heaven" in Jer. 44:17-19,25), giving increasing occasion to the greatest errors.

Thus: (A) while Jesus in the Gospels reiterates that salvation and sanctification are dependent upon a spiritual, and not a carnal, relationship with Himself (v. Mat. 12:48-50; Mk. 3:33-35; Lk. 11:27,28), Roman Theology claims that, because she was the mother of Jesus according to the flesh, Mary was holy, sinless, immaculate and ascended to Heaven. Furthermore, the Roman Hierarchy continues to permit the publication and distribution of Alphonso Liguori's famous book, "The Glories of Mary" which is full of statements contrary to Bible teaching and a blasphemy against the unique Mediation of Christ. In the same way, they still permit extreme Mariologists to assert that since Mary belongs to an "order" superior to that of "Redemption", she was, therefore, sanctified originally and primarily, not by the Blood of Christ shed on Calvary, but by virtue of the superior grace of her Divine Motherhood, and thus she could be, with Christ, CoRedeemer of the rest of mankind. This opinion is directly opposed even to the particular formula in the dogmatic definition of the Immaculate Conception ("she was preserved immune from all stain of original sin, in view of the merits of Christ Jesus the Saviour of the human race", --Denz., 2803, formerly 1641), but on this point the Hierarchy is silent, in accordance with the proverb: "De Maria nunquam satis" ("Enough can never be said about Mary").

(B) Rom. 3:9-31 and 5:12-18 make it very clear that there is no human being without sin, and the only means by which one may be freed from sin is faith (cf. Lk. 1:45 --"Blessed is she that believed"--says Elizabeth of Mary--), and Heb. 4:15; 7:26 confirm the uniqueness of Christ as being "like as we are, yet without sin", and, therefore, the only One who is able to intercede before God on our behalf (1 Jn. 2:1,2), and the only One by Whose Name we can be saved (Acts 4:12); in a word, "the only Mediator between God and man" (1 Tim. 2:5). Again, Jesus emphatically repudiated all interference on the part of His mother in matters relative to the work of Redemption--in which matters He was subject to His heavenly Father alone (v. Lk. 2:48-50; Jn. 2:3,4).

(C) The dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption imply an anti-Biblical anticipation of the second coming of Christ. Besides all this, there are theologians who assert that the Virgin Mary did not die, and the Hierarchy permits this, even against the clear teaching of Romans 5:12; 6:3-8; 8:11, etc.... It is pointless to cite texts such as Gen. 3:15, based upon a tendentious translation of the Latin Vulgate or upon a fanciful interpretation of the word "woman", and Lk. 1:28 (from the term "kecharitoméne", as if this verb implied "fulness of sanctifying grace, both intensive and extensive"--fully and always--when Paul uses exactly the same verb in Eph. 1:6, "echarítosen", for all believers).

(D) Mary's privilege, as mother of the Lord, according to the flesh, does not grant her entrance into "the trinitarian hypostatic order", such as Roman theologians affirm, nor any authority over her Son, Who is God as well as divinely appointed Saviour (in opposition to Denz., 3370, formerly 1978a, and 3915). Although Rome reiterates that the exaltation of Mary does not detract from the unique mediation of Christ, this is denied in practice when Rome exhorts her subjects to seek refuge in the bosom of the Virgin Mary, even going as far as to say that righteousness belongs to Christ, and mercy to Mary. In this way, Rome countenances the blasphemous statements of Liguori that: "There are some petitions which are sought of Christ, and not received, but when asked of Mary, are granted", "If my Redeemer rejects me, I will cast myself at the feet of Mary", "Our Lady, we have no other advocate in Heaven but thee". This is in open contradiction to Acts 4:12; Heb. 4:15,16; 1 Jn. 2:1,2, etc. The most dangerous side of all these blasphemies lies in that it can lead many souls to a lost eternity, by allowing multitudes of Roman Catholics, ignorant of the Bible, to be persuaded that they can be saved apart from true conversion, as long as they wear a scapulary, say the Rosary, or even only three "Hail Marys" before retiring at night, take Communion on five consecutive first Saturdays, etc. [14]

 

6. THE SUPREME, INFALLIBLE AUTHORITY OF THE POPE

In effect, the two most fundamental doctrines of the Church of Rome are: the universal Primacy of papal jurisdiction, in accordance with the definition of Boniface VIII and of the First Vatican Council, and the Pope's pretension to "infallibility" when speaking "ex cathedra", that is, "when, fulfilling his duty as Supreme Pastor and Teacher of all Christians, he, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the universal Church" (Denz., 3074, form. 1839).

What Bible texts does Rome bring forward in support of so great a pretension? There are three:

(A) Mat. 16:18,19. From these verses Rome claims that the Pope, as Peter's successor, is the "rock" of the Church: that he has "the keys" (all power over her) and can "bind and loose" all the human affairs in connection with religion and morals and the whole relationship between God and men. The New Testament, however, makes it clear to us that the only corner-stone of the Church is Christ, as Augustine points out (v. Tractatus in Joannem 124,5; and this is the teaching, too, of the majority of the so-called "Holy Fathers"). Peter, too, bears witness to this (1 Pet. 2:4,5); whilst the "Twelve" Apostles are the foundation (upon this "rock" Christ) of the Church because of their unique kind of witness and preaching (v. Acts 1:22; 1 Cor. 3:10,11; Eph. 2:20-22; Rev. 21:14).

Peter used the "keys" of the Kingdom (not of the Church) in a special way on the Day of Pentecost, to open the door of the Kingdom of God to the Jews, and again, in the home of Cornelius (Acts 10) to give admittance to the Kingdom to the first "Gentile" (name given to those not belonging to the "chosen people", Israel).

According to rabbinical jargon, "to bind or to loose" refers to the power of the Jewish scribe to apply the "Law" in particular cases (today we would say, to establish "jurisprudence" or "law"), in order to permit or prohibit, or admit or exclude, from the community. Mt. 18:18; Jn. 20:23 show that this is not the privilege of a "hierarchical power", but the common function of the Church. As in Jn. 9:34,35, it has often been the case that Jesus is very close to those whom the "Hierarchy" excommunicates.

(B) Luke 22:32. Here Christ does not promise to Peter any "infallibility" whatsoever. On the contrary, He predicts Peter's "fallibility", and commissions him to encourage and strengthen his brethren in the faith, after having learned from his own experience that conviction of sin and personal weakness are the best ground to prepare a man for preaching to others the message of salvation from a God merciful towards the most miserable of sinners.

(C) John 21:15-17. Here, Jesus does not confer upon Peter any supreme papal jurisdiction over the whole Church but, rather, restores him to the office of pastoring, not Peter's flock, but Christ's (v. also 1 Pet. 5:2-4), after his three-fold affirmation to love Christ more than the others precisely because he had denied Him three times, having vehemently assured Christ beforehand that "though all men shall be offended because of Thee, yet will I never be offended" (Mt. 26:33; Mk. 14:29).

That Peter never officiated as Supreme Head of the Church is clearly seen from references such as Acts 11, where he gives a report and excuses himself; Acts 15, where it is James (not Peter) who presides over the Council of Jerusalem; Acts 18:14, where Peter is sent by others on a certain mission (the first Pope acting as "Apostolic Delegate"?); 1 Cor. 1:10-12; 3:3-6 (in the latter reference Peter is not even mentioned), when Paul could most easily have settled the discussions by appealing to an "infallible papal Head"; Gal. 2:11, when a subordinate would appear to be insolent to the "Pope" and says to him, "if thou, being a Jew", when it would have been more to the point to add "and the visible Head of the Church"; Eph. 4:4-6, where Paul does not mention Peter among the seven bonds of Christian unity, in spite of the Roman teaching that the Pope is "the root and the kernel of Church's unity"; etc.

Finally, Peter was neither Bishop of Rome (Paul does not mention him either writing to Rome or writing from Rome), nor had he successors (because the Apostles were not "bishops", nor had they successors, since their task was unique), neither did the Bishop of Rome claim for himself the title "Universal Bishop" until the beginning of the 7th century, and that as an indirect result or by--product of political circumstances which favoured the gradual predominance of the Roman See [15].

 

There is only One Gospel

 

IT must not be supposed from what I have already written that doubts and perplexities disappeared immediately and entirely from my heart. In the crisis which comes during the experience of conversion, a certain guilt complex is psychologically possible by fear of leaving the only true "fold" and one is tempted not to complicate life and to continue the old comfortable habits and beliefs followed by our forebears, our comrades and friends in our familiar surroundings. In these moments of indecision the helpers of Satan are ever at hand to advise one to conform to the usual pattern and thus to hinder rather than help. Sometimes, you can find among those helpers of Satan people who have passed through the same experience but who do not bother even to reply to a letter or to stimulate an incipient conversion.

How many times in the midst of doubts and fears I cried to the Lord and prayed: Father, do not permit me to take a wrong road at this crucial time in my life! Do not allow me to be the victim of some mirage nor to be guided subconsciously by unworthy motives! I want only to choose for Thy greater service and glory, my own salvation and sanctification, and for a brighter testimony to Jesus and the Gospel!

I waited even for a miracle from Heaven that would confirm me in the decision I was contemplating of leaving the ranks of Romanism.

This miracle never happened, but suddenly I remembered the passage in the Gospel where Jesus explains the parable of Dives and Lazarus. When the rich man in hell insisted that Abraham should allow Lazarus to rise from the dead and preach repentance to the five brothers he still had in the world and who lived the same life of sin which he had himself led, Abraham replies:

 

"If they hear not Moses and the Prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead" (Lk. 16:31).

 

Therefore, neither did I need miracles, for I had "the Law and the Prophets", that is to say--the Word of God. Did I not then have enough to test whether or not my new ideas were true to God, or against His will? Whether it was inspiration from heaven or the suggestion of the devil? But, was it enough? Should it not be wiser to listen to the teaching authority of the Church, as Roman Theology states?

Then I opened the Holy Bible in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles and read the following in chapter 17, verse 11:

 

"These (the Bereans) were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the Word with all readiness of mind, and SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, WHETHER THOSE THINGS WERE SO".

 

So, even the preaching of an Apostle could be tested according to the Bible by a group of Jewish laymen, who at that time were not even Christians!

There was no doubt! Holy Scripture is the only touchstone by which to test any doctrine that calls itself "Christian" whether it is so in fact. Where was then the Christianity of the Church of Rome, with so many doctrines different from and even contrary to the Bible? Were they merely theological super-structures added to the Gospel, but without affecting its kernel?

Once more I opened my Bible, this time at the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, and read verses 8 and 9 of the first chapter:

 

"If we or an angel from heaven, preach ANY OTHER GOSPEL (Greek "par'hó", that is, "different", "alongside", not "contrary") unto you than that which we have preached unto you, LET HIM BE ACCURSED (Latin: "anathema sit").

"As we said before, so say I now again, if any man preach ANY OTHER GOSPEL unto you than that ye have received, LET HIM BE ACCURSED".

 

Were the Galatians denying straightaway the very kernel of the Gospel, which is Justification by Faith? No! But they added certain works of the Law; circumcision, for example (read carefully the whole of chapter 3 of the same epistle). The Church of Rome does similarly: it does not deny Calvary, but adds the Mass; it does not deny faith, but demands "works" for justification and, above all, for final salvation; it does not deny the mediation of Christ, but adds that of Mary; it does not deny the expiation of sins in the Cross, but adds the expiation of Purgatory, etc. And all these additions change the Gospel, making Roman Theology to be "another Gospel", just as it happened with the Galatians. For the Word of God suffers as much when taken away from (as Modernism does) [16] as when added to (as Roman Church does), since for it to be "the Word of God" it has to be WHOLLY and SOLELY the Word of God (Rev. 22:18,19 and many other passages), because God has only ONE WORD: THE WORD! (Jn. 1:1,14,18). And, with what the Word (Christ) has spoken, afterwards made clear to the Apostles by the Holy Spirit (Jn. 16:12-14), God's revelation has been completed "in these last days" (Heb. 1:1-3).

The Church cannot arrogantly claim to be "the continuation of the Incarnation" (Vatican II, Dogmat. Const. on the Church, point 8), with the object of proclaiming new doctrines under the pretext that they are a "growth" by which "the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth", and so on, to the extent of stating, even in contradiction of Heb. 1:1,2-"God, who spoke of old, UNINTERRUPTEDLY CONVERSES WITH THE BRIDE OF HIS BELOVED SON" (Vatican II, Dogm. Const. on Divine Revelation, point 8). The mission of the Church is to transmit, without adding to, taking away from or altering, the message of "the faith which was once delivered unto the saints" (Jude 3). What would we say of a telegraphist who dared to alter the wording of a telegram in order to "explain" it, or "make it grow", adding something to its meaning?

After these considerations, it can be seen how mistaken is the Church of Rome in claiming that she alone is the possessor of the whole truth, allowing that other religious faiths conserve "many elements of sanctification and of truth. . . . These elements, however, as gifts properly belonging to the Church of Christ (meaning the Roman Church), possess an inner dynamism toward Catholic unity" (Vatican II, Dogm. Const. on the Church, pt. 8). This last phrase means, neither more nor less, than the Church of Rome does not recognise any "Ecumenism" other than the assimilation of the other Confessions of Faith by an organization (the Church of Rome herself) that puts forth ANOTHER GOSPEL. How, then, can we talk about "a mutual approach"? Let this be borne in mind by the ignorant or the unwary, who are carried away by the pomp, propaganda and outward splendour of an extremely powerful organization which is as humanly visible as it is visibly human. A true "ecumenical dialogue" can never be spoken of until the day Rome agrees to a confrontation on the basis of a higher final authority, and valid for both parties, as is the Word of God, only deposit of all truth. But that day will never come, since Rome refuses to give up its claim that she is the only authentic interpreter of the Bible, and so a vicious circle is created from which escape is impossible.

Coming back to the passage in Gal. 1:8,9, in which Paul, divinely inspired, pronounces the "curse" or "anathema" on all who preach and accept ANOTHER GOSPEL, I must say that I did not want to come under such an "anathema". I was unwilling to bring upon myself the only true "anathema" or "excommunication", which God alone can pronounce! And so, fearing not the vain "anathemas" of men (let them call themselves what they will), I continued to hold fast to the Word of God alone, and to do this, I had to decide to come out of the ANOTHER GOSPEL, knowing full well that this would mean for me to automatically incur the penalty of excommunication which the Roman Canon Law inflicts upon "heretics" or "apostates".

 

A Nefarious Principle has become the Leaven of Corruption

 

ALL those who have studied in detail the essence of Roman Theology and the radical difference between it and the Reformed Faith will have realised that, whilst evangelical doctrine proposes the direct personal relation between God and man, the Roman Church demands the need for an intermediary organisation with a triple mediation:

 

(1) The Holy Spirit, according to the Word of God, leads believers into a right interpretation of the Biblical message of salvation (v. Jn. 16:13, and compare with Acts 2:17 and 1 Jn. 2:20,27), since all are kings, priests and prophets (1 Pet. 2:9), with no distinction between "laity" and "clergy" (see 1 Pet. 2:10 in the original Greek, and compare with 1 Pet. 5:3). On the other hand, Rome asserts that the message of the Bible is not binding as "object of divine faith" unless it is authenticated by the "infallible" teaching of the Hierarchy (v. Denz., 3011, formerly 1792). Rome excommunicates even those who dare to read a Bible which does not have the accompanying "explanatory" notes or bear the "imprimatur" of the Hierarchy [17], unless permission to do so has been received.

 

(2) According to the Bible, the forgiveness of sins is the direct result of faith in the blood shed on Calvary. Salvation is given gratis to every believing and repenting sinner (v. Mk. 1:15; Acts 8:22; 16:31; Heb. 4:16; 1 Jn. 2:1,2), but Rome insists that the forgiveness of sins cannot be granted to a baptized person fallen into "mortal" sin but through the intervention of "the power of the keys". That is to say, no sins whatever (after baptism) are forgiven which are not confessed at the feet of a man especially appointed for that purpose. However true a believer and however repentant he may be, he goes to hell, according to Rome, unless he declares each and every one of his "mortal" sins to a confessor. This is divine forgiveness subordinated to the whims of a man!

 

(3) The justification of a sinner which, the Bible says, is "by grace …. through faith" (Eph. 2:8), and the progressive sanctification by the guidance of the Holy Spirit ("For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" --Rom. 8:14), cannot be obtained, according to Rome, without the mediation of the sacraments. These are supposed to work by the very performance of the sacramental rite, which consists only of valid matter, valid formula and internal intention of the priest administering the sacrament. This makes the application of redemption accomplished on Calvary to depend entirely on a material element, acting like a magic charm. A sacrament is valid--says Roman Theology--even when neither the priest, nor the person who receives the sacrament, have faith! This is the cause of the preponderance of ritualism in the Roman Catholic Religion, since its adherents are used to think that, provided they go to the confessional, to the communion, etc., it does not matter so much how truly do they believe and repent.

 

To get some idea of the dogmatical evolution that the Church of Rome has accomplished throughout the centuries, resulting in its present doctrinal system so far removed from the Gospel, the following facts must be taken into account:

 

(A) From the beginning of the 2nd century, various streams of Greek philosophical thought began to make their way into the Church, favouring the so-called in recent times "Incarnational view of the Church", by which Christ, as Head of the Church, identifies Himself in all His attributes with the Body, which is the Church itself. At the same time, pagan philosophies were being mixed with the divinely revealed message and the natural human capacities were put in such a level that contrasted with "the foolishness of the Cross" and "the incapability of the natural man to discern spiritual things", which Paul proclaimed with such emphasis in 1 Cor., chaps. .1 and 2.

(B) From the beginning of the 3rd century, and especially with the great influx of Gentiles into the Church when Constantine proclaimed Christianity as "the official State religion", doctrines, customs, and rites of pagan origin began to be introduced into the Church, and, above all, a "priestly caste" (as reminiscence of levitical priesthood and as adoption of pagan rites), and, consequently, the sacrifice of the Mass, the concept of a supplementary expiation, prayers to and cult of the departed, etc. After the "priestly" power came an increased "episcopal" power, and, finally, the "papal" power, culminating in the absolutism of Innocent III, with his famous assertion: "God has given me the mitre as the sign of spiritual power, and the tiara as the sign of temporal power".

 

(C) The greatest doctrinal corruption occurs in the so-called "Christianization" of Aristotle, effected by Thomas Aquinas, and by which the philosophical system of pagan Aristotle (considered to be a rationalist, and even an atheist by the early "Fathers of the Church", Augustine among them) becomes the basis and cultural structure of "Scholastic" Theology, still valid in the Church of Rome (v. ;Denz., 3892-3894, formerly 2320-2323).

How was it possible that "the oppositions of science falsely so called, which some professing have erred from the faith" (1 Tim. 6:20,21) could be introduced into the teachings of the Church, like a fatal leaven which has corrupted the whole system? How has human reasoning been able to make so spurious a mixture with the Word of God?

It was Thomas Aquinas who tried to solve this problem by introducing a deadly principle. We can find it in his "In Boëthium de Trinitate", quest. 2, art. 3, obj. 5. After his own peculiar method, he himself raises the objection that to mix the revealed truth with the philosophical concepts is something similar to mix wine (Word of God) with water (human reasoning), and he replies: "It is not to mix water with wine, but to convert water into wine" (perhaps he alluded to the miracle of Cana).

To understand the meaning of the Word of God, and, by assimilating it, bring forth spiritual fruit, it is obvious that we must use a heart and mind moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit. But we cannot pretend that the theological conclusions we draw from the objective content of the Divine Revelation by analytical reasoning may be raised to the category of "dogmas", or "object of divine faith", since the "water" of human reason can never be transformed into the "wine" of divine faith [18].

In order to bring about this sham miracle of a rational "transformation" of the revealed word, the Church of Rome has employed another method, no less spurious and corruptive of the faith: it is the allegorical interpretation of the Scriptures, in accordance with the Alexandrian method of exegesis which spread rapidly in the West. If the Bible can be made to say what one wants it to say, or what suits one's opinions, by an allegorical interpretation of its literal content, then in order to avoid the "scandalous error that all Christians should be able to read the Holy Scriptures" (Denz., 2485, formerly 1435, when condemning P. Quesnel's proposition 85), the most natural thing is to appeal to an "infallible teaching authority", and to a "Tradition", of which the Pope claims to be the only authentic interpreter.

By this I refute what I myself wrote seventeen years ago in the pamphlet "The New Theology in the Light of the Encyclical 'Humani Generis' (Synthesis of exposition and refutation)"--Tarazona, 1952 [19].

My readers will forgive me if I have enlarged upon my principal arguments in a way that may appear to be too "metaphysical". I have felt obliged to do this because I am convinced that it is of the greatest importance, if the deviation in the evolutionary process of Roman dogmas is to be understood.

Once the process I have sought to explain is understood, it is then easier to comprehend how the Church, sometimes making use of the "intellective" system of procedure, and at other times, the "affective" (so-called "senses Ecclesiæ" ) system, has reached a solemn dogmatic definition of doctrines as anti-Biblical as those mentioned under the heading "A LIGHT FROM ABOVE". To pretend that it deals with a "homogeneous" evolution similar to the development of a seed into a leafy, luxuriant tree, is to be ignorant both of Botany and of Revelation.

Another notable aspect of this Roman deflection, although only contributory (external details also have their significance) is the ostentation and authoritativeness of the Roman hierarchy, more fitting to feudal lords (before whom the vassal bows the knee) than to "servants (ministers) of the servants of God" and ministers of the meek, humble and guileless Jesus. Peter, the so-called "first Pope", thought and behaved in a very different way. In his First Epistle, chap. 5:1-4, he expresses himself in the following manner:

 

"The elders (Greek "presbytéros") which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder (not "the Pope")

"Feed the flock of God (v. Jn. 21:15-17) …taking the oversight thereof…

"Neither as being lords over God's heritage (Greek "klerôn"!), but being ensamples to the flock.

"And when the chief Shepherd shall appear (Christ, not the Roman Pontiff"), ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away".

 

And, when Cornelius, upon receiving a visit from Peter, fell down at his feet, and worshipped him, the same so-called "first Pope" hastened to raise him up, saying:

"Stand up; I myself also am a man" (Acts 10:26).

Peter had not forgotten the exhortations of the Master (v. Matt. 20:25-28; 23:2-11; Jn. 13:1-17). I would humbly beseech all Popes, Cardinals, Bishops, etc., carefully to read and meditate upon the passages which have been cited, and to put them into practice daily, and not be content with the routine of the yearly rite of feet-washing on Holy Thursday.

I want to conclude this chapter by saying that the most urgent thing we evangelicals hone for, and desire from the Church of Rome is a greater understanding of the principles of Reformation, a better comprehension of our spiritual position according to the Word of God, and freedom to preach the pure Gospel in accordance with Christ's command to "testify" to His Person and message throughout all the world (Acts 1:8). As Christians and Spaniards, we cannot but feel wounded in spirit that the recent Law on religious liberty, proclaimed in 1967, should so identify the Roman Catholic religion with the "Spanish nation", as to continue committing the same grave and injurious error of Menéndez Pelayo, viz.: "One cannot be a good Spaniard without being a Catholic". The criminals who fill Spanish prisons, or are listed in police files as undesirable characters, are they, by chance, Protestants? Let us remember what is the Word of God for all true Christians:

 

"Let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men's matters.

"Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf" (1 Pet. 4:15,16).

 

He who is sure he possesses the truth has no need to fear religious liberty (which holds us responsible before God, but admits of no compulsion on the part of man, because faith is "essentially a free act", in accordance with Roman Theology, and a liberating gift--a gift which brings true liberty--in accordance with John's Gospel, 8:32).

Truth is not afraid of the light nor fears the outward profession of a religious belief, but the darkness of ignorance and the shadows of prejudice. Let both civil and ecclesiastical authorities in Roman countries ponder the wise words of a young professor of philosophy in a certain Spanish university: "He who tries to close all the doors to the entrance of error runs the risk of also closing the door of truth". (This, by the way, was the utterance of a Roman Catholic.) The wise counsel of Gamaliel should be heeded:

"Refrain from these men and let them alone: for if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought.

"But if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God" (Acts 5:38,39).

 

Union with Rome?

 

THE present section is perhaps rather outside the scope of my present writing, but I believe the subject to be of importance and interest to my readers.

I am of the opinion that a real approach to Rome is impossible, and after reading the previous pages my readers will no doubt agree. Unity with any belief which does not have as its basis the rule of faith of Holy Scripture is impossible. Now the Church of Rome not only claims to have two rules of faith ("remote" =Divine Revelation; "proximate"--the only which really binds--the teaching authority of the Church), but also two "sources" of Divine Revelation (Holy Scripture and the Apostolic Tradition). Ultimately, the teaching authority of the Church, centered round the Pope, is the only rule of faith and morals binding the consciences of all Roman Catholics. Hence the necessary intervention of the ecclesiastical Hierarchy in all matters appertaining to salvation. THIS IS THE BARRIER which radically distinguishes Romanism from Reformed Christianity.

This pretension of the Church of Rome to be the ultimate, immediate, rule of faith and the only authentic interpreter of the divinely revealed truth is manifestly anti-Biblical, since the Word of God makes it clear that the Holy Spirit teaches and leads to the divine truth all true believers, without discrimination (v. Is. 54:13; Jn. 6:45; 1 Jn. 2:20,27). The whole "Church of the living God is the pillar and ground of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15), and the whole Church must be submitted to the divine truth. Since the Church of Rome has departed from the "Sola Scriptura" ("The Bible alone"), it is obvious that any return to Rome or attempt at reconciliation with her is a treasonable act against the principles of the Reformation for it is an approach, NOT TOWARDS THE TRUTH, BUT TOWARDS APOSTACY.

I believe, therefore, that the position taken up by the World Council of Churches with its pretended "Ecumenism" is false, dangerous and anti-Biblical. Every genuine Evangelical, true to the principles of the Reformation (which are also those of the Bible) cannot fail to see that it is impossible to seek unity on the basis of denying or avoiding such fundamental truths as the Deity of Christ, the historic character of the Bible miracles, the infallible authority of Scripture, and the verbal inspiration of the Bible.

The true basis of Christian unity is established by the Bible itself (v. Jn. 17:21; Eph. 4:1-16; 1 Cor. 10:17, etc. --See the 2nd Part of this book, under the heading "THE DARK NIGHT OF THE SPIRIT"), without the need of a "Programme of minimum truths" to be agreed, for such a programme can only be valid if it is foursquare on Scripture, legitimately interpreted. If it is not so based, no true Christian can accept it. There have been lamentable compromises at the New Delhi Congress (1961), probably due to a mistaken concept of the "Church". In imitation of the Roman Church it is proposed to establish a "visible organization" which united "Christians" can join to make a show of force to counterbalance the notorious impact which Rome makes on all who give importance to outward show, and measure success in numbers and material categories.

Nevertheless, it should be remembered that the Bible states quite categorically that the Spirit of God breathes the force of life on the small, the ignorant in the eyes of the world, those without outward splendour. The Apostles were a very small group, they had neither eloquence, arms nor money, yet they turned the world upside down, allowing themselves to be led by the Holy Spirit. He transformed them into preachers with power, courageous before the Jewish and Roman authorities, and declared enemies of procrastination, half-tones and compromises, or "minimum programmes" by which they might have saved their temporal lives, but for them we should still be groaning under the darkness of paganism.

Prof. Hendriksen wisely warns in his commentary on John's Gospel: "Believers should always yearn for peace, but never for peace at the expense of truth, for "unity" which has been gained by means of such a sacrifice is not worthy of the name" (italics his) [20].

These remarks were written in 1962. After the 2nd Vatican Council, things have changed, not for the better, but for the worse. With its "incarnational" line (v. Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, point 8), Rome emphasizes now more than ever before that she is the only full reservoir of means of salvation, although stating, on the other hand, that all men of "good will" can attain to everlasting salvation (v. the same document, point 16).

Unfortunately, many Protestants, in agreement with the "incarnational" point of view of Rome, pretend a reunion in the midway, without realising that Rome does not want nor can move one step from the crystallised "dogmas", so that Ecumenism as favoured by Rome only means total submission to Rome, that is, simply a return to the one "fold".

As I pointed out in my address at the Annual Meeting of the Evangelical Protestant Society in Belfast, in September, 1968, the "New Theology" of the Ecumenical Movement involves three corrupted currents of thought in every side: (A) In the social side, it involves "social salvation". If we read the documents of Vatican II, as well as the famous Dutch "New Catechism" or the booklets edited by the World Council of Churches, we find immediately the emphasis on the "social" side of salvation. According to the "New Catechism", all men can share in the blessings of Jesus' redemption by the fact that they have been born and can make their lives whole by sufferings and death. The Catechism states that we can "believe for others". I found the same statement in the letter to the Editor of an English periodical from a Protestant minister, and he quoted 1 Cor. 7:14 in support of his statement! Now, a social salvation favours a corporate and visible organization of the Church, and this leads to a bureaucratic and hierarchical structure. Social salvation leads to Roman Catholicism.

(B) In Biblical matters, we have Modernism. Only ten years ago I could not imagine that Roman Biblical scholars could be involved in Biblical Modernism. But in recent years High Criticism and Bultmanian "demythologizing" system have entered into the Roman Church, in spite of all efforts of the Roman Curia and the opposition from the conservative wing. Everything supernatural is taken away. Manuals of Theology and Philosophy, after the triumph of the evolutionist Jesuit French Teilhard de Chardin, are drawing farther and farther the line of providential intervention in human affairs. Historical, miraculous facts in the Bible are considered as a legendary decoration of a vague message of salvation. Roman priests begin to deny a personal God in a more advanced way than that of J. Robinson in his "Honest to God". From the objective truth of the Bible we are moving to a "humanism" in which only subjective feelings matter. But we men cannot live without objective ground. If we deny the authority of the Divine Message, we must go to the message of human authority.

So Modernism leads also to the teaching authority of the Roman Church.

(C) Last, but not least, in the philosophical side, we have Existentialism. Existentialism places pure existence, pure freedom, vital decisions, as the only human values. Nothing is really true or false, nothing right or wrong. Man is, by birth, thrown into the world and must make himself by choosing his life, through vital decisions, from a handful of "possibilities". The only thing that really matters is sincerity and "good will". By reading the documents of Vatican II, we realise quickly that the new line of Rome is existentialistic. It is noteworthy that the Jesuit, K. Rahner, the outstanding Roman theologian today, is the favourite pupil of Martin Heidegger, the great existentialist philosopher, and he is the leader of the Roman Catholic party which, once per year during a week, meets with Communist thinkers to discuss common matters. On the other hand, Roger Garaudy, the so-called "brain" of the French Communist Party, in his book, "A Marxist addresses the Council", states that religion cannot be considered any longer as the "opium" of people, but that Communism and the Church (meaning obviously the Roman Church) agree in the humanistic side: both try to make men happy. And he challenges the Church only about the surest and best way of making men happy. Of course, if the objective truth does not matter, let all men of "good will", however atheist they may be (v. Vatican II, Dogm. Const. on the Church, pt. 16), put aside their beliefs and come together around a table to discuss their opinions in a friendly manner. The better they organise their meetings, the more successful will they be. Now, who can organise a better show than that of the Vatican II? Not even the Soviets. Existentialism works for the Roman Church. She, like Proteus, is ready to assimilate all currents and to adopt all changes.

 

My New Birth

 

AFTER all the theological digressions of the last pages, I wish to set out, with God's help, the last stage of my conversion.

Though the light had commenced to filter into my soul in January, 1961, even though I was convinced of the falseness of Romanism, I was still not saved. I had made up my mind to join the Evangelical Church, but it was a hard struggle like that of Augustine of Hippo, to get rid of the snares of sin. I had to know that conversion is something more than a change of mentality: it is the complete personal surrender, by saving faith, to the person of a personal and sufficient Saviour. The whole of the human being is involved in this "new birth".

I was most encouraged at this stage of my conversion, by the first personal visit I made to Rev. Samuel Vila in Tarrasa in May of that year.

I still harboured a certain doubt which I thought was justifiable. The Manuals of Roman Theology usually cite the text in Malachi 1:11, as incontrovertible proof in support of the sacrifice of the Mass, since a prophecy is made there of "a pure offering . . in every place and "among the nations" (Amplified Version). "Tell me, Sr. Vila",--I said,--"how can this be understood, unless it refers to the Mass, since the sacrifice of Calvary was made in one place alone, and certainly not amongst the nations, but in Jerusalem, capital city of the Chosen People; and, on the other hand, the Levitical sacrifices were not `pure' nor pleasing to God, and were, therefore, coming to an end?"

Several years have passed, but how perfectly I still remember Sr. Vila, as if he had known beforehand my objection, quickly opening his Bible at Hebrews 13:15, and saying: "Here you have the sacrifice prophesied by Malachi: 'By Him (Christ), therefore, let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to His name'." The meaning of Malachi 1:11 appeared before me, in all its perfect foreshadowing, as something completely new. Not at all in favour of the Mass!

But what most impressed me was the unction with which he spoke and the spontaneous prayer, not taken out of a Missal or book of Devotions, which, with his brother-in-law, D. José Martínez (also an evangelical pastor), he raised to God, beseeching Him to bring to a happy conclusion the work of salvation He had already commenced in my heart.

I also remember that, in a letter he sent me later on, Don Samuel, amongst other things, said this to me: "If you decide to serve the Lord with all your heart, you will experience the blessing of a God Who can say: `Prove me now' (Mal. 3:10)". Following Señor Vila's advice, I "proved" the Lord in times of trouble and perplexity, with marvellous results.

At last, on a glorious 16th of October, 1961, and in the midst of a trial which hemmed me in like a veritable bull of Bashan, I raised my eyes and heart to heaven and, convinced by the Holy Spirit of my sinful condition and of the need of a Saviour, I was led by the free and merciful grace of God to give my heart to Christ once and for all, to turn over a new leaf, abandoning my life of sin and error, and surrender unconditionally to my heavenly King, ready to take up His Cross and follow faithfully in His footsteps, not resting any longer on my own strength, but sure of the power of the grace of God, which harvests its greatest triumphs in the face of human weakness and impotence (v. 2 Cor. 12:9), to the end that all the glory be of God and not ours (v. Eph. 2:8-10).

Since that time I have seen quite clearly that I have been born into a new life. Every day I have prayed that the Holy Spirit may keep me ever on the alert, to obey His slightest wish, and that I may be a docile instrument under His almighty guidance. From October, 1961, to June, 1962 (the date on which I left my home in Tarazona, Zaragoza, Spain), my friends, my pupils, and my closest companions were able to see the change which had been wrought in me. My sermons were truly "evangelical". My behaviour was truly "Christian". My heart was filled with an enthusiasm, an interior joy, a wonderful happiness, and my greatest delight was in prayer and in the continuous reading and study of the Holy Scriptures. I began to read the Bible methodically in my home with my relatives, and many were the Bibles and New Testaments which I gave to my friends on their birthdays and holidays.

One thing worried me, even though I had unlimited confidence in God that I would obtain it. It was my passport which had to be authorised by my Bishop so that I could travel abroad. At the time, I did not consider it wise to remain in my country, although there are many ex-priests and ex-members of religious orders who stay on in Spain, unmolested, even when belonging to some evangelical church, provided that they are not pastors of the church, since this is forbidden by the recent law on religious liberty. Then, too, a certain English Missionary Society had become interested in me, and for this reason I resolved to go to Britain.

This matter of the passport would not have been so difficult in some other dioceses, but in ours it was, since the Bishop had given strict instructions to the Vicar General that no passports should be issued to priests under his jurisdiction. A little after my conversion I approached the Vicar General to find out whether an exception would be made in my case because of my high rank, but in vain.

I was sorry to lose some months of time and disappoint my English friends who were waiting for me. Nevertheless, the months that followed were not wasted. My evangelical faith was greatly strengthened in those months. Then, I sought to preach the Gospel from Roman Catholic pulpits in the clearest way possible. I preached two or three series of sermons from the book of Billy Graham, "Peace with God". Although I do not agree with some evangelistic methods and ecumenical views of Billy Graham, I must confess that his book has been a real blessing to many Roman Catholics. Also in the Seminary itself I read and defended evangelical doctrines--for example, the magnificent commentary of William Newell on Romans--and it has not only been a surprise to my pupils, but it has been to the evident satisfaction of many of them who desired to read and copy pages of the commentary, which they knew to be Protestant.

At last, on February 23, 1962 (I shall never forget these dates), by virtue of my being Director of Studies at the Seminary, and accompanied by the Rector of the same, I was granted an audience with the Bishop. After much fervent prayer, and believing that this was the most suitable occasion to "prove the Lord" in this thorny problem, I decided to request from the Prelate the permit necessary for obtaining a passport, and he granted it to me immediately, without raising any objection.

By that time, I had the thesis for my doctorate all written out and approved, ready to be presented and defended before the Theological Faculty of the Ecclesiastical University of Salamanca (Spain). But I decided to renounce my diploma and title of doctor, rather than promise upon oath to believe and defend the whole mass of anti-Biblical Roman dogmas, since an oath is indispensable before one can receive an academic degree or an ecclesiastical office in the Church of Rome.

Once I had obtained the passport and finished my classes in the Seminary, I left my town of Tarazona on Saturday, the 16th of June, 1962, and went to Barcelona, where the following day, Sunday, the 17th, for the first time I attended a morning service in an evangelical chapel, and preached at the evening service at "Bethel", the evangelical chapel of Rev. Samuel Vila in Tarrasa, where I enjoyed the hospitality and courtesies of my spiritual mentor.

On the 21st June I wrote letters dated the 16th of the same month in Barcelona to my Bishop and to the President of the Chapter of the Cathedral of Tarazona to which I belonged for thirteen years as Magister Canon. In them I renounced all my honours and position and told them of my coming out of the Roman Church and my intention to join the Evangelical Church. I told the Bishop that I did not want to fall under the anathema of Galatians 1:8,9, in view of my conviction of the many errors of Romanism, adding that in the Day of Final Judgement, he would not regret the confidence he had placed in me (I meant, because of his kindness in authorising my passport, making an exception for me, without suspecting my purpose in asking for it).

That same 21st June I crossed the French-Spanish frontier at Port-Bou, and in the afternoon of the following 22nd I disembarked at the port of Newhaven, on the South coast of England, where I was awaited with open arms by Mr. Luis de Wirtz, at whose side I had the satisfaction of working in the grand task of broadcasting Gospel messages in Spanish by means of Radios "Monte Carlo" and "Elwa", besides preaching and bearing testimony to my conversion to Jesus Christ on the many tours I made in Great Britain, a centre of such distinction, culture and liberty.

Another memorable date for me was that of my baptism, by immersion, by Rev. Rudman at the Holland Road Baptist Church, Hove-Brighton, on the 27th June. It was an impressive ceremony which I shall remember all my life with joy. The big church was packed and the congregation listened with the greatest interest to the testimony which I bore, by interpreter, before passing through the waters of baptism.

There are four main things which have surprised and moved me as I have come to know the Evangelical Church: (1) The simplicity and authenticity of its services; (2) Evangelical preachers are simple, practical, extremely competent and true to the Gospel; (3) Another matter of marvel was the frequent and spontaneous prayer, both in private and in the religious services, in contrast to the mechanical telling of the Rosary and the prayers read from the Breviary, the Ritual or the Missal; (4) The knowledge of the Bible which I found not only in regularly attending members of the evangelical chapels, but even in the children who go to the Sunday School and, even at the age of seven, they know more about the Bible than the vast majority of Roman priests in Spain.

It grieves me that the majority of my compatriots are ignorant of the true Gospel of Jesus Christ, due to a lack of impartial information concerning it. My sorrow is the more when I consider that the great majority of my former companions of the priesthood and teaching Faculty, for many different reasons (especially, lack of knowledge of the true teaching of the Reformation, or the false persuasion that they belong to the only true Church of Christ), have their eyes closed against the pure evangelical faith. On the other hand, I have no doubt that many of them, although admitting the whole system to be credible, do have saving faith, truly love Jesus Christ, protest against superstitions, and humbly recognise that they are "saved by grace through faith", which "is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast" (Eph. 2:8,9).

I extend to them all my affection, my prayer (begging that they also pray for me), and an exhortation, directed, chiefly, to the young priests, many of them full of sincerity and apostolic fervour, and weary of routine and fed up with religious hypocrisy:

My friends: preach the Gospel; abstain from vain rhetorics and foolish displays of learning, as well as from negatively-moralising sermons. Be done with novenas, rosaries, processions, empty devoted books, first Fridays, first Saturdays, pilgrimages, veneration of images, etc. Be convinced, and convince all that THE ONLY WAY OF SALVATION IS A PERSONAL SURRENDER TO JESUS CHRIST, BY LIVING FAITH AND SINCERE REPENTANCE. Persuade all men of the need of being convinced that we are all sinners, and need salvation as a gift from God, merciful towards the repentant and believing sinner. Study and meditate on the

Word of God: "SEARCH THE SCRIPTURES" (John 5:39). They lead to truth and life eternal. And, when you find in them a clear refutation of some "dogma", fear not the curse of man, but, rather, the curse of God (Gal. 1:8,9) [21].

 

 

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