I am glad to be here and to have this opportunity of speaking the Word of the Lord. I want to read a portion of Scripture first and foremost from Hebrews 2:14-18: "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted." We know the Lord will bless the reading of His own precious Words to our hearts today.
Now the verse that I want to take for my text today, the verse of Scripture on which I want to base my remarks, you will find in verse 15: "And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
WHAT THE WEAPON IS
Now Dr Paisley has given me the subject to speak on today and that subject is "Rendering Powerless Rome's Greatest Weapon". Now we must, at the very outset, define what this weapon is, because something which is capable of holding thousands and hundreds of thousands and even millions of its subjects in bondage, and holding them under its sway, is undoubtedly a mighty weapon. It is a formidable weapon and it is a great power. That, then, is what we want to do at the outset: we want to identify this great power or this weapon which Rome uses to keep so many people in darkness and in bondage and in superstition.
Now we might liken this great weapon to a chain. How powerful and how strong and mighty is a chain! A chain is not easily broken. A chain is something which is capable of withstanding great pressure, and so is this weapon which Rome uses. It is not easily smashed, neither is it easily overcome.
If you were to choose one word from this passage that we have read together which would describe this power and this weapon, I wonder which word it would be. We might go throughout our Bibles and we might look at different verses and different phrases and we might choose different words which would aptly describe and define this great weapon of Rome. I wonder which word you would choose from this short passage of Scripture which we have read.
When Dr Paisley asked me to speak on this subject he came to Kesh to preach that particular day and he asked me to think about it. While he was preaching in the pulpit I was doing my best to listen to the preacher. I was indeed listening to the preacher, but at the same time I was turning this over in my mind, I don't want the preacher to think I was not listening to him; I was listening to him and I enjoyed him as well. At the same time, this thing was rolling over in my mind, and then all of a sudden it came to me: Rome's greatest weapon, its greatest power, is that of fear. That is it in a nutshell. It is by fear that Rome dominates and holds in subjection and holds in bondage millions and millions of its adherents. Note the word in verse 15: thank God that Jesus came to "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage". That is it. Roman Catholics are in fear and in fear of death, and all their lifetime subject to bondage.
Romanism, men and women, trades on fear. Alexander Crudden in his concordance gives us a definition of what fear is. He says that fear is the consequence of guilt. There is no doubt that the Roman Catholic Church feeds on this fear and that she trades on this fear. As long as she has men and women in fear and trepidation she will use it, and she will play on that and she will keep them in bondage, holding out, as it were, a little morsel every now and again, seeking to keep them satisfied, seeking to bring some ease of conscience; but as long as the millions of people, as long as this land is in fear, Rome has the upper hand.
I was reading just the other day Michael McCarthy's great book Priests and People in Ireland. He wrote this book at the turn of the century. He makes a comment in that book about events throughout Ireland and he analyses Romanism in different parts of the country. He, himself, was a staunch Roman Catholic but he had this to say: "The condition of our poor priest-oppressed people bowed down in sorrow with the weight of ignorance and trouble proves that ours is not the inheritance of the believing and happy Christian."
What a statement that was. He, himself, a devout Roman Catholic, had analysed the situation so very well. He had moved from one part of the country to another, and his conclusion was this – that ours is not the inheritance of a believing and happy Christian. He saw at first hand that the people were downtrodden with priestcraft. They were held in the grip of fear. They were not a happy people, not a people enjoying the Gospel and enjoying Christ, but a people in bondage and a people troubled and a people anxious about eternity. This verse describes it so very well: "[…]who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage". What a statement that is!
You see: bondage and fear are of the devil. Now not only have we to identify Rome's greatest weapon, but also to seek to render it powerless. Men and women, there is only one thing that can render powerless this fear which is a mighty, formidable weapon. There is only one thing that can smash it, only one thing that can destroy it. What is it? It is the Word of the living God. It is the Holy Scriptures. It is only the Bible scattered and spread among the people that can smash this fear and bring hearts and souls out of bondage into the light of the Gospel. Praise God today for the Word. Thank God for the Bible. What a book it is!
We read in Jeremiah 23:29: "Is not my word like as a fire? saith the Lord: and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" What a Word it is! It is able to smash all the inventions of Rome and priestcraft. It is able to render powerless Rome's greatest weapon. Mr. Spurgeon said that priests were like aloes: they love darkness and they hate the light. Men and women, Rome hates the light of God's Word and priestcraft is nothing other than darkness: it is darkness.
What a wonderful word we read in the I John 4:18, where John says that there is no fear in love but that "[…] perfect love casteth out fear; because fear hath torment". So many a multitude of our fellow Roman Catholic men and women today are in torment, in fear because there is sin. They cannot see any light at the end of the tunnel and they are tormented – tormented from morning till night. A guilty conscience accuses, but there is no balm of the Gospel available to them. Some people think today that Rome preaches the Gospel. Some people imagine that Rome is a Christian Church. You see: the attitude of ecumenism today is this, that while Rome has a few errors that we don't agree with she is a Christian church and her ministers are Christian ministers. Well, I don't believe that. I believe that she is Antichrist, the Church of Antichrist. I believe that in it is nothing but darkness – darkness that subdues men and women to fear, to bondage and to superstition – but, thank God, the Bible tells us, the Word of God tells us that perfect love casts out all fear. The love of Jesus Christ in the heart, the knowledge of sins forgiven, an open Bible, a Gospel ready available casts out all fear. Thank God for that.
THREE LINKS IN THE CHAIN OF FEAR
Now there are three links in this chain of fear. There are three things I want to mention very briefly and quickly. This power is fear but I have likened it unto a chain. There are several links in this chain of fear. I want to identify three of them.
THE FIRST LINK
The first link in the chain has to do with a man, with an individual. This individual, let us say for the sake of our own imagination and for the sake of argument… let us put a name upon him: his name, let us say, is Father John Murphy.
This man has studied for many years. In all likelihood he has been to Maynooth College. He steps out of college a young man well educated and well qualified and he steps into his first parish. That man, Father John, is looked upon with great awe and reverence because he is no ordinary man. This man has some awesome claims to make. I wonder if you know some of the claims. I am sure you do. I am sure you are very well acquainted with him because Dr Paisley has you well versed over the years in all that Rome believes; of that there is no doubt. Thank God for that.
This man has some wonderful and outstanding claims to make. This man claims to be God's representative on earth and as such he is respected. When I was a young lad going to school and going to the chapel I feared and trembled when the priest was about. I feared the priest. I would hardly have looked at him a second time. He used to come into the school, and when did so we all had to stand up, and the teacher had a rule that if any young lad was misbehaving or bad or did not do his homework, the very minute the priest came in all those who had misbehaved had to stand up and go and stand in the corner. She was hoping, of course, that the priest would ask why they were standing there. The sort of an old cad he was, he never minded anyway. He never passed any heed to that sort of thing. This man, even in this day and age, even today in 1998… I tell you the priest of Rome in Ireland is one that is held in great fear and in great reverence. He claims to be God's representative on earth. From the cradle to the grave his influence and power are felt. His hand is in every department of life. His influence is felt everywhere. He has an input into every home. He has an input into all the affairs of the laity of the Roman Catholic people. He is a powerful, powerful figure.
You know, I was just thinking the other day that God has His Priest. The Almighty God has His Priest. Who is God's Priest? Men and women, God's Priest, our Great High Priest, is the Lord Jesus Christ. Antichrist has his priest as well, because the devil loves to seek to hate and to imitate all that God does. Of course he is a failure and he comes far short, but Antichrist, the Devil, has his priest, his counterfeit; and that man is the priest of Rome. Blakeney in his Manual of the Romism Controversy says regarding the confessional that the priest he knows to a great extent the secrets of a whole family and its transactions, even though there be but one member of that family under his spiritual guidance. "The wife whispers into his ear kneeling at his side what peradventure she would blush to acknowledge to the partner of her bosom." Is that not awful? but that is true. Through the confessional – the spyhole of the priest – he is acquainted with the most intimate details of that house and the running of that family. Even the wife, who for one reason or another perhaps would blush to reveal the secrets of her heart, even to her own husband, is there obliged, when questions are put to her in the confessional, to pour out her heart to that confessor.
Romanism, men and women, has not changed. It is an evil, evil system. You know: the only Biblical confession is confession to God. That is the only real and true confession, and oh! If we could get the millions and millions of Roman Catholic people in this country… oh! If once their eyes were opened to see the glory and the majesty and the beauty and the loveliness of the Lord Jesus Christ… oh! what a difference it would make! They would no longer be going along whispering their thoughts and their sins into the ears of a man, but they would come to the feet of Jesus and there pour out their heart unto Him. Let us pray for that. The Psalmist tells us (Ps. 32:5) after David had sinned grievously and committed adultery and grieved God: "I acknowledged my sin unto thee, and mine iniquity have I not hid. I said, I will confess my transgressions unto the Lord; and thou forgavest the iniquity of my sin." Men and women, we can tell every dear Roman Catholic there is a confession. There is a place where sins are forgiven. There is a place where conscience is healed from its wounds, and it is at that place called Calvary; and it is the precious Blood of Jesus that cleanses from all sin.
We read in Hebrews 4:16: "Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." " I love that: I can not only come, I may not only come, but, thank God, I may come boldly. There are very few who come boldly to the priests of Rome; but the Almighty God, the Maker of Heaven and earth, invites men and women to come with assurance and to come boldly unto Him. Now the Roman Catholic Catechism says that the sinner must search all the folds and corners of his conscience and confess everything, or else his confession is not valid. I remember as a young lad when we were preparing for our first communion – so-called – how the teacher prepared us for our first confession; and we were put over this as young lads time and time again: "Your confession must be complete. You must confess everything. Oh! the bondage. I want to tell you something: it is well nigh impossible for any individual to know and to confess everything that is offending to God. You remember again the words of the Psalmist (Ps. 19:12): "Who can understand his errors? cleanse thou me from secret faults." Yes, of course, there are sins that are open and naked too, and we are conscious of them; but there are errors, men and women, that we do not understand. There is cleansing for such errors not at the feet of men, but at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ.
John Calvin the great Reformer says that in all the passages in the Bible where sinners receive forgiveness "we read not that they whispered into the ears of any priest". Praise God for that – not one case, not one instance; and there is good news today for every soul, for every Roman Catholic who is held today in fear and bondage. It is not at the feet of men, or into the ears of priests, that he must confess and be forgiven; but, thank God, he can come and may come and confess his all into the ears of the living God, to the Lord Jesus Christ. Oh! may we see that day – and yet of course even priests may be saved. Many have been. I believe that many are troubled, many are in difficulty; they are victims of an awful system forged in Hell. Romanism, men and women, is not of God: the Devil invented Romanism; he is the author of it; but thank God for the salvation of priests, their return in repentance unto the Lord Jesus Christ. It would be grand to see them doing that and becoming preachers of the Gospel. Hugh Latimer said before his conversion that he was the most bitter priest in England, but when the Lord saved him, what a preacher he became!
THE SECOND LINK
Now that is the first link in the chain of fear; but if the priest is the central figure, the mass is the central act… and what fear surrounds the mass! There is a great solemnity about the mass. I remember as a young lad going into the chapel at home. We always went in on tiptoe. I often noticed the womenfolk when they were cleaning the chapel: they moved around so very quietly; not a word was spoken. Quietness and solemnity! A great awe about the place! Why was that? You see: up on the Altar there is a little square box. They call it the tabernacle. Into that tabernacle the priest puts the hosts: those that are left over and not used are consecrated and are put in there, and they are locked away in it, so that the people believe that Jesus is in that box – in the host as we shall see in a moment – and He is locked away in that box. That is why, when a Roman Catholic passes a chapel, he blesses himself. That is why, when you go in, the very first act I ever remember in the Roman Catholic Church as a wee lad going in with my grandfather was bending down on one knee. That's because I was told and taught that Christ was up on the altar, locked away in the box overlaid with gold; but, thank God, today Jesus the Blessed Son of God is not on any altar.
What is the host? The host is made of flour and water, and it is baked in an oven. That's all it is. That's what the nuns spend their time doing. They never go out and get a man and get married, so they spend most of their time baking wafers. [Laughter.] Macarthy in his book believes them to the most cowardly bunch of women in the whole country. He said they didn't have the nerve to go out and get a man, so they shut themselves away in convents, and they make and they bake the hosts; but when the priest, ladies and gentlemen, utters these words: "Hoc est corpus meum", the host is converted at that moment – consecrated, converted – into the Body of Christ. That's the miracle that Rome claims.
One of our men in the Church just recently gave me a newspaper cutting to do with the mass. It was dated April 18, 1998, and this will give us some little insight into the awesomeness and the fear that surrounds this ceremony in the Roman Catholic Church. It said this: "Roman Catholics in Londonderry yesterday hailed the sighting of a claimed vision as a miracle. Dozens of men claimed to have seen rays of light coming from the communion wafer. It lasted for hours. People were going outside and bringing in others to see it." You see: they can say what they like, but they believe that Jesus Christ's Body, Soul, Nerves, in Its entirety – is contained in that wafer. That's the miracle! No wonder the poor people went out and brought in others to see it! "It lasted for hours." Suddenly, eyewitnesses said, two bright rays started beaming out of the wafer known as the host. What an awful thing it is! According to the Catechism of the Church of Rome, even the smallest crumb of bread contains Christ's entire body and blood. The smallest crumb! If a little crumb falls away from the wafer, it a hundred crumbs fall away from it, if it is broken up into a thousand pieces, there are a thousand Jesuses around the place. What a blasphemy that is, and what an awful thing!
I want to tell you this – that there is no man who has power to bring the Lord Jesus Christ down from glory where He is seated at the Right Hand of the Father and put Him into a wafer. No man has that power. That is the lie of the Devil; it is no miracle. They say of course that only the inner essence is contained. It's like me if I got a loaf of bread and put it out on the table at home and said to the wife and the children: "Now I'm going to pray over this bread: it's not going to change, but the inner essence is going to change, and I'm going to perform a miracle." I think she might send for the boys in the white coats and have me put in! Oh! what a nonsense it is! – and the Council of Trent says this, that the entire Christ is contained in the sacraments – bones and nerves.
Yes, this man claims to have power denied even to angels. Martin Luther said, years after his conversion from Romanism, concerning his first mass, that he was utterly stupified and terror-stricken as he approached the altar to offer up his first mass; for he said to himself: 'How can I, a mere man, speak to the Almighty God in such a manner – the One Who is full of glory and power and majesty?' He was stuck to the spot, but, thank God, the Lord delivered him from it. John Knox of Scotland said that he feared one mass more that all the invading armies of Europe.
We are living in a day because of ecumenism and the darkness of this age when the Protestant people do not see any more how blasphemous and how awful and how dreadful a thing the mass is that would pretend to offer again Jesus Christ, the glorious Son of God. Men and women, it cannot be done. What did Jesus say in Luke 22:19? "And He took bread, and gave thanks, and brake it, and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me." That is so simple. The bread and the wine, symbols of His Body and His Blood, were to be "in remembrance" of Him. You know: the Lord used figurative language in His teaching in the New Testament to His disciples. He referred to His Body, for example, as the temple. Now in John's Gospel there are seven figurative statements that the Lord Jesus Christ made about Himself. Oh! let every Roman Catholic know this who is searching for the truth and who would know the truth and the Gospel – that no man, no matter what he claims, can perform any miracle on any altar. It cannot be done. Jesus for example said of Himself in John 6:48: "I am the bread of life." He didn't mean He was a loaf – a lump of bread! He says in John 8:12: "I am the light of the world." In John 10:9: "I am the door." John 10:11: "I am the good shepherd." John 11:25: "I am the resurrection and the life." John 14:6: "I am the way, the truth and the life." John 15:1: "I am the true vine." Seven great statements in all, and seven as we know is the number of perfection.
I was thinking about these statements, and in each and every one you will find that there is a sufficiency for the hungry soul. There is a sufficiency to meet the needs of every man. Jesus said: "I am the bread." We eat bread to be satisfied. "I am the door." He has access into the very courts of Heaven itself. "I am the good shepherd." Men need caring for; souls need caring for; and Christ says to every sinner that He is willing to be a shepherd. : "I am the resurrection and the life." Men need hope for eternity: they'll never find it in Rome. Know that in each and every one of these statements Christ has the pre-eminence: "I am…". I thought that was wonderful. He said "I am…", in every one of them claiming pre-eminence for Himself, the blessed, wonderful Son of God, the man Christ Jesus. "I am…". In the way, the truth and the life there is direction and truth and guidance. "I am the true vine." There is sustenance as the branch is joined to the vine for sustenance, for life, for vitality. Praise God that those who are joined to Christ by faith have life, and it is life eternal. As the little chorus tells us: "Jesus alone is the Giver."
Yes, the mass is the central act, and there is an awesomeness about the mass that instils fear in the people when the host is lifted up; but Jesus Christ is all-sufficient for men and for women. Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many. When He had by Himself purged out sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. Praise God that He has finished the work. Dear Roman Catholics are to trust in Jesus – not in a wafer god made by men.
THE THIRD LINK
Very quickly, as we close, there is something else – another link in the chain. There is the fear of a certain event. Our text here tells us about it. What is that event? That event is death. The Lord Jesus Christ became flesh and became man to "deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage". There we have the duration of the fear – "all their lifetime". That's a sad religion, men and women – "all their lifetime".
The Roman Catholic goes through life in fear of this event. Do you fear death today? If you're saved, you need not have any fear of death, for Jesus has overcome death. The Devil uses death, you see, like a deadly weapon, to lord it over people in bondage; and they fear this event. There is no Gospel and there is no assurance of salvation in the Church of Rome. Let me say that again, for it's so vital. So many are blinded on this point today and misled. There is no Gospel and there is no assurance of salvation in the Church of Rome.
You see: there is the fear because of the prospect of death. What is after death? There is the fear because of the prospect of purgatory. That is the awful enemy; that is the thing that is in the background, in the shadows of the life of the dear Roman Catholic as he goes through life. That is why he goes to mass every morning; that is why he is saying the rosary; that is why he is in fear and bondage. He is reckoning to himself: 'I am going to have to spend time in purgatory, to purge and to purify the remaining sins of my soul.' The Roman Catholic people are taught that it is only their relatives and their friends who can really help them when they go to purgatory. Not even God Himself, the Catechism says, can help them until His justice has been satisfied.
Strangely enough the family can help by paying money for masses! Oh yes! They can come year after year. I see my dear mother going every year. She says to me: 'I have to get a mass said for your grandfather.' I've often told her she is only wasting her money. 'Go and buy a lump of bacon or something; you'd be far better off!' [Sustained laughter.] What a sad thing it is: millions and millions of Pounds go from this land to the coffers of Rome for masses for dear people hoping to get their relatives released from purgatory; but the strange thing is this: the Catechism says that the Pope is supposed to have the power to grant indulgences – that is, relief from suffering. If he is such a kind and a gentle man, if he is supposed to be the Vicar of Christ, why doesn't he say the word and let them out? Why doesn't he say the word and release them from their suffering and bondage?
Luther said something very funny, very right, about the Pope. He said that the Pope knew as much about theology as a donkey did about playing a harp! [Laughter.] He wasn't far off the mark; but Bible-believing Christians and Protestants believe that at death those who are saved are absent from the body to be present with the Lord. We had an old shopkeeper at home one time. We called him Tom Delaney. All the women round about has a nickname for him. They used to call him 'Tom the Robber'. He had a country shop, and they always accused him of charging too much for his goods, and so they used to scold him and complain about him and spit fire at him. A 'daylight robber' they used to call him. I want to tell you that Rome and the priests of Rome are daylight robbers, robbing souls, robbing hearts and pockets. Macarthy said about this: 'Oh! You priests, how long could you continue to exist in your present fatness if the minds of the people were truly enlightened?!" Many a farm and land and many a shop and business have they taken at the deathbed – signed over for masses to be said, with the hope that it will alleviate and shorten their suffering in purgatory.
There's a lot more that I have to say, but I'm going to finish right now. Spurgeon said that the Church which withholds the Bible from its members, or takes away from them the genuine Word of God, is guilty of bringing the most dreadful famine upon the minds of men, and will be in a great measure guilty of their blood. Calvin said that purgatory cannot give us much trouble since we have laid the axe to the very root and thrown it down. The Reformation was a great move of God, and it took fear away from countless thousands and millions of people; and through God's Word, the Bible, this weapon – Rome's greatest weapon, fear – was smashed to smithereens. May we again see it smashed in our day and generation. Let us spread the Bible. We were over in Sligo the other day, and we went with Bibles, myself and two other brethren, from the Bible-Spreading Union, and we went around many of the new homes in Sligo. We met young Roman Catholic couples, and I don't think one refused to take a Bible, the Word of God, and Gospel literature.
Oh, let us pray! God is still on the Throne. He is able to save to the uttermost. Amen.