Reflections on the Missionary Spirit of Rome

 •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 8
We have seen, in tracing the good work of the gospel in different countries, the activity, energy, and aggressive character of the church of Rome. And although there was a fearful amount of human tradition, and many foolish absurdities, mixed up with "the gospel of God," still the name of Jesus Christ was proclaimed, and salvation through Him, though not alas through Him alone. Nevertheless God in grace could use that blessed name, and give the eye of faith to see its preciousness, amongst the rubbish of Roman superstition. The full, clear, gospel of Christ was completely lost. It was no longer Christ only, but Christ and a thousand other things. They were eloquent in preaching good works, but, at the same time, they obscured the faith from which all good works should spring. "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world;" "Look unto Me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is none else;" "Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest;" "Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." (John 1:2929The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. (John 1:29); Isa. 45:2222Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. (Isaiah 45:22); Matt. 11:2828Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28); John 6:3737All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out. (John 6:37).) These, and such like texts, give the idea of a gospel that brings souls to Christ Himself, by faith alone; not to Christ, and rites and ceremonies innumerable, before the soul can be saved. To be converted to Christ Himself is the best of all conversions. To rest on the unfailing efficacy of the blood of Christ is sure salvation to the soul, and perfect peace with God.
There were, no doubt, many good and earnest men in the missionary field, whose spiritual state may have been much better than their ecclesiastical one, and whom God may have used to gather precious souls to Himself. But there can be no doubt that the spirit of Rome's missionaries was more of proselytizing to the church of Rome than to the faith and obedience of Christ. Baptism, and implicit, unquestioning, subjection to the authority of the pope, was the demand made on all converts, ruler or subject. Faith in Christ was not looked for. The ambition of the Roman See was to embrace the whole world; and, as far as Europe was concerned, all public profession of Christianity which professed independence of the Roman domination was to be immediately suppressed, and utterly destroyed.
Just about this time, a monk of humble origin, but of the most extraordinary character, appeared on the scene. In him were accomplished all the fond dreams of dominion over the human mind. Till now the mission of the Papacy had never been fulfilled. But as there never had been such a Pope before, and never has been such a Pope since, we must briefly sketch his unparalleled career.