Historical Perspectives | The Reformation View of Roman Catholicism

From the works of Bishop J. C. Ryle (1816-1900)

Men need not wonder that we warn them to beware of all leanings towards the Church of Rome. Surely, when the mind of God about idolatry is so plainly revealed to us in His Word, it seems the height of infatuation in any one to join a Church so steeped in idolatries as the Church of Rome. To enter into communion with her, when God is saying, "Come out of her, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and receive not of her plagues" (Rev.XVIII.4), to seek her when the Lord is warning us to leave her, to become her subjects when the Lordís voice is crying, "Escape for thy life, flee from the wrath to come;" all this is mental blindness indeed, a blindness like that of him who, though forewarned, embarks in a sinking ship, a blindness which would be almost incredible, if our own eyes did not see examples of it continually. We must be on our guard. Those who preach must cry aloud and spare not, and allow no false tenderness to make them hold their peace about the heresies of the day. Is this time for a man to draw closer to Rome? Is it not rather a time to draw further back and stand clear, lest we be involved in her downfall? Is this a time to extenuate and palliate Romeís manifest corruptions, and refuse to see the reality of her sins? Beware of Rome. The subject I now touch upon is of deep and pressing importance, and demands the serious attention of all Protestant Churchmen. It is vain to deny that a large party of English clergy and laity in the present day are moving heaven and earth to reunite the Church of England with the idolatrous Church of Rome. The poor Church of England stands on an inclined plane. Her very existence, as a Protestant Church, is in peril. I hold, for one, that this Romish movement ought to be steadily and firmly resisted. I regard it as a most mischievous, soul-ruining, and unscriptural movement. To say that re-union with Rome would be an insult to our martyred Reformers, is a very light thing; it is far more that this: it would be a sin and an offense against God! Rather than become Popish once more, she had better die! Unity in the abstract is no doubt an excellent thing: but unity without truth is useless. Peace and uniformity are beautiful and valuable; but peace without the Gospel, peace based on a common Episcopacy, and not on a common faith, is worthless peace, not deserving of the name. When Rome has repealed the decrees of Trent, and her additions to the Creed, when Rome has recanted her false and unscriptural doctrines, when Rome has formally recanted image-worship, Mary-worship, and transubstantiation, then, and not till then, it will be time to talk of reunion with her. Till then I call on all Churchmen to resist to the death this idea of reunion with Rome. Till then let our watchwords be, "No peace with Rome! No communion with idolaters!"

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