Author Archives: Grant Gaines

Assembly Is Essential Too: A Response to J. D. Greear

One of the major arguments used to support multi-site church structure (one church in multiple locations) is that the idea of covenant is what constitutes a group of people as a church, not the idea of assembly. In other words, as long as a group of believers have covenanted together it really doesn’t matter if they all assemble together or not, they can still consider themselves a church. Pastor J. D. Greear has made this argument. In a 2009 article for 9Marks, he wrote:

Some argue that since a local church is by definition an assembly, a multi-site strategy fundamentally skews the nature of a local church. The essence of a New Testament local church, however, is not “assembly” but “covenant body.” . . . “Assembly” is a much-needed function, but “covenant” is the essence.

He recently tweeted about it again, which prompted me to write this post. Let me explain what I consider to be the main problem with this argument.

The main problem with the argument that the essence of a church is “covenant body” and not “assembly” is that the biblical pattern reveals that covenant and assembly go hand in hand. More than that, the pattern is that a covenant is in fact established in the context of an assembly of the covenant partners. In other words, those entering into covenant with one another do so in the context of an assembly.*1*

To give an Old Testament example, when God established his covenant (the Mosaic Covenant) with Israel at Mt. Sinai, he did so in the context of an assembly of all the covenant partners. All Israel gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai in the presence of God in a solemn assembly to receive the stipulations of the covenant (the Law). And it was in the context of this solemn assembly that the covenant was made. This gathering at Mt. Sinai was later referred to in Deuteronomy as “the day of the assembly” (Deut 9:10; 10:4; 18:16). It was on this day that the people of God were constituted as “the assembly of the Lord” (Num 16:3; Deut 23:1, 2, 3, 8; 1 Chr 28:8; Mic 2:5). The day the covenant was established was also the day the assembly was established—in fact, it was established in assembly. And this original covenant assembly of all Israel at Sinai became the basis for the other worship assemblies throughout the year when Israel would gather again in the Lord’s presence (Exod 23; Lev 23). Here’s the point of this example. The reason Israel could consider itself “the assembly of the Lord” was not only because it was a “covenant body,” but also because it was a group that was characterized by actually assembling together in one place—the assembly component was just as essential as the covenant component.

Brief Excursus
This would be a good place to respond to one of the key points in Greear’s argument against the church-as-assembly view. Greear believes that “if the local church is essentially an assembly, then it only exists when it assembles and only when all the members are present” (see the article mentioned above). This is simply not true. Israel is frequently referred to as “the assembly of the Lord” or “the congregation of the house of Israel” throughout the Old Testament whether they are actually in an assembled state or not. The reason for this is that the congregation or assembly of Israel is characterized by assembling together on a regular basis (first at Sinai, and then at other times every year). This is common sense, really. When we say Israel is the “assembly of the Lord” we mean that they are the group that is characterized by assembling together. In the same way, a New Testament “assembly” (church) is called an “assembly” (ekklesia) because it is a group that is characterized by assembling together.

Now this discussion of the Sinai assembly is not some random Old Testament example that has no bearing on the nature of the New Testament church. Without going into a lot of detail, let me simply say that the New Testament word for “church” (Greek: ekklesia, “assembly”) is based on the idea of Israel as the “assembly of the Lord” in the Old Testament. As Tom Schreiner puts it, “The term ‘church’ (ekklēsia) reaches back to the OT term qāhāl, denoting Israel as God’s assembly.”*2* In fact, I would argue that there is an entire biblical theology of the people of God as the “assembly of the Lord” that starts with Israel at Sinai and that is fulfilled in the “assembly” Jesus is building now (Matt 16:18), the New Testament “church.” This New Testament assembly, like it’s Old Testament counterpart, is an assembly of all the covenant partners (i.e., the new covenant). Spiritually, all of those new covenant partners are assembled right now in the heavenly places in Christ (Hebrews 12:18-24; note the comparison here to the Sinai assembly). Physically, that one heavenly assembly is manifested on earth in the form of multiple local assemblies or churches, each of which is a microcosm or manifestation of the one heavenly church.*3*

So, the old covenant assembly of the Lord was constituted as one assembly by virtue of the fact that the covenant partners were characterized by assembling together in one place—assembling together was essential. And the new covenant assembly of the Lord in its ultimate form (the universal church) is constituted as one assembly by virtue of the fact that the covenant partners are assembled right now in the heavenly places in Christ—the assembly is essential. So, the question is, why would we expect anything less from each local manifestation/microcosm of the new covenant assembly? It’s true for the Old Testament “assembly” (ekklesia in the Septuagint), and it’s true for the universal “assembly” (ekklesia) of the New Testament; so why when we see the New Testament authors referring to each local manifestation of this as an “assembly” (ekklesia throughout the New Testament) would we not assume that being characterized by all assembling together is essential if a group is to consider itself a local assembly? Yes, each local church is a “covenanted body” (a microcosm of the larger new covenant body), but each local church is also an “assembly” (a microcosm of the larger new covenant assembly).*4*

The pattern from Scripture is that for a group of people to be constituted as one assembly (or church) they must not only covenant together, but must also be characterized by assembling together as well. Covenant is essential, but assembly is too.

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1. Peter Gentry argues that “a formal and solemn ceremony,” which is what the Sinai assembly was, is what gives a covenant its “binding and quasi-legal status.” See Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum, Kingdom Through Covenant, 152.

2. Thomas R. Schreiner, New Testament Theology: Magnifying God in Christ, 694.

3. This is why, for instance, Paul can call the church in Corinth “the church in Corinth” (1 Cor 1:2) and “the body of Christ” (1 Cor 12:27). As John Hammett states,“The local church is not regarded here [1 Cor 12:27] as merely a part of a larger body of Christ, but as the body of Christ in that place.” See John S. Hammett, Biblical Foundations for Baptist Churches, 37. Hammett goes on to say, “This is another support for a proper understanding of the autonomy of the local church. No local church should be isolated, but no local church needs a larger body to complete it or enable it to function. It is the body of Christ, possessing full ecclesial status” (ibid.). Each local church is a local manifestation of the whole body of Christ and of the whole assembly of Christ. See chapter 4 of my dissertation on how the NT assembly is a fulfillment of the OT assembly, and see especially pages 76-90 on each local church being a manifestation in time and space of the ultimate heavenly church. The dissertation can be downloaded here.

4. I argue that local churches in the New Testament were in fact characterized by whole church gatherings in chapter 5 of my dissertation.


Review of Gregg Allison’s Book on the Doctrine of the Church

Sojourners and Strangers

Gregg R. Allison. Sojourners and Strangers: The Doctrine of the Church (Foundations of Evangelical Theology). Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012. 496 pp. $40.00.

Gregg Allison’s new book is sure to be a standard work of ecclesiology for years to come. The title, Sojourners and Strangers, is taken from 1 Peter 2:11. With this title, Allison highlights the fact that the church lives within the tension of the already and not yet—the time between Christ’s first and second comings when our heavenly citizenship collides with our earthly experience.

Rather than provide a complete summary of this hefty volume, in this review I will first, give a brief sense of what the book does, and, second, offer two critiques of issues I find particularly important.

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Click here to read the rest of the review on The Gospel Coalition’s website.


C. J. Mahaney on “Marriage & Pastoral Ministry”

The pastors at Calvary watched this recently and found it to be very helpful for us.  We commend it to you. (It’s from a conference that was put on by Southern Seminary.)


The Gospel Project

Here’s a video about the Sunday school curriculum that my young adults class will be using beginning this fall.


Video of James Cameron’s Dive to the Deepest Point of the Sea

On Sunday, March 25, James Cameron dove solo to the deepest point of the sea.  Here’s the video from National Geographic.


Who Was Annie Armstrong?

This month Calvary and many other Southern Baptist churches are taking up the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering to support missions work in the United States.  Great, you might say, but who is Annie Armstrong?

Below is fellow Southern Baptist Jeff Robinson’s answer to that question (this article appeared in SBCLife, and can be accessed here).

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(beginning of article)

Many Southern Baptists know Annie Armstrong only as the namesake of their annual offering for North American missions. But according to church historians, she was also one of the primary shapers of the modern Southern Baptist Convention.

“I tell my students that Annie Armstrong and her frequent collaborator I.T. Tichenor [longtime secretary of the Home Mission Board] were the architects of the twentieth-century Southern Baptist Convention,” Nathan Finn, associate professor of historical theology and Baptist studies at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, said. “Most Southern Baptists think Annie Armstrong is just the name of a missions offering. They have no idea the role she played in raising money for foreign missions, championing home missions, and advocating a Southern Baptist Sunday School ministry—she was a tireless denomination-builder.”

Armstrong (1850-1938) helped to found the Woman’s Missionary Union in 1888 and served as its inaugural corresponding secretary. A prolific letter writer on behalf of the WMU and its mission, Armstrong once wrote more than 18,000 letters in one year.

Finn said Armstrong is a key figure in SBC history for three reasons: she helped found WMU; she exerted a significant influence in the broader denomination; and she championed southern identity during a tenuous time in the postbellum South.

Armstrong served as WMU secretary from 1888 till 1906. During her tenure, total receipts for the Foreign Mission Board increased from $86,000 to $315,000, Finn said.

“Our global missions outreach at the turn of the twentieth century would have possibly remained limited to a few hundred missionaries in a half dozen nations had WMU not taken the lead in raising money,” Finn said.

Armstrong was born into a longtime Baptist family. Converted at age nineteen, the Baltimore, Maryland, native became active in church life as a member of Seventh Street Baptist Church in Baltimore, where Richard Fuller served as pastor. Along with 117 others, she left Seventh Street and helped plant Eutaw Place Baptist Church in February of 1871, where she taught the infant class for three decades.

From 1900 through her resignation as WMU secretary in 1906, Armstrong refused to accept a salary. Her resignation came after the union mandated that the corresponding secretary be paid. Armstrong often traveled great distances in her work with WMU, once covering 3,300 miles in 21 days, visiting 19 places, stopping at 26 different addresses, according to her biography at the Southern Baptist Historical Library and Archives.

One often-overlooked fact is that Armstrong was a prolific writer of curriculum. She wrote leaflets for WMU, started a young people’s Scripture section in the Sunday School Board publication Kind Words, and wrote a column along with two sections in The Teacher curriculum. Additionally, she frequently contributed to two mission publications, Foreign Mission Journal and Our Home Field.

Keith Harper, Baptist historian at Southeastern Seminary, said Armstrong is an important, but underrated, personality in Baptist history.

“Her biographer styled her as a ‘dreamer in action,'” he said. “I would put the emphasis on action. She worked long, hard hours in too many ventures to recount in a brief story.”

Tom Nettles, professor of historical theology at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, called Armstrong “a person who looked at her gifts and her opportunities and pushed through any personal inhibitions and contextual prejudices to do what she believed God wanted her to do for His glory and the extension of the Kingdom.”

“Her work as corresponding secretary for the WMU created a consciousness of the necessity of purposeful organization for missions, home and abroad, in Southern Baptist life,” Nettles said, adding that many missionaries could not have done their work without her help.


Jesus Is a Friend to Sinners. Are You?

The sermon for this Sunday (March 4) is on Matthew 9:9-13, and is entitled “Jesus Is a Friend to Sinners.”  In this passage, Jesus calls Matthew, a tax collector, to follow him, and Jesus eats a meal with “tax collectors and sinners.”  Jesus loved sinners.  The Pharisees didn’t, and the Pharisees among us still don’t.  Here is a quote from Craig Blomberg on Jesus’ love for sinners and how we should love in the same way:

Jesus’ fraternizing with disreputable people remains a scandal in the predominately middle class, suburban, Western church.  Many of us, like the Pharisees, at best ignore the outcasts of our society and at worst continue to discriminate against them.  We do well to consider substantially increasing our spiritual, evangelistic, and social outreach to minorities, the homeless, prostitutes, addicts and pushers, gays and lesbians, AIDS victims, and the like, as well as to the more hidden outcasts such as divorcees, single parents, the elderly, white-collar alcoholics, and so on.  We must get to know them as intimately as Jesus did—only close and trusted friends shared table fellowship over meals.  We dare not join with sinners in their sinning, but we may well have to go places with them and encounter the world’s wickedness in ways that contemporary Pharisees in our churches will decry. (See Craig Blomberg’s commentary on Matthew, pg. 157.)

Loving sinners like Jesus did (i.e., by befriending them) will always make legalistic religious folks angry, but that’s no reason to avoid doing it.  Jesus is a friend to sinners.  Are you?


It Was Not a Silent Night

Andrew Peterson has written a beautiful Christmas song about the birth of Jesus the first line of which goes like this: “It was not a silent night, there was blood on the ground.” The birth of Jesus was not a precious moments scene. It was real. The Lord humbled himself and became like us in order to save us.

Listen to R. Kent Hughes’s description of the way it would have been:

If we imagine that Jesus was born in a freshly swept, county fair stable, we miss the whole point. It was wretched—scandalous! There was sweat and pain and blood and cries as Mary reached up to the heavens for help. The earth was cold and hard. The smell of birth mixed with the stench of manure and acrid straw made a contemptible bouquet. Trembling carpenter’s hands, clumsy with fear, grasped God’s Son slippery with blood—the baby’s limbs waving helplessly as if falling through space—his face grimacing as he gasped in the cold and his cry pierced the night.

My mother groaned, my father wept.
Into the dangerous world I leapt.

(Taken from Hughes’s commentary on Luke, volume 1, pg. 83)


Bible Translation: HCSB vs. ESV on “Slave” or “Servant”

The Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB) translates the Greek word “doulos” as “slave.”  The English Standard Version (ESV) translates it in three different ways depending on the context: “slave,” “bondservant,” or “servant.” Here is an explanation on the HCSB website for why it translates “doulos” this way (go here for the source):

Words we consider synonyms have different biblical meanings.

Consider words like slave and servant. All slaves were servants, but not all servants were slaves. A slave had no rights, didn’t receive any pay for work but was completely dependent on the master for everything. A servant, on the other hand, worked for a master but had rights and privileges aside from the master.

Here’s another treatment of the translation of “slave” vs. “servant” posted on the HCSB website:

Three out of four American Bible readers say they prefer a literal translation of Scripture even if some of the words or concepts do not fit easily into modern culture, according to a new study by LifeWay Research.

The study polled 2,000 people through a demographically representative online panel. All participants read their Bibles at least monthly — either for personal study or as part of a family activity. People who read the Bible only in a corporate setting, like a worship service, were not included in the study.

Survey participants were told: “In the original Greek and Hebrew, the Bible occasionally uses words that some might think do not fit in our society today, such as ‘slave.’ Some translators think these should be translated literally as ‘slave,’ while others think they should reflect current context and be translated as ‘servant.’ Which do you prefer?”

Nearly half (46 percent) strongly prefer a literal translation, and 28 percent somewhat prefer a literal translation. Fourteen percent somewhat prefer a translation to reflect current context while 4 percent strongly prefer such a translation. Seven percent are not sure.

The HCSB translates many ancient concepts literally, including “slave,” and uses bullet notes at the end of the Bible to explain them.

“The Bible includes concepts that may be uncomfortable or may require more study to fully understand,” said Scott McConnell, director of LifeWay Research. “This example shows more Bible readers prefer to see the literal translation rather than glossing over such concepts in a translation.”

This is too simplistic.  It’s not more literal to assign one English translation to one Hebrew or Greek word.  In fact it’s usually bad translation policy to do so.  If you only translate “doulos” as “slave” when there are contexts in which the usage of the word makes “servant” a better option, then you’re committing what D. A. Carson calls the fallacy of “unwarranted restriction of the semantic field” (D. A. Carson, Exegetical Fallacies, pg. 57).  Carson writes,

We sometimes fail to appreciate how wide the total semantic range of a word is; therefore when we come to perform the exegesis of a particular passage, we do not adequately consider the potential options and unwittingly exclude possibilities that might include the correct one.

A word should be defined and translated according to its usage, not assigned one English equivalent without regard to the different nuances the word might carry in its original context.  I like the ESV translation policy here (see pg. 2).


Reformation Day & Martin Luther’s 95 Theses

Before October 31 was Halloween it was Reformation Day.  On October 31, 1517, a monk named Martin Luther posted his “Ninety-five Theses on the Power and Efficacy of Indulgences” to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Germany.  Indulgences were certificates that people could purchase from the Catholic Church that, upon purchase, promised forgiveness of sins and the promise of escape from purgatory.  One Catholic preacher named Johann Tetzel reveals the ugliness of the indulgence system with a little saying he liked to use when selling indulgences–he would say, “As soon as a coin in the coffer rings / the soul from purgatory springs.”  Against the Catholic Church, Martin Luther believed that forgiveness of sins came through faith in Christ alone.  His nailing of the 95 Theses is believed by many to have been the major catalyst of the Protestant Reformation.

Below are Luther’s 95 Theses:

Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

2.This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

3.Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.

4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.

11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.

12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them.

14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.

15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.

17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.

18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing love.

19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.

20. Therefore by “full remission of all penalties” the pope means not actually “of all,” but only of those imposed by himself.

21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope’s indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;

22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.

23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.

24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.

25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.

26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.

27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].

28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.

30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.

31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.

32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.

33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;

34. For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.

35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.

36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.

37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.

38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for they are, as I have said, the declaration of divine remission.

39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.

40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].

41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;

44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope’s wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.

52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.

53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word.

55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The “treasures of the Church,” out of which the pope. grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.

57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even without the pope, these always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outward man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church’s poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ’s merit, are that treasure;

61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.

62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.

66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.

67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the “greatest graces” are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain.

68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.

70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.

71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!

72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed!

73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.

74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.

75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God — this is madness.

76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.

77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.

78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in I. Corinthians xii.

79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.

81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.

82. To wit: — “Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”

83. Again: — “Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”

84. Again: — “What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul’s own need, free it for pure love’s sake?”

85. Again: — “Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in force?”

86. Again: — “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?”

87. Again: — “What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?”

88. Again: — “What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?”

89. “Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?”

90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace!

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.


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