POPE LEO XIII. has issued a decree, or "bull," designating the last year of the century a Jubilee year, a holy year, in which all his faithful are called upon to confess their sins, make many pilgrimages and prayers, and thus obtain forgiveness and indulgences—release from purgatorial sufferings justly merited and now in store for them. The bull has been translated into English and published broadcast, and we quote a portion of it, as follows:—
"Raising our eyes to God, with his help and with the approbation of the cardinals, we order a universal Jubilee, to commence in this sacred city of Rome with the first vespers of Christmas, 1899, and to cease on the same day in 1900.
"During the Jubilee Year we concede full indulgence and pardon of sins to all Christians truly repentant, who confess their sins and partake of communion, and who will visit the basilicas of St. Peter's, St. Paul's, St. John's, or that of Sta. Maria Maggiore, in Rome, at least once a day during twenty days, if having domicile in Rome, or, for pilgrims, during ten days. All ought to pray for the exaltation of the Church, for the extirpation of heresies, for the concord of Catholic princes, and for the salvation of Christian peoples.
This pronunciamento of papal power in heaven and hell, on earth and in purgatory, is extremely mild and unassuming when compared to those of Leo's predecessors.* The statement is milder to suit the changed [R2548 : page 280] conditions of papal influence and general enlightenment; but the same thought, the same error underlies—that the power to forgive sins has been lodged by the Almighty in the hands of the pope and his conferees. If it were true, what an awful responsibility it would place upon these men! What if they had forgotten or neglected to appoint this Jubilee? And then, again,—if such confessions, prayers, pilgrimages, etc., can affect such blessings and releases from sufferings, why are not Jubilee years more frequent—every year? Think for a moment of the loss, the terrible loss, sustained by the pope's faithful who have died, and will die, before the time he and the cardinals have set!
We notice with pleasure that, while "the extirpation of heresies" is mentioned, the injunction is to pray for this, and not as in olden times to labor for it by extirpating heretics as vermin. Let us continually thank God for the breaking up of the solidarity of Antichrist by the Great Reformation of the sixteenth century. The more it breaks up, and the smaller the fragments, the better for the truth and the true children of God,—the true Church "whose names are written in heaven." (Heb. 12:23.) Not the true "wheat," but the imitation, the "tares," need to be bound in bundles, by sectarian creeds and obligations of human device and imposition. And altho it is clearly pointed out in the Scriptures that a federative union of the various sects of Christendom will soon occur; and tho we know that this will mean a great increase of opposition, hatred and persecution of all who will not "join" nor be "bound" in the bundles, but who stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made them free, still we may sing,—
—knowing that ere long all the "wheat" will be garnered and shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of the Father with their Lord;—to bless all the families of the earth.—Matt. 13:30,43.
Now, not to disparage the pope's efforts (which we will presume to be sincere and honestly intended to be a means of grace to his people), but by way of showing forth the error underlying the whole theory on which the pope's efforts are based, we will make a pronouncement: one which every true child of God as an "ambassador" and member of the "royal priesthood" is privileged to make daily, or so often as opportunity offers, namely,—
—I declare that whosoever cometh unto the Father by him is acceptable; because by him whosoever believeth in him as his Savior and Shepherd is justified freely from all things,—from which the Law could never justify or deliver him:—I therefore declare unto all who thus renounce sin and lay hold of the Deliverer with the arms of their faith, that without waiting for Christmas day, 1899, or any other date, and without pilgrimages to Rome or Allegheny or elsewhere, and without visiting cathedrals or other holy places, or having the prayers of popes, cardinals, bishops, underpriests or laymen, and even without prayers of their own, they may have this grace—even as it is written, "Being justified by faith [not prayers nor works], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ [not through other mediators]."—Rom. 5:1.—Moreover, by the authority of the same Great Potentate we declare unto you the efficacy of his Calvary-sacrifice not only thus to cleanse from sins that are past, but also to keep you reckonedly cleansed and pure in God's sight, so long as you abide by faith in Christ. For his blood cleanseth us from all sin—continually covering our unwilful imperfections; as it is written,—"My strength is made perfect in weakness," and "my grace is sufficient for thee."
Verily, the god of this world (Satan) has not only blinded the heathen (2 Cor. 4:4), but he is quite
*See MILLENNIAL DAWN, VOL. II., Chap. 9. [R2548 : page 281] considerably blinding two thirds of Christendom represented in the Roman and Greek Catholic communions, as evidenced by such proclamations as that of the pope and by the continual practice of their priests.
Nor do we find the Protestant element of Christendom fully enlightened and clear on this point of there being no necessity for the intervention or mediation of men or prayers between the sinner and his Savior. The great majority of Protestants consider prayers and intercessions essential—as evidenced by the various "revival" methods—mourners' benches, kneeling at the altar, rising for prayers, inquiry rooms, etc.—all so contrary to the simplicity of the Scriptural arrangement, which is,—Preach the message of God's grace in Christ, and whosoever believingly accepts it is thereby justified and at peace with God: and his prayers that should follow such belief and acceptance would be thanksgivings for divine favors received and pledges of his own future faithfulness to the Light, the Truth, the Way.
"I am the Light of the world: he that followeth me [Jesus] shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life."—John 8:12.
Very evidently the reason for so much darkness is that, under Satan's misleading, those who see the true light to some extent get to following Popes, Councils, Presbyteries, Conferences and Confessions of men, instead of following the Lord who is the True Light. We should esteem very highly for their work's sake all who have been or may be used of the Lord as finger posts to point us to the Light, the Way, the Truth, but no more—we are not to follow them, except as we discern clearly from the Word that they are closely following Christ. He is to be our Pattern and our only Light.
Meantime in an endeavor to "make a fair show in the flesh" it is the proposition of the pope and his coadjutors to open during that Jubilee year one of the greatest cathedrals in the world in the greatest metropolis of the world—Westminster Cathedral, London. It is said to have already cost over ten millions of dollars: and that millions more are being collected in various parts of the world where "heretics," whom they condemn to hell torments unceasing, are by taxes, etc., feeding the Romanist poor in the almshouses of Christendom. Thanks be to God for the light and better day coming for the poor, deceived, "groaning creation" and for the blessed opportunities of eternal life which that Millennial Day will bring to them.