Part Two—Of Man’s Redemption, Lord’s Day 30, Chapter 1: An Accursed Idolatry (cont.)

From the same Canons and Decree of the Council of Trent it is also very evident that the mass is represented as a continual sacrifice of Christ. For we read in the Twenty-second Session, Chapter I: “Forasmuch as under the former testament, according to the testimony of the apostle Paul, there was no perfection, because of the weakness of the Levitical priesthood; there was need, God, the Father of mercies so ordaining, that another priest should rise, according to the order of Melchisedec, our Lord Jesus Christ who might consummate, and lead to what is perfect, as many as were to be sanctified. He, therefore, our God and Lord, though he was about to offer himself once on the altar of the cross unto God the Father by means of his death, there to operate an eternal redemption; nevertheless, because that his priesthood was not to be extinguished by his death, in the last supper, in the night in which he was betrayed,—that he might leave, to his own beloved spouse, the church, a visible sacrifice such as the nature of man requires, whereby that bloody sacrifice, once to be accomplished on the cross, might be represented, and the memory thereof remain even unto the end of the world and its salutary virtue be applied to the remission of those sins which we daily commit,—declaring himself constituted a priest forever, according to the order of Melchesidec, he offered up to God the Father his own body and blood under the species of bread and wine; and, under the symbols of those same things, he delivered his own body and blood to be received by his apostles, whom he then constituted priests of the new testament; and by those words, Do this in commemoration of me, he commanded them and their successors in the priesthood to offer them; even as the Catholic Church has always understood and taught. For, having celebrated the ancient passover, which the multitude of the children of Israel immolated in memory of their going out of Egypt, he instituted the new passover, to wit, himself to be immolated, under visible signs, by the church through the ministry of priests, in memory of his own passage from this world unto the Father, when by the effusion of his own blood he redeemed us, and delivered us from the power of darkness and translated us into his kingdom. And this is indeed that clean oblation, which cannot be defiled by any unworthiness, or by malice of those that offer it; which the Lord foretold by Malachias was to be offered in every place, clean to his name, which was to be great amongst the Gentiles ; and which the apostle Paul, writing to the Corinthians, has not obscurely indicated, when he says that they who are defiled by the participation of the table of devils, cannot be partakers of the table of the Lord; by the table, meaning in both places the altar. This, in fine, is that oblation which was prefigured by various types of sacrifices during the period of nature, and of the law; inasmuch as it comprises all the good things signified by these sacrifices, as being the consummation and perfection of them all.”

That the Roman Catholics indeed teach that in the mass Christ through the priests is offered as a continual sacrifice is plainer yet from the next chapter, that is Chapter II of the Twenty-second Session. There we read: “And forasmuch as, in this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the mass, that same Christ is contained and immolated in an unbloody manner who once offered himself in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross; the holy synod teaches, that this sacrifice is truly propitiatory, and that by means thereof this is effected, that we obtain mercy, and find grace in seasonable aid, if we draw nigh unto God, contrite and penitent with a sincere heart and upright faith, with fear and reverence. For the Lord, appeased by the oblation thereof, and granting the grace and gift of penitence, forgives even heinous crimes and sins. For the victim is one and the same, the same now offering by the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross, the manner alone of offering being different, The fruits indeed of which oblation of that bloody one, to wit, are received most plentifully through this unbloody one; so far is this latter from derogating in any way from that former oblation. Wherefore not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions, and other necessities of the faithful who are living, but also for those who are departed in Christ and who are not as yet fully purified, it is rightly offered, agreeably to the tradition of the apostles.”

Hence, it is very evident that according to the Romish Church the mass is represented as a continual and oft-repeated sacrifice of Christ, offered up by the priests, and that this repeated sacrifice is indeed necessary for the forgiveness of sins, both of those that are living on the earth and of the departed souls that are still in purgatory. According to Roman Catholics, the mass has all the essential elements of a true sacrifice. It is offered by a priest, Jesus Christ, through the ministry of His earthly representative, the Roman Catholic priest. It has its victim, again Jesus Christ, as He is really present under the appearance of bread and wine. And it is offered up as a real sacrifice through the mystic rite of consecration. In the mass there is, therefore, a continuation of the bloody sacrifice of Christ on the cross in an unbloody manner. And the Romish Church does indeed maintain that this sacrifice of the mass is necessary, and they deny that it is quite sufficient that Christ once for all and forever shed His blood for the blotting out of all the sins of His people.

It is difficult to conceive, indeed, how it were possible that a simple and beautiful rite as the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper could be so corrupted that it is hardly recognizable, as it is done in the Romish mass.

That this idea of a repeated and continued sacrifice of Christ through the Romish priest in the mass is in direct conflict with all that scripture teaches concerning the sacrifice of Christ and its application to His people is not difficult to show.

In its deepest sense it is, of course, a denial of the truth of election. If this fundamental truth of scripture were maintained, the idea of a repeated and continued sacrifice of Christ for His people would have no place whatever in the system of the truth. Believers are chosen in Christ. And according to that eternal election they are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places. Eph. 1:3, 4. According to this eternal election Christ shed His lifeblood on the accursed tree for all that are chosen; and, of course, He shed that blood once for all. On the cross He died as the representative of the elect. They were in Him in His death. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. Their sins are blotted out. That is simply a historic fact. Hence, according to this same truth of election in Christ, the objective justification of all the elect took place, first of all, in eternity; they are justified and glorified from before the foundation of the world. Such is the truth of Romans 8:29, 30: “For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.” In the counsel of God the elect are justified and are glorified. This is true of all the elect, both of the old and of the new dispensation. Hence, Christ is called the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. In God’s decree Christ stands eternally as the slain Lamb, and the elect stand before God as eternally covered by His blood, and thereby justified. How a repetition of that one sacrifice on the cross that was offered for all the elect from all eternity, in which all the elect are justified, would ever be necessary is impossible to see. Moreover, also in time, in the historic moment of the cross the same elect are justified in and through Christ. This, too, was objectively perfect for all that believe in Christ. The saints of the old, as well as of the new dispensation, were justified, not because of the repeated sacrifice of bulls and goats. Still less are they now justified or receive the forgiveness of sins because of any repeated sacrifice by a priest in the mass. Not even because of their faith, though it is through faith as a means that the elect receive hold of that justification, but only because of the one sacrifice of Christ that was offered on the cross more than nineteen centuries ago, are they justified. Hence, the sacrifice of Christ in the mass, which is supposedly necessary for the forgiveness of sins, is really a denial of the truth that Christ died once for all and that all the elect are forever justified in Him.

Besides, the truth that Christ died once for all and that it is forever finished, so that the sacrifice of Christ cannot be and need not be repeated, is abundantly testified by Holy Writ. All the Scriptures testify emphatically that in the one sacrifice of Christ all the elect are forever justified, and that this one sacrifice need not and cannot be repeated in any way or manner.

This is evident already from passages like John 10:11, 15, 27, 28: “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. … As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. . . . My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” On the cross Christ shed His lifeblood for His sheep. And those sheep are they whom the Father had given Him from all eternity. Hence, when He died on the cross, the elect were in Christ; and they died in and with Him. This is also evident from passages like Romans 6:3-7: “Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into His death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection: Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin.” Also from this passage it is evident that all the believers, and therefore, all the elect, died in Christ when He shed His lifeblood on the accursed tree, and that therefore they are forever free from sin. To the passage of Eph. 1:3, 4 we already called your attention. But we must remind you of this passage in connection with the seventh verse of the same chapter. In verses 3 and 4 we are told that all the elect are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places according as they are chosen in Him. And in verse 7 we read: “In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sin, according to the riches of his grace.” In other words, redemption through the blood of Christ and the forgiveness of sins belong to the spiritual blessings in heavenly places which the elect have in Christ Jesus. And therefore, a repeated sacrifice for their forgiveness is certainly totally unnecessary. The same truth is emphasized in Col. 1:20-22: “And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven. And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled in the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight.”

But it is especially the epistle to the Hebrews that emphasizes the truth that Christ died for all His people once forever, and that therefore that sacrifice can never be repeated. This is evident from Heb. 7:23-27: “And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself.” The emphasis in this passage is plainly that, while the priests and the sacrifices of the old dispensation were necessarily many, the one sacrifice of Christ is offered once for all His people, and can never be repeated. The same truth is expressed in Heb. 9:11, 12: “But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.” The redemption by the one sacrifice of Christ with which He entered into the holy place is therefore eternal and irrevocable. Again, in the same chapter, verses 24-26, we read: “For Christ is not entered into the holy place made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us: Nor yet that he should offer himself often, as the high priest entereth into the holy place every year with blood of others; For then he must often have suffered since the foundation of the world: but now once in the end of the world hath he appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” And to quote no more, in Heb. 10:11-14 we read: “And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.”

We conclude, therefore, that the doctrine of the popish mass may indeed be said to be an accursed idolatry and a denial of the one and all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ. And we maintain that this one sacrifice of our Savior did blot out forever the sins of all the elect. Moreover, we maintain that Christ Himself applies the merits of this one sacrifice of us by His Spirit, that we receive the foregiveness of sins through the justifying faith, and that this faith is wrought and strengthened by the Spirit through the means of the preaching of the Word and the proper use of the sacraments.