Brethren Archive

Evangelical Work Among Roman Catholics.

by Charles Stanley

(The late Charles Stanley was much blest in work among Roman Catholics. The following narrative is from his own pen and is worth preserving.)
I had a narrow escape while preaching in the open air in Sheffield.  I had noticed a good number of Irish Roman Catholics gradually close around me.  Then two men, one on each side, got behind me, and prest my arms close while speaking.  At that moment, I felt the point of some sharp instrument at my back.  I immediately said, "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, I, command you to make an opening for me, that I may walk out of this throng; my life is being attacked."  It was a strange sight to see the people fall on each side, until an opening was made, as it were, in an instant.  It was the hand of God.  I walked firmly away for one or two hundred yards, and then my legs seemed utterly to fail me, and I could scarcely walk home. It would, however, be an injustice to leave the impression that I usually received this kind of treatment from the Roman Catholics. Generally, they have listened to me with respectful attention in the open air, as I was accustomed to preach the Gospel, and not attack them.  I will give an instance:
I was walking with a friend one Lord's day morning at Newcastle, and I said, "I want you this afternoon to make known to the Roman Catholics that I hope to preach in the market at three o'clock to-day; and mind you, let them know that I am about to prove that the doctrine of the
 Church of Rome, in the year 60, is the only true doctrine.  And see that they all stand as near me as they can get and let no one disturb or hinder me from going through the discourse." They stood packed all round, so that no one could have got at me.  I then showed that we were left in no uncertainty as to which was the true church at Rome in the year 60.  It was composed of all believers, the only true one church at Rome.  Neither were we left in any uncertainty as to what are the true doctrines of the church at Rome in the year 60.  We have an inspired account of those doctrines, and to that document we turned our attention.  From Chapter I to Chapter III, we found the statement as to the total ruin of man through sin.  Whether Jews or Gentiles, all were sinners, all guilty, all utterly unable to acquire righteousness by works of the law.  Every man found it so, also by his own experience.  It must be so, for this was the true doctrine on the subject of the church at Rome, in, the year 60; and it was the only true church in the year 60 at Rome. 
I then showed God's righteousness, revealed in the glorious plan of redemption—how he is righteous through the atoning death of Jesus, in justifying all that believe Him.  "Their faith is reckoned for righteousness." (Chapter IV.)
 Believing God, who raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our iniquities, and was raised again for our justification," they are accounted righteous—justified.  I gave illustrations to show that the mighty debt of our sins had been paid; and the everlasting proof was Jesus risen from the dead.  He is our everlasting righteousness.  This being the case, there was one striking peculiarity of the church at Rome, or the believers at Rome.  A mark of the true doctrine was this, that they did not hope to be saved, or to make their peace with God.  They had peace with God. "Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through our Lord Jesus Christ."  Here is the true doctrine of the church at Rome in the year 60.  All doctrine contrary to this is heresy and falsehood.  The utter corruption of human nature: all guilty.  Redemption through the blood of Christ, not human works, is the remedy.  All that believe God are justified and have peace with Him—are not hoping to make their peace with God.  Jesus has finished the work on the cross.  They believe it and have peace with God through Jesus Christ.
The application began to be too pointed.  They looked at each other, as I asked if this was the doctrine of those around me.  Had they found that they were utterly lost sinners; and that, try as they might, they could not acquire righteousness or peace by works of law? Had they accepted this full salvation through Jesus Christ?  Did they really believe God?  Were they hoping to get peace, or could they say, with the Roman believers in the year 60, “We have peace with God?"  I assured them there is no salvation apart from the doctrine of the church of Rome, as revealed in this epistle in the year 60.  
By this time, some of my inside friends had become outsiders, and some had disappeared, but many listened to the end; and I had not an insulting word.  May the day declare that souls were that day brought to rest in Christ and believe the Word of God.  
This brings to mind the remarkable
way in which the Roman Catholics stood by me in the Salt Market, Glasgow.  On arrival from Birmingham, a beloved Christian friend walked with me to the Salt Market, a large open space, where, at that time, there were frequently preachings and lectures of all kinds.  An aged Scotch minister was urging the people to give up their sins, become good, religious, and sober; and finally asked them all to attend the kirk, and at once to go with him to such a kirk.  When he concluded, I stood up and said I had just come about three hundred miles, and I wished to add a few words.  Scarcely a person went off to kirk, but all listened with eager attention and the crowd began to gather from all sides.  I did not think it wise to tell them what I thought of the preaching they had been hearing, but took up the matter in this way:
have heard now what this aged preacher has told you; and now, would you not be most happy if you did as he has told you? Would it not be far better for every one of you if you were to give up your sins, and to become a sober, holy, religious people?  You know it would be far better with you were you holy; yes, so holy that you were fit for heaven, and sure to go there?  Would anything make you more happy than to be quite sure of going to heaven?"  Many were the responsive sighs.  "But,'' I said, "now tell me, have not many of you tried to do all this, that the preacher has told you to do?  You have tried to give up all sins, and to be holy.  You have longed to be fit for heaven and have utterly failed.  Some of you have felt as if it were no use trying; you only get worse and worse.  You go to kirk and try to be religious, but you are not a bit better for it.  You long to do what this preacher has told you to do, but you fail.  Is not this the honest truth?"  
The people seemed convicted on the
spot.  I then said: "I will now tell you what I have come three hundred miles to say.  God knows our utterly helpless, guilty condition.  He saw us not only guilty, but without strength to be better, just as you have found.  He saw us lost, and we should not be lost if we could help ourselves.  That vessel among the breakers is not lost if the crew have the least hope of reaching shore.  But see, all hope is gone; she is on the rocks; she is going to pieces.  Now, if a man is saved, it must be by the life-boat.  You are lost!  Every effort to save yourselves only proves you are lost, LOST.  To' you is Jesus, the life-boat, sent!  God sent His Son 'to seek and to save the lost.' "  The Scriptures were then opened, and they were shown how God had so loved them, lost in sins, and helpless, and had sent His Son to make propitiation for sin.  And if they had learned that they could not attain to holiness or righteousness, by their efforts or works, I had now the glorious message to declare to them: free forgiveness of sins, through Jesus Christ the Lord.  I then concluded, as it was getting late; but not one person would move, and I was entreated to go on and tell them more of the blessed news.  I had to preach again, I should say, a full hour.  
There are many Roman Catholics around the Salt Market, in Glasgow.  
Many came and heard, and some paid deeper attention.  Some years after, I went again, and immediately as I walked on the open space, I was recognized, and especially by the Irish Catholics, who came and stood from beginning to end of the preaching, which had again to be prolonged to a late hour. Indeed, I was told that they were most interested.  I name this to show the importance of preaching the grace of God, so needed by every soul, instead of attacking others.  Nothing exposes our human errors like the truth of God.  And let us remember that man in his natural state, whether Roman Catholic or Protestant, is darkness; not merely in darkness, but darkness itself.  “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord." (Eph. v. 8.)  There is no true knowledge of God, no light, but in Christ; out of Him, all is moral darkness. It was very remarkable, as in the above case, how the Lord gathered large companies to hear the word preached without any of the usual means of post-bills, or otherwise.  When I spoke first in the Glasgow Salt Market, I only knew four Christians north of Scarborough.
"The Missionary Review of the World" 1907

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