Recently we listened to a Romish father of the Paulist order as, for some time, he depicted with fervor and eloquence—we might even say power—the exceeding heinousness of sin. A fell disease he showed it to be—a dreadful curse, a terrible affront to a holy God. He spared no words in declaring the undone condition of the sinner, his loss for time, his awful fate for eternity. Our own heart was moved by it. We doubt not many others were.
When, at last, he had well-nigh exhausted his magnificent vocabulary in picturing sin's direful work of destruction, he paused a moment, then asked, dramatically, "Is there no remedy? Must the sinner be eternally lost? Or, is there a means of deliverance even for the one guilty of mortal sin?"
Anxiously we waited for his answer, feeling that perhaps the fate of many souls in the great cathedral trembled in the balance.
"Yes," he said, "a remedy there is. God has provided it. All can avail themselves of it. Listen, O sinner, listen—you who sigh for deliverance! The remedy is—" Another pause, that all might catch the important word. What would it be? God's remedy, we knew, was Christ—His finished work, His shed blood! Sad indeed was our heart as, in place of His blessed name, he pronounced the one word, "Penance!"
Poor, misled and misleading old man! Did he tell his vast congregation but a few moments before that they were all lost and ruined as sinners before God, only to mock them in the next by pointing them to a remedy that could be of no avail? Alas, so it was! One verse of Holy Scripture pondered over would shatter the hopes of any who sought to obtain salvation by penance and prayers: "Without shedding of blood there is no remission" (Heb. 9:22). And yet, ere he closed, the same priest quoted the verse that tells whose blood it is—"he blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth us from all sin" (1 John 1:7). If this be true, what place for penance? If all sin be cleansed by blood, for what sin will penance serve as a means to cleanse?
Doubtless many of his hearers had tried his remedy again and again. Penance after penance following each recurring confession had they fully attended to, yet were they just as burdened with their load of guilt at the end of it all as at the beginning, for—
"None but Jesus
Can do guilty sinners good."
Of Him it is written, "Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; to declare, I say, at this time His righteousness; that He might he just, and the justifier of him that believeth in Jesus" (Rom. 3:25, 26). And lest any should think it needful to add to this their own poor works—penance or aught else—we are told, "Now to him that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to him that worketh not, but believeth on Him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness" (Rom. 4:4, 5).
Turn, then, reader, if unsaved, from every other remedy, and "behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
Copied from The Only Two Religions and Other Gospel Papers by H. A. Ironside. New York: Loizeaux Brothers, Publishers, [n.d.].
Selections from The Only Two Religions...