Anton Bosch, Sun Valley, California (May 2013)
During our recent visit to South Africa I was privileged to spend a morning with one of my friends and teachers – Professor Arthur Song. In the course of our conversation he asked if I had read the book “Fifty Years in the Church of Rome” by Charles Chiniquy. I had not, and I still do not understand why not. This book should have been part of my early education in things spiritual yet, for some strange reason, I had not even heard of it – talk about blind spots!
I downloaded the book within an hour of parting from Arthur and began to read. It blessed me in so many ways that I want to share some of those with you. I also want to urge every Christian to read it. Every believer should be exposed to the powerful lessons of this book. It is freely available to be read online or as a pdf download – just do an online search for it.
Briefly, Chiniquy grew up in the Church of Rome in the 1800’s and as a young man, prepared for, and entered the priesthood. At about the age of 50 he finally allowed the truth of the gospel to penetrate his brainwashed mind and he was expelled from the church. He spent the rest of his life plucking thousands out of the darkness and bringing them into the marvelous freedom that is to be found only in Christ.
Because of its age, the style of writing is a little challenging, but that is more than offset by the exhilaration of a powerful story of God’s grace and goodness. There are a few bits, like the long quotes from various letters, which could be missed. Chapters 59-61 can also be skipped and read at the end as they really interrupt the flow of the story. These chapters relate the author’s dealings with Abraham Lincoln and should have been an addendum, to my way of thinking. Be that as it may, this is not a quick read – it is 474 pages of riveting and thought-provoking reading.
Chiniquy opened my eyes to several things in the Church of Rome that I had not fully understood. These include:
· The corruption of innocent minds through the confessional
· The worship of the “little god” idol – the wafer that is turned into their god
· The supremacy of the church’s teachings over the Bible
· The need for every sincere Catholic to commit intellectual and spiritual suicide in order to submit to the teachings of the church
· The absolute power and corruption of priests over the people and of bishops over priests and churches
· The pain and extreme evil of the heresy of celibacy
· The lust for money, power, alcohol and sex by the priesthood
I am well aware that some will say that things in Rome have changed in the 150 years since the book was written. The fact is that there may have been minor cosmetic changes but there is little doubt that the underlying doctrines, practices and principles remain. One of the areas where the book helped me make sense of Rome is in the modern sex abuse scandals. Once you read the book, you will understand that the revelations of the past decade have simply drawn aside the curtain of a problem that is rooted in centuries of sin and which is the direct result of the wickedness of confession and celibacy. The only difference is that people are more willing to speak out more in these modern times. It seems that the frequency of the abuse, the manipulation of the victims and the way the hierarchy refuses to hear the victims and discipline the perpetrators have remained unchanged for hundreds of years. The unimaginable mental and spiritual anguish inflicted on the victims also remains unchanged.
On the surface, it may appear that the book is only about Rome and that is sufficient reason why every Christian should read the book. But it is about more than Rome. The book is about every church and denomination that inserts itself between the conscience of the believer and his Lord and it is about every time an organization places its own teachings, doctrine and traditions above the Bible.
I have never been a Catholic, yet, I have had very similar experiences in evangelical denominations. Even in some evangelical churches the authority of the church supersedes that of the Scriptures, those who dare question their leaders are persecuted, and leaders usurp the position of Christ in the life of the believer by demanding unquestioning obedience even contrary to Scripture and conscience. Several times I could not continue reading because the experiences of Chiniquy were just too close to my own, and his account vividly brought back my own experiences. The level and depth of his experiences far outweigh mine yet the issues and outcome are similar. I simply mention this, not to draw attention to myself, but to remind you that these things do not just happen in Catholicism, but they are common even in Protestant, Evangelical and Pentecostal churches.
For that reason every believer must read this book early in their walk with the Lord, in order to be forewarned that there are many wolves masquerading as shepherds and many churches and denominations that are toxic and abusive. The book will encourage believers to stand for the truth, trust the Scriptures above the teachings of men, and to recognize the voice of the true Shepherd over the clamor of charlatans. The book will also prepare all who will stand for truth with the reality that they will not be hailed as heroes but they will be vilified, lied to and about, and ultimately shunned. In Chiniquy’s experience, countless attempts were made to kill him physically. Many others will not be killed physically, but their reputations, ministries and relationships will be destroyed in order to cover the error of the system they dare stand against.
The third reason you should read this book is to be strengthened by the courage of Chiniquy and the faithfulness of the Lord. Sometimes Christians have to die for the faith but at other times He sends powerful deliverance and vindication. Such was the case with the author. Time after time, the Lord powerfully vindicated the testimony of His saint and miraculously delivered him out of the hand of the enemy. That is an encouragement to anyone who has to endure persecution and affliction for the Lord’s sake.
The fourth reason you should read the book is because it reveals the power of God’s Word. The author was privileged to read a Bible when he was a young child and marvelously, decades of indoctrination could not erase the words that had been inscribed in the mind and heart of that young boy. God’s Word is powerful and it does bear fruit in spite of man’s worst efforts to destroy it. This testimony is a clear example of “So shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it.” (Isaiah 55:11).
The final reason to read the book is to learn from Chiniquy’s attitude towards his abusive leaders. In spite of their error and sin, he always remained respectful and meek while standing firm on the truth. Rare qualities indeed.
“I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).