Entitled “The Law And The Testimony”
And you have not one word, then, to say for the Mass, the very centre and distinguishing feature of the whole Romanist system!
The omission is intelligible, but remarkable. The pretension to offer Christ still, as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead, is so subversive of Christianity, so contrary to the express testimony of the word of God, that it is natural for one who seeks to conciliate Protestants to Romish doctrines to pass over it in silence, if he can.
The best way to win to these doctrines is to conceal them, to direct the attention from them. You cannot deny that the Mass is the centre of your whole system. “He goes to Mass “is the very term familiarly used to designate a Romanist; “he goes to church,” to mark out a Protestant. Why have you omitted this subject in your effort to enlighten poor Roman Catholics and disabuse prejudiced Protestants? The pretence to have a sacrifice still offered up on earth, when the word of God declares, that “by one offering Christ has perfected for ever them that are sanctified”; that “there is no more offering for sin, where remission of sins is”; that a continual offering was a memorial of sins, proving that they were not put away— the declaration that you have an unbloody sacrifice, when the word of God declares, that “without shedding of blood there is no remission,” and that consequently, if the oblation of Christ was to be repeated, He must often have suffered: such a plain distinct testimony of God’s word on the very point, makes it natural you should omit all mention of it. The sacrifice of the Mass is the proof that, in what calls itself the church of Rome, there is no true remission of sins; for “where remission of sins is, there is no more offering for sin.”
This is a very solemn point, dear reader. If the word of God be true, there is no remission of sins in the so-called church of Rome. Hence, those belonging to it are continually, as the poor Jews were, “offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins”; for they are unbloody sacrifices, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Romanism has a form of piety, but it denies the substance. God forbid that I should use a hard word as to souls as precious as my own, and who believe they are in the right; whom, I trust and believe, I love with unfeigned charity; such as I have lived amongst for years, and loved and served as well as I knew how. It is not want of love to speak plainly in what concerns the salvation of souls. I would not use an abusive or hard word that could offend them, but I say plainly, that that is not the church of God, nor is the true remission of sins to be found, where a sacrifice is still pretended to be offered. “For where remission of sins is, there is no more offering for sin.” The church of God enjoys the perfect remission of sins by one perfect sacrifice, in which the precious blood of Christ was shed, offered once for all, and which never can be repeated; for Christ can die no more—can never suffer again, nor need He, for He has by one offering perfected for ever them that are sanctified. The Mass is but a return to the weakness of Judaism.
Hence this one capital point is sufficient for everyone taught of God, and must lead everyone who bows to the word of God to reject the Romish system as an entire departure from Christianity as revealed of God. Yet I will take up briefly the different points the author of “Law and Testimony “has touched upon. And, first, some general observations which I would address to the writer.
You lean much upon the Fathers. Forgive me if I think you have not much read them. You tell us, that you have taken from the authenticated work of every author you have quoted, as may be ascertained by reference to their writings. Now, that you are not personally acquainted with them, you have afforded most unequivocal proof in your pamphlet, in this: that you have supposed the Clement who wrote the Stromata to be the Clement who was, as you say, a “fellow-labourer of the apostles, who was Pope of Rome, third after Peter, and is often mentioned by St. Paul, in his Epistles.” “The church, he writes,” you say, “which is one,” etc., and you quote “St. Clem. 7 Stromat.” Now, the very smallest acquaintance with the Fathers would have saved you so glaring a mistake as you have here made. There was a Clement, companion of Paul, who wrote a letter to the church of Corinth, and who (though there is the greatest confusion and contradiction37 as to the succession of the first bishops of Rome) is stated by respectable historians to have been the third bishop of Rome. Two letters have been attributed to him; one is believed to be authentic—a pious effort to compose the strifes of the church of Corinth. But (must I say so? As my readers may be peasants of the North of Ireland, it may be necessary) Clement of Alexandria, who never was a bishop at all, was the author of the Stromata. He flourished from 192 a.d. to the beginning of the third century. He was president of the school of Alexandria. He was a great philosopher as well as a Christian, but of doubtful soundness38 enough on some points, and full of philosophical speculations. However, whatever the value of Clement’s opinions, one thing is quite clear, that you did not consult him yourself; whether you did the other Fathers, which you quote, every one must judge by this example for himself. One thing is certain: you must be an utter stranger to the Fathers, to have taken Clement of Alexandria for Clement of Rome.
Your definition of the church introduces another point in which the flagrant departure of Romanism from the Christianity taught by the apostles betrays itself in a remarkable manner. It is, you say, an assembly of Christians, united by the profession of the same true faith, and communion of the same sacraments, under the government of lawful pastors, whose head is the pope. Now scripture is as explicit as possible in saying that Christ is its head—and it cannot have two.
The statement of the Catechism of the Council of Trent is curious enough on this point. It says—it could not say otherwise—this church has also but one ruler and governor, the invisible one, Christ, whom the Eternal Father hath made head over all the church, which is His body; the visible one, him who, as legitimate successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, fills the apostolic chair. One would have thought that made two. God “gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body”; or, if you prefer the Rhemish translation, “hath made him head over all, to the church, which is his body “(Eph. 1:22, 23); and again (chap. 5:23), “the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church.”
Now this is practically very important, because the glorious Head, living in heaven, gives the true church, His body, a heavenly character, though its members may be despised on earth; whereas a glorious head on earth, greater than emperors and princes in the eyes of men, gives it a worldly character which neither Christ nor the true church ever had: besides, Christ as the Head is a source of grace, which it is impossible the pope or any man can be. But the grand point is, Christ is the one sole Head of the true church; the pope is the head of yours; therefore yours is certainly not the true.
One little word in addition as to your definition. You tell us it is an assembly of Christians united by the profession of the same true faith. Hence, as there are millions in the Greek church who say they are the true church, and millions of Protestants who say they are, and millions of Catholics who say they are: and you tell me that their being united in the same true faith is part of the definition by which I shall know which is the true one, I must find out what the true faith is, before I know which Christ’s church is, or if any of them are; for each of them tells me it is. Of course they honestly think themselves so; and you tell me that profession of the true faith marks the true church. Well then I must necessarily know what is the true faith, to know who professes it; that is, I find the true faith before I find the church. And so it always was; for it was on receiving the true faith from the apostles, or other servants of Christ, that people at the first became members of the church; and they did not, and could not, become so otherwise.
But, again, you give us the usual marks of unity—sanctity, catholicity, apostolicity, and add infallibility, perpetual visibility. The first four are given in “Milner’s End of Controversy”; indeed they are the well-known marks as given in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Nowhere is the truth given as a mark of the true church. This is strange—still more strange, since in your definition of the church, the profession of the true faith is made essential to it.
It is very convenient to assume it as a definition, and to drop it as a mark; but you have replaced it by a very convenient substitute—infallibility, which means, take it for true without inquiry. Before, I was to take the true faith, as shewing Christ’s church; now, I must without inquiry take the church and all it teaches, as securing the truth for me. Which is the right way? Both cannot be. Holding and professing the truth are not infallibility. Every true Christian holds and professes the truth, but he is not infallible. If the church professes the true faith, she holds a true faith which exists all ready to be professed, as it was given by inspiration to those whom Christ sent to reveal it. If she is infallible, she is the source of truth, not the receiver of it. Now that is true of God alone.
But, in giving the first four marks, you allege your system justifies you. They are those given in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. The only point I would now insist upon here is this very solemn one, that the truth forms no mark of the true church in the system of Rome. She dare not present it as a test; she disclaims it, she avoids it. She pleads unity, sanctity, catholicity, apostolicity. We will examine these just now.
Truth cannot be borne as a test. All that is taught is to be received without any test at all, though an apostle could say, “Prove all things, hold fast that which is good.” They of Berea were noble in the apostle’s eyes, because they searched the scriptures to see whether these things were so. But the test of truth cannot be endured at Rome; it is not pretended to be one of the marks of the Romish body. In place of that, it would impose all it teaches without any test at all—pretending to be infallible, which is the attribute of God only. Do I assert that man, by his own powers, is able to fathom the truth? No; but the Lord has said, “They shall be all taught of God; whosoever, therefore, hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me.” God may employ any one, a minister of the word, a mother, a friend, a book to present the truth—grace applies it to the heart; that, the church, even the true church, has no pretensions to do, though she is an instrument to hold the truth up before men; but God alone can bring it home.
On the other hand, the Roman Catholic, having relinquished the truth as a test of the true church, saying that the truth is to be searched for in vain, leans not on grace, but entirely upon human powers, to find the true church. He points out, to use the words of a celebrated controversialist and bishop, “certain exterior visible marks, such as plain unlearned persons can discover, if they will take ordinary pains for this purpose, no less than persons of the greatest abilities and literature.” This is stated in reply to the marks of the true church, which the author declares to be laid down by Luther, Calvin, and the Church of England—namely, truth of doctrine, and the right administration of the sacraments. That is, truth of doctrine and the right administration of the sacraments are objected to as adequate marks of the true church, by which it may be known.
Now, if it be a question for heathens or Jews—for them the whole question is, just how to be saved. If they believe and are baptized, they are saved, and members, it is to be supposed, of the true church, before they have discussed its merits at all. If it be a question which arises among Christians, who seek among Roman Catholics, and Protestants, and Presbyterians, and other bodies, where the true church is to be found; if, I say, the question arises among Christians, they have not all knowledge, doubtless, but they have saving faith, or they are not Christians at all; and hence, the truth is a most sure means of ascertaining the true church. Thus, if I know, as a matter of my own salvation, that the divinity and atonement of Christ are the very truth of God, and I found everything calling itself a church which denied these fundamental doctrines, I could at once say, That is not the true church. Souls may be ignorantly in error there—may come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved; but I cannot own the body as the true church of God.
And here a great and important question arises, on which I desire to say a few words, from its intrinsic importance, though the book I am commenting on relieves me from the necessity. They quote the scriptures, and, consequently, suppose us capable of understanding them, heretics though we may be, capable of receiving proof from them. But the subject is too important to pass it over with this remark, conclusive though it be. It is said we cannot judge scripture; it is alleged that laws require judges, and the like. Now I do not go upon the ground of our capacity to judge scripture. My reason, dear reader, is very simple—it judges us. “The words that I speak unto you,” says the Lord, “shall judge you in the last day.” “The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, and pierceth to the dividing asunder of joints and marrow, and soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” There is a conscience in every man; God’s word speaks to it, and judges everything in his heart. It is the light which manifests all things—the revelation of God and of Christ, who is light. I do not judge if the light be clean; it shews whether I am.
When Christ was in the world, when He spoke the words of God, were not men bound to receive them on peril of condemnation? Did it require the church’s authority to lead men to receive it? All the religious authorities—authorities which they quote to confirm their doctrine—rejected Him. Are His words less binding, less true, less holy, less gracious now? The word of God is not judged—it judges. Woe be to the man who hardens his heart against it! Men did then: what was the consequence? God, by John Baptist, mourned to them, they would not lament; He piped to them, they would not dance. Hardening their consciences against the conviction of sin, they (to use the words of the blessed Lord) rejected the counsel of God against themselves; that is, to their own eternal ruin. The word (which was, and, blessed be God, yet is spoken and sent in grace) will judge them, and all who reject it in the last day; for God knows that, when He sent it in grace, He sent it with ample proofs to men’s hearts and consciences that it is His word.
But a word more on this. It is not denied that the scriptures are the word of God. The Council of Trent has added seven books to the canon, never publicly received into it before, and against the express testimony of Jerome, the author of the Vulgate translation, which they receive as authentic. But leaving these contested ones for the moment (for in the New Testament there are none such), they own that the scriptures are the word of God. They own that Peter wrote his epistles as an inspired apostle; Paul his, John his, and so of the other books of the New Testament (and the same holds good as to all the Old Testament, to the Jews). Now, save the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, all the books of the New Testament are addressed to all the faithful; in one epistle, that to the Philippians, the bishops and deacons being added. That is, to express myself in modern language, the New Testament was addressed not to the clergy but by the clergy, the highest and wisest of them assuredly, to all the faithful in general, or in particular places. Now, if the faithful in general were incompetent to use them, how came the apostle to write them to them? The apostles thought what they wrote was suited to the mass of the faithful; you think it is not; which is right? And mark what a monstrous position you put yourselves in—the apostles wrote (to say nothing of the guidance of the Holy Ghost yet) in the way they thought best suited to the mass of the faithful, writing to all of them; and even in one case particularly insisting that care should be taken that it was read to all. You think you can do it better than they. What monstrous presumption! Did they do it badly, in a wrong manner, so that you can do it better? If really looked into, it is blasphemy; for it is the Spirit of God who addressed all this, save the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, to all the common mass of the faithful.
But another very solemn question arises here, that of the authority of God in the matter. God did address the writings in question to the mass of the faithful as binding on their consciences, directing their lives and rejoicing their hearts. Now I do not insist here on the right of every Christian to read the scriptures (though no man has a right to call it in question), but on the right of God to address Himself to whom He will, and of the sin of intercepting what He has addressed to His servants. If I have sent directions and promises to my servants, he who hinders their having them as I send them, and directly from myself, meddles, not with the right of the servants, but with mine. God has sent His word to the faithful, not to the clergy (I except Timothy and Titus, as to this argument, however profitable, and in spirit binding on all). He who hinders their receiving it, or pretends to claim control over their getting it, flies in the face of God’s authority and God’s own acts. To pretend to communicate God’s thoughts better and more clearly than His inspired apostles, and to hinder His communications reaching His own servants, when He has addressed them to them, is a strange way of proving any to be the true church of God. And that is exactly what the clergy of the Roman Catholic system do.
But I will enter on your marks of the true church. They are unity, sanctity, catholicity, and apostolicity. You refer to some other points, which I will advert to in their place.
First, unity. That the church of God was one at the beginning, and manifestly and publicly such, is evident to every one that reads the scriptures. That it is not, if we consider it as a public visible body on earth (for the true body of Christ will be infallibly so in glory, and is so always in the living unity of the Spirit) is equally evident, from the simple fact that we are inquiring which of two or three bodies, or if any of them, be the true church. Unity of doctrine, and general discipline, which you give as being unity, is not sufficient. These may prove sameness in two bodies, as well as unity. There must be corporate unity—a single body. I therefore seek more than you do in unity. Further, your proofs of unity are utterly vain and useless; they are as true of the Greek body, which detests and rejects you, as of the Romish, which denounces the Greek as schismatic and heretical. They have bishops and the assemblings on Sundays, and the Eucharist, and the same doctrines, and the same general discipline, which you plead as proofs for Rome. You would find these in the Protestant Episcopal church too all over the world. Perhaps, indeed, we may except a confession to a priest. But what a strange mark of unity you have given us here. It is perfectly certain that if it be one, no Christian for centuries after Christ was in the one true church. There is not an historical point more incontestable than this, that private confession to a priest is a novelty unknown to the early church. After the earliest times men did public penance for scandalous falls, and no confession was imposed as to others. There was indeed for a time one penitentiary priest at Constantinople, and, as it appears elsewhere; and such scandal arose, on a certain occasion, from it, that it was abolished by Nectarius; and his successor, Chrysostom, at the end of the fourth century, urges, over and over again, confession to God alone. Augustine’s words are equally clear; so are Ambrose’s. In the thirteenth century alone it was first made obligatory by the Lateran Council under Innocent III—the same pope under whom the Inquisition was established, and the Crusades formed against the Albigenses, and the atrocities of that “holy war “perpetrated in the south of France.
We agree that unity was at the first; and it does not exist now. There are Romanists, Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Protestant Episcopalians, Presbyterians, all composing nominal churches, containing, the smallest of them, millions of professing Christians. Your talking of unity of doctrine and discipline amongst Romanists is nothing at all to the purpose. So there is amongst the millions of the Greek church; so there is in the smallest body of Christians you may affect to despise. The question is, Is unity found in the whole professing church? If you tell me, But none of the others, save Rome, are in the truth, that is just the question to be solved, and I must first have the truth to judge by. If I have that, according to the word of God, to judge by, then I judge the Romanist system to be apostasy from the truth of God. That you are at one among yourselves proves nothing at all, because others, as the Greek body, are that also. Nay, to go further, Mahometans are, as to doctrine and general discipline, with pretty much such a schism as Greeks and Romans shew under the name of Christ. Nay, in China we have numerically more than all put together in one system, worshipping heaven and the manes of their sainted ancestors.
You will say, and say justly, But these are not Christians— have not the truth of God at all. But then I must know what the truth is, to judge that. I do (blessed be God!) know the sure precious truth of God, the doctrine of Christ, as God has revealed it. But when I use this, I find that you have it not.
But you have the pope. Is this a security for unity? Why, you know well that there was a time when there were three at a time, and all three set aside by a council, a general council— that of Constance. If such unity as you speak of was necessary to the existence of the true church, and the pope was the keystone of it, where was it then? and where is your apostolic succession? In which of the three am I to trace it? There was a regular double succession of popes for fifty years; and then we have a council deposing a pope;39 and mark it well, the present succession of the apostolic see, and the consequent existence of the whole Romish body, depends on the right of a general council to depose a pope, and its superiority to the pope, for it flows at best from the pope set up by the council when they had deposed John XXIII. I say, at best; for these three popes are each of them sources of an ordained clergy. Again, when Pope Liberius solemnly signed the Arian creed, and the vast majority of Christendom were Arian, where was the unity of the church through the pope then? Now I will not affirm that the story of Pope Joan (that is, that a good-for-nothing woman was pope) is true; but with the real uncertainty whether it be not true, what is become of succession, as a secure test of the true church?
We have touched now on the question of apostolicity, as well as unity; but, on other grounds, this mark will not help you out in your assertion that the system of Rome is the one true church. The apostolic succession of the Greek and Eastern bodies is as sure, and indeed much surer—to say nothing of the Protestant—than that of Rome. So that this will not hinder my being a Greek, or an Armenian, or even a Protestant. How will this visible external mark help me? Am I to settle all the nice questions of the Council of Constance? Am I to settle whether Urban VI, or Clement VII, or their successors, were the true popes of their day? or, when the successors of each line were condemned by the council as guilty of heresy, perjury, and contumacy, and were excommunicated, am I to consider them popes or not? or, instead of them, the third set, Alexander V, and his successor, John XXIII, and who was in turn degraded by the council for his crimes? It is a dreary scene; yet it is not I, but you, who have referred me to apostolicity as a test of the true church.
Do you say, that the poor man has nothing to do with all this? But this is apostolicity. It will not, you mean to say, bear examination. For how am I to settle apostolic succession “but by knowing it exists? Is this a simple external visible mark? Why, it is a question your most learned divines are at sea about, and avoid. They tell you the pope and a general council together are infallible; but how, when a council condemns a pope and deposes him, a deposition on which the best line of your present orders, and the validity of the succession of the actual Peter, depend? Again, which are the general councils? This they dare not say; because if they admit Constance to be one, then the church can act without a pope, and depose him; if they deny it, their succession is gone, because the present popes derive their succession from this act. Am I to settle all this, before I know the truth of God for my soul, or find the true church? Where am I to find the records? How many historians am I to read? What is the authority of these authors? What a difference from the truth learned from the simple word of God! Or am I to gulp down as I find it, because Rome is infallible—I know not why?
But one word more as to the pope and unity. You tell us, when a heresy spread, a council was assembled by the authority of the pope. Now, if you have the smallest acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, you must know that all the early councils were summoned by the emperors. They were held in the east; and when Christendom in those quarters was torn in pieces by clerical contention and ambition and doctrinal discord, the emperors tried to make peace by gathering these general assemblies, none having been held (if we except that recorded in the Acts) before the emperors professed Christianity; and then it was only bishops and others within the Roman empire who met. The council of Antioch before that time formally condemned the very term as heretical which the council of Nice established as the only secure test of orthodoxy against Arius (that is, Homoousion); and this circumstance being pressed by the eastern bishops who got influence over Constantine, the affair ended in Arius being received as orthodox into what you call the Catholic church, and dying in its communion; and in Athanasius, who held what both you and I believe to be the truth, dying in banishment. And in the subsequent reign (the emperor being an Arian, and the orthodox persecuted), the pope signed the Arian creed, as a more dutiful subject than I suppose he would be now. But this by the bye; it is perfectly certain that, in the first and great general councils, the pope did not assemble them by his authority. Is this what you refer me to as securing me in the knowledge of the truth and the true church?
But you tell me also that I have a test in its catholicity, that is, its universality. But here the voice of facts speaks too loud for you not to sink into what is ridiculous. *’ It must contain,” you say, “more members than any other community or denomination of professing Christians.” More members! a majority! Is that all the truth of God has to depend upon? What has that to do with universality? Why, if I live in England a poor countryman, such as you address your book to (the immense majority are Protestants—indeed, save Irishmen, none else scarcely could be found), and if I am to take such a poor test as the name of a building, everybody knows that if I asked, Where is the church? I should be shewn the Protestant place of worship; all else are chapels. Indeed this test would hold good in Ireland. But is your test of the true church reduced to a majority? Go to the east, where little is known beyond their own doors, and there this simple external visible test is the certain exclusion of all pretension of the Romanist to be of the true church.
But some facts on this point require a little comment. You tell us that Rome has two hundred and thirty millions of adherents. Where have you found them? The fact is, that you have exaggerated by pretty nearly a hundred milhons. There are in the world, on a rough calculation—for nothing more can be given here, or indeed be arrived at, as to some countries—there are in the world about one hundred and forty-three, say one hundred and forty-five, millions of Romanists, eighty-five millions of Protestants, sixty millions of Greeks, and perhaps four or five millions in all of other denominations, as Armenians and the like in the east. Asia and Africa contain a certain number of Protestants and Romanists difficult to enumerate, and scarcely changing the proportions. That is, there are about as many professing Christians who hold that Rome is right and who hold that she is wrong. But who, in his senses, would take this, or the contrary, to be a means of ascertaining the true church? Had men gone by numbers, they would, in the fourth century, have gone from the confession of Christ’s divinity to the denial of it with the different emperors and the same pope, who would have helped them in and out with the majority into (not unity, thank God, for some would not give up the truth for an emperor or a pope, but into) so-called orthodoxy, if majorities were to decide it. And alas! being mere professors, so it happened that they did wheel about with the turn of the tide.
I have spoken briefly of three of the marks of the true church —unity, apostolicity, catholicity. As to unity, the Romish body is one, the Greek church is one, and so of others: but general visible unity is lost, or we should not have to inquire which is the true church. Catholicity, or universality, you have given up the pretension to; you claim only a majority; so that, if universality be a test, Romanists have not the true church, nor, since there are Romanists, any other body either.
This test, by your own confession, and change of it into a simple majority (itself more than doubtful), makes the whole ground on which you search for the true church a perfect absurdity. Your own statement proves, if universality be a test, that there is no true visible church at all. Lastly, apostolicity is the most absurd test imaginable; for, while pretending to be simple and external, the succession of bishops from the apostles’ day must be ascertained, or the mark does not exist at all. And in the next place Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, and even Protestant Episcopalians have it, and prove it as gaily as Romanists themselves; while the only place where it is known to be most grievously damaged and upset is in the papal succession, where for fifty years there were two popes at a time, both ordaining other successions; and at last three, all put down for heresy, and another set up by a council which upset all their claims together. I have reserved the question of sanctity: it is a painful one, and I shall speak of it at the close.
I shall now refer to your use of scripture. First, your quotation of it is important. It is then available, intelligible to the faithful, and conclusive. We can understand it with God’s help (without which we can do nothing right), and it binds our conscience. Your use of it is another thing. You quote, for example, passages, or parts of passages (for one is applicable to the state of glory), saying, that Christ would have one fold and one shepherd (that is, no longer Jews or Gentiles as distinct people); Christ’s prayer, that they all may be one; then the passage which applies to glory (“the glory that thou hast given me I have given them,” precedes what you quote); Paul’s direction to the faithful, to be careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; a direction to Timothy to keep what was committed to his trust; and one to Titus to reject heretics. It is clear, you say, from all these texts, that no one can be a member of the church of Christ unless he holds the same doctrine as she teaches. Well, how this conclusion flows from a prayer for unity, or an exhortation to keep it in the bond of peace, is, I confess, beyond me, and, with all humihty, I apprehend beyond anybody; because there is nothing in the passages you quote about the conclusion which you draw. Common sense tells us, that a person who is a member of a body, and does not hold what it teaches, is, in some respects, inconsistent. But your conclusion is utterly false; for either the church must teach some error, or no member can ever be in any error whatever without ceasing thereby to be a member of the church at all; for if he be in any error, he holds something the church does not teach, or else she teaches error.
But, though you tell us the texts prove it, you (strangely enough) give in the same sentence a totally different reason for it. The church has received authority from Christ to teach all nations. Allow me to correct an error of a very grave character, on which all your reasoning, and all the Romish reasoning, is founded. You say the church teaches. Now I deny that the church teaches at all; she holds the truth, has learned the truth, is sanctified by the truth; she teaches nothing. She is taught, and has learned. Ministers, whom God has sent for that purpose, teach. It was never said to the church, “Go ye and teach all nations.” It was said to the apostles, when Christ ascended; and they went and taught, as did certain others, sent by the Holy Ghost; and the church was gathered and built up. Then those whom God raised up as pastors and teachers, waited, or were to wait on their teaching.
But there is authority, you allege, also in matters of discipline; but this resides in the body. The passage you quote from Matthew 16 (your text-book failed you here, or you failed it; it is Matthew 18:17: chapter 16:18 is your favourite passage of the rock, on which it is built) does not speak of doctrines, but it does speak of the whole assembly, where a man is, and not of clergy or church teaching, or doctrine. If one Christian wrong his brother, the latter is to seek to win him alone; if the attempt fail, he is to take two or three, that all may be clearly established; and, if he do not hear them, the injured party is to tell it to the whole assembly; and, if the trespasser neglect to hear them, then the wronged man may hold him as unclean and a stranger. What has this to do with the clergy settling doctrine authoritatively, or with the clergy at all, or with doctrine at all? Just nothing. But when nothing is to be had, we must get the best sounding passage we can, that there may be an appearance of the authority of scripture: with the reality of it Rome can well dispense. Shall I tell you what the citation of this passage by Rome proves? That there is no passage in scripture to favour her pretensions—not a trace of one; had there been one, this would not have been always cited, while the smallest attention must prove it to have nothing whatever to do with the matter, and that Rome is forced to pervert scripture to have some appearance of being justified by it.
This is all you have to say for the unity of the church. The unity of the church I believe to be a most precious truth; but if you place it where you do, scripture will not bear you out, because it speaks of the saved, quickened, sanctified members of Christ, called to glory, as His body, the church. There is another view of the church. It is the habitation of God through the Spirit; Eph. 2. As the body of Christ, it is surely preserved and kept; but as a responsible body on earth, its career will certainly close. A falling away will come. This is positively declared in scripture: “that day will not come unless there be the falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, who exalteth himself above all that is called God or worshipped.”
As regards the texts to prove the universality, you quote a number of passages which do not apply to the church at all, in which she is never named, and the context of which proves to demonstration that they do not apply to the church. I shall quote one to shew how utterly untenable this application is: “Ask of me and I will give thee the Gentiles for thine inheritance, and thy possession to the ends of the earth.” But continue: “Thou shall rule them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.” Is that the church, or judgment? Any one may see, by looking at the epistle to Thyatira in Revelation 2, that it is a judgment to be executed when the church is glorified with Christ. But your proof that these promises apply to the church destroys, on the contrary, all your arguments. You say they are to be fulfilled in the last days. To prove that the last days mean the time of the church and its universal prevalence, you quote the passage of John, which shews that the last days are those of Antichrist. Is the time of Antichrist’s rule the time of all nations flowing into the church? For that is the passage you are proving applies to the universal prevalence of the church. Why, in Antichrist’s time, instead of all nations flowing into the church, if any one confesses Christ he will be killed. Your friends, the Fathers, speak with the most terrible apprehensions of those days, when Christianity is to hide itself in dens and caves, and, save in such places, scarce such a thing as a Christian known, and if known, slain by apostate fury. This was a very untoward proof of your doctrine.
Another proof you give us of the universality of the church is, that the gospel is to be preached in all the earth. This is more untoward still, because this is not done yet, very far from it; as gathering the nations, the very large majority remain heathen, and a very great part have never been visited by the preachers of the gospel. So that the mark of catholicity or universality is not yet to be found at all. If all the ends of the earth seeing the salvation of our God applies to and means the catholicity of the church, then the church is not catholic yet: for all the ends of the earth have not seen the salvation of our God.
But you quote another—“This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations.” Surely this word shall be accomplished; but you should have finished the sentence, for it destroys even the hope of catholicity, as you state it. It continues—“and then shall the end come.” So in Revelation 14 it is said, the everlasting gospel should go to all them that dwell on the earth, and to every people, and nation, and tongue, and language, saying, Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come. Indeed, if you would take the trouble to read Psalm 98 (97), which you quote, you would see it states the same truth; it closes by saying, are to rejoice before the Lord, for He cometh to judge the earth.
You tell us that every succession of bishops40 and priests … communicated to their flocks and successors the same doctrine they themselves had received from their predecessors. Did they? Why the whole world was Arian at one time, save the persecuted. But that is not all. If the bishops and priests did this, why are you seeking to bring the professing Christians of (geographically) the greatest part of the world back to what you consider the truth? Did all the Greek bishops of the East do this? Do you own that they did? If so, why seeking to win them to Rome, and glorying in having here and there a little parcel of “united Greeks,” and all the Asiatic bishops, and the Egyptians, to say nothing of poor England? Did they, rejecting you utterly as they do, deem they had the true doctrine handed down? I deny it altogether as to Rome. It has been proved a hundred times over, that it has corrupted the doctrine of the apostles. But I take a shorter road; because, if the whole body of Greek and eastern bishops, who teach different doctrine from Rome, have done so, then Rome is wrong; and if they have not, their bishops and priests have not communicated to their flocks and successors the same doctrine they had received. It is merely an assertion that yours have, which is just the thing to be proved; it cannot be itself a security, because a very large proportion (as you admit) have not done so. The bishops of some hundred millions, between Greeks and Protestant Episcopalians, teach quite different doctrine from Rome. Have they taught what they received? It is sadly poor ground you stand on for your proofs of the true church.
As to your texts for apostolicity, I have no doubt that the Lord sent the apostles, and was with them, and will be with all who, sent of Him, walk in their footsteps and preach their doctrine, and that these will be sent to the end of the age. But how does this prove that the Romanists are these persons? Your proof is that, unchanged by lapse of time, Rome is teaching in every age the same doctrine God revealed and the apostles promulgated. Now this is just the question. In order to settle it I must know what the apostles promulgated. There is no way so good as having it from their own lips addressed to all the faithful; but when I take this sure and admirable criterion, I find that you teach all the contrary of what they promulgated. You teach that there is still a sacrifice for sin, and they very earnestly teach there is no more such. They teach there is only one mediator, and you teach there are a great many, and in most solemn acts leave the true one totally out. In the Confiteor used for renewing the remission of sins the name of Christ is not found, neither as confessed to, nor as demanding His intercession, though you have Michael the archangel and saints in plenty. You teach the pope is the head of the church; they teach that there is but one, and this is Christ; arid so with a multitude of the most fundamental doctrines. I take the test you appeal to, and I find it totally condemns the system you advocate. I conclude you are not the real successors of the apostles at all, to whom these promises were made. The pretension is ruinous to you if you are not. What is a loyal man’s judgment of one who pretends to be king when he is not? That he is a rebel in audacious hostility to the true king. If you are not the apostles’ true successors, the pretension to be so proves you to be in bold and presumptuous hostility to the Lord, and to those whom He did send; and that is the truth. The question, is not whether the Lord gave apostles and ministers, but whether you are those He gave.
You tell us to remember our prelates who have spoken to us the word of God, whose faith follow, and denounce the Reformation as setting them aside. As to the mass of the prelates at the Reformation, they did not speak the word of God or anything else to the people; and those who did preach did not preach the word of God. To know at any time whether they do, I must have the word of God to judge by. The apostle tells the Hebrews that their leaders had: does he tell me that your prelates do? How should he? Their faith was to be followed. The apostle puts his seal on it, though in truth the passage speaks of practical faith. They were to remember those whose death had crowned their profession. But how this teaches me that the pope or a priest teaches the right doctrine, no human wit could divine; nor will it do, for Protestants at least, to say to them, Obey your prelates. The question is to know whether they could own you as true prelates—a very different matter.
Here your mild winning preface gives place to judgment. You quote a passage which applies to the last and final message of the Lord Jesus to the Jews, and in which He declares judgment on that impenitent race, if they did not receive it; and you apply His title in sending it to yourselves, and His denunciations to your Protestant brethren, as you call them. Happily we are not Jews, and you are not Christ. Your threats do not awaken terror, but pity for your presumption and ignorance of the passage which you thus quote at random. The apostles were strictly forbidden on this journey to go to any but the house of Israel. They were not to go near a Gentile, shewing the true character of their mission.
In fine, the passages you quote, which embrace the whole world in prospect, prove, not indeed that Christ has failed in preserving the true church, His body—those livingly united to Him by the Spirit—those whom the Father has given Him (as He says, “Those whom thou hast given me I have kept”), for this is impossible; but that the visible church, those particularly called clergy, have wholly failed in acting up to the responsibility connected with these passages. They have not to this hour, though eighteen centuries have elapsed, carried the gospel into all the world. Instead of that, another thing has happened. So corrupt was the visible church, that God has allowed the greater part of what was professing Christendom to be overrun with Mahometanism,41 which has spread at least as widely as Christianity; and what you call the Catholic church has had so little spiritual power, that well-nigh half the church split off from it, and became the Greek church (I am speaking according to its own pretensions, for I believe what you call the Catholic church to be Babylon); and subsequently, by the grossness of its corruptions, lost nearly half the countries which remained to it; and in others, as France, Belgium, Bohemia, and Moravia, only escaped the same result by suppressing by the most cruel persecutions the profession of the truth—in Spain and Italy burning those who had any conscience in maintaining it, and in France celebrating the horrible massacre of St. Bartholomew by medal and rejoicing.
Have you never read so much as this warning, drawn from the case of Israel: “On thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off?” Of the professing church you have lost rather more than half; of the heathen world you have not gathered in a quarter, yet you claim catholicity—that is, universality—on such texts as, “All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.” Have you not shame in quoting it?
But this leads me to your next question—the infallibility of the church. You have quoted passages from the Old and New Testament to prove the church is infallible. First, for the quotations from the Old, if I can call quotations passages, or bits of passages, with the beginning or end or middle left out. I can hardly think you read the passages, as I have no wish to have an ungracious thought of you. But you must allow me, at the risk of being tedious, to refer to and complete those passages you have adduced. Not one has’ the smallest reference to the church.
The first is, “I have made a covenant with my elect, I have sworn to David, my servant, thy seed will I settle for ever.” Now, allow me to say, the church is neither David nor the seed of David, nor ever called so in scripture, nor by any sober man. And, further, if you will take the trouble to read the psalm, you will find that it is a plaint that the family of David is utterly overthrown, his crown thrown to the ground, and all that is contrary to the hope founded on this promise. Now do you mean that this has actually happened to the church? If so, what comes of your argument? You are unfortunate in your quotations. You see why I am unwilling to believe that you have read the passage you quote from. Now if you apply it to David’s seed, of which it speaks, the case is quite clear. It has been set aside, their throne has been cast down, as Ezekiel speaks, “I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, till he come whose right it is, and I will give it him.”
When Christ displays His glory, then indeed the promises to the seed of David will be accomplished. Till then His throne is cast down to the ground. But in whatever way you please to interpret the psalm, it is a complaint that the promise, which you cite, as to present fulfilment, wholly failed. Is that what you think as to the church?
In your quotation from Luke there is not a word about the church, but a statement that the throne of David belonged to Christ as come in the flesh, for He is born of the seed of David, according to the flesh, but that is not the church’s connection with Him.
I turn to other passages. Did you ever read Isaiah 66? This is what it says, “For, behold, Jehovah will come with fire, and with his chariots, like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will Jehovah plead with all flesh; and the slain of Jehovah shall be many.” Then he describes their idolatry and abominations, and continues, “For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto Jehovah, out of all nations, upon horses,” etc… Then comes your extract, and after it follows this— “And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Jehovah. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.” Now do you believe that that applies to the church, and that it is this dreadful judgment of all flesh by Jehovah which has set up your clergy, brought out of all nations? or if you do believe it, do you think any sober Christian can think this an evidence that you have solid proofs of what the true church is?
Again, why did you not begin and finish the quotation from Jeremiah? Suffer me to do both for you. You begin with— “And they shall be my people.” Now what precedes is this— “And now, therefore, thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God,” Jer. 32:36, etc. Is that the church? Has He scattered it in wrath, anger, and fury, into all lands; and is it only at some future restoration to its original place, that He will own it as His people? Do you believe it applies to the church? And now see how it finishes.
You close with—“I will not cease to do them good.” The prophet continues, “But I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart, and with my whole soul. For thus saith Jehovah; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans,” etc. Now do you believe that God has utterly dispersed the church, and that it is only when He shall bring it back again, that He will begin to put His fear in the hearts of those who compose it? Or is it not as plain as possible to what it all applies?
But I am bound to hope that, whatever it may be of Isaiah and Jeremiah, you certainly never have looked at the passage in Ezekiel, because you expatiate on every member of the phrase you give, and shew in detail how it applies so beautifully and clearly to the church. But the middle of the passage is entirely left out, though you give it as a continuous whole. This is what comes in after “shall do them.” “Another shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob, my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children’s children, for ever; and my servant David shall be their prince for ever,” Ezek. 37:25. And this is what precedes: two sticks, representing Israel and Judah, which had been separated, were to become one in the prophet’s hand; these two parts of Israel, being separated, were to be united; and then it is said, “And say unto them, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all, and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all; neither shall they defile themselves with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God; and David my servant shall be king,” etc., which you quote.
Now every one who has the smallest acquaintance with scripture history knows what the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel are which were separated in the time of Rehoboam, and what the land means where their fathers dwelt, and that it has nothing to do with the church founded by the apostles. But if you will apply it to the church, instead of proving the infallibility of the church, you prove that it has been divided, scattered, given up to idolatry and transgression, and that it is only when it is brought back from this state that God’s sanctuary (which it had wholly lost) was set up in the midst of them, and that then the heathen would know that God sanctified it, when His sanctuary was in the midst of them. They had been in idolatry, divided and dispersed, and had not had God’s sanctuary amongst them. Do you believe this applies to the church? But it is the passage, taking what your citation has left out of it. If it does apply to the church, does it prove its infallibility? And why do you cite only a part of the passage? I will not for a moment charge you with garbling scripture in this way, and applying passages in such a manner. Your church has taught you this; you have got it in her schools of theology, and have not examined for yourself. But do you think that your church’s garbling passages, cutting out parts of them, leaving out the beginning or the end or the middle or all three, is a proof of her infallibility to a sober Christian taught of God or any man of sense at all? Of course, if a person examine nothing, there is no reason why he should not receive anything, even the church of Rome, or Mormonism, or anything which superstition or fanaticism may propose to his imagination.
But you quote Daniel too: “In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed.” In the days of what kings? The ten kings, if you examine the chapter. Do you mean that the church was only set up after the ten kingdoms existed; that is, after the destruction of the Roman empire? But what does the prophecy say of this kingdom? A little stone, cut out without hands, was to smite the feet of the image, and the whole image was to be totally destroyed, so that no trace was found of it; and the stone that had smitten the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. That is, it first destroyed every trace of the empires and kingdoms of the image, and then extended itself. Do you mean that the church first effaces and obliterates every trace of the empires, east and west, and then begins to spread? There is a judgment of the earth, which you have sadly overlooked: you are not indeed the only one.
This is all you quote from the Old Testament to prove the church infallible, in not one of which the church is mentioned, and not one of which can apply to her, and if they do, instead of proving her infallible, prove she has utterly failed, and lost the presence of God, because this is the truth as to Israel who has so lost it, of which they expressly speak.
We come now to the New Testament. And here I must notice that infallibility is used in two senses totally different, and when one is spoken of or proved, the other is assumed to be so. We are sure the church is infallible; that is, it will surely be kept through this world as to its eternal salvation, till Christ takes it to glory. Till that blessed day He will always have true members of His church upon earth, will keep them, secure eternal life to them and for them. In this sense the church cannot fail. There will infallibly be a church. But infallible is used in another sense, that a person or a body can never fail in what it teaches. The church is said by Romanists to be infallible in what it teaches. Now this is a very different thing. I may be infallibly kept of God for salvation, yet never teach at all, or even fall into error sometimes.
Again, an individual or the church may be kept in the truth by grace, and yet have no pretension to be infallible in teaching. Now I doubt not that God will maintain the truth in the earth, and the church too; though there may be partial failure, yet in spite of failure He will preserve it. But the church has nothing to do with teaching infallibly. She has to learn and hold and profess the truth, not to teach at all. Some of her members may; but no one says they are infallible. Somewhere God will always preserve the truth, and some witness to it, in the earth. Thus, when Arianism overspread the world, and the pope received it, and put his signature to its doctrines, many, though banished and persecuted and hidden through violence for the most part, still held fast the truth. So, amid the disputes and violence which characterized the conduct of ambitious bishops (so that one very large council of them, held at Ephesus, is called “the council of robbers “in ecclesiastical history), yet God preserved the substance of the truth. And if the Eastern church erred, and patriarchs erred, and popes became Arian, still some held fast the faith and a witness for it. You may find a whole council of bishops establishing semi-Arianism at Sirmium, and accepting Arianism at Ariminum and Selinica; but yet God preserved the truth.
But no one is infallible but God. Hence, when an apostle or a prophet was inspired by Him, he spoke the perfect truth. But an apostle or prophet was not himself infallible; for Peter denied the Lord, and, even after he had received the Holy Ghost, carried away all the Jews with his dissimulation. Yet the humblest child of God, if waiting humbly upon Him, will be kept in the truth.
I now turn to the texts you quote; and first the famous passage—“Upon this rock I will build my church.” Now the confession of Peter was a remarkable one; it was revealed to him by the Father Himself—a personal favour conferred upon him, which belongs to no one else. We may receive his faith, as every true Christian does; but the revelation is not made directly to us but to Peter alone. “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas” Now nobody is Simon Barjonas but himself, not even the other apostles, and certainly not Pius IX. Thus taught of God Peter made a confession which none had yet made—Christ was the Son of the living God. Several had owned Him to be the Christ the Son of God, but he adds the living God. So in his epistle he says, “He hath begotten us to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; unto whom coming as unto a living stone, ye also as living stones,” etc. Now, here was more than a Messiah come to the Jews, and owned to be, as in Psalm 2, Son of God. It was the power of life in God Himself which was displayed in Him; as He says, He is the resurrection and the life Himself. Now here, in the Person of Christ, was that power of life and resurrection on which He would build His church, and the gates of Hades—that is, of Satan, as having the power of death—should not prevail against it. It is always true. The resurrection of the saints will be the great final proof of it; the resurrection of Christ was the pledge of it, and has given us a living hope.
Here, if I may so speak reverently, the Son of the living God, He who was the power of life, was pitted against him “who has the power of death, that is, the devil.” But the knowledge of the Person of Christ, as Son of the living God, removed all question as to the issue of the conflict, and laid a foundation for the church which nothing could shake. It was not mere Messiah glory, nor the kingdom: the living God was engaged in the matter in the Person of His Son. Satan did his best—the Lord allowing it—in Christ’s dying on the cross; but it only demonstrated Christ’s absolute victory in the resurrection. This is the foundation of the church, so that it cannot fail—the Person of Christ as Son of the living God. God forbid I should trust a church, or be of it, which was founded on a man simply! Be he an apostle himself, he is but a man, and this will not do to build God’s church upon. Is God to build on a mere man? Christ (for He says, “/will build “) on Peter? It may do very well for man’s church; it is natural man should build on man; but it will not do for God’s. It would be impossible, and destructive to His glory. God is not going to set aside His Son for Peter.
But Peter, let men say what they will, is never called a rock.42 He is called a stone; he partook of the nature of the rock, God having quickened him with this life, and given him to confess Christ in this character. But Peter means a stone, and does not mean a rock. People do not build on a stone, even if it partake of the durability of the rock to which it belongs. Peter is not the rock nor a rock; he is, as to his name, a stone. Peter having just confessed the true, living, and divine foundation of the new thing, which the rejected Christ was going to raise up in contrast with rebellious Israel; and Christ, having recognized that the Father Himself had taught Peter this great truth, carrying far beyond the hopes of Israel, says, “Thou art a stone,” thou participatest in this truth; and on this rock, this eternal truth of My Person, which you have been given of the Father to own, I will build the church. The Father had revealed this great truth of Christ’s nature to Simon, and Christ gives him besides the name of Peter; for the confession of truth, by divine teaching, connects a man with the strength and durability of the truth he so confessed; he abides livingly with it and by it. The Lord adds that He will give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven (not of heaven, but of the kingdom of heaven to be established on the earth); and here Peter had to serve, whereas Christ builds the true church. He used the keys on Pentecost, and with Cornelius and the like.
As to the Lord’s sending the Paraclete, and teaching the twelve all things, surely this precious promise has been fulfilled. To apply it to the church is mere nonsense, because the Lord says, He shall bring to your remembrance whatsoever I have said to you. Now He has said the things to the twelve, not to people alive now. The Holy Ghost may graciously act in any Christian’s heart to make him attentive to Christ’s recorded words, but He cannot bring to his remembrance what Christ has said to him, unless he pretend to have fresh revelations and then have forgotten them. Hence, though the church pretends to be infallible and to teach all truth infallibly, it has never pretended to have recalled to it what Christ had said to it. It would prove the absurdity of the pretension on the face of it; but then unfortunately this is what the Lord has said, and you have quoted.
You say this states plainly what the Holy Ghost would do when He came. Quite true. But do for whom? He could not do this but for those who had heard Jesus during His life; and mark, He was to teach the apostles all things, and guide them into all truth—that is, the work which the church pretends to do is done long ago. It may be formed by this truth, have it, be kept by it; but it was all taught to the apostles. If you say, that is what we say—we have learned and kept it; we own it was all taught to the apostles, not to us; our boast is to keep it safe; then the verses you quote as a promise to yourselves do not apply to you at all, for they speak of teaching all things, and bringing all things to their remembrance which Christ had said to them. In a word, the thing was complete before you were there, as the text you quote proves. The only question is, Are you acting on, believing, and are your ministers teaching, truths received long ago? The promise is not to you, but to others long since gone. Whether you are doing so, I try by what these persons have confessedly left us. When I try this, I find you abusing their record to every false pretension to exalt self, and that you have departed altogether from the truth they taught and were guided into. The Holy Ghost has not to teach the church all things, because He has taught all things already to the apostles: the text you quote proves it. That He may apply it now to the heart is all very true; that devoted men may teach the same truths to the heathen, or build up the faithful in detail, is all true; but the truths are taught. There is no question of infallibility, because the truth is already there.
That the Holy Ghost remains with the church, dwells in all true Christians, acts in them, helps them, makes them obedient to the truth, and that He will never go away till the time of glory comes, I fully believe. But this does not make them infallible. There is no place for infallibility, when all the truth is there. What are they to be infallible about, when nothing more is to be revealed? That, as weak creatures, we may be kept, preserved in the truth, so that the testimony of it should be always as a fact preserved in the world, is most true and most precious, and that God, I doubt not, will accomplish, according to His sure and precious word. You say, “If the Holy Ghost did come and remain with her, and if he continued to teach her all things whatsoever the Son of God revealed to her, how could she fall into error? “Now what is the meaning of this— “continued to teach her”? Was she then ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth? Continued to teach her all things whatsoever the Son of God had revealed to her—revealed to her when? Why continue to teach her what was revealed to her? She had then wholly forgotten it? “Continuing to teach her all things whatsoever the Son of God revealed to her “has no tolerable sense. Why did she not keep by the Holy Ghost what had been revealed to her, instead of being taught anew? But I repeat, When revealed to her? It was revealed, all of it, to the apostles who had conversed with Jesus. It has not to be revealed to the church.
You quote also John 16; but it is the same thing in substance, save that, as the passage of John 14 spoke of remembering what He had said, this speaks of shewing them (not to the church) things to come. Does the church pretend to have new prophetic revelations? Not one. Where are they authenticated and promulgated with her sanction? In a word we have great pretension to authority when self is exalted; but when the test of reality is to be met, be it as to the past or the future, she is dumb. She has never authenticated one saying of the Lord as brought to her remembrance, nor dared to commit herself to a thing to come which she could shew; nay, nor any fresh knowledge of the glory of Christ not in the written word. Yet this was the remaining part of the Holy Ghost’s office, as stated in John 16—indeed the whole of it, as teaching and revealing. “He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you: all things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you.” Now what of the past, present, glory of Christ, or of the future, has this boasting body, which calls itself the church, ever taught which is not revealed in the word given by the apostles? Let them produce, authenticated by the church, some new truth not in the word. If not, what is revealed to her? unless she boasts of forgetting it continually to be retaught it anew, and pretends this is the special glory of God, and a proof that she exclusively has the Holy Ghost—namely, that she has not kept the truth, and has to be taught it afresh. That individuals (enabled by God) may, through the help of the Holy Ghost, teach the truths revealed long ago, every one admits; but no one pretends such to be infallible.
But, further, the Lord promises to be with the apostles in teaching all which He had commanded them to the end of the world. It is urged (what is not in the passage) that, as it is to the end of the world, it must be for their successors. Whose successors, and successors in what? In bringing the heathen to the faith? I do not doubt that, though it be not with the title of apostles, whoever do the same service in grace will find the Lord with them in the service, according to their measure; and this is what is promised. Though secured, when inspired to reveal anything, the apostles were not infallible. They had the Lord always with them in their service; in like service, they who accomplish it will find the Lord with them, I doubt not, to the end. There is nothing whatever else in the promise; not a word about infallibility—it is not the subject of the passage, any more than the church; it speaks of the Lord’s help in the missionary service they were to perform in His name. He would not abandon them in it; surely He did not.
Thus you have cited from the Old Testament passages which, you allege, speak of the church, which declare the body they contemplate has been divided, dispersed, idolatrous, doing detestable things, and deprived of the presence of God— His sanctuary being set up only when promised restoration takes place. This is a very strange proof of perpetuity and infallibility, which secures from every error; and the citing them equally curious as a proof of infallibility in teaching. From the New you have cited passages which declare that all truth was revealed to the apostles; and hence, if the Holy Ghost has always to continue teaching the church what was revealed to her, affording a proof that she had not kept the truth, and had to learn it again; an equally curious proof of infallibility and security. You quote one, a serious and important one— “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” The church of God has been established of God to maintain and uphold the truth; and I am sure, however dark the times, God will never, till judgment comes, leave Himself without a witness of the truth, in and by the church, binding on the consciences of men. Blessed be His name that it is so!
But you cannot speak of the whole visible church as having continued to be such; because you believe that half Christendom, and undoubtedly the most ancient part of it, where it was first established by all the apostles together, and the latest under apostolic care, has departed from the truth, and is not a pillar and ground of it. The Greek church is disputing with you for the holy sepulchre, and for many years the Turks using whips to keep the combatants quiet; while now we have the West arrayed against the East in a war which had its origin in this very dispute. This immense body of the most ancient bishoprics in the world has ceased to be a pillar and ground of the truth. All Protestant Europe and America have equally, in your judgment, abandoned it. It is not a promise then that the whole visible church is necessarily and always such; for by your own account a very large part (nay, if we include the Protestants, Nestorians, and Eutychians, the greater part) is not; if they are, you are not. It is not then the body of the visible church as such. Where this true church is to be found is another question; but your use of the passage is certainly unfounded. You cannot present the visible church as a security for the truth, when you affirm that half of it has gone away. If you tell me they are not the church, but we are, this is just what is to be proved; at any rate, they were, and thus the ground of securing is gone.
I have now examined all you have alleged for this. In conclusion I reply to your assertions. The Old Testament never speaks of the church. Paul declares it was a mystery hidden till the Holy Ghost was given—hidden from ages and generations—hid in God. Christ, no doubt, founded His church (that is, on the day of Pentecost, and in general by the apostles), but He promised to be with them, not her, to the end of the world. The Holy Ghost will surely abide with Christ’s true disciples till He takes them up to glory. He did not declare that he would teach the church, but the apostles, all truth—a promise undoubtedly fulfilled; and it is equally sure that Satan’s power will never set aside the church of God, and she is, according to God’s counsel, the pillar and ground of the truth, whatever may be the condition of the visible body called the church; which we have shewn, by your own account, cannot be what this passage applies to. But that you are it, is a very different question.
Instead of declaring that the professing church could not fail, mark it well, the Lord has declared the express contrary. He has said, first, as warning (referring to the Jews, lest the Gentiles should deceive themselves by their conceit), “Be not high-minded, but fear … upon thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.” He has further declared that a falling away or apostasy (so that it is certain that it would not continue in God’s goodness to the end, for apostasy is falling away from it) would come; and that the day of Christ’s coming to judge could not come till it did. He has declared that the presence of Antichrist was the mark of the last times. He has declared, the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the last days perilous time shall come (men running into all kinds of wickedness shall have the form of piety, denying the power of it); and warns the true disciple to turn away from such, and refers him to the scriptures as able to make him wise unto salvation. You seek to turn him from them, and to trust in that in which it is certain, by God’s word, apostasy was to be found.
You may ask, what do we make of the promises of God? I answer, they are infallible; but he who has the scripture, the true servant of Christ who has the truth, has them before his eyes, but has all the .rest of the word, so that he does not misapply them. Satan applied true promises to Christ without reference to obedience. He used the rest of the word to shew that His part was to walk with God, and He would surely have all that God had promised to the true believer. He does not look for the heirs of promise in what denies the truth, to which God Himself has referred him for warning. He knows that all the unfaithfulness of man will only glorify the faithfulness of God, and that God will certainly preserve the truth and His saints (even should there be partial failure amongst them) till Christ Himself comes to fetch them, according to His own promise, at the end. They do not count the mass of ungodliness and corruption and worldliness around them to be the little flock which is to inherit the kingdom. They do not take the tares for wheat, though it be not their business to root them up, as you have pretended to do (rooting up, for the most part, as the Lord warned, the wheat with them); but they are sure the Lord will keep the wheat for His garner, and that the Holy Ghost will never leave them till He does, nor allow the truth to fail in the earth. It shall be maintained to the end by the church taught of God.
But I am touching on the next point, the perpetual visibility of the church. That there is a great public body called the church of Christ is notorious. The marks you now give you rejected, when, as you alleged, Luther, Calvin, and the church of England pleaded them as such: but we cannot expect error to be consistent. But suppose I was born in Greece or Russia, and I was told that I should obey my pastors, and that pure doctrine and the same sacraments were the marks of the church visible, what would be the effect? Why I should remain a Greek, and abhor you as false. I should have to go to the Propaganda at Rome to find you out, you are so invisible in those countries. Is the true church to change with countries, and east and west? and can these be the adequate marks of it, which, in one, would make me take a body to be the true church, which in another three days’ steaming would make me reject as schismatic and heretic? You are tired, I am sure, of the Greek church. But there it is, as ancient as yours, with the same claims. It has its pastors, it has its sacraments, it has what it calls the true faith, as you allege of yours, it has its visibility.
The marks you give me make me a Greek when in Russia, and you at Rome condemn me for using them when I get there, and, if I were born in Russia, persuade me they are insufficient, and that I must leave what they prove to be the true church there, and join you. Yet there are these Greeks in spite of you. God has taken care by their existence to make all your pretensions and marks futile nonsense. They are proved to be worth nothing to secure a man’s finding the true church; for some of them prove two or three to be such, while the existence of the two or three proves the essential ones to be false. God has taken care that the sober godly inquirer should have patent proof, if he take the pains, that your allegations of unity, universality, visibility, perpetuity, tradition, and all the rest, are just worth nothing; because, in the dreadful departure of the professing church from God, He has taken care that there should not be unity, and, consequently, no universality; while visibility, and tradition, and perpetuity, and antiquity are as strong for one as the other, and therefore prove nothing for either. Blessed be God, the spiritual man, who has his Bible and reads it, wants no such proof. He knows that the truth of God has been perverted, the forms of piety assumed, and the power gone, the headship of Christ abandoned (though Romanists alone have ventured to set up another head, and hence are worse than Greeks), and subjection to ordinances brought in. He sees the Spirit’s words fulfilled— “In the last days perilous times shall come”—the form of piety, denying the substance. But of this a word at the close.
Must I turn again to your use of the Old Testament? I can afford to be brief after what we have already examined. You quote Isaiah 60: “Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee.” But again, whom am I to accuse? I honestly lay it on your church, and not on you. You have left out, between what I have just copied and the next verse of the chapter, an all-important verse, which shews the absurdity of the application of the passage: “For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but Jehovah shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee.” Now, whatever is the subject of this chapter under the name (justly used after the Vulgate, though not in the Hebrew) Jerusalem, it had been in darkness, though existing, and in an awful state, as the previous chapter shews. Truth failed, and he that departed from evil made himself a prey; but now Jehovah visited her, and while all else was in darkness, light and the glory of Jehovah was here. Indeed Paul has quoted part of the preceding description to shew the awful state of the Jews. But do you believe that the truth having failed, and he that departs from evil making himself a prey, is a description of the true church? Is that indeed what the church of Rome is? Or, again, when the full light and glory of Jehovah has risen on the church, so that it is in “cloudless manifestation and universal visibility,” as you say, how comes darkness just then to cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; or why did you leave that verse out? So Jehovah goes on: “In my wrath I smote thee” (v. 10); and again, “Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee” (v. 15). When and how long was this unfailing and perpetually visible church forsaken and hated of God? Apply it to Jerusalem which is named, and nothing is more simple: we know it has been her state.
You quote also (and the same a little before) Isaiah 2. If you take the trouble to read that chapter, you will find that it is concerning Judah and Jerusalem, and describes the blessing as being brought about by the dreadful judgment of Jehovah, when men shall go into the clefts of the rocks for fear of Jehovah, and for the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to shake terribly the earth. Well may the Spirit of God add, “Cease ye from man.”
Again, Ezekiel 17, we have these things explained by the Spirit: “Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, Behold the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof,” etc., and then describes the conduct of Zedekiah, and at the close predicts the raising up of Christ as seed of David. What has this to do with the church? The seed of David is not the church.
In Jeremiah 31 it is revealed: “He that scattered Israel will gather him.” Has God scattered the church? Is the church the backsliding daughter of Ephraim? Further, the Lord says, “Like as I have watched over them to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict, so will I watch over them to build, and to plant, saith Jehovah.” Has God watched over the church to pluck it up? And the prophet adds, after the verse you quote, what you do not quote: it runs thus: “Then I will also cast off all the seed of Israel, for all that they have done, saith Jehovah. Behold the days come, saith Jehovah, that the city shall be built to Jehovah, from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner,” etc., “and it shall not be plucked up nor thrown down any more for ever.” Jeremiah addressed the Jews, and told them that God would not cast them off in that future day, and that the city should be built, and that then they who had been so utterly plucked up should never be so any more. Is this the church?
That God’s name may be great among the Gentiles (Mal. 1) no one disputes, and that under the figure of Jewish offerings they should offer theirs, every Christian can believe; though I do not believe it applies to the church. And here allow me to ask a question. All the passages which you have quoted you have applied figuratively up to the present; now that there is a question of oblation and sacrifice, you apply it literally. Why so?
The apostles were the light of the world, and so set doubtless. But how does this prove that you are that light, or that it was to be perpetual? Though, however dimmed, I doubt not that God has never suffered it to be extinguished. The Lord is speaking of His true disciples, poor in spirit, pure in heart. Do you mean that the mass of the professing church, Romish, Greek, Protestant, or Presbyterian, are that? I have been in many Roman Catholic countries, and in Protestant and Presbyterian; and, though doubtless there are blessed exceptions, the mass of pleasure-hunters, and money-hunters, and passion-governed men, are not what the Lord describes in Matthew 5. Or do you mean that, when their character is wholly changed, they are as much light as before? Or is it the judgment of the Romish body, that moral condition or holiness has nothing to do with the fight the saints should give? The Lord, on the contrary, says in this same chapter (which you take care not to quote), ‘If the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is good for nothing.” You may salt other things with salt; but if the salt be savourless, what other things shall salt it? In fine you tell us, because Christ said to the apostles, “Ye are the light of the world,” therefore the church is so at all times—that is, the outward professing Romish body; a strange conclusion where nothing is proved at all. The word of God says the contrary, that the day shall not come except there be a falling away first (e apostasia).
Your chapter on tradition is hardly worth an answer. Every one knows that tradition in scripture always means a doctrine delivered, and never has the Romish sense of it. A passage you quote shews it: “The traditions you have learned by word or by our epistle.” The apostle had preached to them by word of mouth, and written an epistle to them: they were to mind all he had taught them. Next, your arguments are a mere nullity. You urge that the apostles taught by word of mouth before they wrote to the churches. Undoubtedly. Who ever doubted it? The question is, whether, since they wrote, what men have retailed for seventeen centuries can be relied upon—a question you do not so much as touch upon. You refer to Timothy’s committing the truths Paul had taught him to faithful men: an excellent service, a thing which is done, be it well or ill, among different sects of Christians in their theological schools and colleges, and I doubt not was very well done by Timothy. But how does this make it authoritative teaching? No man’s teaching is held, even by Rome, to be infallibly authoritative, save that Ultramontanes hold the popes to be infallible, which the Council of Constance, as we have seen, held them not to be. The question is not, whether Timothy taught or whether you do, but whether you have got what he taught besides what is written. You have no authentic truth by tradition. In the very epistle you cite we have the proof of it: “And now ye know what withholdeth,” says the apostle; for when he was yet with them he had told them of these things. Now, here is an instruction given by word of mouth, which we have not got. Can you produce any authenticated church statement of what it was?
Tradition is very convenient to say (I leave something you can have no proof of), in which you must obey me blindly; but when we come to ask what are they, they are not to be had. The Rabbis, to whom you refer for purgatory, keep the poor Jews in blindness by the same means. The early church was frightened by the warnings of the apostle, and thought the final judgments would come after the revelation of antichrist, on the fall of the Roman empire; but this consent of the Fathers as to the millennial scheme and Christ’s soon reigning at Jerusalem (for scarce could any topic be found more generally believed by them), this sure tradition belied itself; and already in Augustine’s time, and after it passed off into a more general spiritualization, and the faith of the early church (which is declared positively by Justin Martyr, in his dialogue with Trypho, to be held by all the orthodox) was cast off as a fable, and the early Fathers left on these points in oblivion and forgetfulness; and the account between tradition, universal tradition, and an orthodoxy founded on tradition, having been thus far falsified by fact, had to be settled by modern orthodoxy, passing as lightly over its grave as it could. Though they misapplied it, I believe, in the substance, Papias, Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Nepos, and the orthodox of those days, were right, and not Origen and Dionysius and the moderns. But I believe it, because scripture is clear upon it.
But you mention two things in particular, which you say are founded on tradition, and which are not in scripture—Lent and Sunday. The apostles, you say, instituted the solemn fast of Lent. If they did, certainly it is not found in Scripture. But let us see what the facts are. I need only quote Irenaeus, a godly Father of the church, who had heard Polycarp, who had heard John. There was a dispute between Victor, the bishop of Rome, and the churches of Asia, as to the celebrating of Easter. Victor would have it on Sunday, and the Asiatic churches celebrated it (as did all the old British, till the sixth or seventh century, if I remember right) on the day of the resurrection, whatever day of the week it fell upon. For the Passover was computed by moons, and was held upon the fourteenth day after the new moon, and the resurrection was three days of course after, and this did not always fall on a Sunday. The Easterns went by the days of the month, the Westerns by the days of the week. Well, Victor refused to own them as Christians at all. Irenaeus agreed, it seems, with Victor in opinion as to the day it should be kept upon. But earlier than this, some thirty or forty years before, the aged Polycarp, himself a disciple of John, came from Asia to Rome, to confer with Anicetus, bishop of Rome, about it.
Think of a disciple of John himself (and a most blessed old man he was, and a martyr too) going all wrong, and insisting on a tradition derived from John himself, contrary to the pope’s tradition and his authority too! Well, Polycarp would not give in, nor Anicetus either; but they agreed, it seems, to part in peace, and each go his own way. But Victor, a more energetic and less Christian man than Anicetus, orders all the Christians in Asia to change their rules in this respect, and follow Rome, and give up their apostolic tradition. However, they would not; and then he excommunicated them all in mass, as far at least as Rome was concerned. It was thunder, however, not lightning, for they did not obey; and the bishops elsewhere continued in communion with them. This did not please all the bishops, says Eusebius, some of them writing pretty sharply to him (Victor); and Irenaeus warned him not to cut off whole churches who observed the tradition of their ancient customs. This was at the end of the second century; and then he adds (says Eusebius), not only was the controversy about the day, but about the form itself of the fast; for some think they ought to fast one day, others two, and others more, and some measure this day forty hours, day and night; and this variety of observance had not its birth first in our age, but began long before, with those who went before us… And then he adds, and thus the disagreement as to the fast commends the unanimity of the faith.—(Euseb. 5:24).
Now this little bit of ecclesiastical history gives occasion for one or two remarks-: first, how the Roman bishop sought to satisfy his ambition, not quite two centuries after Christ; but, secondly, at the same time, not only Polycrates at Ephesus and others, but other bishops besides paid no attention to his orders, and even rebuked him sharply; thirdly, what a slippery thing tradition is! Here, as to this very Lent, which is adduced as a proof of apostolic tradition, Polycarp, who conversed with John, has one from him which he will not give up; because he who leaned on the Lord’s bosom, he says, had so kept it and taught. But Victor, who professed to have Peter’s and Paul’s too, excommunicates whole churches, because, after Polycarp’s clear tradition, they kept John’s. Could not tradition secure certainty on such a trifle as this? The conflict was maintained till the fourth century, and even long after that the Asiatic way was maintained in certain churches derived from that country.
It is urged that the Holy Ghost was to teach things the apostles could not receive while Christ was alive. No doubt; but what has this to do with tradition? Further, that the Holy Ghost was still teaching. This would tend to shew that tradition was not needed; for, in that case, the church had always the same teaching as the apostles themselves, and did not want theirs by word or letter. There is a passage or two important to cite, as regards tradition and apostolic succession.
But I must give the reader a few more quotations from the Fathers as to this Lent, which is not in scripture, says the author, in which he is surely perfectly right, but is observed by tradition from the apostles. The Romans in the fourth or fifth century observed Saturday as a fast, and the Easterns and many of the Africans dined and ate as usual, and did not think of fasting. A hot Roman in St. Augustine’s time attacked all the churches for not following the Roman custom. It was alleged, as the origin of the custom, that Peter, having to contend with Simon Magus, fasted along with all the Roman church on Saturday. If he did, I am sure it was a very godly and excellent thought and act for that time; hence the Romans did it every Saturday, when there was no Simon Magus at all. St. Augustine wrote a letter to a presbyter, Casnelanus, on this hot-headed Roman’s book. He gives a pleasant reply enough to the Simon Magus reason, that, if he was a figure of the devil as they said, they would have that work every day of the week.
But in replying to this we have from him general remarks on fasts which touch our present point of tradition. He says, it was the opinion of the most, that it was a mere Roman custom in reference to Peter’s conflict with Simon Magus. “But if,” he continues, “it be answered, James taught this at Jerusalem, John at Ephesus, others in other places, which Peter taught at Rome, that is, that men should fast the Saturday, but that other lands had deviated from this doctrine, and that Rome had remained firm in it; and, on the contrary, it is replied, that rather certain places of the West, among which is Rome, have not kept what the apostles delivered, but that the lands of the East, whence the gospel itself began to be preached, have continued, without ever varying, in what was delivered by all the apostles along with Peter, that they should not fast on the Sabbath (Saturday), that dispute is interminable, generating strifes, not finishing questions.”—(Augustine, Ep. 36). And then he says that the unity of the faith was the point, for that the glory of the church, according to the psalm, was within: “The king’s daughter is all glorious within”; that the observance was only the garments, and that she was in golden fringes, clothed around with variety: so the Vulgate, circumcincta varietate, after the Seventy.—Psalm 44 (Heb. 45).
What a testimony this bright light (as the author alleges, and justly, compared with much of the Fathers) affords of the certainty of tradition, and about fasting, and about Roman tradition too! It was a source of interminable disputes, he says. In the same letter we have another statement, which I will quote, on the point: “But since we have not found, as I have above remarked, in the evangelical and apostolic letters, which properly belong to the revelation of the New Testament, that it is clearly prescribed that fasts should be observed on any certain days, and therefore, that thing also, like many others which it is difficult to enumerate, has found in the garments of the daughter of the king, that is the church, room for variety, I will tell you what the revered Ambrose answered me when I asked him about this.” And then he relates how his mother was uneasy, because at Milan they did not fast the same days as at Rome; and was she to follow the custom of her city, or that of Milan where she then was? Ambrose, a light too among the Fathers, told her he could not teach her better than he practised—a good deal to say too, if he went beyond fasts; and so she was to do at Milan as they did at Milan, and to do at Rome, in such matters, as they did at Rome. So Augustine recommends in the beginning of the letter: “In those things, concerning which divine scripture has settled nothing certain (and we have seen he states that it had not settled any certain day for fasting), the customs of the people of God, or the institutions of those of old (majorum), are to be considered as a law.” This is a strange way to talk, if these are apostolic traditions too. We see, however, the real source of it— following old habits which were made a law of.
However, we have something about Lent itself from Augustine. “The quadragesimal period of fasts, indeed, has authority (that is, scriptural) both in the old books—in the fact of Moses and Elias—and from the gospel, because the Lord fasted so many days, shewing the gospel not to depart from the law and the prophets. In the person of Moses, namely, the law, in the person of Elias the prophets are found… In what part of the year, therefore, could the observation of quadragesima be established more suitably than on the confines of, and close to, the Lord’s passion? “And then he shews many wonderful mysteries in the number 40. But where is the apostolic tradition here?
But we have something more from the Fathers on quadragesima. We have seen Irenaeus telling us that some fasted one day, some two, some several, some forty hours continuously. Now, this last is the real secret of this number forty. Tertullian is a Father who lived in the end of the second century, an upright and able man; so that the famous Cyprian used to call him “the master,” saying, Bring me the books of the master. This was the famous Cyprian who wrote a celebrated book about the unity of the church; though he would not yield to Rome on what both thought a vital point, namely, re-baptizing heretics. But this Cyprian tells us that the church in his day (Cyprian, de Lapsis) was corrupt to the last degree; that professing Christians were bent upon money-making, men luxurious in their habits, women painting their faces and adorning their hair, cheating going on in a shameful way, marriages with heathens taking place, bishops leaving their sees and flocks to carry on secular affairs, and making long journeys to gain money, not helping their hungry brethren, but seeking large fortunes, seizing on property by insidious frauds, and employing usury to enrich themselves. In other treatises he insists on the evil state of Christendom.
Such a state of things seemed to have moved Tertullian, who lived just before Cyprian, and driven him (Jerome says it was the envy the Roman clergy bore to him) to believe in the rhapsodies of Montanus and his two prophetesses of Phrygia, who were much stricter in their lives and fastings. The pope was on the point of receiving them too (already acknowledging is the term used), when a certain Praxeas, afterwards a famous heretic, came to Rome, and put the pope off it, who then excommunicated and rejected them. Our famous Tertullian would not give them up, and said they were rejected, not because of the spirit they alleged they had, but because of the fasts they gave themselves up to. However, this led him to say something of these fasts; and from him we learn that the Catholic party had their quadragesimal fasts from this—the forty hours that Christ passed, as was alleged, in the grave; and that the scriptural authority (for none of them knew anything of apostolic tradition) they had for it was this: “When the Bridegroom shall be taken away, then shall they fast in those days “; and that as Christ was taken away till His resurrection, therefore they fasted these forty hours—a curious reason, by the bye, for doing so, when He was, according to this theory, restored to them. But let that pass. Here we have, from the two earliest Fathers who speak of it (Irenaeus and Tertullian), the original of quadragesima, that is, forty.
But you shall have, reader, a specimen from history also. After relating what we have stated as to the observation of Easter, and that the Quartodecimans (the Asiatics who kept it the third day after the fourteenth of the moon) alleged that John had taught them; and the Romans boast that they had received their way from Peter and Paul, but that neither could bring a writing to prove it (he does not seem to have valued oral tradition much), he goes on to speak of Lent. Socrates, lib. 5, c. 22. “For these who are of the same faith, the same differ among themselves in rites. It will not therefore be out of place to add somewhat about the various rites of the churches. First, therefore, those fasts which are kept before Easter you will find differently kept among different people; for those who are at Rome fast three weeks continuously, except the sabbath and the Lord’s day (it is a question whether this does not apply to Novatians). Those who are in Illyria, and throughout Achaia, and those who live in Alexandria, fast six weeks before Easter, and call that the quadragesimal fast. Others, again, follow a different custom from that. They begin their fast the seventh week before Easter, and, fasting three only of five days with intervals, call the time nothing the less quadragesimal; and I cannot but wonder why, although they differ among themselves about the numbers of days, they still call it by the same name of quadragesimal.”
“But of this appellation each different person, according to his own invention, gives a different reason: for not only in days alone, but also in abstinence from foods, they are found to differ. For some, indeed, abstain altogether from eating what has had life; others eat fish alone of such as have had life; some, with fishes, eat also of birds, affirming that they also are formed out of water, according to Moses; some abstain from fruit of trees, and from eggs; some eat only bread; others do not use even this. Some, fasting to the ninth hour, eat without distinction of every kind of food afterwards. There are other observances, again, in different nations, and innumerable causes are alleged for them; and since no one can produce a written precept concerning this matter, it appears that the apostles left to the choice and will of every one that each one might do what is good, neither from fear nor necessity.” What a certainty of apostolical tradition we have here! Sozomen gives the same accounts. Lib. 7, c. 19. Cassian, too, tells us, as others state (I have not his works), the same thing. For a long time there were only thirty-six days’ fast, even when six weeks or forty-two days were kept; because they never fasted on the Lord’s day, till at last either Gregory the Great or Gregory II (in the close, that is, of the sixth, or beginning of the eighth, century, for it is disputed which) added Ash-Wednesday and the three following days to make it forty. Think of an apostolic tradition, arranged seven hundred years after Christ, and grown from forty hours to forty days, and all the original reasons gone!
But I have yet one extract more from this same Cassian, for which I am also indebted to another. Cassian was a monk, founded monasteries and nunneries, was ordained deacon by Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople, and made priest by Innocent, pope of Rome. He will give us a sounder idea, perhaps, of this apostolic tradition. “It is, therefore, indeed to be remarked that, as long as the perfection of that primitive church remained inviolable, this observance of quadragesima (Lent) did not exist at all; but when the multitude of the faithful, abandoning that apostolic devotion, daily gave themselves up to their wealth, etc., it then pleased the body of priests, that men, bound by secular cares, and almost ignorant of continence or compunction, should be recalled to holy work by canonical obligation of fasting, and compel them by the necessity of a legal tenth (thirty-six days is tenth of 360, or nearly a year)”.
What a history of Lent in the way of devotion! and think of apostolic tradition! The reader will not think that I attach great value to Lent or tradition; but I have quoted these passages because Lent has been selected as a point brought forward as a matter of apostolic tradition for a thing not in scripture. We have seen now what, in this carefully selected case, such an assertion is worth, and what solid authority the Fathers are.
I am now going to quote something in favour of what the author says; for you may generally find in the Fathers both sides of anything, except the truth itself. Jerome says (he is writing to Marcella against the Montanists, who had three Lents) that one Lent in the year is observed, according to the tradition of the apostles, and says just that much in passing. Leo calls it the apostolical institution of a forty days’ fast, which the apostles instituted by the direction of the Holy Ghost. But then Jerome also says (to shew what a solid thing apostolic laws founded on tradition were in those days), “But I think you should be briefly put in mind, that ecclesiastical traditions are so to be observed (especially those which are not in opposition to the faith) “(how much such a reserve shews he could have thought them apostolic!) “as they have been delivered by our ancestors. But let each province abound in its own way as of thinking, and consider the precepts of their ancestors’ apostolic laws”! Epist. 52, Ed. Benedict. 71, Ed. Veron.
As to Leo, Pagi (a very learned and highly-esteemed Roman Catholic commentator on Baronius’s Annals, and another) tells us that Leo was used to call everything an apostolic law which he found either in the practice of his own church, or decreed in the archives of his predecessors, Damasus and Siricius. (Pagi, Critic, in Baron, an. 67, note 15.) I use another’s quotation in this instance also.
You have now, reader, the authorities for Lent being proved by apostolic tradition, and for the Romish assertion to that effect.
I turn to the Lord’s day, the other example selected by the author; it is old battle-ground. My answer to this is easy, a lighter and a happier task. It is always distinguished in the early church from the sabbath, which invariably means Saturday. As regards the law, the change of the whole system involved the abolition of the Jewish sabbath. The Jewish sabbath was the sign of their covenant; but this was broken on their part, and gone, and buried on God’s part in Christ’s grave. The sabbath, which was the public sign of it, Christ passed in the grave.
No establishment of any form of relationship with God took place under Moses without the sabbath being anew introduced—a very remarkable fact; and in Ezekiel 20:12 it is said, “And I gave them my sabbaths, to be a sign between me and them, that they might know that I am Jehovah that sanctify them.” Hence these sabbaths could not be preserved as a Jewish sabbath, according to the commandments; because, when once Christ was crucified, God did not sanctify the Jewish people any longer. This the Lord shewed beforehand, over and over again during His ministry, in the way He acted and spoke on the sabbath days.
But, further, the sabbath was the sign of the rest of the creation; and, sin having entered into the world, and man having rejected Jesus who had come into its sorrow, there could be no rest of creation in connection with the first Adam. So “If they shall enter into my rest, though the works were finished from the foundation of the world “; grace, and power, and redemption, must be the basis of rest and blessing. Hence, when they maliciously and unreasonably accused the Lord of not keeping the sabbath, He does not pay heed to their malice, but says (in the touching revelation of a grace which, if it could not find its rest where sin and misery were, could begin to work where all was ruined), “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” We can rest neither in sin nor sorrow, but can work in grace, where both are, and find occasion for work, if not rest, in it. The sabbath of the Jew, as the rest of man in creation, whatever physical mercy it may be to him as it is, could not remain spiritually as the valid sign of a state of things which was abrogated and passed away.
Is there no such witness of rest, and a better rest too, which remains for God’s people? Surely there is. If now our rest is not on earth, because it is polluted, it is prepared in heaven, where we shall have our place in glory by resurrection (or an equivalent change), as Christ entered there by it. Hence, not God’s rest in the first creation, but the day on which Christ rose from death, which had passed on Adam, the head of the first (and which He had in grace taken on Himself), became the witness, as far as a day is, of the church’s hope of rest. She does not celebrate her joys and her hopes on the day her Lord was in the grave (how could she? It was the proof of the ruin of the old, of the first, Adam), but on the day on which He rose, the day of the triumph of the Second, who is the Lord from heaven. The Jewish sabbath fell with the whole system of which it formed part.
It was not the church changing a day, which was gone before the church existed; the cross abrogated it and all it was connected with. The church could not have existed, had the sign of the covenant made with Israel remained in force as a witness that the covenant remained entire. The sabbath was the witness of man having a share in God’s rest under the first covenant; but he could not. The covenant was gone, and the sign with it. The resurrection inaugurated with divine power a new ground on which man could rest—a new scene in which he was to find blessing, when the ordinances of blessing were not to be imposed as law, but revealed in grace and spiritually understood.
Have we not proofs from scripture of the institution of the Lord’s day not imposed as law, which would be contrary to the very nature of Christianity, but established in grace? The plainest. First, the Lord Jesus assembled on that day His disciples, and met them: two or three assembled in His name, and He in the midst of them. Next Lord’s day He did the same thing. This the Gospels give. The Acts inform us that the disciples met on this day to break bread. In the Epistles the day is remarked as that in which the faithful were to lay by for the poor saints, as God had prospered them; and in the Revelation it is expressly called “the Lord’s day” — “kuriake emera” the apostle being peculiarly blessed on it.
Such is the scriptural warrant, not for making a law, but for recognizing the Lord’s day, the first day of the week, as one of worship and blessing; and so it has ever continued. The word of God gives it according to its unfailing perfection. It does not make a law of an ordinance where grace reigns, but it marks out distinctly the character and blessing of a day given us by grace, as the Lord’s day, the day on which He began all things new for our eternal blessing. The Old Testament has, in more places than one, recognized the eighth—that is, the first day after the old week was closed—as the day of special blessing. This was a pertinent figure.
Thus we have seen what tradition affords on one of the topics produced by the author, and what scripture affords on the other; that tradition is obscure, variable, and establishes nothing—can demonstrate nothing—which scripture does not prove; and that scripture is clear and simple. For Lent there is no warrant, and it is not in scripture; and, as to the Lord’s day, even to the very name, we have the clearest testimony possible of its observance in scripture.
But you say that the doctrine necessary for salvation was carried down by tradition from the expulsion of Adam from the garden to the time of Moses. If I am to believe tradition, there were writings. Seth, we are told, set up two pillars, and engraved what was necessary to be known, that it might not be lost; and we are told where, which, I am ashamed to say, I forget, and cannot now search for. However, though I judge it certain that the use of letters was far more ancient than is supposed, and that there was in those ancient times a mass of knowledge now lost, of which we have traces in heathen mythology and heathen notions (just shewing how insecure a means it is), and that God has given us just what is needed of it in the scriptures; yet I do not believe in Seth’s pillars. At any rate nobody ever read what was on them. But your reference in the case is most untoward; because this tradition was so powerless, that the whole world departed from God, so that He had to bring in the flood to destroy men from off the face of the earth. And after the flood all was so wholly lost, that even Abraham’s family were fallen into idolatry (Josh. 24:2), and God had to begin afresh by a new revelation of Himself to him. There were traces of truth which remained, as sacrifices; but the devil had got such complete hold of them that they offered them to him, not to God. Such was the effect of tradition in the case you quote. Your saying that the reference of sacrifice to a Redeemer to come was known to the Jews by tradition is monstrous. Their prophets are as clear on it as possible.
In fine I do not certainly contest that Christ established a church on the earth; no doubt He did. As to her being known by the four marks, we have examined them. Unity is gone; and universality is gone with it, as you admit you only claim a majority, which upsets both; apostolicity breaks down, for the Greeks have it more than you (for they have not a double and treble line of popes for a long while, as Rome has had). As to sanctity, we will speak of it hereafter. And, moreover, the marks are not marks at all; for the church was as true when there had been no succession, no catholicity—that is in the days of the apostles—as any can be now. If these marks are a test, the church wanted them when it was truest and purest.
We are next told of the Fathers and of the unity of the church. Of the latter I have spoken already. It is natural that, when men are in possession of a wide field of power, they should not wish it to be broken up. We have already seen that the true church, the body of Christ, united livingly to Him by the power of the Holy Ghost, is, and must be, as seen of God, always one; and that it will shine forth as one in glory. And we have seen that what is called the church— Christendom—is divided; and that the boast of the Romish body of being one within itself proves nothing as to the unity of the whole church; while the truth is that nothing can be more evident than this, that it is not the true church at all but the most corrupt of any body that pretends to the name; its marks fallacious; while, as to truth and holiness and spiritual union with a heavenly Head, she avoids the test of truth, belies in practice the test of holiness, as every honest conscience knows and as I shall shew hereafter, and has another head of unity on earth in place of Christ.
I will now, therefore, speak a little of the Fathers whom you adduce as witnesses. Only remark, that the Fathers cannot tell us whether the visible church is one now (the only really important point), for the plainest of all reasons, that they lived centuries ago. If they only tell us that it began in unity, we do not want them for that, because the scriptures are plain enough upon it, historically and doctrinally. Only that unity they shew to us was composed of real saints quickened of God, though false brethren were already creeping in unawares, as we learn from Jude, and the mystery of iniquity already at work, as Paul teaches us. They shew divisions always ready to break out, restrained by God’s grace and apostolic care; they shew that there ought to be unity, but a unity which is called the unity of the Spirit; the power of God by the Holy Ghost, keeping the true members of Christ bound together in one body—not a vast body of persons, three-quarters of them infidels, and few of the rest doing more than going through a routine of forms. The scriptures shew us such a unity as God can create and own. The Fathers may echo it as a duty, but cannot tell us what is now.
But we will spend a word on them. The name sounds well and seems to claim respect. Some of them were godly men, a very few martyrs for the Lord’s name, a few more confessors in persecution—a real crown of glory for a Christian; but as to doctrine, they (and in particular some of those who suffered) are the loosest, wildest, most absurd, writers that ever wrote a book, to make sober men wonder how any one could possibly read such a mass of nonsense, bad morals, and heresy. If books containing such doctrine as is found for the most part in the Fathers, notions with such an absence of common sense, and such morals, were written now, every honest Christian in the country would forbid them to his children, or they would lie a lumber, so as to render such a prohibition unnecessary; while, as for the doctrine of some of them, Christians would be apt to burn the books, and Romanists the writers. This will scandalize some people, perhaps; but as people are talking so much about the Fathers, it is better the truth should be told. I admit piety is found in some, and, on some points, doctrinal truth in part of others; but there is not a child’s religious book in these days which would not contain more and sounder truth than a whole folio of the “Fathers.”
All the early Fathers held the millennial reign of Christ, which is now rejected by Romanists, to shew how much their authority weighs where it does not suit. Most of the Ante-nicene Fathers were unsound as to the Person of Christ, and corrupted by Platonism.
You may think that this is mere Protestant abuse of authorities which are against us; but we have already seen that you are not much acquainted with them, and I shall produce the highest Romanist authority for what I say. The very learned Petau, a Jesuit, a man whose theological works are of standard reputation in the Romish body, after speaking of heretics, says, “Others were indeed Christians, and Catholics, and saints; but as the times then were, that mystery (of the divinity of Christ) being not yet sufficiently clearly known, they threw out some things dangerously said”—(Pet. de Trin., lib. I, c. 3, s. I.) Poor Jerome, at a loss to maintain their orthodoxy, says,” It may have been that they have erred through simplicity (simpliciter), or have written in another sense, or that by unskilled editors (copyists) their writings have been by degrees corrupted, or at least, before Arius, as a mid-day demon, was born, they have said things innocently and less cautiously, and which cannot escape the calumny of perverse men” —(Hierom. Cont. Ruffinum, lib. 2, 17, Ver.)
Now I have no objection to take the excuses of Jerome; but if, in such a fundamental point as the divinity of the Lord Jesus, such excuses have to be made for them, what can be said of their authority? This is said by Jerome, when the famous Clement of Alexandria, presbyter, and Dionysius, patriarch of Alexandria, were stated by another Father, the first to have said that the Son of God was a created being, and the latter to have fallen into Arianism, as he surely did when writing against the Sabellians; and, when it was objected against him, said he did not mean it. Jerome will not allow that their writings were corrupted by heretics. The title of this chapter of Petavius is this: “The opinions of certain of the ancients on the Trinity, who flourished in the Christian profession before the times of Arius, discordant from the Catholic rule, at least in the manner of speaking, are set forth; as of Justin Martyr, Athenagoras, Tatian, Theophilus, Irenasus, Clemens Romanus.” Think of all these eminent Fathers, if we except perhaps Tatian, holding opinions contrary to the Catholic faith on the subject of the divinity of Christ, or at least expressing themselves so! What a comfortable security for right interpretation! I do not pretend that Petavius is warranted in all he says;43 but if so very learned a Jesuit judges the Antenicene Fathers thus, even if some of them may be speciously defended (as the Protestant bishop Bull, and the Jesuit Zacharia, and Horsley, and Burton, have attempted to do), while some certainly cannot, what possible reliance can be placed on them? And remember, that it is on the capital point of the divinity of Christ.
Let us now give a few details. Justin Martyr, and, it seems, Athenagoras (and it was a common notion) held that Christ existed in the Father as His word or reason, and became a distinct person only for the purpose of creation. Justin denies the possibility of the supreme omnipotent God coming, going, acting, descending, or shutting Himself up in a narrow body, as described in Genesis; and that Abraham, Isaac, etc., never saw the Father, and Ineffable, and of Himself Lord of all things aplos, and therefore of Christ Himself, who is God by His will, His son and messenger, because He is the minister of His will.—(Dial. c. Tryph. 282, 286.) This is Arianism; yet, in other places, he speaks of Him clearly as God. Clement of Alexandria uses language which makes his doctrine as to the Godhead of Christ uncertain. He says that He had a nature nearest or very near (parechestate) to the Father; and, as to the humanity of Christ, he writes what is utterly heterodox, denying that Christ could possibly be nourished by food, and saying that He only ate that people might not think He only appeared to have a body.
As to Origen, he was as heretical as he well could be. He unequivocally declares the Son to be inferior to the Father, and the Spirit to the Son; and held that all men had lived before they were born, and were born here according to their previous merits, could recover themselves here, and be saved, as could the devil, and, as it seems, when in a heavenly state fall, for all that, afterwards: in a word, every wild notion that might grace a Mormon.
Tertullian received Montanus and the Phrygian prophetesses as having or being the Paraclete, and treated the Catholics as carnal. The term by which Arius was finally condemned, and which had been condemned as heretical by the previous Council of Antioch, was withdrawn after the Council of Nice, and Arius was thereupon received into, and died in the communion of, what is called the Catholic church, this famous word being revoked; and Athanasius died in banishment, deposed from his see by the Council of Tyre. Now, I am satisfied that Arius’s views are the most deadly error possible. But what, then, can I think of the Fathers, if compelled to think of them?
Hermas, who is presented as an apostolic Father, tells us, in his Similitudes, that the Son (seen in his vision) was the Holy Ghost; and that God took counsel with the angels what to do with Him; and He made a pure body, and put Him into it, and that was the Christ. Yet this book, we are assured, was read in the churches.
And now for one or two further details. Ignatius, you tell us, was bishop of Antioch after Peter had fixed his chair at Rome. You are aware that it is contested that Peter was at Rome. It seems, indeed, almost impossible. However the succession of the bishopric of Antioch is nearly in the same obscurity”as that of Rome, probably because they had not at the beginning such bishops as afterwards. Euodias is alleged to be the first at Antioch: some say Peter put him into it, others Paul. The most authentic histories declare he became bishop of it after the death of both. Some, to clear up matters, say that Ignatius had the Gentiles, and Euodias the Jews, and then Ignatius both. If this were the case, it is possible this may have created difficulties in his own path, and this is that which makes him speak so feelingly of adhering to the bishop, for such is his principal subject. His exhortations to unity and avoiding heresy are all very well, though there is evidently an excessive excitement produced by the thought of a man just going to martyrdom, and very full of it, and (I must say) not very full of Christ. Blessed as his end may have been, Polycarp and the Vienne martyrs shine, it seems to me, much more brightly. There is more peace, more calmness, more humility. Still it was given to Ignatius to honour his Lord by giving up his life for Him, and every true Christian will honour him.
I have already remarked that you have taken Clement of Alexandria for Clement of Rome, and I have said what is needed on the former, who was the head of the school at Alexandria, and not a bishop at all. He avows that he must conceal all the highest parts of Christianity as known to the initiated, and only say what suits the public. He was more a philosopher than anything else. Tertullian, as I have said, was forced out of what is called the Catholic church by its worldliness and evil, and, after having written to prove it right by prescription, left it as a hopeless case. Cyprian in the main was a bright specimen of the Fathers, and a martyr; but he resisted Rome energetically, and never yielded, maintaining a correspondence with a famous bishop of Asia Minor, Firmilian, to resist its principles. Even he speaks of the Father commanding us to worship Christ, just as Socinus did. As to what is quoted from Hilary, one of the best of the Fathers, I cordially agree with his very scriptural statement. Whether Rome be that church is another question. No such unity as he speaks of exists now at all. St. Augustine too was a bright light for the times—I have nothing to object to what is quoted from him. That modern Rome is the church is our question. The church redeemed by Christ’s blood He purifies by the word, and presents to Himself a glorious church. All its members are members of Christ, and will be in glory; but this no Romanist ever pretends to be the case with Rome.
As regards what I have stated as to the Antenicene Fathers being obscure as to fundamentals, I do not deny that passages may be found shewing that they held Christ to be God—there are many. But it is not denied that there are many which deny that He was the God over all, o epi panton Theos, that being ascribed to the one supreme God. It cannot be denied that Justin Martyr, for example, teaches, in reasoning with Trypho as to the Being who visited Abraham, that it could not be the supreme God, who is the Lord of the Lord on earth (that is, of Christ in these appearances to the old Fathers) as being Father and God, and is the cause of His being both powerful and Lord and God (I use the translation of a learned and orthodox theologian). The passage is to be found in Dial. c. Tryph. 388 E. Justin declares (Dial. c. T. 283 A.), that it was not the supreme God who appeared to Moses in the bush. Trypho had said there was an angel and God there. Justin answers, that even so it was not God the Creator of all things. On the other hand, he declares, pages 227-8, that there neither is, nor ever was, any other God than He who created all things, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who led the Jews out of Egypt. He held (and it is not denied to have been the general doctrine of the Antenicene Fathers) that the wisdom of God, which dwelt in Him always, came out, as it were, into distinct existence, in order to the creation by the will of the supreme God. They owned Him to be God, but His eternal existence was endiathetos and not prophorikos. There was more than one source of this. First, they had only the Septuagint Greek translation, which in Proverbs 8 reads, “The Lord created me in the beginning of his ways,” ektise (not possessed me, ektesato). Secondly, Platonism, to which indeed Justin refers, and the efforts to meet the accusations of the heathens as to God the Son, to which the Platonic doctrine of the logos afforded a reply.
Now I do not desire to accuse these Fathers of heresy, save Origen. But I am forced to read a mass of barbarous folio volumes to know what they do hold, and there I find Platonism in abundance. There I find it denied, over and over again, that Christ is God over all. There I find Him spoken of as having personal existence only just before the creation, and existing by the will of the supreme God as His minister or servant. I find indeed, when they are not philosophising or meeting difficulties, that their own faith was for the most part more orthodox. But if I want to make orthodox theology out of them, I am obliged to read another set of volumes, in which Romanists deny and affirm their orthodoxy, as in Zacharia’s edition of Petavius’ Dogm. Theol.; and Protestants labour honestly, as Bull, and Burton, and Horsley, and Kaye, to prove they are all right and orthodox against Romanists and Unitarians; declaring that these learned Romanists undermine the orthodoxy of the Fathers, that there may be no resource but the church, and proving very clearly that the Unitarians are utterly unfounded in what they have said. But what security does this afford for the truth?—what reliance can be placed on the Fathers?
If I turn to scripture, nothing can be plainer. I may try to reason against it; but there I find, without any discussion or philosophy at all, that Christ is “God over all blessed for evermore”; that He and the Father are one; that He “was in the beginning with God, and was God.” I find that when Isaiah (chap. 6) saw the glory of Jehovah of hosts, he saw the glory of Christ. In I John 5 I find that He is the true God and eternal life. I find that He created all things; Heb. 1; Col. 1; John 1. In a word, I find the proper eternal divinity of the Lord Jesus, and His distinct personality, taught as plainly as any truth possibly can be. John the baptist goes before Jehovah’s face, but it is before Christ. God with us, who saves the people, is Christ, the God-man (an expression, by the bye, condemned as heretical by an early council—men were to say God and man) revealed as plainly as testimony can make it; yet the unity of the Godhead (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) shining through every page, from Genesis to Revelation. I am not, of course, bringing all the proofs of the Trinity in unity here (it would be out of place); I quote only a few passages to shew the positiveness and clearness of scripture, which gives these great foundations without a cloud and without hesitation.
The author quotes the Fathers on the sanctity of the church. I have not need to say much here. The Fathers cannot tell us what the Romish body is now. No one denies in the abstract that holiness is a characteristic of the true church of God. But the manner in which this truth is treated is singularly characteristic. The Fathers shew “the sanctity of the Catholic church in her origin, in her first preachers, in her doctrine, and in her sacraments.” Now is it not singular that her practice is left out here? I should have thought that the first thing holiness would have to be sought in was practice. That the church’s origin is holy is certain, for it is God Himself; and, as to power, the Holy Ghost glorifying Christ in the gospel. That her first preachers were is no less sure, for they were apostles, and prophets, and saintly evangelists; that her doctrine was is doubtless true, for we have it in the scriptures from God Himself, and are assured that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord”; that her sacraments, as moderns call them, were, no Christian will dispute either, if the term be rightly used. But then this only leads us to inquire, since this was so in the beginning, whether the doctrine and practice of Rome be like this; and if it be not, then we must conclude that she is not the true church, nor even like it.
But this question of practice our author avoids; it is too practical a one. Only, after a quotation from Tertullian on apostolic succession as a security for doctrine, which has nothing to say to holiness (Tertullian, who broke with the Catholic church, so called, because of its looseness), we just find “holy” in the virtuous lives of her children who observe her precepts. That reserve saves a good deal. We are told too, that the Fathers say there cannot be sanctity out of the Catholic church; but would it not be better to shew that there was in what called itself so? Now I have already given a quotation from Cyprian (and others could be added) which shews that, in some two hundred years after Christ, the self-called Catholic church was sunk into the lowest excesses of vanity, corruption, fraud, and avarice, bishops and all; so that God, he says, treated them most gently in sending the Decian persecution. Indeed the choice of bishops was more than once the occasion of bloodshed and war; yet Cyprian was a great stickler for unity. On the catholicity of the church I have already spoken. That the Fathers used the testimony of the church universal against heretics is quite true; nor, though not a final authority, are they to be much blamed, when it was universal. But we have seen they were not preserved by it themselves, nor was the church; and the question still remains, Is the Romish system in the truth? The Fathers, with their usual inconsistency, when not pressed by the heretics, equally declared that the scriptures alone were authority. They argued, and argued as it suited them. Thus Cyprian, against those who deserted what he belonged to, preached unity as obligatory. But this same Cyprian was exceedingly opposed to the pope and Romans on the re-baptizing of heretics, and wrote against the pope, and never would yield to him. Stephen, the said pope, urged “Let nothing be innovated on what has been handed down” (traditum). Hereupon our good Father changes all his language. “Whence,” he cries out, “is that tradition? Does it descend from the authority of the Lord44 and the Gospels (Evangelica), and come from the commandments and Epistles of the apostles? For God bears witness that these things are to be done which are written, and speaks to Joshua, the son of Nun, saying, ‘The book of this law shall not depart out of thy mouth; but thou shalt meditate in it day and night, that thou mayest observe to do all things that are written therein.’ If, therefore, it is commanded in the Gospels, or contained in the Epistles of the apostles, or the Acts, that those coming from whatever heresy should not be baptized, but only hands imposed on him in penance, let this divine and holy tradition be observed… What obstinacy is that! [in the pope, remember,] What presumption to prefer human tradition to a divine disposition, and not take notice that God is indignant and angry, as often as human tradition sets aside, and passes by, divine precepts, as He cries out and says by Esaias the prophet, ‘This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. But in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.’ Also the Lord, in the Gospel, reproving and blaming, lays it down, and says, ‘Ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may establish your tradition,’ mindful of which precept the blessed apostle Paul himself also warns and instructs, saying,’ If any one teach otherwise, and do not acquiesce in the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and His doctrine, he is puffed up with pride, knowing nothing: from such turn away.’”—(Ep. 74, ed. Oxon.) Here every tradition is to be judged by scripture. O si sic omnia! and this is a pope!
The truth is, the Fathers were men, and reasoned as it suited them. The scriptures are the word of God, and speak plainly. “He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” But the letter of our good prelate affords us some further and excellent advice— “It is simple with religious and simple minds, both to lay aside error, and find and dig out the truth. For if we revert to the head and origin of divine tradition, human error ceases [we must remember that tradition means any doctrine delivered by word or writing]; and the principle (ratione) of the celestial sacraments being considered, whatever lay hid in obscurity and a cloud of darkness, it will be brought out into the light of truth. If a canal, which conducts water that before flowed copiously and abundantly, suddenly fails, do not men go to the fountain, that there the reason of the failure may be known—whether, the veins being dried up, the water has dried up at the source? or whether, being perfect there and full, running forward, failed mid-way? that if it be caused by the fault of an interrupted or leaky canal, which hinders the water from flowing constantly and without interruption, the canal being re-made and strengthened, the water collected for the use and drinking of the city may be re-presented with the same richness and purity as it flows from the fountain, which now is what the priests of God, keeping the divine precepts, have to do. And if in any one (or any thing) the truths have tottered or vacillated, let us return to the original of the Lord, and the gospel (originem Dominicam et Evangelicam), and the apostolic teaching (traditionem), and let the principle of our acting spring from that whence its order and origin has sprung.” Here, remark, tradition does not mean what is now received; for the truth was tottering and lost, and he insists on going back from that to what was originally delivered.
Now we have gone up to the fountain, as Cyprian recommends, and we have found a rich and inexhaustible fountain of pure water of life in the very same source which he urged men to go to. We have found that the canal has been choked with filth; so that, though a little water has oozed through, the result has been mud, undrinkable and contaminated—that the little that trickled through the filth, which has gradually filled up the channel, is utterly tainted; but when the grace of God had led us to the fountain, we have found the water as pure, as fresh, as abundant as ever, and only the more delicious from having found it again. We have found the truth easily discovered and dug out, as Cyprian has said, once arrived at the treasures of the scriptures which God gave. I have already quoted from Irenaeus a passage, where he states that, if we cannot find the solution of all that is in scripture, we are not to look for another God, but leave these things to God, because the scriptures are perfect as spoken by the word of God and His Spirit.
You quote the famous saying of Augustine—that he would not believe the gospel, if the church did not move him to do so. He speaks rather of what led him to do it than as authority. Still it is a very serious statement to find uttered. We will examine it; but you must forgive me for increased hesitation as to your having looked at the original. I am not aware what 2 T. Ep. 53 means exactly; but this passage is in a treatise against a letter of a Manichean, which was called Fundamenti. The old and new editions of epistles have neither of them, in number 53, anything to do with it. However, it may appear as an Ep. in some edition I do not know of. But I have another reason for my hesitation. One would think, from your extract, that it was a continuous passage. This is in nowise the case. You read—“Lastly, the name itself of Catholic. These so many and so great ties bind the believing man to the Catholic church; and unless the authority of the church induced me to it, I would not believe the gospel.” Between “Catholic” and “these” there is nearly as much as you have quoted; but that is no matter, for it does not change the sense. But when you say, “These so many and so great ties,” I can hardly suppose you translate for yourself. It runs— “These so many and so great (tanta), most dear or cherished, ties of the Christian name bind.”
Now, the sentiment is left out in what you say. His affections were in play, and this he expressly speaks of in what follows in contrast with the certainty of truth; and the last and famous phrase is in quite another connection—nearly half a page of my copy farther on, and in another section. Nor have you ever finished the phrase which you end with’ Catholic church.” This I will do for you. You see you cannot be surprised if I believe you did not read the passage which you quote; for certainly your manner of quoting it would lead your reader to suppose it was one continuous paragraph. St. Augustine writes— “Lib. Cont. Epist. Manichaei quam vocant Fundamenti, sec. iv” (v. in another edition)— “These, therefore, so many and so great most dear45 ties of the Christian name keep the believing man in the Catholic church, though, on account of the slowness of our intelligence or the merit of our life, the truth does not yet clearly (or openly) shew itself.” That is, his affections —perhaps I might say superstitions—linked him to the church, though he did not see the truth clear. What a different thing from being a security for the truth ! And so little was it intelligence of the truth that he is speaking of, that he begins his reasoning by saying, that simplicity of faith keeps the crowd safe, not vivacity of intelligence; and therefore, if he leaves aside the wisdom which Manicheans did not believe to be in the Catholic church, many other things would hold him quietly in its bosom. This shews what the dear ties were, and how little it had to do with the certainty of truth.
But this is clearer still, if we cite all that follows the words, “the believing man to the Catholic church.” I finished that phrase for you just now; I will now add what comes after the close of it— “But with you” [Manicheans, who were not Christians at all, held there was a good God and a bad one; they had a gospel of their own, Manes having, as was pretended, perfected with far clearer light what Christ had taught, and rejecting much of the scriptures] “but with you, where there is nothing of these things (the most dear ties) which should invite or hold me, the promise of the truth alone resounds; which indeed, if it be so manifestly shewn that nothing can come into doubt, is to be preferred to all those things by which I am held in the Catholic [church]. But if it is only promised, and not exhibited, no man shall move me from that faith which binds me, by so many and such bonds, to the Christian religion.”
Now here the bonds which did hold him were of no force if the truth was elsewhere, so that he does not look at them as themselves the truth. But, further, however confident he was that it was not the case, yet, if the truth were clearly shewn elsewhere, they lost their power, so that they did not in themselves secure the truth. Is it not singular all this part should be left out? But he proceeds to reason with the Manichean, to see if he has the truth. It is a mere argumentation to put the Manichean out of the field by beating his argument; and here it is we find the famous phrase you and others quote. This piece, called Fundamenti, began— “Manichaeus, apostle of Jesus Christ by the providence of God the Father. These are healthful words from the perennial and living fountain.” “Bear with me,” says Augustine, “if I do not believe he is an apostle. I ask, who is he? You will answer, an apostle of Christ. I do not believe it. You will have nothing you can say or do. You promised me the knowledge of the truth, and now you compel me to believe what I am ignorant of. Perhaps you will read me the gospel, and thence you will maintain the character assumed by Manichaeus. If, then, you will find any one who does not yet believe the gospel, what will you do with him when he says, ‘I do not believe’? But I would not believe the gospel if the authority of the Catholic church did not move me to it. To those, therefore, to whom I have yielded, saying, ‘Believe the gospel,’ why should I not yield when they say, Do not believe Manicheans’? Take your choice. If you say, believe the Catholics, they themselves warn me not to yield any faith to you; wherefore I cannot believe them unless I disbelieve you. If you say, do not believe the Catholics, you will not do right in compelling me by the gospel to [embrace] the faith of Manichaeus, because I believe the gospel by Catholics preaching it.”
We see at once here, that to put the Manicheans out of court, he insists, that when he attempted to use the gospel to make him receive Manichaeus (Manes) and his doctrine, it could not take effect, because he had believed in the gospel by means of the very Catholics who condemned Manichaeus. Now it is a very foolish and bad sentence; but is merely a reasoning used in an argument ad hominem to frustrate the Manichean by taking the ground from under his feet; and it supposes a person refusing to believe the very gospel he appealed to, and then insisting he could not use the gospel against Catholics, because it was through Catholics he had believed. It is no business of mine to defend Augustine, though he were a bright testimony to the grace of God. His reasonings are often weak and foolish enough, and admitted to be so by Romanists, and I may almost say by himself, for he excuses himself as writing in haste, and admits that, not having been able to meet Manes in the plain sense of scripture, he had turned it into allegories. But the close of the chapter shews clearly what he meant. He had been led to believe the gospel by the preaching of Catholics, and, thus led to it by them, he could not read it as condemning them—an argument which has no force. It is in no way a quiet dogmatic sentence as it is presented. It is to be hoped that he did not mean that when, through the instrumentality of the preaching of the Catholics, he had been brought to believe in it as the word of God, he still held it merely by their authority; because if he really believed it to be God’s word, and that he had really faith in it as such, however brought to that conviction, he must believe it, because God had spoken it: otherwise there was no divine faith.
He who received Christ’s testimony set to his seal that God is true. Anybody may move me and lead me to receive the Bible; but when I receive it, I have faith in it because God has spoken: otherwise it is mere human faith. It cannot be doubted—for we have his account of it—that the word of God had reached his heart with deep conviction within. It had its own title in his heart. Did he rest this on the church’s authority? Then it was human faith. A man may bring me my father’s letter; I recognize it as his. Its authority is not the bringer’s, but the writer’s, though the fidelity of the messenger may have been necessary for my getting it. Once received, it has my father’s authority—the authority of him who wrote it. There is no pretence that “commoveret” the word Augustine uses, can mean the authority. It proves that the church had a practical influence over his mind, which led him to do it; all very well. It was Catholics’ preaching which had led him to faith; he was converted from heathen wickedness and Manicheanism; but it was not their previous authority on which the scriptures rested, but an authority over his mind.
But I take higher ground than shewing it was a mere argumentative phrase to excuse Augustine. If the principle be the sober judgment of Augustine, that he would not believe unless on the authority of the church, this is not believing because God has spoken, but because the church had. If one tells me something, and another accredits him, and I believe the first because the other declares what he says is true, it is clear I do not believe the former, though I believe the fact he relates; for I do so because I trust another, not him. That is, if I believe the gospel because the church authenticates it, it is because I do not believe it without: that is, God’s saying it is insufficient. I do not believe God in it at all. There is no faith in God’s word.
But see what ground the Romanists set me on here, for this is the real truth of the matter. God has spoken; the apostles and evangelists have recorded His revelation: if they deny it, they are infidels, not Christians. I am to believe God, because the church accredits what He has revealed. I am to believe the church because Augustine accredits it; that is, the authority of God Himself (who, in sovereign grace, has spoken to us) is reduced to the opinion I may form of the judgment of Augustine. What a favourable position! as if God, when He has spoken, cannot give proof that He has, so as to bind the Christian’s, nay, every man’s conscience! Now I have a very poor opinion of the judgment of Augustine, and I shall tell you why; but what a foundation on which to rest belief in what God has said! I must have Augustine’s authority for its being true; for if the church accredits the scripture and Augustine accredits the church, the judgment and authority of Augustine is my stay, and the base of the whole. I say, if God has spoken, His word obliges to believe because He has spoken: woe be to him who does not! You plead Augustine’s word, that though he has spoken (for you dare not deny this, or you are an infidel)—though God has spoken, you would not believe Him unless the church guaranteed it. Is this faith? God speaks; I cannot believe what He says till some one else accredits it! It is as awful ground to go on as it is unstable and insecure; and this is all the ground that the Romish body can give as security of our faith!
The truth is, Augustine was first attracted by Ambrose’s preaching, by his kindness and eloquence, and began to doubt his own Manicheanism; but he was converted by the scriptures, and established in the faith by the scriptures. “Therefore,” he says, “as we were infirm in finding the truth by mere reason, and the authority of the holy letters was needful for us, I began now to believe that thou wouldst in nowise have given so excellent an authority to the scriptures in all lands, unless thou hadst written that by it I should believe in thee, and by it I should seek thee.” This accordingly he did, passing through much conflict; and at last abandoning himself to tears under a fig-tree, he heard a voice saying, “Take and read, take and read”; and he arose, took up the Epistles to look at the first thing he opened at, and found a passage which was his deliverance. Such is his own account in his Confessions when he is relating the facts, not reasoning with Manicheans. He was not very nice in reasoning with these. He wrote a book against them early in his career; and when he could not make any proper sense out of the scriptures literally, or none could be made (so he says), he turned it into an allegory to get out of the scrape, hoping he might do better afterwards; and so, indeed, he tried to do in a treatise on Genesis according to the letter.
As to St. Vincent of Lerins (not Sernis), there is a sentence of his almost as famous as St. Augustine’s. It is this, that we were to believe quod semper, quod ubique, quod ab omnibus, what was believed always, everywhere, and by all. May I guess that you did not quote this famous rule, because you have only, as you allege, a majority—really just half; the Greek church, older than you, thinking you all wrong, and the Protestants thinking you Babylon? If man’s opinion and agreement is to be the ground of faith, according to Vincentius Lirinensis, we can have none at all in these days. But the passage you do quote is an unfortunate one, because it was just the very order of Pope Stephanus, which the holy martyr, and the African church, and Firmilian, and Asia Minor, and the East, resisted as subverting the church, and condemned by scripture, in a letter of which I have given an extract.
Allow me also to quote a passage of St. Jerome: “Hear another testimony, by which it is most manifestly proved that a presbyter is the same as a bishop “(Tit. 1:5, seqq.); and then he quotes other passages. “But that afterwards we should be shewn who should have the pre-eminence over the rest, it was done as a remedy for schism, lest every one drawing [people] to himself should break up the church of Christ; for at Alexandria also, from Mark the Evangelist to bishops Heraclus and Dionysius, the presbyters always named as bishop one chosen from among themselves, and placed in a higher grade.” … “Nor is the church of the Roman city to be esteemed one, and that of all the earth another. Both the Gauls, and Britains, and Africa, and Persia, and the East, and India, and all barbarous nations, adore one Christ, observe one rule of truth. If authority be sought, the world is greater than a city. Wherever there is a bishop, Rome, or Eugubium, or Constantinople, or Rhegium, or Alexandria, or Tanis, he is of the same worth, he is of the same priesthood. The power of riches and the humility of poverty make neither a higher nor an inferior bishop; but all are successors of the apostles.” Am I attaching any authority to Jerome? The learned but irascible and superstitious monk is one of the last to whom I should; but it is just a proof that these Fathers said what suited them at the moment of writing, as other poor mortals do sometimes—indeed rather more, so that there was a name for their way of reasoning. It was called economical; that is, they used reasoning proper to confute their adversary, without the least believing it was the truth themselves (like Augustine’s allegories).
But we are arrived at the sacraments.
As to baptism, except Quakers, all own it as a Christian ordinance, so that the scriptures you quote for that are freely accepted. Moreover every true or even orthodox Christian admits we are all born in sin: only I do not admit the application of John 3 to baptism. There is an allusion to what you have quoted from Ezekiel, which has nothing to do with baptism; but from the very words you quote (and reading the whole passage makes it still plainer), it refers to the restoration of the Jews; and the figure of baptism refers to the reality; just as John 3 does also, where the Lord is telling Nicodemus that he must not marvel because He said to him that they, Jews, who thought themselves already children of the kingdom, must be born again. It was a sovereign operation of God, going like the wind, and hence could embrace Gentiles; but he, as a master in Israel, ought, from his own prophets, to have known that such new birth was needed for Israel, as the passage from Ezekiel, for example, shews. The Lord tells us that the water which really cleanses is the word: “Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you “(John 12:48; ch. 15:3); and Paul, “that he might sanctify and cleanse it [the church] by the washing of water by the word,” Eph. 5. Baptism refers to this true cleansing, and so does John 3.
As to confirmation, you have produced scriptures which shew that the apostles, and apostles alone, conferred the Holy Ghost by laying on their hands; as to “the bishop, the successor of the apostles in the ministry,” complete and absolute silence. In the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, in which, according to your system, we might have expected it, not a word is to be found. The laying on of the apostles’ hands conferred it, and that it might be clear that Paul was as great an apostle as the rest (Acts 19), a case is recorded in which he also did so. You have quoted some other passages which prove anything but this. “He who hath confirmed or established us with you in Christ”—was Paul confirmed along with them? This is too ridiculous. He, at least, says he never went near the other apostles to be confirmed, nor ever received anything from them. When, therefore, he says, “confirmeth us with you in Christ,” it is pre-eminently clear he was speaking of nothing of the kind. Besides, bebaion is not the rite of confirmation. And further, it is God here, not an apostle or a bishop, who has done it.
As to anointing, we read, “Ye have the unction of the Holy one, and ye know all things.” Again, why not finish Ephesians 1, “in whom also … ye were sealed with that Holy Spirit of promise which is the earnest of our inheritance, till the redemption of the purchased possession”? Is confirmation the earnest of the inheritance? But if you say that it is the thing itself which is, and that confirmation is the sacrament by which it is received, then the text speaks of the thing (as it surely does), and not of any sacrament at all. That is, it has nothing to do with the matter. Now that sealing and anointing are the reality of the thing, and not any rite, we have the certainty, because the word of God says, that “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power,” Acts 10:38. And again, speaking of Him, “Him hath God the Father sealed,” John 6:27. No one will have the folly to say it could mean a sacrament as to Christ.
The history of confirmation is clear enough; we hear of it first early in the third century, yet not separate from baptism, but conferred at the same time and with nothing to say to a bishop. In the next, however, it was soon left to the bishop to do. This separation of it from baptism, and leaving it to the bishop, was not established in the East nearly so soon. It continued an act of the baptizing minister, and is treated even by Jerome as that part of baptism by which the Holy Ghost is received, only left to the bishop in order to maintain his dignity. I give some quotations which shew this.
First, there is Tertullian (De Baptismo, 7, 8). Having spoken of the water, he says, “Next going out of the laver we are anointed with the blessed unction, according to the former discipline (that is, the Jewish), with which they were accustomed to anoint with oil out of a horn for the priesthood, with which Aaron was anointed by Moses, whence Christ has His name from chrism, which means anointing… Then the hand is imposed, calling and inviting the Holy Ghost, in the way of blessing.” We see it is distinctly given as a part of baptism, without thinking of a bishop, and that the laying on of the apostles’ hands as its source never entered his mind.
In a commentary, commonly attributed to Ambrose, in 4 Ep. ad Eph. (given in Keble’s note to Hooker), we read, In Egypt presbyters sealed or signed (that is, confirmed), if the bishop is not present. And in the Apostolic Constitutions, lib. 7:43, 44 (cap. 28 in ed. J. G. Cotel.) the form of baptism and prayer to be used by the priest is given, and then it is said, And after this, when he shall have baptized him in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost, he shall anoint him with myrrh, adding, Lord God unbegotten, etc., cause that this anointing may be efficacious in the baptized, so that the fragrance of thy Christ may remain firm and stable in him, etc. Afterwards there is a prayer for purity, vigilance, etc., by the coming of the Holy Ghost. Now, the Apostolical Constitutions are of the fifth century,46 so that the anointing and confirmation was still the baptizing minister’s office. When they were composed, it is very possible they were Alexandrian, certainly Greek and Eastern.
In Cyprian’s time (256) they were brought in the west to the bishop, but on their baptism. Referring to the case of Samaria, he says, “which also is done among us now; that those who are baptized in the church are offered to the presidents of the church, that by our prayer and the imposition of hands they should obtain the Holy Ghost, and be perfected by the Lord’s mark “(Ad. Jub. 73, p. 202). And so much was it held to be a part of baptism, that (Ep. 72) the African council say to Pope Stephen, insisting that heretics should be re-baptized as well as have hands imposed, ‘Then indeed at length they are fully sanctified, and can be sons of God, if they are born of both sacraments, since it is written, “unless a man be born of water and of the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.”’ Every one knows that all solemn acts or mysteries were called a sacrament in those days; there were seventy or even a hundred of them, for aught any one can tell, if we take the word. I cite this to shew that it was considered as part of baptism. Eusebius quotes a letter of Cornelius (Pope) to the same effect, as to a baptism of Novatus,47 on what seemed a death-bed; “for he,” the dying man, “did not get the other things which it is necessary to receive according to the rule of the church, nor was sealed by the bishop; and not having got this, how should he get the Holy Ghost? “That is, this was the part of baptism by which, on their system, men got the Holy Ghost—(Euseb. lib. 6:43, p. 244). We have already seen that these same bishops (to whom Cyprian says persons were brought to be confirmed and anointed, so as to receive the Holy Ghost), he also says, were running through all the provinces to make money by fraud. What a picture of the “Catholic church”!
But there remains a quotation from Jerome, which will complete the history of this rite48—“I do not, indeed, deny that this is the custom of the churches, that the bishop runs off to those who have been baptized, far from, the greater cities, by presbyters and deacons, to lay on his hands for the invocation of the Holy Ghost.” … “But if you ask in this place why we, baptized in the church, should not receive the Holy Ghost, unless by the hands of the bishop, which we assert to be given in true baptism, learn that this rite descends from that authority, that after the ascension of the Lord the Holy Ghost descended on the apostles; and in many places we find the same practised… . Otherwise, if the Holy Ghost came down only on the demand of a bishop, they are to be pitied who, baptized by presbyters or deacons, in small towns or castles, or in remote places, have fallen asleep before they have been visited by bishops.”
Remark here, that he overthrows entirely the doctrine of Pope Cornelius, just cited from Eusebius. What a mess these Fathers make of it! “But sometimes the safety of the church depends on the dignity of the chief priests, for if a certain extraordinary power, eminent above all, were not given to him, there would be as many schisms in the church as priests. Thence it happens, that without anointing, and the command of the bishop, neither a presbyter nor a deacon has the right of baptizing, which, however, frequently, if necessity compels, we know to be lawful for the laity to do. For, as one receives anything, so also he is able to give it, unless also the eunuch indeed, baptized by Philip, is to be believed to be without the Holy Ghost.” I quote this as shewing—first, that it was a part of baptism; next, that the bishop did it merely as a matter of order and human arrangement, and that after all it was all as good without him, if need was, being reserved merely to maintain order and his dignity, and that even Jerome had not the smallest idea of his conferring the Holy Ghost exclusively as the successor of the apostles. He goes into the case of Samaria; but his reasoning, though to the point as to Lucifer, his adversary, has nothing to do with our subject. For this he only refers to its coming on the apostles (of course, therefore, without laying on of hands), and insists, if the bishop was not there, it was had all the same, quoting as a proof the eunuch of Ethiopia.
I thought a plain history of the facts would be the best means of dispelling the mists and halo which surround the word “Fathers.” The earliest, Tertullian, “a most ancient writer, and a man of great erudition,” according to the author, speaks of it as a part of baptism done in imitation of Judaism. Gradually this part was reserved to the bishops, for order’s sake, but declared by Jerome not to be essential, but a matter of order, and got established gradually, like other superstitious corruptions of early practices, as it is now used. St. Jerome, “that most learned Father and doctor of the church,” is unfortunate, for he very satisfactorily refutes on the point what the pope had laid down. Indeed, as I have said, you may prove anything but the truth by the Fathers. They said what suited them in their controversies.
But I have another little word to add here. The author, in the quotation alleged to be from Jerome, after the words, “And having invoked the Holy Ghost, lays his hands on them,” continues, “Where, will you ask, is this written? In the Acts of the Apostles,” etc. Not a word of this latter part is in what Jerome says; on the contrary, he goes on to prove it can be had without it. The author, I suppose from quoting secondhand, without reading the Fathers, has fallen into a sad mistake here. It is the adversary of the orthodox—namely, Lucifer, or a Luciferian—whom Jerome, under the name of “Orthodox,” is confuting, who says this. It gives us such a clue to the origin of these different rites, that I will quote it. Indeed, Lucifer has in many things, perhaps, the best of it. “Are you ignorant,” says this honest but stern resister of Arianism in every shape (Jerome, it appears, rather agreed with Cyprian that heretics should be re-baptized, which the pope would not allow),” that this is the custom of the churches, that hands should be afterwards laid upon the baptized, and that the Holy Ghost should be invoked? Do you ask, Where is it written? In the Acts of the Apostles. Even if the authority of the scripture was not to be had, the consent of all the world on this point would have the force of a precept. For many other things also, which, through tradition, are observed in the churches, have assumed (usurpaverunt) to themselves the authority of a written law.”49 That is just it. Lucifer was a very faithful, but, as it appears, rigid and somewhat violent man. He was banished by Constantius for refusing to condemn Athanasius. He refused to receive Arian bishops as bishops on retracting their error, and said they must come as laymen. However, Jerome is refuting him in the work quoted from; and the author has quoted Jerome’s adversary as Jerome himself. What security for the faith!
I turn to penance. Your quotations of scripture prove that you have as little consulted it as you have the Fathers. You say, “St. Matthew and St. John record the same event,” namely, Christ’s coming to His apostles after His resurrection. John states a part of the communication Christ made to His disciples at this interview—the power of forgiving sins; Matthew another part—the power of baptizing and teaching all nations whatsoever Christ had commanded them; and in conclusion, Jesus Christ assures them that He would remain with them to “the end of the world.” This you do, in order to shew that the power to forgive sins remains to the end of the world. How can you expose your own ignorance to such a degree, or presume on that of others? The interview mentioned in John 20 was in Jerusalem, the day of the resurrection; and Matthew 28, in Galilee afterwards, the last thing recorded by him before the Lord’s ascension. The whole fabric falls, being incorrect in every part.
Now how comes it that for other things the bishops are successors of the apostles, as you tell us? and here “a person must have a very perverse heart, and covered with a dense spiritual blindness,” not to see that, on the contrary, all priests are their successors, proving both by the same text of Matthew, which says nothing about either, and thus can be arbitrarily applied to one as well as the other? Again, you quote, “Hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation,” as referring to penance; 2 Cor. 5. But the apostle declares that this was preaching the gospel. “Now we are ambassadors for Christ; as though God did beseech by us, we pray in Christ’s stead be reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” Yet you dare to say, “Can language convey more expressively, more definitively, or more clearly, the power which God gave to the priests, of reconciling the world to Him by the ministry of religion? “All this is foolish trifling. What do you mean by the ministry of religion? The apostle speaks of beseeching by the gospel in Christ’s name; you of penance. Are you going to put the world under penance? Is this your embassy?
But, further, you have not given a correct account of penance, as Romanists teach it.
You say, “the necessary dispositions—namely, contrition of heart, and a firm purpose of turning from his evil ways.” This is not a real account of Romish penance. The Catechism of the Council of Trent, according to which you are ordered to teach your parishioners, states the contrary. The “integral parts are contrition, confession, and satisfaction.” “We sin against God by thought, word, and deed; when recurring to the power of the keys, we should, therefore, endeavour to appease His wrath, and obtain the pardon of our sins by the very same means by which we offended His supreme Majesty. In further explanation, we may also add, that penance is, as it were, a compensation for offences which proceed from the free will of the person offending.” Again— “On the part of the penitent, therefore, a willingness to make this compensation is required, and in this willingness chiefly consists contrition.” But still more clearly, after quoting the Council of Trent, it is said: “From this definition, therefore, the faithful will perceive that contrition does not simply consist in ceasing to sin, purposing to enter, or having actually entered, on a new life: it supposes, first of all, a hatred for sin, and a desire of atoning for past transgressions.” You have left all this out. It is easy to talk of contrition of heart; but it chiefly consists in the willingness to make compensation, satisfaction—to atone by one’s own free will.
But there is another part of the doctrine you have omitted. “Contrition” (it is still the Catechism which is instructing us), “it is true, blots out sin; but who is ignorant that, to effect this, it must be so intense, so ardent, so vehement, as to bear a proportion to the magnitude of the crimes which it effaces? This is a degree of contrition which few reach; and hence, through perfect contrition alone, very few indeed could hope to obtain the pardon of their sins” (by that they could do without a priest or confession). “It therefore became necessary that the Almighty, in His mercy, should afford a less precarious and less difficult means of reconciliation and of salvation; and this He has done, in His admirable wisdom, by giving to His church the keys of the kingdom of heaven. According to the doctrine of the Catholic church—a doctrine firmly to be believed and professed by all her children—if the sinner have recourse to the tribunal of penance, with a sincere sorrow for his sins, and a firm resolution of avoiding them in future, although he bring not with him that contrition which may be sufficient of itself to obtain the pardon of sin, his sins are forgiven by the minister of religion through the power of the keys.”
Justly, then, do the holy Fathers proclaim that “by the keys of the church the gate of heaven is thrown open,” that is, to sinners who have not repented as they ought: those who have do not want the keys. Penance, then, is substitution for adequate and right repentance—it is making the conscience easy when it has not properly repented, that is, hardening it. Who does not know this to be the case? A conscientious soul, grieved with sin, is miserable because it has not done its penance in a right spirit; a careless, sin-loving heart goes to confession in order to receive at Easter, as they say, and begins its score of sins again merrily, when the old one is wiped out. It is sorry, no doubt, for having committed them when they are over—who would not be?—and afraid not to receive when Easter comes round, and for the moment proposes to do no more such. Real, thorough contrition is not required; penance supplies its place. Contrition, he is taught by his “church,” chiefly consists in this willingness to make satisfaction or compensation; and so he gets absolution for the past, and begins over again. Can there be a more iniquitous system? It is not a notion, taken up by the ignorance of these poor sinners, but established by the deliberate teaching of what calls itself the “church.” Now, I believe that remission of sins is, or ought to be, administered in the church of God still: first, in reconciling the world—which has nothing to say to the matter we are on now, even as to ordinances, because restoration or penance, whatever form it has, belongs to the church. Heathens are received by baptism, not by penance: whenever a poor Jew or heathen is received into the church, he receives, as to his present manifest standing, forgiveness; he stands before God as a forgiven man: all recognize that he enters by baptism. Further, if a person be justly excommunicated for sin, being a Christian, he is, on restoration, forgiven his sin as to his public standing before God; so that the forgiveness of sins, in this sense of the word, as to a man’s manifest standing and condition on the earth, does continue, and will, as long as the church subsists.
The history of confession I have already given. Auricular confession is a very modern introduction; it was needed when an easy way of letting off sin was wanted coincidently with the growth of priestly power.50 The passage of James, “Confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed,” is the plain proof that confession to a priest was unknown. It was a useful mutual exercise of charity, so that chastisement might be removed, when the heart was right before God. Was it to priests that many came and confessed their deeds in the passage cited from the Acts, when they burned their books of magic? The reason why baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost is valid, and “I absolve thee from thy sins, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost” is not, is a very simple one; it is this—Christ positively ordained one, and did not so much as hint at the other. Besides, you know very well that in case of necessity a layman, nay, a woman, can baptize a child: will you allow the same power in penance? If not, why do you assimilate them, as if one proved the other?
You quote St. Chrysostom. But he wrote urgently against confession to a priest, as we have already seen. I do not deny that Christ gave power to His church to forgive sins in the sense I have explained it. I believe it to be a glorious truth, that whosoever is rightly in the church is enjoying the absolute, full, unlimited, forgiveness of all his sins. But we are talking of auricular confession to a priest, and of satisfaction and penance substituted for real full contrition, in order to have it.
I come now to the Eucharist. I have already remarked that you have not ventured to say one word for the mass; you seek to justify transubstantiation, not the sacrifice. You quote John 6. There are three points in this chapter as to Christ: He is the bread come down from heaven (that is, the incarnation); there is His flesh and blood (that is, His death); and His ascending up where He was before. In all we are to own Him. The Lord’s supper most preciously presents Him in one of these. It presents a dead Christ, the body broken, and the blood shed. You say the Jews took Him literally; but they certainly knew nothing about the Lord’s supper. “The disciples,” you add, “knew likewise that Christ meant what He said.” … “The sublime mystery they did not comprehend.” But then they did not understand Christ at all, but took Him quite wrong; and therefore the Lord corrects them, and says, “It is the Spirit that quickeneth, the flesh profiteth nothing.” He takes care they should understand He did not mean them to rest in the letter of what He said. They took Him according to the letter. They were quite wrong. Many, supposing He meant it literally, went away. The rest held to Him, because His words were eternal life.
You urge that God could make man out of slime, Eve out of a rib, and a pillar of salt out of Lot’s wife. No doubt; but when He made a man, he was a man in form. He did transubstantiate the mud. But a man was a man to all intents and purposes, not to all intents and purposes (save your telling us otherwise) unchanged mud. He did not look or taste like slime, remain unable to move, speak, think, and go on as before. So of Eve: nobody, when she was changed, could take her for a rib. God gave proof to man of the change. So in the case of Lot’s wife. Here there is none—no sign of God’s power of any kind. We must believe, we are told, not reason. Yes, if God has taught it.
You quote John 6, and you quote, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven,” words as plain as “this is my body.” Am I to believe that Christ was transubstantiated into living bread? The words are just as plain, just as positive: why not believe them? Are we to eat Him incarnate and alive on earth? Where? Yet “he that eateth of that bread shall live for ever.” In the Lord’s supper I cannot, for His body is presented broken, not whole; His blood shed, not in His body. But again, the Lord declares that whosoever eats Him, as He describes, is fully and finally saved.51 They “shall live for ever.” They “have everlasting life, and he will raise them up at the last day.” “They abide in Christ, and Christ in them.” That is, it is the real vital saving possession of Christ by faith in the perfect efficacy of His life and work, in which those who possess will abide, and Christ raise them up, consequently, at the last day. But this is confessedly not true of all who partake of the Eucharist. That is, the passage does not refer to it; it refers to what the Eucharist refers to. Further, the terms of the institution preclude the literal sense; for, whatever image He employed, it could not then be literally Himself; because His body was not yet given. His blood was not yet shed, and this is what it is expressly a sacrament of. The Lord plainly shews what He meant in saying, “This cup is the new testament in my blood,” which is clearly a figure; and “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine,” Matt. 26. Nothing can be plainer. But the Lord did not really hold in His hand a broken body and shed blood; for His body was not broken and His blood was not shed. Yet that is of the very essence of the truth, for it was shed for the remission of sins, and there was no remission without it. In a word, the testimony is as plain as possibly can be, that the literal sense is untrue and impossible; shed blood there was none. Now Christ is glorified. There is no dead Christ; it cannot be He in reality—He in the letter; for there is no such Christ in reality as broken and His blood shed. He is alive for evermore. 1 Corinthians 10 is the plainest of all in reality;52 it speaks of the body as broken.
As regards a mouse eating it, I am not fond of such arguments; because, though I do not believe lifeless bread to be my living Lord, save as faith realizes Him, yet it is a memorial of Him, and there is no profit in irreverent associations. Yet you have in nothing met the argument in the smallest degree. According to your system, the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ are there; yet it cannot help itself against a mouse. The argument has the same bearing as Isaiah’s. The idolater makes a fire with part of a tree, warms himself, roasts at it, and says of the rest, It is a god, and worships it. Here a mouse eats it; it is turned into corruption; and you adore the rest as God. The argument may be a painful one, but it is complete. He cannot deliver himself, says Isaiah: a deceived heart has turned him aside; he cannot say, I have a lie in my right hand. When the Lord says, “Do this in remembrance of me,” it was saying it was a memorial of Him when He was gone, not His presence. But there is no life in the wafer. It is monstrous to say it is God, and eat it literally, let Fathers say what they may. It is not a living Christ; were it so, it were no sacrifice either, nor shedding of blood. I live by the life of a living Christ; I feed, commemoratively, on a dying one (such as, blessed be God, He can be no more, and is not now). Hence the cup, and drinking the cup, are essential to the import of the sacrament, and that the blood be nowhere else; for, if not shed, there is no remission.
And now mark the amazing import of this point. The Romanist as such does not partake of the cup. The reason, as is alleged, that it is all the same, is what is called the doctrine of concomitancy—that each element contains all—that in the bread the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ are all found. Now, if the blood be in the body, there is no sacrifice, no redemption, no remission of sins. Without shedding of blood, says the Holy Ghost (Heb. 9), there is no remission. Now, if the blood be in the body, it is not shed. That is, the poor Romanist—and with it I do not reproach him but what calls itself the Catholic church, and the enemy of souls—the poor Romanist has the sacrament of there being no redemption, or no remission of sins; for, as he receives it, His blood is yet in the body. Think how the enemy has mocked his poor soul! No doubt the Fathers spoke of it as the flesh and blood of Christ; but they say plainly now—I repeat I do not cite them as of weight, for there is no one less worthy of authority than they—but, as an historical fact, they say sufficient (not certainly to shew that they were not superstitious enough, but) that superstition had not travelled in five centuries as far as it had in fifteen. It went faster with the people than even the clergy, in some respects, for they brought in their heathen habits. Of this anon. I will quote enough from them to shew that, when it suited them in argument, they say the contrary of Romish doctrine: it is very possible, when it suits them or their imagination is at work, they teach it too. It just shews what they are worth. The mere saying, “flesh and blood,” means nothing.
But to the point. First, when the controversies as to the two natures of Christ were on foot, and yet earlier, on the possibility of His taking flesh, which the Gnostic heretics denied, they insist on the bread being there when He is spiritually or divinely present, as a proof that the two things can be together. Here their whole point was, that it was still bread; just as His flesh, as a living man, was true flesh, which the heretics denied. Thus Tertullian: “He made the bread, received and distributed to His disciples His body, saying, This is my body, that is, the figure of my body; but it would not have been a figure unless the body was truly such; for an empty thing, which is a phantasm, cannot have a figure.” The reader must know that early heretics denied that Christ had a real body: Tertullian argues, from the Eucharist being a figure of His body, that the body must be real. Irenseus argues in the same way, and is very positive as to the bread being there after the consecration, of which he speaks: “‘For when the bread, which is from the earth, receives the invocation of God, it is no longer common bread, but the Eucharist, consisting of two things, earthly and heavenly; so our bodies,” etc.
So Augustine (after saying that people said Christ was immolated at Easter, and constantly, though He never was but once long ago, and could be but once) says, “For if the sacrament had not a certain similitude of these things whereof they are sacraments, they would not be sacraments at all; but from this similitude they receive, for the most part, even the name of the things themselves.” What can be plainer? “For the Lord did not hesitate to say, This is my body, when He gave the sign of His body.” “The feast at which He commended and delivered to His disciples the figure of His body and of His blood” (on Psalm 3). “He who abides not in Christ, and in whom Christ does not abide, beyond all doubt neither eats His flesh nor drinks His blood, although he eats and drinks for judgment on himself the sacrament of so great a thing “(in Joann. Tract. 26:18). Chrysostom is quoted also, as saying, “Before the bread is sanctified we call it bread; but, divine grace sanctifying it through the ministry of the priest, it is freed from the name of bread, and judged worthy of the appellation of the Lord’s body, although the nature of bread remains in it” (Epist. ad Caesarium).
This last quotation has a very curious history. It was quoted by Peter Martyr. The Romanists cried, Forgery. Peter Martyr deposited it at Lambeth. It was taken away in Queen Mary’s reign. Bigot published it at Paris (he was a Romanist). The edition was suppressed, but the Archbishop of Canterbury got the sheets as they passed through the press, and published it in England; and others have done so.
These may suffice to shew that, rapidly as superstition grew, four or five centuries (that is, as long ago as Edward III) had not sufficed to obliterate the original doctrine of the church of God. It was made a dogma of the church only in the thirteenth century, in the Lateran Council, under Innocent III, the bloody instigator of the crusades against the Albigenses in the south of France, and the establisher of the Inquisition. In the tenth it was openly disputed, many prelates supporting the writer; and in the ninth was openly maintained, and the author not condemned as heretical at all, that transubstantiation did not take place. The reader may remark that several of the quotations I have given are from writers whom the author has quoted, shewing, when speaking soberly, how little they attributed to their own words the force which is attributed to them; or rather they spoke rhetorically about it in discourse, and shewed at other times it was only rhetoric. Again, what a ground to put our faith upon in order to receive it!
But I will add some other passages of the Fathers, shewing distinctly, as a learned Romanist has admitted, that, up to Chrysostom, the church did not really hold transubstantiation as a doctrine, however rhetorically individuals may have spoken. I attach no kind of importance to their opinion but historically, as the Romanists lean on them; it shews what a broken reed his way of assuring true doctrine is, and that is our point now.
The passage of Justin Martyr quoted by the author proves the contrary of that for which he cites it. Justin treats the Eucharist as bread, wine, and water, and as nothing else literally. The author has not, as so often has occurred, given the whole passage. “This food,” he begins. What food? Hear Justin. “Those called among us deacons give to each of those present to partake of the bread, and wine, and water, over which thanks have been given, and carry it away to the absent, and this food is called among us Eucharist… For we do not receive these things as common bread nor as common drink; but in the same way.” (This the author has entirely changed; I suppose, as usual, quoting from a text-book. How honest they are—that is, the instructors of the Romish body—we have seen by this time.) “As by the word of God, Jesus Christ, our Saviour, being made flesh, had flesh and blood for our salvation, so also the nourishment by which flesh and blood, through change [into them], are nourished, over which thanks have been given, through prayer of the word which is from Him, we have been taught to be the flesh and blood of that Jesus made flesh.” Now here, whatever it was to their faith, it was really and substantially bread, and wine, and water, such as nourished the natural body. No Romanist could say that bread and wine and water were given to be partaken of by each person present, nor that they took what nourished their body, on being changed into it. Hence the author, or his text-book, omits it.
Theodoret, in answering the Eutychians who held that there was only one nature in Christ, says, “He that called His own natural body wheat and bread, and gave it the name of a vine, He also honoured the visible symbols or elements with the name of His body and blood, not changing their nature, but adding grace to nature” (Dial, i, torn. 4, p. 17). The Eutychian heretic Eranistes (Dial. 2, p. 85, ed. Schulze 4:126) says, “As the symbols of the Lord’s body and blood are one thing before the invocation of the priest, but after invocation are changed, and become another thing, so also the body of our Lord, after its assumption, was changed into the divine substance.” Theodoret replies, “Thou art taken in thine own net which thou hast made; for neither do the mystical symbols depart from their own nature after consecration, for they remain in their former substance, figure, and form,” ousias kai tou schematos kai tou eidous. This is most unequivocal. Indeed, the controversy with the Eutychians and Monophysites, who confounded the divine and human natures in Christ, proves clearly that transubstantiation was not believed in. They used the fact of its being still bread and wine against the Eutychian doctrine, as they had against the Gnostics the fact of their being material creatures.
So Ephrem of Antioch, “The body of Christ which is received by the faithful does not depart from its own sensible substance, and yet it is united to spiritual grace; and so baptism, though it becomes wholly a spiritual thing and but one thing, yet it preserves the property of its sensible substance, I mean water, and does not lose what it was before.” (Quoted by Photius, cod. 1:229.)
Pope Gelasius writing also against Nestorians and Eutychians on the two natures in Christ, says, “Doubtless, the sacraments of the body and blood of Christ which we receive are a divine thing, on account of which, by them, we become partakers of the divine nature, and yet the substance or nature of bread and wine does not cease to exist.” (Facund. lib. 9, c. 5.) “As the sacrament of His body and of His blood, which is in the bread and consecrated cup, we call His body and blood, not that the bread is properly His body, and the cup His blood, but because they contain in them the mystery of His body and blood. Hence the Lord also Himself called the bread He had blessed, and the cup which He delivered to His disciples, His body and blood.”
This may suffice. The real historical truth is that, when they departed from the simplicity of scripture, they got into the doctrine of a union of grace and bread in the sacrament, and then into a kind of consubstantiation, such as Luther held. When Paschasius Radbert had taught something more than this, he was violently opposed by many church authorities. Berengarius, who taught the contrary, was at last, and indeed more than once (though supported by church authorities), being persecuted by Hincmar, forced to retract; and at last, as I have said, in 1215 transubstantiation was made a dogma of the faith, but never before.
Next we have extreme unction, for which you have not much to say. What has the account in the Acts, of the apostles healing the sick by anointing them, to do with extreme unction? Intimated by Mark, says Trent. Why intimated? Was healing the sick the sacrament of dying men, to go prepared into God’s presence? This is too absurd. And James says, “Is any sick?” —not when they are dying, but when chastened for sickness for sin— “Let him send for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up, and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.” That is, he was to be healed by their prayers; and, if sin occasioned it, be forgiven and relieved, not “prepared “to die. So the quotation you give from Augustine states— “Will deserve to obtain the restoration of his health”; and it is most certain that for centuries, up to Bede’s time, that is, the ninth century, it was looked at as a remedy to restore health. The Greek church so uses it still, and the Council of Trent says, it may be so interdum. Indeed there is nothing to be said for it, as the short article of the author shews.
And why, if extreme unction wipes away the very remains of sin, do people who have had it go to purgatory? What ineffectual means all the Romanist sacraments are! A man is absolved, but that will not do; he has his viaticum, the Eucharist, in which is remission, they say, but that will not do; extreme unction to wipe off the remains of sins—“reliquias peccati abstergit” (Conc. Trid., sess. 14, c. 2.)—yet the poor man goes to purgatory after all, to burn there for them himself; and then they say masses for him to get him out, though they could not keep him out. How different the peace of him who trusts the word of the living God, who believes His testimony! “The blood of Jesus Christ, his Son, cleanseth from all sin.” “By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified.” “Being justified by faith we have peace with God … and the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost, which is given to us.” “For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.” Such is the peace given, and the certainty of divine love, by the faith of the gospel. We know no hard God, who will keep us down to the last farthing: Christ has paid it for us, bearing our sins in His own body on the tree. The Lord grant many poor souls labouring under this cruel bondage may know His love who gave His Son for sinners, and the salvation which is in Christ!
As to the sacrament of holy orders, you quote passages which prove that, by the laying on of the apostles’ hands, gift was bestowed on Timothy: another, to shew that he was designated by prophecy. I do not doubt either. When you can shew me gift so bestowed, or a man marked out by prophecy for it, I shall own it with delight; but still you will not have proved that he is a priest. The scripture owns no priesthood now but Christ’s, and that of all saints, in the sense in which all Christians are kings and priests. He “hath made us kings and priests to God and his Father.” “Ye are a royal priesthood,” says Peter.
But the New Testament has not the smallest trace whatever of priests as an order. The priesthood of Christ is exercised on high; all Christians follow Him there in spirit. Romanists have returned in this, as in all their system, to Judaism, and to Judaism after it is set aside; so that they are the beggarly elements of this world, just like heathenism, as which the apostle treats them in Galatians 4:9-11. The New Testament speaks of a ministry as characteristic of Christianity—apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. Every true Christian blesses the Lord for it, however it may have been abused. But priesthood there is none, save of Christ and all true Christians; it is distinctive of, and essential to, Christianity that there is not, save as we all are priests. That is, we all go within the veil rent, directly and with boldness into the presence of God, where Christ is entered for us, into the holiest of all. The assertion- of a priesthood (Christ apart) between us and God is a denial of Christianity. You do not attempt to quote anything till five centuries after Christ.
As to the word sacramentum, none in the least degree acquainted with the early ecclesiastical writers can attach the least importance to it, for they called every mystery a sacrament. Thus, one says there are three sacraments in baptism. Augustine says the number seventeen is a great sacrament; that one hundred and fifty-three, being three times fifty (the Pentecostal number), with three (the number of times it is given), has great weight, and if you begin with one, and go on adding each number up to seventeen, you will have one hundred and fifty-three (I leave my reader to try), and that is the meaning of the one hundred and fifty-three great fishes taken at the Sea of Tiberias. As I was on the word sacrament, I gave this one little example of Patristic matter, so that it may be understood why I said a child’s book now would not contain such nonsense as they have: I think my reader will excuse my giving him any great quantity of it.
As to the obligation of marriage, it cannot be held too highly; instituted in paradise, and confirmed by the Lord Himself, its sanctity, I doubt not, is the providential bond of all moral order in the world. If, as the apostle teaches us, one be wholly given up to the Lord’s work without any snare to himself, it is all well. After what I have said of sacrament, I shall not be expected to insist on the word one way or another. In Ephesians it is simply, in the original, “This is a great mystery, but I speak of Christ and the church.” That is, the union of the church to Christ, as His body, is a great mystery—she is His bride.
We are told that the pope’s supremacy was defined in 1439! It is very possible. The world had passed through the dark ages; Christianity was overrun by Mahometanism in more than half its territory; and here was the true secret of it. The patriarch of Constantinople had then recourse to Rome. For a long time after the seat of the empire was transferred to Constantinople, the ecclesiastical chief of that city and Rome contended for supremacy. However, old Rome had precedency by decree of the Council of Nice, for ambition governed all these pillars of Christendom. You have still traces of this horrible ambition in Ireland, in the Archbishop of Dublin being primate of Ireland, and he of Armagh primate of all Ireland. I say they fought as to whether one should carry his cross—what a symbol to use for it!—upright or level when he went into the province of the other. My reader must forgive me if I forget how it was settled; but it was. The rivalry of Alexandria and Constantinople was the source of endless disputes—one ever favouring the holders of doctrine condemned by the other, to make a party; and the emperor convening councils to quiet them, and banishing them often to keep the peace, or making decrees themselves on doctrines which only led to new disputes, till they became contemptible. They were discussing some of these points when the Turks besieged Constantinople.
The Constantinopolitan patriarch assumed at length the title of universal bishop, and was denounced by Pelagius II and Gregory, as antichrist, for his pains. The latter wrote to Phocas, who had murdered the Emperor Maurice and .succeeded him, to congratulate him, Maurice having favoured Constantinople. Phocas acknowledged Rome as the head of all churches. Decretals were passed which gave the universal supremacy to Rome, everywhere owned to be forged now; and the eastern empire declining under the inroads of Saracens and then Turks, at last a union was proposed between the East and West, long opposed and rivals in doctrine and practices, as a proof of holiness and unity as marks of the true church. What a picture, to be sure, it all is of servants and followers of Christ, as they pretended! This attempt at union was under Pope Eugenius IV. It was a desirable distinction for Rome. A council was sitting at Basle at this time; Eugenius dissolved it; it would not obey, and deposed him; but he declared it null, and called another at Ferrara, which afterwards, because of the plague, was removed to Florence. The Council of Basle chose a new pope, Felix V. Most of Christendom owned Eugenius, but many universities Felix: however, he resigned when Nicholas V succeeded Eugenius.
But to return to the council at Florence. The Greek emperor came, and Josephus the patriarch; and the Greek divines, particularly Bessarion—made cardinal afterwards— gave up the Greek doctrine on the procession of the Holy Ghost, for the Greeks deny the procession from the Son. They admitted purgatory, which they did not before—now do not. Think of half Christendom not believing it for fourteen centuries after Christ, and agreed the pope should be the head of the church! But alas! they had reckoned without their host; for when they went back, the Greeks would not submit to the terms, and they themselves declared that all had been carried at Florence by artifice and fraud, and the separation has continued to this day. And this is the bride of Christ! It seems the pressure of the pope was worse in their eyes than the pressure of the Turks; that is, of the Council of Florence, which clearly sets forth the pope’s supremacy. Less than a century after, it becomes intolerable to the West too, and the Reformation arrived. So much for universality. Of course, some ground must be found for the supremacy, when it is there. The forged decretals established it. Scripture must be forced to contain it. I have already discussed the passage in Matthew; I need not repeat it.
But some of the points are to be cleared up. First, it is exceedingly doubtful if Peter ever was at Rome. Scripture never shews him to have been there, and it seems to me impossible to reconcile what it does state with his having been there. I admit respectable writers think he was, but scripture speaks only of Paul. Peter certainly did not found the church there. There were many Christians before any apostle was there, and Paul was the first that went. In the free exercise of their ministry, as the Holy Ghost has recorded it and thought proper to give it to us, no apostle founded the church at Rome. Paul, who preached the full and blessed gospel to the Gentiles (which was not Peter’s office, as we know he was apostle of the circumcision, or of the Jews)—Paul went there as a prisoner. The gospel was never apostolically in Rome, save as in prison. It is possible that Peter closed his life there; but this is the utmost that can be historically admitted, because we have a divine account of what passed till then, and his presence is incompatible with that account. History is silent for a century afterwards, and then every country sought to have it believed to have been visited, and its chief see founded, by an apostle or apostolic man. John lived at Ephesus, yet he certainly did not found the church there, as we know from scripture. So history alleges that Peter founded the church at Antioch—a statement entirely unfounded, because we have, in the Acts of the Apostles, a long account of the church at Antioch; and all that Peter had to do with it was to divide it, when it existed already, by leading away all the Jews by his dissimulation, so that Paul had to resist him to his face. It is just as little true that he founded the church of Rome. We have Christians at Rome two years at least before Paul went there, and Paul there two years, who began working with the Jews; and none of them, Christians, Jews, or Paul, know anything at all of Peter at Rome. He may have visited Rome to see the Jewish Christians after this, and been martyred there, but that is the utmost possible.
But we have in scripture a great deal of Peter and Paul, which is much more important than traditions about the former. And here let me state that I have not the smallest difficulty in saying that, in point of order, though all had the same apostolic authority, Peter was the first of the twelve. With Paul he had nothing to do; he had it during the life of Jesus, and God was mighty in him afterwards. He first introduced the Gentile Cornelius; but then this had a definite and specific direction. When the Jews had rejected the gospel, and put Stephen to death, the apostles did not leave Jerusalem, as we learn from the Acts; and Paul, miraculously raised up of God as an apostle in an extraordinary manner, does not go up to Jerusalem, but preaches at once in Damascus, and afterwards is sent out from Antioch directly by the Holy Ghost. Jerusalem, the true mother church, having been dispersed, and having ceased to be the source and centre of the gospel which the Jews would not receive, Antioch, not Rome, became the point of departure, and to it Paul returns. Long after, he sees the apostles at Jerusalem, and they agree that Paul and Barnabas should go to the Gentiles, and Peter to the circumcision, or Jews; that is, Peter was not apostle of the Gentiles at all. He taught the same gospel, of course, as to salvation; but his ministry had the Jews for its sphere.
God, says Paul, was mighty in him towards the circumcision, as in me towards the Gentiles; that is, the Jews were the sphere of Peter’s ministry. His epistles are directed to the Christian Jews in Asia Minor. He was nowhere apostle of the Gentiles. Of the church, as founded among Gentiles, Paul was the divinely appointed master-builder—Paul only in the account God has given to us. The apostles may have gone anywhere afterwards, and doubtless did; but God has given His account of the order He recognized; and there Paul is apostle of the Gentiles, and Peter of the Jews. He was nowhere the founder or origin, by his ministry, of the church among the Gentiles according to God. He was so feeble on the point of their admission and liberty in Christ, that Paul had to withstand him to the face.
As to Rome, no apostle founded the church there; Paul, the first apostle who went there, went there as a prisoner. This has been always the place a full gospel has had there. When the church fell into Judaism, which nothing but Paul’s energy saved it from as long as he lived, then they naturally began to look for the apostle of the Jews, as their original founder, and Paul had the second place in their minds—his gospel, as he calls it, none. But they should have gone to Jerusalem—it was impossible—it had fallen. Its principles, once instructive as figures, were really the same as heathenism now; and to that Christendom consequently gave itself up. It turned again, as the apostle speaks in Galatians, to the beggarly elements to which it had again desired to be in bondage. They kept days, and months, and years; Gal. 4. The Roman system is merely a return to heathenism founded on Jewish forms (which God has judged), and claiming the name of Peter, the apostle of the Jews. It is that against which Paul was struggling all his life, and foretold would come in when he was gone. Voluntary humility, worshipping of angels, keeping days, and months, and years, trusting in works, he has long ago pointed out and denounced as signs of abandoning Christ. Of these Rome is the source, and Rome has the heritage. It is a mystery of iniquity fully developed, which is fleshly religion; just as the great mystery of godliness is God manifest in the flesh, and the true people of God marked by boasting in Christ Jesus, worshipping God in spirit, and having no confidence in the flesh.
As to the keys of heaven, it is nonsense. He had the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and opened the door on Pentecost to Jews, and, in letting in Cornelius, to Gentiles. When Hilary says Peter believed first, the good man makes a mistake. It was Andrew (John tells us, in the first chapter of his gospel) who sought him, and brought him to Jesus. Jesus gave him the place of eminency he had among the apostles. Saint Ambrose owns that Paul was to learn nothing from him; but Peter, to know that the same power was given to him as to himself. The truth is, that Paul, and not Peter, had the doctrine of the church revealed to him—its unity and union with Christ. This is not the subject of Peter’s teaching. Paul declares he had it by express revelation, as a mystery and dispensation committed to him, and that he was minister of the church as well as of the gospel to fulfil, that is, complete, the word of God by this wonderful truth of the one body united to Christ from among all, Jews and Gentiles. See Colossians 1:24, 25, 26; Ephesians 3:1-10; Romans 16:25, 26, and, indeed, other passages.
As to your reasoning, it has not much force. You see I admit that, amongst the twelve, Peter was the first, but this was evidently a personal pre-eminence. “Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas.” Pius IX is not Simon Barjonas. It was a personal gift and energy of faith which made the Lord call him a stone, as he called James and John sons of thunder. Every Christian owns that in the blessed apostle; but gifts, and God putting His seal on them, do not go down by succession; if they do, where is Paul’s? where is John’s? If popes have Peter’s inheritance, who has John’s and James’s? If it is a principle of successors, with equal power and authority necessarily continuing, where are the other apostles’ successors, with their authority? No; this is all nonsense. God was mighty in Peter, and God was mighty in Paul. But this was personal—exclusively and entirely personal; and they say so, as it is evident. You cannot have a successor in gift, or it is not a gift. An office may have a successor in it. But that is not the case here, for there are no apostles now sent by Christ Himself directly from Himself. But gift and God’s being mighty in one is confined to the one He is mighty in. To talk of a successor to that is at once nonsense and blasphemy. I have said Peter and Paul say so. Thus Paul speaks: “I know that after my decease grievous wolves shall enter in, not sparing the flock: yea, of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them; wherefore, watch,” etc. Now here Paul most plainly declares that he looks for no successor, but that, when he is gone, evil will flow in; and then commends them to God and the word of His grace, which the Romanists certainly step in and deprive us of—hinder us from going directly to God, and defrauding us of the word of His grace. Peter so little looked for a successor, that he writes, in his epistle, that he was writing to them because he would take pains that after his decease they should have the same things always in remembrance. So that these two great apostles never thought of having successors.
This is of the utmost force. Paul ordained elders for the care of the churches. As to successors, he so little thought of it, that he declares evil would flow in, and that in the last days perilous times and apostasy would come. But of this in a moment. No; there are two great systems: one leans on succession and ordinances, which the apostle denounces; the other on God and the word of His grace, to which he commends us, as able to build us up, and give us an inheritance among the sanctified. Rome has chosen the former; the true Christian blesses God for the latter.
Their reasoning is too absurd to dwell on. There is the consciousness of its weakness. You say the Pope of Rome is the successor of Peter; … the pope, therefore, is by divine appointment Peter’s successor. That is logic to be sure: can anything be more glaring? And to this you append (it is happy that you hang it on such a peg), “whoever, therefore, is not under the care and government of this one shepherd belongs not to Christ, is not of the one fold, and cannot be saved.” We thank Rome for her tender mercies. We have read, “If thou confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shah be saved” You will surely forgive us if we trust an inspired apostle more than yourself—an apostle revealing God’s precious grace to us poor sinners, more than Rome’s anathemas, especially when they hang on reasoning such as this. The pope is the successor of Peter; therefore the pope is by divine appointment the successor of Peter; therefore whoever is not under him cannot be saved. If that is not convincing, what should be?
But your facts, however eloquently stated, are not much more solid. You say, Is there any institution in the world which has remained unchanged by the lapse and vicissitudes of nineteen hundred years, except the primacy and government of the Roman pontiffs? Now, first, the primacy of any bishop was violently denounced as late as Popes Pelagius and Gregory; and for centuries Rome exercised no jurisdiction out of what was called Libra; that is, seventy suburban sees. Many sought her influence as eminent, many resisted her as in error, and would never yield, as all Africa and Asia under Cyprian and Firmilian, who denounced the Pope Stephanus heartily (Cypr. Epp. 73, 74). In those days the primacy of Rome was unknown. It has never been owned in the Greek church. Only at Nice was it settled to have precedency of Constantinople. At the General Council of Chalcedon the pope’s legates presided, but the, council set aside the precedency of Rome. They state that, as Rome had been the imperial city, the Fathers had accorded precedency to it; but as now Constantinople was, it should be on an equality—ton ison apolauousan presbeion. Leo’s legates protested, and produced his orders that they should allow of no diminution of his importance, for it seems he expected it. They withdrew; but there the canon of an acknowledged general council is declaring them equal. The legates had produced the Nicene decree with an addition of their own, stating that Rome was the head of all churches; but the genuine canon was brought forward, so that that plea was overthrown. Pretty work for the successors of apostles! But think of all this horrible ambition being made the foundation of the church, so that a person cannot be saved who does not submit to it! Is this Christianity?
But when you say, “Has any institution,” etc., you upset your own system. When you went upon apostolic succession, you gave us the succession of all the sees in the world as securing sound doctrine; now it is only at Rome, and nowhere else. Which is true? If it be only at Rome, the security you gave us for doctrine is entirely gone, and the universality and apostolicity of the church so called with it; you destroy your own groundwork. But further, “the name of every pope, from Peter to Pius IX, you tell us may be seen in every bookseller’s shop.” Nay, not only so, “but should any claim this dignity without being legitimately appointed, he would be hurled from the chair of Peter as a usurper by the united voices of the Christian world.” Indeed! How came it, then, that for seventy years there were two (and half Europe obeying one, and the other half the other), and part of the time three? Which of these was legitimate? and are both of them in the lists in the booksellers’ shops and Catholic libraries? Your foundations are rotten here, and your eloquence rash. The popedom is a great worldly prize. Already in the fourth century you will remember Damasus and Ursicinus contended for it, and there was what amounted to a civil war, and abundant bloodshed; and Damasus beat his opponent and was pope—a strange successor to Peter, though he be such in the booksellers’ shops!
Peter’s apostolic position, then, I own, as apostle of the circumcision, and first among the twelve; but that the command was given to every successor of Peter to the end of the world is a mere chimera. Scripture excludes the idea. It is Barjonas who was blessed, because of the revelation of the Father to him.
You justify next the invocation of saints and angels. In vain has Paul denounced the worshipping of angels (it is not latria, but threskia, all religious deference or service whatever) as a voluntary humility, saying, that it is leaving Christ the head. In vain has he declared that there is but one mediator, the Man Christ Jesus. Rome will return to heathenish ways and Jewish superstitions, for such they really are; and, in order to do so, she has consecrated books of Jewish superstitions, as if they were the word of God; and has dared to do it in the sixteenth century—a deed never ventured on before.
We will examine this point. First, Genesis is quoted: “The angel that redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.” Here, then, Rome is bold enough to teach us that angels redeem us from evil, that angels can bless us. But we can never get whole passages from Rome. All is garbled. Here is the whole, “God, before whom my fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob did walk, the God which fed me all my life long unto this day, the angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads.” The angel was the God of his fathers. Are you ignorant that angel is applied to all those manifestations of God in favour of His ancient people? Do you not know that Stephen says that Moses was with the angel in the bush, who said, I am that I am? Do you not know that Hosea says that Jacob wrestled with the angel and prevailed; yet Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, because he had seen God face to face? that God had called his name Israel, a prince with God, because he had wrestled with God and with man and had prevailed? See numberless other passages; and are you not ashamed to quote this passage? You quote Zechariah. Here, too, we find the same angel of the covenant, the angel Jehovah, Malak Jehovah, interfering for Jerusalem—that angel who could say, as we have seen, “I am,” and before whom, consequently, Zechariah shews us Joshua standing to be judged, and Satan at his right hand to resist. Will you say that angels are to judge too? Anyone the least acquainted with the Old Testament knows who this angel of the covenant is.
The cases quoted of Jacob, and so of Manoah, shew that this angel was Jehovah Himself, He who appeared to Abraham and to Isaac, the Word of God, the second person in the blessed Trinity. That Michael the archangel will stand to accomplish God’s will in favour of Israel in due time, I doubt not—all angels do this; but it has nothing to do with the matter. The angel in Revelation 8 and 10 is also undoubtedly the Lord Himself, acting as priest in chapter 8; and in the glory of the Lord taking possession of the earth in chapter 10.
You quote one figurative passage of the twenty-four ancients presenting as figurative priests the incense, according to a Jewish image, on high. The church in glory will be composed of kings and priests; and here it is prophetically set forth in this character in figure; but it is when it is complete in glory. Hence twenty-four, because there were twenty-four classes of priests established by David. And the whole is a symbolical vision—no statement of what goes on now at all, but shewing (what scripture tells us plainly) we are made kings and priests; and hence they were on thrones and crowned. Now this takes place only in resurrection, and all have yet to wait for that. Have you nothing but a prophetical symbol of resurrection glory to base your worship on, when the resurrection is not come?
You quote Tobias also: that is, the Apocrypha. This is one of the terrible sins of Rome. She has pretended to authenticate as scripture what was never owned as such till the middle of the sixteenth century, and what the very person who made the translation which she declares to be authentic states not to be scripture at all. Over and over again he (Jerome) declares there are twenty-two books, excluding thus the Apocrypha from the canon; and in particular, in his preface to Tobias, says it was not in the Hebrew scriptures. In his preface to the Books of Solomon he says, “As, therefore, the church reads, indeed, Judith and Tobias, and the books of the Maccabees, but does not receive them among canonical scriptures, so also let her read these two volumes, for the edification of the people, not to establish the authority of ecclesiastical dogmas.” He refers to Ecclesiasticus and Wisdom. Athanasius reckons them up also, twenty-two, both in the Synopsis (if it be his, for some have doubted it), and in the fragment of the Festal epistle, giving them, he says, because some would dare to mix apocryphal books with divine scriptures, and speaking of Tobias and others as read, but not canonical.
Origen tells us the same, Eusebius also. But, to be brief, Christ never cites these books, nor are they found in the Hebrew at all. They were never owned by the Jews as part of their scriptures. Josephus is distinct as to what was received, and says there were none after Artaxerxes; that there were others, but not canonical, and that the prophets gave their sanction to books as forming part of the canon. He owned they have no kind of authority whatever; and all authority, Jewish and Christian, declared they were not of the canon till the Council of Trent. Now, the oracles of God are committed to the church, as of old they were to the Jews. The church gives them no authority—it cannot to what God has spoken; but when God had given them, He entrusted them to the church to keep—only watching over it in all His providence— and Rome has proved herself not the church by deliberate unfaithfulness to this, by setting up as scripture what all Jews and the church, and all witnesses, declare with one voice is not. She is self-condemned here. See what is said in Maccabees: “If I have written well, and as befits the story, that is what I wish; if ill, it is to be pardoned me.” Why, it is blasphemy to ascribe such words to the Holy Ghost; and of that blasphemy Rome is guilty.
Lastly, no passage has been even attempted to be quoted of addressing saints or angels. But I will here also give the history of this matter. The first commemoration of the saints was praying for them, that they might speedily see the face of God. Gradually, between rhetoric and Jewish and heathen practices, the saints took the place of the heathen demi-gods. But Romish practice goes farther, because they found prayers on the merits of the saints, as may be seen in the Roman Missal (as on Patrick’s day, for example, March 17). As to praying one for another on earth, it is clear and simple, and the New Testament teaches it, and shews it practised—never to saints absent. As to the Virgin Mary, the Holy Ghost, who knew what would come in, has recorded for us that she never asked anything of the Lord, without being rejected in her request, the Lord saying, What have I to do with thee?
The great and dreadful evil of this doctrine is this: the grace of the gospel shews us two great things: first, that Christ has wrought so great and glorious a work, that I can go directly to the Father, in His name, certain that He hears me, and have boldness to enter into the holiest by His blood; secondly, that Christ in His rich grace came down here, was tempted in all points as we are, without sin—that He is touched with the feeling of my infirmities, and knows, having learned here below, how to speak a word in season to him that is weary. He has shrunk from no suffering, no humiliation, that I may have confidence in His love, and readiness to help. The invocation of saints and angels comes to deny all this. He is too high, too exalted; His heart not tender enough! Saints who never shared our place are to be more trusted; the tender mercies of the Virgin Mary, who never shed her blood for me, is to be more trusted. It is all shameful dishonour put upon Christ’s grace and tenderness. I know no one so kind, so condescending, who is come down to the poor sinner, as He. I trust His love more than I do Mary’s, or any saint’s; not merely His power as God, but the tenderness of His heart as man—none ever shewed such, or had such, or proved it so well. None entered into my sorrows, none took a part in them, as He; none understands my heart so well; none has inspired me with such confidence in His. Let others go to saints and angels, if they like; I trust Jesus’ kindness more. If it is said, He is too high, I answer, He became a man that we might know His tenderness; and He is not changed. And why go to them? Why, in Jesus’ name, not go straight to the Father? The need of all this troop of mediators only shews that men do not believe the gospel. They cannot go to God Himself. Now Christ has brought us to God; suffering, the just for the unjust, He has brought us to a God of love, our Father, having put away our sins. Rome would turn us out again, to leave us trembling at the doors of the saints. I would rather go to God Himself. He, I know, loves me; He has given His Son for me. Which of the saints has done that? As to angels, they are ministering spirits, sent forth to minister to them who shall be heirs of salvation. Looking to them is treated as apostasy in scripture.
If you will have Fathers, here is a quotation for you— Ambrose, on Romans 1: “Men are accustomed, when feeling’ shame for having neglected God, to use a miserable excuse, saying that by them (the saints, etc.) they can go to God, as by counts (officers of the court) people go to the king. Away then! Is any one so mad, or so unmindful of his salvation, as that he should give the honour of the king to a count, when, if any should be found to treat of such a matter, they would rightly be condemned of high treason? And so they think they are not guilty who defer the honour of the name of God to a creature, as if anything more could be kept for God. For therefore men go to the king by tribunes or counts, because the king, after all, is but a man, and is ignorant to whom he ought to trust the common weal; but to find favour with God, before whom nothing is hid, for He knows the merits of all— there is not need of one to plead for us (suffragator), but of a devout mind.” I might quote many more from Origen, using not latria, but honour and do homage to. So Eusebius from Dionysius—I reverence the true God alone, and none else. So continually in the early conflicts with the heathen; and the well-known passage of the epistle on Polycarp’s martyrdom, when the Gentiles refused his body, lest they should do homage to him; “Not knowing,” they say, “that we could neither abandon Christ, who suffered for the salvation of the whole world of the saved, nor reverence any other. For to Him, being indeed Son of God, we do homage; but martyrs, as disciples and imitators of the Lord, we love deservedly, because of the great love they have shewn to their own king and leader, with whom we would be partakers and fellow-disciples.”
Ambrose thought, then, though saints were used only to go to God by, it was high treason against Him; and the saints round Polycarp’s martyr-pile, that it was abandoning Christ to reverence them (sebein). Alas! ere long the high treason was committed, and Christ indeed abandoned; while Fathers condemned, Fathers sanctioned, and scripture was forgotten. As to the latter, the statement that it is clearly set forth in it is totally without foundation. Invoking saints is not found even in the passages the author has quoted. In genuine scripture the case is found of a saint in his confession going to do homage to an angel; but the angel positively forbids it, ordering him to offer it to God, for he was his fellow-servant. But what says Rome?—Heed.
The invocation of angels was forbidden by the Council of Laodicea which calls it a secret idolatry. Athanasius uses the invocation of Christ as a proof that He is God; and says, “no one would say God and an angel bless me “(exactly what the author attributes to Jacob); and so other Fathers. And, as I have said, they were prayed for as not yet in the presence of God, that they might speedily arrive there. There was superstition enough, but not Romish doctrine. We learn that Theodoret recommended that, to win the Gentiles, they should present to them the saints and martyrs in lieu of their demigods. It is just what has happened—there are curious facts connected with this. As soon as the Council of Ephesus had decreed that Mary was the mother of God, temples, with all their worshippers, dedicated to the gods, passed over to Christianity as a profession, and Mary took her place as Cybele had before.
I will give the account of this transformation, as given us by M. de Beugnot, a very learned Romanist, whose work was crowned by the Institute of France. “After the Council of Ephesus the churches of the East and West offered to the adoration of the faithful, the Virgin Mary, victorious over a violent attack (she had been decided to be mother of God then). The peoples were dazzled by the image of this divine mother, uniting in her person the modesty of the virgin and the love of the mother—emblem of gentleness, of resignation, and of everything that virtue presents of sublime; who weeps with the unhappy, intercedes for the guilty, and never shews herself, but as the messenger of pardon or of kind succour. They received this new worship with an enthusiasm sometimes too great, since, for many Christians, this worship became the whole of Christianity. The heathen did not even endeavour to defend their altars against the progress of the worship of this mother of God. They opened to Mary the temples which they had kept shut against Jesus Christ, and confessed themselves conquered. It is true they often mixed with the adoration of Mary those heathen ideas, those vain practices, those ridiculous superstitions, from which they seemed unable to separate themselves. The church, however, was delighted to see them enter into her bosom, because she knew well that it would be easy for her, with the help of time, to purify from its alloy a worship whose essence was purity itself.” M. de Beugnot, Histoire de la Destruction du Paganisme en Occident, vol. 2, 271. His illustration of the fact is in the following note: “Among a multitude of proofs I chose only one, to shew with what facility the worship of Mary swept before it the remains of heathenism, which still covered Europe. Notwithstanding the preaching of St. Hilarion, Sicily had remained faithful to the old worship (heathenism). After the Council of Ephesus (that which declared Mary the mother of God), we see its eight finest pagan temples become in a very short space of time churches under the invocation of the Virgin. These temples were, first, the temple of Minerva at Syracuse; second, the temple of Venus and of Saturn, at Messina; third, the temple of Venus Erycina, on Mount Eryx (it was said to have been built by Apneas); fourth, the temple of Phalaris, at Agrigentum; fifth, the temple of Vulcan, near Mount Etna; sixth, the Pantheon, at Catania; seventh, the temple of Ceres, in the same town; eighth, the sepulchre of Stesichore. The ecclesiastical annals of each country furnish similar testimonies.” And that is pretended to be Christianity!
The truth is, all this system is a mere mixture of Judaism and heathenism. The heathen temples were built over the relics and tombs of heroes and demigods. They sprinkled themselves with holy water on going in, for which they had a place at the entry. They had their images, which they justified in the same way—their priests, their chancels. They believed that every admirable man had gone to heaven, and there interested themselves in the affairs of those who prayed to them. Their temples were built in a similar manner. Rome has not been able to exclude Christ,53 but it has overwhelmed Him with heathenism, as far as possibly can be, the clergy having accommodated it to popular customs to win the people. Thus the direction given to Augustine, when sent to the Saxons, was to adopt their feasts and customs as much as possible, and give a Christian turn to them. Christmas day is a curious example of this. No one knows the day Christ was born. The Greek church kept His birth and baptism together on the 6th of January, called Epiphany. Hear again M. de Beugnot, 2:265: “The Romans had acquired in their religion an excessive passion for public festivals; and Christianity, far from opposing a disposition which required only to be directed with more wisdom, adopted a part of the ceremonial system of the old worship. It changed the object of the ceremonies, it purified them of their old filth, but it retained the epoch at which many among them had been celebrated. It is thus that the multitude found in the new religion as much as in the old the means of satisfying its ruling passion.”
Think of the blessed Lord sitting at the well of Samaria, and teaching that men should worship in spirit and in truth, for the Father sought such to worship Him, and the “church” taking care the ruling passion for shows should be gratified! The author adds in a note, “The Saturnalia (a festival of unbridled joy) and many of the festivals were celebrated in the calends of January. The Nativity (Christmas) was fixed at the same epoch. The Lupercalia, pretended festivals of purification, took place in the calends of February. The Christian purification was placed on the second of February. For the feast of Augustus, celebrated in the calends of August, was substituted that of St. Peter, de Vinculis, fixed on the first day of that month.” So, he adds, to the Ambarvalia, St. Mamert substituted rogation days for country people; so numberless temples became dedicated to worship called Christian. At this day the Pantheon (that is, the temple of all the gods) is dedicated to all the saints. It is well known that the statue of Peter at Rome was a statue of Jupiter Olympius, and they took out the thunderbolt and put in the keys. It all hangs together.
Nor is it merely so modern an author as Beugnot, however learned, who speaks of the corruption of Christianity by the influx of heathenism. Augustine gives us very precise information as to it. He thus writes in a letter in which he is recounting to Alypius, Bishop of Thogostan, the manner in which he had put down the drunken feasts, which were held to celebrate the martyrs (for such was the case in Africa; and so determined were the people to have them, that the clergy had winked at it), and would now explain how he had excused to the people those who had let it go on, by shewing how it had risen in the church, for he must needs excuse the clergy. “Namely, after so many and so vehement persecutions, when, peace being made, crowds of Gentiles, desiring to embrace the Christian name, were hindered by this, that they were accustomed to consume festive days with their idols, in abundance of feasts and drunkenness, nor were they easily able to abstain from their pernicious and so very ancient pleasures, it had seemed good to our forefathers, that they should let this part of their infirmity pass, and that they should celebrate other festal says after those they left, in honour of the holy martyrs, or not with similar sacrilege, although with similar luxury.”
Is this the holy Catholic church, which, to get in crowds of Gentiles, suffers them to go on, without the least moral change, with their feasting and drunkenness, only substituting holy martyrs for idols? It is not I that make the charge, or account for it thus; it is the sober historical account of Augustine, Presbyter. He says they called it laetitia, joy, endeavouring in vain to hide the name of drunkenness. He told them that not even the carnal private people were found publicly drunk in the name of religion. In another letter he says to Aurelian, Bishop of Carthage: “But since these drunkennesses and luxurious feasts are not only wont to be believed to be honours rendered to the martyrs, but also a solace of the dead [they did not think of praying to them, at any rate], it would seem more easy that they may be persuaded then from that filth and baseness, if it should be prohibited out of the scriptures, and offerings for the spirits of them that sleep, which it is to be believed really help somewhat, over their memories (that is, when buried or celebrated), should not be sumptuous,” etc. And Chrysostom advises his hearers to partake of the meal to be appointed in honour of the martyr, besides his martyrium, under a fig-tree or vine, instead of joining in the heathen feasts in Daphne, a suburb of Antioch, where was a famous temple to Venus with all sorts of wickedness.
Can one doubt for a moment of the heathen character of all these feasts in honour of martyrs and saints? But what a picture of the state of the church! The holy Catholic church setting them to get drunk in honour of a martyr, because it was sacrilege to get drunk in honour of an idol, and they would get drunk somewhere! No wonder a priest did not include practice in the elements of her holiness. But I anticipate the last point. It was invocation of saints led us to these festivals in martyrs’ memories.
Purgatory remains besides. On this Rome is very weak. She has recourse to it, because full redemption by the work of Jesus and the reality of a new nature is not believed. It is not believed that “the blood of Jesus Christ cleanseth from all sin,” as scripture says it does; it is not believed that “he that is dead is freed from sin,” and has left it all behind if he be a Christian, “absent from the body, and present with the Lord,” Christ being his life, and he a member of His body. None of this is believed. Hence they must have a purifying fire after death for the Christian, for such only go there (and not those who die, as they say, in mortal sin). Nor do they really believe even in the efficacy of their own rites, as we have seen. If they send men to purgatory, they do not believe that extreme unction abstergit reliquias peccati, wipes off the remains of sin; nor in the other means used for a dying man. They can give no certainty, with all their boasting of being the true church: a man may be of it, and lost after all. Nay, they cannot keep him out of purgatory, with all their rites, even if he be finally saved. They know no other God than one who will exact the last farthing; a God of love, who is a Saviour, they know not.
But let us see their proofs. The Council of Trent was uneasy about it; it is anxious that curious questions about it should be avoided. And the author takes care here to tell us that Romanists receive many doctrines on the authority of the Catholic church which are not contained in the written word. To be sure they do: I suppose, by such an introduction, that purgatory is one of them. It is a candid avowal: they have no warrant from scripture for many things they teach. Now, I repeat, the church has to receive and keep the truth, but cannot reveal it; God may use a man—a Paul or a Peter; but the church, as such, receives and keeps it. The church’s teaching is all very well as a conventional expression; but the church cannot reveal anything, and that is the whole point here. As a body it is impossible. Its members may teach it, or they may be the instruments by which God reveals it; but the body, as such, cannot reveal it: God uses individuals’ minds or mouths for that. The church is not, by its very nature as a body composed of many individuals, capable of it. It may, and ought, in its common faith to maintain the truth. We are told that they have been revealed by Christ, and always taught by the church. Revealed to whom? to the whole church as a body, or to an individual? If to the latter, then it is not to the church it is revealed, nor she who teaches it. The church receives the revelation made to the individual. If the revelation has been to the whole body, let the author say where and when it was made as to a single truth. This is an important point. I deny any truth was ever revealed to the church as a body—that is, that God so revealed it to the body, that it becomes to others a revelation by the church. It cannot be. Where has it been? I admit her duty to guard it when revealed, and hold it up before men.
But I turn to particulars. Moses does not teach the creation of angels, but he teaches the creation of all things—the heavens and the earth, and all the hosts of them. All the creation is spoken of as referred to man; other scriptures state it clearly. “He maketh his angels spirits.”
I have already spoken of the sabbath and the Lord’s day.
Moses does not speak of rewards and punishments of a future life; because he was shewing the ways of God with Israel in and on the earth by favours and judgment here, God being present with them and dwelling among them on the earth. Other scriptures of the Old Testament are clear enough.
If the procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son rests on the church’s authority, it is not worth much. The Greek church does not hold it. The early teachers extant are very loose indeed as to the doctrine of the Spirit, though not denying it; and, as we have seen, on the whole doctrine of the Trinity in general. But in John it is said, the Father sends, and the Son sends from the Father. As to the discussion between Greeks and Romanists, it is endless metaphysics. That the Holy Ghost is a divine person, one with the Father and the Son, scripture is clear. He wills, distributes, comes, is sent, is grieved, leads, intercedes: in a word, He does every kind of personal act; yet what is spoken of as done by Him, it is expressly said, God does, in the same chapter; 1 Cor. 12.
Further, the Spirit is called not only the Spirit of God, but the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit of the Son, in Galatians 4; the Spirit of Christ, even when speaking in the prophets, 1 Peter 1:11, and Romans 8:9; and of Jesus Christ, Philippians 1:19. He is, indeed, oftener called the Spirit of the Son than the Spirit of the (your) Father. The word procession is never applied to the Son. The Greek Fathers, before the separation from Rome, never use it but in connection with the Father, as it appears; the Latin, from after the Arian controversy, do. Charlemagne raised the question, and Pope Leo said it ought not to be put in the creed. It rather appears, that the dogmatical assertion (the Council of Nice had only, “I believe in the Holy Ghost”; the second, that of Constantinople, added, “proceeding from the Father,” without adding “and the Son “) first took place in Spain, where Arianism prevailed; but from the fifth century, the Latin Fathers speak of both Father and Son. The Greek held to the terms of scripture. The Council of Ephesus commanded nothing to be added to the creed. Pope Leo not only said to his legates at the French Council, it ought not to be inserted, but, to hinder it, had the creed fixed on at Constantinople, engraved in Greek and Latin on silver plates, and fixed up, without the addition of “and the Son.” It was only in the papacy of Nicholas I, in the latter end of the ninth century, that it was regularly inserted. The Greeks objected, and, in what they call the eighth General Council, ordered it to be removed.
So much for the church’s teaching, and Vincentius’ “what always, what everywhere, what by all,” as the sure rule of faith. The Latins did not quote church authority for it, for they had none to quote. All the world knew (for heathens Lucian’s Philopatris gives the substance of the creed very exactly, though in scorn) that church authority had never sanctioned it, and a General Council forbidden all addition, and Pope Leo this particular one. They appealed to deductions from scripture, such as “He shall take of mine, and shew it unto you”; “All things that the Father hath are mine”; and they said He was received from the Son, and hence proceeded from Him. I do not decide anything about the time; but, as to the Catholic church having always taught it, there cannot be a greater mistake, or more unfounded assertion. And see what a proof the author gives us—she teaches it: therefore it must be right. That is a convenient argument in a book which is to prove she is right. The quotation of Mr. Whiston is unhappy. He wanted to have acknowledged as scripture acknowledged impostures of an Alexandrian, Arian seemingly in his views (as it appears Mr. W. was too), of the fifth century, and which our priest himself quotes in ignorance as of the first, but not as scripture.
The first authority adduced for purgatory is the Jewish church; the quotation to prove it is mistaken. The Lord killeth and maketh alive; He bringeth down to hell, and bringeth up. But what has this to do with purgatory? Hell was Sheol, the invisible place of death, or even the grave. It is a simple statement of the power of God to do what He pleases, to bring down and lift up. Ecclesiasticus, we have seen, is not scripture. The author speaks of the Jewish church believing it, as many portions of the Bible record; but the Jews did not receive this as the Bible at all. That the unbelieving, Christ-rejecting Jews believe in a purgatory is, I believe, quite true; but that is a strange authority for a Christian. They do not know redemption, but boast of being God’s people in a fleshly way, but have no real resting-place for their souls. They want a purgatory. The Romanist has the same boast and does not know redemption for his own soul, and he wants a purgatory too. I would not have put their faith on the same ground; the author has thought good to do it. He must know the Lord’s judgment of that ground—“In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.”
As to funeral feasts amongst the Jews, it is very likely: they are not the only ones who have them. When people are hard pinched, they will quote anything. The author quotes Zechariah 9:11: “By the blood of thy covenant thou hast sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water.” What sending people out of a pit where there was no water by the blood of the covenant has to do with purgatory, it would be hard to tell. The prophet is speaking of Ephraim, and God’s dealings with the Jews, and nothing else; and declares that, in virtue of the blood of the covenant, He will deliver them from a pit where there was no resource to refresh them. The whole chapter refers to God’s dealings with Ephraim and Judah.
Next comes the well-known passage of Christ’s going to preach to the spirits in prison. I have no doubt that it was the Spirit of Christ in Noah; as in the same epistle Peter says, the Spirit of Christ which was in the prophets; and that it is not said He preached in prison at all, but to those who are spirits in prison now, because they did not listen when He preached in Noah; and the force is then obvious. The Jews would not listen to the Spirit of Christ speaking by the apostles, and the few who did were despised and persecuted. There was no living Christ to help them on earth. Well, says Peter, it was only by His Spirit He went and preached in Noe, and there were only eight souls saved then, fewer than you; yet the others are in prison for not having listened. Let it be remembered that the passage speaks only of the disobedient in the time of Noe. Now God had said then, “My Spirit shall not always strive with man, but his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” Yet these are chosen as the only ones with whom His Spirit should strive afterwards; and, mark, it was the Spirit which then strove, Christ’s Spirit, which went and preached. Moreover, Peter, in another passage, says that the sparing Noe, and bringing in the flood on the world of the ungodly, was a proof that God knew how to reserve the unjust to the day of judgment to be punished. How so if they were preached to afterwards to be delivered? The sense, then, to me is evident, and the whole Roman Catholic application of the passage fails. But at any rate, who ever heard of preaching in purgatory? That is not Romish doctrine. People go there to finish penance and be purged, not to hear sermons.
Christ said to the thief that he should be in paradise. It is monstrous, well-nigh blasphemy, to quote this. Do they mean that the blessed Lord went to purgatory? When Paul was caught up to paradise, and heard unutterable words, he did not go to purgatory, I suppose. Departed souls are in an intermediate state, no doubt, because they have not their bodies; but they are “present with the Lord,” 2 Cor. 5. They “depart and are with Christ, which is far better” (Phil. 1); they are the same day in paradise with Him (Luke 23); the Lord Jesus receives their spirit (Acts 7). Paul did not descend into paradise; he was caught up there. But it is monstrous and horrible to make purgatory out of the paradise the soul of Christ went to at His death. His work was so blessed, that the poor thief, justly hung for his crimes, could go straight to paradise with Christ Himself, and not go near any purgatory, because he was purged by the death of Christ. This was what the Lord told him, and teaches us—that the Lord’s work was so perfect, that it takes a thief into paradise, as sure as Christ is there, for Christ had borne his sins, and His blood cleansed him from them. The thief thought he would have to wait till Christ came in the glory of His kingdom. No, says the Lord, you shall not wait till then; you shall go straight to paradise with Me to-day. His work was perfect for him—cleansed him; and those wretched teachers would make purgatory of it, and send the Lord there! The Lord forgive them.
As to agreeing with thine adversary, etc., Matthew 5 is meant. There is the general idea of reconciliation in grace, or judgment if not; but the specific application is to the Jews, with whom Christ was on the way. They would not be reconciled, they are under judgment, and as in prison, and there they will stay till they have as a nation received full chastisement. Then they will come out. So in Luke 12. It is definitely connected with an appeal to the Jews, why they did not discern that time (that is, when the Lord was in the way with them).
As regards forgiveness in the world to come, purgatory is not forgiveness, but purging when a man is forgiven; and no forgiveness in the world to come means never forgiven at all; as Mark expresses it—“hath never forgiveness.” It is the same thing. The Jews had three periods, or ages, here translated worlds. But it has nothing whatever to do with another place, but with another time. The first was before the law; the second, under the law, in which they were; the third, the age (world) to come, or that under Messiah. In this they knew that there would be more abundant grace and forgiveness than under the law. If their sins were as scarlet, they would be as white as snow; but here was a sin that would not be forgiven even then. Till the kingdom was set up (it was at hand then), the world to come was not arrived.
As to baptism for the dead, baptism has nothing to do with penitential acts and prayer. Paul is speaking of those fallen asleep in Christ, and suffering himself every hour; and after expatiating on what the resurrection is, from 1 Corinthians 15:18-28, he resumes, What would they do who enter into the ranks in the very place of those fallen asleep (the dead), if the dead do not rise—Who would take place along with them, if they are to remain dead, and get only that for their faith? To join such ranks, and replace them in them, would be madness; and if in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men, he declares, most miserable. The passage speaks of baptism, and not of things done for departed souls. If purgatorial fire can be called by a figure the last baptism, what has that to say to baptism for the dead?
It is not sins he is speaking of in 1 Corinthians 3, when speaking of wood, hay, stubble, but preaching and teaching; and if, though a real Christian on the foundation, all his labour is bad as labour, from teaching nonsense and futility, even if not heresy, when put to the test by trial, it all goes. He is not lost, but his work is; and he sorely shaken and disturbed. Paul is speaking of his own, Apollos’, or others’ work, not of their sins. Origen believed nobody would be lost, not even the devil, and that hell served for purgatory, and men came back, and might fail over again. He is a pretty authority to quote for purgatory.
What Christ’s walking in Solomon’s porch, on the feast of the dedication, has to do with admitting the authority of the book of Maccabees, no human wit can tell. The feast after the dedication was there, and he met the people on it. The Maccabees tell us how it came to be celebrated, as Josephus does many other things which the Saviour joined in as a Jew. But He could do that without sanctioning the book of Maccabees. As to these books, the first is a fair useful history of the times, never admitted by the Jews into the canon, nor owned as scripture till the Council of Trent. The second, the one quoted, is a very worthless, bad, self-contradicting book, giving three contradictory accounts of Antiochus’ death. I have not the decrees of the Council of Florence; it is possible it may have been admitted there near 1500 years after Christ. The second of Maccabees ends—“I will make an end of my discourse also with these things, and if, indeed, well, and as suits the history, it is as I should wish j but if less worthily, it is to be pardoned me. For as always drinking wine, or always drinking water, is bad for us (contrarium), but to use them alternately is delectable, so for readers, if the discourse is always exact, it will not be pleasant. Here, therefore, it shall be completed.” Think of the audacity, be it Florence or Trent, of saying that a book which gives this description of itself, is inspired!
But let us take the case alleged; it is quoted for this passage: “It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from their sins.” Now, that this was a Jewish superstition, like many others, this may lead us to believe; just as they thought the stars were living beings, and many other things, as previous existence of souls. But here the case does not answer at all for the point it is quoted for. Idols were found on the persons who were slain, and the cause of their death manifest. They had died in mortal sin; but this does not send a man to purgatory in the Romish system, but to hell. But I must go a little farther here, and charge the Vulgate, or at any rate the present reading of it, with being an entirely corrupt translation, or rather version. The Maccabees are in Greek, and the passage in Greek runs thus: “He made a collection of two thousand drachms, and sent it to Jerusalem, to present a sacrifice for sin,” that is all; and then speaks of it as done well and comelily, thinking of the resurrection. And after saying it was a good thought, referring to what went before, he says, “Wherefore he made a propitiation about the dead, to do away the sin.” The shape in which it is, therefore, in Latin is only a clothing put upon it, by I know not whom; it is not much matter. The author also highly commends Razis for killing himself—14:2 (I do not know whether that is canonical); and gives such a history of his deeds as I must leave to the reader to believe, if he can, and admire if he will. He ends, after running himself through with a sword, and doing all manner of feats afterwards, by plucking out his own bowels, I do not know how, and throwing them at the people. I do not know whether this is a part that, as the author says, is not very exact, to make it pleasant; Rome says it is inspired.
We are told next that the Apostolic Constitutions were written by Clement, the companion of Paul. Why there is not a writer, ancient or modern, Roman or Protestant, unless his friend, the Rev. Mr. Whiston, that believes it. They are universally recognized as an imposture, written four hundred years after Clement. As to Constantine, it was poor work to cry so for him, for he would not be baptized till he was on his death-bed (though he had managed the church for years, and called a General Council and managed it), in order that he might be sure to be washed quite clean. They might as well, indeed, believe in purgatory as seek to secure themselves by such shifts as that. But prayers for the dead did not form purgatory at all; they were used long before purgatory was believed in. The real history of the matter was this. The full acknowledgment of grace is the hardest thing for the proud heart of man to submit to. Its tendency is always to look at God, as Rome does, as an austere man, who will exact the last farthing; and to maintain his good opinion of himself in pretending to satisfy God, while, after all, as works cannot quiet the conscience, he has recourse to ordinances to pacify, if they cannot purify it.
Hence, even while Paul lived, he had to struggle incessantly against this tendency. Peter slipped into it at Antioch, and most of Paul’s Epistles were written against it—that is, against Romanism, or what is now called Puseyism, shewing it as the mystery of iniquity which was corrupting the church—a form of piety denying the power, and which would go on till it broke out into open apostasy. It is characterized expressly in his epistles by works, ordinances, voluntary humility, worshipping of angels—the very things Rome now boasts of, and by not holding the Head, that is, that real union of the church with Christ, which, while “it puts her .before God in the same place as Christ as to acceptance, is the power of a new life, in which saints live to God as dead to sin with Christ, and alive to God through Him—perfect acceptance, perfect peace with God, and a really new spiritual life manifested in all a man’s ways. The devil and man’s heart do not like this; he will have pleasure and ordinances, build tombs of the prophets, have memories of martyrs, celebrate ordinances over their tombs, and get drunk at the celebration.
Man is naturally idolatrous; and a corrupt church will, as we have seen, furnish him with martyrs, if he cannot have demigods. Still, the poor “Catholic church “did not get its present stature all at once. There was what in these times is called “development.” The blessed energy of the apostle hardly held the saints, of whose conversion he had been the instrument, even during his own lifetime, in the power of the truth. They were already then returning to the beggarly elements of heathenism under a Jewish form. “After his decease,” as he warned it would, that “mystery of iniquity,” which worked as leaven while he was there, spread freely, and the full knowledge of redemption, as he had taught it, was gone. Heresies sprang up like weeds, the general remedy used against it was not truth and grace, but external unity, no matter how much evil; and with the influx of numbers corruption came in. Jude warns us of what was going on; and John, that there were already so many antichrists that the last time was apparent.
In the third century superstition had made ample progress, and we find, not indeed prayers to saints, nor purgatory, but prayers for them. If the knowledge of redemption was practically lost, if works and ordinances had taken their place, if the corrupt morals and proud asceticism of Clement of Alexandria, and TertulHan, had taken the place of the gospel, men’s minds wanted something to mend them when dead, who knew neither redemption nor holiness when living. At first, as given by Origen, it was calling them to mind, with thanksgiving for them, and prayer for resemblance to them. The first person who speaks of these prayers for the dead pretty definitely, is the upright but ardent Tertullian, who left the “Catholic church,” as no longer bearing its looseness; and, with an African imagination, though a Father, fell into the wild pretensions of Montanus. His disciple, the martyr Cyprian, also speaks of them; he who tells us that all morality was gone, men given up to shameful vanity, women painting their faces, bishops running about all the provinces to make gain by fraud.
But then, at this time, they prayed for martyrs, apostles, prophets, patriarchs, saints, and all the departed together, that they might have part in the first resurrection; and the Virgin Mary, among the rest, was prayed for in the same way, and not only among the rest but especially for her. Cyril of Jerusalem says the same in connection with the Eucharist, saying, We believe it to be a considerable advantage to their souls! So St. Austin says, as to the drunken bouts, the people believed it to be a solace to the martyrs; and he says, since it was to be believed, it was something (aliquid). But then here a difficulty arose; a step was made in the superstition, and, the saints and martyrs being greatly exalted, they were considered as enjoying the beatific vision; full heathenism was flowing in, and they were to help the living, not the living to help them. This was an immense change indeed in the “Catholic “view of things. Epiphanius justifies prayers for saints, because it put a difference between Christ perfect and other men’s imperfection, shewing he had wholly lost the notion of Christ Himself being our righteousness, and that, when we depart, we are with Him; but shewing too that all other men were held to be prayed for (not a word, remark, about purgatory all this time). So Hincmar, in the ninth century, tells us, “Grant to us, O Lord, that this oblation may be of advantage to the soul of thy servant Leo (a St. Leo), by which, in its immolation, thou hast granted that the sins of the whole world should be loosened.” In the thirteenth century, as given by Pope Innocent, it had become, “Grant to us, we beseech thee, O Lord, that, by the intercession of the blessed Leo, this offering may profit us.”
Such was the progress in this superstition. How different from the peace of “to depart and be with Christ is far better”! From this scripture truth they went back to Judaism, and believed they were in hades, waiting. Now we know that till the resurrection we are not in our perfect state of glory; we do not wait in a separated state in that sense; but scripture is very clear as to it— “To-day,” says Christ, “thou shalt be with me in paradise,” for redemption was accomplished. “Lord Jesus” says Stephen addressing Christ in heaven, “receive my spirit,” and so fell asleep praying for his murderers. “We are always confident,” says Paul, “knowing that, while we are at home in the body, we are absent from the Lord, and desiring rather to be absent from the body and present with the Lord,” 2 Cor. 5. And again, “Desiring rather to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.” Nothing can be plainer; but the power of it was lost. That Christ had by one offering perfected for ever them that were sanctified was forgotten; that God would remember their sins and iniquities no more was lost for their consciences; and hence the intermediate state became a kind of prison for the departed, where prayers, they knew scarce how, would do them good; yet at first they were joined with thanksgiving, but there was no thought of their living in purgatory—it is never supposed a moment in their prayers. They also looked to their having part in the first resurrection, which all, they supposed, had not. But then “Fathers “had other notions as regards purgatory, to say nothing of Origen who was out of the way wild and heterodox.
They held that at the last day men would be purged with fire; to this they apply “baptized with fire.” It was not now, but in the day of judgment; he owned that was the fire of the day of judgment. Thus Ambrose (I take this quotation from another)— “All must pass through the flames, though it be John the Evangelist, though it be Peter; the sons of Levi shall be purged with fire, Ezekiel, Daniel,” etc. So St. Hilary, “Because to the baptizing in the Holy Ghost it still remains to be consummated by the fire of judgment.” “As we are to render account of every idle word, can we desire the day of judgment, in which we are to undergo the unwearied fire in which the grave punishments of a soul to be expiated (purified) from sin are to be undergone?” “If,” he adds, “the Virgin herself, who conceived God in her womb, must undergo the severity of judgment, who is so bold as to desire to be judged by God?”
Jerome speaks a similar language in the closing sentence of his Commentary on Isaiah— “And as we believe the eternal torments of the devil, and all deniers and impious men who have said in their heart there is no God, so of sinners and impious men, yet Christians, whose works are to be tried by fire and purged, we think there will be a moderate sentence of the Judge, and mixed with clemency.”
He is speaking of the final judgment depicted in Isaiah 66. I quote it to shew what the fire of purgatory then thought of was; but I cannot let it pass without remarking how entirely the truth of God was lost and abused. Redemption cleansing from sin—God’s not imputing it—never enters into their mind. They know nothing of the blood of Christ cleansing from sin. Secondly, they have no thought that all are utterly condemned if they come into judgment— “Enter not into judgment with thy servant, O Lord, for in thy sight shall no man living be justified.” Thirdly, impious Christians they make better off than other impious people: the Lord says they are worse off— “He that knew his Lord’s will, and did it not, shall be beaten with many stripes.” The light that was in them was darkness, and how great was that darkness!
Austin says (Enchir. 78, ad Laurentium 110:29) (another witness of the thick darkness the best were fallen into, and which shews the idea of intermediate punishment, not purgatory, but rest or misery, according to deserts)—” With the sacrifice for the very good, it was thanksgiving; for the not very bad, propitiations; for the very bad, though they are no help for the dead, they are a certain consolation for the living “(that is, a he was, for the dead were not helped). “But those whom they profit, they profit for this, that there should be full remission, or that damnation itself, at any rate, should be more tolerable”! The Benedictine editors cite masses said to mitigate hell; and Augustine goes on to shew they will not get out, that God may remember mercy in (not after wrath, he says) wrath, and alleviate them from time to time.
Is it not deplorable? I might cite more passages, but these may suffice. Prayers for the dead there were in the third century; in the next, at any rate. Purgatory was decidedly unknown for six centuries. The Greek church has never received it; the Fathers are all confusion about it. It was a Platonic and Jewish idea. The purgatory generally spoken of in the fourth and fifth was the final judgment, which would be in measure to Christians—which, mark, denies the other. St. Augustine, after saying that an unmarried man built gold, etc., a married one, wood, hay, and stubble, and, reasoning much on the subject, says—Some were willing to prove an intermediate fire by the fire trying every man’s work; and thought they who had lived without indulging their affections wrongly would not go there, and the others would, adding— “I do not oppose, because perhaps it is the truth”—non redarguo quia forsitan verum est. That is, it began in the fourth or fifth century to be hinted at as possible. (August, de Civ. Dei, lib. 20:26.) Prayers for the dead, disproving purgatory, are found there from the third, shewing the knowledge of redemption to be lost; and purgatory began to be hinted at merely in the fourth or fifth, the purgatory of a final judgment proportioned to sin being then taught (redemption being wholly lost as a doctrine giving peace to the soul), and in the sixth and seventh it began to be established as a doctrine. This is the true history of it.
Here our author closes his subject. Why have we nothing of indulgences?
I had reserved the point of holiness as a proof of the true church. I have no longer need to say much. It is a painful point to touch on, because it seems like attack. But when holiness is advanced as a proof—and in its place it is a very real one—what can one do (since it is a proof, though not taken alone) but shew that holiness did not characterize what is called the Catholic church? I say not alone, for scripture always gives counter-checks. A man comes to me with the truth in form, but unholy—that is not the Spirit of God. The Spirit of truth is the Holy Spirit. Another comes to me with a great appearance of holiness, but he has not the truth. It is not the Spirit of God, for the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of truth. God guards His children thus on every side. But holiness is a proof in its place; I must therefore touch on it.
We have seen in the third century Cyprian declaring that corruption was universal, and that the bishops were running about everywhere for money, and making gain by fraud. We have seen that the martyrs’ memories were, in the fourth and fifth, celebrated with drunken feasts, and Augustine fearing a sedition if an attempt was made to stop it. We have learned from him that this was deliberately allowed, to please heathens coming in and let them go on in their own ways unchanged, only substituting martyrs for idols. This is holiness neither in practice, purpose, nor doctrine. St. Augustine—De Opere Manichaeorum—complains of their running about to sell relics, to make money; and so great was the superstition, that the fifth Council of Carthage orders the innumerable altars to martyrs to be overturned, unless it made a tumult; and, if it could not be done, warns the people not to go.
Hear Jerome now as to priests (so-called). A law was made by Valentinian against priests and monks getting inheritances. Jerome says he does not complain of the law, but of its being necessary. The caution of the law is provident and severe; yet even so avarice is not restrained. We mock at laws by means of trusts; and, as if emperors’ decrees were greater than Christ’s, we fear the laws and despise the Gospels. And then,” It is the ignominy of all priests to study their own wealth. Born in a poor house, and in a rustic cottage, I, who could scarce content the loud cry of my belly with millet and coarse bread, now am nice about fine flour and honey. I know the kinds and names of fishes; I am knowing on what shore a shell-fish is gathered; I discern provinces by the savour of birds, etc. I hear, moreover, of the base service of some to old men and old women without children—themselves put the chamber pot, besiege the bed, receive with their own hands the purulence of the stomach and the expectoration of the lungs. They tremble at the entrance of the physician, and with faltering lips inquire whether they are better; and if the old person is somewhat more vigorous, they are in danger, and with feigned joy their avaricious mind is tortured within; for they fear lest they should lose their pains, and compare the vigorous old person to the years of Methuselah,” Epist. 52:34.
What do you think of such a state of the clergy, and general enough at least to require a law, not from heathen, as Jerome remarks, but from Christian emperors? Is that holiness? Were bloodshed and tumults, through ambition in the election of bishops, whether from individual ambition, as at Rome, or disputes between the clergy and people who should elect, as happened in France, a holy state of things? .Hear Sulpitius Severus in Gaul, de Vita B. Martini 23: “But that I may insert less things than these (although, as is the course of our times, in which all things are depraved and corrupted, it is almost the chief thing, he did not yield priestly firmness to royal adulation); when many bishops from divers parts had come together to the Emperor Maximus, a man of a ferocious spirit, and elated with victory in the civil wars, and a base adulation of all around the prince was to be remarked, and the priestly dignity, by a degenerate inconstancy, had bowed before the royal attendant, in Martin alone apostolic authority remained.” He relates he gave the cup of honour to a presbyter to drink before the emperor, “And it was celebrated in all the palace that Martin had done at the king’s dinner what no one of the bishops would have done in the festivals of the lowest judges.” It was a mixture of the lowest servility and the haughtiest pride: so it ever is in such case. Pride at last got the upper hand.
But your doctrine, you say, is holy. Is it holy to have an absolution to facilitate men getting ease to their consciences, when they have not thoroughly repented? That is the express doctrine of your sacrament of penance, and the daily snare of millions in practice. The doctrine of attrition and a sacrament, or contrition without it, is the most iniquitous principle ever invented to content men with sin; and so it works. Can you shew me a more dreadful set of persons than a multitude of the popes, though with honourable exceptions in early days, yet never without excessive ambition? What do you say to indulgences? As a doctrine compounding for penances, as a practice compounding for sins, and paying for my faults with another’s dreamed-of superfluous merits, and all disposed of for money? Is that holy doctrine? Are the taxes for sin in the Romish chancellary—that is, how much is to be paid for each—holy in doctrine or in practice? Good books forbidden at any price; all sins set off at some price! Is it a holy thing to teach, as to corruption produced by celibacy, si non casti, cauti? Let me ask, what was a great part of the bishops’ revenues, at the time of the Reformation, derived from? Do you know that in Rome, at this day, according to statistical accounts, of over three thousand children born, considerably more than two thousand are given up to be brought up by avellin institutions, illegitimate or abandoned by their parents? Are not Romish countries known to be walking in corruption and evil, even more than Protestant ones? Do you think a person travelling through Spain, or Italy, or France, would find holiness characterise the country? Their state is awful. Do I say, then, that Protestant countries are holy? Far from it. No one is, but he who is born of God, and who is led by the Spirit of God. But I say that the professing church, and, above all, the Romish body, is not; not a person who goes to the East but would sooner trust a Turk than those called Christians; but this is of long date.
I will close this by a passage from Eusebius: “Wickedness of unutterable hypocrisy and dissimulation was risen to the highest pitch; the pastors of note among them, despising all bond of piety, turn in contention one against another, only increasing in strife, threats, envy, hostility, and hatred one against another,” Lib. 8:1. Austin declares that, in his day, if any one would live godly he was mocked, not by heathens simply, but by the professing Christians.
But to close. The truth is, all this has been predicted. Even in the apostles’ days Paul declares, with a sorrowing heart, “All seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” He declares that the mystery of iniquity did already work, and would issue in apostasy, in God’s own time; that evil men and seducers would wax worse and worse; that in the last days perilous times should come; that there would be a form of piety without the power. We have seen this fulfilled. It fills the heart with sorrow, but not surprise; it tests but it confirms faith; it shews the pretension to universality and external perpetuity, as a visible body, to be the sign of a false church, not of a true one; for the scriptures speak of apostasy, perilous times, and judgment, cutting off, if professing Gentiles do not continue in His goodness, while it is prophetically declared they will not. God will surely keep them that are His, and His own true church will be preserved and maintained, till the time for the Lord to come and take it into glory with Himself.
As to the outward professing body, the Lord has declared that the mystery of iniquity, which existed in the apostles’ days, would go on till the full apostasy which would bring the judgment. The tares were sown by Satan in the field; the Lord will reap it in judgment. It is a solemn subject, as solemn for Protestants as for Romanists, for God will judge righteous judgment as to all, and there is grace in Christ for the one as for the other. Yes, holiness is a mark j but it is not forms of piety. “Without holiness no man shall see the Lord”; but God will have reality; it is the real putting on of the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. It is being renewed in the spirit of our minds— this is the holiness which God will have. It is wanting, alas! in many Protestants; but it is that which every man who knows the actual state of Ireland, and still more perhaps other countries professing Romanism, knows does not characterise the vast bulk; he knows that corruption and evil are (with the exception perhaps of Belgium) in the proportion of its influence; France bad, Italy and Spain morally insupportable.
Yet holiness is a mark of the true church; but, my reader, Protestant or Roman Catholic, note it well, truth, the truth of God’s holy word, is another; not the uncertain vacillations of Fathers with the growing superstitions of the mystery of iniquity, but God’s own pure, certain, blessed word, written by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, by apostles and evangelists, and addressed to Christians and whoever has ears to hear. Lastly, grace is a mark of the true church. The knowledge of a God of love, a God who has given His Son because He loved poor sinners; of that Son’s having perfectly accomplished redemption by His own offering of Himself once for all; the knowledge that His blood cleanses from all sin, that He has made peace through the blood of His cross, and that by Him all that believe are justified from all things, and have eternal life; that God will remember their sins and iniquities no more. Yes, holiness, the truth, and the knowledge of a perfect and accomplished redemption of a God of love, mark the member at least of the true church, of the body of Christ, mark the children of a heavenly Father.
May you, reader, as a repentant sinner, know them for yourself!
37 Some make Clement Peter’s successor j others the fourth, putting Linus and Anacletus between; some seek to reconcile the two accounts by saying Linus and Anacletus were bishops under Peter, in his lifetime. Learned men are not agreed by thirty years as to the date of Clement’s epistle.
38 The very learned Jesuit, Petau, accuses him of Arian sentiments— that is, as to doctrine, for he lived long before Arius.
39 One of the three resigned j one died in a corner of Spain, anathematizing all as true pope; another council deposed the Roman Pope, John. The Spanish one had a successor, but who can hardly be said to have been one, and retired.
40 The author tells us, when he is vaunting the papacy, that it is the only institution which has so continued.—Law and Testimony, p. 67.
41 Christianity, as a prevailing religion, is less widely spread now than in the sixth century. The largest of all the continents, Asia, and all the north of Africa, is lost to it. Of course within its own limits the population has increased.
42 It is well-known that this is the grand foundation for the pretensions of the pope. My interpretation, though flowing from my own full conviction, is, as to the main point, nothing new. The Fathers, whom the Romanist so much leans upon, give frequently the same. Thus Augustine—“Thou art therefore Peter, and upon this Rock which thou hast confessed, upon this Rock which thou hast owned, saying, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my church— that is, upon Myself, Son of the living God, I will build my church; I will build thee upon Me, not Me upon thee.” (Sermon 76.) In the same sermon he says, “Because Christ is the Rock, Peter the Christian people”: so in many places. Chrysostom says on the passage—I borrow the quotation here from another— “On the Rock, that is, the faith of his confession.” Gregory I, or the Great, “Consolidate your life in the Rock of the church, that is, on the confession of the blessed Peter.” Cyril of Alexandria gives two interpretations—the two we have just referred to: one, that it is Christ in whom is all the church hid safe, as in a cave of a rock, leaving poor Peter out altogether, save as an individual member: the other, that it is the unmoved faith of Peter. Petran oimai legon to akradanton eis pistin tou mathetou. (Cyr. Alex, ii, 460, 593. Aubert.) Ambrose was cited by Luther in his dispute with Eck, as since by others— “On this article of faith the church is founded.” I do not quote these as the smallest authority, for, as is general with the Fathers, not only they do not agree with one another, but they do not agree with themselves; but to shew how little, after all, the most essential points of the foundations of Romish doctrine were matters of faith then, Cyril we have seen giving two interpretations, both rejecting the Romanist sense. Augustine, in his Retractions, says he had very often (sæpissime) given the one I have quoted; for it was not said, Thou art Petra (a rock), but (Petrus) a stone; but that he had once applied it to Peter, following a hymn of Ambrose’s and if the reader liked it better, he might choose that! (1 Retract. 21:1). Think of a Father, whom the author so especially applauds, treating this mainstay of papal authority in such a manner! He once accepted the sense found in verses of St. Ambrose, which everyone was singing; but that afterwards, very often indeed, he had shewn that the rock was not Peter; but that if any reader liked the former meaning better, he had full liberty. If that is not a solid patristic foundation for the See of Rome, I know not what is! But the good Father did once render good service to the See of Rome. A certain pope, named Zosimus, had pronounced in favour of Pelagius and Celestius; but Augustine, in spite of this, maintained his grounds and set Zosimus right, who then condemned Pelagius and Celestius, whom he had before declared sound in the faith.
43 Clement calls Christ “the sceptre of the majesty of God”; and he quotes the Old Testament as calling Him “the Holy of Holies.” He says, on the other hand, that God had chosen the Lord Jesus Christ; and this is all on the subject. Petavius, I apprehend, had it only secondhand, and refers to both epistles, one not being authentic; but they are now published.
44 De Dominica et Evangelica auctoritate, which I have translated Gospels, because we have apostles and their epistles in the next phrase.
45 One or two manuscripts read “clarissimaj” instead of “charissima,” but the Benedictine editors do not receive it.
46 They are quoted farther on, as being of Clemens Romanus of the first; but that is a mere false pretence.
47 Novatus was sound in the faith, but separated from the so-called Catholic church for its low state of morals, which now began to trouble many consciences.
48 Adv. Lucifer, col. 181, vol. 2.
49 I may add that the learned editors of Vallarsius’ edition, after the Benedictine, acknowledge that Jerome holds that a presbyter can confirm and do all, unless ordain; and they cite different passages I have referred to, and add Pope Innocent’s declaration to the contrary, pretty much on the ground of the Luciferian. I add here, Cyril, in his catechism, shews that it was a part of baptism instituted after the analogy of Christ’s, who received the Holy Ghost after his. It was always done immediately. See “Life of Basil,” by Amphilochus, Dionysius, St. Ambrose, Opatus, etc. In confirmation of what I have said of the Greek church, a canon is cited. A presbyter may not sign infants in the presence of the bishop, unless, indeed, he has been desired by the bishop to do it. Infants were confirmed at their baptism. I quote all this note secondhand from Bingham. See Gennadius de Dog. c. 52.
50 Leo shews this epoch when in the West they began to give up public confession for private (Ep. 1365 I, 719); yet he treats public as allowing more faith.
51 Had not the Vulgate unquestionably given a false translation, another proof would here suggest itself: “Except ye eat the flesh and drink the blood, ye have no life.” In the Romish system they have life by baptism. The Vulgate reads, Ye shall have no life; still, as addressed to Jews, as it was, the force is the same. For it was not by the Eucharist they were to get life, but by baptism.
52 The Vulgate, in all these passages, has unequivocally corrupted the text (at least translated it untruly), but it changes nothing of the substance of the argument. See the previous note. To say a Jew should not have life but by eating the Eucharist is denying his having life by baptism. Take it as feeding by faith on Christ’s death, and all is clear.
53 In the Confiteor, recited for obtaining absolution. He is totally left out as Christ.