“Specious indeed is the name of Peace,” says Hilary, “and fair the idea of Unity; but who doubts that the only Peace of the church is that which is of Christ?” — truly an admirable sentiment which ought to arise in our mind whenever we treat of establishing peace and concord among Christians, and especially when the object sought is consent in doctrine.
For as pious and moderate men are averse to dissension and detest contention and strife, it can scarcely happen that any discourse whatever which proposes to quell them shall not he plausible at first sight. And who, if not devoid of humanity, does not willingly lend his ear and his mind when true and serious mention is made of pacifying the church?
There is no man possessed only of a moderate sense of piety whom this foul and dreadful rending of the body of Christ does not grieve and excruciate. But seeing that crafty men not unfrequently insinuate themselves under this pretext, while they seek to adulterate the pure doctrine of Christ, who can deny that it is the part of prudence to look cautiously at the kind of Peace which is offered us? For as Christ always recommends peace to us as a primary object, so he teaches that the truth of his Gospel is the only bond of peace. Wherefore, it is of no use for those who are trying to seduce us from the pure profession of the Gospel, to gloss it over with the name of Concord. What then? Peace is indeed to be longed for and sought with the utmost zeal; but rather than it should be purchased by any loss of piety, let heaven and earth, if need be, go into confusion!
I am not here debating with Turks and Jews, who would wish the name of Christ utterly extinguished, or with grosser Papists, who demand from us an open abjuration of true doctrine, but with the contrivers of a kind of specious pacification, who leave us a half Christ, but in such a manner that there is no part of his doctrine which they do not obscure or bespatter with some stain of falsehood. And this artifice for deforming piety they send forth — so help them! — under the name of reformation! Is it thus that while they secretly lead us away from the Author of peace, they gloss over the matter by vainly promising peace? They shall never succeed so far with their dissimulation as to prevent their counsels from being disclosed, They doubtless hope that if the Churches which have embraced the purer doctrine of the gospel once decline and allow themselves to be corrupted in any quarter, it will be easy to make them forthwith lose whatever good remains. And, verily, they are not wrong in this opinion.
For by the most just and the ordinary judgment of God, those who knowingly and willingly allow his sacred truth to be polluted with lies, are totally deprived of the valuable possession. For it is not a thing of such vulgar worth, that what is deemed most precious among men should be purchased at the cost of impairing it in the least. I am aware, indeed, that the impious and profane do not form their estimate of the future according to the judgment of God. But without knowing the cause, they judge rightly of the event.
It is strange, however, that some are so fickle, not to say alienated in mind, as to put faith in the words of such men! I am not ignorant of their thought. It is, that if they now yield a little, they will make a greater progress afterwards, when the occasion offers. But whence is that occasion which they promise themselves suddenly to arise? I now see them receding from the right path. Therefore there is nothing that can less be hoped than that they are to reach the goal by wandering from it: nay, rather it is to be feared that God may show himself the avenger of their perfidious defection, by withdrawing the part which they retain. But whatever be their fancied hope, they take too much, far too much upon them, when they bargain concerning the eternal and immutable Truth of God, how far it is to prevail! They say — provided what is fundamental remains safe, the loss of other things is tolerable. They speak thus just as if Christ had given himself up to be divided at their pleasure. It is something, I admit, when the entire renewal of piety cannot all at once be obtained, to secure at least the principal heads, provided we cease not to follow after what is still wanting. But when the Son of God has given us the doctrine of his gospel to be enjoyed entire, to rend it by compact, in order to preserve some part for ourselves, is most sacrilegious.
But here it lies. When a struggle for life must be endured, few know what it is to defend the cause of Christ. Nay, these men carry their effrontery so far as to declare, that it is no part of their intention to tempt God rashly, (by exposing themselves rashly.) As if those were throwing themselves into unnecessary danger, who choose to suffer any extremities rather than deviate one hair’s-breadth from the doctrine of life. Where then are the lofty terms in which they spoke a little ago with their swords in their hands? How is it that, with them, constancy in defending the Truth begins to be temerity the moment they see that they must die rather than secede from it? Let us, however, be mindful of the exhortation of Paul, and hasten to give glory to Christ and his gospel, whether it be by life or by death.
Whatever may happen, let it be our resolute determination to listen to no terms of peace which mingle the figments of men with the pure truth of God. Let it, I say, be our fixed principle, that the voice of the Shepherd alone is to be heard, that of strangers guarded against and rejected.
Hence it is easy to infer what plan is to be adopted in pacifying dissension. For did not the offenses of men terrify, and, as it were, blind us, nay, did not some, while they would be too cautious, walk blindfold in the clearest light, we should easily come to an agreement as to the heads of doctrine which are necessary to preserve the state of the Church. But as a right judgment cannot be formed except from the case itself, I think it will be worth while briefly to review the points in which nothing can be yielded.
I know it is a common saying with many, that we are not to stand out pertinaciously on other points, provided the doctrine of free Justification remains safe. Those who speak thus do not say the whole, and yet say something. I admit, indeed, that a solid knowledge of our salvation is never possessed by us, without carrying along with it almost the whole sum of Christian doctrine. But, first, in a sum of Christian doctrine not only to postpone the worship of God, (in which his honor turns,) but to pass it over in silence, were very unjust, as I shall again advert to afterwards.
Secondly, there is a great difference between merely uttering the one expression — we are justified by faith — and setting forth the whole matter in a distinct explanation. If in matters, however trivial, all are wont carefully to obviate disputes, which might arise from obscurity of language, why should not the same at least, if not greater caution be used in a matter of the highest moment?
Hence, in order that these men may prove their carefulness to retain this part of doctrine concerning gratuitous Justification unimpaired, they must first determine what man is capable of by himself. For in discriminating between the nature of man and the: grace of God, the first thing in order is to see what belongs to the former as its own. Here I know not what mediators rise up, who, that they may slay pious souls while seeming to appease their opponents by equivocating subtleties, leave man freedom of will, though weak and damaged. In other words, they are liberal with what is not theirs, when they transfer to man that which belongs to the grace of God.
It must be acknowledged, indeed, that man retains a will even though it is held captive under the tyranny of sin and Satan; but how do they think they will satisfy us, when they awkwardly restrict the proud name of freedom by the epithet of a weak power? ‘Then when they describe the mode of obtaining Justification, they teach that God does not act with man as with a block, that he does not draw him without his being willing. Who denies this? But the question is, whence comes that teachableness of the human will which makes it show itself obedient to God, while nature is altogether contumacious and intractable? Is it not to stumble on the threshold when they on the one hand extenuate the misery of man, and on the other obscure the aid of Divine grace? Either, then, the true method of Justification will not be at all possessed by us, or we must make this our starting point, viz., that the mind of man is blind until it is illuminated by the Spirit of God — that the will is enslaved to evil, and wholly carried and hurried to evil, until corrected by the same Spirit, and that the voluntary reception of grace cannot have any other origin than this — that God forming a heart of flesh out of our stony heart, brings us who were formerly turned away back to himself.
When we come to the definition of the word, care must be taken that respect to works be not intermingled with gratuitous Reconciliation, which wholly consists in the forgiveness of sins. For though we are never reconciled to God, without being at the same time presented with inherent righteousness, yet things which cannot be separated ought to be distinguished. And this is the second branch in this question, viz., to have the method by which God justifies us defined. We say, therefore, that we are justified by faith, because the righteousness of Christ is imputed to us.
If any one, on the other hand, objects that we are made partakers of Christ only by being renewed by his Spirit unto the obedience of the law, this must be acknowledged to be true; but let Regeneration be what it may, we deny that Justification is to be placed in it.
We do not act thus either from a love of disputation, or because we will not allow anything to be passed over that does not altogether please us.
The cause which urges us is most necessary. The point involved is peace of conscience, without which we must all be most wretched, nay, almost undone. It is asked, I say, where our consciences may rest safely in regard to salvation. If they are agitated by disquietude, or in doubt, Paul teaches that faith is made void. ( Romans 4:14.) And he; declares that this is the necessary result, so long as they look to the law. What then? That we may have salvation, we must at the same time have a sure conviction of righteousness. Any part of this righteousness, however small, if placed in works will totter, as resting on an insecure foundation. It remains, therefore, to recline solely on the pardon of sins. It is a plain matter, that we cannot come boldly before the tribunal of God, unless we are certainly persuaded that he is our Father: and this cannot be without our being regarded as righteous in his sight. Thus we are precluded from all access to him, until trusting in his paternal good will, we can without hesitation invoke him as our Father. But if there is no salvation and no invocation of God, without tranquil and sure trust for the conscience; and, on the other hand, if conscience cannot rest in anything short of certain righteousness, who can doubt that the whole righteousness on which man ought to lean, is contained in the free remission of sins? Our mediators then only gloss the matter in pretending that inherent righteousness concurs with the merit of Christ, when the point under discussion is the mode of justifying. Such concurrence must necessarily beget a fearful conflict, until, altogether forgetting works and discarding the mention of them, we obtain not a part of righteousness only, but the whole entire from Christ.
They say that God does not act with us after the manner of an. earthly judge, who only acquits, and does not also bestow true righteousness. I admit it. But while a twofold grace is at the same time bestowed upon us by Christ, we ought carefully to consider the effect of each. The question now asked is, In what way are we accepted by God? If works are mixed up with the free Imputation of Righteousness, another question will immediately arise, viz., how far works avail in procuring the favor of God, and whether free imputation holds the chief place, or is only a kind of inferior auxiliary? What else is this than completely to subvert the foundation? Accordingly, Paul deservedly includes the righteousness of faith simply in forgiveness of sins, teaching that it is described by David when he pronounces the man blessed to whom sins are not imputed. ( Romans 4:6; Psalm 32:2.) And certainly that blessedness which David mentions flows from righteousness. It follows, then, that we are righteous in this, that our sins are not imputed. Hence, Zacharias in his song describes instruction concerning the forgiveness of sins, as the knowledge of salvation. ( Luke 1:77.)
On the whole, let us remember that the debate here is not simply concerning the manifold grace of God toward us, but concerning the cause of our Reconciliation with him. This cause, unless it is fixed as one, is null.
For Scripture does not tell us to borrow only part of our righteousness from Christ in order to supply what is wanting in our works; but the Apostle plainly declares that Christ himself was made righteousness to us.
And in another passage he declares, that men are righteous before God by the very circumstance that our sins are no longer imputed to us. ( Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:19.)
Both the magnitude and variety of the blessings which we receive from Christ are indeed to be extolled; nor does it become us to restrict his office and efficacy to any one species. Nor, when we say that men are justified by the benefit of Christ, are we to be silent as to the grace of Regeneration; nay, rather, we must take care not to separate what the Lord perpetually conjoins. What then? Let men be taught that it is impossible they can be regarded as righteous by the merit of Christ, without being renewed by his Spirit unto a holy life; and that it is in vain for any in whom the Spirit of regeneration dwells, not to glory in the free adoption of God; in short, that God receives none into favor who are not also made truly righteous. But there is need of distinction, lest the one of the two gifts should derogate from the other. Let the children of God consider that Regeneration is necessary to them, but that, nevertheless, their full righteousness consists in Christ — let them understand that they have been ordained and created unto holiness of life and the study of good works, but that, nevertheless, they must recline on the merits of Christ with their whole soul — let them enjoy the righteousness of life which has been bestowed upon them, still, however, distrusting it so as not to bring before the tribunal of God any other trust than trust in the obedience of Christ.
In order that ambiguities may be removed, it is necessary that the Righteousness which we obtain by faith, and which is freely bestowed upon us, should be placed in the highest rank, so that, as often as the conscience is brought before the tribunal of God, it alone may shine forth.
In this way the righteousness of works, to whatever extent it may exist in us, being reduced to its own place, will never come, as it were, into conflict with the other; and certainly it is just, that as righteousness of works depends on righteousness of faith, it should be made subordinate to it, so as to leave the latter in full possession of the salvation of man. There can be no doubt that Paul, when he treats of the Justification of man, confines himself to the one point — how mall may ascertain that God is propitious to him? Here he does not remind us of a quality infused into us; on the contrary, making no mention of works, he tells us that righteousness must be sought without us; otherwise that certainty of faith, which he everywhere so strongly urges, could never stand; still less could there be ground for the contrast between the righteousness of faith and works which he draws in the tenth chapter to the Romans. Wherefore, unless we choose to sport with so serious a matter, (this would be fraught with danger!) we must retain propriety of expression, which carries with it the knowledge of the thing expressed. Were the thing conceded to us by those who entangle this part of the doctrine by their comments, I would easily give up all contest about the word. But those who confound the two kinds of righteousness together, seeing the thing they aim at is to prevent the righteousness of Christ from being entirely gratuitous, are on no account to be borne.
But we must obviate their cavil, when they bring forward James, and collect other passages in Scripture, where the term justify is taken differently, to establish what they call concurrence. James does not mean that man acquires righteousness with God, even in the minutest degree, by the merit of works; he is only treating of the approval of righteousness. ( James 2:21.) And who denies that every man proves what he is by his actions? But to furnish men with credible evidence of your disposition is a very different thing from meriting salvation in the sight of God. Hence, not to be imposed upon by the different meanings of the word, we must always observe whether reference is made to God or to men. Moreover, we deny not that the righteous are called the children of God, in respect of holiness of life, as well as in respect of a pure conscience: but as no work, if weighed in the Divine balance, will be found otherwise than maimed, and even defiled by impurities, we conclude, that this name of righteousness, when given to works, is founded on free pardon. Believers, therefore, are righteous by works, just because they are righteous without any merit of, or without any respect to works, seeing that the righteousness of works depends on the righteousness of faith.
Hence, too, it is apparent what we ought to think concerning the Reward of Works. Assuredly the labor of the godly is not in vain in the Lord, seeing various rewards are daily paid to it in the world, and the highest reward is laid up for it in the heavens. But they are greatly mistaken who think that any reward is paid to good works by way of debt: for we must always return to this, that as God declares there is no righteousness except in the perfect obedience of the law, so men merit nothing unless they fulfill all the commandments of the law out and out. If strict justice decide, an eternal curse awaits every man who fails in one single iota. Wherefore, the whole promises which make the fulfilling of the law a condition, Paul hesitates not to term void, till that strictness has been mitigated by virtue of a free promise.
A free promise I do not understand in the same way as many do. I hold it to be free, not because, while we owe ourselves and our all to God, he has spontaneously and liberally promised a reward to works which he might demand of us as his right, but because he assigns a reward proportioned to the worth of his own favor rather than to any worth in them. For that promise, however liberal, which stipulated for the fulfillment of the law, gives us no assistance by itself, since no man ever will be found to satisfy his duty. Hence there is need of the aid of a new promise, viz., that works shall have a reward, because they are acceptable in consequence of pardon.
In this way, believers are not defrauded by the hope of reward, which ought to stimulate them to the study of good works; nor are they either puffed up with perverse confidence, or elated with vain glory. The true nature of the reward is this — it does not correspond in equity to the merit or worth of the works, but is derived from their gratuitous acceptance.
Moreover, we cannot submit to allow faith itself to be not only obscured, but also adulterated, by a false interpretation. They do so who pretend that it can truly exist without charity. This is the old invention of the sophists, that a faith which is informal is nevertheless real, and that it becomes formed by the addition of charity. Hence, too, has arisen the error of supposing that faith is a bare and frigid knowledge, which indistinctly apprehends that God is true. We dispute not about words; but as the salvation of men turns on this question, the ambiguity which involves the whole question in darkness is fraught with peril. As God justifies us freely by imputing the obedience of Christ to us, so we are rendered capable of this great blessing only by faith alone. As the Son of God expiated our sins by the sacrifice of his death, and, by appeasing his Father’s wrath, acquired the gift of adoption for us, and now presents us with his righteousness, so it is only by faith we put him on, and become partakers of his blessings. Now, if we know not what faith is, what access shall we have to obtain salvation? Those who, in the present day, purchase peace from the Papists by equivocating arrangements, admit that the true faith which discriminates between Christians and unbelievers may be void of charity. They act just like a man who praises the wine contained in his cask, and cuts off the cork to prevent any one from getting a draught of it.
It is now, I presume, clear enough how important it is, in order to maintain the doctrine of Justification entire, to have a sure definition of faith. What it is may be partly inferred from the effect of justification. It justifies because it makes us put on Christ, that he may dwell in us, and we be his members. Can that which makes us one with the Son of God exist without his Spirit? This were no less absurd than for any one to assert that the soul which animates the body, which gives it sense and motion, and is, in short, its life, is itself without life. Any one who holds the one point, that Christ is possessed by faith, will no longer think of entertaining the distinction of an “informal” and a “formed” faith. Faith, I say, is a firm certainty of conscience, which embraces Christ as he is offered to us by the gospel. But is not faith one of the principal gifts which newness of life bestows upon us? Hence, too, it is said to have been given us for a sign.
Faith is the resurrection of the soul, as Christ declares in these words, — ”He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live.” ( John 11:26.)
How then can it be dead while it gives life? Faith is the evidence of divine adoption. But how can we be the sons of God, unless we are guided by his Spirit? Faith gives us access to God. How can we have access without a good conscience?
Assuming the contrary of all this, or saying nothing about it, still it is necessary, if we would be at peace in the unity of the faith, previously to agree as to the term Faith. But, as I have already premised, it is enough for me to demonstrate how far they are from retaining Justification, who, while they study to appear the enemies of the truth, devise a middle kind of doctrine, which suits neither heaven nor earth. To this subject I confine myself.
With regard, then, to the obtaining of Righteousness before God, I say that we must necessarily hold the following five points concerning Faith: — First, that it is an undoubting persuasion, by which we receive the word brought by Prophets and Apostles as truth sent from God. Secondly, that what it properly looks to in the Word of God is the free promises, and especially Christ, their pledge and foundation, so that, resting on the paternal favor of God, we can venture to entertain a confident hope of eternal salvation. Thirdly, that it is not a bare knowledge which flutters in the mind, but that it carries along with it a lively affection, which has its seat in the heart. Fourthly, that this faith does not spring from the perspicacity of the human mind, or the proper movement of the heart, but is the special work of the Holy Spirit, whose it is both to enlighten the mind and impress the heart. Lastly, that this efficacy of the Spirit is not felt by all promiscuously, but by those who are ordained to life.
The first point we have set down, being acknowledged by all, needs no proof. In proving the second it is not so necessary to be diligent in collecting passages, as to admonish the reader to weigh those which occur throughout the Scriptures; for they are almost innumerable, and we must study brevity.
When Paul distinguishes the gospel from the law, he calls it “the doctrine of faith.” ( Romans 10:6.) And he in another place teaches that “therein is revealed the righteousness of God from faith to faith.” ( Romans 1:17.) Again he says, “Therefore it is of faith, that it may be by grace, that the promise may be sure.” ( Romans 4:16.) To the same effect he writes, that the gospel is preached for “the obedience of the faith.” ( Romans 1:5.) And after teaching that “the gospel is not by the law, but by promise,” he immediately concludes, “that the promise may be given by faith.” ( Galatians 3:22.) These words plainly denote a mutual relation between faith and the free promises of God.
Hence it follows that faith rests in Christ alone, all the promises of God being in him, yea and amen. ( 2 Corinthians 1:20.) For “God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish.” ( John 3:16.)
It is not without cause; that this sentiment is so often repeated. Wherefore Paul, in another place, where he commends the light of the gospel, says that there “the glory of God shines in the face of Jesus Christ.” ( 2 Corinthians 4:6.)
Nor is it at random that, when the Scripture mentions faith, it is added, by way of exposition, “in Christ.” For this addition signifies, as is taught more at large in the third chapter to the Romans, that Christ has been set forth, as a propitiation, that by faith, through the intervention of his blood, we may be freely justified by the grace of God. The same thing he afterwards confirms in several places. His meaning is the same as when he writes to the Galatians, ( Galatians 3:6,) that the promises were established only in one seed, viz., Christ. For the same reason, both in the Epistles to the Romans and the Philippians, he interprets faith as the knowledge of the Son of God, in which he includes all the wisdom of the godly, in like manner as he elsewhere declares that no other knowledge has any excellency, and glories in having preached Christ, as containing the whole sum of the gospel. ( Ephesians 4:13; Philippians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 2:2.)
Moreover, that confidence in the Divine love towards us is produced by Faith, one passage abundantly testifies, viz., the fifth to the Romans, where Paul teaches that we have peace of conscience, so as to dare to glory in the hope of eternal life. ( Romans 5:11.) He had previously said, that to keep us from wavering in doubt and trepidation, we are heirs by faith, ( Romans 4:16;) whence it is clear that a firm certainty is required. In the same manner he writes to the Ephesians, that we have boldness; and access to the Father with confidence, through faith in him. ( Ephesians 3:12.) Nor does John tell us to think, but to know, that we are the sons of God, although it doth not yet appear. ( 1 John 3:2.) He, therefore, who does not hold this, is altogether ignorant of the nature of faith.
This position being laid down, it is clear that faith is always combined with serious impressions. Were it otherwise Paul would not enjoin us to fix our roots in Christ, and rear the superstructure on faith; nor would faith itself have the name of obedience, far less would it be called our victory over the world. ( Colossians 2:7; Philippians 2:12; Romans 1:5; 1 John 5:4.) And surely when Paul writes, that with the heart we believe unto righteousness, he does not place faith in the brain. ( Romans 10:10.) I now omit the epithets I formerly mentioned — that it is the life of the soul, that by it Christ dwells in us, that it is the cause of our obtaining salvation, and the like. These could by no means apply to mere knowledge. This is what Paul elsewhere means when he says, that we, beholding the face of God in the mirror of the gospel, are transformed into it from glory to glory. ( 2 Corinthians 3:18.) For the knowledge must be lively and efficacious which thus transforms us into the image of God.
Then, that Faith is the work of Divine illumination Scripture confirms by all the passages in which it charges the human mind with blindness. But as it were too long to collect them all, I shall only note a few of the first which occur.
Paul, throughout the first and second chapters of 1 Corinthians, does nothing else than show, that all the discernment of the human mind in the mysteries of God is dim and null. Those then who penetrate them are born not of the will of man, or of the flesh, but of God. ( John 1:13.) For flesh and blood does not reveal it to them, but our Father in heaven. ( Matthew 16:17.) Wherefore Paul entreats God in the behalf of the Ephesians, that he would open the eyes of their mind, and give them the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of himself, that they may be able to apprehend what is his calling. ( Ephesians 1:17,18.) And justly, since, as he afterwards subjoins, the love of Christ to which we are called surpasses all knowledge. ( Ephesians 3:19.) Whence it follows, as he elsewhere affirms, that it is given us to believe, ( Philippians 1:29;) that a man can receive nothing except it be given him from above, ( John 3:27;) and that no man can come unto Christ unless the Father draw him. ( John 6:44.) Moreover, if we examine the human heart, we shall find that it is not only prone to distrust, but is carried to it by the whole instinct of nature. Here again, therefore, the Spirit of God must come to our aid, and be to us both an earnest and a seal. ( Romans 8:15.) He it is who opens our mouth that we dare without fear invoke God as our Father, ( Galatians 4:6,) who sprinkles our souls with the blood of Christ, ( 1 Peter 1:2) who ratifies his grace to us, who pervades our hearts with the love of God, so that we boldly glory in being his sons, ( Romans 5:5) who, in short, leads us into all truth, ( John 16:13,) so that we may know the things which are given us of God. ( 1 Corinthians 2:12.)
My last position is taken from Luke, who relates, that as many as were Preordained to eternal life believed Paul’s doctrine. And, indeed, seeing that God invites all indiscriminately by outward preaching, the only thing which distinguishes his Elect from the Reprobate is, that, allowing the latter to be blind in the light, he presents the former with new eyes, by which they’ see, and inclines their hearts to obey his word. Hence he manifests his secret election by effectual calling. He calls us: says Paul, ( Ephesians 1:4,) as he hath chosen us in his Son before the creation of the world. Again, “We are his workmanship, created in Christ unto good works, which he hath prepared that we should walk in them.” ( Ephesians 2:10.) This must be noted, because as men are proud above measure, they seize to themselves what ought to have been ascribed to God alone. To this preposterous arrogance God opposes his free Adoption, which alone is the cause of our being called, and so alone distinguishes us. Never, assuredly, is God anticipated by us, but he seeks the wandering and lost sheep.
Moreover, the efficacy of the Call I mentioned must be understood to consist in that not only is the grace of God offered to us, but our will also is formed to embrace it. For between the Elect and the Reprobate there is this difference, that while God addresses both by the voice of man, he specially teaches the former inwardly by his Spirit. The ministry of man, I say, is common to both, but the inward grace of the Spirit is peculiar to the Elect. Hence the words of Christ, “Whoso hath heard and learned of the Father cometh unto me.” ( John 6:45.)
Unless these points are put beyond controversy, though we may ever and anon repeat like parrots that we are justified by faith, we shall never hold the true doctrine of Justification. It is not a whit better to be secretly seduced from the alone foundation of salvation than to be openly driven from it. But there are also other things in which masked mediators maliciously subvert this part of the doctrine which they profess in word to be willing to defend.
They say that the Confession of Sins is necessary in order to obtain pardon. Butt to whom do they bid us confess? Not to God, but to Priests!
Is not the name of Justification more than shamelessly brought forward while consciences are laid under such a necessity? That consciences may be freed from the fear of eternal death, the law of God itself must be abrogated so far as not to bind us by its curse. What then, if they put on the fetters of new laws which bind them more strongly! Scripture declares, that we are justified, not because we fulfill the law, but because we rest on the sacrifice of Christ, by which sins have been expiated. It is not therefore the observance of the law but the pardon of transgression that justifies us.
For when the very forgiveness of sins, which looses us from all chains, is tied to a condition, is not the conscience shaken out of all certainty in regard to salvation? We are promised the forgiveness of sins, provided we shall have confessed into the ear of a priest. What is this, I ask, but just to subject the acquittal of the divine law to a human law, and place it, so to speak, under a kind of servitude? For such legislators enact, that the forgiveness of sins which frees us is not itself to be free.
Besides, it is an atrocious insult to God to arrogate so much to man as to make the Remission of Sins depend on their pleasure, especially seeing that he strictly claims this for himself by the Prophet, “I am, I am he, says he, who wipe away their iniquities.” ( Isaiah 43:25.)
What! does God himself, when he offers us this blessing, impose the law of confessing? Does Christ himself, to whom this office and command peculiarly belong, prescribe anything of the kind in forgiving sins? We nowhere read so. Now, when men rise up and lay their veto upon Christ to restrain his grace, is it not more than sacrilegious audacity? And even, if we leave such a right to men as to be the arbiters between God and us, in the matter of grace, by dictating laws, do we not reject the benefit of Christ by such ingratitude? This cannot with any decency be denied. We all in misery flee to the forgiveness of sins as the only asylum of salvation.
A certain way is shown us by the Son of God. A certain method is appointed for obtaining the great boon. Here a mortal man interposes, and dares to preclude access. He points to the door locked by him, and will not allow it to be opened except by the key of confession. Do those who take this tyranny upon them make Christ the only author of righteousness, or do they not rather rob him of part of the honor, and transfer it elsewhere?
Where is free righteousness if it is ransomed in this way?
Moreover, as pious souls have already experienced how dire the slaughter was when they were forced to such confession, our false mediators, ‘Lo make them feel less pain, devise a middle course. They say that Confession is neither, on the one hand, to be too much relaxed, nor, on the other, to be made too stringent. Certainly some progress seems to be made when part of the anxious enumeration is remitted! Mere trifling! For if we hold that none are acquitted before God but those who have confessed their sins to a priest, who shall take it upon him to deduct one iota? Shall we not always run the risk of having omitted something, for which God may call us into judgment?
Peace of conscience, without which there is no salvation, exists only when there is an undoubting faith in acquittal. If every one must confess before he can be forgiven, it is not for the will of man to define how far this necessity extends. Thus nothing is left but constant disquietude, and slow torture, and perplexing doubts, which will wear out the soul not less effectually than open murder. The mediators are contented with the enumeration of the sins which occur to one thinking and examining himself carefully. What is this but to sprinkle the poison with a drop of honey, to make it less sensible at first taste? For if anything, however small, is wanting to the proper diligence, the sinner will still fail; nay, the whole promise will give way, and abyss will follow abyss. If the knowledge of salvation consists in relying with tranquil mind on the forgiveness of sins, whoever spontaneously puts on this fetter knowingly and willingly throws away his salvation.
To pretend the authority of Christ for this impious tyranny displays no less effrontery than bad faith. The theologasters of Sorbonne, on account of their gross ignorance, might have been pardoned when they corrupted Scripture. Now, in so much light, the same excuse cannot be taken. The mediators tell us, that the power of binding and loosing was given to the Apostles, and they add, that it cannot be exercised unless he who officiates, knows whether he ought to loose or retain. Hence they make out their enumeration.
Why should I again discuss a puerile objection which we have so often refuted? When the Apostles are invested with the power of binding and loosing, it is certain that under these terms the power and fruit of the gospel are committed to them. It greatly concerns us to know that the acquittal pronounced to us by the mouth of man is ratified by God. Let us remember that it is mortal men who testify that we are exempted from liability to eternal death. To attest so great a matter even angels would not be equal! What then would become of us did not the Son of God himself interpone his own authority as a sanction to his command? Moreover, the execution of the command removes all doubt on this head. The Apostles did not discharge their office of binding and loosing by hearing Confessions, but by preaching the gospel. Nay, it is certain that in the better ages, when Religion flourished, the rite was either unknown or not very commonly received. It is beyond dispute, that for a whole thousand years and more the Churches were free from this law, which the new mediators obtrude upon us as perpetual, and of the same date as the gospel. But if this pretended cognizance is so necessary that none but he who has heard can forgive sins, we must charge with temerity, not only all the most excellent Pastors of the Primitive Church, but the Apostles themselves, and, by consequence, the Master and Lord of all, for having dared to bind and loose, while they knew nothing of the practice of confessing!
I know that there are men who, when they see any prospect of advancing their interest, are ready to do anything that may be ordered them. And the reason why they strongly urge Confession is, ‘because they wish to make the world obsequious to them, and to hold it in subjection. On many’ accounts, therefore, do they contend that the rite of Confession is most useful, in other words, useful, because it suits their personal interest. But when they have said all, the most plausible thing they say is, that they put the wicked to the blush once a year. No doubt, much progress is made when the shame of man weighs more with us than reverence for God and angels! And yet experience, the best of teachers, tells us, that even this is most falsely asserted. For men wanton in sin the more from trusting that they shall be safe, as soon as they have disburdened themselves of anything which inwardly oppresses them, by pouring it into the ear of a Priest. Just as if they could escape the tribunal of God by delegating judgment to men! In short, just as drunkards do, they prepare themselves by an emetic for a new debauch.
But, on the other hand, how strong the objection which we have to offer.
Is it not known that from this hydra innumerable evils spring? But granting that what they insist upon is true, nothing ought to be of weight sufficient to make us consent that consciences shall be brought into bondage, the grace of Christ prostituted, and faith oppressed. Though it were most expedient, I say, that men should be forced to confess their sins, yet to color Confession and hold it forth as a thing necessary to salvation, is neither expedient nor lawful. Consciences cannot be squeezed by the chains of such laws, without being strangled. Therefore twisting them all asunder, let us learn to have all our feelings in subjection to the promises of free mercy alone.
In like manner, when Scripture treats of the spiritual forum of conscience, there is no mention of Satisfactions. The satisfaction of Christ is the only one which not only exempts us from guilt and liability to eternal death, but is the price that buys off temporal punishments also. There is something plausible at first sight in the distinction that the eternal punishment is freely forgiven by the benefit of Christ, and the temporal by our satisfaction, but on a nearer inspection it altogether vanishes. First, we have the opposition of all the prophets, who uniformly attribute relaxation of punishment to the Divine mercy. What God pardons freely, it is certain that we do not merit by our works. When the Prophet introduces God as saying, “For my own sake will I do it, not for your sakes,” ( Ezekiel 20:44; 36:22,) the thing spoken of is the remission of temporal punishment. Nay, whenever they flee to seek free pardon, they deprecate external calamities as signs of the Divine anger. And when God receives us into favor, he at the same time promises that he will put an end to our calamities. In short, as punishment follows guilt just as the fruit is borne by the tree, so when guilt is forgiven, punishment, as if its root were cut off, is also extinguished.
It is true, that the best way for men to escape from being judged by God, is to judge themselves, as Paul declares. ( 1 Corinthians 11:31.)
This, however, must not be taken as if men could appease God by offering some kind of compensation. But since the only object of God in punishing is to urge us to repentance, it is not strange that the sinner obviates the punishment, when he spontaneously corrects himself. Our heavenly Father invites us by words before he strikes with his hand. If a voluntary change appears in us, the object, is gained. The cause for punishment now ceases.
In short, as the punishments which are inflicted on the godly respect the future, so he who would avert them instead of studying how to expunge his fault by some satisfaction, should by all possible means train himself to humility and true repentance, thus becoming the avenger of his own sin, and not experiencing God as its avenger. He who wishes God to spare him, must not spare or indulge himself. But all this has nothing to do with mutual compensation. For those who take punishment on themselves in this way, in order to anticipate the judgment of God, consider that they owe to the sacrifice of Christ not only the expiation of their guilt, but also the pardon of whatever punishment they have deserved. Moreover, satisfactions for which there is a use in the Church, being rather designed for example, are a part of its policy, not aids to spiritual justice.
Those who derogate from this doctrine, how specious soever their pretences may be, will always leave it manifest that they are laying deadly snares against the salvation of men. These if we neglect to guard against, we shall in vain afterwards bewail the loss of salvation, which we shall have spontaneously betrayed to Satan and his ministers. Wherefore, we must beware of being lulled by the siren songs, — “This is a small matter — this will be modified by a suitable interpretation — this will be kept latent — this may be admitted with no great danger.” Let us rather hear Christ admonishing us, — “Walk while ye have light.” ( John 12:35.) For if we allow the least cloud to obscure tire clear light, darkness will overtake us sooner than we suppose. There is but one way by which we must enter into life, but one way by which we can reach it. The least deviation from these is a downward path to death. In addition to this, we, by equivocating courses, assail the glory of Christ, which he has been pleased so to connect with our salvation, that he who detracts from the one violates both. Therefore we must, in asserting the doctrine of free Justification, give proof not only how dear our salvation, but also how precious the glory of Christ is to us. Hence it appears what a detestable end is plotted for us by those perfidious mediators, who, by their false glosses, would induce us not only to be ungrateful to the Son of God, but treacherous to our own salvation.
But granting that the doctrine of Justification by Faith alone were left to us entire, what place do those who leave us nothing but this think that the worship of God is to hold? Do they regard it as so frivolous a matter that it ought not to delay the peace of the Church? I say that it is to be preferred to the safety of men and angels! Those, therefore, who not only postponing, but even abandoning the worship of God, urge the other head only, have not yet learned what true Religion is. If any one objects, that a principal part of Divine Worship is comprehended in faith and its exercises, I admit it, but to debate about the mode in which men obtain salvation, and say nothing of the mode in which God may be duly worshipped, is too absurd.
We may add that the knowledge of this matter demands its Own proper explanation. There are two principal branches. First, we must hold that the spiritual Worship of God does not consist either in external ceremonies, or any other kind of works whatsoever;. and, secondly, that no Worship is legitimate unless it be so framed as to have for its only rule the will of him to whom it is performed. Both of these are absolutely necessary. For as we savor of nothing but earth and flesh, so we measure God by ourselves.
Hence it is that we always take more pleasure in external show, which is of no value in the sight of God, than in that inward worship of the heart, which alone he approves and requires. On the other hand, the wantonness of our minds is notorious, which breaks forth, especially in this quarter, where nothing at all ought to have been dared. Men allow themselves to devise all modes of worship, and change and rechange them at pleasure.
Nor is this the fault of our age Even from the beginning of the world, the world sported thus licentiously with God. He himself proclaims that there is nothing he values more than obedience. ( 1 Samuel 15:22.)
Wherefore, all modes of worship devised contrary to his command, he not only repudiates as void, but distinctly condemns. Why need I adduce proofs in so clear a matter? Passages to this effect should be proverbial among Christians.
When our glossing mediators carelessly omit, and do not even make a single observation on the former branch, via, that the Worship of God is spiritual, what else do they seek than some lurking place for deceit?
Assume, however, that this may be tolerated. But when they class among works, good in themselves, those which are voluntarily undertaken, without any command from God, they pervert the whole rule of right and godly living. For what will become of the words, “In vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men,” ( Matthew 15:9) if men may wander at will beyond the law of God?
They carry their effrontery so far as to say, that those who approve not of Works of Supererogation, are at variance with the Holy Spirit. Why so?
Is it because the Spirit of God in Isaiah ( Isaiah 1:12) commends works of this description, when he condemns those, which otherwise have the fairest appearance, on the single ground that God requires them not at our hands? I see their objection. To sell all, to practice perpetual virginity, to spend labor in preaching gratuitously for the Church, are not, indeed, commanded by the Lord, but nevertheless please him. My answer is, that though one were to do all these at once, and more than these, he would do no more than is contained in the law. For we are there ordered to love the Lord with all our heart. What man goes beyond this goal with his perfection? If they rejoin, that no special command is given concerning the works themselves, the answer to this is also easy. These things would neither be suitable for all, nor are they duly undertaken, as if they were valid in themselves, or as if God wished to be so worshipped. Should any one, not induced by any necessary cause, sell all that he has, and cast off the care of his family, as if selling were in itself a virtue, would he not justly be convicted of folly? Christ does not address all indiscriminately when he says, “Go and sell all,” ( Matthew 19:21) but him who, falsely imagining that he had performed the whole law, was swollen with vain confidence. To show him that he was still far from complete perfection, Christ touches the vice in which he was indulging, viz., excessive attachment to his riches. Whence it is plain that. such a sale was comprehended under the commandments of the law.
The same thing may be said of Virginity. Every one ought to see what his gift is, lest laboring under incontinence, while he aspires to celibacy, he wrestle with God. And then he who is endued with the gift of continence, ought not to plume himself on his celibacy, as if he were leading a more perfect life than others. For neither is virginity praised as if it were a virtue in itself, but only in reference to its end, that freed from all avocations we may bestow our study and all our care more freely on the service of God.
And why did Paul refrain from taking stipend, but just to obviate the malice of false apostles, who asked none in order that they might throw a stigma on his ministry, or at. least detract from his authority. In what respect, then, I ask, does a minister supererogate beyond the measure of his duty, when he omits nothing which he sees would conduce to the good of the Church? Paul could not have acted otherwise without exposing himself to the mockery of the wicked. What then did he do that, first, he ought not to have done; and that, secondly, was not prescribed by God They also put forward the example of David who danced before the ark.
What has this to do with the establishment of fictitious modes of Worship? If David had it in his mind to establish some new worship, who can excuse his temerity in attempting a thing so strictly prohibited by the Lord? ( Deuteronomy 12:8.) It was certainly a common law binding upon all that they were not to do as each pleased, but only as the Lord had commanded. If therefore David added anything of his own to the commandment, he improperly dared to do more than was lawful. If we admit that he sinned, what aid can a perverse example give to his imitators? I do not however concede that, David danced with the intention of exhibiting a worship not commanded him. It is well enough known that ceremonies were a species of exercises of piety, which were to be estimated not so much in themselves as in their end. What then did David mean by that dancing, but just to conduct the ark of the Lord with magnificence to the place divinely destined and consecrated for it?
Although there is no doubt that he was led to this by a special inspiration of the Spirit, which is always to be observed in the extraordinary actings of the saints.
But lest any one should cavil and say, that we are too rigid in external matters when we thus expressly destroy all freedom, I would here protest to the pious reader that I am not now debating about Ceremonies which are only subservient to decency and order, or which are signs of and incitements to that reverence which we pay to God. We are disputing about works which the mediators pretend to be pleasing to God in themselves, and by which they affirm that he is duly worshipped. For when they talk of the righteousness of works, they obtrude fictions added at the will of man to the law of God. Who sees not that in this way the ejqeloqrhskei>a (will-worship) condemned by Paul is opposed to the commandment of God? I deny, therefore, that any worship of God is legitimate, save that which is required according to his will. That alone is termed reasonable by Paul, ( Romans 12:1,) and on this simple ground, that when men would be wiser than they ought, they wander from reason and the right path. 0f intermediate works, the choice of which is free, there will be a fitter opportunity of speaking elsewhere: I only wished to show, that if works undertaken by us without the command of God are allowed to creep in and form part of divine worship and spiritual righteousness, the chief thing in religion is overthrown.
As our mediators in delivering a formula of Reformation, after they have treated of Justification, come down to the Church, we must see how far arty pious man, who is unwilling to abandon the truth, may ‘be permitted to acquiesce in their decrees. The marks which they set down for discerning the Church, viz., pure doctrine, the right use of the sacraments, and the holy unity, thereon depending, I willingly receive. But who perceives not that what they add about the Succession of Bishops is captiously said? We maintain, not without reason, that for several centuries the Church was so torn and dismantled, that it was destitute of true pastors. We maintain that those who assumed the title to themselves were nothing less than pastors. Our mediators not only insist on wolves being regarded as shepherds, but affirm that the Church is not to be sought anywhere else than among them.
We certainly deny not that the Church of God has always existed in the world; for we hear what God promises concerning the perpetuity of the seed of Christ. In this way, too, we deny not that there has been an uninterrupted succession of the Church from the beginning of the gospel even to our day; but we do not concede that it was so fixed to external shows — that it has hitherto always been, and will henceforth always be!, in possession of the Bishops. And how, pray, do they prove this to be necessary? No promise can anywhere be found. Nay rather, when Peter admonishes us that there will be false teachers in the Church, as there were among the ancient people, ( 2 Peter 2:1) and Paul declares that Antichrist will sit in the temple of God, ( 2 Thessalonians 2:4,) they point not to foreign enemies who by violent irruption and for a little time disturb the Church: they speak of what is called the ordinary administration of Prelates, that no one might dream of a tranquil and flourishing state of the kingdom of Christ. Therefore, if the Church resides in the successors of the Apostles, let us Search for successors among those only who have faithfully handed down their doctrine to posterity.
I know that this continuous Succession is extolled by Irenaeus, Origen, Augustine, and some other ancient writers. But it is mere imposition to attempt to employ their testimony in defense of the tyranny of the Papacy, which has nothing in common with the ancient form of the Church. Irenaeus and Origen had to do with base miscreants, who, while they advanced monstrous errors, gave out that they had received them by divine revelation. This falsehood was easily refuted, as many were still alive who had been familiar with the disciples of the Apostles. The remembrance of the doctrine which the Apostles had delivered was recent.
The very walls, in a manner, still re-echoed with their voice. Is it strange that those holy men cited as witnesses the Churches which had both been constituted by the Apostles, and had, without controversy, retained their constitution? Augustine was contending with the Donatists, who, inflated with frantic pride, boasted that they alone possessed the Church, though there was no reason why they should dissent from others. Augustine objects to them, that the Churches which they repudiated, and from which they had become schismatics, had flowed in uninterrupted succession from the Apostles. This he did on the best grounds, as the Donatists acknowledged that these Churches had persevered in the doctrine which they had originally received.
Very different is our case: for we deny the title of Successors of the Apostles to those who have abandoned their faith and doctrine. Those perfidious mediators who confound light and darkness are not ignorant how unlike, or rather how contrary, the present perverted government is to the ancient government of the Church. What effrontery, then, is it to use the name of the Church herself as a cloak for oppressing the Church?
Would that the Succession which, they falsely allege had continued until this day: with us it would have no difficulty in obtaining the reverence which it deserves. Let the Pope, I say, be the successor of Peter, provided he perform the office of an Apostle. Wherein does Succession consist, if it be not in perpetuity of doctrine? But if the doctrine of the Apostles has been corrupted, nay, abolished and extinguished by those who would be regarded as their successors, who would not deride their foolish boasting?
By the same kind of argument I might prove that all tyrants have been the best supporters of freedom, since there was an uninterrupted transition from the republic to their monarchy. Whether it now be so let fact determine. But our mediators purposely endeavor to prevent this estimate from being made, by raising a prejudice in favor of the doctrine from the honor which they bestow on the persons.
Briefly to conclude this part of our subject: We are in search of the Church of God. We all admit it to have been so propagated from the beginning, as to have continued through an uninterrupted series of ages down to our day, and to be diffused at present over the whole world. Another question remains, viz., Is it tied down to persons? Although we see how perilous it is to admit this, still we are unwilling to be so very solicitous in taking precautions for the future. But when the name of the Church is usurped by those who, as far as in them lay, have utterly destroyed it, how dastardly were it not to reclaim at least against the present evil? Hilarius, even in his time, said that the Church rather lurked in caverns than shone conspicuous in primary sees. What lamentations can suffice to deplore the fearful devastation which stalks abroad everywhere in the present day?
The knowledge of the Church must therefore be sought elsewhere than from the titles of men; and in vain do we go round searching for it while the truest method spontaneously presents itself. Who of us, to recognize a man, would look at his shoes or his feet? Why then, in surveying the Church, do we not begin at its head, seeing that Christ himself invites us to do so? he says, “Where the carcass is, there will the eagles be gathered together.” ( Matthew 24:28.)
Wherefore, if we would unite in holding a unity of the Church, let it be by a common consent only to the truth of Christ.
When they come to the authority of the Church, whatever be the false colors with which our mediators delude the eyes of the ignorant, they are at last reduced to this, that instead of the word of God, human license alone is to prevail. Their threefold chime is well known. It belongs to the Church to discriminate between spurious and genuine Scriptures: she also has the right of interpreting Scripture: her traditions have the force of oracles. Where these foundations have been laid, it is plain that the power of which God has been robbed is transferred to horns and mitres. Be their conduct what it may, provided they are adorned with an episcopal title, they constitute the Church.
Moreover, boundless license will be given them, if they are to interpret Scripture at will, frame Articles of Faith, and impose laws on the conscience. In such a case, what will be left for God? This is more than manifest treachery to the kingdom of Christ, sound doctrine, and our salvation. And will they cry out that we are fomenting discord, hindering and disturbing peace, if we do not forthwith assent That it is the proper office of the Church to distinguish genuine from spurious Scripture, I deny not, and for this reason, that the Church obediently embraces whatever is of God. The sheep hear the voice of the shepherd, and will not listen to the voice of strangers. But to submit the sound oracles of God to the Church, that they may obtain a kind of precarious authority among men, is blasphemous impiety. The Church is, as Paul declares, founded on the doctrine of Apostles and Prophets; but these men speak as if they imagined that the mother owed her birth to the daughter.
The object they aim at is notorious. They refer to a Canon. First, I ask, at what time they suppose it to have been published? There is no mention of it in the Council of Nice; and yet the Holy Fathers then were armed with strong enough weapons against Arius, as they had the Scriptures in their hands. Secondly, What will become of the law and the prophetical books, if their authority continued, in suspense till a decision was pronounced two thousand years after the law was given? They insist that the books of the Maccabees, Tobit, and others of the same stamp, are to be held authoritative, because they are contained in their vulgar Canon. But in regard to the Canon itself, which they so superciliously intrude upon us, ancient writers are not agreed. Let the mediators, then, enjoy their own as they please, provided we are at liberty to repudiate those which all men of sense, at least when informed on the subject, will perceive to be not of divine original.
Next comes the right of interpreting, in support of which, as belonging to their fancied Church, the mediators adduce the testimony of Peter, that no Scripture is of private interpretation, because the Prophets did not speak of themselves, but as they were impelled by the Holy Spirit. Their inference will avail them little with intelligent men. Peter admonishes us that the prophecies can now be no more understood by the perspicacity of the human mind than they could at first have been composed by it. He therefore exhorts, that as they came down from heaven, so we should pray to have their genuine meaning opened to us by the Spirit of God. Nothing is to be given to ambition — nothing to arrogance. But does it thence follow that a right of interpreting has been conveyed to a few? They also bring forward, that the Spirit was promised to the Church to guide her unto all truth, and bring to mind whatever Christ had taught. But while they, in the mean time, rob the Church of what was given her by Christ, does not their deceit deserve to be exposed?
The Spirit of God furnishes the gift of interpretation to those to whom he thinks fit to give it for the common edification of the Church. The effect and use of this gift is not only suppressed but annihilated by those who give the bishops sole power to dictate to others what they must follow. It often happens that the bishops have no knowledge of the genuine meaning of Scripture. Then those who force us to abide by their injunctions, arm madmen with a sword by which they can miserably hack the whole of Scripture to pieces. In short, whosoever subjects the meaning of Scripture to the will of the bishops, kills the soul, and leaves nothing but a lifeless corpse. We must drag forth the snake which the mediators hide among the brambles. Their object is, that there may be nothing in Scripture so clear and strong as not to be evaded by one word, if it happens not to, be agreeable to the horned herd.
The third part of ecclesiastical power our mediators place in the sanctuary of doctrines as well as laws. The former species they call Traditions, which, if any one disowns, he, in their opinion, denies that the Church is the foundation of the truth. By this trap miserable souls are ensnared, and dare not reject any superstition whatever which has prevailed for a long period of time. They, indeed, adduce a plausible example in the Baptism of Infants; but as there is no fiction too gross or childish to be vended in the Papacy under the name of Tradition, whosoever has not the caution to keep out of this trap, voluntarily entangles himself in all kinds of superstition.
I do not, however, concede to them that Paedobaptism had its origin in the Tradition of the Church. It certainly appears to be founded on the institution of God, and to have derived its origin from circumcision. It would have little foundation if it depended on]y on the will of man.
Accordingly, we must hold it as an universal rule, that no Sacrament is legitimate, unless it be of God and not of men. But to return to the present subject;; not only the Blessing of the Pascal taper, the Exorcism of Water, and similar follies, which are of endless number, but the ritual of the Mass, and all the impious worship of this description they make perfectly pure by a simple process, by merely giving them the name of Traditions, so that everything to which time has given a kind of prescriptive right is, as it were, placed beyond controversy, and holds up its head among the commandments of God. Will no man oppose this? Nay, rather a thousand times incur the obloquy of disturbing the peace, than by perfidious dissimulation betray the essential truth which is here endangered.
The true Church of Christ never passed any laws save such as might conduce to maintain order, cherish concord, and invigorate discipline. Such laws as every sober man will admit are rightly passed, and are to be observed by all pious men. Indeed, this is not the dispute. But it is necessary to provide against two evils, if we wish the Church to be safe.
That the burdens imposed at the present day on Christians are no lighter, and not less numerous and diversified than those which the Jews of old sustained, it is impossible for any man to doubt, though the thing is expressly contrary to the ordination of Christ. He who abrogated divine laws, in order to release us from bondage, assuredly never meant that we should be oppressed by new laws of men. It has been done however. Not only has that liberal government been taken away, but souls have been forced as it were into a mere slaughter-house; at least the necessary result is, that they must be kept in a state of constant torture. For some of them are openly repugnant to the prescribed rule of God, while the observance of others is impossible. Yet so far are those who hold the reins from curbing this tyranny, that their only thought is to establish it; and now our moderate men, by bringing forward the authority of the Church, make themselves the tools of this ungodly tyranny.
There is the other evil, the correction of which is not less necessary. The laws which the tyrants recommend under the name of the Church they term Spiritual, as being destined to rule the conscience. An appendage to this evil is the superstition which I mentioned, viz., their pretense that the observance of them pertains to the worship of God. But God claims spiritual government for himself alone, and for his word, that conscience untouched by man may learn to look only to his word. “There is one Lawgiver,” says James, ( James 4:12,) “who is able to save and to destroy.” And Paul strictly admonishes us, who have been set free by the benefit of Christ, not to enslave ourselves to men. ( 1 Corinthians 7:23.) In another place he rebukes the Colossians for being subject to decrees. ( Colossians 2:20.) What do our mediators say? Without any mention of redress, they simply lay us under the necessity of obeying as heretofore. But whatever is given to men is so much abstracted from the authority of God. Have done then with that prevaricating obedience which breaks the bridle of God in order to strangle us with the cords of men!
Their appointing the Roman Pontiff over the whole Church, a thing intolerable in itself, is to be more keenly repelled because of the pretense that it was a privilege granted to Peter. Christ commands Peter to feed his sheep. What! does he not command the other Apostles likewise? But there must be some reason why Christ addresses him in these terms. As if it were not clear that by the thrice repeated command to feed the sheep, he was restored to the honor of the Apostleship from which he had fallen by thrice denying Christ. But with what modesty, I ask, do they interpret the name of “sheep” as applying to the whole Church? By the same argument I might hold that the office which Christ bestowed upon him, he assigned to others, whom he exhorts to feed the flock of Christ. ( 1 Peter 5:2.) According to them, Peter was to govern the whole Church, because it was said to him, “Feed my sheep.” Therefore, when he writes; that the same thing was to be rightfully done by others, he either confers on them the right bestowed upon himself, or he shares it equally along with them.
But they sport too wantonly with Scripture when they pretend that the whole Church is comprehended under the name of “sheep.” he was indeed a shepherd of the sheep of Christ; that is, those of them on whom he bestowed his labor, and as far as his ministry could extend. For if he was to preside over all Churches with plenitude of power, as our mediators prate, Paul acted unjustly in denying him superior rank. But who ever heard tell of Peter having claimed anything for himself in regard to other strange Churches? Nay, rather, when he is sent by the Church, he obeys like any other one of the meeting. I deny hot that he was distinguished among others, and that, because of the excellent gifts in which he excelled, the honor of the first place in all their meetings was assigned to him. But to have the command of the whole world is a very different thing from presiding over a small body of men.
But let us assume that all which they pretend was given to Peter: who can concede that it was given as a Patrimony which he might transmit to heirs?
They say he left to successors the same right which he had received.
Therefore, every one who is a successor of Peter must be Satan, since this epithet was applied to him! Where is there any mention of Succession?
When Paul treats professedly of the whole administration of the Church, he neither appoints one head, nor makes the primacy hereditary; and yet in that place he is wholly intent on commending unity. After mentioning that there is one God the Father, one Christ, one Spirit, one body of the Church, one baptism, he describes the mode of preserving unity, viz., that to each of the pastors grace was distributed according to the measure bestowed upon them by Christ. Where is the plenitude of power when he refers each to a certain measure? Why did he not immediately add one ]Pope? Nothing would have been more appropriate to the occasion had the fact been so.
Let us grant, moreover, that a perpetuity of Primacy in the Church was sanctioned ill Peter. Why should the Seat of Primacy be found at Rome rather than elsewhere? The reason they allege is, that it was the See of Peter; just as if one were to place the principal See of the Jewish Church in the desert, because there Moses the greatest of Prophets, and Aaron the High Priest, performed their office even till death. But let the reason be good. What of Antioch? They prefer Rome because Paul died there. But there are probable grounds for inferring that what they say of the Roman Episcopate of ]Peter is fabulous. Paul salutes several private individuals when he writes to the Church of Rome. Three years after he is carried thither a prisoner; Luke relates that he was received by the brethren; — still there is no mention of Peter. Paul writes various Epistles from prison: he mentions the names of certain persons of no mean rank; — there is no place for Peter among them. If he were there, such silence would be a marked insult! Then, when he complains that at his first defense no man stood by him, would he not affix the stigma of extreme perfidy on Peter if he was then the Pastor of the city? Again, when, in another place, he glances at all whom he had with him, who can believe that Peter was of the number? And yet this is almost the whole time which they assign to his Roman See.
But without raising that question, If Rome obtains the Primacy because it was Peter’s last See, why does not Antioch hold the second place at least among the Patriarchares? Why were James and John, who appeared to be pillars along with Peter, unable to acquire the next dignity for their Sees?
How preposterous was the mode of distribution, when they preferred Alexandria, the see of Mark, who was only one of the disciples, to Ephesus and Jerusalem? But I desist from comparing Apostles together.
Where did the Lord and Master of all, before whose splendor all other dignity vanishes away, perform the office of High-Priest, both in teaching and dying, but at Jerusalem? Shall Jerusalem then be no See of Christ, and Rome seize upon the honor? To this we add, that the apostleship of Peter was specially to the Jews, as Paul testifies, and therefore properly has no reference to us. Let us leave it to the Jews, then, whose question it is, to debate about this succession.
With the same modesty they produce Cyprian as a witness in this cause — Cyprian, who charges Bishops with tyrannical pride if they arrogate to themselves any authority over their colleagues! He indeed commends one bishopric, but it is the bishopric of Christ, of which each bishop holds a part in solidum , as he expresses it. But he afterwards states that schisms arose from contempt of the Chief Priest. See their ingenuousness! What Cyprian says of the Levitical priesthood they wrest to the Papacy. For, if Cyprian regarded all as schismatics who refuse to, submit to the Roman Pontiff, what place is he himself to occupy after having inveighed so freely against Stephen, not only charging him with ignorance and arrogance, but forcing him back into his proper place, as if he were one of the common herd? Wherefore, let them here cease so impudently to abuse the testimony of God and man.
But it is a useful means of removing dissension, they say, that there be one of eminence whom all are compelled to obey. Of this, then, let them leave the Church at liberty to consult; and let them not pretend that an appointment which ought to be made on grounds of expediency was prescribed by God. But even this expediency is falsely pretended, especially while the plenitude of power of which they boast breaks out into licentiousness, and can no more be separated from tyranny than the fire can be separated from its own heat. And not to continue longer here, if plenary power over the Christian world is nothing else than an Universal Bishopric, Gregory everywhere denounces it as nefarious and blasphemous, and fit only for Antichrist! To whom shall we give credit on the subject of the Papacy more readily than to a Pope? Let the Roman Pontiff now plume himself as he will on this authority which flatterers ascribe to him: with men of sense he will do no more than show himself to be Antichrist!
Now, to leave everything else, if they wish the Roman Pontiff to be recognized as Head of the whole Church, they must, in the first place, give us a true bishop; for who is to have pre-eminence among bishops but one, and an excellent one in the order of bishops? They themselves, when they would deck out the Papacy, have ever in their mouths the Succession of Peter and Vicegerency of Christ. Will our mediators then have the audacity to give the name of Christ’s Vicar to one who, after routing the truth of Christ, extinguishing the light of the gospel, overthrowing the salvation of men, corrupting and profaning the worship of God, and trampling down and tearing to pieces all his sacred institutions, domineers like a barbarian?
What resemblance, I ask, has the Pope to Christ, that he should be his substitute and representative? What has his tyranny in common with the ministry of Peter, that he should be deemed Peter’s successor? Therefore, in order to our coming to an agreement concerning the Primacy, we must set out with insisting that he on whom we confer the first place in the Church shall prove himself to be truly a bishop. For he who lays it down as the bond of unity, that, be the Roman Bishop what he may, the whole world should be subject to him, can never gain his point in any other way than by stirring up an impious revolt from Christ.
In the Sacraments our worthy and impartial pacificators show this much moderation, that the number seven, which was rashly devised by the presumption of unlearned men, and crept in through the foolish credulity of the world, is to be retained as sacred. I must ever be entreating my readers to reflect on the weight and magnitude of the cause under discussion. Christ instituted the Sacraments to be not only symbols of the true religion, which might distinguish the children of God from the profane, but also evidences, and therefore pledges of the divine favor toward us. In Baptism, both forgiveness of sins and the spirit of regeneration are offered to us; in the Holy Supper we are invited to enjoy the life of Christ along with all his benefits. Where are we to stop if with these the fictions of men are intermingled?
They pretend, indeed, that God is the author of the whole. This subject will be discussed afterwards. At present, I only say that we shall be dastardly indeed if we allow any Ceremonies whatsoever, the offspring of human brains, to be put on a footing with those solemn mysteries in which the sum of our salvation is contained. When Christ asks, whether the Baptism of John was from heaven or of men? ( Matthew 21:25,) he intimates, that it was not to be regarded as legitimate and binding if it was not of divine appointment. The same holds good in all the Sacraments.
And, indeed, while these mediators profess that the Sacraments not only attest but exhibit things above the reach and faculty of men, it is plain that the perverseness is extreme which would subject them to the will of men.
That two Sacraments were committed to us by Christ is undisputed. Of the other five, then, let us see what we ought to think.
Before proceeding, however, it may be worth while briefly to observe in regard to Baptism that what they say of its absolute necessity might better have been omitted. For, besides tying down the salvation of men to external signs, no small injustice is done to the promise, as if it were unable to give the salvation which it offers unless its sufficiency were aided from another quarter. The offspring of believers is born holy, because their children, while yet in the womb, before they breathe the vital air, are included in the covenant of eternal life. Nor, indeed, are they admitted into the Church by baptism on any other ground than that they belonged to the body of Christ before they were born. He who admits any others to baptism profanes it. Now, then, when they make baptism to be so necessary that they exclude all who have not been dipped with it from the hope of salvation, they both insult God and also involve themselves in great absurdity. For how could it be lawful to put the sacred impress of Christ on strangers? Baptism must, therefore, be preceded by the gift of adoption, which is not the cause merely of a partial salvation, but bestows salvation entire, and is afterwards ratified by baptism.
Hence, as error usually springs from error, the office of baptizing, which Christ committed to the Ministers of the Church alone, they delegate not to any common individual among the people, but to silly women. I do not notice that when discussing the form of baptism they postpone the explanation of the doctrine as if it were of little moment, and insist on the bare pronunciation of the words: as if Christ, when he ordered his Apostles to baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, had dictated some kind of magical charm, and not rather meant summarily to indicate whence the whole efficacy of baptism flows, in whose name and by whose order it is administered, on what faith it depends, and to what end it ought to be referred.
All the Ceremonies by which posterity has partly vitiated, partly obscured, the pure Baptism of Christ, they order to be left untouched; nay, if they have been anywhere abolished they are to be restored. What else is this than to soil the heavenly laver of Christ with the muddy impurities of man? Christ commanded the simple symbol of water. With it, as was right, the Apostles were contented. The same soberness did not prevail with their successors. They became delighted with the oil and the taper and similar follies. At length, as is usual, perverse superstition crept in, and the chrism added by man was considered of more value than the water consecrated by Christ! The water itself behooved to be consecrated by a new and showy rite, as if it were otherwise profane. In short, the act of baptizing has been compounded of so many various parts that the symbol of water, which alone ought to have been conspicuous, is lost among the crowd.
Our superstitious masters allege that these additions serve to adorn Baptism, but the fact proclaims that the pure administration of it is rather obscured. There was need at least of some correction. Our mediators, so far from admitting this, distinctly provide that nothing is to be touched.
Let this much be granted to ancient custom, that things which are not only superfluous, but useless, may be tolerated. But what if any are found to be absurd and ridiculous, and little suited to the dignity of the ordinance?
They will themselves be forced to admit that of this sort is the spittle with which they moisten the infant’s lips. Christ anointed the mouth of the dumb man, whose speech he was about to restore, with spittle. How preposterous the imitation which tries the same thing on infants! Is it thus that the miracles of Christ behoove to be commemorated? This mockery, (whence or when it arose is unknown, but it certainly has no authority of weight,) when they obstinately defend, do they not plainly show that their object is not to leave us one spark of light?
In treating of the Supper they bring back the fiction of Transubstantiation, against which all are forced to protest who are unwilling that the true use of the Supper should be lost to them. A common property of the Sacraments is, that in a manner adapted to the human intellect they exhibit what is spiritual by a visible sign. The spiritual meaning of the Supper is, that the flesh of Christ is the meat and his blood the drink on which our souls are fed. Unless the sign correspond to this the nature of the Sacrament is destroyed. It is therefore necessary that the bread and wine be held forth to us, that from them we may learn what Christ sets before us in figure. But if the bread which we see is an empty show, what will it attest to us but an empty shadow of the flesh of Christ? They pretend that there is only an appearance of bread, which deceives the eye. How far will this phantom carry us? Believers, in order to recognize the true feeding of the soul, must therefore stop at the sign which corresponds to the body on which they are to feed. In short, the object of the Sacraments is to effect, by an analogy between the sign and the thing signified, a kind of transition from the bodily sense to the understanding mind.
What do our worthy moderators say? You are mistaken in thinking you taste bread and wine. That which was bread has ceased to be so, and nothing remains but a spectrum ! Of what thing then will it be to me a symbol? To make the matter plainer, let us borrow a similitude from Baptism. Should any one deny that what we are there washed with is water, will not the whole reality of baptism immediately vanish? For who can persuade himself that he has the washing of regeneration if he finds nothing of the kind in the sign? Therefore, in order that the Sacrament may be beneficial to us, we must never allow ourselves to be driven from this position, which is also confirmed by several strong passages of Scripture — that the bread which is broken among us is the koinwni>an (communion) of the body, and that, in like manner, the wine is the communion of the blood of Christ.
In addition to the clear testimony of Scripture we have the consent of the Primitive Church. Nothing is more certain than that this dream, which did not come into the mind of any man for more than six hundred years, suddenly emerged, like a kind of abortion, from brawling sophists; and yet so strong was the belief of the analogy I have mentioned, between the sign and the thing signified, that it was at first exploded. Several years afterwards passed away, during which barbarism increased, and, along with the study of all good arts, a purer religion became obsolete. This was Satan’s opportunity for again introducing the scouted doctrine. And yet in almost all ages have there been men of sound minds, who did not disguise their dissatisfaction, but declared it not only freely by their voice, but also by their writings.
But granting that the error has been confirmed by a remote antiquity, we are strictly bound by the words of Christ not to dare to subscribe to any human decrees which would set us at variance with them. Christ orders us to take and eat bread. This is the most serious act of all. A promise is added, which, cannot have effect unless we truly eat bread. For the analogy I have mentioned must always be retained, — that, as the body is nourished by bread and wine, so the flesh of Christ is the food, and his blood the drink of the soul. We, therefore, obeying the command of Christ, at the same time also embrace the promise, not doubting but that the secret virtue of the Spirit will effect within us that which bread signifies to the eye. Those worthy men who assume the part of pacificators, assert a fictitious metamorphosis, which is nowhere mentioned in Scripture, with as much superciliousness as if an hundred messages had been sent from heaven to confirm it.
We say that we cannot lawfully depart from the exact words of Christ.
What cause is there for their being so fierce against the reverence which we thus pay to Christ, that on this single charge they pronounce us heretics?
For not contented with the simple ordinary condemnation, they calumniously accuse us of questioning the omnipotence of Christ, and charging him with foolishness, as if we were here disputing about the power of Christ, and not rather searching for the meaning of the ordinance in his word. That all things are to be changed by Christ, we too admit. But should any one from this infer that heaven is changed into earth, he will be a ridiculous estimator of the divine power, destroying the whole order of nature as fixed and established by God, to substitute monstrosities in its stead. Thus, in this question, they trouble themselves to no purpose in seeking what Christ can do, when the only point which ought to occupy all our thoughts is, what does Christ will? But his will can only be ascertained by his word. Let them then produce one syllable in evidence of this alleged transmutation. Not one can be found. Nothing then can be more futile than the calumny by which they bring us into contest with the power of Christ, a contest which has no existence.
When they say that we charge Christ with foolishness, how mightily do they lie? Christ declares, that he gives his body and his blood by holding forth bread and wine. All this we receive, and doubt not that he will make good his promise, which, however, cannot be made good unless the thing itself be exhibited. But thus it is. In comparison with their prodigies they value as nothing whatever has proceeded from the mouth of Christ, and explains the whole force of the ordinance, and contains the whole effect of the spiritual grace in which faith acquiesces. Here, without enumerating the endless absurdities, or rather monstrous errors, which this Transubstantiation has produced, who that is at all pious, and duly instructed in the school of Christ, does not detest it, even on this account — that while the Supper of Christ has the property of raising us to heaven, no sooner is the persuasion settled in our minds that the bread is changed into the body of Christ, than our thoughts, which ought to have risen to heaven, are immediately bent down to earth? Christ invites us to himself. As we cannot climb so high, he himself lends us his hand, and assists us with the helps which he knows to be suited to us, and even lifts us to heaven, as it is very appropriately expressed by those who, compare the Sacraments to ladders. Suppose now, as these men insist, that what is seen on the sacred table is not bread but Christ inclosed, who will not remain fixed down both in mind and body to earth, when he thinks he possesses Christ? In this way the sign which ought to have employed each bodily sense in raising the mind above the heavens, keeps it bound by the bodily senses under the elements of the world. Here I only express what has notoriously happened. How few will be found in the Papacy who do not gaze so stupidly on the outward sign as to forget that Christ is to be sought amid the glories of heaven!
To this gross stupor a still worse superstition is annexed. For where is Christ adored except in the bread? But if the authority of Scripture prevailed with us, we would think so magnificently of his celestial glory, that we would not allow ourselves to have any carnal or earthly thought of him. Though we may deem preposterous adoration of Christ a light fault, it will not cease to be regarded by God and angels as execrable sacrilege.
Thanks, however, to our moderators for speaking out their sentiments freely. They might have deceived by silence. But when they assert that Christ is properly adored in the Sacrament, their words admonish us what we shall have to do if we subscribe to their decrees.
I certainly admit that Christ is to be worshipped wherever we are; and in the Supper, where he offers himself to be enjoyed by us, he cannot be duly received unless he be adored. But the question is, Whether is our adoration to look upwards or downwards? Moreover, as nothing is done there that is not heavenly, though it be done on earth, if we would prepare ourselves for receiving with benefit, our minds must be raised higher than the earth and the world. Then, while Christ is seated in heavenly glory, any one who turns in a different direction to adore him departs from him.
And what meaning will there be in the ancient preamble, “Sursum Corda,” which the Papists still chant in their masses, if our worship cleaves to the earth? But when men have once entered a labyrinth, the result must always be, that as they proceed they get more and more entangled.
Therefore, if we would adore Christ as we ought, we must lay aside all earthly thoughts of him. In this way, when celebrating the Supper, we shall indeed worship him as present, but with minds upraised to heaven, whither faith calls us, not fixed down on the bread, which were not less at variance with the right rule of faith, than with the glorious majesty of Christ.
Then as to their saying that after the Supper is finished, the body of Christ, nevertheless, remains, as long as the consecrated bread is preserved, this behooved to be added to make them consistent in error. For whither could the body of Christ fly away, after once the bread had taken its place? But what kind of religion should we say those have who assent to such vile absurdities, unless, indeed, it be mere pretense? For who that is not plainly fascinated by the devil will desire more in the Sacrament than the promises contain?
Let us now weigh the words of Christ. He certainly does not address the bread, and bid it become his body. The bread, therefore, is not for himself, nor is the body in himself, but for us, inasmuch as it is offered to us for a spiritual symbol. Then, while the command and the promise cohere to each other, it is not for us to put asunder what the Son of God hath joined.
But what does he say? Before promising us his body and blood, he orders us to take, eat, and drink. Now, if the communion which he enjoins be taken away, what place will there be for the promise annexed to it? Christ, I say, extends to us his body, but it is to be eaten; he holds forth his blood, but it is to be drunk. The whole force of the consecration, therefore, is directed to us, not to the bread or the wine; and indeed to us, as obeying the command of Christ.
This reference may be illustrated by a similitude. Paul declares, ( Corinthians 10:3, 4,) that the manna was spiritual food, and that the water which flowed from the rock was, in like manner, the same spiritual drink as ours. The words are clear. The fathers were partakers, though under different signs, of the same Christ with ourselves. But who ever heard that the pot of manna which was reserved was worshipped by the pious? Nay, though the Jews were carried, with a kind of frantic impetus, to all kinds of idolatry, none of them ever thought of such a thing. What if, during the eating, any part of the body of Christ should have fallen, or been trampled upon? What! when more than the proper quantity had been collected, and it became putrid, did the body of Christ become tainted? Should any one have employed that water in washing away impurities, would the blood of Christ have been soiled? That which was carried away to the crevices of the ground, that which the cattle drank — (for they had no other wateringplace) — what was it but water? We thus see that nothing lies under signs, except with reference to those to whom the signification belongs. In like manner we refute their prattle about adoration. For though Paul declares that the rock was Christ, the Israelites were not so stupid as to prostrate themselves before it.
But to return to the subject in hand: Our mediators insist that, after consecration, the body of Christ always remains, independently of its use in the Supper. If conjectures are to be admitted, it is certainly probable that, when our Lord celebrated the first Supper with the Apostles, some fragment of the bread remained over, and we do not read that he who received the cup last drank the whole: for they were all ordered to drink of the cup, not to drink it out. It might thus have happened that the blood of Christ was swallowed by some random guest. What! when one loaf was broken in the primitive Church, will they say that the remains were set aside in a cupboard? No; they had not yet learned the new wisdom, which feigns that the bread is changed by magical incantation. Let us, then, adhering to the words of Christ himself, acknowledge that his body is no more exhibited to us by the bread, than the grace of God is without his promises. He says that he gives his body, not to be kept shut up in a cupboard, but to be distributed among the faithful.
The use of the cup, as those who have been accustomed to it cannot easily be kept from it, is conceded to them by way of indulgence, and under condition that they are not to find fault with the practice which has been long in use, of communicating under one kind. The privilege they are to enjoy till such time as a decree of the Council lets them understand what is to be done. What will be stable in religion, if we subject the ordinances of the Son of God to abrogation at the will of men? The command is clear, “ DRINK YE ALL OF IT.” They evade this by the puerile cavil, that Christ spoke thus to the Apostles alone, whom he had already made priests: as if he were not prescribing a common rule for all. What! did he institute a special Sacrament for priests and not rather for the whole Church? If there were any doubt on the subject, Paul removes it when he declares that he delivered to the Corinthians, male and female, that which he had received of the Lord, viz., that ALL, WITHOUT EXCEPTION, WERE TO DRINK. Can a better interpretation be desired?
It is notorious that this mode of Communicating, as delivered by the Lord, was practiced in the Church for more than seven hundred years. Nay, an edict of Gelasius is extant, which excommunicates those who abstain from the cup and take the other part. “Let them,” says he, “be kept from the whole, or let them take the whole: they cannot take the ordinance thus divided without great sacrilege.” To this sacrilege which Gelasius so much detests, men have dared to break forth not only by a superstitious obstinacy, but by a tyrannical prohibition. What pious mind does not shudder at this diabolical audacity?
The pretexts used to defend it only double the evil. As some drops of the blood might occasionally be spilled, they allege that it was to obviate this danger. Thus, if we believe them, they alone have observed that for which the eternal wisdom of God failed to provide. The mistake committed by it they behoove to correct. We have already obviated the danger by disposing of the false idea of magical exorcism; but yet though a thousand dangers impended, I maintain that it would not be lawful to make any change in the perpetual and inviolable edict of Christ.
They allege that Christ is received whole under the bread, because he cannot be divided. The refutation of this quibble is also easy. Christ is entire in himself, but still so that he can communicate himself to us according to the measure of our faith. It is certainly not without cause that He offers his body to us under the bread, and his blood under the wine: for he in this manner testifies that he is our whole food, which consists of meat and drink. Christ enjoins us not to seek a part of life only, but our whole life in him. And as he knows that for this we need some assistance, he holds forth to us the symbols of meat and drink. In holding forth the bread, he declares that his flesh will be our meat, and he adds the cup to intimate that in his blood we have spiritual drink. Now, when men interpose and give out that one part is amply sufficient for us, as Christ cannot be divided, are they to be listened to while so openly subverting the ordinance? And, indeed, by so acting they as much as in them lies divide Christ, while they fear not to separate those sacred badges of his body and blood, which he has joined by an inseparable tie.
They say that he who has Christ whole under this species of bread, ought to be contented with it. But seeing that he communicates his body and his blood to us separately under two symbols, we shall not be contented till we have the whole which he himself has given. For he who allows men to restrict it to a half, in the first place , derogates as much from Christ; and, in the second place , by lacerating the ordinance, deprives himself of its fruit and virtue. And we must boldly repudiate the language of certain crafty men, who tell us, that as it is an external matter, it is not much worth the fighting for. While they butcher so many innocent men for the worship of their idol, whence does this talk of so much moderation suddenly arise? In vindicating the badge of the blood by which we have been redeemed, let us not, if need be, spare our own blood!
To make out Confirmation to be a Sacrament, they pretend that it differs not from the laying on of hands which Luke relates that the Apostles used.
If this is true, how will they show their license to make that common and promiscuous which was destined for certain persons only. We do not read that the Apostles laid hands upon all, but that they used this symbol only in distributing the gifts of the Holy Spirit. That these were common to all, even they themselves do not allege. There will, therefore, be this difference, that a Sacrament which the Apostles bestowed on certain men only, our new mediators expose to all alike. Then when they confess that Chrism has been superadded, whereas the Apostles only used the laying on of hands, who do they think will be persuaded that men have obtained the power of exhibiting any gift of the Spirit which it pleases them to figure? After enumerating the seven, they tell us that each of them effects what it figures. Therefore, if men are at liberty to bring forth a Sacrament without authority from the word of God, that which God claims for himself alone has been subjected to their will.
Besides, their doctrine is repugnant to the very definition of a Sacrament.
They will not deny that the end proposed by the Sacraments is to be a kind of seals to us in confirming the promises of God in our minds. Where, then, is the use of a Sacrament, if it seals no promise? But none can be found which they can fit to their Confirmation. In the Sacraments we seek proof of the Divine favor towards us — proof which none but God himself can furnish. What is there of this nature in Confirmation? In short, as the public stamp distinguishes genuine coin from spurious, so, whereever I do not see the word of God engraven, there I will confidently object that a Sacrament is falsely alleged.
I hear what our moderators advance on the other side. All the promises which we have concerning the gift of the Spirit they accommodate to Confirmation. But it is to take far too much license to themselves to restrict what God promises simply to any whatever of their ceremonies.
Simple and disencumbered of any sign are the words which I have from the lips of Christ — that his Spirit will be continually present with believers.
Those men pretend that they have the Spirit inclosed in oil as in a kind of box, and that he is brought out by their unction. Meanwhile, the promises which they thus misapply they pretend to found upon, that they may not seem to speak without reason.
But since the Church believes thus, they tell us that, if we think differently, we must deny her to be the pillar of the truth — an atrocious crime, if it were real! But as they assume the name of the Church, not less falsely than arrogantly, over what else do they insult than the everoppressed truth? And the better to betray their barbarian ferocity, they call that so oft-exploded fiction of septiform grace the faith of the Church, of which none may lawfully doubt.
Isaiah enumerates six gifts of the Spirit with which he teaches that Christ would be endued. ( Isaiah 11:2.) How a seventh has been added in the common version, I know not. As if some sublime mystery had been beneath, septiform grace was coined out of it. But, first, the number seven originated in mistake. Secondly, to say nothing of this, what equity will there be in forcing the Spirit of God, as it were, into a corner, and confining him to seven effects, when he is elsewhere called the Spirit of truth and holiness, and grace, and prayer, and adoption, and is here invested by the Prophet with six titles? If either our ingratitude or blindness of our eyes is so great that the goodness of our cause is overwhelmed by unjust prejudices, there will certainly be more justice in posterity, who will recognize how furiously those wolves who arrogate the name of shepherds have preyed on the innocent sheep of Christ.
There is nothing so absurd, nothing so foul, as not to get wiped by this one towel — the Church, which is the best Interpreter of Scripture, thinks so. Thus, when they assign the right of Confirming to bishops only, they add, that this was approved by the consent of the whole Church; that is, if such consent is to be estimated by their caprice. But here they act still more unworthily. They fear not to allege the practice of the Apostles. As there are only three passages in Luke where he relates that the Spirit was given by this ceremony, ( Acts 8:17, 9:17, 19:6,) he testifies that hands were laid on Paul himself by Ananias, just as they were on others by Paul, John, and Peter. What bishopric will they give to Ananias that he may not be said to have seized on another’s office? And yet they cry out that we are heretics if we do not assent to their convicted falsehoods! Nay, when they substitute common priests for bishops, in case of necessity, (on which subject their Canons contain an epistle of forgery,) they show that that apostolical practice which they play before our eyes is by no means held to be their law.
Still, however, the laying on of hands, they say, is to be observed: for if it is not to be believed that the Apostles used it without command from Christ, their observance of it is equivalent to a law to us. To this they add, that it was not a vain symbol. Hence they infer that it ought to be considered as a Sacrament. I admit both positions; but our mediators, not considering what ought not to have been omitted, viz., of what thing it was a Sacrament, ignorantly make that perpetual which was temporary.
It is notorious that the Gifts of the Spirit, which were then given by the laying on of hands, some time after ceased to be conferred. Whether this was owing to the ingratitude of the world, or because the doctrine of the Gospel had already been sufficiently distinguished by the miracles of nearly an hundred years, is of no consequence to the present subject. All see that the thing which the Apostles indicated by that rite was taken away. To what end, then, since the reality has received its accomplishment, will the sign be prolonged? Should any one in the present day attempt to introduce the practice of lying on the dead, because Elisha and Paul, on good authority, used the symbol in raising the dead, who would not at once repudiate the preposterous imitation? We therefore deny not that it was a Sacrament to the Apostles, but we hold it to be one which was abrogated when the reality was taken away. Wherefore, if our mediators wish to retain the use of it, let them first restore the thing signified.
But though I admit that after Miracles had ceased, the practice of laying on of hands was nevertheless retained by the primitive Church, we ought not to be considered as thus prejudiced, unless a distinct authority from Scripture can be produced. Besides, our mediators give a very different reason from that of the early Christians. For while Augustine acknowledges that it is nothing but a solemn symbol of prayer, they in vain endeavor to hide themselves under the shadow of those from whom they so widely differ.
We also should like to see that rite everywhere restored by which the young are presented to God, after giving forth a Confession of their Faith.
This would be a not unbecoming approval of their Catechism. But however pious and useful some ordinances of men may be, they must sink far beneath the honor of Sacraments, which were divinely delivered to us, and have comprehended in them the covenant of eternal salvation.
Now, however, Unction cannot be received without those appendages which all the pious ought justly to abhor. For what is less to be borne than that Confirmation should be preferred to Baptism, and be called a worthier Sacrament, and be regarded with greater veneration? Our mediators indeed craftily disguise these foul blasphemies, but as they necessarily accompany the oil, what do they aim at by such silence, but just to murder us unaware? Unction, according to them, proceeded from the Church. But it is the same Church, if we believe them, which introduced those meretricious glosses for the purpose of adorning her cause. If we assent, will not Christ justly upbraid us with making void the commandments of God through human traditions? And what is the commandment of God that will thus be spurned? Baptism, the washing of regeneration, by which we put on Christ — Baptism, the testimony of our adoption, the entrance into the kingdom of God, ablution in the blood of Christ, the commencement of new and eternal life, will yield to oil trodden out in the press of men. And shall we be judged Christians, if not only by our silence, but by open suffrage, we give room for so iniquitous a comparison?
The Council of Aurelium decreed that all who had been baptized were to be Confirmed, in order to be found full Christians! for it denies them to be Christians until they are anointed with Episcopal oil. Our mediators take it for granted that this is a decree of the Church. What then will become of the Apostles and martyrs who were never oiled? Nay rather, what will become of us if we long for any other Christianity than that which Apostles and martyrs had? This dogma, which wrenches us away from their society, is not so affronting to them as fatal to ourselves.
Another diabolical sentiment broached by the Council our mediators expressly confirm, though they speak somewhat more modestly. But what matters it, seeing that both look to the same end? The sum is, that we are Regenerated to life in Baptism, but are equipped for battle by Confirmation! What else is this than to strip baptism of one half of its efficacy? For if we therein put on Christ, if we are ingrafted into the likeness of his death, so that being dead to the world and the flesh, we rise again to newness of life, which is to endure for ever — who sees not that our mediators transfer what was contained under baptism to their own fictitious Unction? Our part, therefore, is to expose our life an hundred times, rather then silently and dissemblingly allow our baptism to be thus rent asunder.
The Sacrament of Penance we have already in some measure discussed, when treating of Confession. At present I will only remark, that atrocious insult is offered to God, when the name of Sacrament is given to the kind of Absolution which they pretend to be necessary. I mention not that a destructive snare is laid for consciences, when confession is prescribed as necessary to obtain forgiveness of sins. This has been already said elsewhere. But when they insist that the reconciliation of man with God shall be sealed by the ceremony of Absolution, I say that they do a thing too arrogant for men to do! Where did they get the license to fabricate a sign at their own hands, and then order it to be a pledge to sanction salvation? God promises us the forgiveness of sins. Of the ceremony there is not one word. These men send us away to a priest, who by a wave of his hand is to declare to us that our sins are forgiven — as if they had the power of affixing the efficacy of Christ’s death to their decrees. Therefore, as we value the forgiveness of sins, so must we earnestly contend that the belief of it shall not be suspended on a rite humanly devised.
As we acknowledge the Anointing which the Apostles used in Curing the Sick to have been a Sacrament, so we deny that it belongs to us, because, like the grace to which it was subservient, it was temporary. All know that the gift of healing was not perpetual. It is one of those things by which God was pleased to distinguish the new preaching of the gospel until it should gain credit in the world. Accordingly, we can gather from ancient historians that it was shortly after taken away. In a matter so notorious and confessed, it were superfluous to adduce evidence. What then do our mediators mean? If they pretend that the gift which the Apostles denoted by the symbol of oil, lasted beyond their age, they will be convicted of the vilest effrontery. Now, there is a common axiom, that “the accessory follows the nature of the principal,” and therefore I conclude, that after the thing was taken away it is not only in vain to retain the sign, but it is to sport with too serious a matter. In order to be true imitators of the Apostles they must be endued with the gift of healing. And while not possessing it they nevertheless usurp the sign, they are nothing but apes.
But James the brother of the Lord not only gives evidence in favor of this Unction, but also celebrates it by his own promulgation. For here their rhetorical vehemence waxes very boisterous. I willingly assent to the words of James, ( James 5:14,) but I deny it to have been his intention to prostitute what he knew to be an efficacious sign representing divine grace, to a frigid imitation. It is certain that the anointers of this day are no more ministers of the grace of which James speaks than the player who acted Agamemnon on the stage was a king.
They allege that the grace which Christ here holds forth is despised. But what is that grace? Those whom the Apostles anointed they at the same time cured. So Mark testifies. ( Mark 3.) Now, however, none are anointed but the dying, so that when any one afterwards recovers, they are not far from thinking that the unction has been profaned. And our moderators repeat the caution not to apply the oil till death is evidently approaching. But let them answer me: When James assigns this relief to the sick indiscriminately, how dare they restrict it to perilous and mortal diseases? If the authority of James is of such weight with them, why do they hesitate not to depart from it? But allowing them to use this license with impunity, with what face do they bring forward James, whose words expressly overthrow what they would establish? He declares that the sick man will be relieved. How many recover health by the oil? Scarcely one in a hundred lives after unction. Nay, they do not administer it to cure their sickness, but to send them fatter to the grave. And still they charge us with cruelty for refusing this most admirable solace to the sick; as if one was ever seen who had experienced any benefit from it. I omit the many frivolities with which this histrionic unction is accompanied, nay, the impious superstitions with which it is stuffed, for I have said enough already to demonstrate their folly.
The Laying on of Hands, by which Ministers are consecrated to their office, I do not quarrel with them for calling a Sacrament. But that this appellation should be applied to what they call the seven orders, as they have hitherto been received in the Papacy, and our mediators approve, I hold to be not at all agreeable to reason. Nay, what they affirm of the priesthood is nugatory, viz., that the honor and authority of it are conferred on all whom bishops ordain. First, it is well known to what end men are ordained in the Papacy, viz., in order to sacrifice. For the formal chant of inauguration bears, that power is given them to offer Sacrifices pleasing to God: though they cannot show that anything of this kind was commanded by Christ.
Although the discussion of this matter will be better deferred to the proper place, it is easy by a single word to overthrow their pretended priesthood.
When bishops, without any authority from God, appoint individuals to offer sacrifices, by what right will they cause the Holy Spirit to descend upon them? I wholly deny that the Papal priesthood is founded on a divine call. How then can I dignify the ceremony by which they are ordained with the name of Sacrament?
Moreover, when our glossing mediators insinuate a Perpetual Succession, we must again withstand their craftiness. They insist that all presbyters are to be deemed legitimate who have been ordained by horned bishops, and they exclude all from the ministry who have not been ordained by their hands. In the former case, indeed, they go much farther, and, as if they were making new creatures, pretend that an indelible character is imprinted by the benediction of the bishop.
It is worth while to observe what the rite is for imprinting this character.
As Christ by breathing gave a sign of the Spirit whom he was bestowing on the Apostles, so their bishops, as if they were, blowing out the Holy Spirit from their throats, emulate the example of Christ after their fashion, in other words, preposterously. There is another thing also which they borrow from the Mosaic law, viz., anointing the fingers. But who taught them to bring back into use what Christ abrogated by his advent? In this matter they are not only destitute of precept, but they cannot without falsehood even pretend the countenance of antiquity. Both are novel inventions unknown to antiquity.
If the right of the Priesthood in which they glory is founded on a Perpetual Succession from the Apostles, let its origin first be investigated. I have already mentioned their principal ceremony, and I deny it to have the authority of the Apostles. Their priesthood, therefore, fails at the very beginning, or rather is far distant from the beginning which they would assign to it.
But to come to the fountainhead, how often in many places has their Succession been interrupted? Over how many Churches do their histories tell that heretics presided? Almost all Germany twice before our day abandoned the Roman See: once when Presbyters were forced to put away their wives, and a second time when Gregory VII., in his hostility to the Emperor Henry IV., sought to withdraw the Germans from him by fulminating at them. I omit more recent examples which will readily occur to the well-informed reader. Who, moderately versant in history, does not know that three Antipopes distracted the Church by their factions? Two of them at least appointed several bishops, and those again ordained presbyters. Where is the continuous Succession?
But, omitting these, it will be necessary to leap over Popess Joan, if they would continue their series from the Apostles! If ancient annals are examined we shall find that many primary Sees were occupied by heretics.
They gain nothing by concealing all these interruptions. — To return to more recent times. Until they prove the Council of Basle not to be legitimate, I shall always maintain that there is not an individual among the whole Popish clergy who is not schismatical. They all derive their origin from Eugenius, whom the Council not only deposed from the Papacy, but condemned with all his followers, as guilty of heresy and schism. I am aware of the usual answer. It is the only asylum remaining to them: they boldly repudiate the authority of that Council. But as it had all the marks which they require in a lawful Council, what force this repudiation ought to have let pious readers judge!
Even were these things not so, I deny that there is truly one bishop under the whole Papacy, unless indeed, in a proof of such consequence, we are satisfied with the title and the insignia. I do not now say what kind of insignia they are by which they attract reverence. All the pious know that they are profane masks, at the sight of which the Apostles, if they were alive, would stand amazed. Assume, however, that if there was the reality besides, they would be in other respects befitting, are we to judge them bishops from mere empty parade? They have nothing episcopal about them except that a few occasionally mount the pulpit to deliver one or two sermons, and then, as if they had performed their part, do something else the rest of the year. Others are kept back by ignorance, and a goodly number from thinking it somehow or other beneath their dignity to address the people, although scarcely one in a hundred could be found who could perform the office of teaching without making himself a laughingstock.
Assume, however, that by their silence and doing nothing they are Successors of the Apostles, how few of them deign to make presbyters by their own hand? Do they not, for the most part, delegate the task to vile mendicants? Good God! to what are we fallen? that there should be such mockery in the Church, that any one bound by a vow of perpetual poverty, but who, by begging and chanting, has raked together three hundred gold pieces, and spent them in purchasing a bull giving him the name of Ascalonite Bishop, may suddenly come forth a Successor of the Apostles, and hire out his labor everywhere in making presbyters, that the succession of the Church may not fail! Were the Apostles to behold this foul confusion of the sacred order, would they recognize in it anything of their own?
What if I refer them to Canonical Elections? I speak not now of the rule of Christ which alone ought to suffice us. I only ask, whether he is to be regarded as the just successor of a true bishop, who has either been obtruded by force or introduced by Simony, or raised to the episcopate by some profane method? Taking this position, let them answer me concerning the election of their Pope, whether it has any affinity, I say not with the ancient and too rigid form, but with the prescription of Nicolas as related by Gratian? Nicolas, who had already degenerated very widely from the pure form, delivers a mode of election which might be tolerated.
If we are to take the matter strictly, the succession was at that time also interrupted. But what is done in the present day? I need not repeat what all know, that the Cardinals, in electing the Pope, pay no more respect to the injunctions of the decree of Nicolas, than the devils rioting in hell do to God speaking from heaven, (Distin. 23. cap. In Nomine.)
What is to be thought of the whole Bishops? The words of Leo, Bishop of Rome, are, “Let him who is to be over all be elected by all. For he who is assumed, without being examined and approved, is violently intruded.” (Dist. 79, cap. Si quis Apostolicae Epist. 90.) And whenever he makes mention of this subject, he declares that none is a true bishop save he who has been elected by the clergy and sought by the people. (Epist. 87 et alibi.) Nor does Gregory in several passages speak differently. If their sentiments are to have effect, all who are called bishops in the Papacy in the present day must confess themselves to be robbers. For no one, however impudent, will say that he was sought by the people, while, as regards the Clergy, the ancient practice had long ago become so corrupt, that lazy bellies only, who call themselves Canons, sold their suffrages.
Bishoprics have now begun to be the benefices of princes.
In addition to this is the manifest abomination of Simony. For what for the most part is now the recommendation which procures the honor? So far am I from taking pleasure in a lengthened detail, that it is painful even to advert to the flagitious insults offered to the Christian name. It is well, however, that while I am silent the fact speaks for itself, that nothing is more at variance with the order of the Apostles than the skulking licentiousness with which bishoprics are laid hold of in the present day.
When the Apostle discourses how the Son of God was made a High Priest after the order of Melchisedec, he carefully follows out the similitude, without which the comparison made by David would not stand good.
Unless they would exalt themselves by some new and special privilege above the Son of God, let them show how modern bishoprics are framed on the apostolical model. No doubt there will be an admirable correspondence between the two, when one, who never in his life sees the people committed to him, when a boy ten years old, a pimp, a gambler, a sportsman, persons practiced in all wickedness, and devoid both of piety and liberal learning, become the representatives of the Apostles!
A still greater dispute arises. If it appears that they are the most inveterate enemies of the doctrine which the Apostles not only delivered, but sealed with their blood; if it be made plain that all their counsels, all their endeavors, their whole purpose, are directed avowedly to subvert what the Apostles with the greatest labors established, what more would we? Let audience only be granted us, and we will easily show that there is scarcely any part of sound doctrine which they have not vitiated by their corruptions. This much we shall certainly prove, that they have contaminated the pure worship of God by impious superstitions, and involved the doctrine both of faith and repentance in endless errors; that by darkness of various sorts they have not only obscured but almost extinguished the virtue and grace of Christ; and by unworthy methods have adulterated the Sacraments. This the servants of Christ have been proving now for thirty years. We are proceeding in the same course, not to mention that of this our writings are clear witnesses.
These worthy men, when they see themselves overwhelmingly convicted and mortally wounded, tell us that no molestation must be given to the Successors of the Apostles! But a knowledge of the fact is to be ascertained by a discussion of doctrine, and to this we, trusting confidently in a good cause, voluntarily challenge them. To save themselves from answering, they wish to prejudge the very point in debate. Can it indeed be, that those who are in everything contrary to the Apostles, are able to prove merely by continuity of time that they hold the place and act as the Vicegerents of the Apostles? On the same pretext, one who, after murdering a man seizes on his house, might hold himself out as his representative!
The Papacy is much further distant from that mode of government which the Apostles recommend to us, than tyranny, however fierce and truculent, is from a free and well ordered state of liberty. Who would now bear a tyrant boasting the name of consular, or other lawful magistracy which he may have assumed? Not one whit less is the effrontery of those who, after overthrowing the sacred regimen, established both by the order of Christ and the practice of the Apostles, yet claim succession to it for their tyranny. For though the series of time were perfectly continuous, still if the Apostleship has fallen, (and this must be when the worship of God is torn asunder, the office of Christ buried, the light of doctrine extinguished, and the Sacraments polluted,) what Succession can remain?
Unless perhaps it be, that as the heir succeeds to the dead, so these men think they have obtained the succession by the demise of godliness. But seeing they have completely changed the whole method of government, the chasm between them and the Apostles is too deep to allow of any intercommunication of right. To conclude this part of the subject in one word, I deny Succession to a thing which has no original. I likewise deny that the office of sacrificing, which they account the chief in their priesthood, ever flowed from the Apostles. Let them, therefore, look out for the founders of their order.
When under the same pretext they shut the mouths of all the pious who long for a revival of the Church, by telling them they are not duly called to the office of teaching, they gain nothing more than to let the whole world see that their tyranny cannot stand unless the truth is oppressed. It is true, indeed, that in a well ordered Church none are to be admitted to the office of teaching but those who have been called by the ordinary pastors.
But what is this to the Papacy unless the power of Christ be transferred to Antichrist? The Apostles gave endeavor, as was meet, to propagate the Church to posterity. For this purpose they ordained pastors elected by the suffrages of the people. Afterwards, along with purity of doctrine, the just method of electing became obsolete. Will none now be a proper minister of Christ save he who has crept in by corruption?
The Succession which they so haughtily arrogate to themselves I have already rescued from them. Let us remember, besides, that since, by their inauguration, they make Priests, not Pastors, all who submit to ordination by their hand are tied down to sacrilege. Shall none, then, be able to come forward, except under wicked and detestable auspices, to advance the kingdom of Christ? Nay, they say how much soever all things may have gone to wreck, let no man who is not called interfere. I have already observed that wherever the state of the Church is safe, or at least tolerable, an ordinary call is requisite. But is a law, therefore, laid upon God, and may not he extraordinarily, by his Spirit, raise up prophets and other ministers to restore his fallen and ruined Church?
But they say the perpetuity of the Church will never suffer this to happen. I indeed admit that the Church can never perish. But when that which is promised concerning the perpetual character of the Church is by them referred to Pastors, they err exceedingly. Though pastors were wanting the Church would not forthwith cease to be. Then, indeed, I admit, it truly stands and flourishes when the sheep are collected into one sheepfold, which can only be by the exertion of shepherds. But experience teaches that the sheep, though scattered, are sometimes preserved by the secret power of God.
The Church, I say, sometimes lies hid, and escapes the eyes of men, so that any external regimen or Primacy is looked for in vain. Hence, though the Succession of the Bishops is interrupted, the perpetuity of the Church, nevertheless, stands. If they do not yet perceive that they are making ado about nothing, I ask where they read that it is necessary to the end of the world that bishop succeed bishop in uninterrupted series? We read, that in ancient times, when, partly by the ignorance and sluggishness, partly by the perfidy and wickedness of the priests, the worship of God had been vitiated, the administration of sacred rites lay unattended to, pure doctrine was perverted, and the Church had well-nigh fallen, prophets were raised up by the extraordinary inspiration of God to restore her ruined affairs. And, indeed, it was necessary that it should be so. What is said in Ezekiel and Jeremiah belongs to us not less than to the ancient people, that God, to punish the iniquity of evil shepherds, will drive them away, and give good and faithful shepherds to feed according to his will. ( Ezekiel 34:2; Jeremiah 3:15; 33:12.) For although God daily gives such by the calling of men, yet there is a singular species of giving, when the work of man ceases, and he himself appoints those whom he sees to be necessary, though human judgment pass them by.
If they still quiver a dart against us, any one may retort, and ask, by what shield they defend themselves? Almost all their pulpits are occupied by monks, or other hired sophisters, who have learned to declaim by brawling in Sorbonne. Of all these, what is the call? Assuredly they cannot produce any other, except that when the bishops, with the whole herd of their priests, were dumb, they substituted strangers in their stead. But as that substitution is new, having taken place more than eight hundred years after the age of the Apostles, let them cease to make such impudent abuse of their name.
That those who at this time have held forth a torch to us, to enable us, after long wandering, to return to the way, were holy prophets of God, is attested by the noble and truly divine specimen which they gave of their ministry. They never would have been called to do this service to the Church by the wolves who were burning with rage to destroy and devour it. Therefore, to cure an incurable evil, especially when the usual remedies failed, God himself behooved to bring assistance by putting forth his own hand. Now, the same wolves that beset the sheepfold complain that we have entered without their authority, and clamor against us as the disturbers of order, because, instead of waiting for a command from them, each, as was meet, has studied to do his utmost in succouring the poor sheep. But ever since matters were brought to a somewhat better state by our labors, the laying on of hands is observed with greater sanctity amongst us than in any part of the Papacy.
I come now to the other Orders, in reviewing which our moderators follow the vulgar custom, and apply the name of Sacrament to each. Here I shall be more brief than the importance of the subject deserves. For it is easy to show in a few words how impudently they call upon us to acknowledge them to be Sacraments. I do not mention that throughout the Papacy Deacons and Inferiors are ordained not to do duty, but as persons who aspire to the honor of the Priesthood, to which their canons authorize them to climb step by step. And yet an expeditious method of leaping over has been invented: for in one day all the minor orders are heaped on one individual. In short, there is nothing in the farces acted by players so ludicrous as may be seen in that show of ordaining.
Our worthy moderators connive at the flagrant abuses, as if this were not a suitable time to correct them. But though I should say nothing about these, I hold it impossible to allow the name of a Sacrament to be applied to acts to which no promise of God applies. For what need is there for pretending a Sacrament in appointing a person to put dogs out of the church? And what in the present day is the office of Exorcists? For they do not even pretend any use of them as they do in the case of others. Yet they declare that any one deserves ill of the Church who either abolishes or despises such kinds of orders. But how can they persuade us to receive with reverence a thing of which they do not exhibit an empty shadow even to deceive the eye? For in the Papacy Priests alone perform idle Exorcisms fit for nothing. They ordain Acolytes, that is, attendants. Is there such majesty in waiting on a bishop, that a spiritual mystery is to be coined out of it? Certainly nothing can shame them when they prostitute the name of Sacrament to such trifles.
And it is to be observed that this is the question between us. We do not fight about Acolytes and Ostiarii — whether or not it is expedient to have them. Let them, if they will, be useful rudimentary offices to train those of their youth who aspire to the government of the Church; although nothing of the kind is seen in the Papacy. If there was anciently any good in them, it has long since gone into desuetude. But granting all that they demand in regard to their utility, it was excessively audacious, not to say blasphemous, falsely to give them a name applicable only to the divinely instituted symbols of Divine grace. If grinning scoffers pretend to approve of this profanation for the sake of purchasing peace, all who have any serious fear of God will be withheld by conscience from giving their assent.
Marriage is their last Sacrament, and a Sacrament they say on account of the grace of Christ, which is never wanting to it. But this reason extends to every honest and approved method of living. Therefore, agriculture and the feeding of cattle, and all the arts which are called either liberal or mechanical, will be sacraments, as there is none of them on which God does not deign to bestow his blessing. We thus see how childishly they trifle. But another more plausible reason is added — because Marriage is compared with the sacred and spiritual union which Christ hath with the Church. As if Christ were not also compared to a shepherd, and a lamb, and a lion, and the sun, and a stone; and God to a man of war, and a tempest, and a scorching flame. Will all the similitudes that occur in Scripture be so many sacraments? In this way theft will be classed among sacraments, as we read that the day of the Lord will be like a thief! A bare similitude, therefore, is far from making a sacrament.
It was not this, however, that misled the first authors of this fiction. But when, in the epistle where Paul treats of Marriage, they found the term Sacrament occurring in a clause, they rashly laid hold of it, and deemed it sufficient for founding a new dogma. In the meanwhile, it never occurred to them that Paul there, under the name of “Mystery,” simply recommends the inestimable grace with which the Son of God visits us when he ingrafts us into his body. Therefore, to excite admiration of it, he exclaims that it is a great secret. For that is the meaning of Mystery, the term which he used. ( Ephesians 5:32.) The old interpreter, as he elsewhere does in the same Epistle, translated Sacramentum , but not at all thinking of what unlearned men afterwards dreamed. The error which thus originated in gross ignorance, is too impudently defended by our moderators. But the more we see crafty men insulting the word of God, in order to flatter Antichrists, the stronger the religious obligation which lies upon us not to enter into alliance with such impiety.
Hence, as error leads to error, they infer that the tie of Marriage is not dissolved because of adultery, and that those are not to be listened to who hold that faith which young men and women may have pledged to each other without the consent of their parents is not binding. In the first place, what they say is founded on a false and perverted interpretation of the words of Christ. For when he affirms that whoso marrieth her that hath been put away, committeth adultery, we must supply the exception which he had set down, viz., unless because of adultery. And, indeed, it would have been to no purpose to have spoken of adulterous women, whose divorce was followed by capital punishment among the Jews. If there were no great danger in their error when they thus pervert the words of Christ, they might perhaps be forgiven, but this involves the salvation of husbands who banish adulterous wives from their dwellings. Our impartial moderators bind them to perpetual celibacy. What if they need a wife? No help for it; they must just fret on and atone for another’s crime with the destruction of their soul. Thus a Christian man will be forced either to cherish adultery and swallow the dishonor of an unchaste wife, or be cruelly subjected to perpetual disquietude, if the gift of continence be not bestowed upon him. While they provide so ill for miserable consciences, shall we aid their inhuman tyranny by their assent?
Of the Espousals rashly contracted by young persons, I will only say this — A word is as good to deny as it is good for our moderators to assert.
Who revealed to them that such espousals should be binding? That the authority of parents is requisite, nature herself dictates, and this has been always observed both by the law of nations and is approved by the testimony of Scripture. But the dignity of a Sacrament, they say, is to be preferred to the parents’ right. Allowing them to abuse the name of Sacrament, it is more than absurd to represent it as honor to the Sacrament when anything is done wrongfully and inordinately. The more dignity there is in Marriage, the greater the modesty and religion with which it ought to be entered into. But if such indulgence is an honor to the Sacrament, why are they not as lenient in the Marriage of priests and nuns? The vow is an obstacle, just as the right of nature is an obstacle here, and yet they hesitate not to break through it.
When they acknowledge that the Sacrifice of Christ is the only one by which sins are expiated, and men reconciled to God, I wish they would persist in it. But a little after they show that they had no other intention, by so prefacing, than to give a specious coloring to their Mass, by which they consider that that one sacrifice is applied. But whatever be the colors with which they adorn it, they will never make its meretricious glare to be anything but abomination to all the children of God.
But, that we may proceed in regular order, we must begin with the general chapter, in which they teach that Humiliation of heart and Chastisements of the flesh, endured for the sake of piety and the like, are Sacrifices applicatory of that one sacrifice. Whence that thoughtlessness, or forgetfulness, or stupidity, which makes them pass over faith which has the principal part in this application? I do not speak strongly enough, for it is only by faith that we perceive the efficacy of Christ’s death. Other things only accompany faith as a kind of appendages, and borrow of it whatever they possess. It is clear from Paul that faith is an excellent sacrifice. He likewise teaches, that by it the reconciliation with God, which Christ procured for us by his death, is applied. When our mediators are professing to treat the matter accurately, how comes it that they are altogether silent as to faith? It alone properly sanctifies all the exercises of piety.
Again, from whom did they learn, that by Chastisements of the flesh, which Paul declares to be of small profit, ( 1 Timothy 4:8,) the grace obtained by the death of the Son of God is applied to us? I admit that they are helps which lead us on to seek forgiveness of sins in Christ, but it is foolish to infer from this that the Sacrifice of Christ is applied to us by them, as if we were to obtain salvation by fasting, or any other outward chastisement of the flesh. I hear David saying, that a broken and a contrite heart is a pleasing sacrifice to God, ( Psalm 51:19;) but that by it the sacrifice which Christ offered to reconcile us to God is applied, neither he nor any of the Prophets or Apostles teaches; — so far are we from meriting this honor by external works, which occupy much lower ground.
I acknowledge, however, that afterwards, in another passage, our mediators, as if they had been awoke at last, remember Faith. But what kind of faith do they fabricate? That which sees a Sacrifice in the Mass.
Accordingly, they justly couple it with devotion; whereas the man deserves execration who, turning aside from the death of Christ, goes up and down seeking for salvation in this quarter and in that. But the sacrifice of the mass depends on the death of Christ. Let us now consider this.
Christ, they say, when he offered his body to be eaten by the faithful, gave a commandment to his Apostles, whom he appointed priests of the law, to offer it. O the foolish ajlazwnei>a (boasting) of those whom I know to be the compilers of this absurd farrago! Where is Oblation commanded? They answer, where it is said, “This do.” When, twenty years ago, Clithoveus, and other animals of the same stamp, extracted a Sacrifice out of this expression, and for that purpose quoted the line of Virgil — “When I shall do with a calf instead of corn” — there was no man of any judgment who did not laugh at the silliness of the argument; yet their folly was pardoned, as they were babbling about things they knew not. But those men must be wrong in the head who, in such light, hesitate not to give vent to absurdities which they themselves laugh at in their hearts, and which they are aware will be ridiculed by others.
Still, as if the matter were worthy of consideration, let us attend to it. Do , they say, is a Priest’s word. Admitted. But in what idiom do they think Christ spoke? And yet this is not the hinging point: for the word doing is sometimes used in Hebrew with reference to Sacrifice. At present we are only discussing in what sense Christ said, “This do in remembrance of me.” To solve the difficulty, our best interpreter is Paul, who conjoins the two things together, “This do as oft as ye drink it.” What else could the disciples do than just what their Master had previously shown by his own example? Nay, who does not see that this has no reference to the former words, which ordered them to receive and communicate among themselves? But after hearing Paul’s interpretation, it is needless to debate a matter free from doubt. But if they yet hold out because the thing was said to the Apostles, whom they imagine to be Priests, let them tell us who they were that Paul addressed when he repeated the same words.
Does he not, after premising that he delivered to the whole Church of Corinth, men and women indiscriminately, what he had received of the Lord, command them to do the same thing? Would they allow themselves thus insultingly to wrest the words of Christ, were they not inflated with Epicurean arrogance, and disposed to hold everything sacred in contempt?
Of a similar nature is the allegation, that before Christ held forth his body to his disciples under the appearance of Bread, he offered it to his Father.
How do they divine that he did so? It was surely a thing worthy of being mentioned. But the texture of the narrative of the evangelists simply is, that he took bread, brake it, and gave it. With what face then do they thus affirm a thing which is nowhere found, and has no semblance? Were they to bring forward all kinds of conjectures, the magnitude of the point involved would not allow anything to be founded on them. But when their foolish allegation is utterly devoid of probability, who does not scout it at once?
They affirm that without this there is no ground for saying that Christ was made a Priest after the order of Melchisedec. I am aware that they are not the first who have stumbled at that stone. But if we will set men aside and look at the thing itself, it will at once be seen to be vainer than vanity.
Moses relates that Melchisedec offered bread and wine to Abraham.
Those who expiscate a sacred and mystical Oblation out of this, understand that he offered to God. But Moses immediately after mentioning that Melchisedec came out to meet Abraham, adds, that he offered, or brought bread and wine. When they imagine that the clause which immediately follows assigns the reason, they only double the error.
Moses indeed adds, “And he was priest of the most high God.” But this refers to the right of blessing, to acquaint us that Melchisedec blessed Abraham in his office and character as a priest. Thus far no sacrifice of bread is seen in Melchisedec. To this is added the stronger argument, that the Apostle, while he discusses almost scrupulously every single point to which the similitude may apply, makes no allusion to anything of this kind. He carefully mentions the country and the name, the kingdom and the priesthood, and then, that though, sprung from himself, he had no genealogy, that is, none handed down by writing, yet he offered tithes to Abraham, as an inferior to his superior — in short, that he blessed Abraham by his right as priest. Had there been any mystery in the bread, nothing more appropriate to the subject then treated could have been introduced. Assuredly, the Holy Spirit did not omit it through forgetfulness. How comes it then that He is silent? Just because he did not choose to introduce it unseasonably. Indeed, it is strange for them to seek a figure in the bread, while so often repeating that the bread which is offered is changed into body. How, according to them, will the reality correspond to the figure, if there is no bread in the holy Supper? Let this however suffice for the present, that the bread offered by Melchisedec gives them no support, because the thing which they imagine was not at all observed by the Holy Spirit.
They also seize upon the well known passage of Malachi, “In every place will a pure oblation be offered to my name among the Gentiles,” ( Malachi 1:11) as if this were nought else than the sacrifice of the Mass. But though we go over all the passages of the New Testament which treat of sacrifice, no Mass will be found in them. Is there not a pure offering when we are consecrated to God by the gospel — when any of us offers himself to him by the mortification of the flesh — when we sacrifice “the calves of our lips,” as another prophet says? ( Hosea 14:2.) Why, then, disregarding all the sacrifices which Scripture recommends to us, do they turn to the Mass alone, of which there is not a single word, but just because they are in all things absurd?
But as it is here clear as day to all men of sense, that after the manner of the Prophets, the worship of God is here designated under the name of Sacrifice, of what use is it to argue to and fro about nothing? As it is very common with the Prophets to designate the knowledge of God by dreams and visions, so they take the temple, the altar, the incense, and sacrifices for the worship of God. Hence has arisen that mode of speaking by which they accommodated their teaching to their age, wherein we know that the worship of God was involved in such ceremonies. In short, as such modes of expression savor of the tutelage of the law, we should extract out of them the spiritual truth which alone applies to us. It is now more than clear that it is a mere quibble to quote Malachi as prophesying of the Mass, there being nothing less in his thoughts.
I pay no regard to the ancient opinions which our moderators here collect in order to overwhelm the truth. The regular practice of these fellows is to rake together everything defective which occurs in the Fathers, just as one neglecting the gold would gather merely the dross, or throwing away the wheat, carefully gather the tares. When they boast, therefore, that the passage of Malachi is thus expounded by Irenaeus, that the oblation of Melchisedec is thus handled by Athanasius, Ambrose, Augustine, and Arnobius, the brief answer is, that these same writers elsewhere interpret bread also to mean the body of Christ, but so ridiculously, that reason and truth compel us to dissent. Jeremiah introduces the wicked who had conspired against him as speaking thus, “Let us send wood into his bread.” ( Jeremiah 11:19.)
It is obvious that this was just equivalent to saying, “Let us choke him with his bread,” or the like. Ancient writers transfer this to Christ, and, as I have said, interpret the bread allegorically for his body, which was fastened to the wood. Let our worthy moderators then cease to employ the sentiments of the ancients as their weapons of war in a bad cause.
I have already shown in what sense Melchisedec is said to have offered bread. The thing is clear in itself, and the silence of the Apostle ought to be a sufficient proof, as he never would have omitted what would have been so appositely said, could it have been said truly. We cannot think that either Ambrose or any other in the whole body of the Fathers saw more acutely than the Apostle himself, unless we are to attribute perspicacity to them to such a degree, that they discerned a mystery which escaped the Holy Spirit, speaking through the mouth of an Apostle.
As ingenuousness is to be cultivated in all cases, so it is most unlawful, when religion is the subject, to act craftily or even dissemblingly. Our opponents seeing us armed with the word of God, lay hold here and there of all the passages they can, and corrupt many of them by their quibbles, throwing in the smoke of antiquity to obscure the light of divine truth.
Meanwhile, they have no wish that it should be inquired how widely they themselves differ from antiquity. The thing, however, is manifest. We have a clear specimen of it in the Mass. To omit the vulgar Sorbonnists, our mediators, in defending the Sacrifice of the Mass, bring forward both the ancient mode of expression and the rite of sacrifice. I concede both to them. The ancients misapplied not only the term sacrifice, but the ceremony. But if we consider how far the slight corruption of the ancients is from the impiety with which these men bedaub it, we shall find the distance to be immense. Whatever it was that the ancients did, they interpreted it to be the commemoration of a sacrifice. These antiquity men, (as they would be thought,) not contented with commemoration, inculcate application, as we shall by and bye see.
But though the ancient Fathers were clear of the impious superstition which afterwards prevailed, they are not altogether excusable; inasmuch as it appears that they deviated from the pure and genuine institution of Christ. For while the end for which the Supper is to be celebrated is to communicate in the Sacrifice of Christ, they, not contented with this, added oblation also. This addition I hold to have been vitious, partly because it obscures the benefit rendered to us by the death of Christ, and partly because it is foreign to the nature of the holy Supper.
The office of Christ was to offer himself to God. The only part now remaining to us is to eat. He who, not satisfied with mere receiving, longs for the image of a sacrifice, attributes less than he ought, both to the death which Christ died, and to the ordinance of the Supper which he left in commemoration of his death. For though Papists, or others not much unlike Papists, should cry out a thousand times that in old time the bread was offered — that the early Christians were accustomed to do so — that the practice is not new, we can a thousand times reply, that the command of Christ is an inviolable rule which no practice of men, no prescription of time, can either abolish or remodel by new decrees.
I have given what seemed the proper answer in regard to the authority of the Fathers. Wherefore, when our mediators conclude that the Church, in accordance with the testimony of Scripture and holy Fathers, recognizes two Sacrifices, they falsify as to the one, and err as to the other, by attributing more than they ought to the opinions or decisions of men. For they falsely pretend Scripture, which is repugnant to them throughout, and they so shamefully lacerate it, that they cannot even impose on children who have once been put on their guard. I have already given more than a complete exposure of their iniquity. In regard to ancient writers, there is no ground for allowing deference for them to withdraw us from the eternal and inflexible truth of God. Let those, then, whom the wisdom of God does not satisfy, keep to themselves that unbloody sacrifice of man’s devising.
The doctrine of Scripture is simple, and by no means ambiguous, that in the Sacrifice by which it behooved men to be reconciled to God, Christ died once — that the efficacy of his Sacrifice is eternal — and that the benefit of it is received by us every day. In order to our enjoying it the Son of God instituted the holy Supper, in which he holds forth his body, once sacrificed for us, as food that we may eat. In this way the virtue of that one Sacrifice is applied to us, and we become partakers of it.
Turn over the whole of Scripture, and you will find nothing else than that our Passover has been sacrificed, that our only Priest entered once into the Holy of Holies, in order that by one offering he might expiate the sins of the world. To us nothing else is commanded than to feast. What audacity then is it for mortal man to come forward to discharge a priesthood which was never committed to him, to offer an unbloody sacrifice which God nowhere requires! Let our mediators then place that Sacrifice somewhere else than in the Church. They shall never get an acknowledgment of it from us, until they persuade us that some one else is the fit founder of a Sacrifice than the Son of God, who was appointed a High Priest for ever, with no successor, no colleague. Let whatever addition has crept into the holy Supper, without his authority, from the excessive cupidity or lukewarmness of men, be corrected according to the rule of his authority.
To do so Paul admonishes us, as his words imply, when he says, “I have received of the Lord that which I also delivered unto you.” ( 1 Corinthians 11:23.)
The Oblation, however, which flowed from an unknown source, our mediators wickedly and profanely ascribe to Christ.
I see what those will say who are ready to confound Christ with Belial, provided they can purchase any kind of peace. For I know the minds of those men, and have long been accustomed to their maxims. They will charge us with excessive rigidity for stirring up an unnecessary contention about a single word, and an external rite. It is not strange that they should thus accuse us, for they speak as they feel. But seeing that a better feeling has been given us, we behoove to confess what with the heart we have believed. For the law which the Spirit of God gives to all the pious is, “I believed, therefore will I speak.” ( <19B610> Psalm 116:10.)
When some worthy man lately told me that a certain horned goat, out of the fetid herd of Popish bishops, who for a long time has been suspended between heaven and hell, is wont to say that he sees no reason why we should refuse to embrace this painted formula of moderation; I answered, as historians relate of Alexander, — “Nor would I, if I were in his place, refuse, and he, if he were in my place, would do the very thing which he now wonders at my doing.” For why should we wonder that men of this stamp, who have been employed for so many years in denying Christ, should scorn our simplicity, seeing they hesitate not to scoff at God himself? The decrees of our heavenly Master ought to be of such weight with us, that we doubt not to fight to the last in their defense. Let us not think that anything on which he has been pleased to give his command is subject to our will.
Here, however, our contest with the moderators is about a substance, not merely a word and a rite. For they say that in the Mass is comprehended the reality of those things which all the ancient sacrifices prefigured — that there is in it the same victim of body and blood as was sacrificed upon the cross! Whence it appears, that for that one Sacrifice of Christ this secondary one is substituted, in order that the efficacy of the former may reach us. My brief answer is, that all the sacrifices which ever were in use must be tested by this Lydian stone. Have they their origin from God, or have they it from men? Besides requiring to have respect to Christ, they behoove also to have God for their author. Wherefore, although in appearance the latter may seem to differ little or nothing from the sacrifices which we read of having been offered by pious individuals among the Gentiles, still we hesitate not to condemn them as spurious, while we pronounce the former to be legitimate and holy. In what does the distinction consist, but just in that twofold mark of the end and the command? Therefore our mediators, in order to prove that there is a particle of reality in the sacrifice of the Mass, must first of all produce the command of God, which we know they cannot do: and therefore we are bold to conclude that it is nothing but an empty figment.
The wish they express for a clear and succinct interpretation to be annexed to the Canon, is, I admit, not without cause. But what glosses will they find to hide their gross absurdities? It is certain that things repugnant to each other are contained in it, and that its clauses have been ill sewed together by unskillful hands. They say that they offer to God, for his gifts and givings, a pure victim, the holy bread of eternal life. The words imply that the body of Christ consists of bread. Let them soften down the harshness of the terms as they may, people of discernment perceive that the prayer which the ancient Church used to offer up concerning common oblations, the compilers of the Canon of the Mass have ignorantly transferred to the body of Christ.
The Alms which the faithful contributed were laid upon the altar as sacred to God. The Priest prayed in the name of the people, that God would be pleased to accept them. The barbarians who came afterwards, either ignorant of the ancient practice, or not knowing any but their own imaginary sacrifice, added at random, body and blood. This ignorance is made more manifest by their shortly after adding, “by whom thou always createst, sanctifiest, and blessest all these good things.” These words, let them be twisted as they may, can never be adapted to a Sacrament. What, then, are the good things which God daily creates for us, but just those which each of the pious, according to his means, contributes for the use of the poor. For that this was anciently the form of consecrating Oblations is apparent from the decree of the Arausican Council: — “We offer unto thee, O Lord, the things which we have received from thy hand.” By what glosses, pray, will they extricate themselves, so as not to be here held convicted of the most shameful hallucination? These are small matters, and my only object in adverting to them is, to let all understand that no absurdities are too vile not to be pertinaciously defended by those stage players, who act the part of mediators.
Let us now proceed to more serious matters. The Missal priest says that he offers the body and blood of the Son of God in sacrifice. The act is wholly divine, and no man, unless called by heaven, ought to intermeddle with it. For when the Apostle discourses of a lawful priesthood, he concedes the honor to none but him on whom God has conferred it, so that he says it behooved even Christ himself to be ordained to it by the call of the Father. ( Hebrews 5:4.) If he who discharges the office of priest, without being called by God, usurps honor to himself wickedly, and contrary to law and right, let the Missal priestlings now show by what divine command they presume to offer Christ.
The whole discussion of the Apostle, in the Epistle to the Hebrews, from the beginning of the seventh to the end of the tenth chapter, turns on these two cardinal points, — first , that Christ alone was fit to offer himself; and, secondly , that he made one Oblation, which continues perpetually in force.
They think they can get over the difficulty by a most admirable subtlety.
It is, that while they now offer the same Sacrifice which Christ once offered, they do not introduce a new or different one. But as Scripture both claims for Christ the office of offering, and testifies that he offered once, they gain nothing by that cavil of identity, if I may so express it; for they in the mean time seize to themselves what belongs to Christ alone, and what was performed once repeat a thousand times every day.
The Canon adds, that this is done for the redemption of souls. But the Apostle reclaims when he says that Christ ascended into the heavens, having obtained eternal redemption. If the Sacrifice offered on the Cross obtained eternal redemption, they are certainly false when they profess still in the present day to sacrifice in order to redeem! Our mediators would here satisfy us, that is, dazzle our eyes with a convenient interpretation. They will admit that we are redeemed by the one Sacrifice of Christ, but they hold that in this manner the benefit of it is applied to us. But I have already wiped away this gloss; nay, it is cut to the quick by a single expression of the Apostle, when he says that the sacrifices of the law were unable to take away sin, because they were frequently repeated, ( Hebrews 10:1.,) and he distinguishes us from the Fathers by this mark, that among them there was a yearly remembrance of sin. Certainly we too ought continually to confess our sins, nor can we pray for forgiveness in any other way than by remembering the sacrifice.
Wherefore, the passage can only be understood by making the difference to consist in this, that a visible sacrifice was then used to testify the expiation of sins, but is not so now, since the substance of the figures has been exhibited.
In short, those who pretend that Christ is now offered for the salvation of souls, deny that God has been reconciled to men. Can we subscribe to the blasphemy which transfers the proper office of Christ to a human action?
Christ will indeed deservedly cut us off as perfidious covenant breakers from sharing in the great benefit, if for his one eternal sacrifice we tacitly allow the substitution of things which he never either appointed or approved.
With what consistency is God afterwards asked, in the Canon, to accept of the sacrifice of Christ’s flesh and blood, as he did of the sacrifices of Abel and Abraham, and to command it to be borne to his high altar by the hands of angels? Behold their piety which scarcely deigns to bestow the same honor on the Son of God as on beasts! For what do they pray? That Christ may please the Father, like that ram which Abraham sacrificed! In this respect at least the Canon is very uncanonical: it makes the shadow the rule of the substance, and tests the grace which the Sacrifice of Christ possesses by that which was possessed by the sacrifices of beasts. But let them pretend what they please. With what conscience shall we consent to so foul an affront to Christ as almost to let brute beasts take precedence of him?
The addition which they make is not to be neglected. If no change is made in the Canon, necessity is laid upon us to pray for our Pope Paul III.!
Must we then, when we appear in the presence of God, when the heart ought in a manner to pour itself wholly out, call him “our father,” who is the most cruel butcher of the children of God? — acknowledge him as a shepherd, who is the chief of wolves and robbers, in slaying and devouring the sheep of Christ? — assign the first place in the Church to him who is not only an alien to it, but its most inveterate foe? Let Islebius, and similar apostates, have such fathers to themselves, that thus they may make God the witness of their impious defection, as they fear not basely and flagitiously to profess it before men.
At last, our mediators provide that no change is to be made in the ceremonies of the Mass, because they are all exceedingly appropriate to what is done in it. If the subject talked of were a boy’s show, this might perhaps be said with truth; but they have no more affinity with the holy Supper of Christ, than a swine or a dog has with God’s altar. In every religious act, a certain celestial majesty ought to shine forth, but more especially in the celebration of the Supper, when the Lord invites us to a secret participation in his flesh and blood. Of the gravity of the Missal Rites, my reader shall have a taste from that part of them which I will here recite. Omitting what they call the Introit, and other endless trifles, I will advert to the gesticulations of the Canon alone: — Let the priest, folding his hands, kneel before the altar, and thereafter kiss it on the right side: let him here make three crosses: let him raise his hands and stretch them out, and then folding his hands make mention of the living: let him bend his knees a little; extend his hands over the host; make five crosses; join his hands upwards; wipe his hands on the napkin; raise the host and then the chalice: putting them aside, let him extend his arms as if giving himself the form of a cross: let him draw back his arms and make three crosses over the whole sacrifice, a fourth over the body, a fifth over the chalice: let him place his hands upon the sacrifice and raise his eyes upwards: let him kneel at the altar with clasped hands: let him kiss the altar: let him sign himself with the sign of the cross: joining his hands let him make a commemoration of the dead, striking his breast once or three times: let him make, three crosses: let him uncover the chalice: let him make three crosses on the bread, then two between it and the chalice: let him exhibit the host with his right hand, and, uncovering the chalice, stretch out his hands: let him touch the bottom, middle, and top of the chalice with the paten: let him put it to his mouth and eyes: let him make three parts of the host, one longer than the others; of the least let him make three crosses, and then place it on the chalice: let him kiss the others.
It will be said that the things are of that middle sort of which the use is indifferent to Christians. Why then do they forbid any omission? But to pass this, how unbecoming is it that a player on the stage should have an hundred times more gravity than a priest has in ratifying the Covenant between God and man? Of a truth they assume too much license to themselves in external matters, if they account it as nothing that the heavenly mystery of the Supper is deformed by such indecorous gesticulations. I abstain from further exposing them, because it pains me to think of such foul mockery of the Christian name; but these felons, who have lost all sense of shame, scout the smallest correction of the greatest absurdities. From this it appears that they aim at nothing else than speedily again extinguishing whatever light has shone on our times. To crown their effrontery, they allege that the ritual of the modern Mass is clearly exhibited by Augustine. They quote the Epistle to Paulinus, which is the fifty-ninth in order. To make palpable the wicked license which they take in lying, I will allow my readers to judge by reading for themselves.
Next come two kinds of Commemoration of the Dead, which, as they were anciently practiced, our mediators wish to be retained. The ancient custom was, during the celebration of the holy Supper, to name the Apostles and chief Martyrs, and those most commonly known, that by such examples the faith of all might be animated. In the next place, they read out the names of those who had recently died and given proof of piety to the last, that they might thus have a solemn testimony to their perseverance. All these things, as they tended to the recommendation of Christian unity, and stimulated the living to imitate the faith of the dead, we by no means disapprove, so that there was no occasion for the load of testimonies which our mediators pile up more from ostentation than learning. Shortly after, corruption crept in from both quarters. It came to be the practice for the Church to ask to be aided by the prayers of the Martyrs, and in turn to interpone her prayers to obtain refreshment for the dead who had died in the faith of Christ. Thus a threefold commemoration, both of martyrs and others, was made.
I do not disguise that both superstitions have prevailed for many centuries. But in religion, whose only foundation is the eternal truth of Christ, length of years ought not to have much weight. Let us now attend to the former. Our mediators enjoin not only that the names of Martyrs be read out to do them honor, and thanks be given to God for their piety, but also in order that we may be assisted by their prayers. I hold that by such commemoration the holy Supper of Christ is polluted and profaned. For while all invocation ought to be pure and religious, more especially, when this ordinance is celebrated, ought reverence in invoking God to be augmented by his presence. Moreover, Paul affirms that we do not duly pray to God until we are instructed by his word. ( Romans 10:14.)
Hence it follows, that no form of prayer not founded on the word of God is legitimate. Let them now show where the Spirit teaches us to oppose the patronage of any Prophet, or Apostle, or Martyr to God. Let us always hold it as our principle, that we do not pray rightly unless the word of God leads the way. If, therefore, without his dictation, we introduce the intercession of Saints, our prayer is profane.
Let us hear our moderators on the other side. They say it is agreeable to reason that the Saints who live with God beyond the world should pray for us, being bound to do so by the command of James, “Pray one for another.” ( James 5:16.) But I always thought that this Epistle was written to the living and not to the dead! They certainly cannot impose by this acumen on any man who is not exceedingly obtuse. James is exhorting those who need not only the teaching but also the prayers of their brethren, because of their laboring under the infirmity of the flesh. In this number are no longer the Apostles or Martyrs, who have finished their contest. For Paul declares that the course of believers is terminated by death. ( 2 Timothy 4:7.)
But it is meet that they should condole with us in our distresses, and hence, also, it follows, that they intercede with God for us, because they want neither the will nor the means. I answer, that they act too curiously who guess at the state of the dead without any authority from Scripture, and they too presumptuously who affirm anything with regard to it. We must ask our moderators when it was revealed to them, that those whom death has removed from the society of the living are conscious of their wants? Paul says, in Luke, that David, after he had served his generation, died, and these words imply that he now ministers to posterity by his death. That those who are of the body of Christ wait for the completion of the kingdom of God, I deny not; but to attribute to them like affections with our own, as seeing everything which is done in the world, is presumptuous, unless it can be demonstrated by clear passages of Scripture.
But this our moderators insist they can do. For they produce Onias and Jeremiah, who when dead stretch forth their hands to God for the safety of the people. The Second Book of Maccabees relates, I admit, that Judas Maccabaeus dreamed so; but how, pray, shall we determine what credit is due to the dream of Judas? The writer of that history begs pardon for any error he may have committed, from human frailty, by writing inappropriately. Grant him then the pardon which he asks; only let him not force any one to err along with him, and let us be at liberty to distinguish all human writings whatever from the sure oracles of God. I should like to know why our moderators do not recommend the patronage of Onias and Jeremiah, whom they allege to be known to them from Scripture, rather than that of Peter or Paul, of whom nothing of the kind has been handed down. But in preference to prophets they desire and speak of only more recent patrons.
With regard to Angels a different view must be taken, in accordance with the different nature of their office. The care and protection of the pious has been committed to them. They must therefore, in obedience to God, be solicitous about our salvation; and they only discharge the duty assigned them by praying for us. But while Scripture specially assigns this office to angels, it withdraws the souls of the pious, who rest in the Lord, from sharing it with them. Assuredly, if God employed their services in caring for our salvation, Scripture would speak as openly of them as of the angels. God declares that all the angels watch over the protection of the righteous. ( Hebrews 1:14, etc.) Why so, but just that we may be furnished with greater confidence? As much would have been said of blessed spirits, were the analogy well founded. Now, that nothing is said of them, we must hold it to be otherwise, the more especially that the subject is one on which knowledge would be most useful.
But granting that the Apostles and Martyrs pray for us, it is not a legitimate inference that we are therefore to implore their assistance. The servant of Abraham ( Genesis 24:7) is told that an angel will be with him; but when there is need of the angel’s presence, it is not at all to the angel that he has recourse. The servant of Elisha ( 2 Kings 6:17) sees an immense host of angels armed to give assistance to himself and his master, and yet, invoking God, he leans not on their support. Let pious readers again call to mind what I formerly observed, that the law enjoined on all with regard to prayer is to do nothing without the word of God. But those wander beyond the word of God who call upon other Intercessors in heaven besides Christ, and, therefore, I say that they overleap the proper bounds of prayer.
It is easy to remove the gloss which our mediators put on certain passages.
Jacob, they say, wished that his name should be invoked by his posterity. ( Genesis 48:16.) In accordance with this Moses prays in these words, “Remember, Lord, thy servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.” ( Exodus 32:13.) So also in the Psalms believers beseech God to remember David. ( <19D201> Psalm 132:1.) I answer, it is easy to see what is meant by invocation in the blessing of Manasseh and Ephraim. Jacob only wished that the benefit of the divine covenant might come by hereditary right to his grandsons. Salvation had been promised to his seed. God had deposited his promise in the hands of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob himself.
He therefore asks that they may be classed among the tribes of the holy people. Nor has Moses any respect to the persons of men when he brings forward the names of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, but to confirm himself and others in the faith of the promise, he mentions the reason why it should be performed to them: as if he had said, “O Lord, we approach thee in no other confidence than that of thy promise; for we are the people of whom thou didst promise to our fathers, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that thou wouldst be their God.” Our mediators, then, must not hope to dazzle our eyes by scattering about their vain shows.
I come to the Merits of the Saints, on which, also, they will have our prayers to depend. It is indeed something, that in regard to them their proud boasting is softened; but still it is impossible to allow their assertion, that by the kindness of God and the gift of Christ they are available to us both for protection and the obtaining of grace. Nowhere is this attributed to them by the word of God. The Lord, I acknowledge, visits man with his favor to the thousandth generation, as he has promised, but our mediators foolishly infer from this, that the merits of parents redound to their children. ( Exodus 20:6.) We should rather regard it as the crowning point of divine mercy, that it superabounds in all manner of ways; so that, after freely stretching out a saving hand to fathers, it extends it also to posterity. To transfer the least part of this praise from the goodness of God to the merits of men is impious and blasphemous malignity.
Our moderators derive no support to their error from what they say of David, viz., that God often pitied the people for his sake. For as a covenant had been made with David for the safety of the whole people, we must view him as invested with this capacity, if we would properly understand why God, in preserving the people, had respect to him rather than to Josiah or Hezekiah. If these remarks are not relished by perfidious corrupters of Scripture, they are strong enough however to shake and throw down all the engines of hell. But let us at the same time hold forth the fundamental principle which I formerly laid down, viz., that the only method of praying rightly and piously is that which exactly corresponds to the rule of the divine will. And the whole Scripture enjoins us to bring no other mediator before God than Jesus Christ alone, and teaches us that there is no other on whose patronage and merits we can depend in order to come boldly before the throne of God. In this way we shall find that whosoever goes about seeking for other patrons or intercessors, is not contented with the patronage of Christ. We must, therefore, anxiously take care that we do not by catching at several means of approach, shut the only door by which we can have access to God. If possible let us rather die an hundred times, than by our consent allow such profanation to break in upon the holy Supper of Christ.
No more are we to concede their wish to Worship the Dead on Feast-days, in order that they may give us part in their merits, and aid us by their intercession with God. Behold the Christian Reformation of which they give hope to those who know no better! Did they say that feast days are a kind of invitations to cultivate the memory of virtues, and thereby provoke to imitation, there would indeed be some color for it, but to found worship on the observance of days as they do, is too bad. I am aware they will say that this is their intention, but let the fact be judge.
They enjoin the feast day of the Patron Saint to be kept in every parish; and not contented with this, they invoke every individual patron on whom this honor is bestowed. While it is sufficiently clear that they are held patrons just as if they were tutelary gods — ought not the prophetic voice to sound in our ears, “According to the number of thy cities are thy gods?” ( Jeremiah 2:28.)
How foul then will be our ingratitude, if leaving the fountain of life we hew out for ourselves such cisterns? Did they raise Prophets and Apostles alone to this honor, it would become us strongly to interpose and prevent the holy servants of God from being converted into idols. But now the height of absurdity is added to impiety: for any kind of patrons have feast days assigned to them! Many Churches, moreover, are dedicated to Catherine or Christopher, or other fictitious names. The people there are to ask the Lord that they may be assisted by the prayers of Catherine or Christopher! Is there to be such mockery of God that the prayers of patrons who never existed are to be obtruded on him? Can those who supply food to such monsters have ever had one particle of faith, or of serious and sincere invocation? I say nothing of Dominic and similar manslayers; nothing of Medardus, Lubin, and similar wild beasts. For what end would there be if I were to examine all the wanderings of the labyrinth into which our mediators entice us? But wo, twice and three times wo to the perfidy of those who so easily plunge into voluntary destruction, which they ought to have warded off by a hundred deaths, if they had a hundred lives!
There remains another order of the Dead of whom they wish mention to be made in the Supper, viz., that a place of refreshment, light, and peace may be given them. I deny not that this is a very ancient custom, and since the power, or rather dominion of custom is great, I admit that such prayers were approved by Chrysostom, Epiphanius, Augustine, and others, because passed to them by their ancestors, as it were from hand to hand. I do not think, however, that it had crept into use long before the age of those whose names I have mentioned. After it had prevailed for a short time, they followed it too easily, without reason or judgment.
As our moderators have been pleased to quote Augustine as a witness, let them hear from another passage how strongly he inclines to a contrary sentiment. He says, (Hemil. in Joann. 59,) “The holy patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, good believers, have been received in peace. All however are still to receive in the end what God has promised: for there is promised the resurrection of the body, the swallowing up of death, eternal life with angels. This, in short, all receive along with them: for the rest which is given after death, each, if he is worthy of it, receives at the time when he dies.” If there is one rest to all, it will be no less superfluous to pray for any one out of the whole body of believers, than to pray for Isaiah or Paul. But the latter Augustine everywhere declares is not to be done: it follows, therefore, that we should leave them to enjoy their rest, beyond which nothing better can now be wished for them, and not abuse the name of God by prayers which are unlawful.
The mediators insist that it is an Apostolical Tradition, and prove it by the testimony of Dionysius. Moreover, in quoting his words, they insert the name of the Apostles so stealthily as to make it appear done by himself: but he there mentions divine guides whom he is ever and anon calling masters. Then, as if they had put out men’s eyes, they adorn their Dionysius with the title of Areopagite. Eusebius sometimes mentions the Areopagite, who he says was first bishop of the Church of Athens; and he relates that it was so delivered by Dionysius of Alexandria. He does not say that anything was committed to writing by him, and yet, certainly, if it had been so, he would not have omitted it. But Jerome mentions two Dionysiuses among ecclesiastical writers, one of Corinth who flourished under Marcus Antoninus Verus and Lucius Commodus, and another, the disciple of Origen, and bishop of Alexandria, during the reign of Galienus: but among their writings which he carefully reviews, there is no mention of the Celestial or Ecclesiastical Hierarchy. Wherever these works are quoted, let us understand that they are by an unknown author, and not very ancient. This both the style and the subject clearly demonstrate.
But Chrysostom ascribes the Tradition to the Apostles, just as he does very many other things which, while they were commonly received, were of unknown origin. Those who have read Damascenus, if they have one ounce of sound judgment, will not defer much to his authority. Who knows not that ancient Christians were wont to give the Eucharist to infants at the breast? And they no doubt thought that the practice was founded on apostolic tradition! This Cyprian, who is considerably older than Chrysostom and Augustine, would have said: but that the practice was perverse and alien to the institution of Christ is testified by Paul, when he says, “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of that bread or drink of that cup.” ( 1 Corinthians 11:28.)
In short, a posterior age, not without good reason, corrected it. Why then do our moderators make a gloss by falsely assuming the name of tradition, when in a similar case they plainly show that this tradition, which they insist on being sacred, is to themselves lighter than a feather?
But of what use is it to keep guessing here? We have the Writings of the Apostles copiously and plainly detailing everything necessary to be known in the doctrine of godliness. Nay, they sometimes speak professedly of the dead. Nowhere do they command us to pray for them.
When Paul exhorts the Thessalonians to moderate their grief for the death of their friends, ( 1 Thessalonians 4:13,) he employs the consolations which he knew to be most appropriate to the occasion. There is not a word about prayers, though it would have been most seasonable, if it were lawful to pray for the dead. Writing to the Corinthians, he collects all the arguments by which he may prove that souls survive death. He does not adduce what would otherwise have been the strongest of all — that the Church with good reason prays for the dead. He reminds Timotheus of those for whom he would have ordinary prayer to be made in the Church. Of the dead, here too he is silent. ( 1 Timothy 2:1.) If the dead need our prayers now, there was a greater necessity for them under the law. But Scripture, while it accurately relates the mourning and burial, and other matters apparently minute, says not a word of prayers.
Who, I ask, can believe that the Holy Spirit forgets the principal, while dwelling on a minor point? Hence, men not given to contention, will see clearly that the thing was unknown to the Prophets and Apostles.
But our mediators also produce Scripture: for the Apostle commands us to pray one for another. ( James 5:16.) If they had any fear of God before them — had religion any weight — were conscience in any kind of vigor, they would certainly tremble at the punishment which we are forced to pray for against the impious corrupters of Holy Scripture, and which God will doubtless one day inflict. James, after he had given injunctions about mutual confession, admonishes us to pray one for another. If in this class he comprehends the dead, it will be necessary for them to rise again and confess their sins to us, for he couples the one with the other! I retort the words of James upon them, and to much better purpose — that as he enjoins those only who labor together to communicate in mutual prayer, the dead who have already ceased from these labors, are excluded. James, I say, recommends none to our prayers but those who are still engaged in the struggles of the present life. On the other hand, the Scripture pronounces those blessed who have died in the Lord, because they now rest from their labors. If it is so, what assistance can our prayers give them?
And yet our mediators hesitate not to charge us with great cruelty to our brethren, and great presumption towards God, if we exclude the dead from the fellowship of our prayers. Nay, rather let them charge God with cruelty, who at the very time when he so carefully exhorts us to pray for the brethren, always restricts it to the living. The relief of wretched souls who cannot speak to implore assistance was not so light a matter as to be passed over. Why is there not a single allusion to it, the more especially while all the Prophets and Apostles, and, in fine, Christ himself, discourse so carefully, so copiously, so clearly; in the offices of charity, why do they suppress this, certainly not the last? Then how presumptuously do they act with reference to our Lord? He delivers a certain rule for prayer.
We hold by it: we think it unlawful to deviate from it one nail’s breadth.
But the Lord, they say, by no means enjoins us to separate the dead from the living. Yes, it ought to be as a precept to us, that while he everywhere expressly mentions the living, he separates the dead from among them, and then, by declaring that their warfare is ended, intimates that they no more need our help. God nowhere prohibits us from praying for angels. Shall we detest him who refuses to pray for them? Our mediators themselves admit that we are not to pray for Apostles and martyrs. But a prohibition is nowhere read. Why, then, in regard to the other dead, should our inference be so detestable? But they themselves openly insult the Holy Spirit, whom they virtually charge with forgetfulness in so necessary a matter.
From the whole, it appears how great the moderation of those is who so futilely vent their detestation against us.
Be it so, however; let the custom of the ancient Church prevail, let the priest in the celebration of the Supper recommend the dead to God; are therefore Vigils, Anniversaries, and like follies, to be retained? So it pleases our mediators. I ask whether, if they had any care about renewing godliness and the Church, they would cut down nothing at all in the large forest of superstition, with which Vigils for the Dead, as they call them, abound? Nay, if they had any ingenuous shame, would they not admit, in word at least that some things require correction, which, by their excessive absurdity, give offense to any man of moderate intelligence? Then Scripture is shamefully torn to pieces. An indigested farrago of sentences, gathered here and there at random, is huddled together. In short, everything done and said there is a gross corruption of Scripture. All this our mediators not only disguise, but acquit by their vote. But let us hear their admirable reason: “How cruel were it,” they say, “to suppress the memory of the dead, as if their souls perished with the body!” Therefore, for four thousand years before the advent of Christ, and more than a thousand years thereafter, there was no belief in the immortality of the soul! Certainly, if we subscribe to this blasphemy, all the patriarchs that have ever been from the beginning of the world, all the prophets who lived under the law, pious kings, and others, Christ, his Apostles, the whole martyrs, will be Epicureans, because they used no vigils to show that souls do not perish.
In regard to Abstaining from Meats, they seem to themselves most admirably to correct any superstitions that have hitherto been, when they teach that it is submitted to because of temperance, and not from abhorrence. Did all delicacies consist in the mere eating of flesh, their allegation might perhaps be conceded; but who knows not that in the kitchens of the rich the repasts are much more luxurious during abstinence from flesh? The poor, who seldom taste bacon or beef, there is certainly no need to prohibit from eating flesh, for the sake of taming their flesh.
The rich alone require a law to bring them back to frugality. But, as has been said, there is nothing which the prohibition of flesh less is than a restraint on luxury and expense; for then their kitchens send forth most smoke, then their extravagant tables overflow. In short, they are never less temperate in their diet than when they abstain from flesh.
Doubly ridiculous, then, are our mediators, who place frugality in Abstinence from flesh, as if there were no voluptuous eatables but flesh, and pretend it to be a wholesome remedy for taming the flesh, as if their tables were not covered with more savory dainties on the sixth day of the week than on the second. Hence it is evidently more than absurd to distinguish flesh, on this account, from other kinds of food, as if by withholding flesh luxurious living were restrained, and a method discovered of mortifying the flesh, whereas the very variety of the food is a new stimulus to the appetites of those who have already eaten to the full.
But granting that it has the effect, in some degree, still the superstitious observance of days does not cease. Our mediators make the excuse that, in old times, the early Church interdicted the use of flesh both on Friday and Saturday, that men prepared by such abstinence might come in a holier state to the sacred table! It is certain, from ancient history, that nothing of the kind was enjoined. Eusebius speaks of the fast which was observed at Rome on the Saturday as an unusual thing. Abstinence from flesh, indeed, gradually insinuated itself by the private superstition of individuals. At first it seized upon the Friday, and then extended to the Saturday, until at length the custom became a law, and compelled the unwilling also to obey.
But as it belongs not to my purpose to treat this subject at length, it will suffice briefly to point out four vices which are contained in this prohibition.
First, insult is offered to God when the Eating of Flesh is interdicted, even on certain days. God destined flesh, not less than vegetables, and fish, and fruit, for our use. All these he created that we might eat and give him thanks. Of all these, I say, he permitted us the free and promiscuous use, provided it be sober and frugal. Men afterwards arise, who deprive us of this liberty, making that unlawful which God willed to be lawful.
Remember that everything of the nature of flesh is forbidden, though there are many sorts of it very remote from delicacy and luxury, so that they displease for no other reason than just because they have the name of flesh.
Secondly, such an Observance of Days is not free from superstition. They think they pay respect to the death and burial of Christ by not tasting flesh on those two days. Feast days are held in the same honor, not only those dedicated to God, but to Apostles or martyrs. If those are deservedly censured who distinguish between day and day, who does not see that to make abstinence from flesh imperative on certain days, is superstitious? Although they do not expressly mention Lent, yet, as they sanction anew all customary fasts, without exception, it also is restored entire. But on what ground principally is it wont to be recommended, but just on the imitation of Christ? If it is imitation, why is it repeated every year, when our Savior fasted thus only once in his life? If it is an example which we ought to follow, there was the same reason for following that of Moses and Eli. Why then did so many holy kings and prophets neglect the imitation? Certainly the whole ancient Church must have incurred no small guilt. Why also did our Lord himself, when he was on earth, not allow some regard to be paid to his example among the disciples? He excuses them for not fasting. It is painful to waste words on so clear a matter.
Our mediators themselves are aware that it was a childish error in those who first supposed that they were imitating the forty days’ Fast of Christ, when they observed any kind of abstinence. For how widely does this differ from not eating for forty days? Moreover, where is the example of temperance, where there is neither hunger nor desire for food? For it is a great mistake to suppose that our Savior then struggled with hunger, whereas he was exempted from the necessity of eating. Christ did not undertake that fast till he was more than thirty years of age. He undertook it when about to enter on the office received from the Father. He undertook it that he might obtain not less credit for the gospel than the law had previously obtained. In short, it was a singular specimen of divine power, which behooved to be displayed in himself, and by which it behooved him to be distinguished from others. To cherish a contrary error, were there no other harm in it, is by no means accordant with Christian sincerity.
Thirdly, I come to the third vice, which surpasses the former two. In this way both is a snare laid for consciences and liberty taken away — liberty not only granted by our Lord, but also purchased by his blood. Paul seriously admonishes us not to bring ourselves under the yoke of bondage, but to stand fast in the liberty whereunto we have been called, ( Corinthians 7:23.) But liberty is not only attacked, but entirely overthrown, when a spiritual law to bind the conscience is imposed upon us. As to the political reason which our mediators introduce, viz., that men are to be kept occasionally from flesh, lest they should consume the cattle by constant eating, they make themselves more than ridiculous even to babes. No doubt, when God permitted men to eat flesh at any time, he acted inconsiderately, by not providing against this danger: and those have provided best for the cattle kind, who after four thousand years have curtailed the former freedom of eating. It is strange that, in the meantime, men were so stupid as not to perceive a diminution of animals compelling them to a speedier remedy, especially while they consumed a great number in sacrifices. But this is not the subject in hand. The law they confirm is not a political but a spiritual one, by which necessity is laid upon the conscience. I hold it intolerable for men thus to usurp dominion over souls, and make that unlawful which the Lord left free.
Fourthly, the fourth vice is in the false idea of Divine Worship. For whatever our mediators may pretend, any observance recommended as necessary is forthwith considered as belonging to the worship of God. Of this fact we need not go far for an example. Who does not think that Abstinence from flesh is a part of religion? And this is the reason why Paul says that they hypocritically deceive and lie who introduce a new form of godliness under a prohibition of meats. ( 1 Timothy 4:2,3.)
For when he teaches, in another place, that the kingdom of God is not in meat and in drink, he justly charges such enactments in regard to external things with hypocrisy. ( Romans 14:17.)
Inward truth of heart alone, I say, is what the Lord requires. Any exercises which are added are to be approved so far as they are subservient to truth, or as useful incitements, or as marks of profession to attest our faith to men. Nor, meantime, do we reject things which tend to the preservation of order and discipline. But when consciences are put under fetters, and bound by religious obligations, in matters in which God willed them to be free, we must boldly protest, in order that the worship of God may not be vitiated by human fictions, nor mortal man, who should be subject to the law, seize on the tribunal of the one Lawgiver, ( James 4:12,) and assert dominion over consciences, over which Christ alone ought to reign.
In short, let us hear what Paul says, ( Colossians 2:20,) “If we are dead to the elements of this world by Christ, it is unbecoming to be bound by such decrees as, Eat not, taste not, touch not.” When once any one has given way to the superstition of thinking it unlawful to eat flesh, he forthwith follows it up by boldness in condemning others. This boldness, though wearing the specious name of zeal, is akin to sacrilege, and is usually accompanied with that preposterous admiration of empty worthless traditions, of which Christ complains as making void the commandments of God.
Marriage is forgiven to Priests like a discharge on cause among soldiers.
Ministers who are already entangled in Marriage they dare not tear from their wives by sudden divorce, lest greater commotions should arise, but they restrict their indulgence till the period of a General Council. Two things are here to be carefully observed — the Marriage of ministers is not permitted because it is approved, but only from fear of disturbances, and nothing is resolved till the Council shall determine. The reason which they allege for not being satisfied with the Marriage of priests is, because, according to Paul, ( 1 Corinthians 7:32,) he who is unmarried cares better, and with an easier mind, for the things of the Lord. I hear what Paul says; but does he on this account compel pastors and ministers of the Church to celibacy? He does not even advise them to it, except as each in his own case shall acknowledge its expediency.
Our mediators could wish that many clergy were found who could observe true chastity in celibacy. It were well to be wished, I confess; but since experience teaches otherwise, of what use is it to wrestle in vain with necessity? We see that, at the time when the greatest sanctity flourished among Christians, the ministers of the Church were not bound to celibacy.
It is certain that the Apostles, while they had no fixed station anywhere, chose to carry their wives about with them rather than dismiss them from their society: so Paul relates. We cannot listen to the puerile quibble that they followed their husbands in order that they might live together at the public expense of the Church. How? Could they not have been maintained by the public fund without eating at a common table?
Paul, again, when he draws the portrait of a true bishop complete in all its parts, and enumerates the endowments in which he ought chiefly to excel, makes no mention of celibacy. This is little. He expressly advises the choice of such as, contented with a single wife, chastely observe conjugal fidelity, as are reputable heads of families, as train up their children in the fear of the Lord. That this is the true and entire perfection of a bishop after Paul’s model, cannot be denied. Whoever thinks that something is wanting to the ministers of the Church unless they live in celibacy, let him have to himself some other form of Church government than that which the Son of God has recommended.
To leave the matter less doubtful, the Spirit of God, in another place, distinctly declares that “Marriage is honorable in all.” ( Hebrews 13:4.) In quoting this passage, the mediators wickedly corrupt it. They omit the principal member of the sentence, “in all.” Would the Apostle have advanced anything new, if he had simply said — there is no disgrace in marriage? No such superstition had yet arisen, either among Jews or Gentiles, as to fix a stigma on it: but as, perchance, some morose individuals were extravagantly lauding celibacy as in itself a holier state, Paul, while he denounces fearful vengeance from God on whore-mongers and adulterers, at the same time proposes, as the remedy for incontinence, that each should have his own wife; and, that none might despise marriage, he testifies that marriage is honorable in all — thereby intimating that no man is endued with such passing virtues that marriage may not become him, and that there is no function, however noble, with which it is incompatible.
Whence, then, came this new sanctity? We shall find that it originated with Montanus, the Encratites, and the like. They were indeed long since condemned; yet Satan obtained, that though the persons were condemned, the impious error was half approved. Sozomen relates, (Tripartit. Hist. lib. 1, c. 14,) that it was mooted in the Council of Nice, but Paphnutius the martyr interponed at that time, saying, that though he was himself free from the Marriage tie, it was chastity for a man to cohabit with his own wife.
Our mediators, not to seem too severe against Marriage, advise the toleration of those ministers who cannot be induced to repudiate the wives they have; at the same time they carefully guard against seeming to approve their cause, by wishing the concession to be made to them merely, lest they should excite tumult if too hard pressed. In this way Islebius keeps his concubine, lest, if violently torn from her, he should sound the trumpet of war. His excessive desire of vain glory certainly makes him a fit subject to bear this insult. But I wonder that our moderators are so devoid of shame, that they would, without hesitation, dissolve the sacred bond of Marriage, could they do it without the risk of more grievous commotion.
Here I am again forced briefly to repeat what I formerly adverted to. While they insist, in deference to the Sacrament, that Marriage contracted between young people, though gone into contrary to law and right, shall yet remain valid, what incongruous levity is it to pay no respect to the Sacrament when the question is the Marriage of priests? Let us, however, while we hear from the lips of Paul that the prohibition of Marriage is a devilish device, ( 1 Timothy 4:1, 3,) boldly call these devils twice over, who, in defending this tyranny, attempt to profane Marriage consecrated by the name of God.
Not to be too liberal, they add, that the decision of the Council must be waited for. What, then! Should the Council declare that the Marriage of ministers are not to be confirmed, shall the will of man forthwith lawfully put asunder those whom God hath joined? In this way, verily, the ordinance of God, which ought to be inviolable, is subjected to human decisions. Unless they would expunge the Prophets, Apostles, and flower of holy pastors from the list of God’s servants, they cannot deny that the marriage of priests is approved of God and blessed. The decision of God now stands, that husband and wife, leaving their parents, if need be, shall be twain in one flesh. By these words Moses intimates that this covenant is so pre-eminently holy, that the strongest natural tie must yield precedence to it. What audacity, then, is it to set at nought that which has been so strictly sanctioned by God Besides, when they shall have made celibacy imperative, who is to give continence? Unless they would openly gainsay Christ and Paul, they will be forced to confess that continence is a special gift, and therefore rare, possessed by very few. All who possess it not, if they reject the remedy of marriage, will gain nothing by fighting with God: for however much external excess may be restrained, lust will swell and boil within. Hence miserable disquietude of conscience, which will not allow a man to attempt anything with a tranquil mind, and, as Paul expresses it, in accordance with faith. The result will be, that a clerical brood will immediately be hatched similar to that which this impure celibacy has now for many years been producing. Never, therefore, let us willingly permit the Church to be put under a fetter, which will not only keep back from the ministry the pious and otherwise best qualified, who will cultivate pure chastity of mind and body in holy wedlock, but also pollute the whole, order of the priesthood with a foul and fetid deluge.
In regard to Ceremonies, while the number of them is almost infinite, and a great part are stuffed with foolish and absurd superstitions, our mediators, while willing to preserve them, apply correction gently in a single word, though it were better to have been altogether silent than to have made such a frivolous semblance of amendment. They remind us that the secret operations which they imagine to lie under their operations are to be attributed to God — not to the things themselves: as if the abuse of the name of God were not ever the fountain of all superstition. If credit is given to their words, we will believe that lustral water has power, not in itself, but from God, to expel demons and ward off every kind of harm.
Here indeed mention is made of the power of God, but it is confined to a small drop of water. A thousand other things of the same stamp I omit, as from these it will be easy to judge what modification of the poison is prepared by our mediators.
In another place it is added, that there are to be no superstitious flockings to images. But by these very terms idolaters have license to run up and down; for if they insist that there is no superstition, the attempt to define will place us in a dilemma. As if there were not manifest proved superstition in such flocking, they, by fixing blame on some, indirectly exculpate all others. See the sincere zeal by which they are actuated.
They say that the worship of latria is not to be given to Crosses and Banners. What does this mean? That the thing is to be done as it was done before. For this is the answer which the Papists use as a common charm to excuse all kinds of false worship, while they refrain from using the word latria . The quibble indeed is futile in the extreme — to feign worship without worship. Latria in Greek means exactly the same thing as cultus in Latin. Those, therefore, who affirm that they do not give latria to the Images which they adore on account of religion, just speak as if they were to say that a man is not a]nqrwpov , nor an animal, zwon . We may now perceive what kind of gloss these worthy men make for us out of one vocable. Provided the Greek word for worship be kept away, they do not disapprove of the worship of full grown Images, and they gently fondle little ones. In short, no idolatry displeases them, provided it be not called latria .
Be the obloquy or ignominy which we must endure from the ignorant as well as the wicked what it may, we must strenuously resist such imposture. Too costly will be the reputation that is purchased at the price of such perfidious silence. The loss not of fame merely, but of life also, must be submitted to with unflinching courage. Meanwhile I have no fear that those who are truly pious, and who having embraced the truth of God with becoming zeal, hold it with equal firmness, will think me too vehement in assailing this farrago of impiety, an impiety the more detestable, in that while it exhibits itself under the name of a specious moderation, it tarnishes all the glory of God, and with it the grace of Christ and the salvation of men.
Hence, when I lately received a copy of the Antidote of Robert Cenalis to the propositions which he calls the Interim, at first I wondered exceedingly what new genius could have impelled one, born to approve evil, to draw his pen against those impious blasphemies of which he ought, after his usual manner, to have professed himself the advocate. The Robert of whom I speak is an old theologaster of Sorbonne, and Bishop of Auvergne.
I reflected, indeed, that men of not very sound heads not only fall into dotage by years, but also become more sour tempered. I was aware, moreover, of the haughty superciliousness, the fierce pertinacity of the Doctors of Sorbonne, whose usual weapons are fire and bloodshed. But when, on the other hand, I saw that the tract which he had undertaken to refute teems with so many corruptions, and is compiled of so many impostures, that it leaves nothing pure or entire in the doctrine of godliness, throws clouds of darkness over the clear light, sometimes equals, sometimes prefers the decrees of men to Divine laws, and, in short, contains almost a total revival of the Papacy, it seemed odd that it should be so violently assailed by Cenalis, one of the keen satellites of the Pope.
If it was not plausible in every part, there was nothing in it greatly to excite his stomach.
While hesitating among various conjectures, I cursorily turned over the volume. Here I perceive that the miserable dotard, while hunting for something to fight with, has taken much trouble to lash his own shadow.
He has this excellence above the others he herds with, that he is versed in the poets. By this he has so far profited, that he not only stuffs his discourses with numerous lines from them, but in his own composition is ever and anon breaking out into hemistichs, pleased exceedingly, I have no doubt, with the jingle. For were he not pleased, he would not toil at it so anxiously. He had, as far as one may guess, gathered some flowers of this sort, and he saw that if he did not get them speedily disposed of they must perish. But he was unwilling that they should perish with him, and while many eagerly carry their glory with them to the tomb, Robert, who, of course, is not in the least degree vainglorious, wished rather to leave his with the living. For when he could not find any subject to write upon, he fabricated for himself a kind of supposititious monster, to which he gave the name ofINTERIM, that in routing it he might make full trial of his strength.
These propositions, which he gossipingly alleged to be from the Protestants, he either feigned for himself, or some wit palmed upon him as a hoax. But whether he came to the contest on his own invitation, or some one abusing his foolish credulity stirred up his bile for him, he sweats not less copiously than ridiculously in fighting a ghost. Afterwards, indeed, though kindly admonished by a friend, that the Interim which he assails never proceeded from the Protestants, but was composed as a jeu d ’esprit by some taverning buffoon, as numerous squibs of that sort are daily flying about, he chose rather to be laughed at for his levity and stupidity in believing, than to lose labor so well applied. Any person possessed of common sense will perceive at the very first glance, that the propositions he quotes have not the least semblance of being genuine. Hence it will be easy to infer, that the good old man is enraged without cause at his own shadow. But what we cannot pardon in this Bishop-doctor of Sorbonne is, that in discussing trifles feigned by I know not whom, he rashly creates disturbance in the world. Perhaps he may answer, that by a kind of privilege bishops have a license to be silly, and Sorbonnists to rant, the greater part of them having been long used to it.
It is not my present purpose to examine the Bishop’s book, and yet I cannot refrain from dipping a little into it. Grave authors are quoted, by whose weight heretics are borne down, by whose splendor they are extinguished, before whose majesty they all fall prostrate. There is Ivo Carnotensis, Speculator, the Abbot of Panorma, Isidorus, Thomas Aquinas, Pope Boniface, Nicolaus, etc. etc. What then? he makes oracles of the bought responses of Speculator. Who will not promise the victory to a combatant so well provided? But he himself, without waiting for the plaudits of others, ever and anon chants his own triumph in joyous acclamations. And to complete his Areopagus, he adds Cochlaeus to the number. Cochlaeus, who surpasses all cockles in dulness, that is, in so far as the male should surpass the female, is here called a most sagacious discerner of spirits. They are, indeed, a worthy couple to sound each other’s praises: for scarcely could a pair of fools be better fitted, search all France and Germany!
But what are the matters about which Cenalis debates? He says it is intolerable that the patrimony of the Church should be retained by Protestants. What then? Does he wish it bestowed for any lawful purpose? Nay, he allows no account to be taken of the Poor, and no provision to be made for Schools. He only urges the restitution of what has been carried off, that the stomachs of priests and monks may be stuffed! How much better then would it have been for a herd than a Bishop to have this great care of swine? I pass over many things as to which he fights without an opponent. One is, that he will not allow a Legate to be sent to pardon the Protestants who abjure. But all good men with whom alone Cenalis is incensed, make the Roman Legate welcome to remain at home!
One head on which he rages furiously is, when he treats of the Marriage of priests. After launching all the thunders of his eloquence, that is, giving vent to all the invectives that a petulant mad fellow could think of, he at length shouts to arms — let the earth be sooner covered with blood than behold such atrocity, as he explains it. But how comes it that he so much detests the marriages of priests as incestuous, sacrilegious, impure, disdigamous, and obscene? He answers, because we are enjoined to walk in the Spirit, and not to fulfill the lusts of the flesh. But those words of Paul apply to all Christians without exception. We see then how this dog defames holy marriage by his blasphemous bark. For if we must live in celibacy, in order to walk in the Spirit, who can doubt that marriage must be banished from the Church? This blasphemy, indeed, the Pope learned from his Serycius. But what fury drives them to subscribe openly to Montanus, the Encratites, and the Manichees?
Cenalis exclaims, that it is great improbity, great flagitiousness, fearful sacrilege, to draw luxury and carnal delights into the sanctuary of Divine laws. Why then does he allow luxury and delights to revel so in his own house, unless, indeed, it be that Divine laws have been exiled from it? But who does not see that the man is wrong in his mind when he fears not so petulantly to pour out malediction on holy Marriage? What! will he say that the tents of the patriarchs, and the houses of prophets and pious kings, were profane receptacles of luxury? Can he find nothing but luxury in the households of the Apostles? What sanctuaries of celestial philosophy were ever purer? But we read that they were married. Nay, the Spirit of God enumerates it among the highest of their praises that they brought up their families piously and in chaste discipline.
Again, he exclaims, What madness, what delirium, to immerse in carnal cares and desires those who should cultivate nothing but purity! I speak not of the wickedness with which, as if struck with devilish insanity, he ever and anon defames honorable Marriage. What madness is like his own in stigmatizing as mad and delirious all who approve of marriage in the sacerdotal order, when it is certain that it was approved in the Church for more than 300 years? When Paul prescribes after the most perfect pattern what kind of persons bishops ought to be, ( 1 Timothy 3:2,) he expressly commends the married. For he does not say, “who were,” but mentions their present state. With whom does he think that he has to do when he vents his foul maledictions against the Spirit of God, speaking by the mouth of Paul?
Paul also testifies, ( 1 Corinthians 9:5,) that the Apostles not only continue to live with the wives they had, but carried them about with them. And the whole Church, when it was in its highest perfection, not to offer insult to God, the author of marriage, and to the Prophets and Apostles, had for its pastors husbands and heads of families. About years after, when fanatics wished to make celibacy imperative on priests, the holy martyr Paphnutius, who had lived a bachelor to extreme old age, eagerly interposed, and by his authority prevailed with the Council of Nice to leave marriage free to priests as formerly. Now this frantic man, trusting to the horns which he carries in his mitre, as if he saw the sun falling from the skies, stands amazed at the thing as monstrous. And these execrable blasphemies against the Spirit are received with great applause.
He afterwards proceeds to pour forth his vile sentences. For in order to prove that he has read Ovid, he wrests what that heathen says of unchaste love to holy Marriage; “Conjugal delights, he says, and a mind elevated to God, do not well agree nor stay in one house,” Therefore, according to this animal, neither the prophets, nor holy fathers, nor Apostles, nor infinite numbers of martyrs, ever raised their minds to heaven. Therefore Moses, to whom, above others, it was given to stand before God, and see him as it were face to face, kept his mind bent on the earth, and never had any taste of heavenly grace. Of a similar stamp is his saying, that those who allow priests to marry follow the way of Balaam; as if there were no difference between entering into honorable and pious wedlock, in the chaste fear of God, and introducing Midianitish harlots among the people of God, in order to seduce them to idolatry. He, moreover, calls all married priests Nicolaitans, as if he who in marrying one wife seeks a remedy for the various unrestrained lusts which now prevail throughout the Papacy were making wives common and committing prostitution.
But this worthy Doctor denies the necessity of the remedy for continence which Paul by the Spirit of God enjoins: for he maintains that all who wish it can be exempted from burning, because it is written, “I can do all things in him who strengtheneth me.” ( Philippians 4:13.)
But he considers not, on the other hand, that Christ is the helper of those only who obey his call. Therefore, to experience that victorious power of Christ in all things, we must depend on the command of God, no one taking more upon himself than he permits. And what does Paul say? He openly declares that the gift of continence is not given to all in common, and that all who labor under incontinence should betake themselves to marriage that they may not burn. ( 1 Corinthians 7:9.) What does Christ himself say? When the Apostles, on hearing celibacy praised, said that it was a happy kind of life, he declares that all are not capable of it, ( Matthew 19:11,) thereby intimating that those only are fit who are specially called to it by God.
It hence appears that the laws which prohibit Marriage in those whom the Spirit of God expressly invites to it, are the very last to be called ecclesiastical. Apollonius, a very ancient writer, as Eusebius testifies, censures Montanus for having first dissolved marriages, and first taught to dissolve them. They show themselves to be his disciples when they neither wish marriages to be contracted according to the ordinance of God, nor allow those contracted to be confirmed.
Moreover, Cenalis, not to seem to rave without reason, reminds us that the world would be oppressed by the multitude of its inhabitants, were not excessive population kept down by celibacy. The subtle Doctor here speaks as if there were no difference between celibacy and continence. But all know that no seed is so fertile in propagating mankind as the sacerdotal: for to such a degree has the untamed lust of almost all monks and popish priests burst forth, that he is justly deemed chastest who is satisfied with a harlot in his house. Wherefore, if the object is to prevent them from replenishing the earth, they must not only be prevented from marrying, but made physically incapable of it. Otherwise, what has long been notorious will never cease; instead of two lawful children the land will be burdened with the rearing of three bastards.
Had not Cenalis all his acumen in his episcopal mitre, he never would have thus exposed himself to the ridicule even of children. For what, I ask, can be fitter for laughter than to send bulls into the pasture to graze and fatten at their ease, in order to prevent a surplus of offspring? But the madness is still greater in this, that while the Lord calls the propagation of the human race his blessing, Cenalis orders it to be cut down by the knife as an unfortunate excrescence, and as if children were the offspring of chance, is afraid that their numbers may be carried to excess. The sacrilegious presumption of such men well deserves to plunge deeper and deeper into all kinds of absurdities. If God once avenged the contempt of holy marriage by monstrous examples of abominable lust, how much severer punishment is due to the contumelious insults in which this ungovernable animal vents his bacchanalian rage?
But that Cenalis may answer to his name, he again rolls back to the kitchen. He says, If three benefices scarcely suffice a solitary individual, how will one be enough for a numerous family? Were he not more than a dolt, would not the answer at once occur to him, that economy, to which the heads of families are more accustomed, is the best revenue, whereas expensive parties are those common with the solitaries of whom he boasts.
A husband will live frugally with his wife and children, so as to leave something over even out of a slender income; but Papist priests, before they have satisfied harlots, bastards, pimps, and pimpesses, will have spent much larger revenues than would have served many honest families.
Why should I enumerate the profuse luxuries into which they throw whatever they can seize or scrape from any quarter as into inexhaustible whirlpools, so that they seem ingenious only in squandering money? The more they abound the more do they inundate the world with their corruptions.
But in order to curry favor with his thrice beneficed associates, he styles those vertiginous, who confine each priest to a single benefice! Certainly, O good father, you must have been either drunk or well saturated, when such vertigo seized your brain, that you dared to disapprove of this arrangement, which even those of the greatest audacity and the least probity are not only forced to admit to be agreeable to reason, but order to be observed as a dictate of nature. After this miscreant has vented all the blasphemies which he could find in his Sorbonne, he at last raises his horns and sends forth the Thrasonic boast, that he is ready to descend into the arena, and if need be, fight even unto blood. I, for my part, doubt not that a man of his sanguinary temper, if all the servants of God were to be butchered, and the innocent blood of men and women alike were to be shed, would willingly become a standard-bearer, though he has learned to spare his own blood. When we see this Cyclops no less pertinaciously persisting in assailing the truth, than burning with mad hatred against it, we are more than base and flagitious if we show less constancy in confessing the pure faith.
But to return to the show of adulterine Reformation, seeing it is manifest that all purity of sound doctrine is there corrupted, how shall any one who allows himself to be hood-winked by it prove himself to be a Christian? I indeed see the dangers which beset all who will ingenuously confess Christ; the obloquy which they incur among the undiscerning; the ignominy which awaits them in time to come. But I have already reminded them, that no calamity, however great, ought to turn us aside from that doctrine in which the glory of God and the salvation of the whole world are contained.
Whatever pretexts may be sought out on this hand and on that, by those who in the present day are more ingenious than they ought in excusing their effeminacy, it were most unworthy in us to pay a greater regard to our own reputation than to the glory of God, to defer to the foolish and presumptuous opinions of men, rather than look to Christ, sole Judge of heaven and earth, and through him to all angels and saints who submit to his authority; to think less of the blessedness and immortality which have been promised us, and laid up in heaven, than of the world and this transitory life. The time now demands that the faith which we have hitherto professed with the tongue and pen shall be sealed with our blood.
Long ago, if we had duly profited in the school of Christ, must this thought have been present to our minds. Our first experience is a kind of apprenticeship by which he trains his own to deny themselves, and take up his cross, and hasten with unwearied course to death, but now we are just as great novices in enduring danger for the testimony of the gospel, as if the Son of God, instead of constantly inculcating it upon us, had never said a word about it.
In the old time, when Caius Caligula ordered his statue to be set up in the Temple of Jerusalem, the Jews from all quarters, like hives of bees, rushed to the Prefect, not to prevent the sacrilege by force and violence, but to place their necks beneath his swords in vindication of the majesty of the Temple. Nor was that a sudden impulse which immediately calmed down, but as often as the profanation of the Temple was threatened, an almost innumerable multitude of women, as well as men, forgetting themselves, cheerfully offered to die, leaving no passage to the idol excepting over their slaughtered bodies. And shall we, having not a temple of stone in which God may be invoked, but the Son of God, in whom the whole majesty of the Father dwells, silently suffer him to be so shamefully profaned? For an Idol is set up, not to deform the external appearance of the sanctuary, but to defile and destroy the whole sanctity of the Church, to overthrow the entire worship of God, and leave nothing in our religion unpolluted.
If we descend to more recent times, how many thousands of martyrs have persisted, with invincible fortitude, with the worst terrors of death immediately in their eye? Why do I speak of terrors? Did they not, by death itself, intrepidly testify that they sought and hoped with assurance for another life? And at that time, too, as soon as a feeble spark of light had beamed upon men, their whole heart burned with such longing for celestial life, that they easily contemned this life and its death. Now, when the full brightness of intelligence shines upon us, no cordiality appears.
Do we hope for salvation from the gospel while no man is willing to run any risk in asserting its truth? The more than perfidious cowardice which the experience of one year has betrayed is too clear evidence of our ingratitude, so that there is no longer occasion to ask why in so many cities and provinces the purity of Christianity is gone. For why should the inestimable blessing of God be longer enjoyed by those who set it at nought?
These things I say, in order that all who are touched with any feeling of piety may remember that God is, as with outstretched hand, calling them to die. And that their courage fail not, let them doubt not that it is far happier for them to cast in their lot with the Church when smitten and in distress, than by acting with excessive caution, and consulting their private tranquillity, to seek a lot apart from the children of God. It was once said by one who had instant death in his eye, that old age made him feel free, and that in a case where freedom was of less consequence. Shall the eternity of future life have less weight with us for the defense of the glory of Christ than the shortness of the present life had with him? It may shame us as often as we hear the voice of the female who is introduced by the heathen poet, asking, “Is it so very miserable a thing to die?” if we hesitate in suspense to bear testimony to our faith whenever any danger appears. For myself, conscious as I am of my own weakness, still, by the help of God, I trust, that when the occasion demands it, I shall be able to show how firmly I have believed, and do believe, that “blessed are the dead that die in the Lord,”