« Prev ROME AND THE NECESSITY OF WORKS Next »

ROME AND THE NECESSITY OF WORKS

I seek not to obtrude upon you any private opinions of mine own. The best learned in our profession are of this judgment, that all the heresies and corruptions of the Church of Rome do not prove her to deny the foundation directly. If they did, they should prove her simply to be no Christian Church. "But I suppose," saith one, "that in the papacy some church remaineth, a church crazed [cracked], or, if you will, broken quite in pieces, forlorn, misshapen, yet some church." His reason is this: "Antichrist must sit in the temple of God." [John Calvin, Letter to Laelius Socinus, 9 Dec 1549, (Brunswick: C A Achwetschke, 1875), Epistola 1324, OPERA QUAE SUPERSUNT OMNIA, vol 13, col 487; cf INST IV, ii, 11f] Lest any man should think such sentences as this to be true only in regard of them whom that church is supposed to have kept by the special providence of God, as it were in the secret corners of his bosom, free from infection and as sound in the faith as, we trust, by his mercy we ourselves are, I permit it to your wise considerations whether it be not more likely that, as phrensy, though itself take away the use of reason, doth notwithstanding prove them reasonable creatures who have it, because none can be frantic but they, so antichristianity, being the bane and plain overthrow of Christianity, may nevertheless argue the church wherein Antichrist sitteth to be Christian. Neither have I ever hitherto heard or read any one word alleged of force to warrant that God doth otherwise than, so as hath been in the next two questions before declared, bind himself to keep his elect from worshipping the beast and from receiving his mark in their foreheads; [Rev 13:16; 14:9] but he hath preserved and will preserve them from receiving any deadly wound at the hands of the man of sin, whose deceit hath prevailed over none to death but only such as never loved the truth and such as took pleasure in unrighteousness. They, in all ages, whose hearts have delighted in the principal truth and whose souls have thirsted after righteousness, if they received the mark of error, even erring and dangerously erring, the mercy of God might save them; if they received the mark of heresy, the same mercy did, I doubt not, convert them .

How far Romish heresies may prevail over God's elect, how many God hath kept from falling into them, how many have been converted from them, is not the question now in hand; for if heaven had not received any one of that coat for these thousand years it may still be true that the doctrine which at this day they do profess doth not directly deny the foundation and so prove them to be no Christian Church. One I have alleged [Calvin] whose words, in my ears, sound that way. Shall I add another whose speech is plainer? "I deny her not the name of a church", saith another, "no more than to a man the name of a man as long as he liveth, what sickness soever he hath." His reason is this: "Salvation in Jesus Christ, which is the mark joineth the Head with the body, Jesus Christ with his church, it is so cut off by man's merits, by the merits of saints, by the pope's pardons, and such other wickedness that the life of the Church holdeth by a very little thread"; [Phillipe de Mornay du Plessis, TRACTATUS DE ECCLESSIA, Geneva, 1585, ch 2, pp 32f] yet still the life of the Church holdeth. A third hath these words: "I acknowledge the church of Rome, even at this present day, for a church of Christ, such a church as Israel under Jeroboam, yet a church". His reason is this: "Every man seeth, except he willingly hoodwink himself, that as always so now the church of Rome holdeth firmly and steadfastly the doctrine of truth concerning God and the person of our Lord Jesus Christ, and baptizeth in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, confesseth and avoucheth Christ for the only Redeemer of the world and the Judge that shall sit upon quick and dead, receiving true believers into endless joy, faithless and godless men being cast with Satan and his angels into flames unquenchable". [Zanchius, DE RELIGIONE CHRISTIANA, Preface]

I may, and will rein the question shorter than they do. Let the pope take down his top and captivate no more men's souls by his papal jurisdiction; let him no longer count himself lord paramount over the princes of the earth, no longer use kings as his tenants paravaile [NOTE: Just as a lord paramount is one who has no lord above him, so a tenant paravaile is one who has no tenant below him -- thus they are opposites, as vale and mount are opposites]; let his stately senate submit their necks to the yoke of Christ and cease to dye their garments, like Edom, in blood; let them, from the highest to the lowest, hate and foresake their idolatry, abjure all their errors and heresies wherewith they have perverted the truth; let them strip their church till they have no polluted rag but this one about her: "By Christ alone, without works, we cannot be saved." It is enough for me if I show that the holding of this one thing doth not prove the foundation of faith directly denied in the Church of Rome.

Works are an addition to the foundation. Be it so, what then? The foundation is not subverted by every kind of addition. Simply to add unto those fundamental words is not to "mingle wine with puddle, heaven with earth, things polluted with the sanctified blood of Christ: of which crime indict them who attribute those operations, in whole or in part, to any creature which in the work of our salvation are wholly peculiar unto Christ; and if I open my mouth to speak in their defence, if I hold my peace and plead not against them as long as breath is in my body, let me be guilty of all the dishonour that ever hath been done to the Son of God. But the more dreadful a thing it is to deny salvation by Christ alone, the more slow and fearful I am, except it be too manifest, to lay a thing so grievous unto any man's charge. Let us beware lest, if we make too many ways of denying Christ, we scarce leave any way for ourselves truly and soundly to confess him. Salvation only by Christ is the true foundation whereupon indeed Christianity standeth. But what if I say, "Ye cannot be saved only by Christ without this addition: Christ believed in heart, confessed with mouth, obeyed in life and conversation"? Because I add, do I therefore deny that which directly I did affirm? There may be an additament of explication which overthroweth not but proveth and concludeth the proposition whereunto it is annexed. He that saith Peter was a chief apostle doth prove that Peter was an apostle. [cf Gal 2:9] He who saith our salvation is of the Lord, through sanctification of the Spirit and faith of the truth [cf 2 Thess 2:13], proveth that our salvation is of the Lord. But if that which is added be such a privation as taketh away the very essence of that whereunto it is adjoined, then by sequel it overthroweth. In like sort, he that should say, "Our election is of grace for our works' sake," should then grant in sound of words, but indeed by consequent deny, that our election is of grace; for the grace which electeth us is no grace if it elect us for our works' sake.

Now whereas the Church of Rome addeth works, we must note, further, that the adding works is not like the adding of circumcision unto Christ. Christ came not to abrogate and take away good works: he did, to change circumcision; for we see that in place thereof he hath substituted holy baptism. To say, "Ye cannot be saved by Christ except ye be circumcised", is to add a thing excluded, a thing not only not necessary to be kept, but necessary not to be kept by them that will be saved. On the other side, to say, "Ye cannot be saved bv Christ without works," is to add things not only not excluded, but commanded, as being in place and in their kind necessary, and therefore subordinated unto Christ, even by Christ himself, by whom the web of salvation is spun: "Except your righteousness exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." [Mt 5:20] They were rigorous exacters of things not utterly to be neglected and left undone, washings and tithings, etc. [cf Mt 23:23-26] As they were in these things, so must we be in judgment and the love of God. Christ, in works ceremonial, giveth more liberty, in moral, much less, than they did. [cf Mt 5:21ff] Works of righteousness therefore are not so repugnantly added in the one proposition as in the other circumcision is.

« Prev ROME AND THE NECESSITY OF WORKS Next »
Please login or register to save highlights and make annotations
Corrections disabled for this book
Proofing disabled for this book
Printer-friendly version





Advertisements



| Define | Popups: Login | Register | Prev Next | Help |