« Prev Chapter VI. Romanists’ charge of schism on the… Next »

Chapter VI.

Romanists’ charge of schism on the account of separation from the church, catholic proposed to consideration — The importance of this plea on both sides — The sum of their charge — The church of Rome not the church catholic; not a church in any sense — Of antichrist in the temple — The catholic church, how intrusted with interpretation of Scripture — Of interpretation of Scripture by tradition — The interest of the Roman church herein discharged — All necessary truths believed by Protestants — No contrary principle by them manifested — Profane persons no members of the church catholic — Of the late Roman proselytes — Of the Donatists — Their business reported and case stated — The present state of things unsuited to that of old — Apostasy from the unity of the church catholic charged on the Romanists — Their claim to be that church sanguinary, false — Their plea to this purpose considered — The blasphemous management of their plea by some of late — The whole dissolved — Their inferences on their plea practically prodigious — Their apostasy proved by instances — Their grand argument in this cause proposed; answered — Consequences of denying the Roman church to be a church of Christ weighed.

Let us see now what as to conscience can be charged on us, Protestants I mean, who are all concerned herein as to the breach of this union. The Papists are the persons that undertake to manage this charge against us. To lay aside the whole plea “subesse Romano pontifici,” and all those fears wherewith they juggled when the whole world sat in darkness, which they do now use at the entrance of their charge, the sum of what they insist upon, firstly, is: The catholic church is intrusted with the interpretation of the Scripture, and declaration of the truths therein contained; which being by it so declared, the not receiving of them implicitly or explicitly, — that is, the disbelieving of them as so proposed and declared, — cuts off any man from being a member of the church, Christ himself having said that he that hears not the church is to be as a heathen man and a publican; which church they are, that is certain. It is all one, then, what we believe or do not believe, seeing that we believe not all that the catholic church proposeth to be believed, and what we do believe we believe not on that account.

154Ans. Their insisting on this plea so much as they do is sufficient to evince their despair of making good by instance our failure, in respect of the way and principles by which the unity of the visible church may be lost or broken. Fail they in this, they are gone; and if they carry this plea, we are all at their disposal. The sum of it is, The catholic church is intrusted with the sole power of delivering what is truth, and what is necessary to be believed: this catholic church is the church of Rome, — that is, the pope, or what else may in any juncture of time serve their interest. But, as it is known, —

1. We deny their church, as it is styled, to be the catholic church, or as such any part of it, as particular churches are called or esteemed; so that, of all men in the world, they are least concerned in this assertion. Nay, I shall go farther. Suppose all the members of the Roman church to be sound in the faith as to all necessary truths, and no way to prejudice the advantages and privileges which accrue to them by the profession thereof, whereby the several individuals of it would be true members of the catholic church, yet I should not only deny it to be the catholic church, but also, — abiding in its present order and constitution, being that which by themselves it is supposed to be, — to be any particular church of Christ at all, as wanting many things necessary to constitute them so, and having many things destructive utterly to the very essence and being of that order that Christ hath appointed in his churches.

The best plea that I know for their church-state is, that Antichrist sits in the temple of God. Now, although we might justly omit the examination of this pretence until those who are concerned in it will professedly own it as their plea, yet as it lies in our way in the thoughts of some, I say to it that I am not so certain that καθίσαι εἰς τὸν ναὸν τοῦ Θεοῦ, signifies “to sit in the temple of God;” seeing a learned man long ago thought it rather to be a “setting up against the temple of God,” Aug. de Civitate Dei, lib. x. cap. 59. But grant the sense of the expression to be as it is usually received, it imports no more but that the man of sin shall set up his power against God in the midst of them who, by their outward visible profession, have right to be called his temple; which entitles him and his copartners in apostasy to the name of the church as much as changing of money and selling of cattle were ordinances of God under the old temple, when, by some men’s practising of them in it, it was made a den of thieves.

2. Though as to the plea of them and their interest with whom we have to do, we have nothing requiring our judgments in the case, yet, “ex abundanti,” we add, that we deny that, by the will and appointment of Jesus Christ, the catholic church visible is in any sense intrusted with such an interpretation of Scripture as that 155her declaration of truth should be the measure of what should be believed; or that, as such, it is intrusted with any power of that nature at all, or is enabled to propose a rule of faith to be received, as so proposed, to the most contemptible individual in the world; or that it is possible that any voice of it should be heard or understood, but only this, “I believe the necessary saving truths contained in the Scripture;” or that it can be consulted withal, or is, as such, intrusted with any power, authority, or jurisdiction; nor shall we ever consent that the office and authority of the Scriptures be actually taken from it on any pretence. As to that of our Saviour, of telling the church, it is so evidently spoken of a particular church, that may immediately be consulted in case of difference between brethren, and does so no way relate to the business in hand, that I shall not trouble the reader with a debate of it. But do we not receive the Scripture itself upon the authority of the church? I say, if we did so, yet this concerns not Rome, which we account no church at all. That we have received the Scriptures from the church of Rome at first, — that is, so much as the book itself, — is an intolerable figment, But it is worse to say that we receive and own their authority from the authority of any church, or all the churches in the world. It is the expression of our learned Whitaker, “Qui Scripturam non credit esse divinam, nisi propter ecclesiæ vocem, Christianus non est.” To deny that the Scripture hath immediate force and efficacy to evince its own authority is plainly to deny it, On that account, being brought unto us by the providence of God (wherein I comprise all subservient helps of human testimony), we receive them, and on no other.

But is not the Scripture to be interpreted according to the tradition of the catholic church? and are not those interpretations so made to be received?

I say, among all the figments that these latter ages have invented, — I shall add, amongst the true stories of Lucian, — there is not one more remote from truth than this assertion, that any one text of Scripture may be interpreted according to the universal tradition of the catholic church, and be made appear so to be; any farther than that, in general, the catholic church hath not believed any such sense to be in any portion of Scripture, which to receive were destructive of salvation. And, therefore, the Romanists tell us that the present church (that is, theirs) is the keeper and interpreter of these traditions; or rather, that its power, authority and infallibility, being the same that it hath been in former ages, what it determines is to be received to be the tradition of the catholic church. For the trial whereof, whether it be so or no, there is no rule but its own determination; which if they can persuade us to acquiesce in, I 156shall grant that they have acquired such an absolute dominion over us and our faith, that it is fit that we should be, soul and body, at their disposal.

It being, then, the work of the Scripture to propose the saving truths of Christ (the belief and profession whereof are necessary to make a man a member of the church) so as to make them of indispensable necessity to be received, if they can from them convince us that we do not believe and profess all and every one of the truths or articles of faith so necessary as expressed, we shall fall down under the authority of such conviction; if not, we profess our consciences to be no more concerned in the authority of their church than we judge their church to be in the privileges of the church catholic.

But, secondly, it may be we are chargeable with manifesting some principles of profaneness, wherewith the belief of the truth we profess hath an absolute inconsistency. For those who are liable and obnoxious to this charge, I say, let them plead for themselves; for let them profess what they will, and cry out ten thousand times that they are Christians, I shall never acknowledge them for other than visible enemies of the cross, kingdom, and church of Christ. Traitors and rebels are not, “de facto,” subjects of that king or ruler in reference to whom they are so. Of some, who said they were Jews, Christ said they lied, and were not, but “the synagogue of Satan,” Rev. ii. 9. Though such as these say they are Christians, I will be bold to say they lie, “they are not, but slaves of Satan.” Though they live within the pale, as they call it, of the church (the catholic church being an enclosure as to profession, not place), yet they are not within it nor of it any more than a Jew or Mohammedan within the same precinct. Suppose they have been baptized, yet if their belly be their god, and their lives dedicated to Satan, all the advantage they have thereby is, that they are apostates and renegadoes.

That we have added any thing of our own, making profession of any thing in religion absolutely destructive to the fundamentals we profess, I know not that we are accused, seeing our crime is asserted to consist in detracting, not adding. Now, unless we are convinced of failing on one of these three accounts, we shall not at all question but that we abide in the unity of the visible catholic church.

It is the common cry of the Romanists that we are schismatics. Why so? Because we have separated ourselves from the communion of the catholic church. What this catholic church is, and how little they are concerned in it, hath been declared. How much they have prevailed themselves with ignorant souls by this plea, we know. Nor was any other success to be expected in respect of many whom 157they have won over to themselves; who, being persons ignorant of the righteousness of God and the power of the faith they have professed, not having had experience of communion with the Lord Jesus under the conduct of them, have been, upon every provocation and temptation, a ready prey to deceivers.

Take a little view of their late proselytes, and it will quickly appear what little cause they have to boast in them. With some, by the craft and folly of some relations, they are admitted to treat, when they are drawing to their dissolution. These, for the most part, having been persons of dissolute and profligate lives, never having tasted the power of any religion, whatever they have professed, in their weakness and disturbed dying thoughts, may be apt to receive any impression that with confidence and violence is imposed upon them. Besides, it is a far easier proposal to be reconciled to the church of Rome, and so by purgatory to get to heaven, than to be told of regeneration, repentance, faith, and the covenant of grace, things of difficulty to such poor creatures. Others that have been cast down from their hopes and expectations, or out from their enjoyments, by the late revolution in these nations, have by their discontent or necessity made themselves an easy prey to their zeal. What hath been the residue of their proselytes? What one who hath ever manifested himself to share in the power of our religion, or was not prepared by principles of superstition almost as deep as their own, have they prevailed on? But I shall not farther insist on these things. To return:—

Our communion with the visible catholic church is in the unity of the faith only. The breach of this union, and therein a relinquishment of the communion of the church, lies in a relinquishment of, or some opposition to, some or all of the saving, necessary truths of the gospel; now, this is not schism, but heresy or apostasy; — or it is done by an open profligateness of life: so that, indeed, this charge is nothing at all to the purpose in hand; though, through grace, in a confidence of our own innocency, we are willing to debate the guilt of the crime under any name or title whatever.

Unto what hath been spoken, I shall only add the removal of some common objections, with a recharge on them with whom principally we have as yet had to do, and come to the last thing proposed. The case of some of old, who were charged with schism for separating from the catholic church on an account wholly and clearly distinct from that of a departure from the faith, is an instance of the judgment of antiquity lying in an opposition to the notion of departure from the church now delivered. “Doth not Augustine, do not the rest of his orthodox contemporaries, charge the Donatists with schism because they departed from the catholic 158church? and doth not the charge rise up with equal efficacy against you as them? at least, doth it not give you the nature of schism in another sense than is by you granted?”

The reader knows sufficiently, if he hath at all taken notice of these things, where to find this cloud scattered, without the least annoyance or detriment to the Protestant cause, or of any concerned in that name, however by lesser differences diversified among themselves. I shall not repeat what by others hath been at large insisted on. In brief, put the whole church of God into that condition of liberty and soundness of doctrine which it was in when the great uproar was made by the Donatists, and we shall be concerned to give in our judgments concerning them.

To press an example of former days, as binding unto duty or convincing of evil, in respect of any now, without stating the whole “substratum” of the business and complete cause, as it was in the days and seasons wherein the example was given, we judge it not equal. Yet, although none can with ingenuity press me with the crime they were guilty of, unless they can prove themselves to be instated in the very same condition as they were against whom that crime was committed, — which I am fully assured none in the world can, the communion of the catholic church then pleaded for being, in the judgment of all, an effect of men’s free liberty and choice, now pressed as an issue of the tyranny of some few, — I shall freely deliver my thoughts concerning the Donatists; which will be comprehensive also of those others that suffer with them in former and after ages under the same imputation.

1. Then, I am persuaded that in the matter of fact the Donatists88   Owen had occasion afterwards to consider more fully the case of the Donatists, so far as it bears on the charge of schism brought against the Nonconformists. See his “Inquiry concerning Evangelical Churches,” vol. xv. p. 369. — Ed. were some of them deceived, and others of them did deceive, in charging Cæcilianus to be ordained by “traditores;” which they made the main ground of their separation, however they took in other things (as is usual) into their defence afterward. Whether any of themselves were ordained by such persons, as they are recharged, I know not.

2. On supposition that he was so, and they that ordained him were known to him to have been so, yet he being not guilty of the crime, renouncing communion with them therein, and themselves repenting of their sin, as did Peter, whose sin exceeded theirs, this was no just cause of casting him out of communion, he walking and acting in all other things suitably to principles by themselves acknowledged.

3. That on supposition they had just cause hereupon to renounce 159the communion of Cæcilianus, which, according to the principles of those days, retained by themselves, was most false, — yet they had no ground of separating from the church of Carthage, where were many elders not obnoxious to that charge. Indeed, to raise a jealousy of a fault in any man, which is denied by him, which we are not able to prove, which if it were proved were of little or no importance, and on pretence thereof to separate from all who will not believe what we surmise, is a wild and unchristian course of proceeding.

4. Yet grant, farther, that men of tender consciences, regulated by the principle then generally received, might be startled at the communion of that church wherein Cæcilianus did preside, yet nothing but the height of madness, pride, and corrupt fleshly interest, could make men declare hostility against all the churches of Christ in the world who would communicate with or did not condemn that church; which were to regulate all the churches in the world by their own fancy and imagination.

5. Though men, out of such pride and folly, might judge all the residue of Christians to be faulty and guilty in this particular, of not condemning and separating from the church of Carthage, yet to proceed to cast them out from the very name of Christians, and so disannul their privileges and ordinances that they had been made partakers of, as manifestly they did, by rebaptizing all that entered into their communion, was such unparalleled Pharisaism and tyranny as was wholly to be condemned and intolerable.

6. The divisions, outrages, and enthusiastical furies and riots that befell them, or they fell into, in their way, were, in my judgment, tokens of the hand of God against them; so that, upon the whole matter, their undertaking and enterprise was utterly undue and unlawful.

I shall farther add, as to the management of the cause by their adversaries, that there is in their writings, especially those of Austin, for the most part, a sweet and gracious spirit breathing, full of zeal for the glory of God, peace, love, union among Christians: and as to the issue of the cause under debate, it is evident that they did sufficiently foil their adversaries on principles then generally confessed and acknowledged on all hands, though some of them seem to have been considering, learned, and dexterous men.

How little we are at this day, in any contests that are managed amongst us about the things of God, concerned in those differences of theirs, these few considerations will evince; yet, notwithstanding all this, I must take liberty to profess, that although the fathers justly charged the Donatists with disclaiming of all the churches of Christ as a thing wicked and unjust, yet many of the principles whereon they did it were such as I cannot assent to. Yea, I shall 160say, that though Austin was sufficiently clear on the nature of the invisible church catholic, yet his frequent confounding it with a mistaken notion of the visible general church hath given no small occasion of stumbling and sundry unhappy entanglements to divers in after ages. His own book, “De Unitate Ecclesiæ,” which contains the sum and substance of what he had written elsewhere, or disputed against the Donatists, would afford me instances enough to make good my assertion, were it now under consideration or proof.

Being, then, thus come off from this part of our charge and accusation of schism, for the relinquishment of the catholic visible church, — which as we have not done, so to do is not schism, but a sin of another nature and importance, — according to the method proposed, a recharge on the Romanists in reference to their present condition, and its unsuitableness to the unity of the church evinced, must briefly ensue.

Their claim is known to be no less than that they are this catholic church, out of whose communion there is no salvation (as the Donatists’ was of old); also, that the union of this church consists in its subjection to its head, the pope, and worshipping of God according to his appointment, in and with his several qualifications and attendancies. Now, this claim of theirs, to our apprehension and consciences, is, —

1. Cruel and sanguinary, condemning millions to hell that invocate and call on the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, believing all things that are written in the Old and New Testaments; for no other cause in the world but because they are not convinced that it is their duty to give up reason, faith, soul, and all, to him and his disposal whom they have not only unconquerable presumptions against as an evil and wicked person, but are also resolved and fully persuaded in their consciences that he is an enemy to their dear Lord Jesus Christ, out of love to whom they cannot bear him. Especially will this appear to be so if we consider their farther improvement of this principle to the killing, hanging, torturing to death, burning of all that they are able, who are in the condition before mentioned. This, upon the matter, is the great principle of their religion. All persons that will not be subject (at least in spiritual things) to the pope are to be hanged or burned in this world, or by other means destroyed, and damned for ever hereafter. This is the substance of the gospel they preach, the centre wherein all the lines of their writings do meet; and to this must the holy, pure word of God be wrested to give countenance. Blessed be the God of our salvation! who as he never gave merciless men power over the souls and eternal condition of his saints, so he hath begun to work a deliverance of the outward condition of his people from their rage and 161cruelty, which, in his good time, he will perfect in their irrecoverable ruin. In the meantime, I say, the guilt of the blood of millions of innocent persons, yea, saints of God, lies at their door. And although things are so stated in this age that in some nations they have left none to kill, in others are restrained, that they can kill no more, yet retaining the same principles with their forefathers, and justifying them in their paths of blood, I look upon them all as guilty of murder, and so not to have “eternal life abiding in them;” being of that wicked one, as Cain, who slew his brother. I speak not of individuals, but of those in general that constitute their governing church.

2. Most false, and such as nothing but either judiciary hardness from God, sending men strong delusions that they might believe a lie, or the dominion of cursed lusts, pride, ambition, covetousness, desire of rule, can lie at the bottom of; for, —

(1.) It is false that the union of the catholic church, in the notion now under consideration, consists in subjection to any officer or officers; or that it hath any peculiar form, constituting one church in relation to them, or in joint participation of the same individual ordinances whatever, by all the members of it; or that any such oneness is at all possible, or any unity whatever, but that of the faith which by it is believed, and of the truth professed.

(2.) It is most ridiculous that they are this catholic church, or that their communion is comprehensive of it in its latitude. He must be blind, uncharitable, a judge of what he cannot see or know, who can once entertain a thought of any such thing. Let us run a little over the foundations of this assertion.

First, “Peter was the prince of the apostles.” It is denied; arguments lie clear against it. The Gospel, the Acts of the Apostles, all confute it. The express testimony of Paul lies against it; our Saviour denies that it was so, gives order that it should not be so. The name and thing are foreign to the times of the apostles. It was a ministry, not a principality, they had committed to them; therein they were all equal. It is from that spirit whence they inquired after a kingdom and dominion, before they had received the Spirit of the gospel, as it was dispensed after Christ’s ascension, that such assertions are now insisted on. But let that be supposed, what is next? “He had a universal monarchical jurisdiction committed to him over all Christians; for Christ said, ‘Tu es Petrus, tibi dabo claves, et pasce oves meas.’” But these terms are barbarous to the Scripture. Monarchy is not the English of, “Vos autem non sic.” Jurisdiction is a name of a right, for the exercise of civil power. Christ hath left no such thing as jurisdiction, in the sense wherein it is now used, to Peter or his church. Men do but make sport, and expose 162themselves to the contempt of considering persons, who talk of the institutions of our Lord in the language of the last ages, or expressions suitable to what was in practice in them. He that shall compare the fraternal church admonition and censures of the primitive institution, with the courts, powers, and jurisdictions set up in pretence and colour of them in after ages, will admire at the likeness and correspondency of the one with the other. The administration of ecclesiastical jurisdiction in the Papacy, and under the Prelacy here in England, had no more relation to any institution of Christ (unless it be that it effectually excluded the exercise of his institutions) than other civil courts of justice among Christians have. Peter had the power and authority of an apostle in and over the churches of Christ, to teach, to instruct them, to ordain elders in them by their consent, wherever he came; so had the rest of the apostles. But as to this monarchy of Peter over the rest of the apostles, let them show what authority he ever exercised over them while he and they lived together. We read that he was once reproved by one of them, not that he ever reproved the meanest of them. If Christ made the grant of pre-eminency to him when he said, “Tu es Petrus,” why did the apostles inquire afterward who among them should be greatest? And why did not our Saviour, on that dispute, plainly satisfy them that Peter was to be chief, but chose rather to so determine the question as to evince them of the vanity of any such inquiry? And yet the determination of it is that that lies at the bottom of the papal monarchy. And why doth Paul say that he was in nothing inferior to any of the apostles, when (if these gentlemen say true) he was in many things inferior to Peter? What special place hath the name of Peter in the foundation of the new Jerusalem? Rev. xxi. 14. What exaltation hath his throne among the twelve, whereon the apostles judge the world and house of Israel? Matt. xix. 28. What eminency of commission had he for teaching all nations or forgiving sins? What had his keys more than those of the rest of the apostles? What was peculiar in that triple command of feeding the sheep of Christ, but his triple denial that preceded? John xxi. 15–17. Is an injunction for the performance of duty a grant of new authority? But that we may make some progress, suppose this also,” Why, this power, privilege, and jurisdiction of Peter, was to be transferred to his successors, when the power of all the other apostles, as such, died with them.” But what pretence or colour of it is there for this assertion? What one tittle or ἰῶτα is there in the whole book of God giving the least countenance to this imagination? What distinction between Peter and the rest of the apostles on this account is once made, or in any kind insinuated? Certainly, this was a thing of great importance to the churches to have been acquainted with it. When Paul so sadly tells 163the church, that after his departure grievous wolves would spoil the flock, and many among themselves would arise, speaking perverse things, to draw disciples after them, why did he not give them the least direction to make their address to him that should succeed Peter in his power and office, for relief and redress? Strange, that it should be of necessity to salvation to be subject to him in whom this power of Peter was to be continued; that he was to be one in whom the saints were to be consummated; that in relation to him the unity of the catholic church, to be preserved under pain of damnation, should consist; — and yet not a word spoken of him in the whole word of God!

But they say, “Peter had not only an apostolical power with the rest of the apostles, but also an ordinary power, that was to be continued in the church.” But the Scripture being confessedly silent of any such thing, let us hear what proof is tendered for the establishment of this uncouth assertion. Herein, then, thus they proceed: “It will be confessed that Jesus Christ ordained his church wisely, according to his infinite wisdom, which he exercised about his body. Now, to this wisdom of his, for the prevention of innumerable evils, it is agreeable that he should appoint some one person with that power of declaring truth, and of jurisdiction to enforce the receiving of it, which we plead for; for this was in Peter, as is proved from the texts of Scripture before mentioned: therefore, it is continued in them that succeed him.” And here lies the great stress of their cause, — that, to prevent evils and inconveniencies, it became the wisdom of Jesus Christ to appoint a person with all that authority, power, and infallibility, to continue in his church to the end of the world. And this plea they manage variously, with much sophistry, rhetoric, and testimonies of antiquity. But suppose all this should be granted, yet I am full well assured that they can never bring it home to their concernment by any argument, but only the actual claim of the pope, wherein he stands singly now in the world; which that it is satisfactory, to make it good “de fide” that he is so, will not easily be granted. The truth is, of all the attempts they make against the Lord Jesus Christ, this is one of the greatest, wherein they will assert that it became his wisdom to do that which by no means they can prove that he hath done; which is plainly to tell us what in their judgment he ought to have done, though he hath not, and that, therefore, it is incumbent on them to supply what he hath been defective in. Had he taken the care he should of them and their master, that he and they might have ruled and revelled over and in the house of God, he would have appointed things as now they are; which they affirm to have become his wisdom. He was a king that once cried, “Si Deo in creatione adfuissem, mundum melius 164ordinassem.” But every friar or monk can say of Jesus Christ, had they been present at his framing the world to come (whereof we speak), they would have told him what had become his wisdom to do. Our blessed Lord hath left sufficient provision against all future emergencies and inconveniencies in his word and Spirit, given and promised to his saints. And the one remedy which these men have found out, with the contempt and blasphemy of him and them, hath proved worse than all the other evils and diseases for whose prevention he made provision; which he hath done also for that remedy of theirs, but that some are hardened through the righteous judgment of God and deceitfulness of sin.

The management of this plea by some of late is very considerable. Say they, “Quia non de verbis solum Scripturæ, sed etiam de sensu plurima controversia est, si ecclesiæ interpretatio non est certa intelligendi norma, ecquis erit istiusmodi controversiæ judex? Sensum enim suum pro sua virili quisque defendet; quod si in explorandâ verbi Dei intelligentiâ nullus est certus judex, audemus dicere nullam rempublicam fuisse stultius constitutam. Sin autem apostoli tradiderunt ecclesiis verbum Dei sine intelligentia verbi Dei, quomodo prædicârunt evangelium omni creaturæ? quomodo docuerunt omnes gentes servare quæcunque illis fuerunt a Christo commendata. Non est puerorum aut psittacorum prædicatio, qui sine mente dant, accipiuntque sonum,” Walemburg, Con. 4, Num. 26.

It is well that at length these men speak out plainly. If the pope be not a visible supreme judge in and over the church, Christ hath, in the constitution of his church, dealt more foolishly than ever any did in the constitution of a commonwealth! If he have not an infallible power of determining the sense of the Scripture, the Scripture is but an empty, insignificant word, like the speech of parrots or popinjays! Though Christ hath, by his apostles, given the Scripture to make the man of God wise unto salvation, and promised his Spirit unto them that believe, by whose assistance the Scripture gives out its own sense to them, yet all is folly if the pope be not supreme and infallible! The Lord rebuke them who thus boldly blaspheme his word and wisdom! But let us proceed.

This Peter, thus invested in power that was to be traduced to others, went to Rome, and preached the gospel there.” It is most certain, nor will themselves deny it, that if this be not so, and believed, their whole fabric will fall to the ground. But can this be necessary for all sorts of Christians, and every individual of men among them, to believe, when there is not the least insinuation of any such thing in the Scripture? Certainly, though it be only a matter of fact, yet being of such huge importance and consequence, and such a doctrine of absolute and indispensable necessity to be believed, as is 165pretended, depending upon it, if it were true, and true in reference to such an end and purpose as is pleaded, it would not have been passed over in silence there, where so many things of inconceivably less concernment to the church of God (though all in their respective degrees tending to edification) are recorded. As to what is recorded in story, the order and series of things, with the discovery afforded us of Peter’s course and place of abode in Scripture, do prevail with me to think steadfastly that he was never there, against the self-contradicting testimonies of some few, who took up vulgar reports then when the mystery of iniquity had so far operated, at least, that it was judged meet that the chief of the apostles should have lived in the chief city of the world.

But that we may proceed, grant this also, that Peter was at Rome, which they shall never be able to prove, and that he did preach the gospel there, — yet so he did, by their own confession, at other places, making his residence at Antioch for some years, — what will this avail towards the settling of the matter under consideration? “There Christ appointed him to fix his chair, and make that church the place of his residence,” — λῆροι!

Of his meeting Simon Magus at Rome, who in all probability was never there (for Semo Sangus was not Simon Magus, nor Sanctus, nor Deus Magnus), of the conquest made of him and his devils, of his being instructed of Christ not to go from Rome, but tarry there and suffer, something may be said from old legends; but of his chair, and fixing of it at Rome, of his confinement, as it were, to that place, in direct opposition to the tenor of his apostolical commission, who first told the story I know not. But this I know, they will one day be ashamed of their chair, thrones, and sees, and jurisdictions, wherein they now so please themselves.

But what is next to this? “The bishop of Rome succeeds Peter in all that power, jurisdiction, infallibility, with whatsoever else was fancied before in him, as the ordinary lord of the church; and therefore the Roman church is the catholic,” “quod erat demonstrandum.” Now, though this inference will no way follow upon these principles, though they should all be supposed to be true, whereof not one is so much as probable, and though this last assertion be vain and ridiculous, nothing at all being pleaded to ground this succession, no institution of Christ, no act of any council of the church, no will or testament of Peter, but only it is so fallen out, as the world was composed of a casual concurrence of atoms; yet seeing they will have it so, I desire a little farther information in one thing that yet remains, and that is this: The charter, patents, and grant of all this power, and right of succession unto Peter, in all the advantages, privileges, and jurisdiction before mentioned, being wholly in their own keeping, 166whereof I never saw letter or tittle, nor ever conversed with any one, no not of themselves, that did, I would be gladly informed whether this grant be made to him absolutely, without any manner of condition whatever, so that whoever comes to be pope of Rome, and possessed of Peter’s chair there, by what means soever he is possessed of it, whether he believe the gospel or no, or any of the saving truths therein contained, and so their church must be the catholic church, though it follow him in all abominations; or whether it be made on any condition to him, especially that of cleaving to the doctrine of Christ revealed in the gospel? If they say the first, that it is an absolute grant that is made to him, without any condition expressed or necessarily to be understood, I am at an issue, and have nothing to add but my desire that the grant may be produced; for whilst we are at this variance, it is against all law and equity that the parties litigant should be admitted to plead bare allegations without proof. If the latter, though we should grant all the former monstrous suppositions, yet we are perfectly secure against all their pretensions, knowing nothing more clearly and evidently than that he and they have broken all conditions that can possibly be imagined, by corrupting and perverting almost the whole doctrine of the gospel.

And whereas it may be supposed that the great condition of such a grant would consist in his diligent attendance to the Scriptures, the word of God, herein doth the filth of their abominations appear above all other things. The guilt that is in that society or combination of men in locking up the Scripture in an unknown tongue; forbidding the people to read it; burning some men to death for the studying of it, and no more; disputing against its power to make good its own authority; charging it with obscurity, imperfection, insufficiency; frightening men from the perusal of it, with the danger of being seduced and made heretics by so doing; setting up their own traditions in an equality with it, if not exalting them above it; studying by all means to decry it as useless and contemptible, at least comparatively with themselves; will not be purged from them for ever.

But you will say, “This is a simple question, for the pope of Rome hath a promise that he shall still be such a one as is fit to be trusted with the power mentioned, and not one that shall defend Mohammed to be the prophet of God sent into the world, or the like abominations; at least, that be he what he will, placed in the chair, he shall not err nor mistake in what he delivereth for truth.” Now, seeing themselves, as was said, are the sole keepers of this promise and grant also, which they have not as yet showed to the world, I am necessitated to ask, once more, whether it be made to him merely upon condition of mounting into his chair, or also upon this condition, 167that he use the means appointed by God to come to the knowledge of the truth? If they say the former, I must needs say, that it is so remote from my apprehension that God, who will be worshipped in spirit and in truth only, should now, under the gospel, promise to any persons, that be they never so wicked and abominable, never so openly and evidently sworn enemies of him and his Anointed, whether they use any means or not by him appointed, they shall always in all things speak the truth, which they hate, in love, which they have not, with that authority which all his saints must bow unto, especially not having intimated any one word of any such promise in the Scripture, that I know not whatever I heard of in my life that I cannot as soon believe. If they say the latter, we close then as we did our former inquiry.

Upon the credit and strength of these sandy foundations and principles, which neither severally nor jointly will bear the weight of a feather, in a long-continued course of apostasy, have men conquered all policy, religion, and honesty, and built up that stupendous fabric, coupled together with subtle and scarce discernible joints and ligaments, which they call the catholic church.

(1.) In despite of policy, they have not only enslaved kings, kingdoms, commonwealths, nations, and people to be their vassals and at their disposal; but also, contrary to all rules of government, beyond the thoughts and conjectures of all or any that ever wrote of or instituted a government in the world, they have in most nations of Europe set up a government, authority, and jurisdiction, within another government and authority, settled on other accounts, the one independent of the other, and have brought these things to some kind of consistency: which that it might be accomplished never entered into the heart of any wise man once to imagine, nor had ever been by them effected without such advantages as none in the world ever had in such a continuance but themselves, unless the Druids of old in some nations obtained some such thing.99   “Si quis, aut privatus aut publicus, eorum decreto non stetit, sacrificiis interdicunt. Hæc pœna apud eos est gravissima. Quibus ira est interdictum, ii numero impiorum et sceleratorum habentur: iis omnes decedunt, aditum eorum sermonemque defugiunt, ne quid ex contagione incommodi accipiant; neque iis petentibus jus redditur, neque honos ullus communicatur. His autem omnibus Druidibus præest unus, qui summam inter eos habet authoritatem. Hoc mortuo, si quis ex reliquis excellit dignitate, succedit: at si sunt plures pares, suffragio Druidum allegitur, nonnunquam etiam armis de principatu contendunt.” — Cæs. lib. vi. 13, de Bell. Gall.

(2.) In despite of religion itself, they have made a new creed, invented new ways of worship, given a whole sum and system of their own, altogether alien from the word of God, without an open disclaiming of that word, which in innumerable places bears testimony to its own perfection and fulness.

(3.) Contrary to common honesty, the first principles of reason, with 168violence to the evident dictates of the law of nature, they will, in confidence of these principles, have the word and sentence of a pope, though a beast, a witch, a conjuror (as by their own confession many of them have been), to be implicitly submitted to in and about things which he neither knoweth, nor loveth, nor careth for, being yet such in themselves as immediately and directly concern the everlasting condition of the souls of men. And this is our second return to their pretence of being the catholic church; to which I add, —

3. That their plea is so far from truth, that they are, and they only, the catholic church, that indeed they belong not to it, because they keep not the unity of the faith, which is required to constitute any person whatever a member of that church, but fail in all the conditions of it; for, —

(1.) To proceed, by way of instance, they do not profess nor believe a justification distinct from sanctification, and acceptance thereof; the doctrine whereof is of absolute and indispensable necessity to the preservation of the unity of the faith; and so fail in the first condition of professing all necessary truths. I know what they say of justification, what they have determined concerning it in the council of Trent, what they dispute about it in their books of controversies; but I deny that which they contend for to be a justification. So that they do not deny only justification by faith, but positively, over and above, the infusion of grace, and the acceptance of the obedience thence arising; — that there is any justification at all, consisting in the free and full absolution of a sinner, on the account of Christ.

(2.) They discover principles corrupt and depraved, utterly inconsistent with those truths and the receiving of them which in general, by owning the Scriptures, they do profess. Herein, to pass by the principles of atheism, wickedness, and profaneness, that effectually work and manifest themselves in the generality of their priests and people, that of self-righteousness, that is in the best of their devotionists, is utterly inconsistent with the whole doctrine of the gospel, and all saving truths concerning the mediation of Jesus Christ therein contained.

(3.) That in their doctrine of the pope’s supremacy, of merits, satisfaction, the mass, the worshipping of images, they add such things to their profession as enervate the efficacy of all the saving truths they do profess, and so fail in the third condition. This hath so abundantly been manifested by others, that I shall not need to add any thing to give the charge of it upon them any farther evidence or demonstration.

Thus it is unhappily fallen out with these men, that what of all men they most pretend unto, that of all men they have the least interest in. Athenæus tells us of one Thrasilaus an Athenian, who 169being frenetically distempered, whatever ships came into the Piræus he looked on them and thought them his own, and rejoiced as the master of so great wealth, when he was not the owner of so much as a boat. Such a distemper of pride and folly hath in the like manner seized on these persons with whom we have to do, that wherever in Scripture they meet with the name church, presently, as though they were intended by it, they rejoice in the privileges of it, when their concernment lies not at all therein.

To close this whole discourse, I shall bring the grand argument of the Romanists (with whom I shall now, in this treatise, have little more to do), wherewith they make such a noise in the world, to an issue. Of the many forms and shapes whereinto by them it is cast, this seems to be the most perspicuously expressive of their intention:—

“Voluntarily to forsake the communion of the church of Christ is schism, and they that do so are guilty of it;

“You have voluntarily forsaken the communion of the church of Christ:

“Therefore, you are guilty of the sin of schism.”

I have purposely omitted the interposing of the term catholic, that the reason of the argument might run to its length: for upon the taking in of that term we have nothing to do but only to deny the minor proposition, seeing the Roman church, be it what it will, is not the church catholic; but as it is without that limitation called the church of Christ indefinitely, it leaves place for a farther and fuller answer.

To this, by way of inference, they add, “That schism, as it is declared by St Austin and St Thomas of Aquin, being so great and damnable a sin, and whereas it is plain that out of the church, which, as Peter says, is as Noah’s ark, 1 Pet. iii. 20, 21, there is no salvation, it is clear you will be damned.” This is the sum of their plea.

Now, as for the fore-mentioned argument, some of our divines answer to the minor proposition, and that both as to the terms of “voluntary forsaking,” and that also of the “communion of the church.” For the first, they say they did not voluntarily forsake the communion of the church that then was, but being necessitated by the command of God to reform themselves in sundry things, they were driven out by bell, book, and candle, cursed out, killed out, driven out by all manner of violence, ecclesiastical and civil; which is a strange way of men’s becoming schismatic.

Secondly, That they forsook not the communion of the church, but the corruptions of it, or the communion of it in its corruption, not in other things wherein it was lawful to continue communion with it.

To give strength to this answer they farther add, that though they grant the church of Rome to have been at the time of the first separation a true church of Christ, yet they deny it to be the catholic church, 170or only visible church then in the world, the churches in the east claiming that title by as good a right as she. So they. Others principally answer to the major proposition, and tell you that separation is either causeless, or upon just ground and cause; that it is a causeless separation only from the church of Christ that is schism; that there can be no cause of schism, for if there be a cause of schism materially, it ceaseth to be schism formally. And so, to strengthen their answer “in hypothesi,” they fall upon the idolatries, heresies, tyranny, and apostasy of the church of Rome as just causes of separation from her. Nor will their plea be shaken to eternity; so that being true and popular, understood by the meanest, though it contain not the whole truth, I shall not in the least impair it.

For them who have found out new ways of justifying our separation from Rome, on principles of limiting the jurisdiction of the bishop of Rome to a peculiar patriarchate, and granting a power to kings or nations to erect patriarchs or metropolitans within their own territories, and the like, the protestant cause is not concerned in their plea; the whole of it on both hands being foreign to the Scripture, relating mostly to human constitutions, wherein they may have liberty to exercise their wits and abilities.

Not receding from what hath by others solidly been pleaded on the answers above mentioned, in answer to the principles I have hitherto evinced, I shall proceed to give my account of the argument proposed.

That we mistake not, I only premise that I take schism in this argument in the notion and sense of the Scripture precisely, wherein alone it will reach the conscience, and bear the weight of inferring damnation from it.

1. Then, I wholly deny the major proposition as utterly false, in what sense soever that expression,” True church of Christ,” is taken. Take it for the catholic church of Christ, I deny that any one who is once a true member of it can utterly forsake its communion. No living member of that body of Christ can perish; and on supposition it could do so, it would be madness to call that crime schism. Nor is this a mere denial of the assertion, but such as is attended with an invincible truth for its maintenance.

Take it for the general visible church of Christ; the voluntary forsaking of its communion, which consists in the profession of the same faith, is not schism but apostasy, and the thing itself is to be removed from the question in hand. And as for apostates from the faith of the gospel, we question not their damnation; it sleepeth not. Who ever called a Christian that turned Jew or Mohammedan a schismatic?

Take it for a particular church of Christ, I deny, —

171(1.) That separation from a particular church, as such, as merely separation, is schism, or ought to be so esteemed; though, perhaps, such separation may proceed from schism, and be also attended with other evils.

(2.) That, however, separation upon just cause and ground from any church is no schism, this is granted by all persons living. Schism is causeless, say all men, however concerned. And herein is a truth uncontrollable: Separation upon just cause is a duty, and therefore cannot be schism, which is always a sin. Now, there are five hundred things in the church of Rome, whereof every one, grafted as they are there into the stock and principle of imposition on the practice and confession of men, is a sufficient cause of separation from any particular church in the world, yea, from all of them, one after another, should they all consent unto the same thing, and impose it in the same manner, if there be any truth in that maxim, “It is better to obey God than man.”

2. I wholly deny the minor proposition also, if spoken in reference to the church of Rome, though I willingly acknowledge our separation to be voluntary from them, no more being done than I would do over again this day, God assisting me, were I called unto it. But separation, in the sense contended about, must be from some state and condition of Christ’s institution, from communion with a church which we held by his appointment; otherwise it will not be pleaded that it is a schism, at least not in a gospel sense. Now, though our forefathers, in the faith we profess, lived in subjection to the pope of Rome, or his subordinate engines, yet they were not so subject to them in any way or state instituted by Christ; so that the relinquishment of that state can possibly be no such separation as to be termed schism: for I wholly deny that the Papacy, exercising its power in its supreme and subordinate officers, which with them is their church, is a church at all of Christ’s appointment, or any such thing; and when they prove it is so, I will be of it. So that when our forefathers withdrew their neck from his tyrannical yoke, and forsook the practice of his abominations in the worship of God, they forsook no church of Christ’s institution, they relinquished no communion of Christ’s appointment. A man may possibly forsake Babylon, and yet not forsake Zion.

[As] for the aggravations of the sin of schism from some ancient writers, — Austin and Optatus, men interested in the contests about it; Leo and Innocent, gaining by the notion of it then growing in the world; Thomas Aquinas, and such vassals of the Papacy; we are not concerned in them: what the Lord speaks of it, that we judge concerning it. It is true of the catholic church always, that out of it is no salvation, it being the society of them that shall be saved; and of the visible church in general, in some sense and cases, seeing 172“with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation; but of a particular church in no sense, unless that of contempt of a known duty, — and to imagine Peter to speak of any such thing is a fancy.

The consequence of this divesting the Roman synagogue of the privileges of a true church in any sense, arising in the thoughts of some to a denial of that ministry which we have at this day in England, must, by the way, a little be considered. For my part (be it spoken without offence), if any man hath nothing to plead for his ministry but merely that successive ordination which he hath received through the church of Rome, I cannot see a stable bottom of owning him so to be; I do not say, if he will plead nothing else, but if he hath nothing else to plead. He may have that which indeed constitutes him a minister, though he will not own that so it doth. Nor doth it come here into inquiry, whether there were not a true ministry in some all along under the Papacy, distinct from it, as were the thousands in Israel in the days of Elijah, when in the ten tribes, as to the public worship, there was no true ministry at all. Nor is it said that any have their ministry from Rome; as though the office, which is an ordinance of Christ, were instituted by Antichrist. But the question is, Whether this be a sufficient and good basis and foundation of any man’s interest in the office of the ministry, that he hath received ordination in a succession, through the administration of, not the woman flying into the wilderness under the persecution of Antichrist, not of the two witnesses prophesying all along under the Roman apostasy, not from them to whom we succeed in doctrine, as the Waldenses, but the beast itself, the persecuting church of Rome, the pope and his adherents, who were certainly administrators of the ordination pleaded for; so that in doctrine we should succeed the persecuted woman, and in office the persecuting beast. I shall not plead this at large, professedly disclaiming all thoughts of rejecting those ministers as papal and antichristian who yet adhere to this ordination, being many of them eminently gifted of God to dispense the word, and submitted unto by his people in the administration of the ordinances, and are right worthy ministers of the gospel of Christ; but, —

I shall only remark something on the plea that is insisted on by them who would (if I mistake not) keep up in this particular what God would have pulled down. They ask us, “Why not ordination from the church of Rome as well as the Scripture?” in which inquiry I am sorry that some do still continue. We are so far from having the Scriptures from the church of Rome, by any authority of it as such, that it is one cause of daily praising God, that by his providence he kept them from being either corrupted or destroyed by them. It is true, the Bible was kept among the people that lived 173in those parts of the world where the pope prevailed; so was the Old Testament by the Jews; the whole by the eastern Christians; by none so corrupted as by those of the papal territory. God forbid we should say we had the Scriptures from the church of Rome, as such! If we had, why do we not keep them as she delivered them to us, in the Vulgar translation, with the apocryphal additions? The ordination pleaded for is from the authority of the church of Rome, as such. The Scriptures were by the providence of God preserved under the Papacy for the use of his people; and had they been found by chance, as it were, like the law of old, they had been the same to us that now they are. So that of these things there is not the same reason.

It is also pleaded that the granting true ordination to the church of Rome doth not prove that to be a true church. This I profess I understand not. They who ordained had no power so to do but as they were officers of that church. As such they did it; and if others had ordained who were not officers of that church, all would confess that action to be null. But they who will not be contented that Christ hath appointed the office of the ministry to be continued in his churches; that he continues to dispense the gifts of his Spirit for the execution of that office when men are called thereunto; that he prepares the hearts of his people to desire and submit unto them in the Lord; that as to the manner of entrance upon the work, they may have it according to the mind of Christ to the utmost, in all circumstances, so soon as his churches are shaken out of the dust of Babylon with his glory shining on them, and the tabernacle of God is thereby once more placed with men, — shall have leave, for me, to derive their interest in the ministry through that dark passage, wherein I cannot see one step before me. If they are otherwise qualified and accepted as above, I shall ever pay them that honour which is due to elders labouring in the word and doctrine.


« Prev Chapter VI. Romanists’ charge of schism on the… Next »



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