BY THE REV. SAMUEL LEE, A. M.
SOMETIME FELLOW OF WADHAM COLLEGE, OXFORD
THE LORD JESUS, WHO IS THE ONLY FOUNDATION OF HIS CHURCH, IS THE PRESERVER OF ITS DURATION, IN SOME MEASURE, VISIBLY THROUGHOUT ALL AGES
And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.—Matthew 16:18.
OUR blessed Lord, being within the territories of Cæsarea Philippi, (near Lebanon and the fountains of Jordan, where Philip, the tetrarch of Ituræa and Trachonitis, had his royal seat or throne,) was pleased to put two questions to his disciples:
1. Whom did men commonly suppose him to be?
2. Whom more especially did they judge and acknowledge him?
To this demand Peter, "in the name of the rest,"* (for our Lord propounded the question to them all,) replies, and confesses him to be the true Messiah, the Son of the living God.
Upon this glorious confession, our Lord and Saviour,
1. Pronounces a heavenly blessing to Peter; (verse 17;)
2. Acquaints him and the rest present, that upon Himself, whom he had confessed to be the Son of the living God, not only Peter, but his whole church, should be firmly built. (Verse 18.)
3. He makes a promise, to him and the rest, of ministerial power; (verse 19;) which he performed unto all, when he breathed on them the Holy Ghost. (John 20:22, 23.)
In the eighteenth verse, beside the preface, "And I say also unto thee," we have three principal parts:—
1. Encomium Petri, or "a laudatory testimony, bestowed upon Peter," and, in him, upon all of whom he had demanded answer: "Thou art Peter," &c. In which our Lord does not now first give him that name: for that was done before, in John 1:42; where our Lord told him, that thenceforth he should "be called Cephas or Peter, which is by interpretation, A stone;" as God of old had declared concerning the name of Abraham and Israel; (Gen. 17:5; 32:28;) and as Elizabeth, about the name of her son John. (Luke 1:60.) In this denomination of Peter, there is a manifest allusion to the following words, by an elegant paronomasia or ῶαρασημειωσις·† "Thou art Peter; whom I have formerly called by the name of a stone, to note thy being built upon that Foundation-stone, that Rock of ages, whom the Father hath laid in Zion."
2. A declaration of our Lord concerning his church: which he compares to a house, palace, or city. Wherein observe,
(1.) The foundation of this building: " 'On this rock,' representing Him whom thou hast confessed."
(2.) The architect: "I will build."
(3.) The edifice: "My church." Not any particular church, exclusive to others; but the whole church catholic. This text assigns no diploma or privilege to the church of Jerusalem, Antioch, Constantinople, Carthage, or ancient Rome, or any other particular church, otherwise than as parts and parcels of the whole church; or as there may have been found in them such as by lively faith and sound doctrine were built upon Christ, the only true and living Rock, the sure and precious Foundation of his church. As to the timing of the verb, "I will build;" that no way excludes the ancient fathers before our Lord's incarnation, who "all died in faith," and without whom we are not made perfect; (Heb. 11:13, 40;) but notes the continuation of this divine work in building up the church, till the top-stone be laid, in the end of the world, with acclamations of grace. It presignifies the enlargement of the church among the Gentiles by the ministerial edification of the apostles; according to that famous prophecy in Zachary of the latter times, when "they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord;" (Zech. 6:12, 15;) consonant to the tenor of the whole New Testament.
3. The perennity or perpetuity of the church: our Lord adds a promise as strong as the foundation itself; for "the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it;"—that his church shall be monumentum ære perennius, more durable than heaven and earth; for they "shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up." (2 Peter 3:10.) The foundations of the earthly mountains may be set on fire: (Deut. 32:22;) Ætna, Vesuvius, and Hecla may vomit out their burning bowels; the channels of the sea may appear, and the inmost caverns of the world be discovered; (2 Sam. 22:16;) nay, "the foundations of heaven may be moved and shake," and its pillars tremble, when God is wroth: (verse 8:) but the church of God shall persist and endure against all assaults, against all oppositions imaginable. For it is His church, against whom all created power is but weakness, their machinations and contrivements a thousand times more frail than the most delicate and tender web of a spider. (Isai. 59:5.) The waves that foam against this rock, dash themselves in pieces; and (as the prophet elegantly) they are "cut off as the foam upon the water;" (Hosea 10:7;) as bubbles (puffed up with swelling pride and animosity against the church) suddenly subside, and shrink into the bosom of their primitive water. "The gates of hell shall never prevail against it." The glorious building of the church,—assaulted it may be and shall be; but prevailed upon, or demolished, never. Like Mount Zion, she shall never be moved: nay, she "cannot" be moved; (Psalm 125:1;) for "the Highest himself hath established her:" (Psalm 87:5:) there is her inward stability: and as to the repelling of all external force and fury, "as the mountains are round about Jerusalem, so the Lord is round about his people from henceforth even for ever." (Psalm 125:2.) The church shall never be extirpated out of the world. The rain may descend, the floods rush, and the winds roar, and beat upon this house; but it stands inviolable against all weathers and storms: for it is founded upon the Rock. (Matt. 7:25.) Enemies may fret awhile, fume and boil in the brine of their own anger, and, like bodies molested with sharp and corrosive humours, become self-tormenters; at last are emacerated, wasted, and dissolved. It is wisdom itself [that], having "hewn out her seven pillars, hath built this house," (Prov. 9:1,) truly deserving the honourable name of St. Sophia, (more than that magnificent structure at Constantinople,) the temple of "sacred wisdom."
The farther explication of the words may be referred to the handling of this position, or main point, deducible out of the bowels of this text:—
That the Lord Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of the living God, is the only Foundation of his church, and the Preserver of its duration in some measure visibly throughout all ages.
Wherein three things are to be discussed, in such a method as a textual sermon may admit:—
I. We are to treat of the church of Christ; what it is, and whereof it consists.
II. Of the foundation of the church; that it is Christ, and Christ only.
III. Of the duration and continuance of the church upon this glorious and strong foundation, in some state of visibility through all ages; though sometimes it may appear more conspicuous, and sometimes less. As the sun may be sometimes eclipsed, and that totally, to some places in the terrestrial globe; though in itself never extinguished, nor its radiant beams wholly withdrawn from all parts of the hemisphere at the precise time of the complete interposure of the moon's body: sometimes he may be mantled in a sable cloud, and that for many days together: sometimes he may have driven his chariot to visit our antipodes: sometimes his visible diameter is larger, and sometimes lesser: sometimes he warms our zenith, and sometimes comforts the antarctic pole. Neither is the queen of the night a less fit resemblance, being much more variable in her phases and appearances. Such hath been the fate of the church of God: now direfully eclipsed by bloody persecutions, then shining out the more illustriously; now clouded with thick veils of error and heresy, then vigorously conquering by the bright rays of truth; now dim and dusky by the thick fogs and mists of superstitious ceremonies, then more beautiful and orient in her naked simplicity and apostolical lustre, being "clothed with the sun and a crown of twelve stars upon her head." (Rev. 12:1.)
I. As to the first: What the church of Christ is.—We find it here compared to a house, to a stately palace or prince's mansion, or castle of defence, built upon an impregnable rock. Nay, it is "the house of the living God," (1 Tim. 3:15,) typed by that ancient sumptuous temple of Solomon. (1 Kings 6:1; Isai. 2:2; Micah 4:1.) Sometimes it is resembled to a city, to the city of David, founded and built upon the renowned mountain of Zion; (Psalm 46:4; 48:1; 87:3; Rev. 21:2;) which shadows forth both its duration and visibility. But the metaphor, as a veil or a glass, being laid aside; as, under the notion of a quick rock, we contemplate the only-begotten Son of the living God; so, by the regular and well-polished materials of the super-imposed building, we are to understand the "lively stones" mentioned in Peter, which, coming to him by faith, are "built up into a spiritual house." (1 Peter 2:5.) Such as compose the structure of the church, are the adopted children of God: the learned of the Reformed churches have a little varied in expressions, but agree in the substance:—that the church of God is a company of holy persons, chosen of God from eternity in Christ unto eternal life. The church consists of men, not of angels; and therefore must be visible. They are holy ones, not hypocrites or profane persons, who may sometimes thrust into the communion of the external visible church. They are such who in God's due time are called out of the world, by the ministry of the word, and the inward efficacious grace of his Spirit. Let us sum up these particulars in that declaration which the church of England hath exhibited to us:—
"The true church is an universal congregation or fellowship of God's faithful and elect people, built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner-stone. And it hath always three notes or marks, whereby it is known: pure and sound doctrine; the sacraments ministered according to Christ's holy institution; and the right use of ecclesiastical discipline."*
Upon the particular branches of this description I must not enlarge; only acquaint you at present, that I shall here treat of some peculiar points referring to that true real church of Christ whereof our Lord speaks in this text: such as, being founded upon him by faith, cemented to him by love, "worships him in spirit and in truth:" (2 Thess. 2:13; Acts 26:18; John 4:24:) against which all the powers of darkness shall never prevail; but [which] shall continue successively throughout all ages here upon earth; sometimes shining more clearly, otherwhiles more obscurely; yet always in some measure visible and discernible by the marks of true doctrine, worship, and discipline: and at length shall be wholly translated to eternal communion with Christ their most glorious Head in the highest heavens.
II. As to the foundation of this church.—We assert that Jesus Christ is the Rock, the solid and only foundation, whereupon it is built: which may be demonstrated, (I.) NEGATIVELY, or EXCLUSIVELY, as to all others. (II.) POSITIVELY, as to Christ himself.
(I.) EXCLUSIVELY: No other is or can be admitted for the rock or foundation of the church.—Επι ταυτῃ τῃ ῶετρᾳ, "On this single individual rock will I build my church." No other can communicate in this high and supereminent honour.
OBJECTION. But some may say, "Does not the pronoun in the text relate most properly to the next antecedent, Peter; and not to Christ? Is it not more genuine?"
ANSWER I. This grammaticism will not conclude. For,
1. It is commonly otherwise in many other places of scripture; as Gen. 10:12; John 8:44; Heb. 12:17; Acts 19:5; (?) and particularly, Matt. 26:26. If, in that enunciation, "This is my body," "this" should be referred to "bread," the immediate antecedent; then (as the learned observe)* there is an end of their doctrine of transubstantiation,—if they will press such a grammatical nicety upon that, as upon this, text. But,
2. Though the name of Peter be found nearest in words, yet it is also observed that the person of Christ in most proper sense and relation stands nighest to the rock upon whom Peter was built; and who had received that denomination from his confession of the true and living Rock, the Son of God, "the Christ." (Matt. 16:20.)
ANSWER II. But, laying aside that grammatical contest, let us show that Peter was not, could not be, the rock whereon the church is built.
For, 1. Peter was but a man.—Now no mere man can sustain the wrath of an infinite God, or redeem the church by his blood. The apostle determines Him to be God, who "hath purchased the church by his own blood:" (Acts 20:28:) and the author [of the epistle] to the Hebrews declares, that the same person who "had by himself purged our sins, is set down on the right hand of the Majesty on high;" (Heb. 1:3;) the same to whom the Father speaks, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever;" (verse 8;) that High Priest who is "entered within the veil;" (Heb. 6:19;) that "Son of God who is passed into the heavens:" (Heb. 4:14:) "Such an" one "became us, who is made higher than the heavens;" (Heb. 7:26;) "Christ, the Head of the church, who is also the Saviour of his body, and gave himself for it;" (Eph. 5:23, 25;) "who loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood." (Rev. 1:5.)
2. Peter was a frail mortal man.—But God had his church, and that built upon this Rock, before ever Peter was born, and continued [it] after his death and funeral. God the Father had "laid this foundation," מוּסָד מוּסָּדfundamentum fundatum, "this strong foundation," long before Isaiah's time; (Isai. 28:16;) which the Chaldee paraphrase glosses thus: מֶלֶךְ מֶלֶך תַקִּיִף גִבָּר רְאֵמְתָן "The King, the powerful King, the strong and terrible." And Rabbi Solomon expressly: "The King Messiah; that he may be in Zion a stone of munition and strength;" as Petrus Galatinus† recites out of him and others of the rabbins. The prophets of old, as well as the apostles, built upon this foundation. (Eph. 2:20.) Besides, when Peter came upon the stage, he goes off again: and when Peter dies, must the church perish? The foundation being gone, the building must needs tumble. Neither does our Lord any where speak of or promise to any successors so great a privilege,—to step into his room, to lie in the foundation, and to be the supposed Atlas of his church: and were it so, then Peter personal must be dismissed.
3. Peter was a sinful man.—And that by his own confession: "Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord:" (Luke 5:8:) and this was acknowledged after that our Lord had called him by the name of Peter. Nay, more than so: Peter erred in faith about the death and resurrection of Christ; and our Lord rebuked him sharply, as being under a temptation of Satan. (Matt. 16:22, 23.) Nay, he thrice denied our Lord. (Matt. 26:75.) But because some would apply the promise in the text to a performance after the resurrection, the holy scripture (as if on purpose to obviate these futilous objections) sets it down, that even then he did not ορθοποδειν, not "walk uprightly" in the gospel; (Gal. 2:14;) and Paul "withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed." (Verse 11.) Shall we then think that the church was founded upon a sinful man? since "such a high priest becomes" the church, "who is holy, harmless, undefiled, and separate from sinners;" (Heb. 7:26;) "a Lamb without blemish and without spot." (1 Peter 1:19.)
4. Peter determines the point himself, and expounds the prophecy in Isaiah of Christ.—And he himself doctrinally lays down Christ for the true and only Foundation in the Zion of the church; disallowed indeed by Pharisees and the proud builders of Babel, but approved of God, (1 Peter 2:4–7,) and solemnly preached by Peter at Jerusalem, (Acts 2:22, 14,) and unanimously attested by all the apostles, and recognised for the only true Foundation of the church. (Acts 4:11, 12.) Will any, then, that so admire and adore Peter for their own ends, yet dare to gainsay him to the face, and force him into the foundation so flatly against himself?
5. Peter, as mere Peter, could never victoriously grapple with the assaults of Satan.—He had been finally and fatally foiled, had not Christ prayed, had not this Rock sustained him. The church must have a foundation against which all the gates of hell can never prevail, and which infuses virtue and invincible consistency into the building itself; as if a quick and living rock should inspire and breathe, into the stones of a palace fixed upon it, some of those mineral eradiations wherewith itself is endued, to preserve it from mouldering and turning into dust. The church must have a vital and quickening foundation; that it may not only stand against impetuous winds, but be a growing temple, (Eph. 2:21,) and "increase with the increase of God." (Col. 2:19.) The church hath such potent, subtle, and furious enemies, that she needs strength from the "mighty God of Jacob, the Shepherd, the Stone of Israel;" (Gen. 49:24;) one that is stronger than that infernal strong man armed; (Luke 11:21, 22;) a "Lion of the tribe of Judah," (Rev. 5:5,) that can tear that lion of hell in pieces.
Since, then, Peter was but a mere man, a frail mortal man, a sinful man, weak and impotent to resist the powers of darkness, and one that absolutely rejects any such honour from himself or any other, as abhorring such derogation from the glory of his and our most blessed Saviour; let us infer that "this rock" in the text can in no wise be meant of Peter, or any other of the apostles. And that this was the sense of the ancient church, I might abundantly prove: let it suffice to recite but two or three testimonies.
CHRYSOSTOM, on this text, "Upon this rock," expounds it, Τουτεστι, Τῃ ῶιστει της ὁμολογιας·* "On the faith of confession;" that is, "Upon Christ, in whom thou believest, and whom thou hast confessed." And let Chrysostom explain himself: Ουκ ειπεν, Επι τῳ Πετρῳ· ουτε γαρ επι τῳ ανθρωπῳ, αλλʼ επι την ῶιστιν την ἑαυτου, εκκλησιαν ῳκοδομησε·* "He said not, Upon Peter; for he did not build his church upon a man, but upon the faith of himself."
In like manner AMBROSE, or his contemporary, upon the second of the Ephesians, citing this text: Super istam petram; hoc est, in hac catholicæ fidei confessione statuo fideles ad vitam:† "Upon this rock," that is, "Upon this confession of the catholic faith, do I fix, settle, or build, believers unto salvation."
But, of all, none more clear than AUSTIN, in his sermons upon Matthew: Super hanc petram quam confessus es, id est, Super meipsum, Filium Dei vivi, &c. Super me ædificabo te, non me super te, &c.‡ "Upon this rock whom thou hast confessed; that is, Upon myself, the Son of the living God, &c. I will build thee upon me, not me upon thee." Again, in his one hundred and twenty-fourth treatise on John: Super hanc petram quam confessus es, &c.: petra erat Christus, super quod fundamentum etiam ipse ædificatus est Petrus:§ "Upon this rock which thou hast confessed, &c: the rock was Christ, upon which foundation even Peter himself was built." Again, in his tenth treatise upon the Epistle of John: Super hanc petram, &c.: super hanc fidem; super id quod dictum est, Tu es Christus, Filius Dei vivi, &c.:|| " 'Upon this rock,' &c.: upon this faith: upon that which had been spoken of;" (that is, by Peter:) "Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God." So that when Austin or other of the fathers explain "this rock" by "this faith" or "this confession," we see, they understood it objectively of our blessed Lord, the Son of God.¶ Many more might be cited, but I hasten.
OBJECTION. Some have replied that "though Peter be not the main, principal, and essential foundation of the church, yet he may be admitted as a secondary, a vicarian, a ministerial foundation, without detriment to the honour of Christ."
ANSWER 1. I answer, This secondary foundation is an absurd distinction, and contrary to the very nature of a foundation. Whatever is laid upon the foundation is a superstructure or part of the building. Vitruvius, the grand master of Roman architecture, taught his Romanists no such fond language, when he mentions foundations in three several places;** nor Barbarus upon him, nor Palladius. Let us pass, then, from artificial, to the metaphorical or spiritual, buildings, for whose support scripture supplies us with no such additions or coagmentations with the main foundation. If any urge out of St. Paul, that the Ephesians were "built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets;" (Eph. 2:20;) it must be understood of a doctrinal foundation, not an essential: for Christ himself is expressly there termed "the corner-stone," the λιθος ακρογωνιαιος, "the grand, massy stone, that fills up the whole area, and reaches to all four corners;" "on whom" solely "all the building," ῶασα, "the whole building," "is fitly framed together." (Verse 21.) The apostles, indeed, did lay this foundation, and no other; (1 Cor. 3:11;) and the Ephesian saints were "built upon this foundation of the apostles," that is, which the apostles did lay; and so it is called their foundation architectonicè ["architecturally"], or by a metonymy. They, preaching the doctrine of faith in Christ, did lay down for the sole rock this great and fundamental point, (though rejected of the Jewish builders,)—that "there is none other name given under heaven among men, whereby we must be saved." (Acts 4:11, 12.)
2. Again: this their secondary foundation (which, we say, is doctrinal only) must be co-extended to all the apostles and prophets, by the plumb-line of the same text: and therefore their laying of Peter for the only foundation, though but secondary, will sink as in the moorish ground by Tiber, and will prove no single foundation at all; for all the other apostles are joint-heirs of the same pre-eminence. Holy Paul, speaking of such a doctrinal foundation, says, that he preached the gospel where Christ was not named, "lest he should build upon another man's foundation." (Rom. 15:20.)
3. Hence it appears, that the preaching of the gospel of Christ is all the foundation that the apostle pretends to; namely, to a doctrinal laying of Christ, as the true foundation of His church. Paul was but a workman, a labourer, dexterously handling his evangelical instruments; and Peter was no other. Nay, Paul testifies, that "he laboured abundantly, more than they all," in laying this foundation, and building upon it; (1 Cor. 15:10;) for, "So," says he, "we preached, and so ye believed." (Verses 11, 12.) "No other foundation can any man lay"—he speaks it ῥητως και αντιῤῥητως, "both expressly and exclusively,"—ῶαρα το κειμενον, præter quod jactum vel positum est, "No other beside it." Μηδεν εστω μεσον ἡμων και Χριστου, "None between us and Christ," as Chrysostom glosses it; and proceeds: Αν γαρ γινεται τι μεσον, ευθεως απολλυμεθα· ουδε το μικροτατον·* "If any thing interpose between us and Christ, though in the least, we perish presently."
4. Again: if Peter had been any such secondary foundation, surely Paul, who "received the gospel by the revelation of Jesus Christ," (Gal. 1:12,) would, nay, must, have excepted him from the rest of the apostles, or at least have conjoined him with Christ, and have laid single Peter next and immediately upon him. But this is Vatican doctrine, and to be found nowhere but in the feigned Acts or Revelation of Paul, which Gelasius condemned for apocryphal.
To conclude, then: since our blessed Lord and Head of the church hath declared no vicegerent; being a spiritual King, "the Son of the living God," who "searches the reins and hearts," (Rev. 2:23,) and is omnipresent by his Divinity, and promised to be with his church in all ages by virtue of his Spirit, (Matt. 28:20,) he needs no viceroy, has instituted or appointed none: and [since] Peter exercised and performed no such office; but calls himself συμπρεσζυτερος, (as it is in the Greek,) "a fellow-presbyter" with "such as feed the flock of Christ:" (1 Peter 5:1, 2:) since Paul and John make all the apostles equal in preaching and laying down this foundation,—the doctrine of faith in Christ, the Son of the living God: (Rev. 21:14:) let us, then, fairly lay Peter aside, without any diminution to his apostolical honour, which we greatly reverence, and look upon him as "perfectly equal" (pari consortio, as Cyprian speaks*) with the rest of the holy apostles; and let us with all adoration and joy behold Him, whose shoe-latchet Peter was not worthy to loose, as laid by the Father in Zion; and firmly believe in him as the Son of the living God, whom Peter confessed to be the rock, and preached him up in the face of the elders of Israel for the only Foundation of the church. (Acts 4:10, 11.)
If Peter, then, be not the essential and personal foundation of the church; (which were blasphemy to assert;) if the secondary foundation be a nullity; then down fall all the pretended successors of Peter, whether at Cæsarea in Palestine, or Antioch in Syria, or any of the cities of Pontus and Lesser Asia: much more, their wooden seat at Rome; (as Baronius shapes it, ad ann. 45. n. 11;) as the furthest, so the weakest, pretenders to succeed "the apostle of the circumcision." (Gal. 2:7, 8.) Nay, although it were granted that he were at Rome, which some learned men stiffly deny; though he might suffer at Rome, which others out of Jerome and Lyra insinuate to be a misinformation, and that he was crucified by the Jews: these things impair not our cause; since Peter had no more power than any other of the apostles, and therefore could transmit no more to his supposed successors. For it is a stated rule in their own canon-law: Nemo plus juris in alium transfert, quàm sibi competit:† "None can transfer that to another, which he hath not himself." And that other for a successor: Is qui in jus succedit alterius, eo jure quo ille uti debebit:‡ "He that succeeds in another's right, must content himself with the right of his predecessor."
(II.) POSITIVELY: that Christ, our holy and blessed Redeemer, is the only true and real foundation and rock of the church.—"Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 3:11.) He is that "elect and precious corner-stone," on which all true builders do edify the church of God: (Eph. 2:20:) "Being rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith." (Col. 2:7.) To this the apostle Peter brings-in his clear evidence: "To whom," as the foundation laid of God, (Isai. 28:16,) "ye coming, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house." (1 Peter 2:4, 5.) Parallel to this of a foundation, is that other metaphor of a head, taken from the natural body; in which respect Christ is every where declared to be this glorious Head of the church: He "is the Head of the church, and the Saviour of the body." (Eph. 5:23.) As the head is strictly conjoined to the living body, so between Christ and the church there is a sacred and intimate union. (Rom. 12:5; 1 Cor. 12:27; Eph. 1:23; 4:15; Col. 1:18, 24.) As the head, by the several conjugations of the nerves, propagated from the brain and spinal marrow, derives those curious volatile and vital influences, for the actuating of the several senses and for the rule and government of the whole body in all its motions; so doth Christ vivify and quicken the spiritual senses, instruct, guide, and govern every member of his spiritual body the church. (Col. 2:19; Heb. 5:14.) To confirm this a little, and pass to the third branch of the text:—
1. God the Father "gave Christ to be Head over all to the church," and exalted him "far above all principalities, and hath put all things under his feet." (Eph. 1:21, 22.)—God laid him in Zion for a foundation, and no other. (Isai. 28:16.) The church is the "city of God, and he hath established it for ever." (Psalm 48:8.) It is built upon "his foundation in the holy mountains, and the Highest himself will establish her." (Psalm 87:1, 5.) The head-stone of the corner fixed in Zion is of the Lord's doing. (Psalm 118:22, 23.) And as the foundation, so the whole edifice of the church is οικοδομη Θεου, "the building of God." (1 Cor. 3:9.)
2. Christ in the text builds his church upon no other than himself.—Επι ταυτῃ, "On this rock will I build my church." And Christ, being the Son of God, is more honourable than Moses, because He builds this house of the church. (Heb. 3:3.)
3. The Spirit of God fits no other "for a habitation of God" but this church, built upon this foundation; (Eph. 2:22;) he increases no other with divine and heavenly growth but this. (Col. 2:19.)
4. Such a foundation must be laid, against which the gates of hell shall never prevail: but Christ only is such a foundation.—Because he lives, the church lives also. (John 14:19.) No mere man can perform this function. Peter falls not finally, because Christ prays prevalently. Paul stands stoutly against the buffets of Satan in the sufficiency of Christ's grace and power. (2 Cor. 12:9.) And all the saints are victorious and triumphant and "more than conquerors through Him who loveth them;" (Rom. 8:37;) and sing that επινικιον ["song of victory"] in his name,—and wave the imperial standard, the flag of triumph, like that of Constantine, Sub hoc vinces,*—in the sacred words of Paul: "Thanks be to God, who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1 Cor. 15:57.) Since, then, God the Father hath laid no other foundation, and Christ builds upon no other, and the Spirit influences and quickens no other; since no other can support and defend the church; let us pronounce them blessed whom God hath joined, and let none dare to impose or conjoin another at their eternal peril. It is an idol-foundation of their foolish brains: our glorious Lord will not give his honour to another.
III. We are now in view of the third and last branch of the text: the duration of the church of Christ, in some state of visibility, throughout all ages; fortified by the promise of Christ, that the gates of hell shall be successless in their attempts against it.
The church, as it is built on Christ, as far as it coheres and sticks close to this Foundation, by that virtue communicated to it from the intimate connexion with and union to Christ, can never be dissolved and perish; neither can external adverse power demolish it, or secret subtlety undermine it, so as to render it altogether invisible: and therefore it must and shall so persist throughout all ages.
We have here three parts considerable:—
1. The church's opposites.—Πυλαι ᾁδου, "the gates of hell," or "of death and hell." I shall not dwell upon the niceties of these terms. Let it suffice that they signify the infernal powers of darkness, and all that are animated or inspired by them with subtle counsels, and irritated into cruel machinations and warlike agitations, against the church. Not only open persecutors, but cunning heretics, do build the gates of hell, and discharge their artillery against the city of God. As Origen spake of Marcion, Basilides, and Valentinus, those ancient heretics, Ἁιδου ῶυλην ῳκοδομησαν,* that "they built several gates [of hell]" in the city of Babylon; so may we say of Nero, Trajan, and Diocletian, the ancient persecutors, They mounted their battering-rams, and managed the ballistæ fulminales;† they shot their enraged arrows against the church of God: and their followers have been no less sedulous, though as unsuccessful, to this very day.
2. The grandia molimina, "their great undertakings."—They shall put forth all their strength and policy; whatever the lion and serpent can entwine together. What a cunning Julian could contrive, or a fierce Maximinus execute, against the church; whatever the wit, malice, and power of earth and hell could with most inflamed rage either enterprise or achieve; hath been carried on to the utmost: but all in vain. They "imagine a vain thing against the Lord and his anointed." (Psalm 2:1, 2.) The church, like her glorious Head, shall never see corruption, though all the puissance of the adverse city march into the field against her. The Egyptian "city of destruction" (to allude to that in Isai. 19:18) shall attempt; but all shall prove ineffectual: for the name of this city is Jehovah-shammah, "The Lord is there." (Ezek. 48:35.) The church hath been assaulted vi et arte, "by open force and secret fraud;" but "no weapon formed against Zion shall" finally "prosper." (Isai. 54:17.)
3. The church's duration.—She must and shall continue till all the enemies' arrows are spent, their courage daunted, and their city ruined and laid in ashes: for the Lord "will miserably destroy those wicked men." (Matt. 21:41, 42.) And our blessed Saviour proves it out of Psalm 118:22: For "the stone which the builders refused is become the head of the corner." "Whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder." (Matt. 21:44.) This is that "burdensome stone" in Zachary: (Zech. 12:3:) this is the stone with seven eyes engraven upon it; (Zech. 3:9;) the stone cut out of the mountain, that shall "fill the whole earth." (Dan. 2:34, 35.)
For the handling [of] this third part of the position,—the church's duration in all ages,—it is necessary to know this church by those notes and τεκμηρια that have appeared as "notable characters" of the true church in all ages, against which the gates of hell have set their principal batteries; and thereby to evidence and prove its continual duration and visibility.
Since, then, the church is built upon Christ, the Rock of ages; since Christ is the only Head and Bridegroom of the church, he the only chief Shepherd; and since that which makes the intimate union between Christ and the church is, faith wrought in the hearts of all the true members by the Spirit of Christ; this may be one note:—
NOTE I. That wherever this doctrine of justification by faith in Christ has been maintained and sincerely defended, THEREhath been visibly the true church of Christ.—And it might be amply evinced, that this heavenly doctrine hath been conserved in all ages against all the furious assaults of its enemies.
NOTE II. Since Jesus Christ, the only Head of the church, is her glorious Lord, the Son of the living God; he ought to be worshipped by her.—"He is thy Lord; and worship thou him." (Psalm 45:11.) And this worship must be performed "in spirit and in truth." (John 4:23.) But here, because all the three persons in the Divine Essence are one God, I shall consider this worship as terminated objectively in God essential. (John 5:23; 12:26.) And since that this most holy and glorious God abhors idolatry, and worshipping of him by idols, images, pictures, or any other symbol, to represent him, or by which (as helps to devotion) to ascend and inflame the heart in worship; this may be set down as another note of the true church, which keeps the commandments of God in point of worship. (Rev. 14:12; mentioned before, verse 9.) And, indeed, in respect to worshipping of God by images consists the very essence and formality of the second commandment. The first being de objecto cultûs, that God is the true and only "object of religious worship;" the second is de modo et mediis cultûs ["concerning the mode and means of worship"]; that God, who is exceeding jealous of his own glory, detests and abhors to be worshipped by the intervention of idols, and to present any adoration before them; though men may excuse it, and profess that God is the ultimate term of their worship.
But these things I must leave to be more amply insisted upon by such whose peculiar province it is to handle them more distinctly. But so far it is necessary here to use and improve them as critical marks and notes of the true church; the one in point of doctrine, the other in point of worship. The true church of Christ hath in all times, according to the holy scriptures, borne a testimony to these two grand points; and I shall endeavour to prove it as to both. There be other points, I confess, and very material, whereby this truth might be exemplified; but I chose these as cardinal.
(1.) For the point of justification by faith.
This particular is best worded in scripture-language, to which all must adhere. Though men's sentiments may vary in the explication, yet I think it most fit to lay it down in the words of holy Paul, indited by the Spirit of God:—
"That a man is justified by faith without the works of the law:" (Rom. 3:28:) they have no ingrediency into our justification before God. If they had, it were not by grace: "And if by grace, then it is no more of works." (Rom. 11:6.) And this work of free grace proceeds on to salvation itself: "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:8, 9.) "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us: being justified by his grace." (Titus 3:5, 7.) That which the apostle had set down privatively before, here he sets it down negatively; as in that to the Galatians: "A man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ," &c. (Gal. 2:16.) Now, whereas their cardinal* and others would have Paul to exclude the works of the ceremonial law, not the works of the moral law or the gospel; that cannot stand: for then we should still be justified by works. But the apostle puts works and faith in a diametrical opposition; and, after that he himself was in a regenerate estate, desired to "be found in Christ, not having his own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith;" (Phil. 3:9;) and [declares] that though he were "conscious of nothing by himself, yet herein he was not justified;" (1 Cor. 4:4;) yea, that works done with faith, ex ratione operum,† "upon the account of works," do not justify, as the apostle amplifies it in the case of Abraham; (Rom. 4.;) no, nor faith itself, as a work, but as it apprehends the Lord Jesus Christ. (Rom. 3:22.) And yet the apostle charges Titus to "affirm constantly, that they which believe in God must be careful to maintain good works; for these things are good and profitable to men." (Titus 3:8.) They are necessary to salvation, though they have not a formal ingrediency into our justification. The holy apostle professes, that by this faith in the Son of God he did live, (Gal. 2:20,) and in this faith he would die; desiring to be found in no other at the appearing of Christ. (Phil. 3:9, &c.) This was the ancient faith of the primitive apostolical church of Christ, and "the good old way" of the ancient Roman. On this rock Christ hath built his church; namely, on himself by faith. This is articulus stantis atque cadentis ecclesiæ:‡ "the grand article, which being maintained, the church flourishes; being rejected, she perishes."
I might here, out of every age of the church since our Lord, produce clear evidences for this doctrine of Paul, dictated by the Spirit of God. I might show its preservation by the ancient fathers, and how attested by some of the councils; by whom it may appear in what countries this apostolical doctrine was taught and embraced:—by Hilary in France, Ambrose in Lombardy, Chrysostom in Syria and Thrace, Jerome in Palestine, Austin in Africa, Basil in Lesser Asia, and many more. But, not to swell the discourse too largely, I shall only exhibit two or three testimonies in distant ages,—of Clement, Ambrose or his contemporary, and Bernard; after whom this truth glittered forth in the confessions of the Waldenses, in the doctrine of Wickliffe, and shined forth most gloriously more and more till the great Reformation appeared.§
Let us begin with CLEMENT; who was συγχρονος, &c., "contemporary" with Peter and Paul, as Epiphanius accounts in his discourse of the heresy of the Carpocratians.|| He, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, speaks disertly to this point: Ου διʼ ἑαυτων δικαιουμεθα, ουδε δια της ἡμετερας σοφιας, η συνεσεως, η ευσεζειας, η εργων ὡν κατειργασαμεθαεν ὁσιοτητι καρδιας· αλλα δια της ῶιστεως διʼ ἡς ῶαντας τους απʼ αιωνος ὁ Παντοκρατωρ Θεος εδικαιωσεν· ᾡ εστω δοξα εις τους αιωνας των αιωνων. Αμην.* "We are not justified by ourselves, nor by our wisdom, understanding, piety, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by faith, by which God Omnipotent hath justified all from the beginning (of the world): unto whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen."
Let AMBROSE succeed, who flourished at Millane [Milan]: or whoever was author of those Commentaries, he was co-eval to Damasus, and was much of the same age with Ambrose; Bellarmine judges him to be Hilarius Diaconus. (De Script. Eccl. p. 98.) And he declares this expressly on that text: "Being justified freely by his grace:" (Rom. 3:24:) Quia, nihil operantes, nec vicem reddentes, SOLA FIDEjustificati sunt, dono Dei:† "They are said to be 'freely' justified, because, working nothing, nor rendering any duty or service, [they] are justified by faith alone: it is the gift of God." And this, "by faith alone," he four times repeats in his exposition upon the fourth chapter. Nay, Gratian in the third part of the Decretum cites him thus: Gratia Dei in baptismate non requirit gemitum, non planctum, vel opus aliquod, sedSOLAM FIDEM; et omnia gratis condonat:‡ "The grace of God in baptism requires not mourning, or lamentation, or any work, but faith alone; and He freely forgives all." Where the new Gloss, indeed, set forth by Gregory XIII., says, that Gratian took this citation out of the ordinary Gloss, not out of Ambrose himself; whose words on the eleventh to the Romans are, Nisi solam ex corde professionem,§ "Except a profession only from the heart." Which is true; but it seems hereby, that both Strabus, the author of the Gloss,|| and Gratian took the mind of Ambrose more clearly than these new Glossators. For, before, Ambrose speaks of the Jews, their returning to faith; and after uses these words: Hoc decrevit, utSOLAM FIDEMponeret per quam omnia peccata abolerentur: "God decreed this, that he might appoint faith alone through which all sins might be abolished." So that now we have Ambrose and Strabus and their own Gratian, all agreeing in this doctrine of faith alone. Here, though these Commentaries by some are not judged to be genuine to Ambrose, yet, since they are cited by Strabus, and the synod of Paris, A. D. 825, (p. 655,) and Gratian, and urged by Romanists in their own cause, they ought not to reject them. For it is a rule in the canon-law, Quod pro se quis inducit, &c.: "What testimony any bring for themselves, they ought not to reject when brought against them." (Dist. 19, cap. Si Romanorum.) However, we may put HILARY in his room; in Can. viii. in Matth. expressly: FIDES SOLAjustificat, that "faith alone justifies." (Edit. Basil. 1523, p. 355.)
The next shall be the testimony of BERNARD of France, who died in the year 1153; who expresses himself thus: Tam validus ad justificandum, quàm multus ad ignoscendum. Quamobrem quisquis pro peccatis compunctus esurit et sitit justitiam, credat in te qui justificas impium; etSOLAMjustificatus perFIDEM, pacem habebit ad Deum.* "He is as powerful to justify, as to 'multiply pardon.' (Isai. 55:7.) Wherefore whoever, being under compunction for his sins, hungers and thirsts after righteousness, let him believe in thee who justifiest the ungodly; and being justified by faith alone, he shall have peace with God." And then he proceeds to exhort to holiness by eyeing and following of Christ. And otherwhere: CredensSOLA FIDEhominem posse salvari, cum desiderio percipiendi sacramentum, &c. Si mors anticipet, &c.† "Believing that a man can be saved by faith alone, with a desire of receiving the sacrament," &c. "If death should prevent," &c.
I shall not expend more time with further allegations of the ancients, or any particular discussion of these, or of that famous canon of the council of Carthage,‡ or that other of Orange, (cap. 5 et 6,) under Leo I.: neither shall I recite the testimony of learned Bradwardine,§ or the ancient Confessions of faith set forth by the Waldenses. I might show that this doctrine hath been held, by the faithful in all ages, consonant to the holy scriptures: unto which the church of England hath given a full and ample attestation, both in her Articles and Homilies:|| "Whoever preaches contrary to these Articles is to be excommunicated;" (Canones, 1571, tit. Concionatores, p. 20;) which are the test and touchstone of the soundness of the members of this church. "Of the Justification of Man," the eleventh Article: "We are accompted [accounted] righteous before God only for the merit of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, by faith, and not for our own works or deservings. Wherefore, that we are justified by faith only, is a most wholesome doctrine, and very full of comfort; as more largely is expressed in the Homily of Justification."¶ If we look then into the Homilies, we find, that, after this doctrine is asserted, and proved by scriptures and several of the fathers, it is added, "This saying,—that we be justified by faith only, freely and without works, as being unable to deserve our justification at God's hands, &c.; and therefore wholly to ascribe the merit and deserving of our justification unto Christ only, and his most precious blood shedding,—this faith the holy scripture teacheth. This is the strong rock and foundation of Christian religion. This doctrine all old and ancient auctors [authors] of Christ's church do approve. This doctrine advanceth and setteth forth the true glory of Christ, and beateth down the vain-glory of man. This whosoever denieth, is not to be compted [counted] for a Christian man, not for a setter-forth of Christ's glory; but for an adversary to Christ and his gospel, and for a setter-forth of man's vain-glory."** Blessed be God for this excellent sermon of the church of England, which all good Christians do ex animo ["heartily"] reverence and embrace! To which a person of great note‡ may well be admitted to bring-in a gloss or comment: "As for such as hold, with the church of Rome, that we cannot be saved by Christ alone, without works; they do, not only by a circle of consequence, but directly, deny the foundation of faith; they hold it not, no, not so much as by a thread." And again:* "That faith alone justifieth,—by this speech we never meant to exclude either hope or charity from being always joined as inseparable mates with faith in the man that is justified; or works from being added as necessary duties required at the hands of every justified man: but to show that faith is the only hand which putteth on Christ to justification." Which agrees with that known saying: Fides sola justificat, sed non solitaria: "Faith stands alone in the work of justification, but is always attended with the sanctifying fruits and effects of the Spirit of God." And thus Austin reconciles Paul and James. (AUGUST. Lib. de Diversis Quæstionibus, col. 599, tom. iv. Basil. 1569.)
Now, to conclude: What says "the convention at Trent" (as Henry II. of France termed it)† to this scriptural and apostolical doctrine of the Reformed churches? Truly they proceed no higher than to curse such as say [that] men are formally justified by the righteousness of Christ; that is, essentially, purely, and exclusively: which they explain in the very next canon, and curse them again who shall say that men are justified by the sole imputation of Christ's righteousness, &c.‡ And they curse them again that shall say, that justifying faith is nothing else than a trusting of the divine mercy, forgiving sins for Christ's sake, &c.§ Nay, they tell us, "It becomes the divine clemency not to forgive us our sins without any satisfaction;"|| that is, of ours. To which they annex a cursing canon against such as affirm "that the whole penalty is always remitted of God together with the sin, and that there is no other satisfaction of penitents (required) than faith, by which they apprehend Christ to have satisfied for them."¶ By these and the foresaid testimonies, all may see what is the doctrine of holy scripture, of the primitive times and the succeeding ages of the church; (which might be abundantly amplified in testimonies;) and what is the doctrine of the Reformed churches, and of ours in particular; and what is the doctrine of the Romanists, how opposite, how contradictory. But let us descend to a second inquiry; and that is about a great point of worship.
(2.) Concerning the worship of God by images.
Let us now show that the church of God, consonant to the holy scriptures, hath in all ages given notable testimonies against idolatry, and the worship of images, or of God by images, as being flatly against the second commandment. As faith is that bond and ligament which unites the true church and every living member thereof to Christ their Head, so pure worship is the honour and reverence and obedience which the spouse of Christ renders to her Lord and Husband, who will not communicate his glory to graven images. (Isai. 42:8.) Idolatry is compared to whoredom in scripture, that dissolves the knot of marriage. God sent a bill of divorce for this cause to the ancient external church of the Jews, (Isai. 50:1; Jer. 3:8,) and expressly upon this account denounces against her that she was not his wife: (Hosea 2:2:) and will God, think you, spare any particular Gentile church, guilty of so fearful a crime; having annexed that high argument of his jealousy against such as violate the second commandment, and reputing them as haters of him, and whom he will judicially visit with great detestation?
For the exhibition of this point,—how the true church of God hath in all ages held close to the institutions of chaste and holy worship in spirit and truth,—I might transcribe testimonies out of all the ancients, that were the luminaries and columns of the primitive church, down along till Gregory the Great; and after his time, also, many notable and pregnant instances, through the very depth of Popery, both of emperors and churchmen, that did stoutly resist that growing abomination in the world. I shall, to avoid prolixity, mention some of the councils that have determined against this point, and draw to an issue.
That of Elvira near Granada in Spain, celebrated A. D. 305, (as Baronius thinks,) is peremptory in the case;* and I shall desire to cite it out of Agobardus, because of that his ancient testimony, about the year 830, to the truth of this canon, which runs thus: Ab orthodoxis patribus definitum est picturas in ecclesiâ fieri non debere: Nec quod colitur et adoratur in parietibus depingatur:† "It is enjoined by the orthodox fathers, that pictures ought not to be in a church: 'Nor let that be painted on the walls which is to be worshipped and adored.' " It were vain to spend time to show how Albaspinæus and others shift and shuffle about this canon. Let that good old bishop of Lyons, Agobardus, living so many hundred years nearer the time, give his sense upon it: "Let us keep the King's highway; the apostles, the masters (or teachers) of the church,—they have taught it," &c. "Let God be adored, worshipped, reverenced: let us sacrifice to him alone, either in the sacrament of the body and blood, or of a contrite heart," &c.‡ "Let us look upon a picture as a picture, without life, sense, and reason. So, likewise, if we see winged angels painted, or the apostles preaching, or the martyrs suffering torments, we can hope for no help," &c. "Wherefore, to avoid this superstition, the orthodox fathers did rightly determine," &c., in the canon aforesaid.§ The very same is extant in Ivo, only ne put for nec;|| and so it is read in Sixtus Senensis and Burchardus.¶ And [to show] that Agobardus understood this canon aright, against any religious worship to be given to pictures and images, he further adds, "Neither let their deceitful craftiness run to their old starting-holes, to say that they do not worship the images of the saints, but the saints themselves;" (that is, by the images;) "for God cries out, 'I will not give my glory to another, nor my praise to graven images,' " &c.** Nay, further; so strict were the good fathers of that synod aforesaid, that they would not suffer any idols in their houses. To conclude: the authenticalness of this synod must not be questioned, since several of its decrees are recited by Gratian, whose whole work is confirmed by Eugenius III., and, by others succeeding, canonized for church-law and the government of ecclesiastical courts.††
But let their confirmation be how it will, it is a notable testimony against them, even in that age: and however Sixtus Senensis and Albaspinæus would evade, as if it were decreed against the Heathens' images and pictures, as in the eleventh canon of the twelfth council of Toledo, that is but a weak shift; for, was it ever known that the Christians brought the pictures or statues of the heathen gods into their churches? No, no; the fear was of a new kind of imagery, and of worshipping of God and our Lord and saints and angels by representations and pictures; which at length obtained dreadfully, to the high dishonour of God, contempt of his commandments, the ruin of the eastern empire, and fearful judgments on the western.
It were too long to trace what direful stirs and commotions were in the east about the time of the second council of Nice; and what excellent testimony was given against it by the council of Frankfort, and the four books of the emperor Charles the Great, the synod Gentil. ac Parisiens., &c., and by the church of England, in an epistle written to Charles by Alcuinus in the name of the princes and bishops of our land, execrating that idolatry, as Hoveden and Simeon of Durham testify;* but, notwithstanding all opposition, how it prevailed in every age, till at last it was finally ratified at Trent; and what eminent witness hath been all along raised up by God against it. These things, being matter of fact and story, would rise to a just treatise: and many things relating to it being amply handled by Rainolds, Usher, Mede, and Daillé,† &c., famous in their generations, who have skilfully handled the sword taken from behind the ephod; I shall come to a close of this paragraph; only recommend to your diligent reading those excellent Homilies of the church of England "against the Peril of Idolatry;" which, if well read and digested, I hope, by divine blessing, may prove a sovereign antidote against the creeping cancer of Romish idolatry. But, I suppose, this will be the subject of a complete position among these Exercises, and therefore at present shall enlarge no further.
And now let us hasten to some inferences or conclusions flowing from this text and point,—of Christ being the only Foundation of his church, enduring throughout all ages, united to him by their most holy faith, and adhering to him by holy and pure worship.
From what has been hitherto treated of, we may learn which is the true church of Christ; and where it hath subsisted and been preserved in all ages; and how to discern and know it, and the true members thereto belonging; namely, by its being built upon Christ alone, the firm rock and basis of its constitution.
Such are to be owned for living members, who acknowledge Christ, the Son of the living God, to be the true and only Head of the church: such as are built upon Christ, and the doctrine of the holy apostles and prophets: (Eph. 2:20:) such as adhere to the scriptures, and receive and refuse things as they are proved or rejected by scripture: to whom both Peter and Paul and James and all the apostles' writings are equally precious: that dare not advance human traditions into a parity of honour with the divine writings of scripture, dictated by the Spirit of God; which teaches by what notes and characters to discern the true church of God: (not like those abominable wretches who, finding Paul so directly levelled against them, thought of censuring his epistle as savouring of heresy, and the author for a hot-headed person:)* that tremble at such devices, and dare not try the church by glorious and pompous visibility, universality, and continual succession of bishops in one place, looking upon them as false and counterfeit notes; but by pure scripture-doctrine, by sacraments rightly administered, by adherence to Christ alone for righteousness and justification in the sight of God, by spiritual and scriptural worship, and such-like. We deny not, but firmly hold, that the true church of Christ hath been always in some measure visible; visibilis, licet non omnibus visa;† capable of being seen and known by such whose eyes are anointed by scripture eye-salve. Indeed, if that were true which we find in the Roman Catechism, set forth by the authority of Trent, concerning that article in the Creed about the church: Præcipuè in hoc articulo ecclesia bonorum simul et malorum multitudinem, &c., significat;‡ that " 'the church' in this article doth principally signify the multitude both of good and evil:" then, indeed, there might be some tolerable plea for the splendour and perspicuity of the church in most ages. But when we consider the sharp persecutions raised against the apostles and the primitive church by the Jews, and against their successors by the Gentile, Pagan empire;—so fierce and terrible that Diocletian doubted not to erect columns of triumph over Christianity among the Arevacæ in Spain, (which some take to be remembered in Arevacco near Madrid,) with these inscriptions: Nomine Christianorum deleto; and, in another, Superstitione Christi ubique deletâ:§ namely, "The name of Christ being extinct;" and, "The superstition of Christ being every where abolished;" or when we reflect upon the Αριομανια, "the violence of the Arians" against the sincere embracers of the holy doctrine of Peter,—that Christ was the eternal Son of the living God, and so notably determined by the first council of Nice; or when we call to mind the astonishing tragedies acted by the Papal power for about twelve hundred years against such as have kept close to the same apostolical faith and purity of worship; we may well take up the threnodia or "lamentations" of the apostle concerning the church under the Syrian princes: "They wandered about in sheep-skins and goat-skins," &c. "(of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth." (Heb. 11:37, 38.) True is that of Hilary,—that the church did meet with the apostles intra cænacula et secreta,|| "in chambers and secret places;" who afterwards, sighing out his complaints against the Arians, [exclaims,] Malè ecclesiam Dei in tectis ædificiisque reveramini: "You do ill to reverence the church of God in stately buildings," &c. Montes mihi et sylvæ et lacus sunt tutiores:* "I count the mountains, woods, and marshes to be more safe." And as the Gloss cites him: Potiùs in cavernis ecclesiam delitescere, quàm in primariis sedibus eminere: "That the church is rather to be found lying hid in secret caverns, than to be eminently conspicuous in principal sees."
But, not to heap up witnesses, the testimony of the church of England, in that notable Homily "against the Peril of Idolatry," may suffice once for all, out of Eusebius and Austin: "That when Christian religion was most pure and indeed golden, Christians had but low and poor conventicles, and simple oratories, and caves under ground, called cryptæ; where they (for fear of persecution) assembled secretly together."† And so it hath continued more or less during the Papal dominion; according to the prophecy, that the woman, that is, the church, should recede into a wilderness-state for twelve hundred and sixty years from the taking up of Constantine into heaven. (Rev. 12:6, 14.)
The true church of Christ, consisting of all its members, (the greater part whereof is triumphant in heaven, and the rest militant upon earth; on which account only is it to be genuinely called "catholic,")‡ cannot properly be styled "visible to the eye of sense," but, according to our ancient Creed, "to the eye of faith." We believe there is such a church, all whose true members are certainly and only known to God. (2 Tim. 2:19.) For, what eagle-sighted angel can search the heart, and positively determine the truth of faith in that sealed fountain, whereby the heart flows out in streams of love unto Christ? Against such a soul, against a society composed of such heavenly members, against such a church, the gates of hell shall never prevail. But against a Catholic, external, visibly glorious church, the gates of hell have so far prevailed in many ages, that she hath been reduced into a very low and gloomy estate; as she was in the vision of Zechary, when the "man riding upon a red horse stood still among the myrtle-trees that were in the bottom by night." (Zech. 1:8.) Our Lord promises the church's existency and its perennial duration throughout all ages, and his own presence among his myrtle-trees in a dark bottom, and his walking among his golden candlesticks in the deep night of adversity; but not its glory and perspicuity, not triple crowns and eminencies. Peter never came forth shining with precious stones, and glistering in silks, and overlaid with gold, and prancing on a white palfrey, guarded with Switzers, and hemmed in with a crowd and noise of servants; as Bernard accosts Eugenius IV., telling him [that] in these he succeeded the imperial Constantine, and not Peter.§ Our Lord never promised such glory and splendour; those fine things become another kind of creature in the Revelation. (Rev. 18:16.)
The true church hath usually been as indigent of silver and gold as the true Peter; (Acts 3:6;) yet hath been preserved in all ages from extremity and ruin. Some particular churches, some members of the true and invisible catholic church, whereof Christ is the Head, have been always marching along the howling wilderness of this world toward Canaan. The church hath been mostwhile in a troublous and desert estate; few Elims of palm-trees to sit under, or fountains in which to wash her sacred eyes: yet, as to purity of worship and the food of heavenly manna, she hath always enjoyed some Moseses, some pastors to feed her in the wilderness, such as have prophesied to her all along. (Rev. 12:6; 11:3.) Her faith in Christ, and chaste love to him, have been clearly discerned by none but his holy eye; especially in times of general defection from the truths of God, when, as to her secret communion in ordinances, none but such whose eyes are clarified in the crystal streams of holy scripture, have been able to discern her. But there have been some few times, when very Balaams, having climbed up into the mountain of contemplation and stood upon a prophetical rock, and looking toward this wilderness, have cried out in an ecstasy, upon a sight of the glorious beauty of the church, "How goodly are thy tents, O Jacob, and thy tabernacles, O Israel! As the valleys are they spread forth, as gardens by the river's side, as the trees of lign-aloes which the Lord hath planted, as cedar-trees beside the waters." (Num. 24:1, 5, 6.) The church hath been always visible in se ["in itself"]: God hath left no age without a witness of the pure word dispensed, of the two sacraments duly administered, and of spiritual worship and order managed in a comely, apostolical manner, without the garish dresses of human fancies and institutions; which are the only proper notes, marks, and characters, where the true church hath been and is, and where the faithful pastors are to be found, who "stand in the counsel of God." (Jer. 23:22.) But who can help, if blind men cry out [that] they see her not? or [if] such as want the optic-glass of scriptures, and call for a gay, splendid, sensual appearance of glittering and costly ceremonies,—whose ears [are] filled with temple-music, their eyes ravished with stately pictures and Babylonian images portrayed with vermilion, (Ezek. 23:14,) and their nostrils perfumed with the rich odours of Arabia,—cry out, Templum Domini, "The temple of the Lord is here?"
Was not Nebuchadnezzar's image dedicated with great glory, set off with concerts of music, and attended with numerous worshippers? Alas! this universal consent, grand acclamations, copious assemblies, uninterrupted successions in mitred habits, splendour and pomp and grandeur, are not the tokens of His kingdom; which "cometh not with observation," (Luke 17:20,) or, as Agrippa and Bernice, μετα ῶολλης φαντασιας, "with stately and splendid presence." (Acts 25:23.) Heathenism and Turcism may plead for a suffrage in such cases. Christ's flock is a "little flock." (Luke 12:32.) "In this world ye shall have tribulation," says our Lord; (John 16:33;) and "in many tribulations we must enter into the kingdom of God." (Acts 14:22.)
Now here I might, out of several ancient records and monuments, show the succession of some parts of the true church of Christ in France, in the Alpine valleys, and in Britain, and elsewhere in the East; where true doctrine (and, for the main, true discipline and worship) hath been preserved all along, though secretly, for the most part, and not with external glory and splendour: but that would infringe upon the dispatch of the remaining corollaries.
This text, and doctrine thence deduced, discover all false-pretending churches from the true.
Such as lay any other foundation than Christ the Son of God, such as "hold not the Head," (Col. 2:19,) such as build not upon the doctrinal foundation of the holy apostles and prophets, cannot be true churches of Christ. Let good Hilary be judge: Quisquis Christum, qualis ab apostolis est prædicatus, negavit, Antichristus est:* "He is the Antichrist, whoever denies Christ," qualis, " 'such as' he is preached by the apostles." Then such as are departed from the doctrine of the apostles in fundamental points, are counted by Hilary Antichristian societies. To him we may adjoin holy Austin: Mendax est Antichristus, qui ore profitetur Jesum esse Christum, et factis negat. Opera loquuntur, et verba requirimus? Ideò mendax quia aliud loquitur, aliud agit. Quis enim malus non benè vult loqui?† "Antichrist is a liar, who professes Jesus to be the Christ with his mouth, and denies him in deeds; therefore a liar, because he speaks one thing, and does another. The works speak, and do we require words? For what evil man will not speak well?" And again: Quære ab Arianis, Eunomianis, Macedonianis; confitentur Jesum Christum in carne venisse, &c. Quid ergò facimus? unde discernimus, &c.? Nec nos negamus, nec illi negant, &c. Invenimus factis negare. "Ask of Arians, Eunomians, Macedonians; they confess Jesus Christ to be come in the flesh, &c. What shall we do then? how shall we discern him? Neither we nor they deny it. We find that they deny him in deeds." As the apostle saith of such, "They profess to know God; but in works they deny him." (Titus 1:16.) Quæramus in factis, non in linguis:†† "Let us seek it in their works, and not in their tongues." If we examine their Creeds, they profess to believe all the articles, and more too; but yet in all His three offices they evacuate the truth of their pretended credence, as the learned have abundantly evinced.§ Which being true, then their own rule in the canon-law condemns them: Certum est quòd is committit in legem qui, legis verba complectens, contra legis nititur voluntatem:|| "It is certain that he trespasses against the law who, embracing the words of the law, practises against the mind of the law." For "by their traditions they have made the commandments of God of none effect." (Matt. 15:6.) So true is that which Ambrose, or some ancient under his name, thunders against such: Quicquid non ab apostolis traditum est, sceleribus plenum est:¶ "Whatever is not delivered by the apostles, is full of wickednesses."
But before we enter the particulars of this inquiry, we must conclude that the question in hand ought not to be determined by particular doctors of this or that communion. It is not what an Erasmus, or a Cassander, or an Espencæus, or Ferus, do teach; nor what a Bellarmine, a Stapleton, a Scioppius, a Pighius; nor what the Spanish divines in some cases at Trent, or the French divines in point of supremacy and defence of the Pragmatical Sanction; nor wherein the Thomists and Scotists, the Dominicans and Jesuits, do conflict. That were an incongruous method, either to discern their minds by, or to accommodate any syncretisms or fallacious unims [unions]. These are but personal opinions: they will stand to none of their doctors. But what councils and authorized assemblies, what confessions and catechisms, composed by their direction and warrantry, have determined—there lies the rule of inquiry: and therefore I shall here touch upon no authorities or citations but such as are found in the canon-law, the council and Catechism of Trent, their missals, Bulls, and determinations from the chair. As for others, [I shall touch upon them] but obiter et per transennam ["by the way and in a cursory manner"]; as collateral proofs, or confirmed by Papal edicts; or such authors as have passed the trial of their Purging Indexes, set out by their own authority. Let us then proceed to some INQUIRIES in this affair.
Is that a true church of Christ that determines fundamental doctrines contrary to Christ and his apostles, that builds upon another foundation than Christ?—That they have assumed Peter for the only head of the militant church, might be abundantly proved: insomuch that if princes and emperors do but perform their duty as keepers of both tables, how greatly are they offended! As when Charles V. took to himself some spiritual jurisdiction, how does Baronius exclaim, as if he set up another head of the church, pro monstro et ostento,* "as a portentous monster!" which might with much more truth be retorted upon themselves in respect to our Lord, whom they rob of his glory, when they ascribe it to Peter. Let but Peter be imprisoned by Agrippa, how does the same Baronius cry out!—Magno sanè terræmotu ecclesia Christi tunc concuti visa est, cùm ipsa petra in ecclesiæ fundamento locata, tantâ agitatione quassari conspiceretur:† "The church of Christ truly then seemed to be shaken with a great earthquake, when the very rock placed in the foundation of the church, was seen to be so sorely shaken." It seems, Peter was the rock placed by Christ for the foundation of the church.
But let us look a little further. Clemens, in his first epistle to James the brother of our Lord, written to him after the apostle was dead, (as the learned Crakanthorpe hath proved,‡) which is set forth at Basil, and by Turrian and others,§ and is extant in the first tome of the councils, and ratified by the canon-law; which speaks thus: Simon Petrus, &c., veræ fidei merito et integræ prædicationis obtentu, fundamentum esse ecclesiæ definitus est:|| "Simon Peter, by the merit of his true faith, and having obtained it by his sincere preaching, is defined to be the foundation of the church." The divinity transcends the Latin in barbarism. But it seems by the forger, that it was our Lord's doing, consonant to after-popes' asserting the same: "That He committed to Peter, the blessed key-keeper of eternal life, the laws both of the earthly and heavenly empire."¶ And again, treating of Peter: Hunc in consortium individuæ unitatis assumptum, id quod ipse erat voluit nominari; dicendo, Tu es Petrus, &c.: ut æterni ædificatio templi mirabili munere gratiæ Dei in Petri soliditate consisteret:* "This person being taken into fellowship of individual unity," (O fearful!) "He would have him called that which He was; saying, 'Thou art Peter,' &c.: that the building of the eternal temple might consist in the solidity of Peter, by the wonderful gift of the grace of God." This needs no gloss. But the learned Glossators upon the Common Extravagants,—after they have expounded Cephas to signify "a head," they proceed: Sicut in corpore materiali est ponere caput unum, in quo sunt omnes sensus, seu plenitudo sentiendi; sic in ecclesiâ militante (ne sit tanquam corpus monstruosum, si duo haberet capita) est tantùm ponere unum caput; videlicet, Romanum pontificem, in quo est plenitudo potestatis et auctoritatis, &c.† "As in a material body there is but one head placed, in which are all the senses, or a fulness of sensation; so in the church militant (lest it should be like a monstrous body; if it have two heads) there is but one head placed, namely, the Roman bishop; in whom is the fulness of power and authority." And Boniface VIII. (in Extrav. Comm. lib. 1. cap. 1. de Majorit.): Igitur ecclesiæ unius et unicæ, unum corpus, unum caput; non duo capita, quasi monstrum; Christus, videlicet, et Christi vicarius; Petrus, Petrique successor, &c.: "Therefore, of the one only church, one body, one head; not two heads, like a monster; namely, Christ and Peter, Christ's vicar and Peter's successors."
By these doctrines we are now clearly illuminated, that, as to the influence and government of the militant church, Christ hath excluded himself from headship, lest the body should be monstrous, with two heads. Such fearful and tremendous points are taught south of the mountains! But the truth is, they speak of themselves, and seek their own glory; (John 7:18;) and not Christ's, whose commandments they have annulled and evacuated by their many additions to and subtractions from his. They would seem indeed to retain all, only add some; but whosoever adds, as well as detracts, is liable to the curse of God. (Deut. 12:32; Prov. 30:6; Rev. 22:18; Gal. 1:8.) For hereby they stain the glory of the divine law, as insufficient and imperfect; and more especially when they add fundamental points upon peril of damnation, when they frame new articles of faith, as pope Pius IV. hath done. Articles are principles; and therefore indemonstrable, except by scripture.
1. Now when new ones are ADDEDde fide ["as part of the faith"], extraneous to the holy scriptures, nay, repugnant in such mighty and weighty matters, can any man alive, that is not deep in the golden cup, sedately believe the true church of Christ to be there? when, (1.) They require firm faith in the traditions, observations, and constitutions of the church of Rome:‡‡ and, (2.) Tie all churches to their sense of the scriptures; and, [require] (3.) To hold seven sacraments to be instituted by Christ; and, (4.) The Trent doctrine about justification; (5.) The propitiatory sacrifice in the Mass; (6.) Transubstantiation; (7.) Purgatory; (8.) Invocation of saints; (9.) Adoration of images; (10.) Indulgences; (11.) The Roman church to be mistress of all churches, and the bishop thereof Christ's vicar; (12.) And all things in the canons and councils, but especially of Trent: and in the conclusion, Hanc veram catholicam fidem, extra quam nemo salvus esse potest, &c., profiteor et veraciter teneo, &c.; you must "profess and truly hold this to be the true Catholic faith, without which none can be saved."
But, for the easing of men's minds in these and the like particulars, they cry up the immensity of their power and privilege to dispense with scripture and apostolical doctrine. Indeed there is great need that should be well proved; and the canon-law has done the deed. For, in the first place, it is pronounced ex cathedrâ, "from the very chair" of Peter: Subesse Romano pontifici omnem humanam creaturam, declaramus, dicimus, diffinimus, et pronuntiamus, omninò esse de necessitate salutis.* Pope Boniface VIII. hath very well expressed it in his definitive sentence: "We declare, affirm, determine, and pronounce, that it is altogether necessary to salvation, that every human creature be subject to the pope of Rome." Is not this doctrine wonderfully clear in holy scriptures, and obvious in every page? But lest we should mistake the places, we shall he helped out with some dispensations as to scripture.
The Gloss, upon pope Nicholas's rescript to the bishops of France, expressly says, Contra apostolum dispensat;† that he may "dispense against the apostle and against natural right:" And again, upon an edict of pope Martin's: Sic ergo papa dispensat contra apostolum:‡ "So, then, the pope dispenses against the apostle." And Gregory XIII. adds a note out of Aquinas: Non est absurdum quoad jus positivum: "It is not absurd as to a positive law." And again: Secundùm plenitudinem potestatis de jure possumus supra jus dispensare:§ where the Gloss adds, Nam contra apostolum dispensat, et contra canones apostolorum, item contra Vetus Testamentum in decimis. "According to fulness of power, we can of right dispense above," or "beyond," "right." "For he dispenses against the apostle, and against the canons of the apostles, and against the Old Testament, in tithes." Our Lord determines marriage not to be dissolved but in case of whoredom: (Matt. 5:32; 19:9:) but Gregory III. orders, "If a wife be infirm" ad debitum, then jugalis nubat magis, "let her husband marry rather," qui non potest continere.|| Our Lord teaches "not to resist evil:" (Matt. 5:39; Rom. 12:17:) but Innocent IV. teaches, vim vi repellere, et utcunque gladium, &c., alterum altero adjuvare;¶ "to resist force with force, and help out one sword with another." I might show it in the case of oaths and vows, and several others; as, If a priest commit fornication; though by the canons of the apostles he ought to be deposed, yet by the authority of Sylvester let him do penance for ten years, &c.** But enough of this.
2. Let us proceed to show their power in the point of SUBTRACTIONS, in some particulars.
(1.) As to the holy scriptures.—Let us observe several points.
(i.) They substitute the Vulgar Latin translation to be the authentic word of God, instead of the original Hebrew and Greek.—Of which an author of their own attests, that "the Roman church permits not the scriptures but in Latin."* But we need no further witness than the sanction of Trent; which appoints and declares, "that the old Vulgar edition, &c., should be used for the authentical, in public lectures, disputes, preachings, and expositions; and that none dare or presume to reject it upon any pretence."†
(ii.) The common people are not to read them.—Indeed Pius IV., in the fourth rule for the managing of the Purging Indexes of Books prohibited according to the appointment of Trent, grants to read them, if translated by Catholic authors, and leave had from the priest or confessor; else not: since, as they say, si passim sine discrimine permittantur, plus inde, ob hominum temeritatem, detrimenti quàm utilitatis oriri;‡ "if they be commonly permitted without distinction, more detriment rises than profit, through the rashness of men." But in Clement VIII.'s observation on that fourth rule, this faculty or licence of reading or retaining Vulgar Bibles is wholly taken away; and [it] concludes, Quod quidem inviolatè servandum est,§ "Which is to be kept inviolably."
(iii.) They must be received and understood according to the sense of the Roman church.—Cujus est judicare de vero sensu et interpretatione scripturarum sanctarum:|| "In whose authority it is to judge of the sense and interpretation of the holy scriptures." It is said of Averroes, that he anointed Avicenna's books with poison, in design upon him; and what cause we have to fear the like from their commentaries, let the learned judge. But besides, since the Lateran decree of the pope's superiority to a council, we are in the dark what their church is. But Paul II. expounded it to poor Platina, as himself relates: Torvis oculis me aspiciens, &c., Ac si nescires omnia jura in scrinio pectoris nostri collocata esse, sic stat sententia: loco cedant omnes, eant quo volunt; nihil eos moror: pontifex sum; mihique licet, pro arbitrio animi, aliorum acta et rescindere et approbare.¶ Let it be Englished by the abbot's version: "Know ye not that I am infallible, and carry all their judgments and reasons in the cabinet of my breast? I consider no man's person: I am pope; and it is in my power to null or confirm their acts, as I think good myself."** This case is manifest.
(iv.) They equal the canons and traditions to the scriptures.—Pari pietatis affectu ac reverentiâ suscipit et veneratur:†† they "receive and reverence the one with equal pious affection as the other." And for this in the canon-law we have ample testimony: "All the sanctions of the apostolical seat are to be received as if confirmed by the voice of holy Peter himself:‡‡ and although the yoke imposed by that holy seat be scarce tolerable, yet let us bear and endure it with a pious devotion. And if any man sin against them," noverit sibi veniam denegari, "let him know that pardon shall be denied him."§§ Again: Nulli fas est vel velle vel posse transgredi apostolicæ sedis præcepta:|||| "It is lawful for none so much as to will, much less to be able, to transgress the precepts of the apostolical chair." Again: the pope's Decretal Epistles are expressly reckoned among canonical scriptures: Inter quas sanè illæ sint, quas apostolica sedes habere, et ab eâ alii meruerunt accipere Epistolas:* "Among which surely those Epistles are to be, which the apostolical seat receives, and which others have deserved to receive from thence." Further: the violation of canons,—they state it to be blasphemy and a sin against the Holy Ghost.† Nay, as to some discipline and the ancient institution of Christian religion, tantâ reverentiâ apicem apostoliæ sedis omnes suspiciunt, ut magis, &c., ab ore præcessoris ejus quàm a sacris paginis, &c., expetant, &c.:‡ "with such reverence do all look up to the pinnacle of the apostolical seat, that they rather receive from the mouth of his predecessor than from the holy scriptures." So that the matter may well be reduced to the edict of the Jesuits at Dole, mentioned by Sir Edwin Sandys: "Having thus effectually deprived the people of the holy scriptures; to avoid all further contests and troubles in religion, forbid any talk of God, either in good sort or bad."§ Thus we must bid adieu to holy scriptures, and, as one says, "embrace their holy trumperies." "For if any man desire to know which is the true church, how should he know it but only by the scripture? "(AUTHOROperis imperfecti in Matth. hom. 49.)
(2.) They take away the cup in the Lord's supper from the Christian people.—And that with a non-obstante ["notwithstanding"]: Licet Christus post cœnam instituerit, &c.: "Although Christ did after supper ordain, and administer to his disciples, in both the elements of bread and wine, this venerable sacrament;" tamen hoc non obstante, "yet, nevertheless, the authority of sacred canons, the laudable and approved custom of the church, hath kept and doth keep," &c.: et habenda est pro lege;|| they "pass it into a law," to communicate in one kind; and pronounce such to be dealt with as heretics, that oppose this new law, made in defiance of Christ and the primitive church. What a church is this, that puts a bar to Christ! Pray resolve how blessed and obedient a spouse this is.
(3.) Though our blessed Lord and his apostles commend marriage, as the institution of God and honourable among all; (Matt. 19:5, 6; 1 Cor. 7:2; 1 Tim. 3:2; Heb. 13:4;) and the forbidding of it [is] repulsed, as the "doctrine of devils:" (1 Tim. 4:1, 3:) yet there is sounder advice, it seems, to be found in the canon-law: "Priests' marriage is not forbidden by the authority of law or gospel or of the apostles;" ecclesiasticâ tamen lege penitùs interdicitur,¶ "yet by ecclesiastical law it is utterly forbidden." And they may commit fornication, and not be deposed;** and their Gloss gives this satisfying reason: Quia hodie fragiliora sunt corpora nostra quàm olim erant:†† "Because our bodies are now-a-days more frail than they were of old." And though to take a second wife secundùm præceptum apostoli est, "that is but according to the precept of the apostle;" secundùm veritatis autem rationem verè fornicatio est, "yet, according to the account of truth, verily it is fornication." Sed dùm, permittente Deo, publicè et licenter committitur, fit honesta fornicatio: "But when it is publicly committed, and with licence,* by the permission of God, it becomes honest fornication." And for adultery, it is counted among "the lesser crimes:" De adulteriis verò, et aliis criminibus quæ sunt minora,† a bishop may dispense with his clerks.‡ More of the like stuff may be read in Pelagius's rescript to the bishop of Florence; and reason rendered: Quia corpora ipsa hominum defecerunt:§ "Because the very bodies of men are grown weak." And if a clerk embrace a woman, it is to be expounded to bless her.|| But for these and the like cases the "Tax of the apostolical Chancery" gives the richest reasons; where any thing is dispensed with for money: "A book wherein," saith Espencæus,¶ "thou mayest learn more wickedness than in all the summists and summaries of all vices;" set forth in the days of pope Leo X., who made that infamous reply to cardinal Bembus: Quantum nobis ac nostro cœtui profuit ea de Christo fabula, satis est seculis omnibus notum:** "It is known well enough to all ages, how much that fable of Christ hath benefited us and our society." Well might the abbot of Ursperg cry out, Gaude, mater nostra, Roma, &c.:†† "Rejoice, O Rome, our mother; for the cataracts of treasures are opened in the earth, that rivers of money may flow in to thee! Rejoice over the iniquity of the sons of men; for thou receivest the price for a recompence of such great wickedness!"
(4.) For prohibition of meats.—Whereas the apostle tells us, "Whatever is sold in the shambles, that eat, asking no question for conscience' sake;" (1 Cor. 10:25;) and, "Let no man judge you in meat, or in drink." (Col. 2:16.) For "God hath created them to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth; and nothing to be refused." (1 Tim. 4:3, 4.) Such as believe in God, and are acquainted with the truth of his holy word, make no scruple, as those [do] who "speak lies in hypocrisy, and are seducing spirits." (Verses 1, 2.) But the canon-law commands fastings, as a tenth part of time consecrated to God out of the whole year;‡‡ and against our eating of flesh assigns a pregnant citation out of the apostle: Bonum est vinum non bibere, et carnes non comedere:§§ "It is good not to drink wine, nor to eat flesh." But the connexed words are left out, which refer to offence in the primitive times. But I shall not further touch this point,—their precepts and practices stand opposite to the holy scriptures. But how wholesome to the body to appoint their grand fasts and abstinence from flesh in the spring, let Fuchsius, a learned physician, be judge, out of Soranus and Hippocrates: Quòd verno tempore minimè sit jejunandum: "We ought least of all to fast in the spring-time." And after he hath urged his argument, he closes: Romanum pontificem non solùm esse Antichristum, &c:|||| "That the Roman bishop is not only Antichrist, in stating a doctrine contrary to Christ; but antiatrum, 'contrary to physicians;' to appoint a fast then and forbid flesh, when, they have unanimously taught, we ought to eat more largely and abstain from fish." But it became the Man of Perdition not only to destroy our souls, but our bodies also, by his decrees; and our purses also: (imitating Peter in fishing for money at the Sea of Galilee: Matt. 17:27:) we must buy of him leave at that time to eat milk and the like viands.
But, to finish this paragraph: of such a society as add to, subtract from, dispense with, and over-rule the laws of God, what should all the sober and pious judge, but what the scripture hath prophetically deciphered them to be, and what the church of England hath determined concerning them?*—that since they have forsaken and daily do forsake the commandments of God, to erect and set up their own constitutions; we may well conclude, according to the rule of Augustine, that the bishops of Rome and their adherents are not the true church of Christ; much less, then, to be taken as chief heads and rulers of the same. "Whosoever," saith he, "do dissent from the scriptures concerning the head, although they be found in all places where the church is appointed, yet are they not in the church." A plain place, concluding directly against the church of Rome.
Is that the true church of Christ, that pollutes the worship of God by idolatry? (2 Cor. 6:16.)—Why is this sin so often called "whoredom" in scripture? Does not whoredom dissolve the bonds of marriage, by our Lord's own determination? did not the Lord give up the ancient Israel and Judah, and disavow them from being his spouse, under the name of two notable whores,—Aholah and Aholibah? (Ezek. 23:4.) And if we rightly consider the Revelation, we find also this to be the very cause why the name of "whore" is branded upon the forehead of a certain congregation that was to appear in the world after the dissolution of Rome imperial. And therefore God sent the Saracens and Turks against them, with stings both in head and tail, both in the east and west: but yet they repented not of their idols, &c. (Rev. 9:20, 21.) This is that generation which lays stumbling-blocks both before Turks, Jews, and Heathens. For haste, I will instance but in a few.
Among the four great offences and scandals which the Grand Seignior told the German ambassador, he took at the Roman religion, one was, that they made their God in the church; another, that they ate him in the eucharist.† What would he have said, had he heard of the emperor Henry VII.'s being poisoned out of the sacrament-cup, by a Guelph of the pope's faction;‡ or, as Dr. Donne expresses it more earnestly, "To poison their God, that they might poison their emperor?"§ But how greatly the Turks are incensed against idols, the Alcoran almost every where discovers; and Hottinger, Sandys, and others.||
As for the Jews, how greatly they are scandalized, we may observe even in elder times; when the second council of Nice was fain to give a solemn, though a sorry, answer to them: Οντως φοζερος ὁ λογος ὁ εντειλαμενος τῳ Ισραηλ, &c.: "Verily, it was a terrible word, giving command to Israel not to make any carved image," &c.; "and yet afterward to command Moses to make cherubims, yet not as gods, but for re-memoration only," &c.* Not to observe at present how they shift off the second commandment, as if belonging to Israel only; nor what they further reply about the framing of images, not to be ultimate objects of worship, but only commemorative helps of devotion: that which I would principally take notice of is, that even then, at the first solemn and judicial publication of image-doctrine, how greatly the Jews were provoked and offended; who were so exact in the abhorrency of images, that they counted it unlawful to look up to an image in civil use, and forbade the very art of painters and statuaries;† nay, so nice and curious, that they scruple to pluck out a thorn out of their feet, or gather up money casually fallen, lest they should seem to stoop down in respect to any image in such a place.‡ And as to the present indelible continuance of the same hatred, Sir Edwin Sandys hath given a large account:§ and how they call Popish churches, because of the worship of images in them, בית התרפה, "the houses of idolatry," or "filthinesses," with some remarkable observations out of their authors, may be seen in the learned Hoornbeeck's treatise "against the Jews."||
As to the Pagans or Heathens, I might enlarge; but I shall only refer to a story of the Americans: who, being vexed at the burning [of] their wooden god by Mr. Gage, replied, that they knew it was a piece of wood, and of itself could not speak; but seeing it had spoken, (as they were all witnesses,) this was a miracle whereby they ought to be guided: and they did verily believe that God was in that piece of wood, which, since the speech made by it, was more than ordinary wood, having God himself in it; and therefore deserved more offerings and adorations than those saints (that is, of the Spaniards) in the church, who did never speak unto people.¶ And to this may be annexed (since it touches upon saint-worship) what Sancta Clara insinuates as a reason why there is no precept under the gospel for invocation of saints; namely, "Lest the converted Gentiles should believe that they were again reduced to the worship of men;" (terrigenarum;) "and, according to their old custom, should adore saints, not as patrons, but as gods."**
To conclude this point: since God hath so severely forbidden the worshipping of his Divine Majesty by statues, pictures, sculptures, or images, and in all ages given ample evidences of his wrath against such worshippers; since the true Christian religion, by means of such titular and nominal pretenders to it, is greatly vilified and obstructed in its progress, as to the sincere conversion both of Turks, Jews, and Heathens; we may easily discern where that dangerous society resides, that commits fornication with stocks and stones; termed by the church of England, in her excellent and zealous homilies against idolatry, "a foul, filthy, old, withered harlot," &c.; "that, understanding her lack of natural and true beauty, and great loathsomeness which of herself she hath, doth, after the custom of such harlots, paint herself, and deck and tire [attire] herself with gold, pearl, stone, and all kind of precious jewels."*
Is that the true church of Christ, that, out of her own invention, intermixed with Jewish and heathenish customs, (as might be specified out of Blondus, Polydore Virgil, and others,) hath patched up a pompous worship, and bottomed now upon that grand fundamental of the Pope's authority; which (as it is said of Jeroboam's) is "devised of their own hearts;" (1 Kings 12:33;) and in comparison to the institutions of Christ, and scriptural, apostolical, primitive practice, is as it were but a novelty and of yesterday?—As to which, the history of the church in most things gives us a precise account of their particular rise and genealogy. In the rest, we may evidently prove by the primitive administrations that then they were not, and afterward find when they were, in use and practice; though the exact moment of their intrusion be not determinable, since they did, sensim sine sensu, "secretly" creep in, by the subtle artifice of some, and the sequacious temper of others; and likewise, that the barbarous times of the Goths and Vandals, making fearful havoc of learning and the rare monuments of antiquity, have destroyed many records. But, however, there are great heaps of rubbish and soil, that might easily be scented up to their original stable. Let us but instance in a few. The use of fine linen, prayers in odd numbers, sanctuaries, wax-candles, worship toward the east, ember-days, consecrations, and the Bacchanalia and other feasts turned into the present festivities,—their origin, and [that of] multitudes of others, may be observed out of Polydore,† Innocent III.,‡ Durandus's Rationale, and Durantius De Ritibus, Rupertus Tuitiensis, Gavantus, Gratian, Ivo, Blondus, and many others.
Give me leave a little to enlarge upon one constitution of the greatest moment, because it is a fundamental amongst them; namely, the decree of the Lateran council under Leo X.: whereby the pope's authority was fully settled, and whence he became exalted above a council, and infallible, and to be adored; as it is in the Cæremoniale Romanum, lib. i. p. 51; et lib. iii. p. 286. And it is this: Solum Romanum pontificem pro tempore existentem, tanquam auctoritatem super omnia concilia habentem, &c., manifestè constat:§ "It clearly appears," &c., "that the Roman bishop solely, for the time being, as having authority over all councils." And then, p. 121: Cùm de necessitate salutis existat, omnes Christi fideles Romano pontifici subesse: "It is necessary to salvation, that all Christ's faithful ones should be subject to the Roman bishop." This was determined [on] the 14 Kal. Jan. 1516, [December 18th,] within the compass of the same year wherein Luther began to assault them, as may be observed out of Scultetus's "Annals."|| Whence we may note what a profound question that is, when they demand of us, where our religion was before Luther; whenas themselves do date the commencement of the greatest point and pillar of their religion—namely, the doctrine of infallibility—within the same year wherein Luther arose; putting the hay and stubble of their infallible judge into the foundation of the church. Whereas, one of their own could boldly and freely assert, "that though the Catholics accuse them of pinning their faith upon Luther and Calvin, which is false: for neither Luther nor Calvin instituted any new religion."* When they ask, Where was ours? we answer, Where theirs, is not; namely, instituted by our blessed Lord, preached by the holy apostles, set forth in the sacred scriptures, and practised by the primitive churches, and preserved all along by some notable confessors of the truth in every age to our present times. But theirs, indeed, as it now stands, built upon the Lateran and Trent councils, in their main fundamental, is but a mere novelty, started up in the very days of Luther; and, in other things wherein they dissent from us, is but of later invention, in comparison with the primitive apostolical times. And in how many grand and weighty particulars (beside their accessory and gaudy ceremonies) they dissent from scriptures, forsake the apostles, run contrary to the sanctions of ancient councils, might be at large educed out of authentic records, and demonstrated to be but a novelty.
"But are there not several things found in the Reformed churches that are of the same standing, and savour of equal novelty; of which it may be said, Non sic ab initio, 'It was not so from the beginning?' "
To which it may be replied, that it is the duty of all reformations to come up exactly to scripture;† and what is not done at one time, in levioribus aliquot, "in some smaller matters," may be performed at another. The ingenious Bernard, glossing upon that of the Canticles, "O thou fairest among women!" speaks thus: Pulchram, non omnimodè quidem, sed pulchram inter mulieres, eam docet; videlicet, cum distinctione; quatenus ex hoc ampliùs reprimatur, et sciat quid desit sibi:†† "He calls her 'fair;' yet not altogether, but 'fairest among women;' namely, with a distinction: that hence she may be somewhat the more checked, and know wherein she is defective." There is no church under heaven perfectly beautiful: that remains for glory, when Christ will "present her to himself without spot or wrinkle." (Eph. 5:27.) If but pretended watchmen take away her spotted veil, (Canticles 5:7,) she will be glad of a purer. Fas est et ab hoste doceri: "It is wisdom to learn by the reproof of an adversary." But, as to the grand fundamental points, we unanimously agree: we lay no other foundation than the Rock Christ Jesus, and seriously profess the scriptures to be our perfect rule; and if any will teach us wherein we swerve, we are ready to yield obedience to the laws of Christ. So that, as the learned Crakanthorpe determines, those persons, as Irenæus, Justin Martyr, and Cyprian, &c.,—though in some things they might err, yet because they thought those things to be taught in scripture, which they made their guide, and were ready to reform upon eviction out of the holy scriptures, they no doubt died in the faith. But he teaches the contrary of those that hold the pope's infallible judgment in causes of faith; for that is none of God's foundation, whereupon to ground our belief or practice.*
Can that be deemed a true church of Christ successively in all ages, that varies from itself, contradicts itself, makes decrees quite contrary to precedent times, and that in matters of faith?—And if the philosopher said right,—that there is no medium in a perfect contradiction; if the one be true, the other is equally as false:† what shall be deemed of such a society, that in the great matters of faith have determined quite contrary, beside many other things of grand importance? Truth is always homogeneal, consistent, and invariable. But here is pope against pope, council against council, one society, order, and fraternity, against another. Where shall a poor Christian sistere pedem, "fix his resolution?" If the former be true, the latter are undeniably false; if the latter be true, in what a case were the forefathers of old? In what state did they leave the world? How might this amaze the drowsy and enchanted world, did it but awaken them to muse seriously on this point only!
Have not popes from the chair determined against each other; and that in matters of faith, and other weighty cases? How Sylverius and Vigilius clashed and conflicted in that grand point of the three chapters, agitated in the fifth general council, is at large set forth by the learned Crakanthorpe.‡ did not pope Agatho determine quite contrary to pope Vigilius in the same case? as may be observed in comparing the actions of the fifth and sixth council.§ Stephen VI. abrogates the decrees of Formosus, digs up his body, and cuts off the two fingers of his right hand which are used in consecrations. And he [Platina] adds, Postea ferè semper servata hæc consuetudo sit, ut Acta priorum pontificum sequentes aut infringerent aut omninò tollerent;|| that "afterward this custom was almost always kept up,—that following bishops did either invalidate or utterly take away the Acts of their predecessors:" of which he gives instances in Romanus, Theodotus, John 10., and Sergius.
Gregory I.¶ determines him to be Antichristian and to blaspheme, that should arrogate that profane name of "supreme over all other;" and calls him "the king over all the children of pride." But his namesake, Gregory IV., deposes every one, (Sit ruinæ suæ dolore prostratus, &c.,) whosoever does not obey the apostolical seat;** and Nicolas II. pronounces him without doubt for a heretic;†† and that worthy person, Gregory VII., or Hildebrand, (as set out by Benno the cardinal, and others,‡‡) stigmatizes such with the brands of idolatry, witchcraft, and Paganism, quisquis, dum Christianum se asserit, sedi apostolicæ obedire contemnit; "whosoever, asserting himself for a Christian, contemns to obey the apostolical chair." Again: Celestine III. determines against a divorce between Christians and infidels; but Innocent III. determines the contrary.* Again: Pelagius II. had commanded, that the sub-deacons of Sicily should abstain from their wives:† but Gregory I. says [that] it is durum et incompetens, "hard and inconvenient," and allows the quite contrary; and the Gloss adds, that "the statute of Pelagius was against the gospel."‡ There are multitudes of cases [which] might be added, wherein they made no scruple to rescind, abrogate, and decree contrary to their predecessors. But I shall (for haste' sake) speak a little of the variance of councils also.
The council of Constance determines thus: Est de necessitate salutis, credere generate concilium habere supremam autoritatem in ecclesiâ: "It is of necessity to salvation, to believe that a general council hath supreme authority in the church;" yea, over the pope himself. And this is ratified by pope Martin V., as the fathers of Basil set it forth to all the world.§ And yet you have seen before, how that the Lateran council hath determined the quite contrary; stating it in those very words,—that "it is necessary to salvation, that all Christ's faithful ones should be subject to the Roman bishop;" and in that very point, "as having authority over all councils."||
The council of Orange in many canons, and that of Milevis or Melei in Numidia near Algiers, and the African council, (commonly so called,) determine against free-will.¶ The council of Gangra, (now Congria, [Kiangari,]) by the river Halys, determines anathema to such as refuse to communicate with a married priest.** But these things are contradicted by Trent. The like might be shown about Rome's jurisdiction, and communicating the cup to the people, the conception of the blessed Virgin, and several other points, which would swell too large. Neither will time admit the several varieties and confessions to be recited out of Augustine of Tarracona, found in Gratian; nor the private oppositions of their doctors in numerous cases, collected by a reverend person.††
I shall conclude this section with an observation about the Holy Bible itself; whose former editions not satisfying Sixtus V., [he] set forth a new one, ratified by his edict, A. D. 1589. Then comes Clement VIII., A. D. 1592, with another breve, commanding another new edition to be received with equal veneration, and the contemners of it exposed to new imprecations and curses. And yet these two editions of the Holy Bible differ in two thousand places; and some so material, that they arise to flat contradictions; which is made evident by Dr. James, in his Bellum Papale, and the edicts themselves (because the Sixtine Bibles are hard to come by) are at large set forth by the learned Amama.‡‡ So that if their popes' decretory sentences in matters of faith, their councils in points necessary to salvation, their doctors in great and important concerns of the church, their very Bibles (such as they will permit) in multitudes of places, egregiously differ one from another; where shall a Christian fix his mind, in such a society, under such grand uncertainties, contradictions, and oppositions one to another, in the high and momentous concernments of eternity and the other world?
Can such claim the honour of being a true church of Christ, who impiously derogate from the essential honour of God and of Jesus Christ? that exalt a sinful man unto the dignities and incommunicable excellences of the Divine Majesty?—I trow not. But such there are, who highly pretend to Christ and his holy church, and yet dare to open their mouths in strange and fearful expressions in their canon-law, when they magnify their Roman president. He is said to have a heavenly arbitrement: he changes the nature of things, &c.; he can make any thing of nothing.* In what he wills, his will stands for reason; neither may any say, "Why doest thou so?" which is by Job applied to God.† (Job 9:12.) He can make justice out of injustice, by correcting and changing of laws; and hath the fulness of power.‡ They allege, that "the pope was called 'God' by Constantine." And again: "Not man, but God, separates them whom the Roman bishop does, who bears the viceroyship of the true God in the earth:" but that never was nor can be proved.§ Again: "To believe that the Lord our God the pope, the enactor of this decree, could not so determine, is heretical."|| Again: "It is idolatry, Paganism, and heresy, not to obey the Roman seat: not one iota of his statutes must be disputed."¶ Again: "Christ professes himself to preside under the faith and name of Peter," &c.: "and although he lead innumerable people by troops to hell," (or, primo mancipio gehennæ; id est, diabolo, says the Gloss,) "there to be eternally beaten with many stripes; yet none must reprove him," &c.** And, to name no more: the Common Extravagants treating of Christ's power and his vicar's, the Gloss upon pope Boniface, set out by Gregory XIII., adds this: Non videretur Dominus discretus fuisse, (ut cum ejus reverentiâ loquar,) nisi unicum post se talem vicarium reliquisset, qui hæc omnia possit:†† "The Lord would not seem to have been discreet, (that I may speak with reverence of him,) unless he had left such an only vicar behind him, who might do all these things." Whoso desires to know more of the like tremendous matter, may peruse Ranchinus's "Review of the Council of Trent,"‡‡ an author of their own, and many others.
The sixth and last inquiry is, Whether that can be a true church, that persecutes them to the utmost, yea, and upon that very account, because they teach, profess, and maintain the holy doctrine and pure worship which were left by our blessed Lord and his apostles in the holy scriptures.—And this is not an accidental thing, falling out now and then, when cruel ones sit in power; for it is by principle. To go no higher than Trent, what great points of primitive Christianity are smitten with terrible anathemas! Nay, what smaller differences are made obnoxious to the same indignation! as, to say [that] marriage is no sacrament, and that it does not confer grace; or to say [that] the church cannot dispense with the degrees of consanguinity or affinity in Leviticus; or to say that matrimonial causes belong not to ecclesiastical judges, &c.* Or if we inquire all the causes that state men guilty of heresy, what guilt would millions be involved in at that tribunal! To deny the supremacy of Rome, is absolute heresy;† and Pius II. has determined it to be treason and heresy, to appeal to a future council.‡ In what a case stands the Gallican church! Now in these and all other points they will be judges in their own cause. Though sometimes they have asserted, that what touches all ought to be approved by all;§ and Nicholas I. and Celestine III. professed, that even reason itself teaches that our enemies must not be our judges; and the canon-law expressly, that the pope himself must not judge in his own cause:|| yet they proceeded at Trent, though the clergy of several provinces were absent, and some Christian princes disavowed it.
Now what becomes of persons thus determined against and excommunicated? Why, the canon-law dispatches the matter speedily: Non arbitramur, &c.:¶ "We do not esteem them for murderers, who, burning with zeal of the Catholic mother church, should happen to kill any that are excommunicated." And besides, heretics are reckoned in so black a catalogue, that faith is not to be kept with them: and although Molanus and others seem to differ, that is but a private opinion; they but plough upon the ocean, and write upon the sea-sands, so long as it stands in force in the canon-law: Absolutos se noverint, &c.:** "Let them know that they are absolved from the obligation of fealty, homage, and all duty, whoever were held bound by any covenant, strengthened by whatsoever band, to such as are manifestly lapsed into heresy." And the council of Constance hath defined, that "the safe-conduct of princes, granted to such, ought to be no bar to ecclesiastical procedures;" quocunque vinculo se astrinxerint;†† "by whatever band they have obliged themselves." And then let us observe a ruled case laid down in the same canon-law: Frustrà sibi fidem quis postulat, &c.:‡‡ "In vain does any man require faith to be kept to himself by him to whom he refuseth to keep the faith plighted by himself."
Now what brave work would these things make in the world, since all the Reformed churches lie prostrate under the thunderbolts of the Roman Capitol!§§ First censured for heretics, and then no punishment is severe enough! What will become of Christian or of human society, if any church differ from their sentiments? And what sad havoc has been made in the earth, the red lines in the annals and martyrologies of most churches do abundantly testify; even for such things as are consonant to the holy scriptures. How unmanly and brutish, to use blows instead of reasons! yea, how devilish, to persecute men for keeping the commandments of God! They are of the seed of the red dragon. (Rev. 12:17.) How vain, to think to conquer men's spirits by crosiers turned into swords, and keys into guns! Persecution, indeed, may turn some; but it is into hypocrites: that man is never gained, but exasperated.
That is a declining cause that cannot support itself by the same means by which it was at first propagated. did the apostles so, whose lines ran to the ends of the earth, and conquered so great a part of the Roman world to Christ by "the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God?" (Eph. 6:17.) Good Bernard said once to Eugenius, "What do you use a sword for? You are commanded to sheath it:" (as Peter:) "Do the work of an evangelist, and feed the sheep."* Our Lord did not bid Peter feed his sheep with iron and steel, or his lambs with twisted wire; though Baronius said, "Peter's ministry hath two parts,—to feed and to kill."† That pastor shows weakness in policy, that takes ways to increase dissenters: as Polydore could observe, that the church's troubles under pagan emperors so increased the number of believers, that they were at length more suspected for their multitudes than their religion,‡ The more Israel was afflicted in Egypt, "the more they multiplied and grew." (Exod. 1:12.) Rome never lost ground so fast, as since they used the silly engine of persecution to gain it. Mankind is not devoid of humanity: and Christianity has nobler maxims than Phalaris; such as flow from that Prince of Might, elect, (Psalm 45:3,) who bids the world "learn" of him, for he is "meek and lowly;" (Matt. 11:29, 30;) who rebuked the apostles for desiring that fire might descend upon the Samaritans. (Luke 9:54–56.) And so is his blessed church a flight of doves and a flock of sheep; who, by the generous power of the Spirit of God in conversion, do ponere id bruti, "lay down the brutish" tiger at the foot of the Prince of Peace; and, of ferocious and savage by nature, become mild, meek, and peaceable, "forgiving and forbearing one another," because "God for Christ's sake hath forgiven them." (Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:12, 13.)
But how unhappy are they that leave the posts of wisdom, and take sanctuary at the gates of hell! And add this note, (beside purity of doctrine, worship, and discipline,) whereby the church may be known,—namely, its perilous and troublesome state,—and [they] shown to be of the world: as our Lord foretold: "In the world ye shall have tribulation: but in me ye shall have peace." (John 16:33.) Where hawks and wolves do haunt, there are dovecots or flocks of sheep near. So that if any ask, where our church was of old; reply, Where persecutions tried their faith. They know well enough where it was; they need not ask us. It is but reading their own records, their rubricæ, their "scarlet registers;" and they will easily discern, by the scriptural points for which holy men suffered, a sufficient mark and evidence of the true church.
Let us then briefly recapitulate, and conclude, that since there are to be found such as in fundamental doctrines determine contrary to Christ and the blessed apostles; such as by idolatry have broken covenant with God, and give even the worship of latria to creatures, due to Him alone; can such without repentance and reformation enter into the kingdom of heaven? (1 Cor. 6:9; Rev. 14:9–11; 21:8; 22:15;) such as form a worship to God out of their own inventions and novelties; such as contradict themselves in very material and important matters of salvation; such as blasphemously derogate from the glory and honour of Jesus Christ; such as persecute them who profess and endeavour to follow only the apostolical rules, and the consonant practice of the primitive churches? Though they may pretend to a unity and uniformity, yet does it not result into a league and conspiracy against the truth? The ship of the church is in danger to split against such a rock as this. Can we judge such societies and communions to be true churches of Christ, and not rather consent with the determination of the church of England to the contrary?*
If Charles the Great, Alcuinus, Agobardus, Bertram, Bernard, abbot Joachim, Peter de Vineis, Marsilius, Dante, Bradwardine, Petrarch, Mantuan, Gerson, Clemongis, Theodoricus de Niem, and the compiler of Fasciculus Rerum expetendarum, and many others down along the darker times, might bring-in their suffrages in various points; it might be justly feared, that the late abbot Gualdo would be acquitted from rashness, in concluding that, "amongst all the churches since the beginning of the world, there has not been found that unconstancy and confusion as in the church of Rome; so many anti-popes, schisms, heresies, controversies, confusions, suspensions, persecutions, so many false opinions, scandals, tyrannies, and intestine quarrels, as there."† But we will rather turn these complaints into unfeigned prayer for their salvation, and wish them no more hurt than to our own souls,—that the great "God would give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth." (2 Tim. 2:25.)
Since those are true marks of the church of God which the church of England hath exhibited, and have been in some measure insisted upon; we may conclude, that the people of God in Britain (blessed be his holy name!) are in the happy possession of the true apostolical doctrine and worship, according to the holy scriptures, and consonant to what the true church of God hath held in all ages, since the Lord Jesus, "the Apostle and High Priest of our profession," (Heb. 3:1,) hath left this heavenly commission of the Father with his church.
It were no difficult task (only of labour) to show out of our own monuments and antiquities, and from the writings and records of several ancients and moderns, that Britain was not converted by such as came from Rome, but by others that came hither in the reign of Tiberius, and such as attended Joseph of Arimathea, sent out of Gaul by Philip.
1. That Philip preached the gospel in Gaul, Isidorus,‡ and our ancient Nennius, and Freculfus, do attest.§ That Joseph of Arimathea came into Britain to preach the gospel, is exceedingly probable; unless to such whom no ancient testimonies, records, or traditions do savour or relish but such as gratify their own private fancies and designs. Yea, several agree that he came at the instance and by the direction of Philip. If the charters and muniments set forth in Monasticon Anglicanum;* if the charter of Henry II., granted to the abbey of Glastonbury, which our annalist, John Stow, says he both saw and read,† and Sir John Price, in his "Defence of the History of Britain," recites (verbatim) in part;‡ wherein our king declares the several grants of his British and Saxon ancestors; "which," says he, diligenter feci inquiri et coram me præsentari et legi,§ "I caused to be diligently searched out, to be presented and read before me;" where the very deeds of king Arthur and Kenwalch, a pagan prince, are mentioned;|| and in some of them that place is called "the mother of saints, the grave of the saints," and that it was first built by the very disciples of Christ themselves:¶ if these be not enough, let Capgrave speak,** mentioning the acts of Arthur and Melkin of Avalon or Glastonbury, who lived before Merlin; an author not utterly to be contemned, especially by some, as having rescued several memorials from the grave of oblivion: let Baleus testify,†† delivering many things from Leland, one employed by king Henry VIII. in searching the antiquities of Britain, and out of Fleming, Scroop, and others; yea, Leland himself, in his "Assertion of King Arthur" (MS.): not to mention such as have been of later date; as Polydore Virgil, and Harding, Pitseus, &c.‡‡ According to these, it appears, that what work Joseph performed in Britain, was by the recommendation of Philip out of Gaul, and not from Italy.
2. But yet we may ascend higher, and show, that the seeds of Christian religion were first sown in this island twenty-six years earlier; namely, in the latter end of the reign of Tiberius. For thus writes our ancient Gildas: (both of Polydore's edition, and Josselin's:) Tempore, ut scimus, summo Tiberii Cæsaris, &c., radios suos primùm indulget, id est, sua præcepta, Christus:§§ "Christ first indulgeth his rays, that is, his precepts, in the latter end of Tiberius Cæsar, as we know." This testimony of Gildas Badonicus is also confirmed by Gildas Albanius, in his Tract of the victory of Aurelius Ambrose, as some relate.|||| But, however, let us take the former Gildas's time; whereof though some of ours have in some measure debated,¶¶ yet let us a little further examine it. The last year of Tiberius fell in anno Christi 37, as Petavius,*** one of their exactest chronologers, states it; who brings Peter first to Rome, A. D. 42; and sets him in the chair, A. D. 43. But the Britons received the gospel five years before his coming to Rome; and that while Peter was yet (in the year 37) at Joppa. (Acts 9:43.) But if Baronius's account be true, (who has but a small faculty at chronology or astronomical calculations, especially of eclipses, so necessary to an annalist, beside the truth of his allegation,)—he brings Peter to Rome A. D. 44,* but settles his episcopal chair there A. D. 45,†—if this be true, the Britons' receiving the gospel, A. D. 37, must then anticipate Peter's coming to Rome [by] seven years, and erecting his seat and ordering a church there [by] eight years. Again: Marianus Scotus brings him to Rome A. D. 47;‡ and then Britain's conversion antedates theirs by ten years. But all this, and much more that might be urged, lies upon the supposition of Peter's being there at all; which many of the learned greatly question. For Marsilius of Padua argues that Peter was not there, and that Paul was the first bishop of Rome.§ But these things impeach not our cause at all; forasmuch as all the apostles had the same commission, with parity of honour and power.||
If, then, the British church were planted before ever Peter came to Rome, let us call to mind that ancient rule: Omnes ecclesiæ huic subjectæ manent a quo institutæ sunt: "All churches remain subject to him" (that is, in his successors) "by whom they were instituted." And this is not so much a private, as a public, sanction of the general council of Ephesus, in the case of the Cypriots; who, having received the faith from Barnabas, yet were much molested by the bishops of Antioch. Concerning whom the Ephesine fathers made a decree, and extended it to all churches: Nullus episcoporum, &c., aliam provinciam, quæ non antea et ab initio fuit sua, sub suam, &c., manum trahat:¶ "Let no bishop bring under his power another province, which was not his before and from the beginning." This is yet more insisted upon by Zonaras in his comment upon the eighth canon of that council,** and by Balsamon in his Scholia;†† and what is there spoken of Cyprus, some have applied also to Crete upon the same ground; but it is not time to discuss that, or of other provinces. Suffice this canon to our case:‡‡ that since Britain received the first glorious light of true faith from other disciples of our Lord, and not from Peter; and was converted some years before ever the common tradition of Peter's coming to Rome can be cleared; this rule totally exempts us from all jurisdiction pretended by them; since we are upon these grounds evidently reducible to some of the Asian or Greek churches, in respect to the ancient rites of worship concording with theirs and oppugnant to Rome. This was the quarrel between the British bishops and Austin the monk, as Venerable Bede relates,§§in multis, "in many things," but especially in the celebration of Easter and ministration of baptism. This troubled the North British churches: about which very thing the synod at Whitby was called A. D. 664; and there Hilda and her associates averred their customs from John, Philip, Polycarp, &c., of the eastern communion.|||| Neither were these matters wholly silenced as to the Welsh Britons, till the year 762.¶¶ More might be said also about Lucius's and Ethelbert's times; that the last especially was but an attempt to yoke the British churches under the dominion of Rome, which they stoutly resisted. And it might be evidenced, that Christian religion was initiated among the Saxons before Austin the monk arrived. For queen Bertha enjoyed the benefit of Christian worship by the ministry of Luidhardus, a bishop, sent with her out of France;* and it was celebrated in a British church, dedicated to St. Martin, in the east side of the city of Canterbury, and built in the time of the Romans, as some others were which Austin had leave to repair.†
But say, 1. We received our light first from Rome; (which is false;) and grant, 2. The dominion of Peter to be universal; and yield, 3. The bishop of Rome to be his undoubted successor; and that, 4. There are no flaws in the old chair; and that, 5. This bishop is invested by Christ with all the privileges of an apostle; which are all precarious and begged: yet, if they apostatize from the doctrine and faith of Peter, must all other churches be censured for separating from them who separate from Christ, from Peter, and from Paul? We profess to hold unfeignedly with old Rome whatever it held according to Paul's epistle to the Romans; nay, and with the church "in Babylon," εν Βαζυλωνι, (1 Peter 5:13,) (possibly near Memphis,) in whatever they retained of Peter's doctrine. When they are returned to Peter and Paul's doctrine, &c., then let them treat with us; but else, if any depart, that old maxim should be refreshed: Causa, non separatio, schismaticum facit: "It is not separation, but the cause, that determines schism. They are schismatics that depart from Peter."‡ And another not to be forgotten: Duḿ ecclesia habet pastorem hæreticum vel schismaticum, vacare intelligitur:§ "While a church hath a heretic or schismatic for its pastor, it is to be counted vacant." In which case, what shall be said to their own Gene-brard? who affirms, that fifty popes in succession, for almost one hundred and fifty years together, were either apotactici vel apostatici, potiùs quàm apostolici;|| "irregular or apostates, rather than apostolical." Pope Marcellinus said, he could not see how they could be saved, who were advanced to the papacy. (ONUPHRIUSin Vitâ Marcellini.) I shall not here enlarge upon any of their irregular intrusions into the throne, the fighting and bloodshed (mentioned by Ammianus¶) at the election of Damasus; nor their personal vices and heresies; nor the insession of the chair by that learned dame, unkindly mentioned by Laonicus,** and uncomfortably revived in our Church-Homilies.†† When these points are duly and seriously weighed, what cause the Reformed have had for a secession and departure from them, to the glory of God, to the reverence of Peter's doctrine, to the comfort and peace of our consciences, let the Greek churches, or any other that maintain scripture-doctrine and worship, nay, let all in other parts of the world that own the true God, be judges.
But, to draw to an end: how greatly ought we to resound His praises, who hath in all ages, through the depth of the darkest times, conserved the true faith and doctrine all along; and of his great mercy conveyed to us authentic testimonies and evidences, notwithstanding the barbarism and violence of several ages against the truth! Nay, it might be shown that God hath not left us without a lamp of testimony to the most material points, even here in Britain: but that it would arise to a little chronicle, not proper for this place and time, but obvious to be observed, in the several hints and reflections upon what they called "errors" in several public synods in this island; even till the time of Wickliffe, when the truth broke out more gloriously, and still shineth in great lustre, blessed be His most holy name!
Hath Almighty God, of his infinite goodness, so graciously hitherto preserved his church; and bestowed upon the Reformed countries his most Holy Bible, translated with great care and diligence out of the sacred originals into our mother-tongues; and poured out that grace to endeavour to reform, according to his heavenly directions therein recorded? Let us "give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip;" (Heb. 2:1;) and "hold fast" that which we have received from heaven, "that no man take away our crown." (Rev. 3:11.)
Let us take heed of wantonness; of resisting or abusing the blessed gospel; or any way walking unworthy of it; lest God, provoked by our unholiness, should remove the golden candlestick into corners or to other nations. Let us take great heed of creeping corruptions, and of those communions that err in faith, departing from the Head, from the scriptures, from the doctrine of the apostles, from purity of worship; lest, if we partake of their sins, we be involved also in their plagues. "Come out of her, my people," says the Lord: (Rev. 18:4:) and having been obedient to the heavenly vision, let us keep our garments unspotted, that men see not our shame; (Rev. 16:15;) as we love the salvation of our souls and the glory of "the Son of the living God," the only true Basis and Rock of his church. Let us heartily pity and earnestly pray for such as are yet judicially hardened to believe a lie. (2 Thess. 2:10, 11.)
Since our blessed Lord hath built his church upon himself, who is a Rock flowing with milk and honey; then all true believers, being fixed upon this amiable and lovely "Foundation laid in Zion," should sweetly unite in holy love together, being "rooted and built up together in him." (Col. 2:7.)
Let not these living marbles, polished for Solomon's palace, dash against one another. Let not the sheep of Christ push each other.
———Quis teneros oculus mihi fascinat agnos?—VIRGILIIBucolica, ecl. iii. 103.*
"Who hath bewitched you, O foolish Galatians?" (Gal. 3:1.) These unnatural buttings (as shepherds observe) presage very stormy days. Shall roses that grow in Sharon gash each other's tender sides, and the church's vines turn brambles? When some troops in an army fight not against the enemy, 'but give fire at their own regiments, is it not a notorious sign of infatuation, or conspiracy against their native prince? Shall a few externals engage spirits in mutual heats and conflicts, to the laughter, scorn, and hope of the adversary? who will join with one part for a while, that they may devour both at last; and blow up those intestine heats into a flame, at which they will joyfully warm their hands. Mildness and meekness is the glory of a Christian; and the way to gain brethren to our opinions is by ponderous arguments and sweet affections. Naturalists observe, that fish will never be taken by a bloody net; and when sheep bring forth lions, it is portentous of tyranny.* It is utterly impossible, in our lapsed estate, to make all of a mind; and a most improper means, to propagate opinions by violence. Socrates, treating of the diversities about Easter and other rites, in an excellent chapter tending to Christian union, says, Ουδεποτε ῶρος ἑαυτους διεφωνησαν,† that "they by no means dissociated from one another;" and that those who consent in the same faith, may differ in rites and ceremonies;‡ and that the apostles gave no precepts about such matters, but left all to their free liberty:§ and again, bewails such as in his time counted whoredom indifferent, but strove for such feasts as for their lives.|| Neither may we forget those golden sayings of blessed Austin: Interminabilis est ista contentio, generans lites, non finiens quæstiones: sit ergò una fides, &c., etiamsi ipsa fidei unitas quibusdam diversis observationibus celebratur, quibus nullo modo quod in fide verum est impeditur:¶ "This contention is endless, gendering to strife, not putting an end to questions: let the faith therefore be one, &c., although the unity of faith be celebrated with certain diverse rites, by which that which is true in the faith is no ways hindered." All the glory of the queen is within: those outward rites are only the embroidery of her garments, which may be of various colours. (Psalm 45:13, 14.) The dove of the church may have her "wings covered with silver, and her feathers with yellow gold." (Psalm 68:13.) The same army may have diversity of banners; and yet fight unanimously and victoriously under one and the same general. We agree in the main; and "whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing:" and if any be otherwise minded, God may in time reveal even that unto them. (Phil. 3:15, 16; Gal. 6:16.) There will never be peace in the Christian world, so long as scrupulous externals are by proud and foolish persons pressed with equal rigour to many substantials and fundamentals.
So far are some pious spirits from this fiery temper, that they are not without hope of several in far different communions. But if any among ours speak or write more mildly, favourably, and softly, of some of theirs, it is not to be understood of such as finally persist in the high and fundamental points of difference; but of them that privately whisper and sigh among their friends, Sic dicerem in scholis, sed tamen (maneat inter nos,) diversum sentio, &c.; non potest probari de sacris literis, &c.:** "So I speak in the schools, but yet (let that be kept private) I think otherwise, and that it cannot be proved out of holy scriptures: "of such as sincerely cry out with the cardinal, Tutissimum est fiduciam totam in solâ Dei misericordiâ et benignitate reponere: "It is safest to cast all our confidence on the mercy and benignity of God only;"* to adhere to the precious blood of Christ alone, without works: (there be some even in Babylon of His people, to be called out in the day of vengeance: Rev. 18:4:) such as are in heart ours; and, as to the cardinal point of justification, die in the Reformed religion: such as Pighius, (though otherwise bitter,) as Vergerius, Gerson, Ferus, Jansenius, and father Paul the Venetian, and many others.†
In the sixth and last place: All the true living members of the holy church of Christ may be greatly comforted from this text and doctrine.
For though the church will never be fully quiet and at rest while the gates of hell stand undemolished; but will be still exposed to furious assaults, to boisterous waves, tempestuous storms, direful persecutions, and secret undermining heresies, to their molimina and blandimenta; sometimes to "fierce oppositions" and "flattering enticements," and sometimes to both together: yet herein stands "the faith and patience of the saints." (Rev. 13:10; 14:12.) Therefore all gracious Christians must be content, and resolved to exercise themselves in this spiritual warfare, and by fervent prayer call down auxiliary help from heaven; whereby the invincible and omnipotent God is humbly implored, and legions of holy angels sent in for assistance. Yet,
1. Let holy souls be comforted in this,—that "no weapon formed against Mount Zion shall" finally "prosper." (Isai. 54:17.)—"The virgin, the daughter of Zion, hath despised them, and laughed them to scorn; the daughter of Jerusalem hath shaken her head at them." (Isai. 37:22.) For, as the "golden-mouthed "preacher expresses it, Την βελοθηκην αυτου εξεκενωσεν ὁ διαζολος, την δε εκκλησιαν ουκ εζλαψε.‡ "Satan hath emptied his quiver, but hath not hurt the church." By how much the more the enemies rage against her, by so much the more the true professors of piety and faith increase: not unlike the vine, that grows the more fertile by pruning; or as the palm, that rises the more erect after weights and pressures; and although in time of trouble like some plants that shut up their flowers upon a storm, yet afterward display their lively and lovely colours more oriently to the face of the shining sun. The church of God, though she be not always so openly visible as that all the world shall cry, "Hosanna" to her splendour and glory, yet she grows more numerous, holy, and stable, by her troubles. Her enemies may seem for a time ισχυειν, valere; but shall not κατισχυειν, prævalere, as it is promised in the text: [they may seem] "to be potent and strong;" but shall never "subdue and vanquish" her. They might believe Christ, and spare their trouble. They may vires exerere, "put forth their utmost power;" but "the gates of hell," (ᾁδου, portæ mortis,) "of death and the grave," shall never attain to or compass so deadly a stroke as shall extirpate the church in any age. Nay, the wisdom of God hath ever turned their policies into folly, and their puissance into cowardice. They have often been forced to suck up the cockatrice-eggs that they have laid, and felt the keenness of their own recoiling arrows. They may open [their mouth], but shall never be able to swallow the church: they may cast out floods, but shall never drown her: (Rev. 12:15, 16:) as he said of ancient Rome, Mersa profundo, pulchrior evenit:* "Cast her in the sea; she dives, and rises again with her face washed from spots, and looks more beautiful." The church may be pressed for a while, but suppressed never. "The archers may shoot sorely at" her: but her "bow shall abide in strength." (Gen. 49:23, 24.) God will have a church to endure to the world's end, in spite of all the privy leagues and confederacies that are contrived in, or all the forces and powers that issue from, the gates of hell. Her "place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks;" (Isai. 33:16;) and "all the nations that fight against Ariel shall be as the dream of a night-vision." (Isai. 29:7.)
2. The church, after all assaults and conflicts, in fine shall be completely victorious and triumphant; she will joyfully survive her enemies, and behold their funerals.—Let holy souls rely upon this promise in the text, and improve it in prayer for their comfort and sustentation; for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it: "The nations shall see" it, "and be confounded at all their might: they shall lay their hand upon their mouth, their ears shall be deaf. They shall lick the dust like a serpent, they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth: they shall be afraid of the Lord our God, and shall fear because of him." (Micah 7:16, 17.) There is a time,—and it hastens,—that this rock shall dash them in pieces, and they shall "become like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors; and the wind shall carry them away, and no place be found for them." (Dan. 2:35.) There is a glorious time a-coming, (rumpantur ut ilia Romæ,†) when the stones of this temple shall be "laid with fair colours, and her foundations with sapphires, her windows with agates, her gates with carbuncles, and all her borders with pleasant stones;" (Isai. 54:11, 12;) when the false rock of the pretended Peter shall, like a millstone, be flung into the depth of the sea; and her gaudy edifice shall melt into foam, and be dissipated among the waters. Then shall one of their own prophecies (I mean, of the Irish Malachi‡) be surely fulfilled: Civitas septicollis diruetur, et Judex tremendus judicabit populum suum: "The seven-hilled city shall be ruined, and the terrible Judge shall judge his people." Or rather, that of Obadiah: "Saviours shall come up on Mount Zion to judge the Mount of Esau; and the kingdom shall be the Lord's." (Obad. 21.)
3. In the mean time, let the church of God be comforted also in this,—that the bread of support shall be given her, and the water of consolation shall be sure. (Isai. 33:16.) Out of this Rock of ages flows a river of living waters, "the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God." (Psalm 46:4.) Nay, "with honey out of the rock" shall they be satisfied, (Psalm 81:16,) while wandering in the wilderness toward Canaan; and at last transported to the city of the New Jerusalem, which is above; where there is "fulness of joy, and pleasures for evermore;" (Psalm 16:11;) where "they shall be abundantly satisfied with the fatness" of that heavenly temple, and shall drink-in the rivers of the celestial Eden, עֲדָנֶיךָEdenis tuæ. (Psalm 36:8.)