MINISTER OF THE GOSPEL.
Geneva: Eustathium Vignon, 1579.
God is My Helper.—Ps. 7:10.
A Treatise of the True and Visible Notes of the Catholic Church.
Men demand at this day, concerning the marks and authority of the church: the question being raised by those, who, when they see their errors to be refelled [refuted], by the word of God, object unto men, that are unskillful of these matters, the sacred name of the Church: and by heaping up the disputations of ancient fathers against heretics, they bring us [i.e., Protestants] into hatred, as though we had corrupted both the books of God’s word, and also, as though by violating all authority of the church, we had (after the example of the Donatists1) set up altar against altar: to be short, as though because we have shaken off the yoke of Babylon [i.e., Rome], we had forsaken the Church, without which notwithstanding (even as we ourselves confess) there is no salvation. And neither does this subtle kind of reasoning, drive away the unskillful only, from the knowledge of the truth, but also causes, some even amongst them, which seemed most steadfast to waver. Furthermore, by this occasion very many take counsel between both sides, and as in opinions, they endeavor to mingle light with darkness: so also in discerning the true Church, they labor to mingle the bastardly or false marks, with the true and proper marks thereof. But except men would willingly be deceived, the deceit of these men, might be very easily perceived and avoided. For, first men should demand, what that Church should be, before they determine of the bounds of her authority: which order they that do not follow, commit truly that gross error, and worthy of stripes, which they call Petitio principii.2 Go to then let us see what these men mean by the Catholic Church.
These men hold (whatsoever they dissemble) that the Church (in which we ought to abide, if we will be saved) is an assembly of Bishops, whose calling and names may be set from the Apostles themselves. We say that this succession which is merely personal, neither is the Church, neither any whit at all pertains unto those that allege the same.
That it is not the Church, may appear even unto very children, first by this, that under the name of the Church, properly taken, it is certain, that not only the Pastors, but also the flocks are comprehended: Now it is altogether ridiculous to define a part, as the whole, itself, because by that means the whole and the part, should be one and the selfsame thing.
They reply, that they understand together with the Pastors, the very flocks themselves, cleaving unto them. But this thing is also ridiculous, seeing that both heretical, and backsliding Pastors, may succeed Pastors of sound judgment, and heretical flocks [may succeed] true sheep: and sometimes indeed the Pastors are heretical, and the sheep true, and contrariwise, true pastors may have heretical sheep. When that thing falls out: to wit, that both the Pastors and the flocks, are heretical, the very adversaries themselves dare not deny, but that such a whole Church (although it have had ancestors indeed Apostolical, and both the Pastors and the flocks, do agree amongst themselves in falling away) is yet notwithstanding altogether a false Church, unless they will take these speeches, to wit, to be heretical and universal, for one and the selfsame thing. But in the latter case, at leastwise in one part, there is found falsehood, although on both sides that personal succession may be found. Therefore neither the succession of persons by itself, neither such manner of consent, does of necessity prove a true Church, forasmuch as, where both are found, yet sometimes there may be a false Church: and there in some sort may be a true Church, where the pastor dissents from the sheep, or the sheep from the pastor. Now, that men may, by examples both past and present, prove that these things have too often times fallen out, no man I suppose will deny.
But again they say, that they dispute not of particular Churches, which they grant may fall away, but of that Catholic or universal Church, which is the pillar and foundation of truth. But how I pray you do they define this Catholic Church. First by a certain place, as those will have Catholic and Roman to be all one: Secondly, by the multitude, as they which upbraid us with fewness. Let us see, therefore what manner of arguments these be. They be (if they be kept within the just rules of reasoning) unless I be deceived, these and suchlike. The Church of Rome teaches so: very many, in respect of a very few so believe, and so it was from hand delivered unto us. Therefore this is the catholic truth. But who is so far void of all reason, that he sees not here again, Petitio principii, and the thing in controversy to be taken as granted? Show us therefore, ye Sophisters, or at leastwise teach us probably, first how a part should be the whole (that we may grant unto you your Romish church, to be a principal member of the Catholic Church). And then from whence, I pray you, have ye learned, this Romish Church, to be ordained for a perpetual rule of truth? and from whence have ye drawn that to be true, which is approved of the greatest number? Verily ye shall never prove this, out of the books of the Old or New Testament. For those corrupt arguments: Upon this rock I have builded my Church : I have prayed for thee Peter that thy faith fail not: and that saying of Christ thrice repeated, feed my sheep, with men not altogether ignorant of these things, need not any further confutation. But happily, ye will prove it out of the writings of the ancient fathers. As though forsooth it were the same thing, to commend the faith and religion of the Church of Rome (as long as it was worthy praise) and to establish her for the Catholic Church, or a perpetual rule to the Catholic Church. And seeing that by the name of the church of Rome (if these flatterers will speak that they think) they do understand no other thing, than the Bishop of Rome himself, what madness is this, I beseech you, to have the deciding of so great a controversy, to depend upon the seat, in which their own writers being witness, not so much the monsters of men, as Satan himself, does seem to have sat so many ages together.
1. These men reply, that the dignity itself, and the authority of the seat, is not taken away by the faults of the persons: even as the Levitical high priesthood, was true them also, when it was exercised by ungracious and wicked high priests. And neither do we think that either the dignity, or else the efficacy of the ministry, may be abolished, through the faults of the ministers (which thing these men yet think when it pleases them, as they that hang that their transubstantiation, upon the intent of their sacrificing priests a very rotten cord surely) but this we say that (their principle being granted, to wit, that the Bishop of Rome is that head that should stand the Catholic Church, as instead of a soul) it must altogether follow, that this head be wise, if they will have all his members, that is, the particular Churches to be wise: And again, if that be frantic [i.e., mentally deranged], that [then] the whole Church must be frantic also. Now, that the Romish Bishops have been frantic many ages together, not only as private men, but specially also as Bishops: that is to say, that every one of them almost have been, not only the most wicked of all men in respect of their conversation, (which thing these men cannot deny, unless they would rather be convinced by their own testimonies:) but also as concerning the points of our religion, whilst that, partly they have neglected all true religion, and partly also have set themselves against it, so much that (which thing two or three ages ago Petrarcha has written, whose verses they commend.) Rome has been a thousand years at the least, the temple of heresy, and has utterly subverted (as much as was in her) all the offices of Christ, yea so far forth that she has exalted herself, above Christ himself (as the Apostles John and Paul, greater than all exception have foretold: all the best approved writers, Greek and Latin, being the Bishops of other churches, so interpreting the same) unless we have sufficiently heretofore proved it, we are ready again to prove it, before all upright judges. Let this controversy therefore, be first decided, O ye Sophisters, before that ye of this feigned foundation, as it were, granted unto you.
But go to, let us grant that the Bishops of Rome were such, whose so great and large succession is alleged by these men. Who yet unless he be utterly out of his wits, will therefore conclude, that the Bishop of Rome, is the universal head, to whomsoever does cleave, is to be judged a true member of the Catholic Church? And yet these be the sophistications of these goodly fellows, which will have Catholic and Roman to be one and the selfsame thing: to wit, because Paul wrote, that in his time, the faith of the Romans, was famous throughout all the world. But how much more rightly now, may we say, that the stench of that whore, has not only filled the earth, but has ascended also, even to heaven: and that excellent epistle of the Apostle written to the old Romans, ought now truly to be written against the Romans their successors.
2. Let us now come unto those, who esteem their Catholic Church, by the number and glorious show of pages [i.e., attendants] or servants. Verily if these men speak truth, Christ and his flock, shall justly be pronounced excommunicate, and that multitude shall be the Catholic Church, which so often times cried out, Take him away, take him away, crucify him. The Apostle also shall be found a liar, writing to the Corinthians: Brethren ye see your calling: that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble: to be short, then these men shall be worthy, (whom to confute we may take pains) when either by reason or examples, they shall prove, that there are more wise men than fools. Now then, I think it does sufficiently appear, that, by this bare succession, which they brag of, that true Catholic Church, wherein we must abide, cannot be discerned from the false Church, from which we ought of necessity to depart.
But yet, before that we conclude this place, we must refel [refute] an argument, which these Sophisters would have to be deemed such a one as cannot be overcome. For say they, the fathers so dispute, from the succession of bishops, against ancient heretics. But again what can be more corrupt than this subtle kind of reasoning? for this is that which is well known, even to children which they are wont to call an elench,3 or a fallacy of composition and division. First therefore I deny, that any of the ancient fathers, were minded to use the recital of Bishops, but to have recourse rather even to the Apostles. And why so? that the authority of doctrine, rather than of persons should be maintained: But these men object unto us, the succession of their bishops, not indeed bishops, so far letting pass the mention of that Apostolical doctrine, that they would have it accounted a wicked thing, to demand it at his hands, that would prove himself to succeed the ancient bishops. Now I pray you, how many authors of blasphemies, have sat in those chief seats of Alexandria, Antioch, Constantinople? yea, what seat will these men show me somewhat more famous, where some heretical bishops, have not held their seat? And as touching the Romish chair, from which these men by a rotten cord hang the Catholic Church. Honorius the Monothelite,4 openly condemned of the first general council [i.e., at Nicæa, in 325 A.D.] and privately of Agatho another Roman Bishop: And John the XXII thinking evil touching the soul of man: in like manner condemned of the college of Sorbonne in Paris, were found to have sat in that seat. To let pass, Liberius,5 Vigilius,6 and Anastasius,7 whom I see of some to be excused, although Gratian, 2 Disti. 19, reckons this last also as an Acatian heretic amongst the condemned Popes.
But if any man would object, that these are blotted out of the number of Bishops, and therefore are not comprehended in that title or role of succession: yet this he shall be enforced to grant us, to wit, that the succession of the seat of Rome, was then at the least broken of, when these were therefore blotted out (which persons notwithstanding they themselves as yet number in their Catalogue) because they had declined from the Apostolical doctrine. Whereupon follows that which Tertullian rightly affirms that religion ought to be proved or tried not by the persons, but the persons by religion. But here truly I confess, that I do somewhat overshoot myself, for seeing the question is of doctrine, what does this appertain, to the Bishops of the Church of Rome, whom all Christendom knows now so many years, to have been for nothing less careful, than for any doctrine, either true or false, but only for to establish and enlarge their own tyranny.
But they will say, no man has condemned these Popes. I confess it. For who would have taken to himself this lawful authority against their tyranny, who had persuaded all men, that they ought to be judged of none? Therefore there has been not of late only, but many ages together, not an interruption, but a full abruption or renting of the succession of Rome, from the body of the Catholic true Church, except peradventure these men judge, that it is something less, either to believe nothing, or to teach nothing, than to be an Heretic.
And I beseech you what impudency is this, to have the knowledge of truth to hang upon succession? whereas on the contrary, these men themselves cannot deny, but that the truth ought necessarily to go before succession.
And these Sophisters, if they had been in the times of Christ, by what Bishoply succession, would they have acknowledged the true church? surely not by the title or name of the Levitical high priests? because that priesthood was then at an end: and Christ cannot be called the successor of Aaron unless Judaism be again established: wherefore also he is said to be made a high priest, not according to the order of Levi, but according to the order of Melchisedec. Therefore the holy men at that time, acknowledged the Catholic Church, without the mark of personal succession: to wit, by the comparison of the doctrine of the Prophets, with the doctrine of Christ himself, and the Apostles. Which is so far true, that on the contrary, none have less acknowledged Christ, than they have cleaved to a Bishoply succession. Therefore that personal succession, is no true and perpetual mark of the Catholic Church.
These men happily, being driven from the Levitical succession, will again object another succession from the Prophets. But neither so, shall they speak the truth, if they stick in the persons themselves, for the succession of Prophets was not perpetual, no more than the succession of Priests: yea rather it was broken of a long time, especially after Malachi. They will also object unto us that saying: The Scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses’ chair. But again, they should remember, the same Christ to have said: Take heed of the leaven of the Pharisees: And therefore by that saying of Christ, we are not called back to a succession of persons, but to a succession of doctrine.
But I have besides another thing more preemptory (as they themselves speak) to answer against that, in which these men falsely boast themselves to follow the authority of the Fathers in descrying [detecting] the church, by which thing also their wiliness may more and more be made manifest. I deny therefore, that any of the ancient fathers have at any time made mention of this succession, but either against Schismatics, whilst yet a lawful succession remained, (as it was done against the Donatists) or against them, which brought forth new books of our religion, as were, in the beginning almost an infinite number as Simon,8 Valentine,9 Basilides,10 Montane,11 to conclude the whole troop of most shameless men. After this sort the Fathers of right judgment, gathered and reserved against these Enthusiasts,12 saying, If your doctrine be true, either there has not been ever yet any Church, or the doctrine which you allege is old and ancient. But that both these things are false, appears by that, both because the apostles have gathered together the Church of Christ, and you teach your doctrines, as taken not out of the writings of the Apostles, but as newly revealed unto you by the Holy Ghost. And again, (said the fathers,) both these things appear by that, that we count the beginnings of our churches, by ascending upward, even to the Apostles themselves: but you could not have received from the Apostles your things, which ye first devised.
Here remained one thing, which the most subtle of those most fantastical persons objected, to wit, that all things were not revealed to the apostles, and therefore that men ought to believe their revelations also. But Tertullian (whom I marvel, could afterward be deceived with Montanus’ holy ghost) most plentifully, and strongly confuted this prescription, showing that the Lord has neither kept back anything from the apostles, (the chief builders of his Church:) nor again, that the apostles have concealed, any of those things, which they had received of Christ. After this sort I say, the fathers used the argument of succession of persons against those heretics, altogether by demonstration as it were. But they used it not in like sort, against the Samosatans,13 Sabellians,14 Arians,15 Pelagians:16 to be short, against any with whom, the question was not of the very books, but of the meaning, because this had been very foolish.
Briefly therefore I answer these two things: that the ancient Fathers, whose authority these men shamelessly abuse, have, neither at any time separated the succession of their bishops, from the succession of the Apostolic doctrine: nor have set this succession, against any other heretics, but against those, of whom some new revelation was pretended: As at this day of the Anabaptists,17 Libertines,18 Schwenkfeldians.19 And therefore, forasmuch as now the controversy is, betwixt the Romanists and us, for two things only, to wit, for the interpretation of the Scripture: and whether the writings of the Prophets and Apostles, do most fully contain, whatsoever we are to believe, it is proved that they, in the first point, impudently abuse the example of the fathers, in alleging against us the argument of succession: and in the other, is ministered unto us a sure weapon, to confute them. And that this succession also was alleged against the Donatists as Schismatics, this nothing touches us, whom these men account, not properly for Schismatics, but for heretics: of which thing notwithstanding, we will say something in his proper place.
But to go, let us gratify them a little and (which thing may be done without any prejudice of the truth), Let us grant unto these men how much force soever they can imagine, of that their personal succession. What shall this I beseech you, help their cause?
For, that we may begin, at the highest step of their Hierarchy, or priestlike government, as they call it, that is, at that universal ministerial head (unto whom they afterward, appropriated the name of Pope, which before was common to all Bishops,) they shall as easily find the Devil himself in the kingdom of God, as any such head, either in the books of the New Testament, or in the ancient church. For very children know this, how false, foolish, and absurd arguments they be, whatsoever they bring out of the scriptures to prove the same. And as concerning the history of that ancient purer church: (that is to say, in this behalf verily, even to the times of that manslayer Phocas) they shall find none, that so interpreted the primacies, and glorious titles, which are attributed to the bishop of Rome (although indeed the bishops of Rome, ambitiously sought nothing more, and there wanted not some, who most shamelessly even then flattered them) as that they did for all that, give this degree of universal head unto him. Therefore, they have not Christ, nor Peter, but that most vile man of all, Phocas I say, the emperor, for the author of this universality: and they have Boniface the third, the head or beginner of this tyranny: or (that I may use the words of Gregory the great himself) the chief or head of Antichristianism: insomuch, that the Romish popedom, does but only sixteen years at the most, go before Mahometanism, or the Turkish religion.
But, by what sleights, that monster has usurped, and attained this tyranny, who, I praise you, at this day can be ignorant, unless he be ignorant of histories, or whose eyes Satan has blinded? yea, seeing that this most holy father, does boast himself to be, not the successor of Peter alone, but of Paul also (whose heads being cut off, not so much by noose hangmen, as by the Pope himself, he engraves in these his leaden seals): it must needs be, either that afterward two heads were grown into one, whose authority afterward, passed forsooth to this successor of them both: or else that neither Peter nor Paul, were this only universal, ministerial head: except he would rather acknowledge, that the Catholic Church, has had at the beginning two heads upon the earth.
But what say I? that I may speak nothing here of so many Antipopes, or Popes one against another, when as Liberius and Damasus, at one and the same time, (as all men affirm), obtained that seat of Rome, where was then that one universal head? And let these things be sufficiently spoken, touching the delivery of that spiritual sword from hand to hand.
And as concerning that other sword, which they call, secular or politic, wherewith they have overthrown all magistracy: From whence I pray you do they take the beginning of this jurisdiction? for, though we should believe that fable, of the donation or gift of Constantine, to be as true, as it was shamelessly feigned, yet truly it shall not be set from the apostles, but from the emperor: neither yet granted by Christ, or by Peter, but by men. Which thing notwithstanding, was neither lawful for Constantine to do, nor for the Bishop of Rome to receive, although it had been willingly offered him. Wherefore, if they shall of their own authority, require again these two feathers, the Church those former, to wit, the ecclesiastical government, and kings and Princes these latter, to wit, civil jurisdiction and authority (both which in their time shall come to pass) this fellow will then appear, not the head of the Church, but an unfeathered cuckoo. And these things concerning this head, have I put down in few words, because they have of late, by them of our side very plentifully, both out of the word of God, and out of the truest histories of former times, and to be short, out of the testimonies of the Popes themselves, been manifestly declared and plentifully proved.
Now the head of this succession being cut off, what shall the rest of the body be, but a rotten and stinking carcass? Truly themselves are compelled to confess, that the next degree unto this head, to wit, the order of cardinals, as it is now, cannot be set from the more ancient time. There follow primates and Archbishops, for scarce the name of Patriarchship, is yet remaining, and Mahomet, at the length has ended the matter in controversy which first arose, between the Quartumviri,20 and afterwards between the Quintumviri.21 Therefore the Nicene council itself, does not refer the beginning of these offices, to the word of God, or Apostolical institution, either written, or not written, but to ancient custom. So that neither can this succession, be thought to be Apostolical.
There rest yet Bishops so called of them, to wit, which are set in every diocese above ministers (for the other inferior orders, these pleaders of succession, esteem nothing,) whose only succession nevertheless, has some show of Apostolical succession. But it may plainly appear, out of the first Epistle to the Corinth[ians]: not only that there was no such degree of Bishops ordained by the Apostles, as immediately afterward was brought into the Church, after the times of the apostles: neither that there was any such allowed of the Apostle, to wit, that there should be one degree of a bishop, and another of a minister, or that some man should be called a Bishop, not in respect of a flock, but in respect of his fellow elders. For who doubts, but that the Apostle, would have given this counsel unto the Corinthians, or himself would have performed it, or have attributed it to Cephas or Apollos, if (which thing Jerome has written to Evagrius, and in his commentaries upon the first Epistle to Titus) he had judged this remedy profitable, much more necessary, for the bridling of Schisms? But whether it were lawful, to ordain this degree in the Church, or not (for of this I like not now to dispute) that thing is not only apparent out of Jerome, upon the epistle to Titus, that Bishops are greater than ministers, rather by custom, than by the truth of the Lord’s appointment: But also by witnesses which these men (as greater than all exception), are accustomed to allege, as Lucius the Pope, Clement the second, Anacletus (unless their Epistles be rather counterfeit, which yet these men cite for authentical.) Lombard in his fourth book of sentences the 24. distinct: Gratian, and to be short Cardinal Cusan, in his book of the universal unity, and Platina, in the life of Pope Bonifacius the third: all which plainly witness, that all this Hierarchical or priestlike government above ministers was devised by men, after the example of the Roman empire, that is to say, that it is the true Image of the beast, described in the revelation of John. For whose cause some, in the beginning also did travail which meant not to perform that which afterward ensued. The thing itself in fine, taught us, that it was a matter of great importance to decline, even but a nails breadth from the word of God.
Now, forasmuch as these things be so, that is, seeing neither this succession of persons, is a sufficient, true and proper mark of the Church, nor (though we should grant it such) pertains anything at all, to this popish vizard [mask]. What is then the matter, wherein we see some at this day so greatly to stick, that no small number (as though Gorgon’s22 head were cast in the way), go back? Verily this is the strength of the spirit of error, that they which are proved and pure, may be made manifest.
Now let us hear also, such another testimony of their impudency: they will have that to be judged a Church, where there continues an ordinary calling, to the holy ministry. But what other thing is this, than (after the example of that hostess of Chalcis) to set before us again, the same meat new dressed? Notwithstanding, because here again, I see some stick as it were at a rock, and that, not without danger of shipwreck: I will endeavor and that as it were by the wind of truth, hence to deliver them, that are cast upon this coast.
Truly, if a man bid them declare unto us, what they understand, by the name of ordination, (which request in this question, is altogether honest and very necessary) then the claws of these Lions, will openly show themselves. They will allege, that of the Apostle: How shall they preach unless they be sent: and that saying: All things ought to be done in the house of God, rightly and in order. We agree unto it. They will say, that, all that order is comprehended, in the old Canons, which may not or ought not, by any means be broken.
First, we answer, that it is plain, by the comparison of the very Canons, that one, and the same order in the Christian Churches, neither always has been prescribed, nor everywhere kept: and that also, the diversity of the circumstances, cannot suffer this, that one order in these things, should be everywhere, and always exactly observed: and therefore very unseasonably, is the observation, even of the most ancient and best Canons required, as absolutely and necessarily to be kept. And if they be here so impudent, that they will deny this thing, truly I will convince them as manifest offenders. For, if it be unlawful, to omit anything of the Canons without exception? From whence comes that great gain, unto the court of Rome, by dispensation also even with the law of God? neither truly will I easily suffer myself, to be thrust from this exception.
But go to, we are content here to do these men a pleasure, let us therefore say (the disputation of this exception being deferred) that vocation is an order, not only agreeable to the word of God, but also even to the very ancient pure Canons, by which an ecclesiastical office is committed to some man. Let us grant them also (yet with no prejudice of the truth) that there also the true Church is to be seen, where this order continues sound and pure, yet I say, that by that means, it most certainly appears that that Popish Church is, nothing less than the Catholic Church, whose name it challenges to herself? For tell me, what is this order? to wit, that a lawful knowledge of learning, and of manners going before, and the order of ecclesiastical degrees being not rashly violated: some man (by the free consent of any whole Church, touching which the question is) being appointed to this holy ministry, is ordained by them, of whom he ought, that is, is put into the possession as it were of his office. And if any man break this order, that is, if a fault happen, either in the examination, or in the election, all the pure Canons command, all that, to be judged of no effect: and so they subject him, that ordains the minister, to most grievous punishments. That this is so, they themselves cannot deny. Wherefore I would not load many leaves [i.e., pages], with the alleging of Canons.
Now let these men come forth, and let them allege unto us, even one amongst all their clergy, in whom this order, has been thoroughly observed. I demand not, whether these things, prescribed both by the word of God, and also by the pure Canons, have been exactly observed of them now a long time. But this I ask, whether there be any use of election, amongst them in the most places, seeing that the Romish harlot, has covenanted with kings and Princes, for the abolishment of it, and suffers those bargains to be printed, and set out to sale. Now where there remains any show of election, would a man have thought any of them, could have been so impudent, that they should be so bold, as to deny, that those offices which the whole world knows, are openly gotten by purchase: and that by buying free voices (which thing is specially practiced, amongst them that seek for priesthood), and Canonical persons (as they call them, that is to say amongst swine and asses, which are altogether unclean beasts) to be so bold I say, as to deny it, to be any other thing, than an abominable treading under foot of all law, both God’s own, and of that purer part of the canon law (as they call it)? And of the trial, both of doctrine and manners, the lawful witnesses, forsooth, be those wicked men, getting their living by no other means but by daily and open perjuries, partly in the provinces of the Church of Rome, partly, in the lap of that Romish harlot. And this thing forsooth the high Bishops know not, which begin their bulls with these words: The honesty of life and manners, upon which commending the same unto us, by a credible testimony, &c. What say I? their laws of giving, either ordinary, or falling out upon some (as they call them): and the laws of resignation, where were they devised, braied [i.e., pounded with a pestle and mortar], strained out, and at length, set out and delivered, to make mad, all both the highest and the lowest, but in the devil’s kitchen? And yet these men forsooth, will prove Ecclesiastical calling, to remain in their possession.
But again let us hear that, that may more convince these men’s shamelessness. When they dispute with us of a calling, they are wont to urge the laying on of hands, as though the true difference of a lawful and counterfeit calling consisted in that. But I suppose, these good men have not forgotten, that, whichI even now said, to wit, that by all the old canons, his ordination should be judged of no force, who has not been lawfully examined and chosen, and they that ordain such, to be subject also to very grievous punishment. And therefore they do vainly challenge unto themselves that, which is nowhere found amongst them.
Moreover this also they should know, that Pastors, are not made by the laying on of hands, but being ordained by a lawful calling (which is the voice of God) are so commended, and put into the possession of the ministry. For, whereas they reckon, this ceremony of laying on of hands, amongst sacraments, by the same reason that they reckon baptism, and the supper of the Lord: we say, that it is altogether a vain dotage, seeing there is no express commandment of that ceremony extant, neither is there joined unto it, any sacramental promise, neither do we reject, either this ceremony, or judge to be unprofitable the prayers of the church, commending and as it were, offering unto God, the Pastor that he has sent them, for the sending of God, is a lawful calling. But here surely, it falls out with these hypocrites, as it has in other things also, to wit, that thosethings being omitted, in which a true calling consists (that is to say the trial of doctrine, and of life, and a lawful election of the whole Church) they stick in the outward ceremony, which ceremony also they have defiled, with infinite vicelike rites: that I may let pass, that horrible sale of benefices and treading underfoot of the old canons, made, touching the multiplication of benefices (as they call them) and touching ordination, by over leaping (as they speak of inferior orders). And yet notwithstanding, they themselves are not ignorant, that, by the full consent of the ancient Synods, not only ordination, but also, other better parts of a calling, are, by that means, judged of no force.
But go too, let us put the case also, that all these men, were both lawfully chosen and ordained. Shall therefore their congregation be the catholic church, or not rather a den of thieves, if in abusing their calling, they turn light into darkness, and perform this one thing alone, to make slaves to Satan, the sheep, that should be brought to Christ? And yet if forsooth, the head of his false Church do this (as what else I pray you does he?) he will not endure this, that he may be judged of any mortal man. For so these men have been bold, now a long time, not only to speak, but also to write. And if this be plainly to play the Antichrist: what is this Catholic Church (I beseech you) of which Antichrist is the head?
Wherefore, (that I may at the length conclude this place) I suppose, that these two things, do now sufficiently appear, that neither a base succession of persons, nor the observation of an outward vocation, is that necessary, and perpetual mark, of the true Church, which the Logicians call proper after the fourth sort.23 Neither although it should be so, do these things anything at all, belong to the Church of Rome, (such as now it is) that is unto the Popedom: but rather what arguments soever convince the Church of Antichrist, the same do so evidently appear in this Harlot, that, he that would not acknowledge, flee from, and detest her, as an adulteress forsaken of her husband, truly, must either nothing regard these things or else be without all understanding.
Now, because we have determined not only to set out the false marks, (which things we suppose we have done:) but also, to point out as it were with the finger, the true and proper marks of the Church. Go to let us attempt this latter point. We say therefore, that a true definition of a true Church, either particularly, or universally considered, is that, by which it is said to be a congregation, that confesses the true Jesus Christ: their only savior. For we say, that Jesus Christ, is that only foundation, of that true spiritual house of God: Jesus Christ only, is the soul of that mystical body: Jesus Christ only, is the square of that building.
The adversaries will answer, that they also acknowledge, and preach the same thing. Therefore we do add (seeing there be many false Christs) that we dispute of the true Christ. These men also will reply, that they have done, and do the same. In the third place therefore we add, that he is indeed the true Christ, that has most fully revealed himself, by the mouth of his Prophets and Apostles. And the mouth of the Prophets and Apostles, we interpret to be, their authentical writings, wherein we affirm, are most fully, and most perfectly comprehended all the points of the Christian faith, partly plainly, and partly by necessary consequences to be gathered thereof.
For, we believe it, to be as absurd, to think, that the Apostles were ignorant of something, of the mysteries of Christianity, or not to have revealed all things unto the world (both which Tertullian has justly accounted, very great points of madness): as not to have put in writing, all things necessary to salvation: or, to be short, not so to have put them down, that, either they should not be plain enough of themselves, or, if anything be written somewhat more obscure, their true interpretation should be elsewhere sought, than out of their very writings. But here we have the adversaries manifestly disagreeing from us, yet not all, neither those which like shamelessness. For there be that grant both these things, that is to say, that the Apostles knew perfectly all the doctrine of salvation, and taught all the same most faithfully unto the Church: which thing indeed they justly grant, forasmuch as Christ himself, in the 15 of John and the 16:13 witnesses this in most plain words: And Paul in the 21:27 of the Acts, Galatians 1:8, Hebrews 1:1, otherwise it should be false, at least in some part, which the same Apostle speaks: to wit, That the Church is builded upon the foundation of the Prophets and Apostles: And that, which he witnesses of the Holy Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3:16, 17. Moreover, that shall be false too, which the same Apostles says: That the Church, is the pillar of truth. Unless all truth being engraved in that pillar should be manifest. Other some, more shameless, suppose there is left unto these men, whom they call the successors of the Apostles, I know not what excellent thing, and that they do affirm assuredly, that they hold, they cannot be deceived in that matter, whose opinion I suppose, needs not at this time, amongst men of sound judgment, any confutation.
But, in the overthrow of these two latter, and especially of the last point, I perceive, that all these men, are together of one opinion against us. For they urge, I know not what unwritten word, which they call Apostolical traditions. And verily I do not unwillingly grant unto them, that all things were not severally put down in writing, according to the circumstances of times, place and persons, which were observed, either by the Apostles, or by their consent, in the very form and order of the service of God.
But who will grant, that we must think the same, of the decrees of the very doctrine itself? Finally, when the adversaries are bidden to bring forth, what these points be, then that lying spirit betrays himself, because those things, which they will have delivered from hand to hand, could neither by word nor writings, have been delivered by the apostles, but they should dissent from themselves. But even all the fathers of sound judgment, have judged far otherwise, of the most excellent, and most sound perfection of the Holy Scriptures, with whose testimonies being a thousand times alleged, I thought it not good now to fill these leaves [i.e., pages].
There remains the question to be handled, touching the interpretation of the scripture. Which truly is so tossed to and fro by these men, that they cannot eschew the sin of blasphemy. There be I confess some places of the scripture (partly through the ignorance of tongues, partly also, through other faults of our own) so dark unto us, even until this day, that as yet even the most learned interpreters, and such as be of best conscience, cannot thoroughly agree what should be the proper and natural meaning thereof. There be some things also, in the Holy Scriptures, so profoundly spoken, that every one may not lawfully proceed so far. To be short, there be some things also written in such terms, that (as Augustin says) it should appear the Holy Ghost would whet our diligence in the searching and meditating of them. And unless the necessary points of doctrine and Christian religion were so plainly and clearly [set out]: to be short, so familiarly declared in the writings of the Prophets and Apostles, that they may be (the holy ghost being present amongst them, whereby God lightens all his saints) manifestly understood in the Church, to what end, should the Lord have sent his hearers to the scriptures? Yea that more is, to what end have, both the Prophets and Christ himself also, and the Apostles spoken, if they would not have these things, to be understood, which all ought to know?
I will speak something more boldly, which yet I hope I can prove. That we may consent unto the points of Christian religion, as unto true grounds, and much more that we may apply them unto ourselves, it behooves surely that we should have our ears elsewhere opened, a fleshly heart given us, to be short, that we should elsewhere be taught than of flesh and blood, because the Church, is the congregation of them, that must be taught of God, and to whom the arm of the Lord is revealed: and that men understand, what the Prophets and Apostles, have briefly thought and taught, concerning every article of our religion, they have need, not only of a wit in some measure sharpened, but also of the knowledge of tongues, and of careful and diligent reading.
For it is one manner of thing to understand, what this or that man says, then so to understand the things, which thou dost perceive, that thou also approve of them: and not only that thou understand what the thing is, but also wherefore it is: and comprehension is another thing, than knowledge, even in profane matters: and again in matter of divinity this knowledge is another thing, than full persuasion, therefore comprehension belongs unto all men that are endued with some judgment, and unto knowledge, there is required also an outward lightening of God’s Spirit, by reason of the blindness of man’s judgment, which gift notwithstanding is common as well to many evil, as to many good men. But full persuasion, does separate the chosen children of God from the castaways, and is the proper riches of the Saints.
Therefore we require, the exposition of the word of God, not only as profitable, but also as necessary, yet not for the same cause, as these men think, neither yet will we set it from the place, from whom these men suppose we will take it, for they think that that word is so darkly delivered, that (as though it were some dark thing) it should need light, fetched elsewhere than from itself, and when we demand of them, from whence at the length this light should be set, then they lay unto us the vizard [mask] or bare show of the Catholic Church, under which name sometimes, they lay before the ignorant, these or those of the Fathers: sometimes the fragments of particular or general councils: to be short, they lay before them very often, long custom for an argument that cannot be refused, to which things, if a man do not forthwith consent, he is now laid open to the slaughter of the outrageous people (no knowledge of his cause being had before) as though he were guilty of some heinous crime, committed against God or man, whereas in times past, he was condemned to be burned, under some certain color of law.
And indeed this is now their zeal. But we, (that we may in one word declare all things which belong to this matter) say, that the Church of Christ, is a school, in which the word of the Lord is not only barely to be read, as out of the letter written, but also to be taught, that it may be rightly understood, and so to be taught, that exhortations, corrections and consolations, both openly and privately, may be used, which in Paul is understood by the name of Prophecying. Moreover this also we add, which thing ought here chiefly to be marked, that the interpretation of those Scriptures, are to be set, nowhere else, then out of the Scriptures themselves, not only because the word of God, is able to give credit to itself: but also, because that truth is revealed unto us nowhere else, than in the writings of the Prophets and Apostles. For that saying of Austen [Augustine] is well known, and is most true, That the Scripture is to be expounded by the Scripture: Neither shall it irk me here to put down, that notable place, out of the 49 Homily, of the imperfect work upon Matthew, because it agrees altogether with our times. He that will know (says he) which is the true Church of Christ, let him not know it but only by the Scriptures. And by and by after. Christians therefore, being willing to receive, the certainty of true faith, let them flee to nothing but to the Scriptures, otherwise if they shalt have respect to other things, they shall stumble and perish, not understanding, which is the true Church: and by this means they shall fall into the abomination of desolation, which standeth in the holy places of the Church.
But to whom shall belong (will these men say) the interpretation of Scriptures? Verily all be not Prophets, all be not teachers. But again, Isaiah crieth, that both Priests and Prophets, have erred in their vision: neither would Christ have admonished, That the leaven of the Pharisees, should be avoided, if we should without exception, have consented unto them, That sit in Moses’ chair: Neither should the false Prophets be eschewed, if all the Prophets did speak the truth: neither would Caiaphas, and the whole Synod of the Priests, have condemned Christ, if the Holy Ghost, had been tried without exception to those, that sit in Aaron’s seat: What then?
Let these men therefore hear at length, that which we have so often times cried out unto deaf men: to wit, that we do not simply reject, neither the old nor the new councils, whether they be particular or general, unless they be plainly thievish: that we do not simply refuse, neither old nor new writers, unless they be manifestly, either superstitious or ridiculous, or by common consent abrogated: That we do not simply cast from us, the writings, neither of ancient nor new writers, whether they be Ecclesiastical or Laical (as these men call them, for God is no accepter of persons, and often times even by the basest sort, he confounds the pride of the most wise), unless they be plainly wicked, superstitious or foolish. But this only we require, which the most learned, and even the most religious of the old writers, admonish carefully to be done, to wit, that all these things, should be diligently examined, according to the rule of the written word of God. For antiquity and authority of those that write, may indeed set some color of truth upon falsehood, but that it should be true, which disagrees never so little from the writings of the Prophets and Apostles, that truly it can never bring to pass. Furthermore, experience itself more than sufficiently declares, that there have been long time since, builded upon the foundation laid by the Apostles, not only hay and stubble, but also iron and rust, to be short, lies upon truth: All which things, must at length be consumed by the light and fire of God’s word.
Now lest these men should again complain, that whatsoever has been established by council after council, in the ancient Church, should by this means be called into doubt: we confess, that we do acknowledge the Creeds, which were always approved by the common consent of the whole Church, to wit, the Creed of the Apostles, Nicene, Athanasius’ creed, the creed of Constantinople, Chalcedon, together with the curses pronounced in the second council of Ephesus against Nestorius: And that we both with mouth and heart detest, all heresies, which either by open or secret consent of the whole Church, were out of the word of God, condemned in those 4 councils and also overthrown, in the fifth and sixth councils of Constantinople: And also all other heresies whatsoever, which afterward, either newly sprung up, or are newly polished, not that the truth hangs upon any Synods or Creeds, but because we acknowledge, that the things which are prescribed and established in them, may be rightly judged, by the writings of the prophets and Apostles: so far off is it, that we take away the authority of the Church, or despise the consent of the godly, either ancient or new writers, which thing our adversaries, falsely and shamelessly object unto us.
Now the sum of all these things is this, that Christ is the true, perpetual, necessary: and to be short, the only mark of the Church: yea I say, the true Christ that is, such a one, as he from the beginning has most perfectly (touching the matter and manner of salvation, revealed himself, both in the writings, of the prophets and of the Apostles. For that saying stands sure: He that gathereth not with me, scattereth abroad: and that saying, that Christ is that corner stone of the foundation, upon whom the whole building riseth up: And that only head, which ministers unto his body, that is the true Catholic Church, all feeling and moving: To be short, he is the door, the way, the resurrection, and the life. Therefore, wheresoever the word is heard, as it ought to be, there indeed Christ reigns, there indeed we judge the Catholic, visible Church to be, neither tied to any certain place, nor unto the multitude: for where that dead carcass is, to wit Christ crucified, there be those Eagles: there is salvation, where that only name is, in which we must be saved: there be the children of light, where that sun shineth there be the true sheep. Where the voice of that shepherd is heard, although two or three only, throughout all the world, shall be truly gathered together in his name: And to speak in few words, where that true seed is sown, there is the Lord’s field: and there that harvest grows, which shall never be burned.
But again, because it falls out, partly through the weakness of man’s wit, even in the most excellent men, partly through the wickedness or negligence of the pastors, that scarce at any time, since the time of the Apostles, the doctrine of Christ, has been so preached in the Church, but that some blemish, has privily crept in, (which thing appears to be done, even by the Epistles of the Apostles, and that whilst they also were living:) Finally, because the Lord has appointed, not only that the word should be taught: but also that it should not be taught of every man: And for this cause, has appointed certain laws, touching this order. I must here again declare two things: to wit, how far it would be necessary, that that only mark of the true Church, that is to say, the preaching of God’s word, should be pure, and how much we should give, to the ordination and succession of the Pastors themselves.
Therefore, as touching that former point, I put down three things. One is, that although there be nothing set out unto us in the Holy Scriptures, which is not most profitable and very necessary as it were unto salvation: yet there are certain chief points, and as it were grounds of our religion, which are to be discerned from the rest. The second point is, that there have been some matters, which in times past have been rudiments of the Catholic Church, and may in other times also be rudiments of some particular Churches, yet for all that those points cease not, to belong to the true Church. The third is, that the religion and mark of the Church, either universal or particular, is not to be measured by something, that this or that Pastor teaches by word or writing: neither by that, that some sheep by themselves have thought this: Or by the disputations of some, whether they be many or few, but by that doctrine, which is commonly received in the Churches, so that it be agreeable to the word of God.
Now because these questions are called into controversy, go to, let us confirm them by sure reasons and examples. As touching the first, the thing itself shows, that there may be variance touching some things, and yet the foundation of Christian religion, remain safe: And again some things cannot be taken away, but that the whole building, be utterly overthrown. He that denieth Christ to have come in the flesh, is not of God, but is the spirit of Antichrist. Therefore the companies of the Docetæ,24 of the Marcionites,25 and of suchlike, be not the Church of Christ, whereby it is proved, that the point, touching both the natures of Christ, is an article of Christian religion, belonging to the foundation. Again, the Churches of Jerusalem (wherein who was better learned, than Peter) knew not the calling of the uncircumcised, and yet what true Church was there then in the world, if the Church of Jerusalem were not it? Therefore the point concerning the calling of the uncircumcised, is not of itself, of the points of Christian religion, which concern the foundation. Therefore, there is some difference between those things which are set forth unto us in the Scriptures, to be believed.
The second also may be proved, by a more evident example. For who doubts, but that if ever there were anywhere, a true, and almost only and unholy Catholic Church, that was Christ’s own household, being conversant and that according to the flesh, with those of his twelve disciples? Who likewise is ignorant, that the point of the resurrection (the foundation whereof is the resurrection of Christ himself) is of so great weight, that the Apostle does rightly pronounce, that (that being abolished) the whole fruit of the Gospel, should be abolished: but the very congregation could scarce believe, that Christ was yet risen. And Thomas gave not credit, to his own very fellow disciples, yea the disciples, would not have believed, even their own very eyes, if the Lord had not said, A spirit hath not flesh and bones.
And that third thing is confirmed, by the examples of the Churches of Achaia and Galatia, which doubtless, the Apostle would not have called the Churches of Christ, and therefore true Churches, if he had therefore thought that the Church of Corinth had denied that article of the resurrection of the flesh: and the Churches of Galatia, had rejected the benefit of their liberty, purchased by Christ, because some in Corinth, yea perhaps some of the pastors themselves, did doubt of the point of the resurrection: and the most part of the Galatians, called back again the use of circumcision and other ceremonies, seeing that yet notwithstanding, the same Paul says: If ye be circumcised, Christ doeth profit you nothing: and seeing he affirms that those which urged circumcision, not of ignorance, but of stubbornness, they were removed away unto another Gospel, and therefore he openly calls them Apostates or fallers away, and compares them to Dogs, that is to say, to unclean beasts. But it is another thing, to err through ignorance, than obstinately to resist the truth, as willful fellows are wont. Heresy which is without the Church, if it be of some point of the religion, that touches the foundation, is another thing, than being deceived or an error, which requires and suffers itself to be taught. To be short, the Eclipse of the Sun, is another thing, than the absence of the same: and the evening is another thing than the darkness of the night: yea the night itself, which the day succeeds, is another thing than the darkness were, when they covered the depth.
These things then being put down, it shall be easy to judge, that every error does not take away the name of the true Church, and with all that to be most false, which the adversaries say, to wit, that the Catholic Church cannot err, and yet that every error does not abolish the name of the Catholic Church. For as touching this latter point, if some particular Church may err, even in some chief head or article of Christian religion, and yet it ceases not therefore to be a true Church: wherefore shall not a man say the same of all particular Churches, not considered one by one, but universally, for this is the Catholic Church? Truly it is not probable that there lived then any men (when Christ rose again) better or more perfectly instructed in true faith, than those twelve Disciples: And yet we see this whole congregation, for a time (as I even now said) so to have doubted of the resurrection of Christ, that for that cause (as Luke writes) Christ remained with them forty days after the resurrection, that he might fully assure them of his resurrection. Wherefore this thing we conclude, that the chief points of our religion, ought of necessity to remain sound, in the Catholic Church, that it may be called Catholic: But there may sometimes fall in some cloud (specially through the negligence of the Pastors) which may sometimes darken, one while this, another while that article, which nevertheless (when the Holy Ghost appears) straightways vanishes away.
Therefore Catholic is not (as the unlearned imagine) always and without exception the same, that right or sound is, seeing that even some universal error, may continue for a time. And the same thing may and ought much more to be spoken of the particular congregations of this universality. And if these things be true, even in the very grounds of our religion: how much more, as often as errors creep in, by which the very foundations of religion, are not overthrown? And this is the stubble or chaff which sometimes (as Saint Paul says), are builded upon the foundations of the Apostles, which at the length shall vanish away, when the day of the Lord appears.
But this day shows itself sometimes sooner, sometimes later. (So I had almost said), all the Bishops of Africa thought with Cyprian, that baptism administered by heretics, was of no force. Which thing, although it were false, might nevertheless (so long as the sum of faith remains sound and unhurt) be wrongfully taught and believed. But this error continued not long. There is a like consideration to be had of many traditions, which for that cause, began at the length, falsely to be called, and to be deemed Apostolical, because that being once confirmed by continual use, they were supposed to have come even from the Apostles themselves: which traditions also, by reason thereof, the day of the Lord (which has again in our times shined forth) cannot now abolish, without very great contentions. Be it therefore far from any to think, that for such manner of blemishes, some congregations should be thought, not to belong, to the body of the Catholic Church, although godly and diligent Pastors, should give very great diligence, that these spots also should be wiped away, with the sponge of God’s word.
But this thing first of all must here be marked, that these blemishes and as it were boils or swellings, do sometimes so far increase, that they grow to a canker, and that they pull away the very members from the body: which thing the most shameful examples, both of ancient times, and also of our times, declare to have fallen out, especially by the fault of the pastors. As for example, exorcism or conjuring (one sort of it being proper to them that were possessed with evil spirits, and another common to all that were grown in years, and came from Paganism to Christianity, brought in also by the negligence of pastors, into the baptism of Infants, that were born of Christians) was at the beginning only a blemish, and yet not being looked into of the old Bishops, at the length increased so far, that in the papacy it was retained as necessary, and so became a will-worship, a matter not at no hand indifferent: And in some Churches, (although lightened with the Gospel) it is retained as not unprofitable, with great shame (truly) to the pastors: of so great importance is it in season to prevent, even the smallest errors.
The ceremony of anointing with oil in baptism (which was ministered to those that were as it were, to fight against the Devil, and the flesh) was in the beginning chaff, but this chaff, how far in process of time it grew, we see, when the Chrism also began to be reverenced, which thing notwithstanding did not fall out in the very water, a true and an essential sign of baptism. So it is manifest, that the sign of the cross, was at the beginning an open profession of Christianity, the abuse whereof at the last, brought to pass, that the very cross, was set up, in the place of Christ crucified, neither is there any idolatry in all the world more detestable. So the remembrances of martyrs, and the funerals of the more famous Bishops, were celebrated, both with Orations in the praise of them, and with incredible concourse of people, from whence by and by after sprang up invocations of the dead, at their sepulchers, and in process of time, the worshipping of relics also. The painting of walls, brought into the Christians’ temples, about four hundred years after the death of Christ, and that without any worship thereof, was indeed accounted, hay. But now far this blemish has grown we see, insomuch, that the Second of the Ten Commandments, was under that color, openly by the Papists blotted out: and (which thing cannot be spoken, without the incredible shame of some) that Second Commandment, is also at this day numbered, by certain men (which should not so deal) amongst the ceremonial commandments. Such was in the beginning, the Lenten fast, and some choice or difference of meats, without any opinion of worship, added thereto. Which things, we now see so established, that sundry and those no small persons, but such as will seem to be most Catholic, do most obstinately defend, that in the doing of them, consists some respect, the forgiveness of sins, yea the worthiness of merits or power to deserve. What I beseech you, could seem at the first, to have been more indifferent than for the celebration of the supper, to have a table of stone or of wood? But, if the Grecians in the celebration of the said supper, had never used their βωμός [a platform or altar] and the Latins their Altars, but had been content with their common tables (which was in use in the Apostles’ times) likely it is, that the controversy, touching that detestable idolatry of the mass (by which we see, the whole world at this day, to be set on fire) could never have sprung up.
Now, to what end, tend these things? to wit, that first in descrying [discerning] the marks of the true Church, heresies might be distinguished from errors, and hay and stubble, from those things, which either of themselves, or by reason of the opinion of worship brought in, are either ungodly or superstitious: and yet that all the governors of the Church, ought to understand, that, as the altar, was not in time past to be builded of stones, garnished by the diligence of man: neither yet that it was lawful for them, so much as to fasten a nail in the Tabernacle, but according to the pattern which Moses had seen in the mount: even so now also, all godly magistrates indeed, and all true shepherds, ought to endeavor, that in restoring the temple of the Lord, by so many means fallen down, they should not only restore those things, which have been overthrown by Antichrists, but also that they should most diligently wipe away all, even the lightest spots, that have proceeded from the same Antichrists, although they be, as it were waren [i.e., goods] hard upon the walls of the temple: and that marking (partly by the story of former ages, and partly by the beholding of the present ruins of the Church) these former evils of Satan, they should at no hand suffer themselves to be mocked, by the allegation of the fragments, of certain of the ancient fathers, or by any vain show of custom: but rather that they should not leave off, until by doctrine, both the Ceremonies and all the Ecclesiastical government also, be apted [fitted], not unto some figurative Image of show, which was needful under the schoolmanship of the law, but exactly framed, according unto the most perfect pattern, which the Son of God himself by his own mouth and his Apostles after him, have most perfectly set forth unto us in their writings. But concerning this matter, we will elsewhere speak more fully (as I hope) when we shall answer those notable mean men, who reprehend us, as over severe exactors of the work, and especially when we shall severally answer, unto the writing of Cassander, to the end, all men may understand, that none more hinder the work of the Lord, than these Samaritans.
Now, because I see some (not yielding unto these things, which we have spoken in general, concerning the fundamental or principal points of our religion) again to demand what those should be: I answer that these articles are to be called grounds or principles, which being laid, the whole building remains: and which being overthrown, all things builded thereupon fall to the ground. And all these things, we profess to have been described with great shortness and plainness, out of the word of God in the Creed, which they call the Apostles’. Which thing ought to be added to the Ten Commandments, and the Lord’s Prayer of the which, that, to wit, the Ten Commandments, does very compendiously set out the order of Christian life: and this, that is, the Lord’s Prayer, does very briefly also set out, right invocation and prayer. This (I say) is the fundamental, true, and perpetual mark of the Catholic Church, which shall never be blotted out unto the world’s end: but which nevertheless ought to be expounded, out of the writings of the Prophets and Apostles, from whence it is taken, that all men may understand it and keep it, as much as in them lies.
Now the order of this exposition is twofold: one more familiar, which is necessary for all men: another more large, and far more plentiful: as we see that the Apostles’ Creed, was afterwards expounded, by some other Creeds of the holy Synods, that heresies might be met withal, and the Consciences established more and more in sound doctrine. Therefore, albeit that to the end, that some man might be a true member of Christ, it be not necessary, that he should most exactly understand, for what cause things are spoken and set down, and should know the determinations of disputations in divinity: Yet every one ought to know according to his capacity, what he does believe, and why he does believe, and not rest in the devilish invention of faith [i.e., implicit faith], which they call unfolded, that is to believe, as the Church has determined, and to ask no further: but to add also unto that familiar instruction, the exposition of holy writings, of which Paul sets before us four points 2 Tim. 3, to wit, doctrine, reproof, correction, and comfort. All which are by diligent Pastors and teachers, publicly and privately, to be applied, to the capacities of the believers.
It remains that we declare, how much we ought to give to personal succession and ordination. We have said, that the only, true, perpetual, and necessary mark of the Catholic Church is that doctrine, which diversely, and sundry manner of ways, first by word, and afterward by writings, has been delivered by the Prophets, and at the last most perfectly declared by Christ himself, and that by his own mouth, and by his Apostles. For this word, as (even after Christ himself), Peter says, is that seed, by which the Catholic Church, both at the beginning of the world appeared, and by which also it shall continue, even unto the end of the world. But seed is to no purpose, except it be sown, and the Lord (who both under the Old, and under the New Testament, appointed an order for the sowing of this seed, by the ministry of men) has (I say) necessarily appointed this sowing (for otherwise the spreading abroad of this Church would quickly end) to endure to the end of the world: Be it so truly. Then thou will say, ordination also and succession of those persons, is a true, perpetual, and necessary mark of the Catholic Church, agreeing altogether with that other, to wit, the mark of sowing. So our adversaries do conclude, but falsely and foolishly. For, (that I may let pass those two things already confuted by us, that is to say, because they babble of the succession of persons, omitting the succession of that Apostolical doctrine: Moreover because that they propound another succession, than that which has been begun by the Apostles themselves) either they do not see, or they dissemble that they do see (albeit the sowing also, and the sowers, are required no less than the seed, to the tilling of this field of the Church) that the same order has not always been kept, either of sowing the seed, or of ordaining them, unto whom this sowing is committed. And this notwithstanding, they ought to have learned, both by the foretellings of the prophets, and also by the holy histories, which things remain to be proved of us. The Church therefore I confess, was never without the word of God. But let these men also show us, that there has been some one, certain, and perpetual order both of the sowing, and that the same has been tied also at all times, to the same laws of ordination, before that first the Lord had consecrated to himself the first begotten, Exod. 3:2 and 19:22 and the 24:5, in whose stead afterward that Levitical priesthood was ordained, almost with infinite ceremonies, Num. 8:18. Therefore then at the length began, that certain and ordinary order of succession and ordination, that is, of sowing, and of those unto whom the charge of that sowing was committed. Which succession, and which manner of ordaining, if before that time the Church lacked it, it is proved, that that ordinary succession and calling, has neither been always necessary nor continual, seeing that the visible Church stood so many ages, before both of them.
Now let us see, whether the Levitical priesthood, has continued without interruption, even unto the coming of Christ. Indeed we read, that the spreading abroad of Aaron’s posterity, continued until the overthrow of the temple. But even as we say, though David’s stock were not abolished, yet David’s kingdom (even as amongst other the prophets, Ezekiel had foretold) was broken off, from the days of Zedekiah, unto Zerubbabel, from whose times instead of kings, were Dukes, and at the length (the Asmoney [i.e., the Hasmonean dynasty], taking all power unto themselves) David’s posterity, I say, instead of Dukes became Senators, until at last they being also taken away by Herod a foreigner born, and Judea being reduced to a Province, and so in fine as Jacob had foretold (all government being taken from Judea) the son of David sprang up, to sit in the throne of David forever: So it appears, that all the Levitical priesthood, was not at once broken off, until (the eternal priesthood of Melchizedek succeeding) it was wholly abolished. For, (to let pass those public miseries and slaughters of the people, under the judges, and especially that time which is spoken of, in the five last chapters of the story of the Judges, in which time it is evident that the public ministry was greatly decayed, and sometimes almost abolished) who will deny, that there was any true Church, in the kingdom of the ten tribes, from the time of Jeroboam the first king, unto the overthrow of Samaria? and yet that there was no succession, nor ordination of Levitical priesthood amongst them, appears by this, because it is written of Levi, that he departed from the kingdom of the ten tribes: and by the same most heavy complaint of Elijah, which is reported by the Apostle, Rom. 11:2, for concerning that which is reported afterwards of these hundred prophets, hid in a cave, 1 Kings 18:13, it does not prove, that there was there, any ordinary ministry.
The adversaries will reply, that the godly Israelites went to Jerusalem, and therefore, that they pertained to the Levitical priesthood. Be it so that some went, yet there was some true Church then, in the kingdom of the ten tribes, not going to the City, neither using the ordinary sacrifices, nor retaining any use of the Levitical priesthood.
But again these men say, they had notwithstanding colleges of prophets, and assemblies of Godly men also, at their appointed days, as appears namely out of the 2 Kings 4:23, and therefore the ordinary succession of the ministry, did not then cease. And neither do I conclude out of this place, that there was then no holy ministry in the kingdom if Israel. But this one thing I gather, that the succession of the Levitical ministry (which was the only ordinary ministry) was then altogether broken off, in the kingdom of Israel. For neither were the Prophets ordained by the ministry of men, neither was their order continual.
They will again reply, that an ordinary succession may cease, in particular Churches: but at no hand in the Catholic Church, that is to say, universally: seeing that then also the temple continued in the kingdom of Judah. But beside that, I can reply out of the testimony of the Prophets, that Judah so behaved herself, not only in manners, but also in the very worship of God, that she justified Israel herself: and that also the temple of the Lord was shut up under Manasseh, after that it had been imbrued, with the blood of the Prophets: and that horrible idolatry declared unto Ezekiel in a vision: beside these things I say, I furthermore add two other: one is, that if some particular Church may be a member of the Catholic Church (without the mark of succession, and ordinary ordination) it necessarily follows that those notes, are not that, which the Logicians call proper, after the fourth sort: that is to say, a term that always agrees unto one kind, and to every particular of the same kind, whereof we now demand, and indeed do justly demand it, seeing the whole force of definition, consists properly, in the knowledge of the difference. The other is, that if (which thing we have showed before) some part of the Catholic Church, may lack that succession, and ordinary ordination for a time, it follows that that thing may fall out in all particular and several Churches. For why should it fall out to one, rather than to another? But where this thing shall fall out, in what general thing I pray you, may a man find that, which he wants not in all and every singular part of the same?
But lest these men should again cry out, that yet that thing has not fallen, which might have fallen out. Let us proceed further, and let us consider, what the state of the Catholic Church was, under the captivity of Babylon. Verily these men shall never prove, that there was then any ordinary ministry of the Levites. For the fable of Susanna is confuted, out of the true story of Daniel, so that it must be a narration either fabulous, or merely allegorical: even as also the book of Judith is. And though Ezekiel sometimes in some place, exercised the office of a Prophet (as it is manifest by his Prophecies) yet by that it shall at no hand be proved, that the Levitical priesthood was not discontinued.
But thou will say, Circumcision then continued. I grant it, for this was the singular benefit of God: even as Satan could not (in our time, and in the time of our Fathers) bring to pass, but that the Sacrament of Baptism should remain. But the selfsame Circumcision was not used those forty years, being the time of their wandering in the wilderness, where notwithstanding if the Catholic Church were not, it was nowhere. Seeing therefore the Church may for a time want some sacraments, truly this part of the public ministry, is not absolutely, the perpetual and necessary mark of the Church: which thing yet cannot be said, of the seed of the word itself, for the patent [i.e., conveyance of right] itself of a covenant, is another thing, than the seal put to the patent itself: so that the Church, may for a time lack this, by reason of many lets [hindrances] cast in the way: but that, to wit, the word, it can never lack, although he that despises that, to wit the Sacrament, despises both, and therefore shall worthily be judged out of the Covenant.
What then? truly the Church, can neither at any time lack the seeds of the word, neither the sowing, nor the sowers: but yet the sluggishness and wickedness of the Pastors chiefly hinders, that we cannot restrain both the sowing and the sowers to an ordinary succession and calling. And this thing falls out, by two means. By one, when the chairs or places be not empty, but they which sit in them, have entered in, either by the door, or by the window, and do either wholly neglect their duty, or mingle cockle with seed, or else sow nothing but poison: as such was the state of the ancient Catholic Church, under the most part of the vacant governments of the judges: afterwards in Judah under most of the kings, and at the length, in the times of Christ being conversant upon the earth. By the other, when as that ordinary both sowing, and also ordinary calling of sowers ceases, being for a time as it were, more than half dead (for we do not acknowledge that these things, can all together be abolished before the end of the world) and such was, as we have said, the outward form and face of the Church of the ten Tribes, and of the Catholic Church, in the captivity of Babylon.
I say therefore, that the very same thing, has sometimes through the just judgment of God, fallen out in the Church, in respect of the sowing, and the sowers, which often times falls out in the times of famine and war, to wit, that there is utterly no place for sowing. Which when it comes to pass all do not yet die, but the hunger starved that remain, are relieved, by the fruits gathered in the harvest of the former years, even as heretofore, in the times of Joseph, the Egyptians did sow nothing, but in the very seventh year of famine. So it behooved Daniel, Ezekiel, Zerubbabel, Ezra, Nehemiah, and the remnant of the godly in Babylon, when an ordinary ministry was wanting, to be Prophets and Pastors unto themselves, joining with most fervent prayers the continual reading and meditation of the Holy Scriptures, as in that story, we read to have been done, unless we would rather say, that Moses and the other Prophets (whose writings were then extant, although they themselves were dead long ago) were notwithstanding their Pastors in this exile, until the Lord in his time, should have mercy upon Sion.
But amongst these breaches of the Church, there is yet much difference. For where Pastors do their duties only negligently, or else offend only in manners, nevertheless the double mark of the Church, which is ordinary and to be seen, remains. By the double mark of the Church I mean, the seed, and the sowing, and also ordination, if so be these Pastors, although negligent, be notwithstanding lawfully called. And if they mingle only some leaven, The leaven is to be taken heed of, but the pastors notwithstanding are to be heard, so far forth, as they sit upon the chair, not of Peter, but of Christ: neither does such a congregation, therefore cease, to be deemed as a member of the Catholic Church, (or else the Catholic visible Church is nowhere) although perhaps no other, but negligent Pastors, corrupt in manners, and miring some leaven, be found throughout all the while world. Such were in the times of Christ, the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the Doctors of the Law, whose Leaven he teaches, must be avoided, which yet he commands to be heard, So long as they sit in Moses’ Chair. But this place peradventure, is not of everyone diligently enough marked: for it is to be noted, out of other places, that the writings of Moses, and of the Prophets, were read by piecemeal in the Synagogues. Which thing, the Sections [i.e., the chapter divisions] noted, even at this day, by a true order in the Hebrew Bibles, do declare. Now, unto this pure and sincere reading, was added an interpretation, full of Leaven: of which sort are these points which especially in Matthew are plentifully confuted by Christ. Therefore Christ commanded those things to be heard out of the Pulpit, which were by custom, sincerely recited out of Moses and the Prophets, in the Synagogues: but the Leaven, wherewith they did corrupt, the purity of Doctrine, to be eschewed. So it is not to be doubted, but that that outward Worship in the Temple, was in the times of Christ, diligently exercised without Idolatry, which also Godly men did diligently perform, although the right use of the sacrifices, and of the whole law, was utterly destroyed by the justiciary Pharisees, and by the Sadducees, which denied the resurrection, that is to say, the chief end of the sacrifices. What manner of merchandise of high priests’ office there was then, and that against the prescript of the law, appears by histories. But this fault of persons, in so great confusion of things, did not abolish the very facts of the priesthood, which did depend, not upon the priest, but upon the ordinance of God. For there is some certain mean [middle] thing between men merely private, and men lawfully called: to wit, when as some (exercising the place of those that be lawfully called) are either through ignorance, or through winking at them, borne withal: and in their name execute some public office, as we read, that it was ordained in the law of the Romans, concerning one Barbarius Philippus, of which matter we have in another place spoken more fully. Therefore the Church indeed retained (and that in Phariseeism and Sadduceeism) her note, both of God’s seed, and in some sort also, of the very sowing thereof, although it were somewhat defaced, and yet neither Phariseeism nor Sadduceeism, was a part of the sound Church.
But as often as even openly, the chair of truth is utterly destroyed, so that on the one side sincere bread is not propounded unto us, so that a man may receive it: and on the other side, some Leaven, is so set before us, that a man may not reject it, but poisons are drunk to men unwilling of the same, who will account the congregation of these Wolves (or of those which follow them) for the true either Catholic or particular Church. Now I affirm, that the Popedom, that is to say, the Church of Rome (as at this day they call it) has by little and little grown to be such a one. Seeing that those things being indeed fulfilled, which both Paul, 1 Thessalonians 2, and also John in the description of the Image of the beast, have now so many years past, set before our eyes to behold: and the ancient fathers, both Greek and Latin interpreters, Irenæus, Chrysostom, Jerome, Augustine, Becla, and Cardinal Cusan himself also, have interpreted the same of the seat of Rome. For which of those three marks of the Catholic Church (whereof we have showed, that one of them only is unmovable and perpetual, the other we, have declared also to be sometime discontinued) remains in the popish Church? For to speak first of that proper, perpetual, and absolutely necessary mark, that is, the holy word written, seeing that that is in the popish Church, is not set forth unto the people, but torn in sundry pieces, and that also in a strange tongue: and further, seeing that their shamelessness has proceeded so far, that they cannot bear the same to be turned, into vulgar and common speeches, neither yet endure, that the Latin interpretation being barbarous, and in many places false, should be amended, by the Hebrew and Greek copies, is there any man, unless he be by the just judgment of God blinded, that will judge these men, to be the Catholic Church (in which only there is salvation) and not rather take it to be that Babylon, out of which all, that will not perish ought to depart? But some amongst them say, We do not only receive the writings of the Prophets and Apostles, but also receive them, and indeed receive them more large, than ye receive them. For for one and two places’ sake, they add the books which are Apocrypha. As though indeed to have books decked with gold and precious stones, to worship papers transformed into idols, to sing in a strange tongue, parcels torn in sundry pieces, or to hang them about the neck, or to use them in magical enchantments, be the same, that it is to teach the writings of the Prophets and Apostles, and by these to direct, the whole service of God, and to be short, by these to order, the whole life of man.
But again they say we have every Sunday sermons, and the readings also and homilies of the Doctors: and to be short, admonitions (as they call them) in parishes, Yea, have truly. But when what manner [of] ones, of whom, and to what end are they had?
Now, to comprehend all things in a few words, seeing there be three ways of corrupting the holy books of Scripture, one is, when something is taken away from them: the second is, when something is added to them: the third, when something is changed in them. Who at the length sees not, that these men are condemned as guilty of so many sorts of falsehood?
That I may begin with the law. That unwritten word, which they have devised and will have to be the chiefest part of the service of God, and that authority which they take to themselves, to make laws to bind men’s consciences, by what name shall we call it? Now, have they not utterly blotted out, without any shame, the Second Commandment, to the end they might openly and manifestly, renew all kind of idolatry, while they have changed the names only of ancient Idols? Have they not oppressed the miserable consciences of Christians, both by new and directly repugnant traditions? and under that cloak, Have they not devoured widows’ houses only (as in times past the Pharisees did): but also have swallowed up empires and kingdoms? To be short, have they not overthrown from the very foundations, the use and end of the law?
And in the Gospel (the other and the chiefest part of God’s word) what have they left sound? First, what manner of Christ do they set forth unto us? verily, a Christ now indeed endued with a body without a body? do they propound him, as he which was made of God unto us wisdom? Yea forsooth, so far as he helps our natural light. Do they propound him as our whole righteousness? forsooth so far as this thing is attributed to us, who are thereto prepared, partly of ourselves, and partly by grace, that the reward of eternal life, may, by desert be ascribed unto the deservings of our righteousness. But what if our own deservings be not sufficient? Verily, the deservings of some certain saints (whose treasure is not yet indeed drawn dry) purchased by a certain price at the hand of these brokers, shall be added unto us. And the merits of what saints I beseech you, do they set forth unto us: surely, such as the Bishops of Rome themselves, shall put into their calendar, and such as everyone shall choose to himself for Patrons and intercessors. But do they propound Christ as our sanctification? yea forsooth again, so far as he augments the remnants of our natural holiness. Do they propound him, as our only redemption? indeed they do it in word, but perform nothing less in deed. For they except that satisfaction of punishment, which being granted, they make God himself most unjust. For what is more wicked, than to require of him, which is not in fault, satisfactory of punishments? And to what end has the Lord borne our sins upon the tree? to what end has our chastisement rested upon him? But now, seeing we are come to those satisfactions, do they not most manifestly mock with God and men, when they teach, that in the sprinkling of conjured water, in tapers, in spittle, in oil, in the sign of the cross, in the choice of meats, in the murmuring up also of certain prayers not understood, in the prayers of counterfeit saints for the most part in the worshipping of images, in the ringing of bells, in a certain kind of apparel also, and that after death such satisfactions do consist? what more? (O the most abominable wickedness that has at any time been committed of any man) in the very real offering of Christ himself for the quick and the dead, which is therefore so much the more effectual, as they say by how much it is the more often reiterated, but indeed, is an open and manifest treading under foot, of the sacrifice, made once for us: when they teach I say, that satisfaction for the punishment of sins, may be bought at their hands, both for us that live, and also for them that be dead, scorched in that their fire of purgatory? What manner of thing therefore is this Gospel? And what manner of Christ is this of the Romish Popedom? Who also perceives not, by the conference of the word of God, that these men, by their doctrine of Opus operatum, that is of the work wrought, have overthrown all the use of sacraments? That I may say nothing of the destroying of the truth of Christ’s body, of his Ascension into heaven, and of the article of his descending out of heaven. And that by the opinion of Transubstantiation, they have overthrown the definition of a Sacrament? And that they have polluted the Sacrament of Baptism, with infinite corruptions? And that they have taken away, even at the first, one Element of the Supper of the Lord? And whilst that afterward by a more than abominable wickedness (changing that Sacrament, into that detestable propitiatory Sacrifice) they have utterly taken away, all that holy action, and therefore openly have by violence pulled away the seal of the covenant of the New Testament? To be short, that they have, by as many false Sacraments, as it pleased them to devise, taken to themselves, the authority of Jesus Christ, our only lawgiver? Therefore what part of God’s word, have not these men corrupted, or rather clean taken away? And then where is that only, true, perpetual and necessary mark of the Catholic Church? Where is that Seed, which being taken away, the spreading of the Church also upon earth, must needs be taken away?
Now, if the question be, touching that Ecclesiastical government (that I may speak somewhat more fully of this matter, than heretofore I have done) what I beseech you, can a man find, in the Popish clergy, but that Image of the beast? Has not this high Bishop succeeded the other high Bishop of Rome, which was wont to be therein the hire of the Gentiles? What say I? Has not that Romish Pope, snatched to himself, (by occupying now at the last, and in some ages heretofore, by sitting in Rome) the very name, and all the authority of the very Emperor of Rome? For the things which yet remain there, being Relics not so much of the Roman Empire, as of the German kingdom and government, what are they more I pray you, but a barer show and name, not only because, the emperors themselves do of their own accord, at this day, worship the feet of this beast, but also, because, he suffers, not so much as one of his false clergy, to be subject, to any secular power, as they call it? yea rather who perceives not, this wicked fellow, not contented, with this so great wickedness, to be the very same person, whom Paul foretold should sit (after the Empire of Rome was destroyed) In the temple of God, and exalt himself, above all that is called God? For is not this he, that openly affirms, that he must be judged of no man, no not of the Angels? Who (if his price be given him) boasts that he can open both heaven and hell? who at his pleasure openly breaks all laws both of God and men? who also more than once, within these few years, has undone laws established by nature itself: which wickedness also the profane city of Rome in time heretofore, (in the reign of Claudius the emperor) abhorred? Who has sold even for a farthing those very canons, whose name was wont, to make afraid the ignorant people.
And as for those purpled Cardinals, what other things are they, than an Image, not of the ancient senate of Rome, but of that senate which served the emperors, and dividing the government between them: but who is so ignorant of the state of Rome, that does not perceive, that that distribution of governments, is a picture of the empire of Rome overthrown, which thing also the Bishops of Rome themselves, and the writers that be addicted to them, do witness? And as concerning other ecclesiastical functions, such as they were ordained of Christ by his Apostles, what does there remain among them, but the most vain names and bare titles? For the office of a bishop, which in the beginning, that is, while the Church flourished, was (as Jerome also witnesses) nothing else, but the office of an elder, whilst even immediately after the time of the Apostles, it proceeded to those heights of dignities (or as they themselves speak) prelacies, (of which we have before spoken) is now a good while ago, wholly vanished away amongst them.
Now what is it with them to be a minister? Is it to be appointed to feed some flock? Is it to have the oversight of manners, and to bear rule in the Censures of the Church? No indeed, but to have authority to offer Christ again? What is it to be a Deacon? Is it to take charge of the goods of the Church, and rightly to dispense them to the ministers, and the poor, and to render an account of that which is received and laid out? Fye, fye, for this (except always the yielding of accounts) is rather the only chief and common office, to all the whole Popish clergy, and specially of the Pope himself: and that so openly and so carefully indeed, or covetously rather exercised, that they exact, (even of those that be dead many years before) a great Tribute, and, unto them that be alive, they do not freely give anything, though never so little. Therefore there is no such, either Bishop or Minister among them, as the apostle allows of: and as for Deacons, not so much as one at all. And yet these be the men, that object unto us, the succession of the Apostles. And if so be, that that one old Canon so often times repeated in the ancient Synods, and altogether agreeable to the word of God, did prevail, to wit, that that ordination which is bought by money (that I may omit the principal parts of a just ecclesiastical calling, that is to say, trial and election, joined with the free consent of the whole Church, which are wholly abolished by them, (if a man consider the thing itself,) should be judged I say, altogether void, what mark of Apostolical ordination, shall there be found amongst them? unless happily they mean, that it is one and the selfsame thing, to mock at the order instituted by the Apostles, and to keep that Order diligently, which has been delivered from hand to hand: and unless they would prove, that lawful and current coin, were to be known from counterfeit money, by the bare image, graven upon it, and not rather, by the matter itself, especially as often as, they show the same image to both parties.
To be short therefore, what manner of one is that Catholic Church, in which instead of true Christ, a most false idol, at leastwise, in respect of his office, is set up: and where instead of God’s pure word, partly the traditions of men, and partly, the traditions of the Devil are placed: and where also instead of succession, and Apostolical ordination, nothing has place almost but most manifest and detestable, even to the Devil himself as it were, both buying and selling of souls redeemed by the blood of Christ, insomuch that they would have it to be accounted, an unlawful thing to search into these matters, yea so far have they proceeded that they would condemn men (though their cause be not heard) of high treason against God and man, whereas on the other side if a man should grant these things, there should be nothing so wicked, so blasphemous and so horrible to be thought, which a man might not with their good leave and liking, think, speak, and write.
But (these men will say) although we were nothing less, than we will seem to be, does it follow that the name of Catholic Church, which ye take from us, does agree unto your Churches? No verily. Wherefore we have in vain now a long time ago desired trial to be made, by the matter itself, if their bare denial may be accepted. We therefore affirm, that the three notes of the Catholic Church (to wit, the seeds of the written word, and the right and lawful Ecclesiastical calling and succession, all which we have restored, are in our possession, and stand on our side). These things they stoutly deny. Indeed this controversy cannot be decided in a few words, neither do I at this present go about it. But that which I had taken in hand to prove, I hope I have performed, to wit, that the false and counterfeit notes of the Church, which they alleged, are sufficiently confuted, and the true notes of the Church set forth and approved.
For it is one thing, to dispute of those marks, which they are, and another to dispute, who have them. Notwithstanding, because I have in few words declared, that they have not those marks, this thing also I may now speak, that we have at least, two very weighty conjectures, which make for us against them: to wit, that in discerning and trying of opinions, we stay ourselves, upon the only written word of God, that is, the writings of the Prophets and Apostles: and that we require the interpretation of it, by the only conference of places, and proportion [i.e., analogy] of the articles of faith. Neither do we refuse the writings of any, either old or new author, so that they may be examined, by the rules aforesaid: by God’s word, and the proportion of faith. But what these men object against these upright requests, it sufficiently appears.
Now in the question of succession and ordination, that have thought not many years ago, they have found out, a more certain reason to dispute against us. For they demand even with great loftiness and pride, that we should show them, whom they have succeeded, which in our times have established our Churches, as though we were no better able, to show our original, than the Donatists could theirs. We answer that the doctrine which we defend, has (even from the time of the Apostles, although heresies have assaulted it, and the Romish false bishops, and others, made drunk by the harlot, have all by means they could, and that for the space of certain years polluted it) continued notwithstanding, even until our times, and shall continue, even to the end of the world: and that about 200 years since this light of the Gospel began again, (and that through the singular goodness of God) in the West to appear, out of the filth of popery, and those hidden places, into which, these men had thrust it, until the candlesticks, which were taken away, were set again in their places, and by that means the elect people of God, did from all quarters flow together unto the said truth.
But as concerning the succession of the holy ministry, we say, that the mystery of iniquity (which the Apostle witnesses in his time to have been begun), was not accomplished, but in some process and length of time, and therefore that that old Church of Rome became, and that but by little and little, of Apostolical, [to] Apostatical, that is, fallen from the truth: and we affirm that other Churches (as it is evident by histories) did not straightways fall away from the foundation, but then verily, when as in the Church, the false bishop, and son of perdition indeed, (calling himself the universal head of the Church) did at length, exalt himself above all that is called God. And that this was done when the kings and Princes, yea, and the very Pastors themselves, in other countries, being bewitched by this harlot, had submitted themselves to the feet of Antichrist. Now, when, and by what degrees and sleights that has been brought to pass, cannot elsewhere be better not only known, but even perceived almost by the very eyes, than by the very lives of the bishops themselves, declared by good and sufficient writers: the events and falling out of things justly agreeing with the foretellings of the Apostles, and the expositions of the learned, both ancient, and also certain new writers, which our adversaries, dare not refuse, insomuch that that which the Apostle heretofore spake of his ministry, that his Gospel was had indeed from them that should perish, and whom the god of this world had blinded, that the light of the Gospel of the glory of Christ should not shine upon them, the same we may now most truly affirm of this wicked Antichristian sink, feigning or pretending the name of the Catholic Church. Therefore we have next after the Apostles, for successors, those very right judging pastors, not only of the Roman Church, but of other Churches also, whose succession (being broken off by these wolves and tyrants) we have begun through God’s goodness at the last to restore: so far off is it, either that we are destitute of the lawful argument of succession, or that they should be able to allege any Apostolical succession.
Therefore say these men, where was that Catholic visible Church, about two hundred years past? Christ himself makes answer for us, that it has been heretofore, and as yet in some respect is, in the hands of the wicked husbandmen, who themselves, slew: the servants of the Lord, being sent unto them, and with all, as much as they could, even the Son himself, being cast out of the Vineyard: and instead of him, they have placed a Christ in words, wherewith they mock the people, but indeed everyone, even the wickedest of their own sort, that they can or could get. But it is well, that neither the eternal keeper of that vine, can again indeed be cast out, neither could again be slain, who lives unto God, and who also now again appearing, has begun, to let out that Vineyard, to good and faithful husbandmen, Paul also answers in our behalf, foretelling that which we see fulfilled: To wit, that that wicked one, should usurp himself the Temple of the Lord, until the Lord should again discover him. John also answers that that that woman, having lately brought forth her Child, has together with her Child, lain hidden in the wilderness, free from the Dragon, who trusted to, and used also, and was even as it were upheld with the power of Kings and Princes: And that that holy City, has in the meantime continued sure, not for a small time, but for two and forty months, or a thousand two hundred and sixty days. But we leave the account of those days to sharper witted men: we urge only the matter itself. Therefore, to speak plainly, we say, that so long as that great Michael did appear by little and little, killing that Dragon with the sword of his word (which he has again committed to his faithful servants) or with the spirit of his mouth, that so long the Catholic Church, (that is to say, every number though never so small, of such as held fast both the person, and also the office of the true Christ) lay hid in the filthiness of the Romish Babylon, whilst the wicked one with his angels, usurping the seat of the ministry, and the harlot that sat upon the seven hills, did make the world drunk with her dregs.
But they say, that this true Church, ought always to be visible.
To this, if I shall answer, that the true Church indeed, has always been visible, and so shall be, so far forth as she consists, of true visible members, and that it is not a counterfeit thing: and also that it is visible so far forth, as it has outward and evident marks: and yet not in such sort visible: as though they that embrace true religion, should always agree, that every man might point out with this finger, both who theyare, and where they are: if I say I shall answer this, I shall indeed speak, as the matter is, and that which I have a little before, by reasons and examples declared. But I make not this place my refuge: for I say, that if we will fetch records, even from the Apostles themselves (who have as it were with their finger pointed out this wicked one, and all his false Church) that then we shall find, that there scarce has been any age, but that therein, so soon as this Antichrist began to show his head, the Lord has always stirred up some, who did set themselves against his tyranny. If they deny this thing, let them lay a wager, but withal let them give pledges or sureties for the performance, and I doubt not but we shall show forth even to all men, that the thing is so (unless they had rather be willingly blind) yea and that by good and sufficient witnesses, and by clear, evident, and manifest testimonies, drawn out of their very own courts and records.
But the adversaries cannot be bridled, but that they will reply, demanding at the last, what laying on of hands we are able to allege, that they have received, by whom, in our time our Churches have been established. For so I remember, Spensa, a Doctor of the Sorbonnists, did cry out against us, by whom afterward there was published concerning these matters, a volume very gross, and full of slanders.
First I answer that, which he himself elsewhere has noted out of Jerome, against the Luciferians,26 which place also Gratian has put into his decrees: to wit, that the laying on of hands after baptism pertains rather to the honor of priesthood (as they call it) than to bind any by necessity of law, to observe it. After this sort therefore I say, did Jerome judge whom they call upon amongst their Saints. But they will reply forsooth that he disputes of laying on of hands in confirmation, and not of laying on of hands in ordination, as they are wonted to speak. Which that I may grant to be so, (although Spensa thought otherwise) what shall this replication or exception help them? for they themselves do not only number confirmation among the Sacraments, but also (when it pleases them) they account it more excellent, than Baptism itself. But let us omit this thing. They confess (unless they will dissent from Bernard, in his Epistle 77, who notwithstanding, stands both upon the word of God, and also upon the authority of Austen [Augustine] and Ambrose) that those which are of the years of discretion, are blotted out of the Church, for contempt of Baptism, and not for want of it. And what shall let us, that we may not much more speak the same thing, of the laying on of hands, used in giving orders? unless peradventure, they shall say, that that is more to be required unto the holy Ministry, than Baptism unto salvation. But how these excellent servants of God, seem to have condemned the laying on of hands, which in our time, by a very heavenly inspiration, have delivered the Church from the Tyranny of Antichrist, when as they had none, of whom they could lawfully, even by the warrant of the old Canons themselves, ask, or receive the same? for I have before showed, and yet affirm this thing, that there cannot be found one amongst the whole clergy of Rome, which is able, by the pure and ancient canons, to defend their ordination to be lawful. What say I? It appears that even in the most pure Church also, the laying on of hands, was not counted so necessary? for who I beseech you laid his hands upon Philip, that of a Deacon he should be made an Evangelist? who laid hands upon them, in that first dispersing of themselves abroad at Jerusalem (the very Apostles also being ignorant thereof) preached the Gospel with so great fruit in Samaria? But these men, Peter and John were afterward sent, who should lay their hands upon them. Yea forsooth upon those who believed and were baptized, for as for them which first had preached the Gospel unto them: there is no mention at all made of them. But let us put the case that this place were to be understood of these men also. The Apostles therefore, ratified that, which the other as occasion served had done, even before examination, and before ordinary election, not meaning to make the laying on of hands, to be absolutely necessary. And if these men be the successors of the Apostles (as they will be called and accounted) why have not they themselves also, and that by example of the Apostles, made haste, to approve at the least, the zeal of godly men? Or why did they not help, the attempt of that Archbishop of Colen [i.e., Herman], rather than they should have betrayed him to that Romish Antichrist? For a reward also, of which wicked deed Gropperus had the Cardinal’s hat bestowed upon him, a cover indeed worthy for such a c[o]up. Forsooth (they will say) because ye are heretics. Therefore the question must be of the doctrine and not of the laying on of hands, and then (as I hope) we shall get the victory.
But they will again reply that that thing was lawful at the first, when the Churches were springing: but now an order being once established, the same thing is not lawful. I answer that I confess, there ought great regard, to be had of the times, and that they are not to be borne withal, who violate the laws of the Church, being well established. But what if I shall say that the laws of right and lawful ordination are not violated by us, but that (when they were taken away and defaced by them, that feigned themselves to be the keepers of that order) we have applied ourselves to the restitution, and restoration of them? For, that this thing is so, it appears by this, that (excepting the ceremonies which are justly abrogated) all things commanded in the word of God, and prescribed in the ancient pure canons, are observed exactly in our Churches, but amongst them, manifestly neglected. Now, who, when Pastors by common consent, are changed into Wolves, would say, that the sheep should look for such manner of aid, from Wolves: and that should be condemned, which after the example of the Prophets, does willingly set himself against wolves? Let this controversy therefore be first disputed of, before the question be made, touching the form of ordination: and let these men leave off to boast of the apparel and outward show of Pastors, when as inwardly they be ravening wolves. Verily Christ commands true Pastors to be distinguished from false, not by the laying on of hands, But by their fruits, that is, by doctrine and manners. But what will their Pastors that be made, by Bulls and licenses, answer to these things?
They being enforced, to condemn extraordinary vocations, and that more than once, and without exception also, at the last they flee unto miracles, which they will have of necessity to be required, to this extraordinary vocation. But if a man bid them allege, out of what place of Scripture, they have at length drawn this rule: then it necessarily follows, either that they can speak no more than fishes, or else betray extreme shamelessness.
Now, first it is manifest that the gift of miracles, has always been free, that is, set in the power of God alone, who has given the same at certain times, and to certain persons: Therefore we can make no rule of it. Next, seeing that not only Christ has foretold, but also the old and new stories witness, that this gift, was common both to true, and also to false Prophets, what madness shall it argue, to be desirous to have the false sending, to be discerned from the true, by miracles?
Then you will say, it shall be lawful for everyone to teach in the Church: no indeed. For whosoever (where there is place for order) despises that order, he declares by this very thing, that he is not of God and therefore not to be heard. Therefore the Donatists, who were indeed Schismatics, are by this reason justly condemned, because, though it had been most true, which they objected unto Occilianus, yet the order of the Church, was not for that cause to be broken, and they were not to be borne with, when the defection of some Churches, they cried out, that all the world was fallen away. But where a general disorder, under the show of order, bears sway, and no remedy can be looked for, from the authors of this mischief: then doubtless, this must be performed that even as when a fire is raised in a City, those men ceasing, or setting the city itself afire, which by the ordinances of the city, ought to have come to the quenching of that fire, it is the part of every good Citizen, to carry water, yea even without order, and to cast it upon the flames: so in this, much more dangerous fire of the Temple of the Lord, it is the duty of every godly man, as much as in him lies, to set himself against that evil: and also of the godly magistrate, to provide that a lawful order be restored. So have the godly Prophets in times past done: so have the godly kings Hezekiah and Josiah done: and unless the very Christian Emperors, when heresies bare great sway, had interposed their authority, none had more beaten down the Church (as at the length we see it to have been done) than they that governed the chiefest seats. And if notwithstanding all this, there have been no ordinary vocation, in the times of these ancient Synods, we must know that that fell out indeed, because, that a lawful order then established in the Church, was not altogether abolished, as it is manifest that is has been performed, now sundry ages since, through the tyranny of the false Romish Bishop: there remaining amongst them not so much as a very slender shadow of the principal parts of Ecclesiastical vocation: to wit, of trial and election: but (after a most filthy sale of all things), they using only a vicelike kind of laying of hands, thereby to deceive the common people.
But though these things were not forcible (which indeed are yet notwithstanding most strong) what does an extraordinary vocation appertain to us? For it is most manifest, that those first restorers of God’s house, in the days of forefathers: to wit, Wycliffe, Hus, Jerome of Prague, Luther, Bucer, Oecolampadius, Zwingli, Pellican, Haller, and very many other) had the selfsame laying on of hands that these men require, given them by their Bishops, to teach the people: by whom afterwards the Churches were, by little and little restored: In which Churches also, we affirm, that the true vocation of pastors, Doctors, and Deacons, was restored. Now I call that a true calling, which is according to the prescript of God’s word.
But here again our unorderly ordinaries suppose, that they have found out somewhat, wherein they may manifestly blame us. For they deny, that albeit those men, whom even now we named, were ministers, the therefore we are lawfully ordained, seeing that bishops only may ordain ministers, much less say they, can we be bishops. I indeed do willingly leave unto them, all this state of bishoply government, whereof I plainly say, that the Holy Ghost was not the author, but man’s wisdom, and upon which, unless we perceive that God has laid a curse, verily we do as yet see nothing at all: and we foster a Viper in our bosom, which will again kill the monster. But of this matter we will speak in another place.
Now only I demand of these men, from whence they have set this: forsooth from the second Canon of the Apostles, (as they call it). But Gelasius the Pope himself does reckon these Canons, amongst the writings counted Apocrypha: to wit I suppose, at the least for titles sake. For he must needs be too impudent, that would deny these Canons, to have been made in more ages than one, so far is it off, that ridiculous invention (attributed to I cannot tell to what Clement, and lately published in Greek and Latin,) in which the Apostles are brought in one by one establishing these matters, may be allowed of any man that is of any sound sense or judgment. But to what end should we handle these things so largely? That the Evangelists were above the ministers of which we speak (for otherwise Peter the Apostle, calls even himself a fellow minister with them, 1 Pet. 5:1) these men dare not deny, because the Apostle himself sets them before Pastors and Doctors, Eph. 4:11. But even Paul, himself witnesses, that Timothy, not appointed a Bishop to Ephesus, or any other Church, but an Evangelist, and the companion of Paul the Apostle, did not receive the imposition, or laying on of hands, no not from Paul himself, but from the presbytery, that is, from the company or fellowship of Elders. Wherefore if these men that mind to defend the false bishoply tyranny, be disposed to reason, let them dispute not with Geminianus (as the civil lawyers are wont to say) but with Paul himself. We verily think those to be lawfully ordained, who having according to the Apostles rule, an exact inquiry of their doctrine and manners going before, and a free and holy election, by the consent of the whole Church, which they are to govern, are consecrated and dedicated to God by solemn prayers, and the very rite of laying on of hands used (of men shall so think good) but yet simple, and of itself, and not defiled with any traditions of men.
Now seeing these things are so, I say that the favorers of the false Romish Church, do in vain set out or object, those three notes of the Church: to wit, succession merely personal, a calling sundered from the doctrine of the Apostles: and the laying on of hands. And I say this, both because that none of these by itself, can be either, a true, or simple necessary, or perpetual note of the universal Church and also, because that though it were so, yet that no one of these notes at all, can be found, in the false Romish Church, which does notwithstanding call herself, (though most falsely,) the universal Church: and on the other side I affirm, that that only, true, necessary and perpetual mark of the Catholic Church, that is to say, that doctrine, which is most perfectly contained in the writings of Prophets and Apostles, does once again shine bright and clear in our Churches: and to be short, that the very personal succession, vocation, and ordination of the holy and right ministry, are restored in the same our Churches: and that we have not forsaken Sion, but have fled out of Babylon as the Lord warns us: and that, we have not rent in sunder the Church, but following Paul’s fact, in the Church of Ephesus, mentioned in Acts 19:9 have separated Disciples to the Lord: and that we have not by the example of Jeroboam, or the Donatists, set up altar against altar, but casting the altar brought from Damascus out of the Lord’s house, we have begun to restore the true and sincere worship of God, which work also I hope (although Satan, do by his ministers set himself against the same, both within the Church, and without it) shall yet notwithstanding (when that son of perdition, shall at the last be thoroughly overthrown, by the spirit of God’s mouth) be blessedly achieved and finished.
To God be Glory.
1. They were so called of one Donatus, who baptized such as embraced his opinions, though they were baptized before, and made a schism in the Church, about the year 334.
2. That is, the begging or taking of that as granted: which is in controversy.
3. The fallacy of composition or division is a false conclusion, made by a wrong application of words alleged or spoken: referring that to one, which is alleged, or spoken to another.
4. Monothelites, were certain heretics about the year 565, who affirmed that there was but one will and one action in Christ: denying that there was in him two natural wills and actions, which might answer to his two natures.
5. Liberius for ambition’s sake fell into the Arian heresy.
6. He, while Silverius the Pope lived (by the aid of Belisarius, the captain of the Emperor’s army,) obtained the popedom.
7. He means of Anastasius the II, who fell into the heresy of Arius and Eutyches, which heresies Acatius also himself did propound, about the year 484.
8. I suppose that he speaks here of Simon Magus, mentioned in Acts 8 of whom many things are written in the old writers, specially he affirmed that Christ was not come, neither suffered anything of the Jews, but that he himself was Christ.
9. He amongst other things taught, that Christ the son of God, took not man’s flesh of the virgin, but that he had a spiritual or heavenly body, which passed through the Virgin Mary, as water through a pipe or Conduit. He was about the year 150.
10. He affirmed, that Christ appeared not in the substance of flesh, but in a phantastical [i.e., a phantasm] body, and that one Simon was crucified in his stead, about the year 124.
11. He taught that Christ was not very man, and that he ascended into heaven without his flesh, and first made laws for abstinence from meats and marriage, he was in the year 180.
12. Such as pretended to be inspired with revelations. The Messalian heretics were so called, who affirmed that baptism and the Lord’s supper did neither profit nor hurt, but that these which gave themselves to prayer only or sleeping should be inspired with the spirit, which being once received, afterwards they had no need of the word, or any other exercise of godliness, but that he that was so inspired, was altogether without sin, and did foresee things to come, and did sometimes behold God with their eyes.
13. So called of Paulus Samosatenus, who denied the son of God, to have descended from heaven, but that Christ did proceed from Mary in the earth, he was about the year, 372.
14. So called of one Sabellius, who taught that there was but only one person in the godhead, and confessed that the trinity was distincted [distinguished] in respect of names only, and not in respect of persons. He was about the year 320.
15. So called of one Arius, who affirmed, that the Son was not truly and naturally God, neither coeternal with the father, but to have had a beginning, and to be made of nothing, he was about the year, 320.
16. So called of one Pelagius, who held free will, and that every man might obtain salvation by his own works: that infants were born, without original sin: and that Adam hurt himself only by his fall. He was about the year, 466.
17. They maintain amongst other errors, revelations, and take away the baptism of infants.
18. They (casting aside all fear of God whatsoever) hold, that men may live as they list [desire].
19. So called of one Casper Schwenkfeldius, who held, the same matters that the Anabaptists do.
20. That is, those four men that took upon them, the government of the whole world he means the four Patriarchs, to wit, Jerusalem, Alexandria, Constantinople and Rome.
21. That is the five men that took upon them the government of the world.
22. That is some fearful and terrible thing.
23. That is, which agrees to every one of the kind, only to the kind, and always to the kind: to be apt to laugh, agrees to all men, to men only, and always to them, and to every particular of that kind.
24. They denied Christ, to have come in the flesh.
25. The Marcionites of whom he speaks here, did hold that Christ was not true man.
26. So called of one Lucifer, who held that the soul was of the substance of the flesh.