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an extreme of presumption, that they neither fear God nor regard men?
XXVIII. But let us suppose the impiety of those pontiffs, whom I have mentioned, to be concealed, because they have not published it by sermons or by writings, but only betrayed it in their chambers and at their tables, or at least within the walls of their palaces. But if they wish to establish this privilege to which they pretend, they must expunge from the number of the pontiffs John the Twenty-second, who publicly maintained that souls are mortal, and that they perish together with the bodies till the day of resurrection. And to shew that the whole see, with its principal pillars, was then entirely overturned, not one of the cardinals resisted this capital error, but the university of Paris urged the king of France to compel the pope to a retraction. The king interdicted his subjects from all communion with him, unless he should speedily repent; and he caused this to be proclaimed in the usual manner by a herald. Compelled by necessity; the pontiff abjured his error. This example renders it unnecessary for me to dispute any longer against the assertion of our adversaries, that the see of Rome and its pontiffs cannot err respecting the faith, because Christ said to Peter, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.” John certainly fell from the true faith in such a disgraceful manner, as to furnish to posterity a signal proof, that those who succeed Peter in his bishopric are not all Peters. The argument itself, however, is too puerile to need any answer. For if they are determined to apply to Peter's successors every thing that was said to Peter, it will follow that they are all Satans, because the Lord also said to Peter, “ Get thee behind me, Satan; thou art an offence unto me.” (d) It will be as easy for us to retort this passage against them, as it is for them to object the other against us.
XXIX. But it affords me no pleasure to contend with them in such fooleries, and therefore I return from the digression. To confine Christ and the Holy Spirit and the Church to one particular place, so that whoever presides
(d) Matt. xvi. 23.
there, even though he be a devil, must nevertheless be deemed the vicar of Christ, and the head of the Church, because that place was formerly the see of Peter, I maintain to be not only impious and dishonourable to Christ, but al. together absurd and repugnant to common sense.
The Roman pontiffs for a long time have either been totally indifferent to religion, or have shewn themselves its greatest enemies. They are no more made the vicars of Christ, therefore, by the see which they occupy, than an idol is to be taken for God, because it is placed in his temple. Now if a judgment is to be formed on their conduct, let the pontiffs answer for themselves in what part of it they can at all be recognized as bishops, In the first place, the mode of life generally pursued at Rome, not only without any opposition from them, but with their connivance and even tacit approbation, is altogether disgraceful to bishops, whose duty it is to restain the licentiousness of the people by a rigid discipline. Yet I will not, however, be so severe against them as to charge them with the faults of other persons. But while both themselves and their families, with almost the whole college of cardinals, and the whole host of their clergy, are so abandoned to all kinds of debauchery, impurity, and obscenity, and to every species of enormity and crime, that they resemble monsters rather than men, they prove themselves to have no just claim to the character of bishops. They need not be afraid, however, that I shall proceed to a further disclosure of their turpitude. For it is unpleasant to meddle with such abominable pollution, and it is necessary to spare chaste ears. Besides, I conceive, I have more than sufficiently proved what I intended, that even if Rome had anciently been the head of all Churches, yet at the present day she is not worthy of being accounted one of the smallest toes of the Church's feet.
XXX. With respect to the cardinals, as they are called, I know not how it has come to pass that they have so suddenly risen to such high dignity. In the time of Gregory, this title was exclusively applied to bishops; for whenever he mentions cardinals, he speaks of them not only as belonging to the Church of Rome, but to any other Churches; VOL. III.
so that in short a cardinal priest is no other than a bishop. I find no such title at all in the writers of any preceding age; and at that time I observe they were far inferior to bishops, to whom they are now so far superior.--This passage of Augustine is well known; “Though according to the titles of honour which have long been used in the Church, a bishop is superior to a presbyter, yet Augustine is in many things inferior to Jerome." He clearly makes not the least distinction between a presbyter of the Roman Church and those of other Churches, but places them all alike below the bishops. And this order was so long observed, that in the council of Carthage, when two legates attended from the Roman see, one a bishop, the other a presbyter, the presbyter was obliged to take the lowest seat. But not to go too far into antiquity for examples, we have the acts of a council held under Gregory at Rome, at which the presbyters sat in the lowest place, and subscribed separately; and the deacons were not allowed to subscribe at all. And indeed the priests had no other office at that time, than to attend and assist the bishop in the ministry of the word, and the administration of the sacraments. Now their condition is so changed, that they are become the cousins of kings and emperors. And there is no doubt but they rose by degrees, together with their head, till they reached their present high dignity. This also I have thought proper to suggest by the way in a few words, that the reader may more fully understand, that the Roman see in its present circumstances is widely different from its ancient state, under the pretext of which it is now maintained and defended.-But whatever they may have been in former times, since they have now no true and legitimate office in the Church, and only retain a mere name and useless mask of one, and since every thing belonging to them is quite contrary to it, it was necessary that what Gregory often forebodes should actually befal them: “I say it with tears, I denounce it with groans, that since the sacerdotal order is fallen within, it will not long be able to stand without.” Or rather it was necessary that what Malachi declares of similar characters should be fulfilled in them: “Ye are departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the Lord of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people.” (e) I now leave it to all pious persons to consider the nature of the lofty fabric of the Roman hierarchy, to which the papists with nefarious impudence, and without any hesitation, sacrifice even the word of God itself, which ought to have been held venerable and sacred by heaven and earth, by men and angels.
The Power of the Church respecting Articles of Faith, and its
licentious Perversion under the Papacy to the Corruption of
all Purity of Doctrine. The next subject is the power of the Church, which is to be considered as residing, partly in the respective bishops, partly in councils, and those either provincial or general. I speak only of the spiritual power which belongs to the Church. Now it consists either in doctrine, in legislation, or jurisdiction. The subject of doctrine contains two parts, the authority to establish doctrines, and the explication of them. Before we enter on the particular discussion of each of these points, we would apprize the pious readers, that whatever is asserted respecting the power of the Church, they should be mindful to refer to the end for which Paul declares it to have been given, namely, “to edification and not to destruction:"(f) and all who make a legitimate use of it, consider themselves as nothing more than “servants of Christ,”(s) and the people's “servants for Jesus' sake.”(h) Now the only way to edify the Church is, for the ministers themselves to study to preserve to Jesus Christ his rightful authority, which can no longer be secure than while he is left
(e) Mal. ï. 8, 9.
(f) 2 Cor. x. 8. xiij. 10.
in possession of what he has received from the Father, that is, to be the sole Master in the Church. (i) For of him alone, and of no other, is it said, “ Hear ye him.” (k) The power of the Church, therefore, is not to be depreciated, yet it must be circumscribed by certain limits, that it may not be extended in every direction according to the caprice of men. It will, therefore, be highly useful to observe how it is described by the prophets and apostles. For if we simply grant to men the power which they may be pleased to assume, it must be obvious to every one, what a door will be opened for tyranny, which ought never to be seen in the Church of Christ.
II. Here, therefore, it is necessary to remember, that whatever authority and dignity is attributed by the Holy Spirit in the Scripture, either to the priests and prophets under the law, or to the apostles and their successors, it is all given, not in a strict sense to the persons themselves, but to the ministry over which they were appointed, or to speak more correctly, to the word, the ministration of which was committed to them. For if we examine them all in succession, we shall not find that they were invested with any authority to teach or to answer inquiries, but in the name and word of the Lord. For when they were called to their office, it was at the same time enjoined that they should bring forward nothing of themselves, but should speak from the mouth of the Lord. Nor did he send them forth in public to address the people, before he had instructed them what they should say, that they might speak nothing beside his word. Moses himself, the prince of all the prophets, was to be heard above all others, but he was first furnished with his commission, that he might not be able to announce any thing except from the Lord. Therefore the people, when they received his doctrine, were said to “believe the Lord and his servant Moses.” (1) The authority of the priests also, that it might not fall into contempt, was confirmed by the severest punishments. (m) But on the other hand, the Lord shews on what condition they were to be heard, when he says, “My covenant
Matt. xxiii. 8. (k) Matt. xvii. 5. () Exod. xiv. 31. (m) Deut. svii. 8–12.