Romanism: or an answer to the pamphlet of a Romish Priest, entitled "The Law and the Testimony."

J. N. Darby.

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And you have not one word, then, to say for the Mass, the very centre and distinguishing feature of the whole Romanist system!

The omission is intelligible, but remarkable. The pretension to offer Christ still, as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the living and the dead, is so subversive of Christianity, so contrary to the express testimony of the word of God, that it is natural for one who seeks to conciliate Protestants to Romish doctrines to pass over it in silence, if he can.

The best way to win to these doctrines is to conceal them, to direct the attention from them. You cannot deny that the Mass is the centre of your whole system. "He goes to Mass" is the very term familiarly used to designate a Romanist; "he goes to church," to mark out a Protestant. Why have you omitted this subject in your effort to enlighten poor Roman Catholics and disabuse prejudiced Protestants? The pretence to have a sacrifice still offered up on earth, when the word of God declares, that "by one offering Christ has perfected for ever them that are sanctified"; that "there is no more offering for sin, where remission of sins is"; that a continual offering was a memorial of sins, proving that they were not put away — the declaration that you have an unbloody sacrifice, when the word of God declares, that "without shedding of blood there is no remission," and that consequently, if the oblation of Christ was to be repeated, He must often have suffered: such a plain distinct testimony of God's word on the very point, makes it natural you should omit all mention of it. The sacrifice of the Mass is the proof that, in what calls itself the church of Rome, there is no true remission of sins; for "where remission of sins is, there is no more offering for sin."

This is a very solemn point, dear reader. If the word of God be true, there is no remission of sins in the so-called church of Rome. Hence, those belonging to it are continually, as the poor Jews were, "offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins"; for they are unbloody sacrifices, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. Romanism has a form of piety, but it denies the substance. God forbid that I should use a hard word as to souls as precious as my own, and who believe they are in the right; whom, I trust and believe, I love with unfeigned charity; such as I have lived amongst for years, and loved and served as well as I knew how. It is not want of love to speak plainly in what concerns the salvation of souls. I would not use an abusive or hard word that could offend them, but I say plainly, that that is not the church of God, nor is the true remission of sins to be found, where a sacrifice is still pretended to be offered. "For where remission of sins is, there is no more offering for sin." The church of God enjoys the perfect remission of sins by one perfect sacrifice, in which the precious blood of Christ was shed, offered once for all, and which never can be repeated; for Christ can die no more — can never suffer again, nor need He, for He has by one offering perfected for ever them that are sanctified. The Mass is but a return to the weakness of Judaism.

31 Hence this one capital point is sufficient for everyone taught of God, and must lead everyone who bows to the word of God to reject the Romish system as an entire departure from Christianity as revealed of God. Yet I will take up briefly the different points the author of "Law and Testimony" has touched upon. And, first, some general observations which I would address to the writer.

You lean much upon the Fathers. Forgive me if I think you have not much read them. You tell us, that you have taken from the authenticated work of every author you have quoted, as may be ascertained by reference to their writings. Now, that you are not personally acquainted with them, you have afforded most unequivocal proof in your pamphlet, in this: that you have supposed the Clement who wrote the Stromata to be the Clement who was, as you say, a "fellow-labourer of the apostles, who was Pope of Rome, third after Peter, and is often mentioned by St. Paul, in his Epistles." "The church, he writes," you say, "which is one," etc., and you quote "St. Clem. 7 Stromat." Now, the very smallest acquaintance with the Fathers would have saved you so glaring a mistake as you have here made. There was a Clement, companion of Paul, who wrote a letter to the church of Corinth, and who (though there is the greatest confusion and contradiction* as to the succession of the first bishops of Rome) is stated by respectable historians to have been the third bishop of Rome. Two letters have been attributed to him; one is believed to be authentic — a pious effort to compose the strifes of the church of Corinth. But (must I say so? As my readers may be peasants of the North of Ireland, it may be necessary) Clement of Alexandria, who never was a bishop at all, was the author of the Stromata. He flourished from 192 A.D. to the beginning of the third century. He was president of the school of Alexandria. He was a great philosopher as well as a Christian, but of doubtful soundness** enough on some points, and full of philosophical speculations. However, whatever the value of Clement's opinions, one thing is quite clear, that you did not consult him yourself; whether you did the other Fathers, which you quote, every one must judge by this example for himself. One thing is certain: you must be an utter stranger to the Fathers, to have taken Clement of Alexandria for Clement of Rome.

{*Some make Clement Peter's successor; others the fourth, putting Linus and Anacletus between; some seek to reconcile the two accounts by saying Linus and Anacletus were bishops under Peter, in his lifetime. Learned men are not agreed by thirty years as to the date of Clement's epistle.}

{**The very learned Jesuit, Petau, accuses him of Arian sentiments — that is, as to doctrine, for he lived long before Arius.}

32 Your definition of the church introduces another point in which the flagrant departure of Romanism from the Christianity taught by the apostles betrays itself in a remarkable manner. It is, you say, an assembly of Christians, united by the profession of the same true faith, and communion of the same sacraments, under the government of lawful pastors, whose head is the pope. Now scripture is as explicit as possible in saying that Christ is its head — and it cannot have two.

The statement of the Catechism of the Council of Trent is curious enough on this point. It says — it could not say otherwise — this church has also but one ruler and governor, the invisible one, Christ, whom the Eternal Father hath made head over all the church, which is His body; the visible one, him who, as legitimate successor of Peter, the prince of the apostles, fills the apostolic chair. One would have thought that made two. God "gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body"; or, if you prefer the Rhemish translation, "hath made him head over all, to the church which is his body" (Eph. 1:22-23); and again (chap. 5:23), "the husband is the head of the wife, as Christ is the head of the church."

33 Now this is practically very important, because the glorious Head, living in heaven, gives the true church, His body, a heavenly character, though its members may be despised on earth; whereas a glorious head on earth, greater than emperors and princes in the eyes of men, gives it a worldly character which neither Christ nor the true church ever had: besides Christ as the Head is a source of grace, which it is impossible the pope or any man can be. But the grand point is, Christ is the one sole Head of the true church; the pope is the head of yours; therefore yours is certainly not the true.

One little word in addition as to your definition. You tell us it is an assembly of Christians united by the profession of the same true faith. Hence, as there are millions in the Greek church who say they are the true church, and millions of Protestants who say they are, and millions of Catholics who say they are: and you tell me that their being united in the same true faith is part of the definition by which I shall know which is the true one, I must find out what the true faith is, before I know which Christ's church is, or if any of them are; for each of them tells me it is. Of course they honestly think themselves so; and you tell me that profession of the true faith marks the true church. Well then I must necessarily know what is the true faith, to know who professes it; that is, I find the true faith before I find the church. And so it always was; for it was on receiving the true faith from the apostles, or other servants of Christ, that people at the first became members of the church; and they did not, and could not, become so otherwise.

But, again, you give us the usual marks of unity — sanctity catholicity, apostolicity, and add infallibility, perpetual visibility. The first four are given in "Milner's End of Controversy"; indeed they are the well-known marks as given in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. Nowhere is the truth given as a mark of the true church. This is strange — still more strange, since in your definition of the church, the profession of the true faith is made essential to it.

It is very convenient to assume it as a definition, and to drop it as a mark; but you have replaced it by a very convenient substitute — infallibility, which means, take it for true without inquiry. Before, I was to take the true faith, as shewing Christ's church; now, I must without inquiry take the church and all it teaches, as securing the truth for me. Which is the right way? Both cannot be. Holding and professing the truth are not infallibility. Every true Christian holds and professes the truth, but he is not infallible. If the church professes the true faith, she holds a true faith which exists all ready to be professed, as it was given by inspiration to those whom Christ sent to reveal it. If she is infallible, she is the source of truth, not the receiver of it. Now that is true of God alone.

34 But, in giving the first four marks, you allege your system justifies you. They are those given in the Catechism of the Council of Trent. The only point I would now insist upon here is this very solemn one, that the truth forms no mark of the true church in the system of Rome. She dare not present it as a test; she disclaims it, she avoids it. She pleads unity, sanctity, catholicity, apostolicity. We will examine these just now.

Truth cannot be borne as a test. All that is taught is to be received without any test at all, though an apostle could say, "Prove all things, hold fast that which is good." They of Berea were noble in the apostle's eyes, because they searched the scriptures to see whether these things were so. But the test of truth cannot be endured at Rome; it is not pretended to be one of the marks of the Romish body. In place of that, it would impose all it teaches without any test at all — pretending to be infallible, which is the attribute of God only. Do I assert that man, by his own powers, is able to fathom the truth? No; but the Lord has said, "They shall be all taught of God; whosoever, therefore, hath heard and learned of the Father, cometh unto me." God may employ any one, a minister of the word, a mother, a friend, a book to present the truth — grace applies it to the heart; that, the church, even the true church, has no pretensions to do, though she is an instrument to hold the truth up before men; but God alone can bring it home.

On the other hand, the Roman Catholic, having relinquished the truth as a test of the true church, saying that the truth is to be searched for in vain, leans not on grace, but entirely upon human powers, to find the true church. He points out, to use the words of a celebrated controversialist and bishop, "certain exterior visible marks, such as plain unlearned persons can discover, if they will take ordinary pains for this purpose, no less than persons of the greatest abilities and literature." This is stated in reply to the marks of the true church, which the author declares to be laid down by Luther, Calvin, and the Church of England — namely, truth of doctrine, and the right administration of the sacraments. That is, truth of doctrine and the right administration of the sacraments are objected to as adequate marks of the true church, by which it may be known.

35 Now, if it be a question for heathens or Jews — for them the whole question is, just how to be saved. If they believe and are baptized, they are saved, and members, it is to be supposed, of the true church, before they have discussed its merits at all. If it be a question which arises among Christians, who seek among Roman Catholics, and Protestants, and Presbyterians, and other bodies, where the true church is to be found; if, I say, the question arises among Christians, they have not all knowledge, doubtless, but they have saving faith, or they are not Christians at all; and hence, the truth is a most sure means of ascertaining the true church. Thus, if I know, as a matter of my own salvation, that the divinity and atonement of Christ are the very truth of God, and I found everything calling itself a church which denied these fundamental doctrines, I could at once say, That is not the true church. Souls may be ignorantly in error there — may come to the knowledge of the truth and be saved; but I cannot own the body as the true church of God.

And here a great and important question arises, on which I desire to say a few words, from its intrinsic importance, though the book I am commenting on relieves me from the necessity. They quote the scriptures, and, consequently, suppose us capable of understanding them, heretics though we may be, capable of receiving proof from them. But the subject is too important to pass it over with this remark, conclusive though it be. It is said we cannot judge scripture; it is alleged that laws require judges, and the like. Now I do not go upon the ground of our capacity to judge scripture. My reason, dear reader, is very simple — it judges us. "The words that I speak unto you," says the Lord, "shall judge you in the last day." "The word of God is sharper than any two-edged sword, and pierceth to the dividing asunder of joints and marrow, and soul and spirit, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." There is a conscience in every man; God's word speaks to it, and judges everything in his heart. It is the light which manifests all things — the revelation of God and of Christ, who is light. I do not judge if the light be clean; it shews whether I am.

36 When Christ was in the world, when He spoke the words of God, were not men bound to receive them on peril of condemnation? Did it require the church's authority to lead men to receive it? All the religious authorities — authorities which they quote to confirm their doctrine — rejected Him. Are His words less binding, less true, less holy, less gracious now? The word of God is not judged — it judges. Woe be to the man who hardens his heart against it! Men did then: what was the consequence? God, by John Baptist, mourned to them, they would not lament; He piped to them, they would not dance. Hardening their consciences against the conviction of sin, they (to use the words of the blessed Lord) rejected the counsel of God against themselves; that is, to their own eternal ruin. The word (which was, and, blessed be God, yet is spoken and sent in grace) will judge them, and all who reject it in the last day; for God knows that, when He sent it in grace, He sent it with ample proofs to men's hearts and consciences that it is His word.

But a word more on this. It is not denied that the scriptures are the word of God. The Council of Trent has added seven books to the canon, never publicly received into it before, and against the express testimony of Jerome, the author of the Vulgate translation, which they receive as authentic. But leaving these contested ones for the moment (for in the New Testament there are none such), they own that the scriptures are the word of God. They own that Peter wrote his epistles as an inspired apostle; Paul his, John his, and so of the other books of the New Testament (and the same holds good as to all the Old Testament, to the Jews). Now, save the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, all the books of the New Testament are addressed to all the faithful; in one epistle, that to the Philippians, the bishops and deacons being added. That is, to express myself in modern language, the New Testament was addressed not to the clergy but by the clergy, the highest and wisest of them assuredly, to all the faithful in general, or in particular places. Now, if the faithful in general were incompetent to use them, how came the apostle to write them to them? The apostles thought what they wrote was suited to the mass of the faithful; you think it is not; which is right? And mark what a monstrous position you put yourselves in — the apostles wrote (to say nothing of the guidance of the Holy Ghost yet) in the way they thought best suited to the mass of the faithful, writing to all of them; and even in one case particularly insisting that care should be taken that it was read to all. You think you can do it better than they. What monstrous presumption! Did they do it badly, in a wrong manner, so that you can do it better? If really looked into, it is blasphemy; for it is the Spirit of God who addressed all this, save the Epistles to Timothy and Titus, to all the common mass of the faithful.

37 But another very solemn question arises here, that of the authority of God in the matter. God did address the writings in question to the mass of the faithful as binding on their consciences, directing their lives and rejoicing their hearts. Now I do not insist here on the right of every Christian to read the scriptures (though no man has a right to call it in question), but on the right of God to address Himself to whom He will, and of the sin of intercepting what He has addressed to His servants. If I have sent directions and promises to my servants, he who hinders their having them as I send them, and directly from myself, meddles, not with the right of the servants, but with mine. God has sent His word to the faithful, not to the clergy (I except Timothy and Titus, as to this argument, however profitable, and in spirit binding on all). He who hinders their receiving it, or pretends to claim control over their getting it, flies in the face of God's authority and God's own acts. To pretend to communicate God's thoughts better and more clearly than His inspired apostles, and to hinder His communications reaching His own servants, when He has addressed them to them, is a strange way of proving any to be the true church of God. And that is exactly what the clergy of the Roman Catholic system do.

But I will enter on your marks of the true church. They are unity, sanctity, catholicity, and apostolicity. You refer to some other points, which I will advert to in their place.

First, unity. That the church of God was one at the beginning, and manifestly and publicly such, is evident to every one that reads the scriptures. That it is not, if we consider it as a public visible body on earth (for the true body of Christ will be infallibly so in glory, and is so always in the living unity of the Spirit) is equally evident, from the simple fact that we are inquiring which of two or three bodies, or if any of them, be the true church. Unity of doctrine, and general discipline, which you give as being unity, is not sufficient. These may prove sameness in two bodies, as well as unity. There must be corporate unity — a single body. I therefore seek more than you do in unity. Further, your proofs of unity are utterly vain and useless; they are as true of the Greek body, which detests and rejects you, as of the Romish, which denounces the Greek as schismatic and heretical. They have bishops and the assemblings on Sundays, and the Eucharist, and the same doctrines, and the same general discipline, which you plead as proofs for Rome. You would find these in the Protestant Episcopal church too all over tile world. Perhaps, indeed, we may except a confession to a priest. But what a strange mark of unity you have given us here. It is perfectly certain that if it be one, no Christian for centuries after Christ was in the one true church. There is not an historical point more incontestable than this, that private confession to a priest is a novelty unknown to the early church. After the earliest times men did public penance for scandalous falls, and no confession was imposed as to others. There was indeed for a time one penitentiary priest at Constantinople, and, as it appears elsewhere; and such scandal arose, on a certain occasion, from it, that it was abolished by Nectarius; and his successor, Chrysostom, at the end of the fourth century, urges, over and over again, confession to God alone. Augustine's words are equally clear; so are Ambrose's. In the thirteenth century alone it was first made obligatory by the Lateran Council under Innocent III — the same pope under whom the Inquisition was established, and the Crusades formed against the Albigenses, and the atrocities of that "holy war" perpetrated in the south of France.

38 We agree that unity was at the first; and it does not exist now. There are Romanists, Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Protestant Episcopalians, Presbyterians, all composing nominal churches, containing, the smallest of them, millions of professing Christians. Your talking of unity of doctrine and discipline amongst Romanists is nothing at all to the purpose. So there is amongst the millions of the Greek church; so there is in the smallest body of Christians you may affect to despise. The question is, Is unity found in the whole professing church? If you tell me, But none of the others, save Rome, are in the truth, that is just the question to be solved, and I must first have the truth to judge by. If I have that, according to the word of God, to judge by, then I judge the Romanist system to be apostasy from the truth of God. That you are at one among yourselves proves nothing at all, because others, as the Greek body, are that also. Nay, to go further, Mahometans are, as to doctrine and general discipline, with pretty much such a schism as Greeks and Romans shew under the name of Christ. Nay, in China we have numerically more than all put together in one system, worshipping heaven and the manes of their sainted ancestors.

39 You will say, and say justly, But these are not Christians — have not the truth of God at all. But then I must know what the truth is, to judge that. I do (blessed be God!) know the sure precious truth of God, the doctrine of Christ, as God has revealed it. But when I use this, I find that you have it not.

But you have the pope. Is this a security for unity? Why, you know well that there was a time when there were three at a time, and all three set aside by a council, a general council — that of Constance. If such unity as you speak of was necessary to the existence of the true church, and the pope was the keystone of it, where was it then? and where is your apostolic succession? In which of the three am I to trace it? There was a regular double succession of popes for fifty years; and then we have a council deposing a pope;* and mark it well, the present succession of the apostolic see, and the consequent existence of the whole Romish body, depends on the right of a general council to depose a pope, and its superiority to the pope, for it flows at best from the pope set up by the council when they had deposed John XXIII. I say, at best; for these three popes are each of them sources of an ordained clergy. Again, when Pope Liberius solemnly signed the Arian creed, and the vast majority of Christendom were Arian, where was the unity of the church through the pope then? Now I will not affirm that the story of Pope Joan (that is, that a good-for-nothing woman was pope) is true; but with the real uncertainty whether it be not true, what is become of succession, as a secure test of the true church?

{*One of the three resigned; one died in a corner of Spain, anathematizing all as true pope; another council deposed the Roman Pope, John. The Spanish one had a successor, but who can hardly be said to have been one, and retired.}

40 We have touched now on the question of apostolicity, as well as unity; but, on other grounds, this mark will not help you out in your assertion that the system of Rome is the one true church. The apostolic succession of the Greek and Eastern bodies is as sure, and indeed much surer — to say nothing of the Protestant — than that of Rome. So that this will not hinder my being a Greek, or an Armenian, or even a Protestant. How will this visible external mark help me? Am I to settle all the nice questions of the Council of Constance? Am I to settle whether Urban VI, or Clement VII, or their successors, were the true popes of their day? or, when the successors of each line were condemned by the council as guilty of heresy, perjury, and contumacy, and were excommunicated, am I to consider them popes or not? or, instead of them, the third set, Alexander V, and his successor, John XXIII, and who was in turn degraded by the council for his crimes? It is a dreary scene; yet it is not I, but you, who have referred me to apostolicity as a test of the true church.

Do you say, that the poor man has nothing to do with all this? But this is apostolicity. It will not, you mean to say, bear examination. For how am I to settle apostolic succession but by knowing it exists? Is this a simple external visible mark? Why, it is a question your most learned divines are at sea about, and avoid. They tell you the pope and a general council together are infallible; but how, when a council condemns a pope and deposes him, a deposition on which the best line of your present orders, and the validity of the succession of the actual Peter, depend? Again, which are the general councils? This they dare not say; because if they admit Constance to be one, then the church can act without a pope, and depose him; if they deny it, their succession is gone, because the present popes derive their succession from this act. Am I to settle all this, before I know the truth of God for my soul, or find the true church? Where am I to find the records? How many historians am I to read? What is the authority of these authors? What a difference from the truth learned from the simple word of God! Or am I to gulp down as I find it, because Rome is infallible — I know not why?

But one word more as to the pope and unity. You tell us, when a heresy spread, a council was assembled by the authority of the pope. Now, if you have the smallest acquaintance with ecclesiastical history, you must know that all the early councils were summoned by the emperors. They were held in the east; and when Christendom in those quarters was torn in pieces by clerical contention and ambition and doctrinal discord, the emperors tried to make peace by gathering these general assemblies, none having been held (if we except that recorded in the Acts) before the emperors professed Christianity; and then it was only bishops and others within the Roman empire who met. The council of Antioch before that time formally condemned the very term as heretical which the council of Nice established as the only secure test of orthodoxy against Arius (that is. Homoousion); and this circumstance being pressed by the eastern bishops who got influence over Constantine, the affair ended in Arius being received as orthodox into what you call the Catholic church, and dying in its communion; and in Athanasius, who held what both you and I believe to be the truth, dying in banishment. And in the subsequent reign (the emperor being an Arian, and the orthodox persecuted), the pope signed the Arian creed, as a more dutiful subject than I suppose he would be now. But this by the bye; it is perfectly certain that, in the first and great general councils, the pope did not assemble them by his authority. Is this what you refer me to as securing me in the knowledge of the truth and the true church?

41 But you tell me also that I have a test in its catholicity, that is, its universality. But here the voice of facts speaks too loud for you not to sink into what is ridiculous. "It must contain," you say, "more members than any other community or denomination of professing Christians." More members! a majority! Is that all the truth of God has to depend upon? What has that to do with universality? Why, if I live in England a poor countryman, such as you address your book to (the immense majority are Protestants — indeed, save Irishmen, none else scarcely could be found), and if I am to take such a poor test as the name of a building, everybody knows that if I asked, Where is the church? I should be shewn the Protestant place of worship; all else are chapels. Indeed this test would hold good in Ireland. But is your test of the true church reduced to a majority? Go to the east, where little is known beyond their own doors, and there this simple external visible test is the certain exclusion of all pretension of the Romanist to be of the true church.

42 But some facts on this point require a little comment. You tell us that Rome has two hundred and thirty millions of adherents. Where have you found them? The fact is, that you have exaggerated by pretty nearly a hundred millions. There are in the world, on a rough calculation — for nothing more can be given here, or indeed be arrived at, as to some countries — there are in the world about one hundred and forty-three, say one hundred and forty-five, millions of Romanists, eighty-five millions of Protestants, sixty millions of Greeks, and perhaps four or five millions in all of other denominations, as Armenians and the like in the east. Asia and Africa contain a certain number of Protestants and Romanists difficult to enumerate, and scarcely changing the proportions. That is, there are about as many professing Christians who hold that Rome is right and who hold that she is wrong But who, in his senses, would take this, or the contrary, to be a means of ascertaining the true church? Had men gone by numbers, they would, in the fourth century, have gone from the confession of Christ's divinity to the denial of it with the different emperors and the same pope, who would have helped them in and out with the majority into (not unity, thank God, for some would not give up the truth for an emperor or a pope, but into) so-called orthodoxy, if majorities were to decide it. And alas! being mere professors, so it happened that they did wheel about with the turn of the tide.

I have spoken briefly of three of the marks of the true church — unity, apostolicity, catholicity. As to unity, the Romish body is one, the Greek church is one, and so of others: but general visible unity is lost, or we should not have to inquire which is the true church. Catholicity, or universality, you have given up the pretension to; you claim only a majority; so that, if universality be a test, Romanists have not the true church, nor, since there are Romanists, any other body either.

This test, by your own confession, and change of it into a simple majority (itself more than doubtful), makes the whole ground on which you search for the true church a perfect absurdity. Your own statement proves, if universality be a test, that there is no true visible church at all. Lastly, apostolicity is the most absurd test imaginable; for, while pretending to be simple and external, the succession of bishops from the apostles' day must be ascertained, or the mark does not exist at all. And in the next place Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, and even Protestant Episcopalians have it, and prove it as gaily as Romanists themselves; while the only place where it is known to be most grievously damaged and upset is in the papal succession, where for fifty years there were two popes at a time, both ordaining other successions; and at last three, all put down for heresy, and another set up by a council which upset all their claims together. I have reserved the question of sanctity: it is a painful one, and I shall speak of it at the close.

43 I shall now refer to your use of scripture. First, your quotation of it is important. It is then available, intelligible to the faithful, and conclusive. We can understand it with God's help (without which we can do nothing right), and it binds our conscience. Your use of it is another thing. You quote, for example, passages, or parts of passages (for one is applicable to the state of glory), saying, that Christ would have one fold and one shepherd (that is, no longer Jews or Gentiles as distinct people); Christ's prayer, that they all may be one; then the passage which applies to glory ("the glory that thou hast given me I have given them," precedes what you quote). Paul's direction to the faithful, to be careful to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace; a direction to Timothy to keep what was committed to his trust; and one to Titus to reject heretics. It is clear, you say, from all these texts, that no one can be a member of the church of Christ unless he holds the same doctrine as she teaches. Well, how this conclusion flows from a prayer for unity, or an exhortation to keep it in the bond of peace, is, I confess, beyond me, and, with all humility, I apprehend beyond anybody; because there is nothing in the passages you quote about the conclusion which you draw. Common sense tells us, that a person who is a member of a body, and does not hold what it teaches, is, in some respects, inconsistent. But your conclusion is utterly false; for either the church must teach some error, or no member can ever be in any error whatever without ceasing thereby to be a member of the church at all; for if he be in any error, he holds something the church does not teach, or else she teaches error.

But, though you tell us the texts prove it, you (strangely enough) give in the same sentence a totally different reason for it. The church has received authority from Christ to teach all nations. Allow me to correct an error of a very grave character, on which all your reasoning, and all the Romish reasoning, is founded. You say the church teaches. Now I deny that the church teaches at all; she holds the truth, has learned the truth, is sanctified by the truth; she teaches nothing. She is taught, and has learned. Ministers, whom God has sent for that purpose, teach. It was never said to the church, "Go ye and teach all nations." It was said to the apostles, when Christ ascended; and they went and taught, as did certain others, sent by the Holy Ghost; and the church was gathered and built up. Then those whom God raised up as pastors and teachers, waited, or were to wait on their teaching.

44 But there is authority, you allege, also in matters of discipline; but this resides in the body. The passage you quote from Matthew 16 (your text-book failed you here, or you failed it; it is Matthew 18:17: chapter 16:18 is your favourite passage of the rock, on which it is built) does not speak of doctrines, but it does speak of the whole assembly, where a man is, and not of clergy or church teaching, or doctrine. If one Christian wrong his brother, the latter is to seek to win him alone; if the attempt fail, he is to take two or three, that all may be clearly established; and, if he do not hear them, the injured party is to tell it to the whole assembly; and, if the trespasser neglect to hear them, then the wronged man may hold him as unclean and a stranger. What has this to do with the clergy settling doctrine authoritatively, or with the clergy at all, or with doctrine at all? Just nothing. But when nothing is to be had, we must get the best sounding passage we can, that there may be an appearance of the authority of scripture: with the reality of it Rome can well dispense. Shall I tell you what the citation of this passage by Rome proves? That there is no passage in scripture to favour her pretensions — not a trace of one; had there been one, this would not have been always cited, while the smallest attention must prove it to have nothing whatever to do with the matter, and that Rome is forced to pervert scripture to have some appearance of being justified by it.

This is all you have to say for the unity of the church. The unity of the church I believe to be a most precious truth; but if you place it where you do, scripture will not bear you out, because it speaks of the saved, quickened, sanctified members of Christ, called to glory, as His body, the church. There is another view of the church. It is the habitation of God through the Spirit; Eph. 2. As the body of Christ, it is surely preserved and kept; but as a responsible body on earth, its career will certainly close. A falling away will come. This is positively declared in scripture: "that day will not come unless there be the falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, who exalteth himself above all that is called God or worshipped."

45 As regards the texts to prove the universality, you quote a number of passages which do not apply to the church at all, in which she is never named, and the context of which proves to demonstration that they do not apply to the church. I shall quote one to shew how utterly untenable this application is: "Ask of me and I will give thee the Gentiles for thine inheritance, and thy possession to the ends of the earth." But continue: "Thou shall rule them with a rod of iron, and dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel." Is that the church, or judgment? Any one may see, by looking at the epistle to Thyatira in Revelation 2, that it is a judgment to be executed when the church is glorified with Christ. But your proof that these promises apply to the church destroys, on the contrary, all your arguments. You say they are to be fulfilled in the last days. To prove that the last days mean the time of the church and its universal prevalence, you quote the passage of John, which shews that the last days are those of Antichrist. Is the time of Antichrist's rule the time of all nations flowing into the church? For that s the passage you are proving applies to the universal prevalence of the church. Why, in Antichrist's time, instead of all nations flowing into the church, if any one confesses Christ he will be killed. Your friends, the Fathers, speak with the most terrible apprehensions of those days, when Christianity is to hide itself in dens and caves, and, save in such places, scarce such a thing as a Christian known, and if known, slain by apostate fury. This was a very untoward proof of your doctrine.

Another proof you give us of the universality of the church is, that the gospel is to be preached in all the earth. This is more untoward still, because this is not done yet, very far from it; as gathering the nations, the very large majority remain heathen, and a very great part have never been visited by the preachers of the gospel. So that the mark of catholicity or universality is not yet to be found at all. If all the ends of the earth seeing the salvation of our God applies to and means the catholicity of the church, then the church is not catholic yet: for all the ends of the earth have not seen the salvation of our God.

46 But you quote another — "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a testimony to all nations." Surely this word shall be accomplished; but you should have finished the sentence, for it destroys even the hope of catholicity, as you state it. It continues — "and then shall the end come." So in Revelation 14 it is said, the everlasting gospel should go to ?11 them that dwell on the earth, and to every people, and nation, and tongue, and language, saying, Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come. Indeed, if you would take the trouble to read Psalm 98 (97), which you quote, you would see it states the same truth; it closes by saying, are to rejoice before the Lord, for He cometh to judge the earth.

You tell us that every succession of bishops* and priests … communicated to their flocks and successors the same doctrine they themselves had received from their predecessors. Did they? Why the whole world was Arian at one time, save the persecuted. But that is not all. If the bishops and priests did this, why are you seeking to bring the professing Christians of (geographically) the greatest part of the world back to what you consider the truth? Did all the Greek bishops of the East do this? Do you own that they did? If so, why seeking to win them to Rome, and glorying in having here and there a little parcel of "united Greeks," and all the Asiatic bishops, and the Egyptians, to say nothing of poor England? Did they, rejecting you utterly as they do, deem they had the true doctrine handed down? I deny it altogether as to Rome. It has been proved a hundred times over, that it has corrupted the doctrine of the apostles. But I take a shorter road; because, if the whole body of Greek and eastern bishops, who teach different doctrine from Rome, have done so, then Rome is wrong; and if they have not, their bishops and priests have not communicated to their flocks and successors the same doctrine they had received. It is merely an assertion that yours have, which is just the thing to be proved; it cannot be itself a security, because a very large proportion (as you admit) have not done so. The bishops of some hundred millions, between Greeks and Protestant Episcopalians, teach quite different doctrine from Rome. Have they taught what they received? It is sadly poor ground you stand on for your proofs of the true church.

{*The author tells us, when he is vaunting the papacy, that it is the only institution which has so continued. — Law and Testimony, p. 67.}

47 As to your texts for apostolicity, I have no doubt that the Lord sent the apostles, and was with them, and will be with all who, sent of Him, walk in their footsteps and preach their doctrine, and that these will be sent to the end of the age. But how does this prove that the Romanists are these persons? Your proof is that, unchanged by lapse of time, Rome is teaching in every age the same doctrine God revealed and the apostles promulgated. Now this is just the question. In order to settle it I must know what the apostles promulgated. There is no way so good as having it from their own lips addressed to all the faithful; but when I take this sure and admirable criterion, I find that you teach all the contrary of what they promulgated. You teach that there is still a sacrifice for sin, and they very earnestly teach there is no more such. They teach there is only one mediator, and you teach there are a great many, and in most solemn acts leave the true one totally out. In the Confiteor used for renewing the remission of sins the name of Christ is not found, neither as confessed to, nor as demanding His intercession, though you have Michael the archangel and saints in plenty. You teach the pope is the head of the church; they teach that there is but one, and this is Christ; and so with a multitude of the most fundamental doctrines. I take the test you appeal to, and I find it totally condemns the system you advocate. I conclude you are not the real successors of the apostles at all, to whom these promises were made. The pretension is ruinous to you if you are not. What is a loyal man's judgment of one who pretends to be king when he is not? That he is a rebel in audacious hostility to the true king. If you are not the apostles' true successors, the pretension to be so proves you to be in bold and presumptuous hostility to the Lord, and to those whom He did send; and that is the truth. The question is not whether the Lord gave apostles and ministers, but whether you are those He gave.

You tell us to remember our prelates who have spoken to us the word of God, whose faith follow, and denounce the Reformation as setting them aside. As to the mass of the prelates at the Reformation, they did not speak the word of God or anything else to the people; and those who did preach did not preach the word of God. To know at any time whether they do, I must have the word of God to judge by. The apostle tells the Hebrews that their leaders had: does he tell me that your prelates do? How should he? Their faith was to be followed. The apostle puts his seal on it, though in truth the passage speaks of practical faith. They were to remember those whose death had crowned their profession. But how this teaches me that the pope or a priest teaches the right doctrine, no human wit could divine; nor will it do, for Protestants at least, to say to them, Obey your prelates. The question is to know whether they could own you as true prelates — a very different matter.

48 Here your mild winning preface gives place to judgment. You quote a passage which applies to the last and final message of the Lord Jesus to the Jews, and in which He declares judgment on that impenitent race, if they did not receive it; and you apply His title in sending it to yourselves, and His denunciations to your Protestant brethren, as you call them. Happily we are not Jews, and you are not Christ. Your threats do not awaken terror, but pity for your presumption and ignorance of the passage which you thus quote at random. The apostles were strictly forbidden on this journey to go to any but the house of Israel. They were not to go near a Gentile, shewing the true character of their mission.

In fine, the passages you quote, which embrace the whole world in prospect, prove, not indeed that Christ has failed in preserving the true church, His body — those livingly united to Him by the Spirit — those whom the Father has given Him (as He says, "Those whom thou hast given me I have kept"), for this is impossible; but that the visible church, those particularly called clergy, have wholly failed in acting up to the responsibility connected with these passages. They have not to this hour, though eighteen centuries have elapsed, carried the gospel into all the world. Instead of that, another thing has happened. So corrupt was the visible church, that God has allowed the greater part of what was professing Christendom to be overrun with Mahometanism,* which has spread AT LEAST as widely as Christianity; and what you call the Catholic church has had so little spiritual power, that well-nigh half the church split off from it, and became the Greek church (I am speaking according to its own pretensions, for I believe what you call the Catholic church to be Babylon); and subsequently, by the grossness of its corruptions, lost nearly half the countries which remained to it; and in others, as France, Belgium, Bohemia, and Moravia, only escaped the same result by suppressing by the most cruel persecutions the profession of the truth — in Spain and Italy burning those who had any conscience in maintaining it, and in France celebrating the horrible massacre of St. Bartholomew by medal and rejoicing.

{*Christianity, as a prevailing religion, is less widely spread now than in the sixth century. The largest of all the continents, Asia, and all the north of Africa, is lost to it. Of course within its own limits the population has increased.}

49 Have you never read so much as this warning, drawn from the case of Israel: "On thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off?" Of the professing church you have lost rather more than half; of the heathen world you have not gathered in a quarter, yet you claim catholicity — that is, universality — on such texts as, "All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God." Have you not shame in quoting it?

But this leads me to your next question — the infallibility of the church. You have quoted passages from the Old and New Testament to prove the church is infallible. First, for the quotations from the Old, if I can call quotations passages, or bits of passages, with the beginning or end or middle left out. I can hardly think you read the passages, as I have no wish to have an ungracious thought of you. But you must allow me, at the risk of being tedious, to refer to and complete those passages you have adduced. Not one has the smallest reference to the church.

The first is, "I have made a covenant with my elect, I have sworn to David, my servant, thy seed will I settle for ever." Now, allow me to say, the church is neither David nor the seed of David, nor ever called so in scripture, nor by any sober man. And, further, if you will take the trouble to read the psalm, you will find that it is a plaint that the family of David is utterly overthrown, his crown thrown to the ground, and all that is contrary to the hope founded on this promise. Now do you mean that this has actually happened to the church? If so, what comes of your argument? You are unfortunate in your quotations. You see why I am unwilling to believe that you have read the passage you quote from. Now if you apply it to David's seed, of which it speaks, the case is quite clear. It has been set aside, their throne has been cast down, as Ezekiel speaks, "I will overturn, overturn, overturn it, till he come whose right it is, and I will give it him."

50 When Christ displays His glory, then indeed the promises to the seed of David will be accomplished. Till then His throne is cast down to the ground. But in whatever way you please to interpret the psalm, it is a complaint that the promise, which you cite, as to present fulfilment, wholly failed. Is that what you think as to the church?

In your quotation from Luke there is not a word about the church, but a statement that the throne of David belonged to Christ as come in the flesh, for He is born of the seed of David, according to the flesh, but that is not the church's connection with Him.

I turn to other passages. Did you ever read Isaiah 66? This is what it says, "For, behold, Jehovah will come with fire, and with his chariots, like a whirlwind, to render his anger with fury, and his rebuke with flames of fire. For by fire and by his sword will Jehovah plead with all flesh; and the slain of Jehovah shall be many." Then he describes their idolatry and abominations, and continues, "For I know their works and their thoughts: it shall come, that I will gather all nations and tongues; and they shall come and see my glory. And I will set a sign among them, and I will send those that escape of them unto the nations, to Tarshish, Pul, and Lud, that draw the bow, to Tubal, and Javan, to the isles afar off, that have not heard my fame, neither have seen my glory; and they shall declare my glory among the Gentiles. And they shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto Jehovah, out of all nations, upon horses," etc … Then comes your extract, and after it follows this — "And it shall come to pass, that from one new moon to another, and from one sabbath to another, shall all flesh come to worship before me, saith Jehovah. And they shall go forth and look upon the carcases of the men that have transgressed against me; for their worm shall not die, neither shall their fire be quenched; and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh." Now do you believe that that applies to the church, and that it is this dreadful judgment of all flesh by Jehovah which has set up your clergy, brought out of all nations? or if you do believe it, do you think any sober Christian can think this an evidence that you have solid proofs of what the true church is?

51 Again, why did you not begin and finish the quotation from Jeremiah? Suffer me to do both for you. You begin with — "And they shall be my people." Now what precedes is this — "And now, therefore, thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, concerning this city, whereof ye say, It shall be delivered into the hand of the king of Babylon by the sword, and by the famine, and by the pestilence. Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again to this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely, and they shall be my people, and I will be their God," Jer. 32:36, etc. Is that the church? Has He scattered it in wrath, anger, and fury, into all lands; and is it only at some future restoration to its original place, that He will own it as His people? Do you believe it applies to the church? And now see how it finishes.

You close with — "I will not cease to do them good." The prophet continues, "But I will put my fear in their hearts that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart, and with my whole soul. For thus saith Jehovah; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them. And fields shall be bought in this land, whereof ye say, It is desolate without man or beast; it is given into the hand of the Chaldeans," etc. Now do you believe that God has utterly dispersed the church, and that it is only when He shall bring it back again, that He will begin to put His fear in the hearts of those who compose it? Or is it not as plain as possible to what it all applies?

But I am bound to hope that, whatever it may be of Isaiah and Jeremiah, you certainly never have looked at the passage in Ezekiel, because you expatiate on every member of the phrase you give, and shew in detail how it applies so beautifully and clearly to the church. But the middle of the passage is entirely left out, though you give it as a continuous whole. This is what comes in after "shall do them." "Another shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob, my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children, for ever; and my servant David shall be their prince for ever," Ezek. 37:25. And this is what precedes: two sticks, representing Israel and Judah, which had been separated, were to become one in the prophet's hand; these two parts of Israel, being separated, were to be united; and then it is said, "And say unto them, thus saith the Lord Jehovah, Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, upon the mountains of Israel, and one king shall be king to them all, and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all; neither shall they defile themselves with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions; but I will save them out of all their dwelling-places wherein they have sinned, and will cleanse them: so shall they be my people, and I will be their God; and David my servant shall be king," etc., which you quote.

52 Now every one who has the smallest acquaintance with scripture history knows what the two kingdoms of Judah and Israel are which were separated in the time of Rehoboam, and what the land means where their fathers dwelt, and that it has nothing to do with the church founded by the apostles. But if you will apply it to the church, instead of proving the infallibility of the church, you prove that it has been divided, scattered, given up to idolatry and transgression, and that it is only when it is brought back from this state that God's sanctuary (which it had wholly lost) was set up in the midst of them, and that then the heathen would know that God sanctified it, when His sanctuary was in the midst of them. They had been in idolatry, divided and dispersed, and had not had God's sanctuary amongst them. Do you believe this applies to the church? But it is the passage, taking what your citation has left out of it. If it does apply to the church, does it prove its infallibility? And why do you cite only a part of the passage? I will not for a moment charge you with garbling scripture in this way, and applying passages in such a manner. Your church has taught you this; you have got it in her schools of theology, and have not examined for yourself. But do you think that your church's garbling passages, cutting out parts of them, leaving out the beginning or the end or the middle or all three, is a proof of her infallibility to a sober Christian taught of God or any man of sense at all? Of course, if a person examine nothing, there is no reason why he should not receive anything, even the church of Rome, or Mormonism, or anything which superstition or fanaticism may propose to his imagination.

53 But you quote Daniel too: "In the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed." In the days of what kings? The ten kings, if you examine the chapter. Do you mean that the church was only set up after the ten kingdoms existed; that is, after the destruction of the Roman empire? But what does the prophecy say of this kingdom? A little stone, cut out without hands, was to smite the feet of the image, and the whole image was to be totally destroyed, so that no trace was found of it; and the stone that had smitten the image became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. That is, it first destroyed every trace of the empires and kingdoms of the image, and then extended itself. Do you mean that the church first effaces and obliterates every trace of the empires, east and west, and then begins to spread? There is a judgment of the earth, which you have sadly overlooked: you are not indeed the only one.

This is all you quote from the Old Testament to prove the church infallible, in not one of which the church is mentioned, and not one of which can apply to her, and if they do, instead of proving her infallible, prove she has utterly failed, and lost the presence of God, because this is the truth as to Israel who has so lost it, of which they expressly speak.

We come now to the New Testament. And here I must notice that infallibility is used in two senses totally different, and when one is spoken of or proved, the other is assumed to be so. We are sure the church is infallible; that is, it will surely be kept through this world as to its eternal salvation, till Christ takes it to glory. Till that blessed day He will always have true members of His church upon earth, will keep them, secure eternal life to them and for them. In this sense the church cannot fail. There will infallibly be a church. But infallible is used in another sense, that a person or a body can never fail in what it teaches. The church is said by Romanists to be infallible in what it teaches. Now this is a very different thing. I may be infallibly kept of God for salvation, yet never teach at all, or even fall into error sometimes.

54 Again, an individual or the church may be kept in the truth by grace, and yet have no pretension to be infallible in teaching. Now I doubt not that God will maintain the truth in the earth, and the church too; though there may be partial failure, yet in spite of failure He will preserve it. But the church has nothing to do with teaching infallibly. She has to learn and hold and profess the truth, not to teach at all. Some of her members may; but no one says they are infallible. Somewhere God will always preserve the truth, and some witness to it, in the earth. Thus, when Arianism overspread the world, and the pope received it, and put his signature to its doctrines, many, though banished and persecuted and hidden through violence for the most part, still held fast the truth. So, amid the disputes and violence which characterized the conduct of ambitious bishops (so that one very large council of them, held at Ephesus, is called "the council of robbers" in ecclesiastical history), yet God preserved the substance of the truth. And if the Eastern church erred, and patriarchs erred, and popes became Arian, still some held fast the faith and a witness for it. You may find a whole council of bishops establishing semi-Arianism at Sirmium, and accepting Arianism at Ariminum and Selinica; but yet God preserved the truth.

But no one is infallible but God. Hence, when an apostle or a prophet was inspired by Him, he spoke the perfect truth. But an apostle or prophet was not himself infallible; for Peter denied the Lord, and, even after he had received the Holy Ghost, carried away all the Jews with his dissimulation. Yet the humblest child of God, if waiting humbly upon Him, will be kept in the truth.

I now turn to the texts you quote; and first the famous passage — "Upon this rock I will build my church." Now the confession of Peter was a remarkable one; it was revealed to him by the Father Himself — a personal favour conferred upon him, which belongs to no one else. We may receive his faith, as every true Christian does; but the revelation is not made directly to us but to Peter alone. "Blessed art thou, Simon Barjonas." Now nobody is Simon Barjonas but himself, not even the other apostles, and certainly not Pius IX. Thus taught of God Peter made a confession which none had yet made — Christ was the Son of the living God. Several had owned Him to be the Christ the Son of God, but he adds the living God. So in his epistle he says, "He hath begotten us to a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead; unto whom coming as unto a living stone, ye also as living stones," etc. Now, here was more than a Messiah come to the Jews, and owned to be, as in Psalm 2, Son of God. It was the power of life in God Himself which was displayed in Him; as He says, He is the resurrection and the life Himself. Now here, in the Person of Christ, was that power of life and resurrection on which He would build His church, and the gates of Hades — that is, of Satan, as having the power of death — should not prevail against it. It is always true. The resurrection of the saints will be the great final proof of it; the resurrection of Christ was the pledge of it, and has given us a living hope.

55 Here, if I may so speak reverently, the Son of the living God, He who was the power of life, was pitted against him "who has the power of death, that is, the devil." But the knowledge of the Person of Christ, as Son of the living God, removed all question as to the issue of the conflict, and laid a foundation for the church which nothing could shake. It was not mere Messiah glory, nor the kingdom: the living God was engaged in the matter in the Person of His Son. Satan did his best — the Lord allowing it — in Christ's dying on the cross; but it only demonstrated Christ's absolute victory in the resurrection. This is the foundation of the church, so that it cannot fail — the Person of Christ as Son of the living God. God forbid I should trust a church, or be of it, which was founded on a man simply! Be he an apostle himself, he is but a man, and this will not do to build God's church upon. Is God to build on a mere man? Christ (for He says, "I will build") on Peter? It may do very well for man's church; it is natural man should build on man; but it will not do for God's. It would be impossible, and destructive to His glory. God is not going to set aside His Son for Peter.

But Peter, let men say what they will, is never called a rock.* He is called a stone; he partook of the nature of the rock, God having quickened him with this life, and given him to confess Christ in this character. But Peter means a stone, and does not mean a rock. People do not build on a stone, even if it partake of the durability of the rock to which it belongs. Peter is not the rock nor a rock; he is, as to his name, a stone. Peter having just confessed the true, living, and divine foundation of the new thing, which the rejected Christ was going to raise up in contrast with rebellious Israel; and Christ, having recognized that the Father Himself had taught Peter this great truth, carrying far beyond the hopes of Israel, says, "Thou art a stone," thou participatest in this truth; and on this rock, this eternal truth of My Person, which you have been given of the Father to own, I will build the church. The Father had revealed this great truth of Christ's nature to Simon, and Christ gives him besides the name of Peter; for the confession of truth, by divine teaching, connects a man with the strength and durability of the truth he so confessed; he abides livingly with it and by it. The Lord adds that He will give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven (not of heaven, but of the kingdom of heaven to be established on the earth); and here Peter had to serve, whereas Christ builds the true church. He used the keys on Pentecost, and with Cornelius and the like.

{*It is well-known that this is the grand foundation for the pretensions of the pope. My interpretation, though flowing from my own full conviction, is, as to the main point, nothing new. The Fathers, whom the Romanist so much leans upon, give frequently the same. Thus Augustine — "Thou art therefore Peter, and upon this Rock which thou hast confessed, upon this Rock which thou hast owned, saying, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God, I will build my church-that is, upon Myself, Son of the living God, I will build my church; I will build thee upon Me, not Me upon thee." (Sermon 76.) In the same sermon he says, "Because Christ is the Rock, Peter the Christian people": so in many places. Chrysostom says on the passage — I borrow the quotation here from another — "On the Rock, that is, the faith of his confession." Gregory I, or the Great, "Consolidate your life in the Rock of the church, that is, on the confession of the blessed Peter." Cyril of Alexandria gives two interpretations — the two we have just referred to: one, that it is Christ in whom is all the church hid safe, as in a cave of a rock, leaving poor Peter out altogether, save as an individual member: the other, that it is the unmoved faith of Peter. Petran oimai legon to akradanton eis pistin tou mathetou. (Cyr. Alex. ii, 460, 593. Aubert.) Ambrose was cited by Luther in his dispute with Eck, as since by others — "On this article of faith the church is founded." I do not quote these as the smallest authority, for, as is general with the Fathers, not only they do not agree with one another, but they do not agree with themselves; but to shew how little, after all, the most essential points of the foundations of Romish doctrine were matters of faith then, Cyril we have seen giving two interpretations, both rejecting the Romanist sense. Augustine, in his Retractions, says he had very often (saepissime) given the one I have quoted; for it was not said, Thou art Petra (a rock), but (Petrus) a stone; but that he had once applied it to Peter, following a hymn of Ambrose's and if the reader liked it better, he might choose that! (1 Retract. 21:1). Think of a Father, whom the author so especially applauds, treating this mainstay of papal authority in such a manner! He once accepted the sense found in verses of St. Ambrose, which everyone was singing; but that afterwards, very often indeed, he had shewn that the rock was not Peter; but that if any reader liked the former meaning better, he had full liberty. If that is not a solid patristic foundation for the See of Rome, I know not what is! But the good Father did once render good service to the See of Rome. A certain pope, named Zosimus, had pronounced in favour of Pelagius and Celestius; but Augustine, in spite of this, maintained his grounds and set Zosimus right, who then condemned Pelagius and Celestius, whom he had before declared sound in the faith.}

57 As to the Lord's sending the Paraclete, and teaching the twelve all things, surely this precious promise has been fulfilled. To apply it to the church is mere nonsense, because the Lord says, He shall bring to your remembrance whatsoever I have said to you. Now He has said the things to the twelve, not to people alive now. The Holy Ghost may graciously act in any Christian's heart to make him attentive to Christ's recorded words, but He cannot bring to his remembrance what Christ has said to him, unless he pretend to have fresh revelations and then have forgotten them. Hence, though the church pretends to be infallible and to teach all truth infallibly, it has never pretended to have recalled to it what Christ had said to it. It would prove the absurdity of the pretension on the face of it; but then unfortunately this is what the Lord has said, and you have quoted.

You say this states plainly what the Holy Ghost would do when He came. Quite true. But do for whom? He could not do this but for those who had heard Jesus during His life; and mark, He was to teach the apostles all things, and guide them into all truth — that is, the work which the church pretends to do is done long ago. It may be formed by this truth, have it, be kept by it; but it was all taught to the apostles. If you say, that is what we say — we have learned and kept it; we own it was all taught to the apostles, not to us; our boast is to keep it safe; then the verses you quote as a promise to yourselves do not apply to you at all, for they speak of teaching all things, and bringing all things to their remembrance which Christ had said to them. In a word, the thing was complete before you were there, as the text you quote proves. The only question is, Are you acting on, believing, and are your ministers teaching, truths received long ago? The promise is not to you, but to others long since gone. Whether you are doing so, I try by what these persons have confessedly left us. When I try this, I find you abusing their record to every false pretension to exalt self, and that you have departed altogether from the truth they taught and were guided into. The Holy Ghost has not to teach the church all things, because He has taught all things already to the apostles: the text you quote proves it. That He may apply it now to the heart is all very true; that devoted men may teach the same truths to the heathen, or build up the faithful in detail, is all true; but the truths are taught. There is no question of infallibility, because the truth is already there.

58 That the Holy Ghost remains with the church, dwells in all true Christians, acts in them, helps them, makes them obedient to the truth, and that He will never go away till the time of glory comes, I fully believe. But this does not make them infallible. There is no place for infallibility, when all the truth is there. What are they to be infallible about, when nothing more is to be revealed? That, as weak creatures, we may be kept, preserved in the truth, so that the testimony of it should be always as a fact preserved in the world, is most true and most precious, and that God, I doubt not, will accomplish, according to His sure and precious word. You say, "If the Holy Ghost did come and remain with her, and if he continued to teach her all things whatsoever the Son of God revealed to her, how could she fall into error?" Now what is the meaning of this — "continued to teach her"? Was she then ever learning, and never coming to the knowledge of the truth? Continued to teach her all things whatsoever the Son of God had revealed to her — revealed to her when? Why continue to teach her what was revealed to her? She had then wholly forgotten it? "Continuing to teach her all things whatsoever the Son of God revealed to her" has no tolerable sense. Why did she not keep by the Holy Ghost what had been revealed to her, instead of being taught anew? But I repeat, When revealed to her? It was revealed, all of it, to the apostles who had conversed with Jesus. It has not to be revealed to the church.

You quote also John 16; but it is the same thing in substance, save that, as the passage of John 14 spoke of remembering what He had said, this speaks of shewing them (not to the church) things to come. Does the church pretend to have new prophetic revelations? Not one. Where are they authenticated and promulgated with her sanction? In a word we have great pretension to authority when self is exalted; but when the test of reality is to be met, be it as to the past or the future, she is dumb. She has never authenticated one saying of the Lord as brought to her remembrance, nor dared to commit herself to a thing to come which she could shew; nay, nor any fresh knowledge of the glory of Christ not in the written word. Yet this was the remaining part of the Holy Ghost's office, as stated in John 16 — indeed the whole of it, as teaching and revealing. "He shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you: all things that the Father hath are mine; therefore said I, he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you." Now what of the past, present, glory of Christ, or of the future, has this boasting body, which calls itself the church, ever taught which is not revealed in the word given by the apostles? Let them produce, authenticated by the church, some new truth not in the word. If not, what is revealed to her? unless she boasts of forgetting it continually to be retaught it anew, and pretends this is the special glory of God, and a proof that she exclusively has the Holy Ghost — namely, that she has not kept the truth, and has to be taught it afresh. That individuals (enabled by God) may, through the help of the Holy Ghost, teach the truths revealed long ago, every one admits; but no one pretends such to be infallible.

59 But, further, the Lord promises to be with the apostles in teaching all which He had commanded them to the end of the world. It is urged (what is not in the passage) that, as it is to the end of the world, it must be for their successors. Whose successors, and successors in what? In bringing the heathen to the faith? I do not doubt that, though it be not with the title of apostles, whoever do the same service in grace will find the Lord with them in the service, according to their measure; and this is what is promised. Though secured, when inspired to reveal anything, the apostles were not infallible. They had the Lord always with them in their service; in like service, they who accomplish it will find the Lord with them, I doubt not, to the end. There is nothing whatever else in the promise; not a word about infallibility — it is not the subject of the passage, any more than the church; it speaks of the Lord's help in the missionary service they were to perform in His name. He would not abandon them in it; surely He did not.

Thus you have cited from the Old Testament passages which, you allege, speak of the church, which declare the body they contemplate has been divided, dispersed, idolatrous, doing detestable things, and deprived of the presence of God — His sanctuary being set up only when promised restoration takes place. This is a very strange proof of perpetuity and infallibility, which secures from every error; and the citing them equally curious as a proof of infallibility in teaching. From the New you have cited passages which declare that all truth was revealed to the apostles; and hence, if the Holy Ghost has always to continue teaching the church what was revealed to her, affording a proof that she had not kept the truth, and had to learn it again; an equally curious proof of infallibility and security. You quote one, a serious and important one — "But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth." The church of God has been established of God to maintain and uphold the truth; and I am sure, however dark the times, God will never, till judgment comes, leave Himself without a witness of the truth, in and by the church, binding on the consciences of men. Blessed be His name that it is so!

60 But you cannot speak of the whole visible church as having continued to be such; because you believe that half Christendom, and undoubtedly the most ancient part of it, where it was first established by all the apostles together, and the latest under apostolic care, has departed from the truth, and is not a pillar and ground of it. The Greek church is disputing with you for the holy sepulchre, and for many years the Turks using whips to keep the combatants quiet; while now we have the West arrayed against the East in a war which had its origin in this very dispute. This immense body of the most ancient bishoprics in the world has ceased to be a pillar and ground of the truth. All Protestant Europe and America have equally, in your judgment, abandoned it. It is not a promise then that the whole visible church is necessarily and always such; for by your own account a very large part (nay, if we include the Protestants, Nestorians, and Eutychians, the greater part) is not; if they are, you are not. It is not then the body of the visible church as such. Where this true church is to be found is another question; but your use of the passage is certainly unfounded. You cannot present the visible church as a security for the truth, when you affirm that half of it has gone away. If you tell me they are not the church, but we are, this is just what is to be proved; at any rate, they were, and thus the ground of securing is gone.

61 I have now examined all you have alleged for this. In conclusion I reply to your assertions. The Old Testament never speaks of the church. Paul declares it was a mystery hidden till the Holy Ghost was given — hidden from ages and generations — hid in God. Christ, no doubt, founded His church (that is, on the day of Pentecost, and in general by the apostles), but He promised to be with them, not her, to the end of the world. The Holy Ghost will surely abide with Christ's true disciples till He takes them up to glory. He did not declare that he would teach the church, but the apostles, all truth — a promise undoubtedly fulfilled; and it is equally sure that Satan's power will never set aside the church of God, and she is, according to God's counsel, the pillar and ground of the truth, whatever may be the condition of the visible body called the church; which we have shewn, by your own account, cannot be what this passage applies to. But that you are it, is a very different question.

Instead of declaring that the professing church could not fail, mark it well, the Lord has declared the express contrary. He has said, first, as warning (referring to the Jews, lest the Gentiles should deceive themselves by their conceit), "Be not high-minded, but fear … upon thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness, otherwise thou also shalt be cut off." He has further declared that a falling away or apostasy (so that it is certain that it would not continue in God's goodness to the end, for apostasy is falling away from it) would come; and that the day of Christ's coming to judge could not come till it did. He has declared that the presence of Antichrist was the mark of the last times. He has declared, the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the last days perilous time shall come (men running into all kinds of wickedness shall have the form of piety, denying the power of it); and warns the true disciple to turn away from such, and refers him to the scriptures as able to make him wise unto salvation. You seek to turn him from them, and to trust in that in which it is certain, by God's word, apostasy was to be found.

You may ask, what do we make of the promises of God? I answer, they are infallible; but he who has the scripture, the true servant of Christ who has the truth, has them before his eyes, but has all the rest of the word, so that he does not misapply them. Satan applied true promises to Christ without reference to obedience. He used the rest of the word to shew that His part was to walk with God, and He would surely have all that God had promised to the true believer. He does not look for the heirs of promise in what denies the truth, to which God Himself has referred him for warning. He knows that all the unfaithfulness of man will only glorify the faithfulness of God, and that God will certainly preserve the truth and His saints (even should there be partial failure amongst them) till Christ Himself comes to fetch them, according to His own promise, at the end. They do not count the mass of ungodliness and corruption and worldliness around them to be the little flock which is to inherit the kingdom. They do not take the tares for wheat, though it be not their business to root them up, as you have pretended to do (rooting up, for the most part, as the Lord warned, the wheat with them); but they are sure the Lord will keep the wheat for His garner, and that the Holy Ghost will never leave them till He does, nor allow the truth to fail in the earth. It shall be maintained to the end by the church taught of God.

62 But I am touching on the next point, the perpetual visibility of the church. That there is a great public body called the church of Christ is notorious. The marks you now give you rejected, when, as you alleged, Luther, Calvin, and the church of England pleaded them as such: but we cannot expect error to be consistent. But suppose I was born in Greece or Russia, and I was told that I should obey my pastors, and that pure doctrine and the same sacraments were the marks of the church visible, what would be the effect? Why I should remain a Greek, and abhor you as false. I should have to go to the Propaganda at Rome to find you out, you are so invisible in those countries. Is the true church to change with countries, and east and west? and can these be the adequate marks of it, which, in one, would make me take a body to be the true church, which in another three days' steaming would make me reject as schismatic and heretic? You are tired, I am sure, of the Greek church. But there it is, as ancient as yours, with the same claims. It has its pastors, it has its sacraments, it has what it calls the true faith, as you allege of yours, it has its visibility.

The marks you give me make me a Greek when in Russia, and you at Rome condemn me for using them when I get there, and, if I were born in Russia, persuade me they are insufficient, and that I must leave what they prove to be the true church there, and join you. Yet there are these Greeks in spite of you. God has taken care by their existence to make all your pretensions and marks futile nonsense. They are proved to be worth nothing to secure a man's finding the true church; for some of them prove two or three to be such, while the existence of the two or three proves the essential ones to be false. God has taken care that the sober godly inquirer should have patent proof, if he take the pains, that your allegations of unity, universality, visibility, perpetuity, tradition, and all the rest, are just worth nothing; because, in the dreadful departure of the professing church from God, He has taken care that there should not be unity, and, consequently, no universality; while visibility, and tradition, and perpetuity, and antiquity are as strong for one as the other, and therefore prove nothing for either. Blessed be God, the spiritual man, who has his Bible and reads it, wants no such proof. He knows that the truth of God has been perverted, the forms of piety assumed, and the power gone, the headship of Christ abandoned (though Romanists alone have ventured to set up another head, and hence are worse than Greeks), and subjection to ordinances brought in. He sees the Spirit's words fulfilled — "In the last days perilous times shall come" — the form of piety, denying the substance. But of this a word at the close.

63 Must I turn again to your use of the Old Testament? can afford to be brief after what we have already examined. You quote Isaiah 60: "Arise, be enlightened, O Jerusalem, for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee." But again, whom am I to accuse? I honestly lay it on your church, and not on you. You have left out, between what I have just copied and the next verse of the chapter, an all-important verse, which shews the absurdity of the application of the passage: "For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; but Jehovah shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee." Now, whatever is the subject of this chapter under the name (justly used after the Vulgate, though not in the Hebrew) Jerusalem, it had been in darkness, though existing, and in an awful state, as the previous chapter shews. Truth failed, and he that departed from evil made himself a prey; but now Jehovah visited her, and while all else was in darkness, light and the glory of Jehovah was here. Indeed Paul has quoted part of the preceding description to shew the awful state of the Jews. But do you believe that the truth having failed, and he that departs from evil making himself a prey, is a description of the true church? Is that indeed what the church of Rome is? Or, again, when the full light and glory of Jehovah has risen on the church, so that it is in "cloudless manifestation and universal visibility," as you say, how comes darkness just then to cover the earth, and gross darkness the people; or why did you leave that verse out? So Jehovah goes on: "In my wrath I smote thee" (v. 10); and again, "Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee" (v. 15). When and how long was this unfailing and perpetually visible church forsaken and hated of God? Apply it to Jerusalem which is named, and nothing is more simple: we know it has been her state.

64 You quote also (and the same a little before) Isaiah 2. If you take the trouble to read that chapter, you will find that it is concerning Judah and Jerusalem, and describes the blessing as being brought about by the dreadful judgment of Jehovah, when men shall go into the clefts of the rocks for fear of Jehovah, and for the glory of His majesty, when He ariseth to shake terribly the earth. Well may the Spirit of God add, "Cease ye from man."

Again, Ezekiel 17, we have these things explained by the Spirit: "Know ye not what these things mean? tell them, Behold the king of Babylon is come to Jerusalem, and hath taken the king thereof," etc., and then describes the conduct of Zedekiah, and at the close predicts the raising up of Christ as seed of David. What has this to do with the church? The seed of David is not the church.

In Jeremiah 31 it is revealed: "He that scattered Israel will gather him." Has God scattered the church? Is the church the backsliding daughter of Ephraim? Further, the Lord says, "Like as I have watched over them to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict, so will I watch over them to build, and to plant, saith Jehovah." Has God watched over the church to pluck it up? And the prophet adds, after the verse you quote, what you do not quote: it runs thus: "Then I will also cast off all the seed of Israel, for all that they have done, saith Jehovah. Behold the days come, saith Jehovah, that the city shall be built to Jehovah, from the tower of Hananeel unto the gate of the corner," etc., "and it shall not be plucked up nor thrown down any more for ever." Jeremiah addressed the Jews, and told them that God would not cast them off in that future day, and that the city should be built, and that then they who had been so utterly plucked up should never be so any more. Is this the church?

65 That God's name may be great among the Gentiles (Mal. 1) no one disputes, and that under the figure of Jewish offerings they should offer theirs, every Christian can believe; though I do not believe it applies to the church. And here allow me to ask a question. All the passages which you have quoted you have applied figuratively up to the present; now that there is a question of oblation and sacrifice, you apply it literally. Why so?

The apostles were the light of the world, and so set doubtless. But how does this prove that you are that light, or that it was to be perpetual? Though, however dimmed, I doubt not that God has never suffered it to be extinguished. The Lord is speaking of His true disciples, poor in spirit, pure in heart. Do you mean that the mass of the professing church, Romish, Greek, Protestant, or Presbyterian, are that? I have been in many Roman Catholic countries, and in Protestant and Presbyterian; and, though doubtless there are blessed exceptions, the mass of pleasure-hunters, and money-hunters, and passion-governed men, are not what the Lord describes in Matthew 5. Or do you mean that, when their character is wholly changed, they are as much light as before? Or is it the judgment of the Romish body, that moral condition or holiness has nothing to do with the light the saints should give? The Lord, on the contrary, says in this same chapter (which you take care not to quote), "If the salt have lost its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is good for nothing." You may salt other things with salt; but if the salt be savourless, what other things shall salt it? In fine you tell us, because Christ said to the apostles, "Ye are the light of the world," therefore the church is so at all times — that is, the outward professing Romish body; a strange conclusion where nothing is proved at all. The word of God says the contrary, that the day shall not come except there be a falling away first (e apostasia).