Familiar Conversations on Romanism

Sixth Conversation

Apostolicity and Succession

J. N. Darby.

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308 Bill M. But a person must know it is the word of God.

N*. But it is by its acting on his heart and conscience, and revealing God to him, that he knows it. I know what a knife is when it cuts me, and honey when I taste its sweetness. It is not a matter of proof. The word acts through grace on the soul, and I am conscious of its actings from God as sharper than any two-edged sword, and I find all things naked and open to the eyes of Him with whom I have to do, and that is God. So I know it is His word, His eye on me.

Bill M. That is true. It gets sharp into the conscience, sure enough, and makes you know what you are.

N*. Thank God you find it so, M. That is just God working in mercy in your soul, though it be humbling to find all the evil that is there, but it is God's light come into it.

Mrs. James. But even when we know it is God's word, and own it with all one's heart, sometimes it takes no effect in the soul. That is what troubles me sometimes.

N*. We are wholly dependent on the operation of the Spirit of God for profiting by it. But that is as all the rest of our history; only it is brought plainly before us when we have to do with the word. Your heart is cold and dull if you are preparing James' dinner, and very likely you do not find it out; but if you take up the word of God, where we know we ought to take an interest and the heart be affected, we find out our darkness and coldness, but so much the better. That is what is needed then, and in looking to the Lord He will help us and give it power in our souls. I find often I may read a chapter, if not watchful, and, through knowing it well, not have a thought out of it, but not if I am looking to God. Then there is always fresh light and divine power on the soul to keep us before God, and lead us on.

309 Mrs. James. It is true, sir. We need grace every moment, and, thank God, we know where grace is. May He make us diligent.

N*. May He indeed do so. The diligent soul, it is said, shall be made fat. But here are Mr. R. and Mr. D. Good evening, gentlemen.

R. I do not disturb you?

N*. Not in the least; quite the contrary. At the moment we were speaking of the way the word of God made its power good in the conscience. But we had been speaking of the beginning of what is called the great schism, which so fatally breaks into the boasted unity of the outward church, pretending, as it does, to be always one and the same.

R. I know you Protestants profess to rest on the word of God, slighting or denying the authority of the church, and resting on private judgment.

N*. And do not you rest on the word of God? We can easily judge what you are if you do not.

R. Of course I do; but you look to private judgment, and we look to the church's judgment.

N*. Well, I attach no importance to the word Protestant, save as it has come to mean a protest against the false doctrines and abominations of Rome. In that sense I call myself so as a matter of earnest faith. At first it was merely a protest of the German electors against the recess of the diet of Spires. And the rationalist sense of private judgment I wholly repudiate. Faith is subject to the word of God; it is blasphemy to judge it. As we have often said, it judges me, and at the last day will judge those who have had it, and not bowed to it. We were speaking of this when you came in. But you bring in the church between God and the soul, to which He speaks by the word, and you have no right to do that. It is openly trampling upon the rights of God in addressing Himself directly to His people, as He has. If by private judgment you mean not my judging of the word, but my having it directly from God Himself, and that no man has a right to come in and hinder God from speaking directly to my soul, then, though it be an abuse of the term, I insist, I will not say on my rights (though, as between man and man, there would be reason in it), but on God's rights, with which you are wickedly meddling.

310 R. But did not the apostles command with authority?

N*. Command with the authority Christ expressly gave them they did; but they never exercised any authority as between God and His dealings with men's souls by the word. They were inspired to communicate it directly to people's souls; but they had no more to do with judging it, or thought of withholding it, than the meanest of God's people. They were channels to give it to them, and they appealed directly to those which people had already had, and those that searched them to see if what even they taught was according to them are commended. Even when persons wrested them, as of course may be done, there is no thought of withholding them, or turning any, even the weakest, from them for that reason. Doing so is a proof men are afraid of the light, be they Romanist or infidel. As to the church's judgment, we are just come to a point where we have necessarily to judge the church.

R. That never can be.

N*. Well, now, can the church answer for me in the day of judgment? Must I not answer for myself?

R. It cannot: you must answer for yourself; but the church will not mislead you here below, and if you follow it, you will be all right then.

N*. How do I know that? Was Urban VI or Clement VII the true pope?

R. Urban, of course.

N*. Well, all France and Spain, and other places too, held Clement VII to be the true pope, so that the faithful in those countries went all wrong by following what you call the church, and were schismatics, and had no true sacraments.

R. But they ought to have recognized Urban, and not Clement.

N*. Then they must have judged for themselves, and judged what called itself the church. And this lasted, with various phases, some forty years or more; so that a whole generation died in this condition. At any rate, to be right, they must have judged the church, and popes too, for themselves, and the ablest men, and the most pious, even saints, as they were called, were uncertain, and could not tell. And some say they were not bound to know which, only to believe in the abstract: there could be only one. But then apostolic succession goes to the wall, for none could find it out certainly; and the sacraments were just as good without it, for they were not both in due succession at the same time. Further, one or other (if either) must have been the true pope, and then all the rest were excommunicated, and could, as I have said, have no sacraments. If not, their validity depends simply on the faith of the receiver. No; your system breaks down altogether here. It is absurd, with two, and even three, popes at a time, and all Europe divided between them, to keep up the fiction of apostolic succession. I do not mind any pope, and very likely neither was rightly pope on their own principles, but that does not help you.

311 R. No doubt they were sad times, and the schism produced infinite mischief; but see how God brought the church out of it. "Rejoice not against me, O mine enemy: when I fall, I shall rise again."

N*. The professing church, no doubt, was brought out of the schism at last, but Rome brought it into it. Where was unity then? And all pretension to security by apostolic succession was gone.

Bill M. I beg your pardon, sir, but you say that the pope that was at Rome was the true pope.

R. Yes.

Bill M. What, then, was a Frenchman to do? To judge for himself, and follow him, and go against his own clergy and church, or to follow his clergy in France?

R. He must follow his own clergy in France; and if he was sincere, God would forgive him his ignorance.

Bill M. But I understand they were all excommunicated and condemned by what you say was the true pope, who appears now was infallible; and how could he be all right when the right pope excommunicated him for doing it?

R. Ignorant persons cannot be expected to judge of such questions, and, as I said, God is merciful, and will have compassion on them.

Bill M. Still they are excommunicated by the true church, and have no real sacraments, and their own clergy led them all wrong. It is a different story from what I thought; that it is.

312 N*. What M. says, Mr. R., is quite true. That God has compassion on poor souls deceived by the clergy, if they look to the Saviour, I doubt not; but to pretend that the clergy or the church is a security for any soul is clearly proved to be unfounded by the facts we are contemplating. God's bringing them out of the ditch they were all in is no proof they could keep people out of it. They were in it themselves, and all that hung upon them with them. The blind had led the blind, and both were in the ditch, just as the Pharisees did the masses against Christ. For, as M. has said, the clergy that led the people, all that you call the church, in France, were excommunicated by what you call the rightful pope, while their pope excommunicated the one at Rome; and this was not a temporary accident, but they had their successors, till both were alike put down by the Council, first of Pisa, and then of Constance.

Meanwhile the corruptions in the papal government of the church increased tenfold. The popes made their fortunes out of ecclesiastical benefices, in provisions, reservations, annates, all sorts of inventions to bring money to themselves in conferring benefices. One person is said to have had five hundred benefices. The university proposed an inquiry as to who was pope, so that they were not sure; that both should abdicate, as each proposed an inquiry as to his competitors; if they would not abdicate, a general council, and, as most of the prelates were very ignorant, to have doctors and others with them, though by rights prelates alone had the right to sit there.

It is at this time that Nicholas Clemangis,* rector of the University of Paris, gives such an awful picture of the immorality of the clergy and the corruption of the Roman court, saying, that from the head to the feet everything was given, or rather sold, for money, Cardinals having as many as five hundred benefices; that the convents were brothels of Venus, and to make a girl a nun was to give her up to prostitution; nor is it denied. The famous Petrarch gives a like account of the court of Avignon before the schism. Everything bad, and nothing good, was found there. Everything was sold for gold (Raynald, 1311, 55, and Fleury, 92, 11). It was the same at Rome under Boniface, pope after Urban. Sales of benefices were regularly carried on with every kind of fraud (Fleury, 99, 26). Meanwhile much was done by the princes of Europe to put an end to the schism, and to get both popes to abdicate. France withdrew its obedience, and then Castile, to the pope at Avignon, but rejected Boniface at Rome. Benedict, at Avignon, was besieged by France, and agreed to abdicate on the Roman pope doing so. Boniface refused, but would appear before a council. England supported Boniface; Innocent VII followed Boniface at Rome; Benedict had sent an embassy to Rome proposing the abdication of both; Innocent proposed a council, and the cession of the papacy by the pope.

{*Van der Hardt's "Council of Constance," vol. 1, part 3, where all is gone through, save that he declines much as too shameful.}

313 Gregory XII succeeded Innocent; Benedict proposed conference, and refused cession, excommunicating those who approved it. The king of France burned the bull. Benedict fled to Genoa, then to Perpignan. Gregory was elected under promise to resign if union could be effected; Benedict protested the same thing. At last the cardinals of both sides met at Pisa, and then at Leghorn, and sent a circular letter, proposing a council as the only means, as the popes would not yield, and there was such exceeding difficulty as to law, and as to fact; and they blame both popes as ruining the church, and so did the council, going into all the facts, and charging them with bad faith, and even collusion. Finally they depose both, take off the excommunications of both, as it was so doubtful who was pope, and chose Peter of Candia, Alexander V, who confirmed all their acts. But Gregory, who kept the south of Italy, and Robert, King of the Romans, and his partisans, and Benedict XIII, who still held fast hold of Spain, kept their ground.

Each held a so-called general council, Benedict having a hundred and twenty prelates, but who could come to no conclusion, and sixteen only remained, who decreed he was pope and was not to yield. Gregory held a council, but could get scarce anyone to come, and fled through fear of the Venetians, and went to the south of Italy. Each of these condemned Pisa, and their pope, and each other. Pisa deposed the two as schismatic, heretic, and as guilty of other crimes, all the cardinals of both obediences being there, save one. A new council was to be held. Now there were three popes, two doubtful and deposed, and a third chosen, but it was alleged unlawfully. And this is so much the case that the highest Roman Catholic authorities are not agreed who was pope. Raynaldus counts Gregory as pope all the time, till he gave up at Constance. Bellarmine says Alexander V must be owned, as the next was Alexander VI (De Conc. 1, 8). Raynald 1409, 80) says that is nothing, as the Stephens had two numbers, one of them not being owned, and the Johns three, as two of them were not owned by many. Balthasar Cossa was the leader in the affairs of Pisa, but would not be pope; yet he got Alexander V elected, and governed under him, and then became pope at his death.

314 Dupin speaks of the schism as going on to the Council of Constance; Fleury says nothing either. Platina reckons Alexander V and John XXIII. One reason Bellarmine gives for the authority of the council is that a doubtful pope is no pope. Now I ask if, in such a state of things, we can talk of the apostolic succession. Pisa, Constance, and Basel professedly deposed popes, the two former finally succeeding, the latter not, while the latter pronounced a council to be superior to the pope. Constance confirmed the acts of Pisa, so that we have the authority of the episcopacy as to the wickedness, heresy, and deposition of both popes engaged in the schism; but it consulted without John, and, when he fled because of the charges brought against him, they deposed him. Raynald, however, treats the see as vacant, Gregory having resigned. Who was pope now?

R. It was a time of sad and admitted confusion: only God had mercy on the church.

N*. Is confusion a security for faith? or can apostolic succession be a mark of the true church, when nobody knows who was pope, and at last all were deposed?

Bill M. Who do you think was pope, sir?

R. Well, when so many great and pious men have doubted of it, it would be presumptuous for me to say. The only real difficulty lay between Gregory and Alexander V, and that was healed by the Council of Constance when Gregory resigned, and John, the successor of Alexander, was deposed, and Martin V became pope.

Bill M. But according to that, sir, the only ones who could be really considered so — at least one or other — were set aside, and Martin was nobody's successor, but new made by this council. He does not seem to be the successor of anybody.

315 R. If we consider Gregory as pope, the see was vacant on his resignation, and Martin succeeded him.

Bill M. Pardon me, sir; you say, If we consider him so. But how can I tell whether I ought to consider him so? You say it would be presumptuous to decide when so many great men take different sides, and I am told to rest my faith on apostolic succession.

R. You must take it, trusting to God's care, as the whole church receives it now, when no such questions exist.

Bill M. But this is taking it for granted that it is the true church. I was told to find that out by apostolic succession, which they pretended was quite clear; and what they said to me was not true, for it is not quite clear; and now I am told to believe in apostolical succession by the church's owning it; but I must first know it is the church, and most Christians do not believe it is the church, and do not believe in succession either. I find nothing to rest my faith on here. You are obliged to admit, and these great doctors admit, it is uncertain, and some are for one, and some for another. When I read the scriptures, I have no need of succession; I have what you own to be the word of God, and I feel it does me good. I should be lost in looking into all these histories of the popes, when even learned people do not know what to think. In the scriptures I have what I know is right, though I may be very slow to learn all it means. And, let me ask you, sir, had this council the right to judge the pope, and depose him?

R. Well, it is a very delicate question; perhaps, if he left the faith. But the more probable opinion is — and now generally received — that a council cannot depose a real pope.

Bill M. But it seems they did depose them here.

R. Gregory resigned, and it was doubtful if John was the legitimate pope, and then he could be more easily set aside. A doubtful pope is not like an acknowledged legitimate one; so says Bellarmine.

Bill M. All is then uncertain. If they could not set him aside, another could not be appointed, and you have no real succession from the one that was put in his place; if they could, there was no succession at all. If he was not pope, there was nobody to succeed. All is uncertain that I see.

James. But I do not think Dr. Milner says anything of all this.

Bill M. Ah! let us look at him, and see. Where are we to find the place?

316 N*. It is here, part 2, letter 28, cent. 15, and it is thoroughly dishonest. He says: "The succession of popes continued through this century, though, among numerous difficulties and dissensions, in the following order: Innocent VII, Gregory XII, Alexander V, John XXIII, Martin V," etc. He adopts, without saying a word of the others who had almost half Europe under them and were owned by many of the greatest authorities, the Roman succession. This for a zealous Romanist, we can understand, though an honest man would have spoken of the others. But, more than this, if Gregory XII was pope, Alexander V was not. Alexander died long before Gregory, and was not his successor. Raynald will not own Alexander as pope at all, though relating his case, and that of his successor, John XXIII. Nor could Raynald own John properly at any time; because, if Gregory was pope, John was not, and Gregory's resignation could not validate John's illegal election. Possibly Dr. Milner would say Alexander was Gregory's successor when the latter was deposed by the Council of Pisa. But to say the succession of the popes continued is not honest, for there were three at a time who claimed to be, and Gregory had been, regularly elected at Rome; and if Alexander was pope, it was by the authority of the council who set aside Gregory as not legitimate pope, as well as Benedict. If not, then Alexander was no pope at all.

Bill M. But what do you say, Mr. R., to this? I took their statements all for true.

R. It is not my business to defend Dr. Milner. I suppose he thought Gregory legitimately deposed, and Alexander V to be the true pope.

Bill M. But if you say "the true pope," I have to search out which was the true pope, and I find now other learned men do not think he was, this Gregory being there. He gives it for an unsuspecting person as a plain succession. And it is not plain, for they doubt about it themselves, and, if I have understood, put them all down at last. I see he cannot be trusted a bit.

N*. And your great historians and teachers insist that a council, instead of healing a schism by pretending to depose the pope, made it worse, for they had three popes instead of two. Clearly Milner deceives his readers here, and you, gentlemen, who rest on apostolic succession must either be ignorant of history, or seek to mislead. For two popes at a time, with half Europe believing one to be pope, and half the other, and a council deposing both as no true popes, but schismatics and heretics, and naming a third, and then leaving three, is no regular succession.

317 D. But our English succession is not involved in this.

N*. Your English succession cannot secure the whole church. Besides, it is not so sure either, for though the "Nag's Head" story is a miserable falsehood of the Jesuit Holywood, propagated by Stapleton, you would find it very hard to prove that Barlow, who consecrated Parker, was ever consecrated himself. However this is not our subject. Apostolic succession at Rome is too uncertain to prove anything but the shame of those who allege it, when once history is honestly inquired into.

But we may pursue that history a little farther. There were Still three popes, the French, the Roman, and the Pisan council pope. It had been settled that a general council should be held in three years. John, the Roman pope, called one at Rome, but nobody came. Then the Emperor Sigismund agreed with the pope to call one, which met at Constance, much to the grief of John, who was not disposed to have the council in a place under the Emperor's power (Fleury, 100, 54). John fled the council after a while, and the council deposed him as guilty of perjury, being a heretic, schismatic, and other things. Some twenty charges were not read publicly, as scandalous, but proved — as incest, adultery, fornication, poisoning Alexander V and his physician, etc. He had been a corsair, and afterwards sold all benefices for Boniface IX, then under Alexander, then for himself. This was, according to Platina and Milner and others, the true legitimate pope the successor of Peter. Gregory authorized the council, if John XXIII did not preside.

Raynaldus then counts the see vacant. Gregory gave in his resignation, who, according to Raynaldus, was the legitimate pope, but whom Christendom had wholly abandoned, and then they deposed Benedict, to whom Spain had held, with Navarre and a few others, but by whom he was now abandoned. However, on his death another was chosen, and then his line was extinct. This is a strange apostolic succession, and security by it. The council declared itself superior to the pope, and one large party, now suppressed, held that this was clearly conciliar, and confirmed by Martin. Of this I have spoken. They then burnt Huss whom they had sworn not to touch, as faith was not to be kept with heretics, and Jerome of Prague, and chose another pope, who swore with the rest he would reform the church, but when once in power forgot all that. Martin took up the papacy, while Benedict's successor was pope for himself and little else. Whose successor Martin was it would be hard to tell. It is hardly necessary to pursue the list of popes any farther. Pope Eugenius condemned the Council of Basel, and Basel deposed Eugenius; he transferred the council to Florence, but those at Basel still sat on, and elected another, Pope Felix V. However, he had little influence, and compromised with Eugenius, and resigned.

318 Eugenius at Florence united the Greeks for a time, as Milner says — that is, starved the deputies to agree; but they were all disowned on their return to the East. He had the seal of the Council of Basel stolen, to put to a decree, as if of that council, to serve his interests. The popes that followed were as bad as they could well be, and though the popes had succeeded in baffling the councils held, at the desire of all, to heal the schism, and reform head and members, yet the conscience of Europe was aroused. It seemed prostrate at their feet, and the reform of the court of Rome was in that court's own hands, that is, the hands of those who profited by the abuses and wished to keep them up. Constance had pronounced a council to be above the pope. France held to this principle in what are called the Gallican liberties; intelligence was increased, the royal power much greater by the decay of the feudal system, and the popes could not play off one prince against another as they had. They sought to aggrandize their families in Italy; one (for popes an honest pope) declared it was impossible to be one, and save your soul. He had been a stickler for the Council of Basel, but when pope he condemned appeals to a general council, for these were now becoming universal; but he soon died. Paul II undid all he had attempted to do in the way of reform.

Our old friend, the historian Platina, librarian of the Vatican and secretary to one of the popes, complained bitterly of it, saying they must appeal to kings, princes, and have a general council; so he was put in prison and in the stocks for his pains. Sixtus succeeded, then Innocent VIII. They mocked him at Rome, saying Rome might well call him father. He had seven children while he was pope, and sought to make them great in Italy. After him came Alexander VI, whose infamies are past belief — a thorough debauchee at all times, so as to attract reproof even at the papal court. He was elected to the papacy by bribery and promises, and got rid by various means of those who had bought him in, that he might not have to fulfil them. Almost all (quasi omnia) the monasteries were, says Infessina, turned into brothels, no one gainsaying it. It was currently said, "Alexander sells kings, altars, Christ; he first bought them, he had good right to sell them." He had five illegitimate children; one of the daughters kept the papal court when he was away, and opened the dispatches, consulting the cardinals. One of the brothers killed his sister's husband to marry her better; the marriage was celebrated with pomp in the pope's palace; he killed another, and the pope's secretary who had sought to screen himself under the pope's mantle, so that the blood spirted up upon the pope. He was seeking to poison some rich cardinals, to get their money, and being very hot, drank the poisoned wine himself, the servant who presented it being ignorant of the plot, and died. Is this a successor of Peter?

319 Raynald tries to hide the last scene, but nobody believes him. After Pius III came Julius, who made a league to fight the Venetians and then the French. The French king held a council at Tours, which held that the king could depose the pope. If armed for war he pronounced sentence against him, it had no force; the king should keep the decrees of Basel, and appeal to a general council. A council was attempted at Pisa, but came to nothing. Francis, king of France, and Leo, made it up. But the latter, desirous of finishing the great church of St. Peter's, farmed out indulgences to the gay young archbishop of Mentz, to whom bankers, of the name of Fugger, advanced the money, and they by Tetzel in Germany, and Sampson in Switzerland, commuted sins by wholesale, and the building was completed.

But the consciences of some could no longer bear the iniquity of Rome. Kings were glad to have power in their own kingdoms, saints to get free from the rule of such wickedness, and nearly half Europe broke with the Roman See. Conscience at Rome had sunk below the measure of what there was of it elsewhere; kings and people were weary of exactions and iniquity, and oppression, and the debauchery of the clergy, and God having raised some men of faith, all were roused, and though horrible persecutions* and Jesuitical craft pushed back the effect in many places, yet a very large part of Europe remained separated from the pope. The instructions to Tetzel are extant, promising pardon for anything at any time on confession. As to the actual course pursued, no one denies that it was shocking. The Jesuit Maimbourg (Hist. of Luther, 3rd ed., Paris, p. 9) admits that the agents made people believe that they were sure of their salvation (that is by getting these indulgences), and souls were delivered out of purgatory as soon as the money was paid.** And as they saw the clerks of these same agents carousing in taverns on their profits, much indignation was created. Is this Christianity, or apostolic succession? Was Alexander VI a successor of the holy apostle to secure grace and faith to the church? Was his illegitimate daughter, who managed the affairs of the Roman court with the cardinals in his absence, a successor of Peter?*** Since then, the popes, curtailed of universal dominion, have been more decent outwardly, though not less opposed to the truth, and harassing princes by their unlawful power over their subjects. But the succession has not been in question; all things are more decent since the Reformation.

{*The Duke of Alba slaughtered 30,000 in Belgium; and when Charles IX of France sought to slay all the Protestants in France, and thousands were massacred, the king looking on in Paris, the pope had a medal struck in commemoration of it.}

{**I have known this still promised in Ireland, in the programme of a confraternity.}

{***The accounts of Alexander VI may be seen, Appendix to Ranke. Raynald 1492 and following). Dupin (15th century, 62). Fleury, 1492, 31, etc., 1503, 6, 117 to 120.}

320 James. I am thankful to you, sir, for having gone through all this long and sad history. It is wonderful how any Christian man can take such godless people to be the successors of the blessed apostle. It is making Christianity a security for wickedness, and grace and faith identified with the worst of sin. We are to look for this grace when the most heinous wickedness abounds. That is not Christianity. It separates grace from real Christian life. Besides, I should be sorry to build my faith on being able to ascertain, and be sure of the succession of popes when all is so intricate and uncertain, instead of the word of God which one has oneself, and from God Himself. Peter's successors too cannot be more sure than Peter himself. As to Paul, they do not seem to think of any successor for him, nor of the other apostles. Yet Paul was the apostle of the Gentiles, not Peter.

321 Bill M. Well, I am shocked; who could have thought it? I see plain enough that all this cannot be the ground of my faith. They do not agree themselves about the succession. It cannot be brought down with any certainty; and it seems to me absurd to found one's faith on such a history, or to make it the mark of the true church. I do not believe God would put a poor man, or any one, on such ground as this. And how silent Dr. Milner is about that dreadful Alexander VI! Yet he puts him in, I see, as the channel of grace. It seems it can be bought and sold. I am glad, I am sure, we have got the scriptures. They, any way, are worthy of God, and a comfort to a man's heart, though they search it out. But there is one thing I am not clear about yet: why is it said that the gates of hell should not prevail against it? They seem to have done so.

N*. It was this Mr. O. would not listen to; and I said too I would touch upon it. That is said of what Christ builds, which is not finished yet. It grows unto a holy temple in the Lord. This Christ secures infallibly, and will have all the living stones built up on Him (the foundation, the Living Stone), a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, the dwelling-place of God for ever. But as built by man, however well done by the apostles at first, it is another matter. There is no such promise, then, but the contrary; and the confounding of the two is one great source of the worst of abuse in the Roman and Ritualist systems.

R. I do not understand what you mean. Surely the church of God was established on earth, and it was to that the promise was made.

N*. Undoubtedly. But there is a vast difference between Christ's building and man's building, between living stones coming by grace to the Living Stone, built up a spiritual house, and man's building with wood, and hay, and stubble.

R. Are there two churches then?

N*. No; scripture does not so speak, but what is in the counsels of God to be made perfect in due time by His power, in His own way, He always puts first into man's hands as responsible. So it was with Adam's state of favour at first. The result, according to God's counsels, is in Christ, the second Man, the last Adam. So it was with the law: first on tables of stone, then to be written on men's hearts. So the priesthood, so the royalty in Israel, so supremacy among the Gentiles. In all these was man's responsibility, and man failed; in all perfection is found, or will be in grace, and in the second Man Christ. And so with the church: it was set up right by God, but first entrusted to man's responsibility; in the end it will be set up by divine power, perfected as a holy temple to the Lord. Not a different church, as built by Christ for ever, but an external one built by man in his responsibility, the other built by Christ to be the habitation and temple of God.

322 R. But this is a theory of your own, just to enable you to get rid of the plain promise of God to His church.

N*. Nay; were it so, it would be indeed worthless. I have only referred to the plain statements of scripture; and the result even is declared as plainly, the removing by judgment of what has man for its builder; and, further, that after the apostles there was no security for its continuance in the order of God.

R. Let us hear what you have to say, for I never heard of such a thing.

James. I should be very glad to hear it too; for I could not rightly understand about the church, and what is said of it in scripture.

N*. Well, in Matthew 16 we have the promise as to the church; and a blessed one too. Simon had, through the revelation of the Father Himself, confessed the blessed Lord to be the Son of the living God. It was not that He was the Messiah, or the Christ, true as this was (in the next chapter 1 He forbids them to announce this, because He was going to suffer and to take another and a heavenly place); nor yet that He was Son of man, a title He continually gave Himself, to our great comfort and joy, for we are men. His taking that too in its full display in glory was yet to come, and He had to suffer and accomplish redemption to take it according to the counsels of God, though we know He was it, and it was the name He loved to give Himself. Nay, more, none had as yet confessed Him in the full extent of the title He here gives Himself. Son of God and king of Israel, Nathanael had confessed Him, according to Psalm 2. But the full expression of the living God, Son in the full power of divine life, this was what the Father now gave to Simon to know. This was proved in resurrection. He was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by resurrection from the dead. This was a wholly new place for man, and consequent upon the accomplishment of redemption. And this glorious truth, that Jesus was not only the Messiah, or Christ, but the Son of the living God, was the basis or rock on which He would build His church.

323 This was the real church of God, built up by divine grace and power, built by Christ Himself — no stone in it not laid by Him, and all living stones. So we read in Peter's first epistle, "Unto whom coming, as unto a living stone, ye also, as lively [living] stones, are built up a spiritual house." Here there is no builder mentioned; Christ is a living stone, and they are living stones, and a spiritual house. So in Ephesians 2, there is no builder spoken of, but "in whom [Christ] all the building, fitly framed together, groweth unto a holy temple in the Lord." Here again we have no earthly builder, and the temple is not built; it grows to a holy temple in the Lord. This surely cannot fail. What Christ, the Son of the living God, builds, though not yet complete, the gates of hell, the power of him who has the power of death, shall never prevail against.

But in 1 Corinthians 3 we have human builders, and a temple or building which is then in existence. As a wise master-builder, Paul had laid the foundation; the work was well done; but here man's responsibility comes in. Every man is to take heed how he builds thereon. Wood, hay, stubble may be built into the building, and the work come to nothing, though the builder be saved yet so as by fire. And a third case is mentioned: one who corrupts the temple of God; such God will destroy. We have a good man, and a good builder, who has his reward, the fruit of his labour; a good man, but a bad builder, whose work is destroyed, though he is saved: and one who corrupts God's temple, and is himself destroyed. Now in all this we have a temple whose state depends on builders or corrupters. The responsibility of man enters into the question, and the state of things depends on his faithfulness. Hence it may be badly built or corrupted. This cannot be where Christ builds.

It is supposed then, that it is possible that the church as subsisting here on earth may be badly built, and the work destroyed or corrupted. The pretension therefore that this must always be preserved perfect against the craft and power of Satan is unfounded: what Christ builds will. This is confirmed as to the general state of the dispensation in the Lord's own teaching and the apostle's. "Who, then, is a faithful and wise servant, whom his Lord hath made ruler over his household to give them meat in due season," Matt. 24:45. Now here the possibility is supposed of that servant set by the Lord in this place of service being unfaithful, mixing with the world and usurping oppressive authority over the fellow-servants. Now this is just what the clergy, and especially the Roman hierarchy, have done: they have mixed with the ungodly world, and they have oppressed their fellow-servants.

324 The professing church, and especially the teaching and ruling responsible body can be unfaithful and destroyed as hypocrites, and left to weeping and gnashing of teeth. Paul tells us that in the last days perilous times shall come, and then describes their state, adding, "having the form of godliness, but denying the power of it"; and desires us to turn away from such. Thus we know that the professing body, as a whole, will be ruined; that, instead of its being said, "the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved," one could only say, "the Lord knoweth them that are his."

We read that an apostasy or falling away will come and the man of sin be revealed. The parable of the tares and wheat tells the same tale, that the mischief that the devil did in the crop Christ had sown could not be remedied till the harvest came, that is, the judicial dealings of God. This did not hinder the wheat being in the garner, but it spoiled the crop in the field. As to the time this began, Paul says in the Philippians, "all seek their own, not the things of Jesus Christ"; Peter, that the time was "come for judgment to begin at the house of God"; John, that there were "many antichrists, whereby they knew that it was the last time," for antichrist is the mark which characterizes the last times. Jude pursues the development of this power of evil from his day, when false brethren had crept in, to the end of the times when they perish in their opposition.

So far from looking for successors in the care of the church, Paul tells the elders of Ephesus that he knows that after his decease grievous wolves would enter in and ravage the flock, and perverse men arise to turn away the disciples. He has no idea of a successor to his place, but warns the elders to watch, commending them to God and the word of His grace as the resource. Peter takes care by his epistle that they should keep what he told them in remembrance. Neither knows anything of a successor. Both refer to the elders already there. I find the practical ruin of the church clearly stated, and no successor supposed by those most interested in it. The Lord Himself recognizes the difference between the care of human shepherds and its effect, and the security afforded by His own. In speaking of the security of His sheep, He says, "the hireling fleeth because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep; and the wolf cometh and seizeth the sheep, and scattereth them." But further on He says, "I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck [seize] them out of my hand."

325 R. But do you mean to say that the church failed from the beginning?

N*. As entrusted to man. The apostles held their ground against encroaching evil; but the evil was there, and Paul tells us that it would break out after his departure. All that was already there. The warnings are most solemn in Jude, who reports its first inroad and progressive character. Paul tells us what the end would be in what was antichristian and in judgment; John, that in principle it was already there; Peter, that the time was come for judgment. Hence we claim as a rule what was from the beginning, nothing after it being to be allowed as certainly good, though good may have remained in spite of the evil. And further the principle of succession is a false one, denied by the apostles; and, if I look to history, it becomes a security for the worst and most abominable evil.

R. But do you mean to say that there was no succession?

N*. Certainly, in the sense you mean it; though always a ministry of the word by the grace of God. Further I find for the ordinary elders the apostles appointed them, or their delegates did. They were never chosen by the people, nor by the clergy, nor by men-invented cardinals. Your sources of ecclesiastical power have no foundation in scripture.

R. But tradition is clear as to the bishops who succeeded in every place.

N*. I admit no authority of tradition in the things of God. But we have seen that it is not. Jerome tells us that there were no such local prelates at first; that they were merely chosen by human arrangement to prevent jealous disputes for primacy among the elders; hence, even in Rome prelacy is merely a matter of jurisdiction, nothing in order is above a priest. Others tell us that John quite late went about to establish them. And at Rome the real history is pretty apparent by the utter uncertainty as to the first three, or, as some say, four: but this we have gone through. For succession you have no scripture ground, but the contrary; tradition is confused and uncertain, though the principle — the church being already far departed from the Lord, which none dare question, for the apostle, nay the Lord Himself, says so — came in very early.

326 R. Well, I must leave you at present; I will call for Mr. D. on my way back.

D. I shall wait for you. But, Mr. N*, you set aside in the strongest way not only all tradition but the whole ordained channel of blessing downwards.

N*. I set aside nothing. We have been inquiring whether it really exists as you state, or whether there are not irreparable breaches in your channel. And mark, the essential character of the great Shepherd is, that He has an untransmissible priesthood. He ever lives, and therefore can save to the uttermost them that come to God by Him. He secures His sheep and will gather the wheat into His garner. And the word of God, the truth itself, and security for it, there can be no succession in; the grace that uses it must be individual.

James. This is what we have to trust in, and can surely trust in Christ and the word of God; and I remember, the apostle commended them to God and the word of His grace, when he expected not to see them again. He spoke of no successor.

Bill M. I begin to see into it. There is a true church of saints that the Lord builds, and that cannot fail, which is not finished yet; and a body formed on earth and put under man's care, and it is predicted it would be corrupted and ruined in its state, and we see that it was.

N*. Just as it happened to Adam, and to Noah, and to Israel, and to the priesthood, and to everything else trusted to man. Man spoiled all as entrusted to him, and indeed it was the very first thing that happened; but all is made good in Christ the last man.

Bill M. But then it makes a trying time for simple people.

N*. The apostle speaks of perilous times, or, as the Rhemish Testament has it, "dangerous.'? But the scriptures have predicted it so as to confirm our faith when we find ourselves there. The scriptures give the fullest directions for them, and the Lord, who ever lives, is able to secure us in one time as in another, and we have His promise.

327 James. That is sure, and I believe, if we hold to scripture and lean on Him and cleave to Him, the danger only makes us feel so much the more how sweet it is to have His help, and how faithful He is.

N*. None shall pluck them out of His hand.

Bill M. I am satisfied as to the truth of this. The word of God is a wonderful thing; how it makes all things clear, and suffices for all times! They say one is not able to understand it. Well, I have not much knowledge in it, but I think it gives understanding more than requires it.

N*. That is just it, through grace.

Bill M. But what do you say to this, Mr. D.?

D. I think it very dangerous ground to set up one's own judgment against the church of God.

Bill M. But I do not set up my judgment at all about the matter. I submit to what the apostles Paul and Peter and John have said, and the Lord Himself. This cannot be false ground. But, begging your pardon, sir, you know we have been looking for the true church; which is it?

D. We desire its re-union; but there is the Roman Catholic, and the Greek, and the Anglican, besides schismatical bodies.

Bill M. But these are all opposed to each other; that I know as to the Roman Catholic and the English, for they tried to get me out of it, because it was all wrong, and I was like to be damned if I stayed; and they did get me out of it, because it was not the true one. And the Greeks, as I learn, condemn them, and they the Greeks; so that I have no surety there at any rate. Scripture you all own to be of God; but these bodies utterly condemn one another, and how is a poor man to know which is the true church?

D. He should stay where he has been baptized: this all own.

N*. No, sir, excuse me, Dr. Milner says your baptism is so uncertain that it cannot be trusted, and they baptize them over again, when you have done it already.

D. That is very wrong.

Bill M. But they say it is very right. How could I tell if I or my children had been rightly baptized? Which of you can I trust? And they told me I must on no account stay where I was baptized; I was outside the only true church.

328 D. Well, I do not deny the disunion is very sad. We pray, and have a society to pray for the union of all, that there may be no such sad division.

Bill M. Do you pray that the scripture may be right?

D. Of course not.

Bill M. Does Mr. R.?

D. I suppose not. All Catholics hold the scriptures are inspired of God.

Bill M. Then I had rather trust it which is surely right, than you that confessedly, some or all of you, are wrong. Besides I have learned a great deal I never knew before. They hide the truth, I find I cannot trust what they say. Who would have thought, with Dr. Milner's fine words, there was such a history as there is behind it?

D. Well, I cannot give up my confidence in the church of God.

Bill M. Are you sure you are of it?

D. Well, there are many things I am not satisfied with. We have departed from many church truths, and we shall never be right till we return to them and unity.

Bill M. Are you satisfied with Rome?

D. I deplore the spirit that will not own us, and I have some difficulties about the worship of the Virgin Mary to the extent they carry it to; but if they would leave us free on these points, unity would soon be re-established. We own their orders and sacramental grace.

Bill M. And do they own yours? Dr. Milner says they cannot; that you have no grace at all, but a very doubtful baptism. It was all this shook me when I was among you. I Now I see God can work in grace in a man's heart by the word, though I am far from being what I feel I ought to be.

D. Well, they ought to own them. If you have attended to what Mr. N* has been going through, you might have seen that we in England have escaped from all the uncertainty occasioned by the great schism.

Bill M. But Dr. Milner says your orders cannot be proved; that they cannot be proved in the time of Queen Elizabeth; that somebody who consecrated the archbishop had never been consecrated.

D. I think it can be proved, or that at least it is highly probable he was; and at any rate the one who assisted the Suffragan of Thetford was.

329 Bill M. Is that all I have to rest my hopes of salvation on? I had rather have the scriptures and the grace of Him that died for me. Very glad to learn from any minister; but when you, gentlemen, give it me as the ground and security of salvation, I find you all disown and condemn one another, and that there is nothing certain for a soul to rest upon. I do not find this in the word of God. It is sure, though it condemns me in many things. But here is Mr. R. returned.

R. I am come to look for you, Mr. D.

N*. We have just done. We have been speaking with Mr. D. on the differences between the Roman and Anglican systems, after closing our survey of the popes' succession. You spoke, when here before, of the common judgment of those who had Catholic principles alike condemning what you call our rashness who rest in scripture. Now our friend Bill M. finds more uncertainty in your discord than sure ground for his soul to build upon. He judges that, as your friends took pains to get him away from the Anglican body that he might have his salvation assured, you must think them entirely wrong.

R. Of course they are wrong in not being united to the sole head of the church, the vicar of Christ, besides other points on which they would get clear when once they accepted Catholic unity. Having got the church's authority they would get the church's truth.

N*. We are on the search for the true church. But I understand your principle, one held by all Roman Catholics, when once the church's infallible authority is admitted, whatever she teaches is to be believed implicitly, though a person does not in fact believe really any one of the things taught. So Dr. Newman puts it as to himself, that, when he joined the Roman Catholic body, he did not hold as true what it taught as vital truth. So, Dr. Milner says, every Catholic will say, I believe all that the church teaches, though he does not know what it is. This is no faith in the truth, for such an one has not even heard what it is. In the word of God I have not only divine authority but the truth itself. It is not a body competent to teach, but a revelation of the truth. Hence, though I go on learning, I have not implicit but explicit faith. I believe what I find there. I do not believe that the church teaches. The apostles and others appointed to it by God's gifts and grace taught or may now teach the church; but let that pass now. Who is this sole true head of the church?

330 R. The pope.

N*. If he then be the sole head, there is no other.

R. There can be but one, and of course therefore no other.

N*. Then Christ is not the Head of the church at all.

R. Nay, He is the head in heaven, but the pope is the head on earth, His vicar.

N*. Then are there two heads, one in heaven and one on earth? Now I know no head but Christ, and could not own any other. The Spirit of God has in a certain sense replaced Him as the Comforter; but there is one only head, that of the church as a body, and this is the way head is spoken of. "He gave him to be head over all things to the church, which is his body," and this being the scriptural sense of the head and the body, Christ alone in glory can be it. It would be simply a blasphemy to call the pope the head of Christ's body. There is only one unchangeable living head, the source of grace, that nourishes and cherishes it as a man does his own flesh, "for we are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." To apply this to the pope would be as absurd as it would be wicked. We should have a different head, and perhaps a wicked one, every few years.

R. Christ alone of course can be the heavenly head. But the pope is the head of the church on earth.

N*. But Christ is the head and source of grace to the members of His own body united to Him by the Holy Ghost. No one can be thus united to the pope.

R. But the pope represents Him on earth.

N*. But he cannot be the head of the body as the scripture speaks of it. We are members of Christ. We cannot be members of the pope.

R. But he has the rule and authority down here as representing Christ. I do not understand your mysticism about members of Christ.

N*. What you call mystical is distinctly taught in the Catechism of the Council of Trent (Cap. 2, 52, De Bapt.); only it is ascribed to baptism. Now the children or others are clearly not made members of the pope, and the pope is not at all head of the church as scripture speaks of it. You have made a mere earthly thing of the church, a great tree (to use the scripture figure), and set the pope the chief and now infallible ruler in it, of which the scripture knows nothing. It does know a great fallible system in earth on which judgment will come. But this is figured by a house, or the state of a kingdom, not by a body and a head. I say then Christ is the head of the true church which I own and bless God for; the pope the head of yours. But allow me to ask you, as you are both here, for clearing the ground for our two friends whose minds have been occupied with these questions — Do you believe that transubstantiation is an essential doctrine of the church?

331 R. Most assuredly; we should have no sacrifice without it; no priesthood, which supposes a sacrifice. In a word the whole edifice of true worship would fall to the ground.

N*. But what does Mr. D. say to this?

D. I have no objection. I believe the body and blood of Christ are verily and indeed there.

N*. But what does your church say?

D. I am only bound to believe its teaching in a general way.

N*. Well now. It is stated in the articles that transubstantiation (or the change of the substance of bread and wine) in the Supper of the Lord cannot be proved by holy writ, but is repugnant to the plain words of scripture, overthrows the nature of the sacrament, and hath given occasion to many superstitions. Now, Mr. R., what do you say to this?

R. I reject it as evidently heretical and false.

D. As a scholastic account of the manner of the change we are not bound to it, and the Catechism of the Council of Trent advises also that it should not be curiously searched into.

N*. Be it so; but saying that it is repugnant to the plain words of scripture is not curiously searching into anything, and saying you are bound generally may do to leave a wide margin to make conscience easy, but cannot reconcile its being an essential article of faith and being repugnant to the plain words of scripture. So your church says, "the Romish doctrine concerning purgatory, pardons, worshipping, and adoration as well of images as of relics, and also invocation of saints, is a forced thing vainly invented and grounded upon no warranty of scripture, but rather repugnant to the word of God." So in Article 31, you own, "Wherefore the sacrifices of Masses, in which it was commonly said that the priest did offer Christ for the quick and the dead, to have remission of pain and guilt, were blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits." Now I know that some of those seeking the union of churches say it refers to what was commonly said, and that it speaks of masses, not of the Mass. But two masses are not said at once, and excusing oneself by saying it was only what was commonly said which was condemned, is a miserable subterfuge, because the same thing is explicitly stated in the decrees of the Council of Trent (Sess. 22: C. 2). What Mr. R. holds to be essential truth and the essence of his worship, anathematizing all who do not hold it (C. of T. 17, canon 3), you declare to be blasphemous fables and dangerous deceits. You stand anathematized by Mr. R. and then come to preach to us unity and catholicity. This does not quite hold water.

332 Bill M. It is true though, and the Mass is what was made the most of with me.

D. But I hold it is a sacrifice, only commemorative.

N*. You profess to hold, generally, if you like, that what Mr. R. holds to be the highest divine worship is a blasphemous fable. What he would do to bring people out of purgatory or help them there, you, as far as the act goes, consider would lead people to hell; for I suppose blasphemous fables must do that.

D. But if once the church was one, these things would be easily settled.

N*. Well, then, by your own shewing it is not one; so according to your ideas, and Mr. R. says your common ideas, there is no true church such as you point it out by its marks. Unity and catholicity both fail; and what kind of unity is it when you begin by uniting with blasphemers? That is a strange kind of union. It has always struck me how Roman Catholics, and all who tend that way, are indifferent to truth. Now the church is the pillar and ground of the truth. With you blasphemies are no matter.

D. I wish the expressions were away.

N*. This I understand, but it would be simply your going over to what you now profess to believe to be blasphemy.

D. But I do not believe it to be so.

N*. This is a strange thing. You have professed to believe it, and have your present position by having done so. We must have the truth of God, "whom I love in the truth, and for the truth's sake."

R. But where shall we find truth, if not in the church?

N*. That is Pilate's question. I answer, in the revealed word of God; His word is truth, and by grace you will find it there. As I have already said, what you call trusting the church is simply unbelief. He that has received Christ's testimony has set to his seal that God is true, and we have the apostle's declaration, "He that is of God heareth us."

333 D. Well, I suppose, Mr. R., I am keeping you, and our continuing our conversation can profit little.

R. Well, I should like to talk a little with Mr. N* on the sacrifice of the Mass and transubstantiation. He takes the questions up boldly, I see, and on this point I do not see how he can answer, even on his own ground of scripture, which tells us of a pure offering that was everywhere to be offered. But now I must go.

N*. I shall be very glad to speak with you on it. For the present then good evening, gentlemen. We will meet the day that suits you.

R. And our good friend here will let us come to his house again.

James. Surely, sir. I shall be glad to see you, and happy to hear about it.

D. Will to-morrow suit you?

James. Any day, sir.

D. And you, Mr. N.?

N*. I will.

D. Let it be to-morrow then. Good evening all — good evening, gentlemen.

Bill M. Well, I shall be glad to hear about that. I see one thing, that what they call the church is all fallen and gone away from what it was, and their pretended unity with some of the clergy is all hollow. They are only going away just as I was, only not so simply, for any way I was straightforward, only I knew nothing.

James. But how can people be so deceived as to think of offering Christ in sacrifice now? Why, then His work is not finished, though He says it is. He cannot die upon the cross again. He cannot shed His blood again, and without shedding of blood is no remission. I cannot think how they can speak of such a thing. It is not then a finished work!

N*. It is very simple when once we know what redemption is, and that blessed work which Christ has done. But they do not know this at all; and we must remember, James, that neither you nor I knew it at one time, and when one does not, it is easy to be in difficulties and perplexities. We are not what we ought to be, and look for something to get us out of the uneasiness, and are easily seduced by what seems to offer a resource. The evil is that in this case the enemy has made a system of it, and so denied really, not the fact, but the efficacy of Christ's offering.

334 Bill M. Well, it is just the point I should like to be clear upon.

James. What you say, sir, is true. I see the impossibility of it; but it is not long ago it would have been a snare to myself. How precious a thing is faith! But I feel I ought to be more humble about it, and thankful for the grace that has delivered me.

N*. Thankful, indeed, we ought to be. And you, M., you see just what you want; you want still the knowledge of an accomplished redemption, and that, being justified by faith, we have peace with God. But He will graciously help you on, I fully trust. But now I must say good evening till to-morrow. I am never surprised that any one who does not know redemption should be ensnared by Romanism.

James and M. Good evening, sir.

Mrs. James. Well, James, I am sure we have to be very thankful for the grace that has given us peace. It is a great thing to cry Abba, Father, and know one is reconciled to God. And all through grace. All is simple and clear then. How thankful I am! But who would have thought of all this wickedness, and that the church of God could have come to this? I did not hear it all, but I heard enough. I never thought that what God set up so beautiful had sunk so low. But He warned us of it. But how it shews what man is! The Lord graciously keep us near Him.

Bill M. Well, it is shocking to think, but what I am thinking of most is how they deceive us. Though as Mr. N* said, I do not know redemption clear yet for myself, but it is not in that unholy place Rome, but on the cross of the blessed Saviour, I believe.

James. God will lead you on, and give you rest, Bill. The work is all done, and you will find peace through it yet. Goodnight.

Bill M. Good-night both.