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for many hundred years, without approving or using these things; that church which shall not only publicly use but enjoin such things, upon pain of excommunication from the church, doth, as much as in her lies, draw the bounds of the catholic communion within herself, and so divides herself from the true catholic church. For, whatever confines, must likewise divide the church; for by that confinement a separation is made between the part confined and the other, which separation must be made by the party so limiting christian communion.” The pretence then of Rome to be catholic in any article, save only in those to which we subscribe, is so absurd, that it is to be wondered that any man should be imposed upon by her. As well might she claim to be catholic, if, instead of the new creed of Pope Pius IV., she had added to the Christian faith the religion of Mahomet; for, by the confession of some of her own most distinguished members, the one has as much foundation in the word of God as the other; and therefore they are constrained to leave this good ground, and build their novelties upon what they call the * authority of the church ;” and by this we are to understand her own authority! But should it be objected that these dominions at one time received the authority of the pope and his religion ; and that, having cast off these, we are therefore schismatics; this is to beg the question, that the new articles which Rome has added to the christian faith are the catholic religion. But instead of amusing men with such notions, why not venture upon other proof than mere assertion ? Now, in addition to what we have already stated on this subject, let us have another view of the matter. The christian church drew up, as above stated, creeds or symbols of faith, by the profession of which a Christian was distinguished from a heathen, and a catholic Christian from a schismatic. These three creeds contain the same summary of faith on christian doctrine, only that in some of them some articles are more fully opened. After stating the articles of christian faith, the Athanasian Creed thus concludes: “ This is the catholic faith, which except a man believes faithfully, he cannot be saved.” The plain conclusion is, that if any do faithfully believe it, he shall be saved; and that this is a right conclusion is most evident, for this creed only states what is to be found in Scripture, and may be proved thereby. Now, these three creeds, which profess to deliver the catholic faith, do not in the slightest degree allude to the pope or his new articles, much less embody them as part of the apostolic and catholic faith. Very strange this! The creeds to claim for their articles the title of Catholic Faith, and yet no mention of the pope and his religion! Surely if, as these men pretend, the acknowledgment of his holiness were the grand note of Christianity or catholicity, (for a man is by them, if he refuse to bow the knee to this Baal, cast out and branded as schismatic, although he in his heart believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and hold fast what the early church considered the catholic faith); surely if this be the great note of catholicity, we cannot acquit the early church of either great ignorance or a wilful intention to deceive, by sending forth as the Catholic religion, a creed which omitted the most catholic article— the supremacy of the Roman Church. But perhaps the reader will allow the early church's plea of " not guilty,” and conclude that they could not embody in their symbol of faith that which had no existence. Had the pope existed then, he would no doubt have showed the church another, though not perhaps a more excellent way. He might have thus addressed those early Christians: "My good fathers, you are very much mistaken in supposing that what is thus delivered by you is the catholic faith, and that men can be saved by believing it. No, no! but (handing in his twelve new articles, one of them asserting his own supremacy, and prescribing the oath of allegiance to him, here is the true Catholic faith ;" and his holiness might have tacked to his confession his “ extra quam nemo potest salvi.” Now let us picture to ourselves the astonishment of the fathers at seeing such a man (the “sovereign pontiff,” the “ Deus alter in terra,") before them: and examining his creed, they would one and all have exclaimed“ We neither know you nor your creed whence ye are; whereever you come from, we are quite certain that neither you nor your system are of God. Therefore, away from us; we have no part or lot with you.” This is not a mere sketch of fancy, but is exactly what has taken place in the church. The papal power has been exerted to force upon the Christian world new articles, which were not only not named in the ancient creeds, because not known to the early fathers as Christianity, but which were not acknowledged as the catholic faith, necessary to salvation, even by members of the Church of Rome. It were easy to go through these particular articles, and prove, by the confession of Romanists themselves, not that they were unknown,- for most of them were, but that is not the question,-but that they were not all defined before the Reformation as articles of faith; for this is the point at issue. The twelve articles of Pius IV.'s Creed are
1. The establishment of tradition as part of the rule of faith. 2. The exclusive right of the Church of Rome to interpret Scripture. 3. The institution of five new sacraments. 4. The Trent doctrine of justification. 5. The sacrifice of the mass-and transubstantiation. 6. Communion in one kind. 7. The doctrine of purgatory. 8. The worship of saints and relics. 9. The worship of the images of Christ, the Virgin Mary, and saints. 10. The doctrine of indulgences. 11. The supremacy of the Roman church and pontiff. 12. The assent to all things defined by the general councils, and especially by that at Trent; the condemnation of “ all things contrary hereunto;" and the subscription to this creed as the true Catholic faith, out of which no man can be saved.
Now as we are accused of having at the Reformation rejected catholic doctrines, we reply, that this is impossible: for such doctrines could not have been considered catholic by the Church of Rome herself, until she had first so defined them that no person denying any one of them could continue a member of her communion. That all these novel articles which they call Christianity were so defined before the Reformation, they cannot maintain. If they were so defined, why not produce the definitions? And how did it happen that these points were either openly rejected, or not considered necessary to salvation, by most enlightened and candid members of the papal church ? That some of these errors were in existence before they were made Christianity by the Council of Trent, no man can deny; for some of these were openly denounced as heresies by the early church; and others were the opinions of individuals or private churches, and some had been decreed by councils; but when and where had all these twelve articles been decreed as the catholic faith out of which no man can be saved ? Now, although the Church of Rome's definition is in itself of no value, for it is not in her power to make any article catholic doctrine, which is not delivered as such by God, -yet it is important to know that the articles of Pius IV 's creed were not defined even by herself as the catholic faith until the Council of Trent. From hence it follows, that if no article is to be considered catholic truth until first defined as such, then she cannot charge us with rejecting any part of the catholic faith, because she had not defined and delivered it as such. And if we be guilty in her eyes of the sin of heresy and schism, then she must have had many heretics and schismatics in her own bosom before the sitting of the Council of Trent, and indeed may have many to this day; for it will appear to any person who takes pains to discover it, that multitudes of members of the Church of Rome are utterly ignorant of this new creed, and invariably, when compelled to give a reason of their faith, justify their title to the name Christian, or Catholic, by appealing to that which they hold in common with us.
If, then, the church of any kingdom did, at any time, either willingly, or, as in the case of Ireland, by constraint, bow down to the Roman pontiff, and render homage to his usurped authority, and then after a season cut off this yoke; how can it be that its bondage should make it catholic, and its deliverance cause it to be heretical and schismatical ? The enforcement of the papal authority and religion as a necessary condition of communion with the church, was schism; the ceasing to do so, was a return to the pure and primitive faith. And, indeed, although there is not now, nor ever was, any obligation on our
part to unite with the Church of Rome, save only in that which all Christian churches ought to have,--the desire for unity and godly love,-yet, if she would cast away her novelties, the only cause of separation, and cease to press them as Christianity, or parts of the Catholic faith, there is no reason why we should not cordially unite in forwarding the interests of the Redeemer's kingdom: and if any remnant of the old leaven remained among her members, she could not be held responsible for the sin of individuals--but quos Deus vult perdere dementat prius- her pretended infallibility “makes her errors incurable.” 66 We would have healed Babylon, but she is not healed "-her schism can never be restored. Therefore, What peace, so long as her whoredoms and witchcrafts are so many? must be our language to herself; and to her deceived votaries, the warning voice“Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues !"
The question of multitude we have not thought worthy our notice, even although it is frequently used by our adversaries to prove the catholicity of their church. This argument proves too much, and therefore nothing; for, according to it, sin must be truth, because the multitude love and practise it; and the seven thousand, in the days of Elijah, could not have constituted the true church, because they were almost lost in the crowd that bowed the knee to Baal. Again, while we are informed of the church's flight, on eagles' wings, into the wilderness, we are assured that the world wondered after the beast, and that the kings and great ones of the earth were doing reverence to the apostasy: not, however, that we mean to grant that the papal supremacy has ever been so acknowledged over the earth as Romanists would have us believe. On the contrary, it will be found upon inquiry, that, even before the Reformation, the part of the earth which was subject to the jurisdiction of the Roman pontiff was insignificant, when compared with that which, however in some respects corrupted by superstition, had never bowed down beneath his iron yoke, and had never worn those chains of slavery which have been forged at Rome. But we omit the discussion of this point; confining ourselves to the simple and undeniable position, that the voice of any church is the only standard by which its purity may be tried: and a church's only voice is, not the errors of individuals, no matter how widely extended, but its public authorized confessions of faith.
This view will remove an apparent difficulty—that, inasmuch as these kingdoms once professed the popish faith, then the Church of England must, during that period, have been separated from the catholic or true church of Christ; and that, therefore, there was not any visible church left for the preservation and transmission of that which alone entitles any man to administer the sacraments of the Christian church,--a lawful call to the office of the ministry. The reply is easy. We must, in the first place, observe a marked distinction between the existence of errors in any church, and the enforcement of them as necessary conditions of communion. It is not the existence of error which constitutes the sin of schism, but the making those errors articles of faith. If the existence of error in a church were to deprive it of its being, as a church, then there never was a true church on earth; for, even in the apostolic age, many and dangerous errors had overspread a large portion of the then Christian world. Now, that papal novelties obtained possession of these countries for a few centuries, is certain ; but until the sitting of the Council of Trent, the most important of these had not been embodied and enjoined as indispensable parts of the catholic faith. There were, however, during this reign of darkness, superstition, and idolatry, more than seven thousand who were not defiled with the abominations of Rome. They were, indeed, the weaker, the persecuted, the martyred band; many of whom, having glorified their Saviour at the stake and faggot, took leave, and for ever, of the scene of all their sorrows; and, carried by angels to the mansions of peace and joy, received the promised reward, the crown of life and glory that fadeth not away. Again: we
must remember what it is that constitutes a church-that it have all those things that are necessary to the being of a church. In this sense, any church retaining the fundamentals is undoubtedly a true church, even although it may have made additions to the faith: it is true as to its nature, but as to its moral character has no claim to be a true church. To make this more evident: if by true we understand its having those marks by which a church is known, then even the papal is a true church; but if by true we understand honest, faithful, chaste, then is that church as chaste as the bride who forsakes her lawful husband, and becomes the wife of another. The papacy itself is, then, true in having those things which constitute the being of a church; but in the other sense she has forsaken her Lord, and wedded herself to a false and apostate system.
Lest, however, any of our readers should suppose that this concession gives popery an advantage, we would merely add, that it is not made because that those bishops who transmitted our orders once taught popish doctrines, but because it is self-evident; and to deny this assertion, deprives us of the power of fixing upon the papal church the charge of being the great apostasy.
From what we have here laid down, the following legitimate, indeed indisputable, inferences may be drawn.
Ist. That all those who are baptized into the faith of Christ are bound to obey the church in things not contrary to what has been revealed in Holy Writ.
2d. That the preservation of the faith inviolate is the only note by which the purity of any church can be ascertained.