A review by Stuart Brogden
We must, therefore, pay even more attention to what we have heard, so that we will not drift away. – Hebrews 2:1 (HCSB)
Matthew E. Ferris’ book, Evangelicals Adrift – Supplanting Scripture with Sacramentalism, is a fairly comprehensive examination of the differences between biblical Christianity and that which is based on sacramental rituals. He also provides examples of people who have crossed the Tiber River from both sides. For the evangelical who drifts into sacramentalism, the dangers are pointed out with the concern of one manning a lighthouse in treacherous waters, where sailing vessels are bound to be broken on the rocks if they drift away from the narrow channel.
In ten concise chapters, our author covers the theological crises in evangelicalism, the nature and authority of the church and Scripture, and the various departures from biblical truth posed by sacramentalism. In the first chapter, Ferris tells us, “My task is to the show that the definition of the bride of Christ put forth by sacramentalism is an erroneous one, and that Scripture is the only sure guide for the way forward in the Christian life. … I am not writing as “anti-Catholic” or “anti-Orthodox”, but rather as pro-Scripture.” (page 25) This is an important point that evangelicals need to keep in mind, as it is far too easy to drift into being against error instead of in favor of truth; and our mission is to be ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor 5:20).
In his discussion about the nature of the church, Ferris contrasts the Apostles’ teaching found in God’s Word with the progressively developed extra-biblical traditions of the sacramental church, concluding, “The final arbiter for sacramentalism returns once more, not to the Scriptures, but to the church.” (page 35), giving us quotes from Roman Catholics that explicitly confirm this. He then asks, “in what sense can the Church be apostolic if it runs counter to the model the apostles themselves left us?” (page 37) Ferris supports the plurality and equality of elders and the priesthood of all believers in the local church, pointing out the word “clergy” is applied in Scripture to the entire church, not only the elders (page 42). Anticipating the claim that there is unanimity amongst the Church Fathers, our author provides a few quotes to show they had as much variation on issues as do any group of Christians, observing that anyone who wants a clean and supporting historical record to support their view must pick and choose which bits of history to rest on, ignoring those which do not line up with their case. “The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth only in that she upholds and defends it; she does not originate truth.” (page 74)
One way that Christians fail to stay on the narrow road is to neglect church history and conclude that their traditions are biblical. Ferris bemoans the fact that many research or know church history only as far back as the Reformation (page 84), leaving them adrift in the historical influences left unexamined. In commenting on how tradition overshadows Scripture in sacramental churches, he sums up a good quote from Oscar Cullman by saying, “there is no need for a canon at all if the ultimate arbiter of truth is the Church and its magisterium.” (page 86) “Roman Catholic doctrine claims to affirm the inspiration of Scripture and that the Bible is authored by God, yet in practice it severely undermines both of these positions.” (page 102) The Roman Catholic Church demands its dogma be accepted as authoritative, while denying the self-attestation of Scripture. Rather than holding to a proper understanding of Sola Scriptura, the Roman Catholic Church is shown to truly hold to sola ecclesia (page 103). This is compounded by the long-standing position of Rome that only its select clergy can interpret the Scripture, which undermines the authority of the Bible. If the Bible is God’s Word to His people, all of whom are indwelt by His Spirit, does it make sense that only a small number of people selected by a small number of religious leaders would be able to rightly comprehend the essentials of the Christian faith? History records that these select leaders, charged with interpreting the Scriptures for the common folk often disagreed with one another and many changed their minds on topics over time. Heretics and false sons have been in the temporal church since the apostolic era and it flies in the face of history, human nature, and the Bible for Rome to claim immunity from the frailties that each son of Adam faces.
Ferris also discusses how the various sacraments within many churches claim to impart grace, robbing the gift YHWH gives of its meaning. Baptism is one of these, with infant “baptism” having its basis in the false belief that it is needed for salvation. “Sacramentalism practices infant baptism as both an entrance into the new covenant with God and as that which cleanses from sin.” (page 160). If this were true, why was the Apostle Paul’s priority on gospel proclamation (1 Cor 1:14 – 17 & 9:22)? Further, he asks, “If baptism is indeed effective in imparting new life, in washing away sin, in putting one into the church, how is it that so many people who have undergone infant baptism manifest no signs of divine life whatsoever?” (page 166)
Chapters 7 and 8 are excellent reviews of the unbiblical view that sacraments convey grace and that mystical doctrine of Mary worship and veneration. Chapter 9 explores the spurious notion that there is theological and doctrinal unity within the Roman Catholic Church – pointing out there is as much variety within that religion as they claim there is amongst evangelicals.
The final chapter asks, “To Whom Shall We Go?” – and points out that “By insisting on the mediation of the Church in every aspect of the believer’s interaction with God, sacramentalism replaces the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian.” (page 223) Ferris gives the reader an excellent, concise review of the difference between the Roman view of infused grace and the biblical view of imputed grace as the means of saving sinners. The catechism of the Roman Catholic Church declares that the sacraments are necessary for salvation. Our author observes, “There is no experience of God, no conversion, and indeed no final salvation apart from engaging in the ritual acts defined by the Church. This is diametrically opposed to justification by faith in Christ alone. It is the system, rather than the Savior that assumes the importance in sacramentalism.” (page 225) In light of these dangers that we can drift into, to whom shall we go? As Peter rightly understood, we must flee to Christ Jesus – He has the words of eternal life (John 6:68). And so our faithful author points us to the Word Himself. “Every problem, every shortcoming, every doctrinal aberration with evangelicalism, and indeed with any branch of the church, is solved only by an intentional and sustained engagement with scripture. … Embracing sacramentalism will only lead believers further away from the truth that a relationship, not a ritual, is the scripturally ordained way of growth in Christ. Those who drift away can only regain their moorings by once again submitting to the Bible for everything in their Christian live.” (pages 228 & 229)
This book is a most excellent encouragement to the saints of God and, I pray, a wakeup call to those who are drifting into dangerous waters in the Tiber River. To God alone be the glory and honor and dominion and power – now and forever!
“This doctrine of transubstantiation never fascinated me. I felt a certain reluctance to kneel before those external elements. Something in me refused to offer prayers to the Host. A God localized by the forms of bread and wine was against the grain of my deepest religious sentiments. I felt it difficult to lift up my soul to a God Who appeared to me in those dead things. I could not really discover the splendor of the glorified Savior in the Host that I was eating.
“Roman Catholic authors are also aware of this difficulty. They never mention “Jesus who is in my stomach,” but speak of “Jesus who rests on my heart.” Involuntarily they change over in some way to a spiritualization of the formula: “This IS my body!” And indeed, what is the point in transubstantiation? What use is it to me if Jesus ultimately lands in my stomach in the shape of bread and wine?
“The truly great thing is my living communion with the Savior. What good is a bodily presence in those forms? They only divert my attention from the glorious shape of my Redeemer. Jesus appears to me through His Word and Spirit. I rest on Him as He reveals Himself in His Gospel.”
I ran across this article a few days ago and think it sums up very concisely several arguments as to why a child of God cannot peacefully remain in the Roman Catholic Church. It is simply not a Christian religion.
While I’ve been overwhelmed with the positive response about last week’s article, “Why Evangelicals and Roman Catholics Cannot Be Together,” some seem to not quite grasp the reason for it. After all, they say that they have neighbors or family members who really love Jesus, who attend a Roman Catholic Church. While I have spoken to many Catholics and have yet to meet one who can explain the Gospel, I am sure that at least in America there has to be some believers who Sunday after Sunday are attending RCC’s. If you are one of these people, here are four reasons you need to leave today. Or if you know someone whom you believe to be born again, here are four reasons you need to encourage them to leave.
You are severed from the Church body
The weekly Church gathering is not about evangelism. It’s about worship, fellowship and equipping (Eph 4:11-15). We love for unbelievers to come to Church and see the radical difference between how Christians love one another and how the world loves one another. We love for unbelievers to come to our services and be exposed to the preaching of the Word. But ultimately the Church is literally made up only of the saints. It is foolish to go to a place on Sunday morning, instead of Church, for the purpose of “evangelism”. Sundays are not for evangelism. Let me clarify because many Sundays I do evangelize someone, but ultimately the gathering of the believers has been instituted by Christ for mutual encouragement and serving each other, not to evangelize each other. If you go to a “church” where the majority of the people around you are unsaved then you are disobeying Hebrews 10:24-25. If you are a believer attending a RCC, then Christ wants you to leave and join a church where HE is the head. You have gifts the Holy Spirit has given to you that you need to be using to serve your fellow Christians. The one-another’s are for believers not unbelievers.
You are missing out on expository preaching
I contend that the main avenue Christ uses to sanctify his bride as a whole is through the weekly exposition of the Scripture. God has gifted certain men with the ability and time to study His Word in depth, and has blessed the Church with the Sunday morning gathering of the saints. It is crucial that we are part of a church that preaches through the Bible. It is imperative that we sit under solid teaching. I have never met a priest who preaches through the Bible verse by verse. Paul’s charge to Timothy was to preach the word (2 Tim 4:2) and to rightly handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15). This simply does not happen in the RCC and any believer who subjects himself to false teaching will be affected by it more than they can affect those around them.
You can’t reform an apostate religion
I sometimes hear that there are genuine believers attending RCC’s, and they are there for the purpose of being a light in a dark place. They agree that Catholicism is a dead religion without the true Gospel, but that they are so concerned for their friends and families that they choose to stay and reform from the inside. I understand this attitude and I truly appreciate the intent and the desire to reach people for Christ, but we have a misunderstanding of what the Church is meant to be when we do this. We also have a inflated view of our ability to do what the apostle Peter and James couldn’t do with Judaism, though it seemed that they tried, and what Luther and Calvin couldn’t do in the Roman Catholic Church and ultimately had to branch off and start new churches.
You are blaspheming God
I pray that this statement will come across with love and with a concerned heart attitude. But if you are attending a mass then you are blaspheming God. As we saw in last week’s post, each time you eat the bread and drink the wine you are saying that Christ’s sacrifice on the cross two-thousand years ago was not sufficient and that Christ must continue to die each and every week. While you may be taking it as a symbol and in thankfulness to your Savior, the RCC is saying that Jesus is still on the cross and must continue dying for last week’s sins. Jesus is not still on the cross. His death was effectual in what was intended. He died Once and for all for sin (I beg you to read carefully Hebrews 10:10-18), and shouted “It Is Finished!” He does not need to continue dying, and the blood he shed that day was sufficient to cover all our sin, past, present and future. When we partake in the RCC communion we are blaspheming Christ by telling Him that His death and resurrection was unsuccessful.
So many people are bothered with posts like these. They feel like it’s unloving and unaccepting to tell someone they are wrong or doing the wrong thing. I beg you to reconsider. I believe it’s unloving to allow your friends and neighbors to continue going to a “church” Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, that is not going to provide for them spiritually and where they will be forced to insult Jesus.
If you wish to learn more about evangelizing Catholics consider these tools.
A review by Stuart Brogden
I tried to give this book, My God and My All – The Life of Saint Francis of Assisi, an honest opportunity to impress me. Elizabeth Goudge was a 20th century novelist and it is most appropriate that a fiction author wrote about this topic. The cover art gives us a peak into the perspective the reader will face: it’s a well-known (in Roman Catholic circles) painting of Francis in prayer. His hands are crossed over his chest and there is a nail hole visible in his left hand. Several segments within the Roman Catholic Church believe they are obedient to Scripture when they punish their bodies in imitation of the physical punishment our Lord took upon Himself in obedience to His call as being born under the Law, cursed for the sake of those He was sent to save. This may also be a twisted view of Colossians 1:24. Sam Storms has a very good analysis of this verse (posted here: http://www.samstorms.com/all-articles/post/filling-up-the-afflictions-of-christ–1:24-) that, may it please the Lord, will help some Roman Catholics see the truth of Scripture on this topic.
It is fitting that a novelist wrote this book for two reasons. First, the book is a fictionalized account of Francis’ life. Secondly, it presents a thoroughly Roman Catholic view of Francis’ life, which is as much a work of fiction as is every distinctive of that religion. I’ll focus on this second aspect, as fiction presented as truth is a danger that we cannot blithely ignore. And we see this false religion on pages 1 and 2:
In the case of those whom we call the saints, this power is immeasurable. They are the true makers of men. Other great men may alter the material aspect of life for millions, but the saints make us for eternity. By emptying themselves, by getting rid of self altogether, they become the channels of God’s creative power and by him, through them, we are made. … And so his (Francis’) power lives on and we cannot measure it because it is nowhere near its end.
The Bible calls all of His redeemed people, saints. There is no determination by any man-made religion as to whom is worthy of being identified as such. The one who plants and the one who waters are nothing – the growth comes from God and He, alone, is everything (1 Cor 3:7). The “saints” of Rome do not “make us for eternity,” they were in every bit the same need of God’s grace to be saved as any other men. There are no “great men” in the world or in the body of Christ; all men are weak and sinful and the only good we have claim to is the good He (not any religious pretender) works in and through us.
Another short insight into the dual nature of this being a novel: on page 6 the author shows us her method of weaving this story together, speaking of Francis’ birth:
Tradition says it was long and hard and that as the hours passed and her child was not born she asked to be taken to the stable that adjoined the house, that she might feel a little nearer to Mary, the Mother of God, and that in the stable her child was born. Today the little place is a chapel, the Chapel of the Infant Francis.
Many Roman Catholics deify Mary, who was a sinner used by God, not a sinless woman God was fortunate to have on His team. She was the mother of Jesus, the man, not God. Jesus, being eternally existent as the second member of the Trinity, was not born of a women in the sense that would validate this phrase beloved by Rome – Mary, mother of God. That is a blasphemous statement, but not seen as such by those who worship Mary. We also see here the practice of building a shrine at “sacred places,” as if Jesus did not have the conversation with the Samaritan woman in John 4. Places are not sacred in the Christian world, only in the pagan world. God’s people (individually and corporately) are His temple (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19; Eph 2:17 – 22). He does not require nor even want temples made by human hands (Acts 7:48; 17:24) and when men make ornate buildings as places of worship, the tendency is to take pleasure in the grand architecture and the images normally found therein – forgetting the God Who made all things and is Lord of all things.
Francis was, as many Roman Catholics are, a mystic who imagined he heard direct from God apart from His Word (page 22). In one such moment he dreamed YHWH revealed the perfect bride for him, “Lady Poverty” (page 21). And by so determining he must deny self by becoming temporally poor, “Francis entered upon this battle of winning himself for God.” (page 22) This reveals one danger of the mystical life: a person can be misled by various voices which lead away from God’s Word. This shows up again on page 28 as Francis “heard the Lord speaking with the voice of a friend, and saying, ‘Francis, go and repair my church, which as thou seest is wholly in ruin.” In focusing on the crucifix, Francis “realized that though the sufferings of Christ in his human body were ended yet the At-one-ment was always going on. Christ still reigned from the cross, looking out over the suffering world, drawing all men to himself on his cross that might unite them to God in himself.” When Jesus finished His work of redemption, He sat down at the right hand of God (Heb 1:3). He is not still hanging on the cross!
Francis is recorded in this novel as working on the rebuilding of three buildings, which are called churches. This is a vital error, putting places in the place of the body of Christ, as noted earlier. Of His church, the Lord said He would build her (Matt 16:18), this spiritual building that is the work of God alone. He does not need the help of men, although He does command us to be obedient in proclaiming the gospel to men everywhere and to disciple the saints within the local church.
Chapter 5 carries the book’s title and describes the Roman Catholic mass as the center of worship. “Nothing could be greater than the coming of Christ the King in the sacrament of the altar. Soon the little church would be as holy as the courts of heaven” (page 50). So much of the Roman religion is taken from the Jewish religion without any discernment. The New Covenant church has no altar, and Christ the King is not offered up on any altar! His empty cross serves as a spiritual altar (Heb 13:10). Note how this is explained by the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary:
Christianity and Judaism are so totally distinct, that “they who serve the (Jewish) tabernacle,” have no right to eat our spiritual Gospel meat, namely, the Jewish priests, and those who follow their guidance in serving the ceremonial ordinance. He says, “serve the tabernacle,” not “serve in the tabernacle.” Contrast with this servile worship ours.
an altar—the cross of Christ, whereon His body was offered. The Lord’s table represents this altar, the cross; as the bread and wine represent the sacrifice offered on it. Our meat, which we by faith spiritually eat, is the flesh of Christ, in contrast to the typical ceremonial meats. The two cannot be combined (Gal 5:2). That not a literal eating of the sacrifice of Christ is meant in the Lord’s Supper, but a spiritual is meant, appears from comparing Heb 13:9 with Heb 13:10, “with grace, not with meats.”
The last thing I will briefly cover comes from chapter 6 – The Rule. We have a snippet written by Francis wherein he reveals his authority: the pope. “And when the Lord gave me some brothers, no one showed me what I ought to do, but the Most High himself revealed to me that I should according to the form of the holy gospel. And I cause it to be written in a few words and simply, and the pope confirmed it for me.” Also on page 73 the author says “Francis was a devoted and loyal son of the Church.” When Francis and his brothers formed their group, “Francis promised obedience and reverence to both Innocent and his successors after him. All the brothers were to take the three evangelical vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and they were to live without any property whatever” (pages 74 & 75). These “evangelical vows” are not found in Scripture. We find in God’s Word that His children are to be poor in spirit, not proud; sexually pure, in marriage unless gifted with singleness; and obedient to Christ as revealed in Scripture, not to traditions and words of men.
The god of Francis appears, from this book, not to be the God of the Bible. If that god was his all, his end was worse than his beginning. I pray all who claim to be in Christ examine themselves to see if they be in the faith (2 Cor 13:5). The Christian religion is not the product of men. It is the work of God in the people He called to new life in Christ (2 Cor 5:17) from their natural condition of spiritual death (Eph 2:1 – 10). To Him alone be all honor and glory and dominion, and none of that to any man.
What a tragedy that more than 1 billion of the world’s population follow the accursed traditions of a man who is just as totally depraved as his followers.
The link to the article Pope Says Can Absolve Sins from Fox News indicates that this is a special year of Jubilee, and in his own power has granted ALL priests the ability to “absolve faithful of the sin of abortion.” This has been perfectly timed by the Vatican with all the world’s attention being focused on the horrors of what has taken place with Planned Parenthood. History speaks for itself of the debauchery of the Catholic system that has produced many illegitimate babies and many abortions induced in order to cover up the wickedness and vulgarity of her priests.
How convenient that the declaration from the Vatican does not speak of just those women who have had an abortion! It covers the faithful of the sin of abortion. This means if you are a faithful Catholic priest, you can absolve yourself of demanding a woman get an abortion to protect what you have done in the dark. If you are a faithful Catholic doctor who murders infants, then this coming Jubilee year, you can be absolved of ALL your wicked murders. If you are a faithful Catholic man who has encouraged his wife, lover, or girlfriend to get a baby aborted, then you also can sleep easier tonight knowing your guilt will be gone as soon as you do your penance and offer your coins to the blood-bathed coffers of the Vatican.
The word absolve means set or declare (someone) free from blame, guilt, or responsibility. Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines the word to mean, “to set free from an obligation or the consequences of guilt.”
This is heresy of the highest order. It is blasphemy to think that a sinful man can remove the guilt of sin and the stain that envelops the heart of every man, woman, and child, and that separates them from the holiness of God. Neither the pope, nor any of his cardinals, bishops, or priests have the ability to free anybody from any guilt or responsibility for their sins. This declaration, while only for those faithfully following the pope are included, means the pope has again tried to take away from God what rightfully belongs to God alone.
My friend, if you are reading this and you are a Roman Catholic follower, please know that we share with you in love that believing a mere mortal can free you from the consequences of your sin or your guilt will only damn your soul to an eternal torment in the lake of fire when you die.
Not one pope since the first pope, Constantine, died for your sins. Not one pope can free you from the wrath of God that is to come. Not one pope can absolve you of any sin, whether it is the sin of adultery, abortion, cheating, lies, homosexuality, lesbianism, hatred, murder, or even taking the name of the Lord in vain.
There is only one who can forgive sins and even the religious leaders of Jesus’ day knew this. Mark 2:7 and Luke 5:21 note that the scribes and Pharisees both asked aloud, “Who is this that is speaking blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”
We, who know the Lord Jesus Christ, know that Jesus Christ is God and thus had the ability, the right, and the privilege of being able to forgive the sins of any and all who come to Him by grace through faith alone. Sadly, many who have hidden their guilt and sin of murdering the infant in their womb will go to a priest, seek to do some penance, say a few prayers in vainless repetition, and walk away with their conscience being seared a little more into thinking they have been made right with God.
Arminianism: The Road to Rome
hymnwriter and theologian
“My sheep, saith Christ, hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give unto them eternal life, and they shall never perish. O, most worthy Scriptures! which ought to compel us to have a faithful remembrance, and to note the tenor thereof; which is, the sheep of Christ shall never perish.”Doth Christ mean part of his elect, or all, think you? I do hold, and affirm, and also faithfully believe, that he meant all his elect, and not part, as some do full ungodly affirm. I confess and believe assuredly, that there shall never any of them perish: for I have good authority so to say; be- cause Christ is my author, and saith, if it were possible, the very elect should be deceived. Ergo, it is not possible that they can be so deceived, that they shall ever finally perish, or be damned: wherefore, whosoever doth affirm that there may be any (i.e. any of the elect) lost, doth affirm that Christ hath a torn body.”1
The above valuable letter of recantation is thus inscribed: “A Letter to the Congregation of Free-willers, by One that had been of that Persuasion, but come off, and now a Prisoner for Religion:” which superscription will hereafter, in its due place, supply us with a remark of more than slight importance.
John Wesley, A Friend of Rome?
To occupy the place of argument, it has been alleged that “Mr. Wesley is an old man;” and the Church of Rome is still older than he. Is that any reason why the enormities, either of the mother or the son, should pass unchastised?
It has also been suggested, that “Mr. Wesley is a very laborious man:” not more laborious, I presume, than a certain active being, who is said to go to and fro in the earth, and walk up and down in it:2 nor yet more laborious, I should imagine, than certain ancient Sectarians, concerning whom it was long ago said, “Woe unto you Scribes, hypocrites; for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte:”3 nor, by any means, so usefully laborious, as a certain diligent member of the community, respecting whose variety of occupations the public have lately received the following intelligence: “The truth of the following instance of industry may be depended on: a poor man with a large family, now cries milk, every morning, in Lothbury, and the neighbourhood of the Royal Exchange; at eleven, he wheels about a barrow of potatoes; at one, he cleans shoes at the Change; after dinner, cries milk again; in the evening, sells sprats; and at night, finishes the measure of his labour as a watchman.”4
The Quarrel is With the Wolf
Mr. Sellon, moreover, reminds me (p. 128.) that, “while the shepherds are quarrelling, the wolf gets into the sheep fold;” not impossible: but it so happens, that the present quarrel is not among “the shepherds,” but with the “wolf” himself; which “quarrel” is warranted by every maxim of pastoral meekness and fidelity.
I am further told, that, while I am “berating the Arminians, Rome and the devil laugh in their sleeves.” Admitting that Mr. Sellon might derive this anecdote from the fountain head, the parties themselves, yet, as neither they nor he are very conspicuous for veracity, I construe the intelligence by the rule of reverse, though authenticated by the deposition of their right trusty and well-beloved cousin and counsellor.
Once more: I am charged with “excessive superciliousness, and majesty of pride:” and why not charged with having seven heads and ten horns, and a tail as long as a bell-rope? After all, what has my pride, or my humility, to do with the argument in hand? Whether I am haughty, or meek, is of no more consequence either to that, or to the public, than whether I am tall or short: however, I am, at this very time, giving one proof, that my “majesty of pride” can stoop; that even to ventilate the impertinences of Mr. Sellon.
Arminianism at Home in Rome
But, however frivolous his cavils, the principles for which he contends are of the most pernicious nature and tendency. I must repeat, what already seems to have given him so much offence, that Arminianism “came from Rome, and leads thither again.” Julian, bishop of Eclana a contemporary and disciple of Pelagius, was one of those who endeavoured, with much art, to gild the doctrines of that heresiarch, in order to render them more sightly and palatable. The Pelagian system, thus varnished and paliated, soon began to acquire the softer name of Semipelagianism. Let us take a view of it, as drawn to our hands by the celebrated Mr. Bower, who himself, in the main, a professed Pelagian, and therefore less likely to present us with an unfavourable portrait of the system he generally approved. Among the principles of that sect, this learned writer enumerates the following:
“The notion of election and reprobation, independent on our merits or demerits, is maintaining a fatal necessity, is the bane of all virtue, and serves only to render good men remiss in working out their salvation, and to drive sinners to despair. “The decrees of election and reprobation are posterior to, and in consequence of, our good or evil works, as foreseen by God from all eternity.”5
Is not this too the very language of modern Arminianism? Do not the partizans of that scheme argue on the same identical terms? Should it be said, “True, this proves that Arminianism is Pelagianism revived; but it does not prove, that the doctrines of Arminianism are originally Popish:” a moment’s cool attention will make it plain that they are. Let us again hear Mr. Bower, who, after the passage just quoted, immediately adds, “on these two last propositions, the Jesuits found their whole system of grace and free-will; agreeing therein with the Semipelagians, against the Jansenists and St. Augustine.”6 The Jesuits were moulded into a regular body, towards the middle of the sixteenth century: toward the close of the same century, Arminius began to infest the Protestant churches. It needs therefore no great penetration, to discern from what source he drew his poison. His journey to Rome (though Monsicur Bayle affects to make light of the inferences which were at that very time deduced from it) was not for nothing. If, however, any are disposed to believe, that Arminius imbibed his doctrines from the Socinians in Poland, with whom, it is certain, he was on terms of intimate friendship, I have no objection to splitting the difference: he might import some of his tenets from the Racovian brethren, and yet be indebted, for others, to the disciples of Loyola.
Papists and Predestination
Certain it is, that Arminius himself was sensible, how greatly the doctrine of predestination widens the distance between Protestantism and Popery. “There is no point of doctrines (says he) which the Papists, the Anabaptists, and the (new) Lutherans more fiercely oppose, nor by means of which they heap more discredit on the reformed churches, and bring the reformed system itself into more odium; for they (i.e. the Papists, & etc.) assert, that no fouler blasphemy against God can be thought or expressed, than is contained in the doctrine of predestination.”7 For which reason, he advises the reformed world to discard predestination from their creed, in order that they may live on more brotherly terms with the Papists, the Anabaptists, and such like.
The Arminian writers make no scruple to seize and retail each other’s arguments, as common property. Hence, Samuel Hoord copies from Van Harmin the self same observation which I have now cited. “Predestination (says Samuel) is an opinion odious to the Papists, opening their foul mouths, against our Church and religion:”8 consequently, our adopting the opposite doctrines of universal grace and freewill, would, by bringing us so many degrees nearer to the Papists, conduce to shut their mouths, and make them regard us, so far at least, as their own orthodox and dearly beloved brethren: whence it follows, that, as Arminianism came from Rome, so “it leads thither again.”
The Jesuits and Predestination
If the joint verdict of Arminius himself, and of his English proselyte Hoord, will not turn the scale, let us add the testimony of a professed Jesuit, by way of making up full weight. When archbishop Laud’s papers were exam- ined, a letter was found among them, thus endorsed with that prelate’s own hand: “March, 1628. A Jesuit’s Letter, sent to the Rector at Bruxels, about the ensuing Parliament.” The design of this letter was to give the Superior of the Jesuits, then resident at Brussels, an account of the posture of civil and ecclesiastical affairs in England; an extract from it I shall here subjoin: “Father Rector, let not the damp of astonishment seize upon your ardent and zealous soul, in apprehending the sodaine and unexpected calling of a Parliament. We have now many strings to our bow. We have planted that soveraigne drugge Arminianisme, which we hope will purge the Protestants from their heresie; and it flourisheth and beares fruit in due season. For the better prevention of the Puritanes, the Arminians have already locked up the Duke’s (of Buckingham) eares; and we have those of our owne religion, which stand continually at the Duke’s chamber, to see who goes in and out: we cannot be too circumspect and carefull in this regard. I am, at this time, transported with joy, to see how happily all instruments and means, as well great as lesser, co-operate unto our purposes. But, to return unto the maine fabricke:–OUR FOUNDATION IS ARMINIANISME. The Arminians and projectors, as it appeares in the premises, affect mutation. This we second and enforce by probable arguments.”9
The Sovereign Drug Arminianism
The “Sovereign drug, Arminianism,” which said the Jesuit, “we (i.e. we Papists) have planted” in England, did indeed bid fair “to purge our Protestant Church effectually. How merrily Popery and Arminianism, at that time, danced hand in hand, may be learned from Tindal: “The churches were adorned with paintings, images, altar-pieces, & etc. and, instead of communion tables, alters were set up, and bowings to them and the sacramental elements enjoined. The predestinarian doctrines were forbid, not only to be preached, but to be printed; and the Arminian sense of the Articles was encouraged and propagated.”10 The Jesuit, therefore, did not exult without cause. The “sovereign drug,” so lately “planted,” did indeed take deep root downward, and bring forth fruit upward, under the cherishing auspices of Charles and Laud. Heylyn, too, acknowledges, that the state of things was truly described by another Jesuit of that age, who wrote: “Protestantism waxeth weary of itself. The doctrine (by the Arminians, who then sat at the helm) is altered in many things, for which their progenitors forsook the Church of Rome: as limbus patrum; prayer for the dead, and possibility of keeping God’s com- mandments; and the accounting of Calvinism to be heresy at least, if not treason.”11
Arminianism From the Pit
The maintaining of these positions, by the Court divines, was an “alteration” indeed; which the abandoned Heylyn ascribes to “the ingenuity and moderation found in some professors of our religion.” If we sum up the evidence that has been given, we shall find its amount to be, that Arminianism came from the Church of Rome, and leads back again to the pit whence it was digged.
1. Strype, u.s.
2. Job 1:7 with 1 Peter 5:8.
3. Matt. 23:15.
4. Bath Chronicle, for Feb. 6, 1772.
5. Bower’s Hist. of the Popes, vol. 1, p. 350.
6. Bower ibid.
7. Arminius, in Oper. P.115. Ludg. 1629. (See book for Latin.)
8. Hoord, In Bishop Davenant’s Animadversions, Camb. 1641.
9. Hidden works of darkness, p. 89, 90. Edit. 1645.
10. Tindal’s Contin. of Rapin, vol. 3 octavo, 1758.
11. Life of Laud, p. 238.