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A Plea To All Favourers Of The Roman Religion, William Perkins

In A Reformed Catholic William Perkins addressed in detail the doctrines of the Church of Rome, setting out the points in which we consent with it and those points in which we differ and rightfully separate upon.

Now in his Advertisement to all favourers of the Roman Religion, Shewing that the said religion is against the Catholic principles and grounds of the Catechism Perkins pleads for Roman Catholics to consider if their religion were Catholic and Apostolic (as they pretend) it could not then be contrary on so many points set out in the Catechisms, that have been used in all churches, ever since the days of the Apostles.

In writing this work Perkins unfeignedly desired the conversion of the Roman Catholic in this world, and their salvation in the world to come, as this should still be the prayer and desire of the Reformed Church.

See how Perkins proves his case that the Roman Religion is now neither Catholic nor Apostolic:


Great is the number of them that embrace the religion of the present Church of Rome, being deceived by the glorious titles of Universality, Antiquity, Succession. And no doubt, though some be wilfully blinded, yet many devoted this way, never saw any other truth.

Now of them and the rest I desire this favour, that they will but weigh and ponder with themselves this one thing, which I will now offer to their considerations, and that is, that the Roman religion now established by the Council of Trent, is in the principal points thereof, against the very grounds of the Catechism, that have been agreed upon ever since the days of the Apostles, by all churches. These grounds are four: the first is the Apostles Creed: the second is the decalogue or ten commandments: the third is the form of prayer called the Lord's Prayer: the fourth is the Institution of the two Sacraments baptism and the Lord's Supper. 1. Cor. 11. 23.


The Apostles' Creed

That I may in some order manifest this which I say, I will begin with the Symbol or Creed.

1. And first of all it must be considered, that some of the principal doctrines believed in the Church of Rome are, that the Pope or Bishop of Rome is the vicar of Christ, and the head of the Catholic Church: that there is a fire of purgatory after this life: that images of God and Saints are to be placed in churches and worshipped: that prayer is to be made to Saints departed and their intercession to be required: that there is a propitiatory sacrifice daily offered in the mass for the sins of the quick and the dead. These points are of that moment, that without them the Roman religion cannot stand: and in the Council of Trent the curse Anathema is pronounced upon all such as deny these or any of them. And yet mark: the Apostles Creed which has been thought to contain all necessary points in religion to be believed: and has therefore been called the Key and Rule of Faith: this Creed I say, has not any of these points: nor the expositions made thereof by the ancient fathers, nor any other creed or confession of faith made by any Council or Church for the space of many hundred years. This a plain proof to any indifferent man, that these be new articles of faith never known in the Apostolic Church: and that the fathers and Councils could not find any such articles of faith in the books of the Old and New Testement.

Answer is made: that all these points of doctrine are believed under the articles, I believe the Catholic Church: the meaning whereof, they will have to be this, I believe all things which the Catholic Church holds and teaches to be believed. If this be as they say, we must needs believe in the Church: that is, put our confidence in the Church, for the manifestation and the certainty of all doctrines necessary to salvation: and thus the eternal truth of God the Creator, shall depend on the determination of the creature; and the written word of God in this respect is made insufficient; as though it had not plainly revealed all points of doctrine, pertaining to salvation. And the ancient churches have been far overseen, that did not propound the former points to be believed as articles of faith, but left them to these latter times.

2. In this Creed, to believe in God, and to believe the Church, are distinguished. To believe in, is pertaining to the Creator: to believe, to the creature: as Ruffinus has noted, when he said, that by this proposition "in", the Creator is distinguished from the creature, and things pertaining to God from things pertaining to men. And Augustine said, It must be known that we must believe the Church, & NOT BELIEVE IN THE CHURCH: because the church is not God, but the house of God. Hence it follows, that we must not believe in the Saints, nor put our confidence in our works, as the learned Papists teach. Therefore Eusebius saith, We ought of right to believe Peter and Paul, but to believe in Peter & Paul, that is, to give to the servants the honour of the Lord, we ought not. And Cyprian said, He does not believe in God which does not place in him alone the trust of his whole felicity.

3. The article, conceived by the Holy Ghost, is overturned by the transubstantiation of bread and wine in the mass, into the body and blood of Christ. For here we are taught to confess the true and perpetual incarnation of Christ, beginning in his conception, and never ending afterward: and we acknowledge the truth of his manhood, and that his body has the essential properties of a true body, standing of flesh and bone: having quantity, figure, dimensions, namely length, breadth, thickness: having part out of part, as head out of feet, and feet out of head, being also circumscribed, visible, touchable: in a word, it has all things in it, which by order of creation, belong to a body. It will be said, that the body of Christ may remain a true body and yet be altered in respect of some qualities, as namely circumscription. But I say again, that local circumscription can no way be severed from a body, it remaining a body. For to be circumscribed in place, is an essential property of every quantity: and quantity is the common essence of every body. And therefore a body in respect of his quantity must needs be circumscribed in one place. This was the judgement of Leo, when he said, The body of Christ is by no means out of the truth of our body. And Augustine, when he said: ONLY God in Christ so comes, that he does not depart; so returns, that he does not leave us: but man according to body is in place, and goes out of the same place, and when he shall come unto an other place, HE IS NOT IN THAT PLACE WHENCE HE COMES. To help the matter, they use to distinguish thus. Christ's body in respect of the whole essence thereof may be in many places; but not in respect of the whole quantity, whereby it is only in one place. But as I have said, they speak contraries: for quantity (by all learning) is the essence of a body, without which a body cannot be.

4. In the Creed we confesse that Christ is ascended into heaven, and there after his ascension sits at the right hand of his Father, and that according to his manhood. Hence I conclude, that Christ's body is not really and locally in the Sacrament, and in every Host, which the priest consecrates. This argument was good when Vigilius against Eutyches said, When it (the flesh) was on earth, it was not in heaven: and because it is now in heaven, it is not on earth: and he adds afterward that this is the Catholic faith and confession. And it was good when Fulgentius said, According to his human substance he was absent from earth, when he was in heaven, and he left the earth, when he ascended into heaven. And, The same inseparable Christ, according to his whole manhood LEAVING THE EARTH, locally ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand, and according to the same whole manhood, he is to come to judgement. And it was good, when Cyril said, No man doubts but that when he ascended into heaven, though he be always present by the power of his spirit, HE WAS ABSENT IN RESPECT OF THE PRESENCE OF HIS FLESH. And it was good, when Augustine said, According to the flesh, which the Word assumed, he ascended into heaven, HE IS NOT HERE, there he sits at the right hand of the father: and he is here according to the presence of his majesty. And, He went as he was man, and he abode as he was God: he went by that whereby he was in one place: he abode by that whereby he was every where.

5. Again, in that we believe the Catholic church, it follows that the Catholic church is invisible: because things seen are not believed. And the answer commonly used, that we believe the holiness of the Church, will not serve the turn. For the words are plain, and in them we make confession that we believe not only the holiness of the church, but also the church itself.

6. Lastly the articles, remission of sins, resurrection of the body, and life everlasting, contain a confession of special faith. For the meaning of them is this much: I believe the remission of mine own sins, and the resurrection of mine own body to life everlasting: and that by the judgement of learned Antiquity. Augustine saith, If thou also believe that thou shalt rise again and ascend into heaven (because thou art sure of so great a patron) thou art certain of so great a gift. And, Make not Christ less, who brings thee to the kingdom of heaven, for remission of sins. Without this faith, if any come to baptism, he shuts the gate of mercy against himself. And, Whosoever faithfully believes, and holds this profession of his faith (in which all his sins are forgiven him) let him prepare his will to the will of God, and not fear his passage by death. And, The whole Sacrament of baptism stands in this, that we believe the resurrection of the body and remission of sins to be given us of God. And, He gave these keys to the Church—, that whosoever in his Church, should not believe his sins to be forgiven, they should not be forgiven unto him: and whosoever believed and turned from them abiding in the lap of the said Church, at length shall be healed by faith and amendment of life. And, That which thou hast heard to be fulfilled in the glorious resurrection of Christ, believe that the very same shall be fulfilled in thee, in the last judgement and the resurrection of thy flesh, shall restore thee for all eternity. For unless thou shalt believe that thou art to be repaired by death, thou canst not come to the reward of life eternal. And in ancient time the article of the resurrection has been rehearsed on this manner, The resurrection of THIS FLESH: and the last applied unto it, TO EVERLASTING LIFE. Hence then two main opinions of the Church of Rome are quite overthrown, one that we cannot by special faith be certain of the remission of our sins, and the salvation of our souls: the other, that a man truly justified may fall away and be damned. Now this cannot be, if the practise of the ancient Church be good, which has taught us to believe everlasting life jointly without remission of sins.


The Ten Commandments

To come unto the decalogue, first of all it is a rule in expounding the several commandments, that where any vice is forbidden, there the contrary virtue is commanded, and all virtues of the same kind, with all their causes, occasions, furtherances. This rule is granted of all: and hence it follows, that counsels of perfection, if they have in them any furtherance of virtue, are enjoined in and by the law, and therefore prescribe no state of perfection beyond the scope of the law.

Secondly the commandment, Thou shalt not make to thy self any graven image, &c. has two several parts. The first forbids the making of carved or graven images: the second forbids the adoration of them. Now the first part is notably expounded by Moses, Deut. 4. 16. Take good heed unto yourselves, that ye corrupt not yourselves and make you a graven image or representation of any figure in the likeness of male or female. Mark the reason of this prohibition in the same place: for (saith he) ye saw no image in the day the Lord spake unto you in Horeb. and v. 15. Ye heard the voice of the words but saw no similitude save a voice. Now the reason being understood of the image of God himself: the prohibition must needs be so understood. Again there is no question; that God directs his commandment against a sin in speculation, but against some common and wicked practise of the Jews, and that was to represent God himself in likenesses and bodily forms. Isa 40. 18. And that was also the practise of the Gentiles, that were far more gross in this kind than the Jews . Rom. 1. 23. This then is plain to any indifferent man, that the first part of the commandment forbids the making of graven images or likenesses of the true Jehovah and thus the Roman Catechism understands the words. As for the second part, it must be understood according to the meaning of the first: and therefore it forbids us, to bow down to any image of God. Hence then it follows, that to worship God or Saints in, or, at images, and to worship images with religious worship is abominable idolatry. And common reason might teach us thus much. For they that adore and worship the true God in images, do bind the presence of God, his operation, grace, and his hearing of us, to certain things, places, signs, to which he has not bound himself, either by commandment or promise: and that is, otherwise to worship God, and to seek for his blessings, then he has commanded himself to be worshipped, or promised to hear us. Upon this ground, is plainly overthrown the excuse which they make, that they worship not images but God and Saints in images: for neither God nor the Saints do acknowledge this kind of honour, but they abhor it. Whence it follows necessarily, that they worship nothing beside the image, or, the devise of their own brain, in which they feign to themselves such a God as will be worshipped, and receive our prayers at images.

It will be said, that the Papists do no otherwise tie the worship and invocation of God to images, then God tied himself to the sanctuary and the temple of Solomon. And I say again, it was the will of God that he would show his presence, and be worshipped at the Sanctuary, and the Jews had the warrant of God's word for it: but we have no like warrant, either by promise or commandment to tie God's presence to an image or crucifix. Again, reason yet further may discover their idolatry. They, which worship they know not what, worship an idol: but the Papists worship they know not what: I prove it thus. To the consecration of the host, there is required the intention of the priest, at the lest virtually, as they say, and if this be true, it follows that none of them can come to the Mass, or pray in faith, but he must always doubt of that which is lifted up by the hands of the priest in the mass: whether it be bread or the body and blood of Christ. For none can have any certainty of the intention of the priest in consecrating this bread and this wine: but rather may have a just occasion of doubting by reason of the common ignorance and looseness of life in such persons.

Thirdly the commandment touching the Sabbath, gives a liberty to work six days in the ordinary affairs of our callings: and this liberty cannot be repealed by any creature. The Church of Rome therefore errs, in that it prescribes set and ordinary festival days, not only to God but also to Saints: enjoining them as straitly and with as much solemnity to be observed, as the Sabbath of the Lord.

Fourthly, the fifth commandment, or (as they say) the fourth, enjoins children to obey father and mother in all things, specially in matters of moment, as in their marriage and choice of their callings: and that even to death: and yet the Church of Rome against the intent of this commandment, allows that clandestine marriages, and the vow of religion shall be in force, though they be without, and against the consent of wise and careful parents.

Fifthly, the last commandment of lust, forbids the first motions to sin, that are before consent. I prove it thus. Lusting is forbidden in the former commandments as well as in the last, yea lusting that is joined with consent: as in the commandment, thou shalt not commit adultery, is forbidden lusting after our neighbour's wife; and in the next, lusting after our neighbour's goods, &c. Now if the last commandment also forbid no more but lust with consent, it is confounded with the rest: and by this means there shall not be ten distinct words, or, commandments: which to say is absurd: it remains therefore that the lust here forbidden goes before consent. Again, the Philosophers knew that lust with consent was evil, even by the light of nature: but Paul a learned Pharisee and therefore more than a philosopher, knew not lust to be sin, that is forbidden in this commandment, Rom. 7. Lust therefore that is forbidden here, is without consent. Wicked then is the doctrine of the Roman Church teaching, that in every mortal sin is required an act commanded of the will: and hence they say many thoughts against faith and unclean imaginations are no sins.

Sixthly, the words of the second commandment. And show mercy to thousands on them that love me and keep my commandments, overthrows all human merits. For if the reward be given of mercy to them that keep the law, it is not given for the merit of the work done.


The Lord's Prayer

To come to the third part of the Catechism: the Lord's Prayer is a most absolute and perfect form of prayer. For which cause it was called of Tertullian, the Breviary of the Gospel: and Caelestinus saith, the law of praying is the law of believing and the law of working.

1. Now in this prayer we are taught to direct our prayers to God alone, Our Father, &c and that only in the name and mediation of Christ. For God is our father only by Christ. It is needless therefore, to use any invocation of Saints, or to make them our mediators of intercession unto God: and it is sufficient, if we pray only unto God in the name of Christ alone.

2. In the fourth petition, we say thus, Give us our daily bread. In which words, we acknowledge that every morsel of bread is the mere gift of God. What madness then is it, for us to think that we should merit the kingdom of heaven by works, that cannot merit so much as bread?

3 In the next petition, Forgive us our debts, four opinions of the Roman religion are directly overthrown:

(i) The first is concerning human satisfactions. For the child of God is here after his conversion taught, to humble himself day by day, and to pray for the pardon of his daily sins: now to make satisfaction and to sue for pardon be contrary.

(ii) The second opinion here overthrown, is touching merits. For we do acknowledge our selves to be debtors unto God, yea bankrupts: and that beside the main sum of many thousand talents, we daily increase the debt: therefore we cannot possibly merit any of the blessings of God. It is mere madness to think, that they which cannot pay their debts, but rather increase them day by day, should deserve or purchase any of the goods of the creditors, or the pardon of their debts and if any favour be shown them, it comes of mere goodwill without the least dessert. In a word, this must be thought upon, that, if all we can do, will not keep us from increasing the main sum of our debt, much less shall we be able by any merit to diminish the same. By good right therefore do all the servants of God cast down themselves and pray, Forgive us our debts.

(iii) The third opinion is that punishment may be retained, the fault being wholly remitted: but this cannot stand, for here sin is called our debt: because by nature we owe unto God obedience, and for the defect of this payment, we further owe unto him the forfeiture of punishment. Sin then is called our debt in respect of the punishment. And therefore when we pray for the pardon of sin, we require the pardon not only of fault, but of the whole punishment. And when a debt is pardoned, it is absurd to think that the least payment should remain.

(iv) The fourth opinion is that a man in this life may fulfil the law, whereas in this place every servant of God is taught to ask a daily pardon for the breach of the law. Answer is made, that our daily sins are venial and not against the law but beside the law. But this which they say is against the petition: for a debt that comes by forfeiture is against the bond or obligation. Now every sin is a debt causing the forfeiture of punishment: and therefore is not beside, but directly against the law.

4. In this clause, as we forgive our debtors, it is taken for granted, that we may certainly know that we are in love and charity with me when we make reconciliation: why then may not we know certainly that we repent and believe and are reconciled to God: which all Roman Catholics deny.

5. In the last words, and lead us not into temptation, we pray not, that God should free us from temptation (for it is other whiles good to be tempted, Psal. 26. 1.) But that we be not left to the malice of Satan, and held captive of the temptation, for here to be led into temptation, and to be delivered, are opposed. Now hence I gather, that he which is the child of God truly justified and sanctified, shall never fall wholly and finally from the grace of God: and I conclude on this manner. That which we ask according to the will of God, shall be granted, 1. John 5. but this the child of God asks, that he might never be wholly forsaken of his father, and left captive in temptation. This therefore shall be granted.

6 This clause Amen, signifies a special faith touching all the former petitions, that they shall be granted: and therefore a special faith concerning remission of sins: which the Roman Church denies.


Institution of the Lord's Supper

To come to the last place, to the institution of the sacrament of the Lord's Supper. 1. Cor. 11. v, 23.

1. In which first of all the Real Presence is by many circumstances overthrown.

(i) Out of the words, he took and brake, it is plain that, that which Christ took was not his body: because he cannot be said with his own hands to have taken, held, and broken himself, but the very bread.

(ii) Again Christ said not: under the form of bread, or in bread: but This, that is, bread is my body.

(iii) Bread was not given for us but only the body Christ: and in the first institution, the body of Christ was not then really given to death.

(iv) The cup, is the New Testament by a figure: why may not the bread be the body of Christ by a figure also?

(v) Christ did eat the supper, but not himself.

(vi) We are bidden to do it, till he come: Christ then is not bodily present.

(vii) Christ bids the bread to be eaten in a remembrance of him: but signs of remembrance are of things absent.

(viii) If the Popish Real Presence be granted, then the body and blood of Christ are either severed or joined together. If severed, then Christ is still crucified If joined together, then the bread is both the body & blood of Christ: whereas the institution says the bread is the body, and the wine is the blood.

2 Again, here is condemned the administration of the sacrament under one only kind. For the commandment of Christ is, drink ye all of this, Matt, 26. 27. And this commandment is rehearsed to the Church of Corinth in these words, do this as oft as ye drink it in remembrance of me. v. 25. And no power can rehearse this commandment: because it was established by the sovereign head of the Church.


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