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Justification (1), A Preface Concerning The Apostasy Of The Now Church Of Rome. George Downame.


This ensuing treatise, as it clears the doctrine of the Gospel in that high point concerning our title to the Kingdom of Heaven: so it helps to discover the apostasy of the now Church of Rome from the faith. For though the Papists do vaunt that their Church, meaning especially the See of Rome, is so far from falling away from the faith, that it cannot fall into errors in matters of faith: yet they cannot deny, but that in the latter times, and namely in the time of Antichrist, there should be a great defection from the faith, and as it were a catholic apostasy, whereof Antichrist was to be the head. Of this apostasy the Holy Ghost has prophesied in divers places of the Scriptures, as, 1 Tim. 4. 1, & 2 Thess. 2. 3, & Mat. 24. 24 and Rev. 13. 12-16. And has also set down the notes and marks whereby they may be known who make this apostasy from the faith: As,

  1. To forbid marriage;

  2. To command abstinence from meats, both of them for religion and conscience sake;

  3. Idolatry, for that is by spiritual fornication to fall from God. Psal. 73. 27 and Hos. 1. 2. & 9. 1, and

  4. Ostentation of miracles, the proper badge of the Antichristian apostasy in these latter times, 2 Thess. 2. 9 & Mar. 24. 24 & Rev. 13. 14.

Now let us consider, in what respects the Church of Rome is revolted from the faith. By faith in this question we understand, not the habit or grace of faith, but the doctrine of faith, Non id quo creditur, not that by which we believe, sed illud quod creditur, but that which we do believe. In which sense the word faith is often used both in the Scriptures, and also in the monuments of Ecclesiastical writers. Now the doctrine of faith is either general or special. The general are the whole canonical Scriptures, or the written Word of God in general, which is object fidei adaequatum, the even object, the rule and foundation of faith: so that whatsoever doctrine is contained in the Scriptures either expressly, or by necessary consequence, is to be received as a doctrine of faith, and whatsoever is not so contained in the Scriptures, is not dogma fidei.

Rome's Revolt Against the General Doctrine of Faith

From the holy Scriptures, which God has propounded to be the only rule of faith, they are revolted unto the doctrines and devices of men, by changing the rule of faith; which they have done divers ways. For first, whereas the rule, the foundation, and chief principle of faith whereinto it is last resolved, is the authority of God speaking in the holy Scriptures; they have set up another rule, which is the authority of the Roman Church, and therein of the Pope; which they make the superior rule, from which the authority of the Scriptures themselves depends, and into which their faith is last resolved. For the Pope is, as they say, virtually the Church, and what they say in this kind to magnify the authority of the Church, is specially to be understood of the Pope, who only forsooth has an infallible judgement, and not subject to error, for, if you will believe them, a general or ecumenical council without the Pope may err, but the Pope alone without a council cannot err: yea, the authority of the Pope and council together, is no greater than the authority of the Pope alone, from whom all councils have their authority, and thus Bellarmine denies this assertion, aliquid majus est concilium cum pontifice, quam pontifex solus. If therefore the authority of the Church be greater than that of the Scriptures, as they teach, and if the authority of the Pope be absolutely above the Church universal, as they also teach: then much more is the authority of the Pope above the Scriptures. Now whosoever takes upon him authority above the Scriptures, which are the undoubted Word of God, he is undoubtedly Antichrist; whose judgement to make (as the Papists plainly do) the chief principle of faith, into which their faith is last resolved, is no better than to revolt from Christ to Antichrist.

Secondly, they change the rule of faith, by making their traditions, that is, such doctrines and observations as are taught and observed in the Church of Rome, having no ground nor warrant in the holy Scriptures, to be the Word of God, the word unwritten, and a rule of faith: which also they do not only match with the holy Scriptures, but even in many respects prefer before them, and acknowledge them to be the more entire and perfect rule of faith.

Thirdly, they have changed the rule of faith, by making those books canonical, which all antiquity almost, yea, and all succeeding ages until the Council of Trent; following therein the judgement of Jerome, did hold Apochryphal, or at the most but Ecclesiastical; which might be read in the Church for moral instruction, but not as rules of faith.

Fourthly, they change the rule of faith, when in stead of the original text of the Old and New Testaments, which were penned by the Prophets and Apostles themselves, they make a corrupt, and that sometimes a barbarous translation of I know not whom, to be the authentic text, and the rule of faith; preferring the vulgar Latin translation before the original text, which the penmen of the Holy Ghost did write.

Fifthly, they change the rule of faith, when in stead of the true sense and meaning of the holy Scriptures expounded by the Scriptures according to the analogy of faith, they obtrude the sense given by the Church of Rome, and therein by the Pope, who is, as they say, the supreme and only authentical interpreter of the Word, from whom it is not lawful to dissent: So that in his sense any portion of the Scriptures, though obscure, must be acknowledged the word of God; but urged in any other sense, it is the word of the Devil rather than the Word of God. Now it is the sense of the Scriptures, which is the Word of God rather than the letter, the sense being the soul and life of the letter. Non enim in legendo Scripturae, sed in intelligendo consistunt, For it is not in the reading of Scripture, but in being understood, they consist Jerome, The words, saith Bellarmine, are as the sheath, the sense is the sword of the Spirit.

Thus has the Church of Rome revolted from the general doctrine of faith, which is the written word of God, or the holy canonical Scriptures.

Rome's Revolt Against Special Doctrines of Faith

The special doctrines of faith are the several articles taught in the Scriptures; which are the special objects of faith, either quae justificat only, or qua justificat. The justifying faith believing all the articles and doctrines of faith which are taught in the Word of God, but the peculiar object of faith, quatenus justificat, is the doctrine of the Gospel.

As touching the special doctrines of Christian faith, there are divers hundreds of errors wherein the Church of Rome has revolted from the faith, not at once, but at divers times and by degrees. The number whereof is so great, as that Popery, or the Catholicism of Papists may justly be called the Catholic Apostasy.

But from the peculiar doctrine of faith, quatenus justificat, which is the doctrine of the Gospel concerning justification by faith in Christ alone, the Church of Rome chiefly errs, as I have shown in this treatise; and by their Antichristian doctrine in this point they are revolted from the Gospel, which is Verbum fidei, the word or doctrine of faith, they are fallen from the comfortable doctrine of this grace, and to them Christ is made of none effect, as I have proved.

This assertion concerning the apostasy of the now Church of Rome, I oppose as an antidote against the poison of their impudently depraved article concerning the Catholic Church, wherein there is a double imposture or poison, both in respect of the object, and also of the act of faith; which two in every article of the Creed are to be considered. For first, in respect of the object, whereas the Apostles Creed has The holy Catholic Church, they understand the Catholic Roman Church, the mother, forsooth, and mistress of all churches; which they call catholic, not as it is one particular church, as every orthodox church was wont to be called, as the catholic church of Smyrna, &c. but as it comprehends all particular churches which live in communion with, and in subjection to the See of Rome, all which are, as they say, but one church, because they are subject to one visible head the Pope of Rome. And they add that out of this communion with the See of Rome, and without this subjection to the Pope of Rome, as the universal Bishop, there is no salvation. With this one move they coyly catch those seduced souls, which either they draw to their side, or detain in communion with them. Howbeit, it is a most shameless imposture.

For first, can it be imagined, that the Apostles by catholic understood the Roman Church, which, when they composed the Creed, was not extant, nor for divers years after. No doubt the Apostles meant that church which then had a being, and whereof themselves were members, which also had been from the beginning of the world, and was to continue for ever, viz. the universal company of the elect: and that is the meaning of the word catholic.

Secondly for the first six hundred years the Bishop of Rome did not challenge unto himself the title or authority of universal Bishop, but was only the Archbishop or Patriarch of Rome, unto whom the four other Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem, were no more subject, than he to them, every one of them having the primacy within their several Patriarchal jurisdictions. And although after the grant of the Tyrant Phocas in the year 607AD, the Pope challenged for himself to be the universal Bishop, and for his See to be the head of all churches: yet by the Greek, and other churches, which were, and are the better and greater part of Christendom, this claim never was, nor is at this day acknowledged. All which churches notwithstanding wherein were innumerable Saints and Martyrs, and the most holy fathers of the Church, by this Romish article are most wickedly and schismatically excluded from Salvation, because they acknowledged no subjection to the See of Rome. But if the now Church of Rome be the Apostatical Church, having revolted from the ancient religion of Christians by their idolatry, will-worship, and superstition, and from the ancient faith of Christians contained generally in the holy canonical Scriptures, and more particularly in the Gospel, as by other almost innumerable errors of Popery, so more especially by those which I confute in this book: and if the head of this Catholic Apostasy, that is to say, the Pope, be Antichrist; then let all Christians, who have any care of their souls, consider, whether it be safe for them to live in the communion of that Sect, and in subjection to that See, where they must have the Apostatical Church, even the whore of Babylon to be their mother, from whom they are commanded to separate, Rev. 18. 4. and the Antichrist to be their father, their head, their universal Bishop, who prevails in them only that perish, 2 Thess. 2. 10.

As touching the act of faith, their cognisance in respect thereof is worse, if worse may be. For where the Apostles Creed has credo sanctam ecclesiam catholicam, they understand this article, as if the words were not, credo ecclesiam, I believe that there is a Catholic Church, and that there is a Communion of Saints the members of that Church, &c, but credo ecclesiae, or in ecclesiam, I give credit to the Church, or I believe in the Church, making the Church (whereby they understand the now Church of Rome) not only the material, but also formal object of faith, in which they believe, and for which they believe whatsoever it believes, or propounds to be believed. And in this exposition they are grown so impudent, as that they say, that the Church Catholic, (meaning the now Roman Church) is the very principle of our faith for which we are to believe the holy Scriptures, and all other articles; that it is the chief principle, whereon the authority of the Scriptures depends, and the last principle into which their faith is to be resolved: that in this article is summarily contained the whole Word of God, not only written, but also unwritten: that Christ propounded unto us the whole Word of God, when he commanded us to hear the Church, Mat. 18. 17 & Luk. 10. 16. and (which surpasses all impudency) that the Fathers sometimes in this sense do say, that all the doctrines of faith are contained in the holy Scriptures, to wit, as in a general principle, quatenus illae monent credendum esse Ecclesiae, in that they admonish that the Church is to be believed in all things. And further that the implicit faith, which is implied in this one article, I believe the Roman Church, and whatsoever that Church believes, or propounds to be believed, is the most entire faith and most safe, not only for the lay people, though they know or believe no more, but also for the learned. For whom it is not so safe, when Satan contends with them, to defend their faith by the Scriptures, as to profess only that they believe as the Church believes.

But indeed this implicit faith, whereby men do believe or profess them∣elves to believe as the Church of Rome, and therein the Pope believes or propounds to be believed acknowledging him to be the principle, yea the chief, and last principle into which there is ultima resolutio fidei, upon which the authority of the Scriptures depends, is to take upon them the very mark of the beast, and to revolt from Christ to Antichrist: which is the miserable condition of all resolute Papists. For Antichrist prevails in them only that perish, whose names are not written in the book of life. See Mat. 24. 24, 2 Thess. 2. 10 & Rev. 14. 9, 10, 11. and 17. 8.

Let not therefore the Popish Priests and Jesuits, the Emissaries of Antichrist, like egregious imposters terrify any longer the people with these bug-bears, that there is no salvation but in the communion with the Church of Rome, and in subjection under the Pope; until they have proved, which they will never be able to do, that their Church is not Apostatical, and that their Pope, who is the head of the Catholic Apostasy, is not, as about twelve years ago I proved him to be, Antichrist. To conclude, let the popish Rabbins either vindicate their Church from apostasy, and their Pope from Antichristianism, or else for ever hereafter hold their peace.


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