Principles on the Popish Mass

Principles on the Popish Mass

Theodore Beza & Antoine de la Faye

Theses Theologicae in Schola Genevensi

Propositions and Principles of Divinity
Propounded and Disputed in the University of Geneva
by Students (1586)

LXI. Principles Touching the Popish Mass.

We have spoken in the former principles concerning the true use of the Supper of the Lord: now we are to shew in few words, how the said use hath been diversely depraved by Satan.


Of all the errors that have risen about the Holy Supper of the Lord, that invention of Transubstantiation, is the most ugly, which was brought in and confirmed, especially by Lanfranc, about the year 1050.

For when as the words of Christ, instituting this Supper, are to be understood according unto his mind who speaketh them (which always ought to be regarded in all acts, and especially in Testaments) so, that in this Sacrament, the body and blood of Christ, are truly, but sacramentally, and by faith, giving credit without question unto his words received. The Transubstantiators, contrary to all reason, and use of Sacraments, have so obstinately stuck to the words, that many absurdities have risen thereof.

1. Against the nature of a sacrament.

First of all, seeing all Sacraments do consist of signs and things signified, they do take away the nature of the signs. For they teach that after the consecration (as they call it) the signs do not remain, but that the thing itself only is presented unto us.

2. Against reason and the Ascension and Session of Christ.

Secondly, the Sacramental participation being thus abolished, they make a kind of imaginary receiving of the Lord’s body and blood. Whereby (as they hold) the body which is now in Heaven, is really and corporeally present in infinite places at the same time, and is received at once in whole and in part, by many and by one—which thing, as it is most absurd—so doth it overthrow the articles of the Ascension, and sitting at the right hand of the Father.

3. Against the doctrines of Creation and Providence.

Thirdly, they have feigned such a change, as maketh that which is, not to be; and that which is not, to be. For they do so spoil the bread and the wine of their essence, as they desist to be bread and wine, and begin to be some other thing. And they dream of accidents that are inherent in no subjects, against the first article of the belief, which teacheth that the Lord is the Creator and Preserver of the things which he made.

4. Makes God a liar and Christ a contradiction.

And here they do very foolishly bring in the omnipotence of God. For we are now to enquire, not what God can, but what he will do according to his written Word. Moreover it cannot be either that God can lie, or that Christ can be contrary to himself: both which will necessarily come to pass, if anything be said to have been ordained by Christ, contrary to the articles of our faith.

Two errors: of Idolatry and Propitiation.

Hence have risen two most grievous errors: the former touching the worshiping of the bread and the wine, the which in a very fearful blasphemous sort, are thus commonly saluted by the Papists: “All Hail, Saviour of the World, The Word of the Father, The True Sacrifice, Lively Flesh, The Whole Deity, True Man,etc. The other touching the expiatory and propitiatory oblation for the sins of the quick and the dead, which the Church of Rome doth properly call the Mass, and wherein they place the sum of all Christianity.

Sacrifice of the Mass.

For the Mass is not that mingle mangle patched up as it were of the shreds of diverse places gathered here and there out of the Scripture, and other authors, which are the relics of the ancient liturgy or common service book of the Christians: but it is that ordinary propitiation and oblation (called by them their “Unbloody Sacrifice“) which is offered unto God the Father, for the sins of the quick and the dead.

1. The Mass changes the Sacrament into a Sacrifice.

Now, they offend in this point, first, because they change the Sacrament into a Sacrifice. Whereas Christ commanding us to receive, and not to offer, ordained a Sacrament, and not a Sacrifice.

2. The Mass adds to Christ’s one time sacrifice.

Next, in that they falsely teach that in the Christian Church there remaineth after the death of Christ, any expiatory Sacrifice, besides the very body of Christ, which is endued with a true human nature and soul.

3. The Mass undermines the sufficiency of Christ’s atonement.

Thirdly, in that they closely accuse that one and most perfect sacrifice of Christ, of imperfection, by iterating the same every hand while. For iteration is a note of imperfection, as the Apostle saith (Hebrews 7).

[“But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; Who needeth not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. For the law maketh men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, maketh the Son, who is consecrated for evermore.” (Hebrews 7:24-28)]

Christ indeed commanded all the faithful to celebrate the memory of his Passion: but he gave no commandment unto any that he should be sacrificed. For there ought to be no mention of the name and office of a “Priest” or of an “altar” at this day in the Church of Christ. For Christ is now the only, and the chief Priest, who offered himself once, an only, and a most perfect Sacrifice unto God. Neither was there any other that could, can, or shall be able to perform that work.

Sacrifices of thanksgiving, not of expiation.

For the sacrifices that ought now to have place among Christians, are only of thanksgiving: that the faithful may give thanks unto God for all his benefits, and offering their prayers unto him, may perpetually consecrate themselves, wholly, a living and an acceptable sacrifice unto his majesty [Rom. 12:1]. An expiatory or propitiatory sacrifice there is or can be no other, but that which Christ once made most perfectly, upon the altar of the cross.

Yet we do not deny, but that the ancient writers did give the name of “sacrifice” unto the Lord’s Supper—but, as in this point, so in many other things, in a very far stretched signification. 1. And that partly to the end, that (as they thought) they might set forth the dignity of this high mystery, whereat the Angels do admire. 2. And partly, that they might note out, and retain the custom used amongst the ancient Christians. Who were wont in their holy feasts of love, to bestow and offer gifts and offerings of divers things, and even of meat and drink: which being collected together into one, were so disposed of by the pastors of the churches. A. As first of all, they were by prayers offered unto God. B. Next, some portion of them was taken, whereby the Holy Supper was administered. C. Lastly, that which was left, was bestowed for the maintenance of the poor. Out of which rites, the Mass-mongers do as yet retain the names of “Offertory, Collect, and Communion.” And hence it is thought that the name of the Mass was derived, even from the custom that the faithful had to send those things unto the public assemblies of the Church, which they would have bestowed upon holy uses.

Origin of the Mass.

Now, it is no less fabulous, that the Popish Mass was celebrated by James, or any other of the Apostles; than it is most true, that the same was coined, neither all at once, nor yet by one and the self same man, but was soldered together, as now it is, by many Popes, after many years: and after that it had been eked out, with many patches which were added thereunto.

Additional errors of the Mass.

Unto the former errors, there are adjoined not a few others, as:

1. That it is celebrated, not by the congregation of the faithful, but by one Mass-monger alone.

2. That the Sacrament is after the holy action reserved, as it were, a preservative against whatsoever inconvenience.

3. That the names of dead Saints are called upon, and their imaginary merits, intermingled in the Mass.

4. That the one of the signs is in a kind of impudent and altogether hellish boldness, taken away from the lay people, as they call them.

5. That the whole action is done in a strange tongue.

6. That the Mass-Priest alone is privy unto many things that are done therein

7. That they use the attire and gestures of stage-players, and many other things, brought forth by this plant, which the Heavenly Father hath not planted, and therefore, shall one day be altogether rooted out.

Therefore, we detest this imaginary and blasphemous Sacrifice of the Mass, which is contrary unto God’s Word, and overthroweth the force of Christ’s Passion, and bringeth in almost innumerable errors. And we pray with all our hearts and souls, that the Lord would grant unto all his Churches, the pure and sound use of his Holy Supper.

Defended by Theophilus Hesperius of Bearne.

3 thoughts on “Principles on the Popish Mass

  1. I am an ex Roman Catholic and convert to the Reformed faith and Protestantism. I am now a Presbyterian. I agree with all the points of objection of the “Popish Mass” brought out in the article above. I have renounced my former Roman catholic faith and now through the Grace of God I have been converted to the true faith of the apostles and the true Gospel of the Lord which I believe is the Reformed faith; the restoration of the faith after 1500 years of Romanist corruptions. I am a Presbyterian now and I believe in the Presbyterian teaching of the Lords Supper.
    When I was a Roman catholic I faithfully attended mass every Sunday and on their so called holy days and even during the week once in a while. However I always had a problem with the notion of transubstantiation, not that I question Christ coming to us in the Eucharist, communion, but I always thought how Christ becomes present was not for any man or group of men to define as was done by men in the Council of Trent, which was a counter move and knee jerk reaction to the Glorious Protestant Reformation. I believe that as finite beings we can ascribe a theory as to how Christ becomes present, but the finite can never completely explain the infinite which is in essence a metaphysical impossibility. I also had a complete repulsion of the reservation of the bread wafer in a tabernacle and the worshiping of the bread placed inside a gold monstrance for adoration outside the service of the Lords Supper. I was not only uncomfortable with the practice but was embarrassed by it altogether. To me even before I became a Protestant it seemed to be a form of gross idolatry and a blasphemy of what Christ intended in the Lords Supper. I was happy after Vatican II when the RC church almost completely abandoned the practice and I was hopeful that the reforms of Vatican II would lead to a more Protestant view of the Lords Supper that would eventually restore the true meaning of the sacrament which represents the one and only true and only needed Perfect sacrifice; the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary for the forgiveness of man’s sin and salvation for all who place their faith in Him alone for salvation.The mass is a man-made form of worship and actually is in contradiction to what the scriptures teach. As a protestant I now agree with the Reformers John Calvin and John Knox regarding the proper form of Christian worship and the sacrament of the Lords Supper. I renounce the Roman Catholic teaching of transubstantiation and all Roman Catholic teachings which contradict and some cases go against the scriptures.I now find the celebration of the Lords Supper as a Protestant and as a Presbyterian more meaningful and believe Christ is present also without the injurious teaching to the true nature of the sacrament which Roman Catholicism calls transubstantiation. I now believe that the bread remains bread and the wine remains wine. In the supper Christ becomes present to us because of our faith and our ascending to Jesus and thus the Father in heaven and the Lord who is the giver of the sacrament. The elements which are symbols are not changed into Christ’s actual body and blood. ~ Dudley Davis ~


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