A Warning Against the Idolatry of the Last Times
Works VII, pp. 421-424
The first [kind of idol] is, if God be otherwise conceived than He has manifested and revealed Himself in His own Word. God is to be conceived as He reveals Himself unto us, and no other wise; if otherwise, God is not conceived, but a fiction or idol of the brain. Augustine, upon the words of Joshua, “Take away the strange Gods from among you,” says on this manner, “The holy prophet Joshua saw in their hearts, thoughts of God not beseeming God, and he wills them to be taken away. For whosoever conceives God to be such a one—as He is not indeed—carries in mind a strange and false God.”
Rejection of the Trinity.
Two famous examples we have in this kind: The first is, when the true God is conceived out of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost; or out of Christ our Redeemer God and man. For when the mind abstracts the Godhead from the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, God is transformed into an Idol. The Ephesians before their conversion, worshipped God the maker of heaven and earth, and so did the Galatians. And yet nevertheless Paul says of the first, that they were without God (Eph. 2:12), and of the second, that they worshipped them that were not God, “by nature” (Gal. 4:8), because they worshipped God out of Christ: “for he that denies the Son, hath not the Father” (1 John 2:23). And the unity of the Godhead is to be adored in the Trinity of persons.
Here then behold the idol-god of the greatest nations of all the world: of Turks, of Jews, yea, of many that pretend Christianity, who upon ignorance, worship nothing but an absolute God—that is, God absolutely considered without any relation to Father, Christ, or Holy Spirit. Yes, the multitude in all places set up unto themselves a god that is all mercy, and no justice, because they content themselves with the light of blind nature, and frame God according to their own desires and affections. And by this means they erect unto themselves idols within their own hearts, and commit a most secret and spiritual idolatry, which the world cannot discern.
The second example follows, and that is, Christ Jesus falsely and far otherwise conceived than He has revealed Himself in the Word. For He in one person is perfect God and perfect man, our only Redeemer all-sufficient in Himself, and therefore perfect king, priest, prophet; without either partner or fellow in the work of man’s salvation. And he which otherwise conceives of Him, turns Him into an idol or forged Christ.
Rome Spoils Christ of His Manhood and Degrades Him of His Offices.
This does that great and famous Italian Diana, I mean the religion that stands in force by the late Council of Trent. For it presents unto us Christ indeed, but yet a poor, disguised, and deformed Christ. For it spoils Him of His manhood and degrades Him of His offices.
Christ’s Humanity Corrupted by Roman Dogma.
He is spoiled of His manhood by the presence in the sacrament; for if the bread be verily transubstantiated into the body of Christ, this very body must needs be made, not only of the substance of the virgin, but also of the substance of bread; no, it is made a very monstrous body. For being in His full quantity and dimensions, and so remaining, it is supposed to be included and contained in the quantity of a small round cake, as if a solid body of many feet could be contained in a solid body of two or three inches.
Again, if Christ be bodily in the bread, and in the hand of the receivers, remission is to be asked of God, from that which we hold in our hands, and receive with our mouth. For remission of sins must be asked and looked for at God’s hands for Christ’s sake, especially in the use of the Lord’s Supper. Communicants therefore must thus think with themselves, and speak unto God: “I pray Thee, O heavenly Father, be merciful unto me for this Thine own Son, whom being now bodily present, I hold in this my own hand, and receive with my mouth.” And this is the oblation of the popish mass in which the priest imagines that he holds and carries Christ bodily in his hands, and there offers Him to His Father, that he may obtain remission of sins for himself and others, and that for His sake whom he holds in his hands. And this, no doubt, is horrible and detestable idolatry, and it were better to endure many deaths than so much as once to be a doer in it. For we are taught by the Word of God to wait for our salvation by Christ made man and now appearing at the right hand of His Father in heaven, and not for Him whom we hold and carry in our hands.
Christ’s Priesthood Degraded Five Ways.
Touching His offices, the said religion degrades Him of His priesthood by five things:
The first is, the daily offering of Christ in the mass, and that in real manner, and also for the sins of the quick and the dead. For by this means, the sacrifice upon the cross is either continued as a thing but begun and after to be perfected, or it is repeated. If continued, it was not then accomplished on the cross. If repeated, then also it is imperfect. If imperfect, then no sacrifice of a redeemer.
The second is the doctrine of human satisfaction. For if our sufferings considered as satisfaction for the temporal punishment of our sins must concur in the work of our redemption with His satisfaction for the fault and eternal punishment of the same sins, then is this satisfaction of His in very deed imperfect, because it receives an addition and supplement from ours. And if I satisfy for myself to my creditor, my friend does not make full satisfaction for me; neither is it requisite. And so far forth as I satisfy for myself, I redeem myself.
The third is the doctrine of the merit of works, which makes void the work of redemption wrought by Christ. For if Christ merited by His death and passion that we might merit by our works eternal life, then is not Christ a full and perfect Savior, but only the principal cause of our salvation, or rather an instrument of God to make us our own Saviors.
The fourth is the doctrine of venial sin; for if some, yes, many sins are venial in their own nature, so as we ourselves may satisfy for them, it was not needful that Christ should die, and by His death redeem us from all sins.
The fifth is the doctrine of the intercession of saints, who in Romish doctrine make intercession not only by requesting, but also by meriting, yea, by commanding. For thus the virgin Mary does; more than which Christ Himself cannot do.
In the reformed mass book there is ascribed to the intercession of saints, first, protection. “Let blessed Sabbas by making intercession for us, protect us, O Lord.” Again, “by Thy apostles keep us with Thy continual protection.” Second, appeasement: “Being appeased by the intercession of saints, grant, O Lord, we pray Thee,” etc. Again, “let not the prayer of Saint Chrysostom be wanting unto us, which may cause our gifts to be accepted and obtain Thy pardon for us.” Again, “By the prayer of Matthias make us to be cleansed of our sins and defended.” Third, confidence, “by resting” on their suffrages. What can be said more of the intercession of Christ? I know they add in the end, per Dominum, but what is that to the purpose? If we give any point of supremacy to a subject, it is treason, though otherwise in terms we magnify the sovereignty of the prince.
Christ’s Kingship Likewise Degraded by Roman Dogma.
Again, the same “Catholic” religion degrades Him of His kingly office, by giving unto the pope two royalties of the kingdom of Christ: One is, a power to give pardon of sins unto men, both fully and properly, which none can do but God. The other is to make laws truly binding the consciences of all men in the catholic church upon earth, and that as truly as the laws of God, whereas there is but one lawgiver that can save and destroy the soul.
Christ’s Prophetical Office is Degraded by Roman Dogma.
Lastly, it degrades Christ of His prophetical office.
First, because it gives unto the pope a power supreme and infallible to determine in his consistory and in general councils of all controversies in religion—whether concerning faith or manners—whereas this power indeed is inseparably annexed to the person of Christ, who in and by His written Word determines of all matters pertaining to salvation, and that infallibly and sufficiently to the contentation of a humble mind, and to the settling of any conscience.
Second, it adds and takes away, it changes and reverses the doctrine Christ has left unto the church, especially in the books of the New Testament, by a heap of human traditions, especially by the law of single life, and the communion in one kind, etc.
Evasive Argument: Roman Catholicism Confesses the Trinity.
It may haply be alleged that the religion pretended to be catholic holds the unity of the Godhead, the Trinity of persons, the distinction of natures in Christ, the personal union, the offices of the Mediator as we do.
Rome Subverts the Apostles’ Creed.
I answer, that in word it does, but in deed by infallible consequence of doctrine it does abolish Christ, as I have shown. Papists in word confess Him to be “Our Lord,” but with this condition, that the Servant of Servants [i.e. the Pope] may alter and change His precepts, whose power (they say) is of the greatness, that he may be judged of none, and that he can open or shut heaven to whom he please. They confess Him to be “Jesus Our Savior,” yet a Savior in us, in that He gives us this grace, that by our own merits we may be our own saviors, borrowing also (if need be) a supply from martyrs and the rest of the saints. They confess Him to be “crucified, dead, and buried” for us, yet with this condition, that the fault being pardoned, we ourselves must satisfy for some part of the punishment, either in this world or in purgatory. They confess that, “He sits at the right hand of God the Father,” to be unto Him the Mediator of intercession for us. And yet withal, they hold that His mother is the queen of heaven, having authority to control and command her Son. What a Christ is He that, in sundry actions pertaining to our redemption, has partners or fellows joined with Him? For this cause, we reject this religion, because it turns our only and perfect Redeemer into a feigned Christ of man’s devising.
It may be further said, that some false opinions conceived of Christ do not straight way turn Him into an idol. I answer with Jerome: “Even to this day an idol is set up in the house of God, or in the hearts and souls of believers when a new doctrine is devised.” Again, “A false opinion is an idol of falsehood.”