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and hard to be believed as this is; and yet this, in the Romish church, is esteemed one of the most principal articles of the Christian faith; though there is no more certain foundation for it in scripture, than for our Saviour's being substantially changed into all those things which are said of him, as that he is a rock, a vine, a door, and a hundred other things.
But this is not all. This doctrine hath not only no certain foundation in scripture, but I have a far heavier charge against it, namely, that it undermines the very foundation of Christianity itself. And surely nothing ought to be admitted to be a part of the Christian doctrine, which destroys the reason of our belief of the whole. And that this doctrine does so, will appear evidently, if we consider what was the main argument which the apostles used to convince the world of the truth of Christianity; and that was this, that our blessed Saviour, the author of this doctrine, wrought such and such miracles, and particularly that he rose again from the dead. And this they proved, because they were eyewitnesses of his miracles, and had seen him, and conversed with him after he was risen from the dead. But what if their senses did deceive them in this matter? then it cannot be denied but that the main proof of Christianity falls to the ground.
Well! we will now suppose (as the church of Rome does) transubstantiation to have been one principal part of the Christian doctrine which the apostles preached. But if this doctrine be true, then all men's senses are deceived in a plain sensible matter, wherein it is as hard for them to be deceived as in any thing in the world. For two things can hardly be imagined more different, than a little bit of wafer, and the whole body of a man. So that the apostles persuading men to believe this doctrine, persuaded them not to trust their senses; and yet the argument which they used to persuade them to this was built upon the direct contrary principle, that men's senses are to be trusted. For if they be not, then notwithstanding all the evidence the apostles offered for the resurrection of our Saviour, he might not be risen, and so the faith of Christians was vain. So that they represent the apostles as absurd as possible, viz. going about to persuade men out of their senses, by virtue of an argument, the whole strength whereof depends upon the certainty of sense.
And now the matter is brought to a fair issue; if the testimony of sense be to be relied upon, then transubstantiation is false; if it be not, then no man is sure that Christianity is true. For the utmost assurance that the apostles had of the truth of Christianity, was the testimony of their own senses concerning our Saviour's miracles, and this testimony every man hath against transubstantiation. From whence it plainly follows, that no man (no not the apostles themselves) had more reason to believe Christianity to be true, than every man hath to believe transubstantiation to be false. And we who did not see our Saviour's miracles, (as the apostles did,) and have only a credible relation of them, but do see the sacrament, have less evidence of the truth of Christianity than of the falsehood of transubstantiation.
But cannot God impose upon the senses of men, and represent things to them otherwise than they are? Yes, undoubtedly. And if he hath revealed that he doth this, are we not to believe him? Most certainly. But then we ought to be assured that he hath made such a revelation; which assurance no man can have, the certainty of sense being taken away.
I shall press the business a little further. Supposing the scripture to be a Divine revelation, and that these words, This is my body, if they be in scripture, must necessarily be taken in the strict and literal sense; I ask now, what greater evidence any man has that these words, This is my body, are in the Bible, than every man has that the bread is not changed in the sacrament? Nay, no man has so much; for we have only the evidence of one sense that these words are in the Bible, but that the bread is not changed, we have the concurring testimony of several of our senses. In a word, if this be once admitted, that the senses of all men are deceived in one of the most plain sensible matters that can be, there is no certain means left either to convey or prove a Divine revelation to men; nor is there any way to confute the grossest impostures in the world: for if the clear evidence of all men's senses be not sufficient for this purpose, let any man, if he can, find a better and more convincing argument.
5. I will instance but in one doctrine more; and that shall be, their doctrine of deposing kings in case of heresy, and absolving their subjects from their allegiance to them. And this
is not a mere speculative doctrine, but hath been put in practice many a time by the bishops of Rome, as every one knows that is versed in history. For the troubles and confusions which were occasioned by this very thing make up a good part of the history of several ages.
I hope that nobody expects that I should take the pains to shew that this was not the doctrine of our Saviour and his apostles, nor of the primitive Christians. The papists are, many of them, so far from pretending this, that in some times and places, when it is not seasonable, and for their purpose, we have much ado to persuade them that ever it was their doctrine. But if transubstantiation be their doctrine, this is; for they came both out of the same forge, I mean the council of Lateran under Pope Innocent the Third. And if (as they tell us) transubstantiation was then established, so was this. And indeed one would think they were twins, and brought forth at the same time, they are so like one another, both of them so monstrously unreasonable.
II. I come now, in the second place, to consider some practices of the church of Rome, which I am afraid will prove as bad as her doctrines. I shall instance in these five.
1. Their celebrating of their Divine service in an unknown tongue. And that not only contrary to the practice of the primitive church, and to the great end and design of religious worship, which is the edification of those who are concerned in it, (and it is hard to imagine how men can be edified by what they do not understand,) but likewise in direct contradiction to St. Paul, who hath no less than a whole chapter wherein he confutes this practice as fully, and condemns it as plainly, as any thing is condemned in the whole Bible. And they that can have the face to maintain that this practice was not condemned by St. Paul, or that it was allowed and used in the first ages of Christianity, need not be ashamed to set up for the defence of any paradox in the world.
2. The communion in one kind. And that notwithstanding that even by their own acknowledgment our Saviour instituted it in both kinds, and the primitive church administered it in both kinds. This I must acknowledge is no addition to Christianity, but a sacrilegious taking away of an essential part of the sacrament. For the cup is as essential a part of
the institution as the bread, and they might as well, and by the same authority, take away the one as the other, and both as well as either.
3. Their worshipping of images. Which practice (notwithstanding all their distinctions about it, which are no other but what the heathens used in the same case) is as pointblank agains the second commandment, as a deliberate and malicious killing of a man is against the sixth. But if the case be so plain, a man would think that at least the teachers and guides of that church should be sensible of it. Why, they are so, and afraid the people should be so too; and therefore in their ordinary Catechisms and Manuals of devotion, they leave out the second commandment, and divide the tenth into two, to make up the number; lest if the common people should know it, their consciences should start at the doing of a thing so directly contrary to the plain command of God.
4. The worshipping of the bread and wine in the eucharist, out of a false and groundless persuasion that they are substantially changed into the body and blood of Christ. Which if it be not true, (and it hath good fortune if it be, for certainly it is one of the most incredible things in the whole world,) then, by the confession of several of their own learned writers, they are guilty of gross idolatry.
5. The worship and invocation of saints and angels, and particularly of the Virgin Mary, which hath now for some ages been a principal part of their religion. Now a man may justly wonder that so considerable a part of religion as they make this to be, should have no manner of foundation in the scripture. Does our Saviour anywhere speak one word concerning the worshipping of her? Nay, does he not take all occasions to restrain all extravagant apprehensions and imaginations concerning honour due to her, as foreseeing the degeneracy of the church in this thing? When he was told that his mother and brethren were without; Who, says he, are my mother and my brethren? He that doth the will of my father, the same is my mother, my sister, and brother. And when the woman brake forth into that rapture concerning the blessed mother of our Lord, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps that gave thee suck! our Saviour diverts to another thing, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word
of God and keep it. Does either our Saviour or his apostles, in all their particular precepts and directions concerning prayer, and the manner of it, and by whom we are to address ourselves to God, give the least intimation of praying to the Virgin Mary, or making use of her mediation? And can any man believe, that if this had been the practice of the church from the beginning, our Saviour and his apostles would have been so silent about so considerable a part of religion; insomuch that in all the epistles of the apostles, I do not remember that her name is so much as once mentioned? And yet the worship of her is at this day in the church of Rome, and hath been so for several ages, a main part of their public worship, yea, and of their private devotions too; in which it is usual with them to say ten Ave Maries for one Pater Noster; that is, for one prayer they make to Almighty God, they make ten addresses to the blessed Virgin; for that is the proportion observed in their rosaries. He that considers this, and had never seen the Bible, would have been apt to think that there had been more said concerning her in scripture than either concerning God or our blessed Saviour, and that the New Testament were full from one end to the other of precepts and exhortations to the worshipping of her; and yet when all is done, I challenge any man to shew me so much as one sentence in the whole Bible that sounds that way. And there is as little in the Christian writers of the first three hundred years. The truth is, this practice began to creep in among some superstitious people about the middle of the fourth century; and I remember particularly that Epiphanius, who lived about that time, calls it the heresy of the women.
And thus I have given you some instances of several doctrines and practices which the church of Rome hath built upon the foundation of Christianity. Much more might have been said of them, but from what hath been said, any man may easily discern how dangerous they are to the salvation of men.
I proceed now, in the second place,
II. To consider, whether our granting a possibility of salvation, though with great hazard to those in the communion of the Roman church, and their denying it to us, be a sufficient argument and encouragement to any man to quit our church