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Spirit inspired them. (Gal. i. 3. 2 Cor. iii.) Holy Apostles never took upon them to be Christ's vicar in the earth, nor to be his lieutenant: but said, "Let a man so account of us, as of the ministers of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God." (1 Cor. iv.) In the same Epistle he bindeth the Corinthians to follow him in nothing but where he followed Christ (chap. xi.), "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ." They ministered not in the church, as though Christ were absent, although his most glorious body was departed corporeally into the heavens above; but as Christ present, that always governed his church with his Spirit of truth, as he promised (Matt. xxviii.), " Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
In the absence of his body, he hath commended the protection and governance of his church unto the Holy Ghost, the same God, and one God with the Father and his divine nature. Whose divine puissance and power overmatcheth the force of the devil, so that hell itself cannot take one of Christ's flock out of God's protection. (John, x.) And this defence dureth not for a day, nor year, but shall demour (remain) for ever, till this church be glorified at the resurrection of the flesh. (John, xv.)
It was no little pain that Christ suffered in washing away the sins of this church: therefore he will not commit the defence thereof unto man. It is no less glory to defend and keep the thing won by force, than it is by force to obtain the victory. Adam, Abraham, Moses, or Aaron, could not win this church out of the devil's tyranny: no more can they defend it, when delivered. For although by imputation of Christ's justice those men and all other faithful ones be delivered from the tyranny of the devil and condemnation of the law: yet had and hath the devil his very friends dwelling within the
corrupt nature of man, as long as he liveth. The concupiscence and rebellion of man's nature ceaseth not day or night to betray man again to the devil, except with the motion of true penitence this concupiscence be kept under in fear and faith; which two virtues are so infirm in man, that be he never so perfect, yet falleth he from God sometime, as Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Aaron. (Isa. xliii. Num. xix.) Therefore he keepeth the defence and governance of the church only and solely himself, in whom the devil hath not a jot of right. Though the Apostles were instructed in all truth, and left the same written unto his church; yet were they ministers, servants, testimonies, and preachers of this verity, and not Christ's vicars in earth and lieutenants to keep the keys of heaven, hell, and purgatory: but only appointed to approve the thing to be good, that God's laws commanded; and that to be ill, that the word of God condemned.
Seeing that Christ doth govern his church always by his holy Spirit, and bindeth all the ministers thereof unto the sole word of God, what abomination is this, that any bishop of Rome, Jerusalem, Antioch, or elsewhere, should claim to be Christ's vicar in earth, and take upon him to make any laws in the church of God to bind the consciences of man, beside the word of God; and, in placing of their superstition and idolatry, put the word of God out of his place! By what law, by whom, or where, hath any this title given unto him, to be God's vicar and lieutenant upon the earth?
Moses, the best prince that ever was, and most godly governor of the people; Aaron, that faithful high priest and preacher of God's word, never usurped this title, to be as a second Christ and master over men's consciences. If godly Moses and his brother Aaron never claimed this title in the earth, doubt
less, it is a foul and detestable arrogance, that these ungodly bishops of Rome attribute unto themselves to be the heads of Christ's church, and the more it is to be lamented. He, that considereth their life, and conferreth it with the Scripture, will judge by the authority thereof, that they were not for these many years worthy to be accounted any members of God's church, but the members of the devil, and the first begotten of antichrist.
This is true, the See of Rome is not only a tyranny and pestilence of body and soul, but the nest of all abomination. God give him grace and all his successors to leave their abomination, and to come unto the light of God's word! This beast is preached unto the people to be a man, that cannot err; his authority to be above God and his laws; and to be the prince upon the earth of all princes. But God will judge him, as he is a murderer of both body and soul, and punish the princes of the world, that uphold his abomination.
Moses and Aaron, by the testimony of the Scripture, never taught, but that which they received of God, and at the last they both offended (Num.xx.): insomuch, that God gave sentence against them, that neither of them should enter into the land of promise for their arrogance and pride. The text saith, "Because ye were unfaithful unto me." This false belief was not of any doubt they had in the power of God; for the miracle was done, as God said: but that they attributed too much unto their own power, and said: "Hear now, ye rebels, must we fetch you water out of this rock?" For the changing of the third person in this sentence into the first, the ire of God pronounced sentence of death against these two very godly ministers of his word. They sinned, because they said not; "Hear, ye ebellious, cannot Jehovah, the Omnipotent, give you
water out of this stone?" And is this first begotten of antichrist, the Bishop of Rome, without sin, that changeth not only the person in a sentence, but the whole sentence, yea, the whole law of God and of man? So that he reigneth in the conscience above the law of God, and will save him, that God hath damned, and damn him, that God hath saved; yet this person and man of sin cannot err !
But he, that spared not to kill good Moses and Aaron for the abuse of the word of God, will not favour this wicked man, nor any of his holy doctors, at the terrible day of judgment.
Nahum, the Prophet, doth give God a wonderful name, which the Latin and Greek cannot properly express without circumlocution, as if he retained a remembrance of injuries, and reserved the occasion of vengeance. He is the God, that writeth all these blasphemies in his book of remembrance, and whenhe hath shewed his mercy sufficiently, he revengeth the evil, that man thinketh is forgotten. It is of his superabundant mercy, that he throweth not suddenly fire upon the world for sin; and not that he is asleep, or cannot do it. Right well judged Valerius Maximus, better than now the most part of Christian men: "The divine wrath proceedeth with slow pace to its vengeance. But it will make up for its slowness by the weight of punishment."
Because God hath given this light unto my countrymen, which be all persuaded, or else God send them to be persuaded, that the Bishop of Rome nor any other is Christ's vicar upon the earth; it is no need to use any long or copious oration; it is so plain, that it needeth no probation; the very properties of antichrist, I mean of Christ's great and principal enemy, are so openly known to all men, that are not blinded with the smoke of Rome, that they know him to be the beast, that John describeth in
the Apocalypse, as well as the logician knoweth that "man is distinguished from other animals by the faculty of laughter."
This knowledge of Christ's supremity and continual presence in the church admitteth no lieutenant nor general vicar. Likewise it admitteth not the decrees and laws of men, brought into the church contrary unto the word and Scripture of God, which is only sufficient to teach all verity and truth for the salvation of man, as it shall appear in this chapter following.
Of the Authority of the Word of God.
Christ, the only light of the world, sent from his Father, and born mortal man, according unto the Scripture, began to teach the word of God purely and sincerely unto the world, and chose ministers and apostles convenient for the expedition thereof, and approved to be the very Messias by God, the Father (Matt. iii. 17. John, v.), taught his disciples the truth by the only law wrote by Moses and the Prophets, and not by unwritten verities. And in all controversies and doubtful questions he answered his contrariants by the word of God. In that wonderful temptation of the devil (Matt. iv.), by collation of the places of Scripture he killed the devil with his own sword, falsely and in a wrong sense alleging the word of God, by the word of God godly applied. When his disciples were reprehended by the Pharisees, as breakers of the Sabbath (Matt. xii.), he excused their fact by the law, "Have ye not read what David did, and those which were with him?" So likewise (Matt. xv. 19) in all controversies be made the law judge between his enemies and him. When he was desired to teach a young man the way