The Anabaptist vision was not a detailed blueprint for the reconstruction of human society, but the Brethren did believe that Jesus intended that the kingdom of God should be set up in the midst of earth, here and now, and this they proposed to do forthwith.
Further, the aforementioned doctors lay down that certain of the Bohemian clergy, leaning too little on the pope and the college of cardinals, do not want to agree to this, wishing to have holy Scripture for the only judge in such matters, which Scripture they interpret and wish to have interpreted according to their own heads, not caring for the interpretation accepted by the community of wise men in the church nor…
I shall only ask my reader, are our times better than the reformation and covenanting periods, when our church approached much nearer to the primitive simplicity in defending the Supper of the Lord? Has our church gained anything, has practical religion been increased by the change of the old for our present way? Does it not deserve inquiry, if our neglect of frequently communicating, be not one cause, why the love of many has waxed cold?
While Roman Catholics are now mainly agreed on the principle that the Pope is infallible, the greatest differences of opinion will be found among them as to whether any particular papal utterance is infallible; and any Roman Catholic who does not like to accept any decision of the Pope need have no difficulty in producing a parallel case of some previous decision, to all appearance possessing the same claims to reverence, but which is now acknowledged to have been wrong. So that, in short, I do not know how to sum up the Roman Catholic doctrine on this subject except by the formula, The Pope is always infallible, except when he makes a mistake.
Although the question of the Infallibility of the Pope is that with which I am directly concerned in this course of Lectures, yet in treating of the matter historically I have found it necessary, before entering on the discussion of it, to trace the growth of Roman Supremacy because the claim to Infallibility was the last stage in the progress of Roman ambition.
In tracing the history of the growth of the empire of heathen Rome, we find the city first battling with the neighbouring Italian towns then, when it had established its dominion in Italy, crossing the sea, and making conquests in foreign countries. At length its expansive power reaches its limits it gains some temporary victories in Parthia and Germany, but never makes a permanent conquest of these countries. In like manner, in tracing the history of the growth of the ecclesiastical empire of Rome, we find that the movement began at Rome itself: that it was at first resisted in its own immediate neighbourhood that by degrees it triumphed over that opposition, and extended itself over all the West.
The history of Development can only tell us what has been, not what ought to be. The cases of Episcopacy and Papal Supremacy are not parallel because the former institution dates from apostolic times; and if it can be shown that it was established by apostles, then it can claim a right to permanent continuance. But what claim for permanence can be made on behalf of any form of Church government which confessedly shaped itself at least two or three centuries after the apostles were all dead?
I go on now to consider Peter’s connexion with Rome, which I look on as a mere historical problem, without any doctrinal significance whatever way it may be determined. The generally received account among Roman Catholics, and one which can claim a long traditional acceptance, is that Peter came to Rome in the second year of Claudius (that is, A.D. 42), and that he held the see twenty-five years, a length of episcopate never reached again until by Pio Nono, who exceeded it
It is plain how the chance of arriving at truth is prejudiced by the claim to infallibility. If no such claim were made, the majority would be forced to weigh the arguments of the minority, to count the risk of driving them into schism, to take care not to seem before the world to have the worst of the argument. But when infallibility is supposed to rest with the ultimate vote, the majority have no need to care about the arguments advanced. Secure a vote, no matter how, and all is gained.
I shall presently produce evidence that even those Councils, to whose decisions we cordially assent, were composed of frail and fallible men that the proceedings of some of them were conducted in a way that does not command our respect, and that the ultimate triumph of orthodoxy was due to other causes besides the decisions of these Councils.
Roman Catholic controversialists have called the Bible a nose of wax, which any man can twist as he pleases. This is true if you adopt the allegorical method of interpretation, or rather then, if it had been a nose of iron, it would make no difference, so powerful is the wrenching instrument employed.
Without doubt it is a most manifest fall from faith, and a most certain sign of pride, to introduce anything that is not written in the Scriptures, our blessed Saviour having said, “My sheep hear My voice, and the voice of strangers they will not hear” and to detract from Scripture, or to add anything to the faith that is not there, is most manifestly forbidden by the Apostle saying, “If it be but a man’s testament, no man addeth thereto.”
Neither in Dalmatia nor in Cappadocia, neither in Rome, nor in Africa, was it then imperative on Christian parents, as it is now, to give baptism to their young children.
Confirmation is thus a term which in Christian history covers a diversity of practice, for neither in the manner of administration nor in the conceptions associated with it, does it stand for a fixed and uniform rite. There is no consistent tradition either in the form or in the matter of the rite while the minister may sometimes be a presbyter and on other occasions a bishop.
Questionless, there can nothing be more spitefully spoken against the religion of God than to accuse it of novelty, as a new come up matter. For as there can be no change in God Himself, so ought there to be no change in His religion.