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The Works of James Arminius - Vol. 1

Disputation 21: On The Roman Pontiff, And The Principal Titles Which Are Attributed To Him

Respondent: John Martinius

1. For many ages past, all who have had any knowledge of the Pope of Rome, have held no low or moderate sentiments about him, but have entertained exaggerated notions about him and uttered the most lofty and excessive eulogies. This was required by that sublime degree of dignity to which he has been elevated. Yet the things which have been spoken concerning him are so diverse, as well as adverse, as to render it matter of wonder that such various and contrary judgments and eulogies about one and the same person, can be found among men who are Christians, at least so far as their own profession is concerned. For some persons not only adorn, but literally load him with titles the most honorable, when they give him the appellation of the spouse, the head, the foundation of the Catholic Church, the vicar of God and Christ on earth, the absolute lord of the whole Christian world with regard to spiritual things, in temporal things likewise, so far as they are ordained for spiritual things, and the Prince of Pastors and of Bishops. Others disparage him with titles quite contrary, such as, the adulterer and pimp of the Church, the false prophet, the destroyer and subverter of the Church, the enemy of God and the Antichrist, the wicked and perverse servant, who neither discharges the duties of a Bishop, nor is worthy to bear the name. Uniting ourselves with the band of those who bestow on the Roman Pontiff the epithets last cited, we assert that he is unworthy of the honorable titles which precede them, and that the latter disparaging epithets are attributed to Him through his just deserts, which we now proceed to prove in a few Theses.

2. The Spouse and Husband of the church universal is one by a most particular unity, otherwise the church would be an adulteress. His properties are these: He has loved the church, has exposed or given himself for her, has purchased her for himself, with his own blood, has formed her of his own flesh and bones by the Spirit of regeneration, hath sanctified and cleansed her by his own blood and by his Spirit, that he might present her holy, unblamable and glorious. (Ephesians 5:25-27; Acts 20:28.) He has sealed her for an espoused wife to himself by the earnest of his Spirit, as with a nuptial ring, (2 Corinthians 1:21, 22; Romans 8:9, 15, 16,) and imparts to her his own blessings necessary and sufficient for life and salvation. (Ephesians 5:23.) To Him the church has respect, and asks, expects and receives all good things from Him alone. (Acts 4:12; Revelation 22:17.) And to Him the apostles [and their successors] are preparing to present her as a chaste virgin to one husband." (2 Corinthians 11:2.) These properties belong to Christ alone: But the Roman Pontiff is not Christ. Therefore, he is neither the spouse nor the husband of the church universal. Nor can any greater affinity be framed between Christ and the Roman Pontiff, even when conducting himself in the best manner, than that which is signified by the word "the friend of the bridegroom," and "the brideman." (John 3:29.)

3. The Head of the church is but one; otherwise the church would be a monster. His properties are these: He is united to the church by the internal bond of the Spirit and of faith (John 17:15-17; 1 Corinthians 6:17, 19; Ephesians 3:17.) The church is subject and subordinate to Him. (Ephesians 5:24, 25.) He perfectly contains within himself all things necessary for the life and salvation of the church. He inspires life, sensation and motion into the church by the efficacy of the Spirit.

(Galatians 2:20.) He is affected with the evils which afflict the whole church and the members in general and in particular. (Hebrews 4:15.) He suffers the persecutions and afflictions which are endured by the church, feeling them as much as if they were inflicted on his own body, and He relieves them. (Acts 9:4, 5.) In his person the church is raised up together, and seated together in heavenly places in Him. (Ephesians 2:6.) And therefore, she has her Politeuma "the administration of her public affairs," in heaven. (Philippians 3:20.) All these properties agree with Christ only. But the Roman Pontiff is not Christ; and therefore, he is neither the head of the church, nor can any affinity be established between Christ, and the Roman Pontiff, which is not signified in the name of some particular member of the body, or of a duty belonging to some member. (Romans 12:4-8.) And no greater dignity can belong to the Pope of Rome, under Christ the head, than that which is comprehended under the words, an apostle, prophet, evangelist, teacher, pastor, bishop, [one who can exercise] the power [of working mirades,] the gift of healing, help and government. (1 Corinthians 12:4, 6-31.) All these dignities are ascribed to the members of the body of the church. Therefore, on account of none of them does the title of "head" appertain to this Pontiff.

4. The Foundation of the church universal is only one, because there is but one house of God and Christ. Its properties are these: It stands by its own power, and does not rest on any extrinsic foundation. (1 Timothy 3:15.)

The whole house, consisting of two people, the Jews and the Gentiles, is built upon this foundation, as upon a chief corner-stone, and is sustained, by the power implanted in it, against all things which can assail it from without, whether from above or from below, on its sides, on the right hand and on the left; it continues immovable, does not totter, is not sunk or overwhelmed, and does not fall. (Hebrews 3:6; Ephesians 2:20-22; Matthew 16:18.) This foundation is the immediate fulcrum or prop and firm support to all the lively stones that are built upon it; "they who believe on Him shall not be ashamed;" but it is a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense to those who do not believe and are disobedient; it dashes them in pieces, and they perish. (Isaiah 28:16; 1 Peter 2:4-6.) All these properties, both generally and severally, belong to Christ alone. But the Roman Pontiff is not Christ. Therefore, neither is he the foundation of the church. But the metonymy, by which the Prophets and Apostles are called "the foundations of the church," (Revelation 21:14,) and by which the saints are said to be "built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets," (Ephesians 2:20,) attributes nothing more to them, than their being "laborers together with God" in laying down Christ as this foundation, and in building up the whole house on Him. (1 Corinthians 3:5-12.) But St. Peter was also among these; yet he excelled none of the other Apostles in any prerogative, but was inferior to St. Paul, not indeed in power, but in "the more abundant labor" of the latter in building up the church. (1 Corinthians 15:10.)

5. Godís Vicar-General, or Universal, is one who administers all things in heaven and on earth in the name, at the command, and by the authority of God. To this individual must necessarily appertain,

(1.) A Power, inferior indeed, by reason of the dispensation, to his who appointed him, yet most closely approaching to it, and dependent on no other power than that of God. (John 5:22, 26, 27.) So that this power may, not undeservedly, be called autocratorical, possessing within itself absolute sovereignty, and pantocratorical, omnipotent or having power over all things. (John 17:2, 24.)

(2.) The Knowledge, as well as the Power necessary to administer all things. It cannot be less than divine; for it must be extended to all things generally, and to every thing in particular, and this in an immediate manner if we consider the internal efficacy of government. (1 Corinthians 15:27; Revelation 2 and 3; Philippians 3:21; Galatians 2:20.) And this Vicar of God is only Christ, to whom alone these properties belong. But the Roman Pontiff is not Christ. Therefore, he is not Godís Universal Vicar, not even in the church, because the same considerations, apply to her as to the whole universe. In the same way, the Universal Vicar of Christ will be one who pleads the cause of Christ, and who, with a power and wisdom purely divine administers all things in His name and by his authority.

(John 1:6-8, 13-15.) And this is the Spirit of Christ, his advocate, the Spirit of wisdom and of the power of God, who, in the name of Christ, appoints apostles, prophets, teachers, and bishops; who leads and governs believers, but who convinces and condemns unbelievers. (Acts 20:28; 13:2; Romans 8:14.) The Roman Pontiff is not that Spirit, nor hath he received the Spirit without measure. (Romans 12:3.) Neither can the Roman Pontiff, even when his conduct is most exemplary, have any other delegated power under Christ, than that which is particular; because he is not endued with the Spirit, except "according to the measure of the gift of Christ." (Ephesians 4:7.) And this is bestowed [on the pontiff] not with regard to Christ as a priest, (for that office does not admit of a vicar, or substitute,) but as he is king and prophet supreme, and only so far as concerns the external administration of some part of Christís kingdom and people, either by doctrine or by government, the internal administration in the mean time remaining entirely vested in Christ, as does also his Spirit. (1 Corinthians 3:5-23.)

6. The Dominion Over Heaven And Earth, or over the whole church, (for these cannot be separated,) appertains by divine gift to Him alone who has said,

"All things are delivered unto me of my Father." (Matthew 11:27.)

"All things which the Father hath, are mine." (John 17:10.)

"All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations." (Matthew 28:18.)

"As thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given Him." (John 17:2.)

"Whom God hath set at his own right hand in the heavens, far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come." (Ephesians 1:21.)

Who is called the beginning," or the principle, "the first-born from the dead; that in all things He might have the preeminence." (Colossians 1:18.) In whom the church is "complete; who is the head of all principality and power." (Colossians 2:10.) "On whose vesture and thigh a name is written KING of Kings, and LORD of Lords." (Revelation 19:16.) Christ alone is thus described. But the Roman Pontiff is not Christ. The distinction of plenary power, with regard to spiritual, and temporals, is contrary both to plenitude of power and to the subordination of things spiritual and temporal; and has been fabricated on account of the defect of the capability of which the pontiff is destitute, to subject temporal things to himself, even among those nations over whom he has obtained the power in spiritual matters.

7. The Prince of bishops, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, is one. (1 Corinthians 12:4, 5, etc.) If it were otherwise, there would be more than a single monarch and dictator in the church, when only one is requisite in a monarchical state and government; but then Duumviri, two governors, would hold the pre-eminence. His properties are these: To institute, sanctify, and set apart to the work of the ministry, apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, teachers, and all bishops in the church. (Ephesians 4:5, 6, 11-13.) To prescribe to them what they must say and do. (Matthew 28:18-20.) To furnish them with necessary and sufficient gifts. (Romans 12:3; 2 Corinthians 3:5, 6.) To be present with them, in the power of his Spirit and grace, while engaged in the discharge of their functions. (Matthew 28:20.) To give efficacy to their ministrations. (Mark 16:20; 1 Corinthians 3:6.) To compel them to render an account. To make a distinction between the acts and omissions of each; and, according to the different mode of their administrations, to adjudge rewards or punishments. (1 Peter 5:4; Matthew 25:19-30.) And these properties belong to Christ alone. But the Roman Pontiff is not Christ. Therefore, he is not the Prince of bishops; but if he have any claim to this office, even when he behaves himself in his best manner, he cannot be called by any other name than that of a bishop, pastor, or teacher, who ought to acknowledge all bishops as his fellow elders, without any disparity of the power which belongs to the essence of the office. (1 Peter 5:1.)

8. Since, therefore, the Roman Pontiff either attributes these most honorable titles of Christ to himself, or willingly suffers them to be ascribed to him; and since he evinces no horror at the blasphemy contained in these titles, and gives no tokens of his displeasure at this ascription of them; it follows, that he puts himself in the place of Christ, and is supremely opposed to Him. There is no excuse in the explanation which is given, that "the head and foundation is ministerial, and that he attributes all these things to himself under Christ, as having been elevated by the grace or favor of God and Christ to that dignity." For the protestation is directly contrary to the fact; and he is so much the more the bitter enemy of God and Christ, as he the more confidently boasts of being defended by the authority of God and Christ. Such conduct is, in fact, under the semblance of friendship to exercise the deepest enmity, and, under the disguised pretext of a minister of light and of righteousness, to promote the interests of the kingdom of darkness and of unrighteousness. On this very account, therefore, we assert that the disparaging epithets which we laid down in our first Thesis, most justly belong to him; and this we now proceed to show by descending to particulars.

9. First. The name of the Adulterer and The Pimp of the Church is his.

(1.) He is the Adulterer of the church, both by the public and mutual profession of each other; because he calls the [Roman Catholic] church his and she neither disowns the arrogance of this title nor is afraid of the odium [attached to such assumption,] and he is the adulterer in reality. For he practices spiritual adultery with the church, and she in return with him. He commands the apocryphal writings to be accounted divine and canonical; the ancient Latin version of the Scriptures, [commonly called] the vulgate, to be every where received as the true original, and under no pretense whatever to be rejected; his own interpretations of the Scriptures to be embraced with the most undoubting faith; and unwritten traditions to be honored with an affection and reverence equal to that evinced for the written word of God. He enacts and rescinds laws that pertain to faith and morals, and binds them as fetters on consciences. He promises and offers plenary indulgences, and the remission of all sins, through the plenitude of his power. "He exalteth himself above all that is worshipped," and offers himself as some god to be adored with religious worship. In all these acts the church, deceived by his artifices, complies with his wishes. He is, therefore, the Adulterer of the church.

(2.) But he is also the Pimp or Pander of the church, because he acts towards her as the author, persuader, impelling exciter and procurer of various spiritual adulteries committed, or to be hereafter committed, with different husbands, with angels, Mary and other deceased saints, with images of God, of Christ, of the Holy Ghost, of the cross, of angels, of Mary, and of saints; with the bread in the sacrament of the Lordís Supper; and with other inanimate objects.

10. To him likewise belongs the name of The False Prophet, whom the Scripture calls "the tail," in opposition to "the head;" (Isaiah 9:15;) and this, whether it be received in a general acceptation, or in a particular sense and restricted to a certain and determinate person.

(1.) In its general meaning, whether it signifies him who teaches falsehood without arrogating to himself the name of a prophet, or him who falsely boasts of being a prophet, the latter of which seems to be the proper signification of the word. (2 Peter 2:1; Acts 13:6.) For, first, he partly introduced into the church many false dogmas; and partly those which were introduced when such a great mystery of iniquity was finished, he defends, maintains and propagates. Of this kind, the dogmas concerning the insufficiency of the scriptures without traditions, to prove and confirm ever necessary truth, and to confute all errors; that it is of the last necessity unto salvation for every human creature to be under subjection to the Roman pontiff; that the bread in the Lordís supper is transubstantiated, or changed in substance, into the body of Christ; that in the mass Christ is daily offered by the priest as a propitiatory sacrifice for the sins of the living and of the dead; that man is justified before God, partly by faith, and partly by works; that there is a purgatory, into which the souls of those enter who are not yet sufficiently purified, and that they are released from it by prayers, intercessions, watchings, alms-deeds, indulgences, etc. In the Second sense, this epithet is due to him, because he says that he is a prophet, who, on account of the perpetual assistance of the Holy Spirit, which is attached to that chair, cannot possibly err in things which pertain to faith and morals.

(2.) But it also belongs to him in the restricted meaning of the word; because the Roman pontiff is "the false prophet who works miracles before the beast, (Revelation 19:20,) "out of whose mouth comes out three unclean spirits like frogs," (16:13,) and who is not improperly understood to be "the tail of the great red dragon, that drew the third part of the stars of heaven." (12:4.)

11. He is also deservedly called The Destroyer And Subverter Of The Church. For since the superstructure of the church "is built by the faith of the doctrine of the apostles and prophets, which rests on Jesus Christ himself, the chief Corner-stone," since it likewise increases more and more through the obedience of faith in the right worship of the Deity and in the pursuit after holiness; and since it is built up in the Lord, being fitly framed together into one body through the bond of peace and concord; (Ephesians 2:20, 21; 4:3; 2 Peter 2:5, 6;) the Roman pontiff demonstrates himself to be, in a four-fold manner, the subverter of this edifice: First, by perverting the faith. This he effects,

(1.) By adding the books of the apocrypha and unwritten traditions to the prophetical and apostolical scriptures.

(2.) By joining himself, as another foundation, with Christ who is the only foundation.

(3.) By mixing numerous false dogmas with those which are true.

(4.) By taking away some things that are true, or corrupting them by false interpretations. Secondly, by adulterating the integrity of divine worship.

This he does,

(1.) By an addition to the persons who alone, according to God and his command, are to be objects of worship.

(2.) By the introduction of a method which is expressly forbidden by God.

(3.) By introducing vain, ridiculous and old wivesí superstitions.

(4.) By the institution of various peculiar societies of devotees, separate fraternities, and newly fabricated religious orders of Francis, Dominic, etc.

Thirdly, by vitiating the purity or soundness of holiness and morals. This he accomplishes chiefly by the following acts:

(1.) By inventing easy methods of obtaining remission of sins and plenary indulgences.

(2.) By declaring certain precepts in the name of councils.

(3.) By absolving many persons from the obligation of their duties.

(4.) By binding men to [the performance of] those things, which no one whatever is capable of understanding or accomplishing.

(5.) By bringing into the Christian world the worst examples of all wickedness. Fourthly, by breaking the bond of concord and unity. This he effects chiefly by these acts and artifices,

(1.) When he arrogates to himself a power over others, which by no right belongs to him.

(2.) When he obtrudes many false dogmas to be believed as true, and unnecessary things as absolutely necessary.

(3.) By excommunications and senseless fulminations, by which he madly rages against those who have not deserved such treatment, and who are not subject to his diocese.

(4.) When he excites dissensions between princes, republics and magistrates and their subjects; or when he foments, increases and perpetuates such dissensions, after they have been raised in other quarters.

12. It is demonstrable by the most evident arguments that the name of Antichrist and of The Adversary of God belongs to him. For the apostle ascribes the second of these epithets to him when he calls him "the man of sin, the son of perdition, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he, as God, sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God." (2 Thessalonians 2:3-8.)

It was he who should arise out of the ruins of the Roman empire, and should occupy its vacant digaity. These expressions, we assert, must be understood, and can be understood, solely respecting the Roman pontiff.

But the name of "The Antichrist" belongs to him pre-eminently, whether the particle anti signifies opposition, or the substitution of one thing for another; not indeed such a substitution as is lawfully and legitimately made by Him who has the power of placing things in subordination, but it signifies one by which any man is substituted, either by himself or by another person through force and fraud. For he is both a rival to Christ, and his adversary, when he boasts of himself as the spouse, the head, and the foundation of the church, endowed with plenitude of power; and yet he professes himself to be the vicegerent of Christ, and to perform his functions on earth, for the sake of his own private advantage, but to the manifest injury of the church of Christ. He has, however, considered it necessary to employ the name of Christ as a pretext, that under this sacred name he may obtain that reverence for himself among Christians, which he would be unable to procure if he were openly to profess himself to be either the Christ, or the adversary of Christ.

13. Although the Roman pontiff calls himself "the servant of the servants of God," yet we further assert that he is by way of eminence, That Wicked And Perverse Servant, who, when he saw that his Lord delayed his coming, "began to smite his fellow-servants." (Matthew 24, 48.) For the Roman pontiff has usurped domination and tyranny, not only over his fellow-servants, the bishops of the church of God, but likewise over emperors and kings themselves, whose authority and dignity he had himself previously acknowledged. To acquire this domination for himself, and still further to augment and establish it, he has employed all kinds of satanic instruments ó sophistical hypocrisy, lies, equivocations, perfidy, perjury, violence, poison, and armed forces ó so that he may most justly be said to have succeeded that formidable beast which "was like unto a leopard, a bear and a lion," and by which the Roman empire was prefigured ó and to have "had power to give life unto the image of the beast, and to cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast, should be killed."

14. Lastly, though from all these remarks it will readily appear that the Roman pontiff is unworthy of the name of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, teacher, and of universal bishop; (1 Corinthians 3:5; 12:28; Ephesians 4:11;) yet, by this single argument, which is deduced from their peculiar attributes and duties, the very same satisfactory conclusions may be rendered evident to all who search the scriptures of the Old and the New Testament, and especially the epistles of St. Paul to Timothy and Titus. (1 Timothy 3; Titus 1.) Nor will this evasion avail any thing, "that whatever a man does through another who is his vicar or substitute, he seems to do it himself;" for it is Christ alone who makes use of the vicarious aid of these persons as ministers; and the duties which they perform, are such as ought to be discharged by those who are distinguished by those titles. (Galatians 1:7-9.) Therefore, that rightly appertains to the Roman pontiff which God threatens through the prophet Zechariah, that he will raise up a foolish shepherd, and an idol shepherd, who shall devote no attention to the sheep, but who "shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces." (Zechariah 11:15-17.) God grant that the church, being delivered from the frauds and tyranny of Antichrist, may obtain shepherds that may feed her in truth, charity and prudence, to the salvation of the sheep themselves, and to the glory of the chief Shepherd. Amen.

COROLLARIES

1. It is a part of religious wisdom to separate the Court of Rome from the church, in which the pontiff sits.

2. The Roman pontiff, even when conducting himself with the greatest propriety, must not be acknowledged by any human or positive right as the head of the church, or the universal bishop; and such acknowledgment of him has hitherto contributed, and does in its very nature contribute, not so much to preserve unity in the church, and to restrain the license of thinking, speaking and teaching differently on the chief articles of religion, as to take away necessary liberty, and that which is agreeable to the word of God, and to introduce a real tyranny.