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 Issues | Doctrine | Homily 28 part 2

 

The second part of the Homily concerning

the Coming Down of the Holy Ghost

Dissoling this doubt; whether all men rightly challenge to themselves the Holy Ghost, or no.

(Go to Part 1)


Our Saviour Christ departing out of the world unto his Father, promised his Disciples to send down another comforter, that should continue with them for ever, and direct them into all truth (John 14.16, John 15.26). Which thing to be faithfully and truly performed, the Scriptures do sufficiently bear witness. Neither must we think that this comforter was either promised, or else given, only to the Apostles, but also to the universal Church of Christ, dispersed through the whole world. For unless the holy Ghost had been always present, governing and preserving the Church from the beginning, it could never have sustained so many and great bunts of affliction and persecution, with so little damage & harm as it hath. And the words of Christ are most plain in this behalf, saying, that the spirit of truth should abide with them for ever, that he would be with them always (he meaneth by grace, virtue, and power) even to the worlds end (John 14.17, Matthew 28.20).
Also in the prayer that he made to his Father a little before his death, he maketh intercession, not only for himself and his Apostles, but indifferently for all them that should believe in him through their words, that is to wit, for his whole Church (John 17.20-21). Again, Saint Paul saith: If any man have not the spirit of Christ, the same is not his (Romans 8.9). Also in the words following, we have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry Abba, Father (Romans 8.15). Hereby then it is evident and plain to all men, that the holy Ghost was given, not only to the Apostles, but also to the whole body of Christ’s congregation, although not in like form and majesty as he came down at the feast of Pentecost

But now herein standeth the controversy: Whether all men do justly arrogate to themselves the holy Ghost, or no? The Bishops of Rome have for a long time made a sore challenge thereunto, reasoning for themselves after this sort. The holy Ghost (say they) was promised to the Church, & never forsaketh the Church. But we are the chief heads, & the principal part of the Church, therefore we have the holy Ghost for ever, and whatsoever things we decree, are undoubted verities, & oracles of the holy Ghost.

That ye may perceive the weakness of this argument. It is needful to teach you, first what the true Church of Christ is, & then to confer the Church of Rome therewith, to discern how well they agree together.

The true Church is an universal congregation or fellowship of God’s faithful and elect people, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the head corner stone (Ephesians 2.20). And it hath always three notes or marks whereby it is known. Pure and sound doctrine, the Sacraments ministered according to Christ’s holy institution, and the right use of Ecclesiastical discipline. This description of the Church is agreeable both to the Scriptures of God, and also to the doctrine of the ancient fathers, so that none may justly find fault therewith.

Now if ye will compare this with the Church of Rome, not as it was in the beginning, but as it is presently, and hath been for the space of nine hundred years and odd: you shall well perceive the state thereof to be so far wide from the nature of the true Church, that nothing can be more. For neither are they built upon the foundation of the Apostles and Prophets, retaining the sound and pure doctrine of Christ Jesu, neither yet do they order the Sacraments, or else the Ecclesiastical keys, in such sort as he did first institute and ordain them: But have so intermingled their own traditions and inventions, by chopping and changing, by adding and plucking away, that now they may seem to be converted into a new guise. Christ commended to his Church a Sacrament of his Body and Blood: They have changed it into a Sacrifice for the quick and the dead. Christ did minister to his Apostles, and the Apostles to other men indifferently under both kinds: They have robbed the lay people of the cup, saying, that for them one kind is sufficient. Christ ordained no other element to be used in Baptism, but only Water, whereunto when the word is joined, it is made (as S. Augustine saith) a full and perfect Sacrament. They being wiser in their own conceit then Christ, think it is not well nor orderly done, unless they use conjuration, unless they hallow the water, unless there be oil, salt, spittle, tapers, and such other dumb Ceremonies, serving to no use, contrary to the plain rule of Saint Paul, who willeth all things to be done in the Church unto edification (1 Corinthians 14.5). Christ ordained the authority of the keys to excommunicate notorious sinners, and to absolve them which are truly penitent: They abuse this power at their own pleasure, as well in cursing the Godly, with bell, book and candles, as also in absolving the reprobate, which are known to be unworthy of any Christian society: Whereof they that lust to see examples, let them search their lives. To be short, look what our Saviour Christ pronounced of the Scribes and Pharisees, in the Gospel, the same may be boldly and with safe conscience pronounced of the Bishops of Rome, namely that they have forsaken, and daily do forsake the Commandments of God, to erect and set up their own constitutions. Which thing being true, as all they which have any light of God’s word must needs confess, we may well conclude according to the rule of Augustine: That the Bishops of Rome and their adherents, are not the true Church of Christ, much less then to be taken as chief Heads and Rulers of the same. Whosoever (saith he) do dissent from the Scriptures concerning the head, although they be found in all places where the Church is appointed, yet are they not in the Church: a plain place, concluding directly against the Church of Rome (Augustine, Contra Petilian Donatist Epi., Chap. 4). Where is now the holy Ghost which they so stoutly do claim to themselves? Where is now the spirit of truth, that will not suffer them in any wise to err? If it be possible to be there, where the true Church is not, then is it at Rome: otherwise it is but a vain brag, and nothing else. Saint Paul (as ye have heard before) saith: If any man have not the spirit of Christ, the same is not his. And by turning the words, it may be truly said: If any man be not of Christ, the same hath not the spirit. Now to discern who are truly his, and who not, we have this rule given us, that his sheep do always hear his voice (John 10.3). And Saint John saith, He that is of God, heareth God’s word (John 8.47). Whereof it followeth, that the Popes in not hearing Christ’s voice, as they ought to doe, but preferring their own decrees before the expresse word of God, do plainly argue to the world, that they are not of Christ, nor yet possessed with his spirit. But here they will alledge for themselves, that there are divers necessary points not expressed in holy Scripture, which were left to the revelation of the holy Ghost. Who being given to the Church, according to Christ’s promise, hath taught many things from time to time, which the Apostles could not then bear (John 16.7). To this we may easily answer by the plain words of Christ, teaching us that the proper office of the holy Ghost is, not to institute and bring in new ordinances, contrary to his doctrine before taught: but shall come and declare those things which he had before taught: so that it might be well and truly understood. When the holy Ghost (saith he) shall come, he shall lead you into all truth (John 16.13). What truth doth he mean? Any other then he himself had before expressed in his word? No. For he saith, He shall take of mine, and show unto you. Again, he shall bring you in remembrance of all things that I have told you (John 16.15). It is not then the duty and part of any Christian, under pretence of the holy Ghost, to bring in his own dreams and fantasies into the Church: but he must diligently provide that his doctrine and decrees be agreeable to Christ’s holy Testament. Otherwise in making the holy Ghost the author thereof, he doeth blaspheme and belie the holy Ghost, to his own condemnation.
Now to leave their doctrine, and come to other points. What shall we think or judge of the Popes intolerable pride? The Scripture saith, that God resisteth the proud, and sheweth grace to the humble. Also it pronounceth them blessed, which are poor in spirit, promising that they which humble themselves, shall be exalted (Matthew 5.3). And Christ our Saviour willeth all his to learn of him, because he is humble and meek (Matthew 11.29). As for pride, Saint Gregory saith, it is the root of all mischief. And Saint Augustines judgment is this, that it maketh men devils. Can any man then, which either hath or shall read the Popes lives, justly say that they had the holy Ghost within them? First, as touching that they will be termed universal Bishops and heads of all Christian Churches through the world, we have the judgment of Gregory expressly against them, who writing to Mauricius the Emperor, condemneth John, Bishop of Constantinople, in that behalf, calling him the prince of pride, Lucifers successor, and the fore-runner of Antichrist (Gregory, Bk. 3, Epistle 76.78). Saint Bernard also agreeing thereunto, saith, What greater pride can there be, then that one man should prefer his own judgment before the whole congregation, as though he only had the spirit of God (Bernard, Serm. 3, De Resurrect. Domini)? And Chrysostom pronounceth a terrible sentence against them, affirming plainly, that whosoever seeketh to be chief in earth, shall find confusion in heaven, and that he which striveth for the supremacy, shall not be reputed among the servants of Christ (Chrysostom, Dialogorum, Bk. 3). Again he saith: To desire a good work, it is good, but to covet the chief degree of honour, it is mere vanity (Chrysostom, Super Matt.). Do not these places sufficiently convince their outrageous pride, in usurping to themselves a superiority above all other, as well ministers and Bishops, as Kings also and Emperors? But as the Lion is known by his claws, so let us learn to know these men by their deeds. What shall we say of him that made the noble King Dandalus to be tied by the neck with a chain, and to lie flat down before his table, there to gnaw bones like a Dog (Sabelli, Ennead. 9. Bk. 7)? Shall we think that he had God’s holy spirit within him, and not rather the spirit of the devil? Such a tyrant was Pope Clement the sixth. What shall we say of him that proudly and contemptuously trod Frederick the Emperor under his feet, applying the verse of the Psalm unto himself: Thou shalt go upon the Lion and the Adder, the young Lion and the Dragon thou shalt tread under thy foot (Psalms 91.13)? shall we say that he had God’s holy spirit within him, and not rather the spirit of the devil? Such a tyrant was Pope Alexander the third. What shall we say of him that armed and animated the Son against the father, causing him to be taken, and to be cruelly famished to death, contrary to the law both of God, and also of nature? Shall we say that he had God’s holy spirit within him, and not rather the spirit of the devil? Such a tyrant was Pope Pascal the second. What shall we say of him that came into his Popedom like a Fox, that reigned like a Lion, and died like a Dog? Shall we say that he had God’s holy spirit within him, and not rather the spirit of the devil? Such a tyrant was Pope Boniface the eight. What shall we say of him that made Henry the Emperor, with his wife and his young childe, to stand at the gates of the City in the rough winter, bare footed and bare legged, only clothed in linsey woolsey, eating nothing from morning to night, and that for the space of three days? Shall we say that he had God’s holy spirit within him, and not rather the spirit of the devil? Such a tyrant was Pope Hildebrand, most worthy to be called a firebrand, if we shall term him as he hath best deserved.

Many other examples might here be alleged. As of Pope Joan the harlot, that was delivered of a Childe in the high street, going solemnly in procession. Of Pope Julius the second, that willfully cast S. Peters keys into the river Tiberis. Of Pope Urban the sixth, that caused five Cardinals to be put in sacks, and cruelly drowned. Of Pope Sergius the third, that persecuted the dead body of Formosus his predecessor, when it had been buried eight years. Of Pope John the fourteenth of that name, who having his enemy delivered into his hands, caused him first to be stripped stark naked, his beard to be shaven, and to be hanged up a whole day by the hair, then to be set upon an ass with his face backward toward the tail, to be carried round about the city in despite, to be miserably beaten with rods, last of all, to be thrust out of his country, and to be banished for ever. But to conclude & make an end, ye shall briefly take this short lesson, wheresoever ye find the spirit of arrogance and pride, the spirit of envy, hatred, contention, cruelty, murder, extortion, witchcraft, necromancy, &c. assure yourselves that there is the spirit of the devil, and not of God, albeit they pretend outwardly to the world never so much holiness. For as the Gospel teacheth us, the spirit of Jesus is a good spirit, an holy spirit, a sweet spirit, a lowly spirit, a merciful spirit, full of charity and love, full of forgiveness and pity, not rendering evil for evil, extremity for extremity, but overcoming evil with good, and remitting all offence even from the heart. According to which rule, if any man live uprightly, of him it may be safely pronounced, that he hath the holy Ghost within him: If not, then it is a plain token that he doeth usurp the name of the holy Ghost in vain.

Therefore (dearly beloved) according to the good counsel of Saint John, believe not every spirit, but first try them whether they be of God, or no (1 John 4.1). Many shall come in my Name (saith Christ) and shall transform themselves into Angels of light, deceiving (if it be possible) the very elect. They shall come unto you in sheep clothing, being inwardly cruel and ravening Wolves (Matthew 24.5, 24). They shall have an outward show of great holiness and innocence of life, so that ye shall hardly or not at all discern them. But the rule that ye must follow, is this, to judge them by their fruits (Matthew 7.20). Which if they be wicked and naught, then is it impossible that the tree of whom they proceed should be good. Such were all the Popes and Prelates of Rome for the most part, as doeth well appear in the story of their lives, and therefore they are worthily accounted among the number of false Prophets, and false Christs, which deceived the world a long while (Luke 21.8). The Lord of heaven and earth defend us from their tyranny and pride, that they never enter into his vineyard Again, to the disturbance of his silly poor flock: but that they may be utterly confounded and put to flight in all parts of the world: and he of his great mercy so work in all men’s hearts, by the mighty power of the holy Ghost, that the comfortable Gospel of his Son Christ may be truly preached, truly received, and truly followed in all places, to the beating down of sin, death, the Pope, the Devil, and all the kingdom of Antichrist, that like scattered and dispersed sheep being at length gathered into one fold, we may in the end rest all together in the bosom of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, there to be partakers of Eternal and everlasting life through the merits and death of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Amen.

 

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