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The Doctrines and Practices of the Church of Rome
Truly Represented in Answer to a Book Entitled "A Papist Misrepresented and Represented"
Edward Stillingfleet D.D.
(1635-1699, Protestant Bishop of Worcester, Preacher and Apologist)
HAIL & FIRE REPRINTS 2009
AN ANSWER TO THE INTRODUCTION (of 'A Papist Misrepresented and Represented,' by Gother)
The introduction consists of two parts:—
I. A general complaint of the Papists being misrepresented among us.
II. An account of the method he hath taken to clear them from these misrepresentations.
So that if the father of lies be the author of misrepresenting (as the introduction begins), we must have a care of him both ways; for when he tried this black art in Paradise (as our author speaks), it was both by misrepresenting the command, and the danger of transgressing it. He, did not only make the command appear otherwise than it was, but he did very much lessen the punishment of disobedience; and by that means deluded our first parents into that sin and misery under which their posterity still suffer. Which ought to be a caution to them, how dangerous it is to break the law of God under the fairest colours and pretences; and that they should not be easily imposed upon by false glosses and plausible representations, though made by such as therein pretend to be angels of light.
But although the father of lies be the author of misrepresenting, yet we have no reason to think but that if he were to plead his own cause to mankind, he would very much complain of being misrepresented by them; and even in this respect, when they make him the father of those lies which are their own inventions. And can that he a certain argument of truth, which may as well be used by the father of lies?
And the great instruments he hath made use of in deceiving and corrupting mankind, have been as forward as any to complain of being misrepresented. The true reason is, because no great evil can prevail in the world, unless it be represented otherwise than it is; and all men are not competent judges of the colours of good and evil; therefore, when the designs of those who go about to deceive begin to be laid open, they then betake themselves to the fairest representations they can make of themselves, and hope that many will not see through their pretences.
If I had a mind to follow our author's method, I could make as long a deduction of instances of this kind; but I shall content myself with some few examples of those who are allowed on both sides to have been guilty of great errors and corruptions.
The Arians pleaded they were misrepresented, when they were taken for enemies to Christ's divinity; for all that they contended for, was only such a moment of time as would make good the relation between Father and Son.
The Pelagians, with great success, for some time (and even at Rome), complained that they were very much misrepresented, as enemies to God's grace; whereas they owned and asserted the manifold grace of God, and were only enemies to men's idleness and neglect of their duties.
The Nestorians gave out, that they never intended to make two persons in Christ, as their adversaries charged them; but all their design was to avoid blasphemy, in calling the blessed Virgin the mother of God; and whatever went beyond this, was their adversaries' misrepresentations, and not their own opinions.
The Eutychians thought themselves very hardly dealt with, for saying there was but one nature in Christ. They did not mean thereby (as they said) to destroy the properties of the human nature, but only to assert that its subsistence was swallowed up by the divine; and of all persons, those have no reason to blame them who suppose the properties of one substance may be united to another.
Even the Gentile idolaters, when they were charged by the Christians that they worshipped stocks and stones, complained they were misrepresented, for they were not such idiots to take things for gods which had neither life, nor sense, nor motion in them. And when they were charged with worshipping other gods as they did the Supreme, they desired their sense might not be taken from common prejudices, or vulgar practices, but from the doctrine of their philosophers; and they owned a sovereign worship due to him that was chief, and a subordinate and relative to some celestial beings, whom they made application to as mediators between him and them.
Must all these complaints, now, be taken for granted? What, then, becomes of the reputation of general councils, or the primitive Christians? But as, if it were enough to be accused, none would be innocent; so none would be guilty, if it were enough to complain of being misrepresented. Therefore, in all complaints of this nature, it is necessary to come to particulars, and to examine with care and diligence the matters complained of, and then to give judgment in the case. I am glad to find our author professing so much sincerity and truth without passion; and I do assure him I shall follow what he professes; for the cause of our Church is such as needs neither tricks nor passion to defend it; and, therefore, I shall endeavour to state the matters in difference with all the clearness and calmness that may be, and I shall keep close to his method and representations, without digressions or provoking reflections.
II. But I must declare myself very much unsatisfied with the method he hath taken to clear his party from these misrepresentations. For,
1. He takes upon him to draw a double character of a Papist; and in the one he pretends to follow a certain rule, but not in the other; which is not fair and ingenuous.
As to the one, he saith, he follows the Council of Trent, and their allowed spiritual books and catechisms; and we find no fault with this. But why must the other part, then, be drawn by fancy, or common prejudices, or ignorant mistakes? Have we no rule, whereby the judgment of our Church is to be taken? Are not our Articles as easy to be had and understood as the decrees and canons of the Council of Trent? I will not ask how the Council of Trent comes to be the rule and measure of doctrine to any here, where it was never received. But I hope I may, why our representations are not to be taken from the sense of our Church, as theirs from the Council of Trent. If he saith, his design was to remove common prejudices and vulgar mistakes; it is easy to answer, If they are contrary to the doctrine of our Church, we utterly disown them. We know very well there are persons who have so false a notion of Popery, that they charge the rites and customs of our Church with it; but we pity their weakness and folly, and are far from defending such misrepresentations. But that which we adhere to, is the doctrine and sense of our Church, as it is by law established; and what representations are made agreeable thereto I undertake to defend, and no other. But if a person take the liberty to lay on what colours he pleases on one side, it will be no hard matter to take them off on the other, and then to say, How much fairer is our Church than she is painted! It is an easy, hut not so allowable a way of disputing, for the same person to make the objections and answers too; for he may so model and frame the arguments, by a little art, that the answers may appear very full and sufficient; whereas, if they had been truly represented, they would be found very lame and defective.
2. He pretends to give an account why he quotes no authors for his misrepresentations, which is very unsatisfactory, namely, " that he hath described the Papist therein, exactly according to the apprehension he had of him when he was a Protestant." But how can we tell what sort of Protestant he was; nor how well he was instructed in his religion? And must the character now supposed to be common to Protestants be taken from his ignorant, or childish, or wilful mistakes ? Did ever any Protestant that understands himself, say, " that Papists are never permitted to hear sermons which they are able to understand," or, " that they hold it lawful to commit idolatry," or, " that a Papist helieves the Pope to he his great God, and to he far ahove all angels," &c.? Yet these are some of his misrepresentations. Did he in earnest think so himself? If he did, he gives no good account of himself; if he did not, he gives a worse; for then, how shall we believe him in other things, when he saith, "he hath drawn his misrepresentations exactly according to his own apprehensions?" It is true, be saith, "he added some few points, which were violently charged on him by his friends;" but we dare be bold to say, this was none of them. But let us suppose it true, that he had such apprehensions himself—are these fit to be printed as the character of a party? What would they say to us, if a Spanish convert should give a character of Protestants, according to the common opinion the people there had of them; and set down in one column their monstrous misrepresentations, and in another what he found them to be since his coming hither; and that in good truth he saw they were just like other men? But suppose he had false apprehensions before he went among them, why did he not take care to inform himself better before lie changed? Had he no friends—no books—no means to rectify his mistakes? Must he needs leave one Church, and go to another, before he understood either? If this be a true account of himself, it is but a bad account of the reasons of his change.
3. The account he gives of the other part of his character affords as little satisfaction; for although, in the general, it be well that he pretends to keep to a rule, yet,
(1.) He shows no authority he hath to interpret that rule in his own sense. Now, several of his representations depend upon his own private sense and opinions, against the doctrine of many others as zealous for their Church as himself; and what reason have we to adhere to his representation, rather than to theirs? As, for instance, he saith, the Pope's personal infallibility is no matter of faith; but there are others say it is, and is grounded on the same promises which make him head of the Church. Why, now, must we take his representation rather than theirs? And so, as to the deposing power, he grants it hath been the opinion of several Popes (and councils too), but that it is no matter of faith. But whose judgment are we to take in this matter, according to the principles of their Church? A private man's, of no name, no authority; or of those Popes and councils? But suppose the question be about the sense of his own rule (Bulla Pii IV. super Confirm. Concil. Tridentini.), the Council of Trent, what authority hath he to declare it, when the Pope hath expressly forbidden all prelates to do it, and reserved it to the apostolical see?
(2.) He leaves out, in the several particulars, an essential part of the character of a Papist since the Council of Trent; which is, that he doth not only believe the doctrines there defined to be true, but to be necessary to salvation. And there is not a word of this in his representation of the points of doctrine, but the whole is managed as though there were nothing but a difference about some particular opinions; whereas, in truth, the necessity of holding those doctrines, in order to salvation, is the main point in difference. If men have no mind to believe their own senses, we know not how to help it; but we think it is very hard to be told we cannot be saved unless we renounce them too. And this now appears to be the true state of the case, since Pius IV. drew up and published a Confession of Faith, according to the decrees and canons of the Council of Trent, wherein men are not only required " to believe their traditions as firmly as the Bible, the seven sacraments, transubstantiation, the sacrifice of the mass, purgatory, invocation of saints, worshipping of images, indulgences, supremacy," &c., but they must believe, " that without believing these things, there is no salvation to be had" in the ordinary way; for, after the enumeration of these points, it follows:— "Hanc veram Catholicam fidem, extra quam nemo salvus esse potest, &c. This is the true Catholic faith, without which no man can be saved;" that is, the belief of these things is thereby declared as necessary to salvation, as of any other articles of the creed. But it may be objected: "The subscribing this profession of faith is not required of all members of that Church." To which I answer, that to make a man a member of it, he must declare that he holds the same faith which the Church of Eome holds; and this is as much the faith of the Roman Church as the Pope and Council of Trent could make it. And it is now printed in the Roman Ritual at Paris, set forth by Paul V. as the confession of faith owned by the Church of Rome. And, therefore, this ought to have been a part of the "True Representation" as to the doctrinal points; but when he comes to the thirty-fifth head, he then owns, " that unless men do believe every article of the Roman faith they cannot be saved; and he that disbelieves one, does in a manner disbelieve all." Which may as well reach those who disown the deposing power, and the Pope's personal infallibility as us, since these are accounted articles of faith by the ruling part of their Church, to whom it chiefly belongs to declare them; and the former hath been defined both by Popes and councils.
(3.) He never sets down what it is which makes any doctrine to become a doctrine of their Church. We are often blamed for charging particular opinions upon their Church; but we desire to know what it is which makes a doctrine of their Church—that is, whether frequent and public declaration, by the heads and guides of their Church, be sufficient or not to that end. Our author seems to imply the necessity of some conditions to be observed; for, besides " the Pope's authority," he requires " due circumstances, and proceeding according to law." But who is to be judge of these circumstances and legal proceedings? And he never tells us what these circumstances are. And yet, after all, he saith: "The orders of the supreme pastor are to be obeyed, whether he be infallible or not." (See Note, end of Section.) And this now brings the matter home: The Popes, he confesses, " have owned the deposing doctrine, and acted according to it;" and others are bound to obey their orders, whether in fallible or not; and consequently, they are bound by the doctrine of their Church to act, when the Popes shall require it, according to the deposing power. But he seems to say, in this case, that a doctrine of their Church is to be judged by the number; for, saith he, " there are greater numbers that disown this doctrine." I will not at present dispute it; but I desire to be informed whether the doctrines of their Church go by majority of votes or not? I had thought the authority of the guides of the Church ought to have overbalanced any number of dissenters; for, what are those who refuse to submit to the dictates of Popes and councils, but dissenters from the Church of Rome ? The distinction of the Court and Church of Rome is wholly impertinent in this case ; for we here consider, not the mere temporal power which makes the Court, but the spiritual capacity of teaching the Church. And if Popes and councils may err in teaching this doctrine, why not in any other? I know there are some that say, universal tradition is necessary to make a doctrine of their Church. But then no submission can be required to any doctrine in that Church, till the universal tradition of it, in all times, and in all parts of the Christian Church, be proved. And we need to desire no better terms than these, as to all points of Pope Pius IV. his creed, which are in dispute between us and them.
(4.) He makes use of the authority of some particular divines, as delivering the sense of their Church, when there are so many of greater authority against them. Whereas, if we proceed by his own rule, the greater number is to carry it. Therefore, we cannot be thought to misrepresent them, if we charge them with such things as are owned, either by the general and allowed practices of their Church, or their public offices, or the generality of their divines and casuists; or, in case of a contest, with that side which is owned by the guides of their Church, when the other is censured, or which was approved by their canonized saints, or declared by their Popes and councils, whose decrees they are bound to follow. And by these measures I intend to proceed, having no design to misrepresent them—as indeed we need not. And so much in answer to the introduction.
The extraordinary position of Gother, that the orders of the Pope are to be obeyed whether he be infallible or not, was omitted by Bishop Challoner, and is not found in modern editions; but it was maintained in substance by Cardinal Bellarmine (De Pontif, lib. iv. cap. 5) and by Dr Troy, the late Popish archbishop of Dublin, in his Pastoral Instruction, although it is in flat contradiction to a leading principle of Papists, namely, that infallibility is the only proper ground on which to assume authority in religious matters, and that men cannot be reasonably required to obey unless they are certain that obedience will infallibly direct them in the right path. The truth is, that the infallibility of the Pope forms a natural and necessary part of the general scheme of Popery; and if Papists will deny it, as most of them do in modern times, except in Italy and Spain, they must fall into inconsistency.
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"Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; And having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a shew of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ. Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, And not holding the Head, from which all the body by joints and bands having nourishment ministered, and knit together, increaseth with the increase of God. Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh." Colossians 2:8-23