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How this government altogether differeth from the oppressing and persecuting principality of the Church of Rome, and other anti-Christian assemblies.
WHATEVER way we understand the Popish principles in this matter, whether of those that are most devoted to the See of Rome, as the king of Spain's dominions and the princes of Italy; the Jesuits and generality of all those called religious orders, who hold that Papa in cathedra non potest errare, licet absque concilio; that is, that the pope in his chair cannot err, though without a council; or of those that are less devoted who plead this infallibility in the pope and council, Jawfully convened, who yet, by the more zealous, are reckoned petty schismatics; I say, whatever way we take them, all those that do profess themselves members of the Romish church, and are so far such as to understand their own principles, do unquestionably acknowledge.
First, That no general council can be lawfully called without the bishop of Rome, as Christ's vicar and Peter's successor, call it.
Secondly, That either he himself or some for him, as his legates, must be there present and always preside.
Thirdly, That the members having vote are made up of bishops or presbyters or commissioners from the several orders, being of the clergy.
Fourthly, That what is concluded on by plurality of votes and agreed to by the pope and his
legates, must necessarily be supposed to be the judgment of the infallible Spirit.
Fifthly, That all the members of the church are bound implicitly to receive and believe it, because it proceeds from a council to be accounted lawful in the respects above mentioned, without regard to the intrinsic or real truths of the things prescribed, or bringing them in any respect to the test or examination of the Spirit of God in themselves, or the scripture's testimony, or their agreement or disagreement with truths, formerly believed and received; for so much as to prove or try them by way of doubt, they reckon a breach of the first command; as, on the other hand, a matter of merit, implicitly to receive and believe them, however inconsistent with the testimony of the Spirit in one's own heart, scripture, truth and reason.
Sixthly, That no man, as a member of the Church of Christ, in that simple capacity, unless a clergyman, or the ambassador of some king, &c. can be admitted to sit, vote, or give his judgment.
Seventhly, That it is in no respect to be supposed, that any members, especially laicks, whether in a particular city, country or nation, may meet concerning any things relating to the faith and worship of the Church, and give, by the Spirit of God any judgment; but that all such meetings are to be accounted schismatical and unlawful. And,
Lastly, That the promise of infallibility, and the gates of hell not prevailing, is necessarily annexed to the pope and council, called and autherized in the manner above expressed.
Now, if to deny every one of these propositions, wherein all understanding men know the errors and abuses of the Romish church consist, be to be popish; then indeed may we be supposed to be one with the papists in this matter, but not otherwise so that the very mentioning of these things is sufficient to shew the difference betwixt us and them. But if any will needs plead our agreement with them thus;
The papists affirm an infallibility of judgment in the Church of Christ, and so do you; therefore you are one with papists.
I answer, that proves no more our oneness, in this matter, than if it should be said, the papists plead that God ought to be worshipped, and so do you; therefore ye agree: notwithstanding of the vast differences as to that, which is not only known betwixt us and them, but betwixt them and all protestants, who agree more with them in the matter of worship than we do.
Next again, infallibility in the church (according as we hold it, and I have above defined it) no man upon our supposition, or hypothesis, can deny it. For since we first assert, as a principle, that no gathering, no church, nor assembly of people, however true their principles, or exact their form be, are to be accounted the Church of Christ, except the infallible Spirit lead and guide; what can be the hazard to say, that in such a Church there is still an infallible judgment? Indeed this is so far from popery, that it resolves in a proposition quite contradictory to them. The Romanists say, That the infallible Spirit always accompanies the outward visible
professors, and is annexed to the eternal succession of bishops and pastors, though ever so vicious as to their lives: yea, though perfect* atheists and infidels in their private judgments, yet if outwardly professing the catholic faith, and subjection to the church, they must be partakers of the infallible Spirit. We say the quite contrary: That where there is either viciousness of persons, or unsoundness of judgment in the particular members, these cannot, by virtue of any outward call or succession they have, or any profession they make, or authority they may pretend to, so much as claim an interest in any part of the Church of Christ, or the infallible Spirit.
So then, if we admit none to be members of the Church but such as are led and guided by the Spirit, it will be no popery, in the second place, to affirm, that where there is a company of people so gathered, who are not any longer to retain justly the name of the Church of Christ than they are led and guided by his Spirit, or a church so qualified and designed, there is still an infallible judgment. So that this infallibility is not annexed to the persons, to the succession, to the bare visible profession (though true, which the church of Rome is denied to be) or to any society, because of its profession; but singly, and alone to the true, real and effectual work of sanctification and regeneration, the new creature brought forth in the heart: and this is the Spiritual man, which the apostle saith, judgeth all
*For some popes have been known to deny, or at least to doubt the truth of the scriptures as to the history of Christ, and to call in question the immortality of the soul, and the resurrection.
things, 1 Cor. 2. 15. To affirm there is an infallibility here, cannot well be condemned by any; or whoso doth, must needs say, the Spirit of God is fallible for we place the infallibility in the Spirit, and in the power, not in the persons. And so these are the degrees we ascend by: "because "such and such men are led by the Spirit of "God, and are obedient to the grace in their "hearts, therefore are they members and officers "in the Church of Christ. And because they "are members of the Church of Christ in the "respect before declared, therefore there is an " infallible judgment among them." We do not say, Because such men profess the christian faith, and have received an outward ordination, and so are by a lawful succession formally established officers in the church, when they meet together (according to certain rules above declared) there is an infallibility annexed to their conclusions, and they cannot but decide what is right; or rather, what they decide must needs be supposed to be right. Who seeth not here a vast disproportion?
Now we differ herein fundamentally; that is, as to the very basis and foundation upon which we build; and that not only from the church of Rome, but also from the generality of protestants in this matter. All protestants do acknowledge a general council to be useful, yea necessary, in the case of division or debate; let us consider the basis upon which they proceed, and the stress they lay upon it.
First, All jointly, both the prelatical and presbyterial, will have this synod or council to con