Chapter III:11: Controversy with Rome over Fundamental Articles, Part 2

Worst of all, the same Papists wish to free themselves from all Proof, and to devolve upon us alone the Burden of Proof, as much in Negative as in Positive Articles, and in inquiring into both the Truth and Necessity of the same. Thus they say that the proof is incumbent upon us, from the Scriptures, and indeed αὐτολεξεὶ, in the very words, while they admit not our Consequences, as it was seen in Chapter I, § 29, that the Bread is not transubstantiated into the Body of Christ, that Purgatorial Fire is not presented, that the Mass is not a bloodless propitiatory Sacrifice for the living and the dead, that the Pope is not the infallible Head of the Church, etc.; by this ridiculous pretext, that we say that nothing is to be believed, unless it be from the Scripture.

The Scope/Goal is the same as in the preceding Question, especially that by simple denial they might more easily protect their errors.

But, 1. thus they are opposed by the practice both of the Lord and of the Apostles, who never decline, but rather made it their constant habit, to prove all their assertions from Moses and the Prophets, 2 Corinthians 4:2; Acts 9:22. We here ask for such a demonstration from the Papists also, if they wish us to admit their dogmas: but he that refuses this, is advancing his own cause, and furnishes evidence of his awareness of his error. 2. We do not only have the example of the Apostles, calling us to imitation, but their command is added, 1 Peter 3:15, 16, in which Peter commends to each and every one an ἀπολογίαν/apology/answer, in which he might render a λόγον/reason for his hope, to whatever enquirer, with gentleness and fear, as the testimony of a sanctified heart and of a good conscience. Just as Paul also wishes those contradicting to be convinced, not by mere negation or demurrer; but, so that one might be δυνατὸς/able unto the ἔλεγχον τῶν ἀντιλεγόντων, conviction of the gainsayers, and also unto their παράκλησιν/exhortation, he requires him ἀντέχεσθαι τοῦ κατὰ τὴν διδαχὴν πιστοῦ λόγου, to hold fast the faithful word as they had been taught, Titus 1:9. He wishes us ἐν πρᾳότητι παιδεύεσθαι τοὺς ἀντιδιατιθεμένους, in meekness to instruct those that oppose themselves, 2 Timothy 2:25, so that by our gentle instruction they might recover themselves unto better fruit, with God blessing our efforts. 3. The Papists forget that we in a great many Heads, concerning which there is controversy between us and them, are in a Negative state, so that here properly we believe nothing, affirm nothing: and yet we are able also to believe that the faith of the Papists in these things is vain and to be rejected, as long as it is not proven from the Scriptures: while, on the other hand, they are altogether Affirming of those Heads concerning the sacrifice of the Mass, Transubstantiation, Purgatory, the Pope as the Ecumenical Head of the Church, etc.; not only that they are true, but so necessary that under the punishment of excommunication they attempt everywhere to bind everyone to the faith of their errors; they also wish in every way to reduce us to the communion of their errors and superstition. But let them first persuade us of the truth of their dogmas, and let them not reject that common principium of disputation, τοῦ καταφάντος ὁ ἔλεγχος, the burden of proof resting on the affirmative: compare SPANHEIM’S Exercitationem de Præscriptione in rebus Fidei, Section II, opera, tome 3, columns 1082-1084, where in § 3 it is also shown that the More Ancient Papists were unfamiliar with this Sophistical game: add Section I, § 5, column 1081, Section III, § 2, column 1085. Examine also SPANHEIM’S Disputation IX de Articulis Fundamentalibus, § 2, 7, 8, and Disputation VIII, § 4, columns 1325-1328, 1319.

It is not as the Papists plead, that the Roman Church enjoys the Right of Prescription, and of legitimate Possession, which is disturbed by Protestants, who therefore are obliged to render reasons for this their presumption. But, α. we acknowledge no Prescription against the Truth: For Custom/Tradition without truth is the antiquity of error, according to CYPRIAN, Epistle LXXIV, opera, page 317. No one is able to prescribe to the Truth, not length of time, not the patronage of persons, not the privilege of regions, as TERTULLIAN observes, de velandis Virginibus, chapter I, page 172. β. That Possession of long duration of which they boast, so that it might be able to have the Right of Prescription, ought to be derived from the Apostolic age, while the more recent origin of the Papal errors clearly appears in many things: the good faith of the Possessor ought to be evident from a just title to the Possession, etc. γ. This would not exempt the Papists from the duty of demonstration, of rendering an ἀπολογίαν/apology/answer, according to the practice and instructions of the Apostles, to whom TERTULLIAN shows himself ready to yield, libero de Præscriptionibus, chapters XIX, XXI, XXXVI, etc. But, as long as they are not able to appeal with AUGUSTINE to the Apostolic Tradition found in the writings of the same, let them cease to compare themselves with Augustine: compare SPANHEIM’S Stricturas ad Expositionem Doctrinæ catholicæ Episcopi Condomiensis, chapter I, opera, tome 3, part 2, column 1038, 1043, and especially his Exercitationem de Præscriptione in rebus Fidei, in which the Objection sought from the laws of Uninterrupted Possession and of Prescriptions, in the favor of which there can be no doubt, that a Prescription of long duration is free from the burden of proof; that the qualification of long-lasting possession is sufficient for the Possessor; that in a case of equal claim, even with doubt arising, the condition of the Possessor is better; that Possession at least induces a favorable presumption; that it is sufficient if the Possessor say that it is not evident otherwise to him, etc.; which things in this case they want to be applied to the Roman Church; the Objection, I say, set forth in Section I, § 5, note 5, opera, tome 3, part 2, column 1081, he prolixly refutes in Section IV, columns 1091-1097, just as in the same Exercitation all the remaining Objections are also solidly refuted, which Objections our AUTHOR briefly mentions here, α. Theological, from the Power and Infallibility of the Roman Church, Section V, § 13, 8, column 1107, 1103, 1104, compared with Section I, § 6, note 9, 5; from our Secession, Section V, § 2, column 1098, 1099, compared with Section I, § 6, note 1; from the introduction of negative Christianity, Section V, § 15, column 1108, compared with Section I, § 6, note 11: β. Judicial, by reason of the Accusation prepared by us, Section III, § 5-7, columns 1088-1091, compared with Section I, § 5, note 4, likewise Section V, § 3-5, columns 1099-1101, compared with Section I, § 6, note 2: γ. Scholastic, that we are Objectors, Section V, § 6, columns 1101, 1102, compared with Section I, § 6, note 3; those Denying that it is otherwise evident to us, Section V, § 7, columns 1102, 1103, compared with Section I, § 6, note 4; that we are not even Disciples, but Enemies, Section V, § 14, columns 1107, 1108, compared with Section I, § 6, note 10; denying the Principia, Section V, § 10-12, columns 1105-1107, compared with Section I, § 6, notes 7, 8: δ. Historical, sought from the examples of Tertullian, convicting the heretics of his own day, not by arguments from Scripture, not by organized debate, but by prescriptions, whence the Book de Præscriptionibus Hæreticorum, Section III, § 3, columns 1085, 1086; and of Augustine against the Donatists,[1] Manicheans, and Arians, of his own day, everywhere requiring of them the reason, even indeed from Scripture, of their separation, and of those heads that they were maintaining against the Catholics, whence the Walenburch Brothers call their own Method Augustinian, Section III, § 4, columns 1086-1088. Concerning the title of the book of Tertullian, de Præscriptionibus Hæreticorum, or contra Hæreticos, and concerning the method of disputation of which he makes use in it, see also BUDDEUS’ Isagogen ad Theologiam universam, book II, chapter VII, § 3, tome 2, pages 997-999a; who in § 4, page 1053, observes also that the Method of the Walenburch Brothers is incorrectly called Augustinian by them; and concerning the architects of Methods of this sort among the Papists he then discourses at length, chapter VII, § 9, tome 2, pages 1274-1279.

Another sophistical method, no less crafty, in the refutation of the opinion of Protestants was taught to the Tridentine Fathers in that Council by the Jesuit Theologian Joannes Cavillonius, which PETRUS SUAVIS POLANUS narrates in his Historia Concilii Tridentini,[2] book VI, pages 641, 642.

[1] The Donatists were schismatics of the fourth and fifth centuries; they followed Donatus Magnus (died c. 355), who likewise taught that readmission ot the church of Christians who had lapsed under persecution was to be denied.

[2] Paolo Sarpi (1552-1623) was a Venetian prelate, historian, and canon lawyer. Although a Roman Catholic, he defended the liberties of Venice against Papal intrusion, and was a proponent of the separation of church and state. His History of the Council of Trent, published under the name Petrus Suavis Polanus, was highly critical of the Papal Curia’s involvement in the Council.

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Dr. Steven Dilday holds a BA in Religion and Philosophy from Campbell University, a Master of Arts in Religion from Westminster Theological Seminary (Philadelphia), and both a Master of Divinity and a  Ph.D. in Puritan History and Literature from Whitefield Theological Seminary.  He is also the translator of Matthew Poole's Synopsis of Biblical Interpreters and Bernardinus De Moor’s Didactico-Elenctic Theology.




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