Historical Perspectives | The Reformation View of Roman Catholicism

From the works of Richard Sibbes (1577-1635)

Thus, whilst the husbandmen slept, the envious man Satan slept not, but sew his tares. Thus popery grew up by degrees, till it overspread the church, whilst the watchmen that should have kept others awake, fell asleep themselves. And thus we answer the papists, when they quarrel with us about the beginning of their errors. They ask of us, when such and such an heresy began? We answer, that those that should have observed them, were asleep. Popery is a mystery that crept into the church by degrees, under glorious pretenses. (II:42)

Quest. Whether are the papists idolaters or not, like unto these Israelites, who say (being converted), "Neither will we say unto the works of our hands, Ye are our gods?"

Ans. I answer, Yes; as gross as ever the heathens were, and worse. The very Egyptians, they worshipped none for gods but those who were alive; as a papist himself saith (though he were an honest papist); the Egyptians worshipped living creatures, but we are worse than they’d for we worship stocks and stones, and a piece of bread in the sacrament.

Obj. But they have many shifts for themselves; as among the rest, this is one, that they do not worship the image, but God or Christ before the image.

Ans. To which the answer is, that the fathers who wrote against the heathens meet with this pretense. The Pagans had this excuse. We worship not this statute of Jupiter, but Jupiter himself. Thus they have no allegation for themselves, but the heathens had the same, which the ancient Fathers confuted. They are guilty of idolatry in both the forenamed kinds. For, first, they worship things that they should not, as appears by their invocation of saints, vows to them; their temples, altars, and the like, full of their images, giving them honor due unto God. And then, they worship the true God in a false manner before their images. There is no kind of idolatry but they are grossly guilty of it. (II:288)

Quest. But not another question may be moved, whether the papists be idolaters or not? For we live amongst many of them; therefore we cannot be too wary of them.

Ans. The answer is affirmative. They are idolaters, and worse in some sort than the heathen idolaters were. Only change the names of the popish saints which they in popery worship, and the names that the heathen worship, and they will all be one. Now, names be no realities. (II:378) But what should we speak of their church when they have the pope, who is their church virtually? For what is said of the one may be said of the other. When they come to the issue, the church is nothing but the pope. Whatsoever their church or councils say, he is the whole church. Many ways they are gross idolaters, especially the common people. In this they are worse than the heathens, because they have more light, and still the more light the more sin. For they have been foretold that the whore of Rome should be the mother of all fornications, the spiritual Babylon, Sodom, and Egypt in regard of idolatry, the mother of all these abominations, Rev.17:5.

Again, if this be true, what do we think of reconcilers of religion? A thing impossible, as the apostle sheweth? "For what communion hath God with Belial? Christ with antichrist?" (II Cor.6:14,15) What communion? The question is a strong negation, as that of Ephraim here. "What have I now any more to do with idols?"

Obj. But some may say, we differ from them only in circumstance.

Ans. We may ask any man who hath his brains in his head, whether idolatry be a circumstance or not, it being clear that they are as great idolaters as the heathens, in many instances. If any affirm that idolatry is a circumstance, there is no disputing with such a one. That which is the sin, which makes God abhor and desert his own people, is that a circumstance? Is that a circumstance, which is the chief sin against the first table? Granting that they are idolaters, that the pope is "antichrist", and Rome to be "Babylon(s)", and Babylon to be the "mother of all fornication", this must needs follow, that there can be no reconciling of these two religions. We may come near them, and become papists, but they will never come near us, to be good Christians. (II:379-381)

The devil is a liar and a murderer from the beginning, the father of lies. So likewise the pope is a liar; all popery is nothing but lies. Therefore, II Thess.2:11, it is said, "they are given over to believe lies." Popery is a grand lie. It is a lie in the primacy; for it came in by forgery and intrusion. It is a lie in purgatory, which is a mere conceit. It is a lie in their miracles, which they have devised to maintain their false worship with. It is a lie in their works of supererogation, that they can fulfill more than the Law requires. So that all popery, consider it distinctly from our religion, because they have that which we have, and some patches of their own, consider it by itself, it is a mere lie. (VII:520) So that howsoever the devil, who by St. Paul is called the god of this world, and the pope the subordinate vicar to the devil, and so by consequence he is the devil, for the devil, the dragon rules him. Howsoever, I say there be the devil, the god of this world, and the pope in this world, the vicar of that dragon; yet there is but one monarch, one that rules all, both devil and pope, and all the wicked limbs of both to his own ends. (VII:526) Romish antichrist.—for those two, the Turk and pope, are twins; they had their beginning at once, about seven hundred years after Christ,--what moved this, but only, when God had dealt graciously with them at the first, and gave them his truth to save their souls. (VII:529)

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