Besides these sovereign powers, divine and human, of which I have hitherto discoursed, there is mention in Scripture of another power, namely, that of "the rulers of the darkness of this world,"406 "the kingdom of Satan,"407 and "the principality of Beelzebub over demons,"408 that is to say, over phantasms that appear in the air: for which cause Satan is also called "the prince of the power of the air";409 and, because he ruleth in the darkness of this world, "the prince of this world":410 and in consequence hereunto, they who are under his dominion, in opposition to the faithful, who are the "children of the light," are called the "children of darkness." For seeing Beelzebub is prince of phantasms, inhabitants of his dominion of air and darkness, the children of darkness, and these demons, phantasms, or spirits of illusion, signify allegorically the same thing. This considered, the kingdom of darkness, as it is set forth in these and other places of the Scripture, is nothing else but a confederacy of deceivers that, to obtain dominion over men in this present world, endeavour, by dark and erroneous doctrines, to extinguish in them the light, both of nature and of the gospel; and so to disprepare them for the kingdom of God to come.
406 Ephesians, 6. 12
407 Matthew, 12. 26
408 Ibid., 9. 34
409 Ephesians, 2. 2
410 John, 16. 11
As men that are utterly deprived from their nativity of the light of the bodily eye have no idea at all of any such light; and no man conceives in his imagination any greater light than he hath at some time or other perceived by his outward senses: so also is it of the light of the gospel, and of the light of the understanding, that no man can conceive there is any greater degree of it than that which he hath already attained unto. And from hence it comes to pass that men have no other means to acknowledge their own darkness but only by reasoning from the unforeseen mischances that befall them in their ways. The darkest part of the kingdom of Satan is that which is without the Church of God; that is to say, amongst them that believe not in Jesus Christ. But we cannot say that therefore the Church enjoyeth, as the land of Goshen, all the light which to the performance of the work enjoined us by God is necessary. Whence comes it that in Christendom there has been, almost from the time of the Apostles, such jostling of one another out of their places, both by foreign and civil war; such stumbling at every little asperity of their own fortune, and every little eminence of that of other men; and such diversity of ways in running to the same mark, felicity, if it be not night amongst us, or at least a mist? We are therefore yet in the dark.
The enemy has been here in the night of our natural ignorance, and sown the tares of spiritual errors; and that, first, by abusing and putting out the light of the Scriptures: for we err, not knowing the Scriptures. Secondly, by introducing the demonology of the heathen poets, that is to say, their fabulous doctrine concerning demons, which are but idols, or phantasms of the brain, without any real nature of their own, distinct from human fancy; such as are dead men's ghosts, and fairies, and other matter of old wives' tales. Thirdly, by mixing with the Scripture diverse relics of the religion, and much of the vain and erroneous philosophy of the Greeks, especially of Aristotle. Fourthly, by mingling with both these, false or uncertain traditions, and feigned or uncertain history. And so we come to err, by giving heed to seducing spirits, and the demonology of such as speak lies in hypocrisy, or, as it is in the original, "of those that play the part of liars,"411 with a seared conscience, that is, contrary to their own knowledge. Concerning the first of these, which is the seducing of men by abuse of Scripture, I intend to speak briefly in this chapter.
411 I Timothy, 4. 1, 2
The greatest and main abuse of Scripture, and to which almost all the rest are either consequent or subservient, is the wresting of it to prove that the kingdom of God, mentioned so often in the Scripture, is the present Church, or multitude of Christian men now living, or that, being dead, are to rise again at the last day: whereas the kingdom of God was first instituted by the ministry of Moses, over the Jews only; who were therefore called his peculiar people; and ceased afterward, in the election of Saul, when they refused to be governed by God any more, and demanded a king after the manner of the nations; which God Himself consented unto, as I have more at large proved before, in the thirty-fifth Chapter. After that time, there was no other kingdom of God in the world, by any pact or otherwise, than He ever was, is, and shall be king of all men and of all creatures, as governing according to His will, by His infinite power. Nevertheless, He promised by His prophets to restore this His government to them again, when the time He hath in His secret counsel appointed for it shall be fully come, and when they shall turn unto Him by repentance and amendment of life. And not only so, but He invited also the Gentiles to come in, and enjoy the happiness of His reign, on the same conditions of conversion and repentance. And He promised also to send His Son into the world, to expiate the sins of them all by his death, and to prepare them by his doctrine to receive him at his second coming: which second coming not yet being, the kingdom of God is not yet come, and we are not now under any other kings by pact but our civil sovereigns; saving only that Christian men are already in the kingdom of grace, inasmuch as they have already the promise of being received at his coming again.
Consequent to this error, that the present Church is Christ's kingdom, there ought to be some one man, or assembly, by whose mouth our Saviour, now in heaven, speaketh, giveth law, and which representeth his person to all Christians; or diverse men, or diverse assemblies that do the same to diverse parts of Christendom. This power regal under Christ being challenged universally by the Pope, and in particular Commonwealths by assemblies of the pastors of the place (when the Scripture gives it to none but to civil sovereigns), comes to be so passionately disputed that it putteth out the light of nature, and causeth so great a darkness in men's understanding that they see not who it is to whom they have engaged their obedience.
Consequent to this claim of the Pope to vicar general of Christ in the present Church (supposed to be that kingdom of his to which we are addressed in the gospel) is the doctrine that it is necessary for a Christian king to receive his crown by a bishop; as if it were from that ceremony that he derives the clause of Dei gratia in his title; and that then only is he made king by the favour of God when he is crowned by the authority of God's universal vicegerent on earth; and that every bishop, whosoever be his sovereign, taketh at his consecration an oath of absolute obedience to the Pope. Consequent to the same is the doctrine of the fourth Council of Lateran, held under Pope Innocent the Third (Chapter 3, De Haereticis), "That if a king, at the pope's admonition, do not purge his kingdom of heresies, and being excommunicate for the same, do not give satisfaction within a year, his subjects are absolved of the bond of their obedience." Whereby heresies are understood all opinions which the Church of Rome hath forbidden to be maintained. And by this means, as often as there is any repugnancy between the political designs of the Pope and other Christian princes, as there is very often, there ariseth such a mist amongst their subjects, that they know not a stranger that thrusteth himself into the throne of their lawful prince, from him whom they had themselves placed there; and, in this darkness of mind, are made to fight one against another, without discerning their enemies from their friends, under the conduct of another man's ambition.
From the same opinion, that the present Church is the kingdom of God, it proceeds that pastors, deacons, and all other ministers of the Church take the name to themselves of the clergy; giving to other Christians the name of laity, that is, simply people. For clergy signifies those whose maintenance is that revenue which God, having reserved to Himself during His reign over the Israelites, assigned to the tribe of Levi (who were to be His public ministers, and had no portion of land set them out to live on, as their brethren) to be their inheritance. The Pope therefore (pretending the present Church to be, as the realms of Israel, the kingdom of God), challenging to himself and his subordinate ministers the like revenue as the inheritance of God, the name of clergy was suitable to that claim. And thence it is that tithes and other tributes paid to the Levites as God's right, amongst the Israelites, have a long time been demanded and taken of Christians by ecclesiastics, jure divino, that is, in God's right. By which means, the people everywhere were obliged to a double tribute; one to the state, another to the clergy; whereof that to the clergy, being the tenth of their revenue, is double to that which a king of Athens (and esteemed a tyrant) exacted of his subjects for the defraying of all public charges: for he demanded no more but the twentieth part, and yet abundantly maintained therewith the Commonwealth. And in the kingdom of the Jews, during the sacerdotal reign of God, the tithes and offerings were the whole public revenue.
From the same mistaking of the present Church for the kingdom of God came in the distinction between the civil and the canon laws: the civil law being the acts of sovereigns in their own dominions, and the canon law being the acts of the Pope in the same dominions. Which canons, though they were but canons, that is, rules propounded, and but voluntarily received by Christian princes, till the translation of the Empire to Charlemagne; yet afterwards, as the power of the Pope increased, became rules commanded, and the emperors themselves, to avoid greater mischiefs, which the people blinded might be led into, were forced to let them pass for laws.
From hence it is that in all dominions where the Pope's ecclesiastical power is entirely received, Jews, Turks, and Gentiles are in the Roman Church tolerated in their religion as far forth as in the exercise and profession thereof they offend not against the civil power: whereas in a Christian, though a stranger, not to be of the Roman religion is capital, because the Pope pretendeth that all Christians are his subjects. For otherwise it were as much against the law of nations to persecute a Christian stranger for professing the religion of his own country, as an infidel; or rather more, inasmuch as they that are not against Christ are with him.
From the same it is that in every Christian state there are certain men that are exempt, by ecclesiastical liberty, from the tributes and from the tribunals of the civil state; for so are the secular clergy, besides monks and friars, which in many places bear so great a proportion to the common people as, if need were, there might be raised out of them alone an army sufficient for any war the Church militant should employ them in against their own or other princes.
A second general abuse of Scripture is the turning of consecration into conjuration, or enchantment. To consecrate is, in Scripture, to offer, give, or dedicate, in pious and decent language and gesture, a man or any other thing to God, by separating of it from common use; that is to say, to sanctify, or make it God's, and to be used only by those whom God hath appointed to be His public ministers (as I have already proved at large in the thirty-fifth Chapter), and thereby to change, not the thing consecrated, but only the use of it, from being profane and common, to be holy, and peculiar to God's service. But when by such words the nature or quality of the thing itself is pretended to be changed, it is not consecration, but either an extraordinary work of God, or a vain and impious conjuration. But seeing, for the frequency of pretending the change of nature in their consecrations, it cannot be esteemed a work extraordinary, it is no other than a conjuration or incantation, whereby they would have men to believe an alteration of nature that is not, contrary to the testimony of man's sight and of all the rest of his senses. As for example, when the priest, instead of consecrating bread and wine to God's peculiar service in the sacrament of the Lord's Supper (which is but a separation of it from the common use to signify, that is, to put men in mind of, their redemption by the Passion of Christ, whose body was broken and blood shed upon the cross for our transgressions), pretends that by saying of the words of our Saviour, "This is my body," and "This is my blood," the nature of bread is no more there, but his very body; notwithstanding there appeareth not to the sight or other sense of the receiver anything that appeared not before the consecration. The Egyptian conjurers, that are said to have turned their rods to serpents, and the water into blood, are thought but to have deluded the senses of the spectators by a false show of things, yet are esteemed enchanters. But what should we have thought of them if there had appeared in their rods nothing like a serpent, and in the water enchanted nothing like blood, nor like anything else but water, but that they had faced down the king, that they were serpents that looked like rods, and that it was blood that seemed water? That had been both enchantment and lying. And yet in this daily act of the priest, they do the very same, by turning the holy words into the manner of a charm, which produceth nothing new to the sense; but they face us down, that it hath turned the bread into a man; nay, more, into a God; and require men to worship it as if it were our Saviour himself present, God and Man, and thereby to commit most gross idolatry. For if it be enough to excuse it of idolatry to say it is no more bread, but God; why should not the same excuse serve the Egyptians, in case they had the faces to say the leeks and onions they worshipped were not very leeks and onions, but a divinity under their species or likeness? The words, "This is my body," are equivalent to these, "This signifies, or represents, my body"; and it is an ordinary figure of speech: but to take it literally is an abuse; nor, though so taken, can it extend any further than to the bread which Christ himself with his own hands consecrated. For he never said that of what bread soever any priest whatsoever should say, "This is my body," or "This is Christ's body," the same should presently be transubstantiated. Nor did the Church of Rome ever establish this transubstantiation, till the time of Innocent the Third; which was not above five hundred years ago, when the power of Popes was at the highest, and the darkness of the time grown so great, as men discerned not the bread that was given them to eat, especially when it was stamped with the figure of Christ upon the cross, as if they would have men believe it were transubstantiated, not only into the body of Christ, but also into the wood of his cross, and that they did eat both together in the sacrament.
The like incantation, instead of consecration, is used also in the sacrament of baptism: where the abuse of God's name in each several person, and in the whole Trinity, with the sign of the cross at each name, maketh up the charm. As first, when they make the holy water, the priest saith, "I conjure thee, thou creature of water, in the name of God the Father Almighty, and in the name of Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord, and in virtue of the Holy Ghost, that thou become conjured water, to drive away all the powers of the enemy, and to eradicate, and supplant the enemy," etc. And the same in the benediction of the salt to be mingled with it, "That thou become conjured salt, that all phantasms and knavery of the Devil's fraud may fly and depart from the place wherein thou art sprinkled; and every unclean spirit be conjured by him that shall come to judge the quick and the dead." The same in the benediction of the oil, "That all the power of the enemy, all the host of the Devil, all assaults and phantasms of Satan, may be driven away by this creature of oil." And for the infant that is to be baptized, he is subject to many charms: first, at the church door the priest blows thrice in the child's face, and says, "Go out of him, unclean spirit, and give place to the Holy Ghost the Comforter." As if all children, till blown on by the priest, were demoniacs. Again, before his entrance into the church, he saith as before, "I conjure thee, etc., to go out, and depart from this servant of God"; and again the same exorcism is repeated once more before he be baptized. These and some other incantations are those that are used instead of benedictions and consecrations in administration of the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper; wherein everything that serveth to those holy uses, except the unhallowed spittle of the priest, hath some set form of exorcism.
Nor are the other rites, as of marriage, of extreme unction, of visitation of the sick, of consecrating churches, and churchyards, and the like, exempt from charms; inasmuch as there is in them the use of enchanted oil and water, with the abuse of the cross, and of the holy word of David, asperges me Domine hyssopo, as things of efficacy to drive away phantasms and imaginary spirits.
Another general error is from the misinterpretation of the words eternal life, everlasting death, and the second death. For though we read plainly in Holy Scripture that God created Adam in an estate of living for ever, which was conditional, that is to say, if he disobeyed not His commandment; which was not essential to human nature, but consequent to the virtue of the tree of life, whereof he had liberty to eat, as long as he had not sinned; and that he was thrust out of Paradise after he had sinned, lest he should eat thereof, and live for ever; and that Christ's Passion is a discharge of sin to all that believe on Him, and by consequence, a restitution of eternal life to all the faithful, and to them only: yet the doctrine is now and hath been a long time far otherwise; namely, that every man hath eternity of life by nature, inasmuch as his soul is immortal. So that the flaming sword at the entrance of Paradise, though it hinder a man from coming to the tree of life, hinders him not from the immortality which God took from him for his sin, nor makes him to need the sacrificing of Christ for the recovering of the same; and consequently, not only the faithful and righteous, but also the wicked and the heathen, shall enjoy eternal life, without any death at all, much less a second and everlasting death. To salve this, it is said that by second and everlasting death is meant a second and everlasting life, but in torments; a figure never used but in this very case.
All which doctrine is founded only on some of the obscurer places of the New Testament; which nevertheless, the whole scope of the Scripture considered, are clear enough in a different sense, and unnecessary to the Christian faith. For supposing that when a man dies, there remaineth nothing of him but his carcass; cannot God, that raised inanimated dust and clay into a living creature by His word, as easily raise a dead carcass to life again, and continue him alive for ever, or make him die again by another word? The soul, in Scripture, signifieth always either the life or the living creature; and the body and soul jointly, the body alive. In the fifth day of the Creation, God said, Let the waters produce reptile animae viventis, the creeping thing that hath in it a living soul; the English translate it, "that hath life." And again, God created whales, et omnem animam viventem; which in the English is, "every living creature." And likewise of man, God made him of the dust of the earth, and breathed in his face the breath of life, et factus est homo in animam viventem, that is, "and man was made a living creature." And after Noah came out of the ark, God saith, He will no more smite omnem animam viventem, that is, "every living creature." And, "Eat not the blood, for the blood is the soul"; that is, the life. From which places, if by soul were meant a substance incorporeal, with an existence separated from the body, it might as well be inferred of any other living creature, as of man. But that the souls of the faithful are not of their own nature, but by God's special grace, to remain in their bodies from the resurrection to all eternity, I have already, I think, sufficiently proved out of the Scriptures, in the thirty-eighth Chapter. And for the places of the New Testament where it is said that any man shall be cast body and soul into hell fire, it is no more than body and life; that is to say, they shall be cast alive into the perpetual fire of Gehenna.
This window it is that gives entrance to the dark doctrine, first, of eternal torments, and afterwards of purgatory, and consequently of the walking abroad, especially in places consecrated, solitary, or dark, of the ghosts of men deceased; and thereby to the pretences of exorcism and conjuration of phantasms, as also of invocation of men dead; and to the doctrine of indulgences; that is to say, of exemption for a time, or for ever, from the fire of purgatory, wherein these incorporeal substances are pretended by burning to be cleansed and made fit for heaven. For men being generally possessed, before the time of our Saviour, by contagion of the demonology of the Greeks, of an opinion that the souls of men were substances distinct from their bodies; and therefore that when the body was dead, the soul of every man, whether godly or wicked, must subsist somewhere by virtue of its own nature, without acknowledging therein any supernatural gift of God's; the doctors of the Church doubted a long time what was the place which they were to abide in, till they should be reunited to their bodies in the resurrection, supposing for a while, they lay under the altars: but afterward the Church of Rome found it more profitable to build for them this place of purgatory, which by some other Churches, in this later age, has been demolished.
Let us now consider what texts of Scripture seem most to confirm these three general errors I have here touched. As for those which Cardinal Bellarmine hath alleged for the present kingdom of God administered by the Pope (than which there are none that make a better show of proof), I have already answered them; and made it evident that the kingdom of God, instituted by Moses, ended in the election of Saul: after which time the priest of his own authority never deposed any king. That which the high priest did to Athaliah was not done in his own right, but in the right of the young King Joash, her son: But Solomon in his own right deposed the high priest Abiathar, and set up another in his place. The most difficult place to answer, of all those that can be brought to prove the kingdom of God by Christ is already in this world, is alleged, not by Bellarmine, nor any other of the Church of Rome, but by Beza, that will have it to begin from the resurrection of Christ. But whether he intend thereby to entitle the presbytery to the supreme power ecclesiastical in the Commonwealth of Geneva, and consequently to every presbytery in every other Commonwealth, or to princes and other civil sovereigns, I do not know. For the presbytery hath challenged the power to excommunicate their own kings, and to be the supreme moderators in religion, in the places where they have that form of Church government, no less than the Pope challengeth it universally.
The words are, "Verily I say unto you, that there be some of them that stand here, which shall not taste of death, till they have seen the kingdom of God come with power."412 Which words, if taken grammatically, make it certain that either some of those men that stood by Christ at that time are yet alive, or else that the kingdom of God must be now in this present world. And then there is another place more difficult: for when the Apostles after our Saviour's resurrection, and immediately before his ascension, asked our Saviour, saying, "Wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?" he answered them, "It is not for you to know the times and the seasons, which the Father hath put in His own power; but ye shall receive power by the coming of the Holy Ghost upon you, and ye shall be my witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth":413 which is as much as to say, My kingdom is not yet come, nor shall you foreknow when it shall come; for it shall come as a thief in the night; but I will send you the Holy Ghost, and by him you shall have power to bear witness to all the world, by your preaching of my resurrection, and the works I have done, and the doctrine I have taught, that they may believe in me, and expect eternal life, at my coming again. How does this agree with the coming of Christ's kingdom at the resurrection? And that which St. Paul says, "That they turned from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven";414 where "to wait for His Son from heaven" is to wait for his coming to be king in power; which were not necessary if his kingdom had been then present. Again, if the kingdom of God began, as Beza on that place415 would have it, at the resurrection; what reason is there for Christians ever since the resurrection to say in their prayers, "Let thy kingdom come"? It is therefore manifest that the words of St. Mark are not so to be interpreted. There be some of them that stand here, saith our Saviour, that shall not taste of death till they have seen the kingdom of God come in power. If then this kingdom were to come at the resurrection of Christ, why is it said, some of them, rather than all? For they all lived till after Christ was risen.
412 Mark, 9. 1
413 Acts, 1. 6
414 I Thessalonians, 1. 9, 10
415 Mark, 9. 1
But they that require an exact interpretation of this text, let them interpret first the like words of our Saviour to St. Peter concerning St. John, "If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee?"416 upon which was grounded a report that he should not die. Nevertheless the truth of that report was neither confirmed, as well grounded; nor refuted, as ill grounded on those words; but left as a saying not understood. The same difficulty is also in the place of St. Mark. And if it be lawful to conjecture at their meaning, by that which immediately follows, both here and in St. Luke, where the same is again repeated, it is not improbable to say they have relation to the Transfiguration, which is described in the verses immediately following, where it is said that "After six days Jesus taketh with him Peter, and James, and John" (not all, but some of his Disciples), "and leadeth them up into an high mountain apart by themselves, and was transfigured before them. And his raiment became shining, exceeding white as snow; so as no fuller on earth can white them. And there appeared unto them Elias with Moses, and they were talking with Jesus," etc. So that they saw Christ in glory and majesty, as he is to come; insomuch as "they were sore afraid." And thus the promise of our Saviour was accomplished by way of vision. For it was a vision, as may probably be inferred out of St. Luke, that reciteth the same story, and saith that Peter and they that were with him were heavy with sleep:417 but most certainly out of Matthew 17. 9 where the same is again related; for our Saviour charged them, saying, "Tell no man the vision until the Son of Man be risen from the dead." Howsoever it be, yet there can from thence be taken no argument to prove that the kingdom of God taketh beginning till the day of judgement.
416 John, 21. 22
417 Luke, 9. 28
As for some other texts to prove the Pope's power over civil sovereigns (besides those of Bellarmine), as that the two swords that Christ and his Apostles had amongst them were the spiritual and the temporal sword, which they say St. Peter had given him by Christ; and that of the two luminaries, the greater signifies the Pope, and the lesser the king; one might as well infer out of the first verse of the Bible that by heaven is meant the Pope, and by earth the king: which is not arguing from Scripture, but a wanton insulting over princes that came in fashion after the time the popes were grown so secure of their greatness as to contemn all Christian kings; and treading on the necks of emperors, to mock both them and the Scripture, in the words of the ninety-first Psalm, "Thou shalt tread upon the lion and the adder; the young lion and the dragon thou shalt trample under thy feet."
As for the rites of consecration, though they depend for the most part upon the discretion and judgement of the governors of the Church, and not upon the Scriptures; yet those governors are obliged to such direction as the nature of the action itself requireth; as that the ceremonies, words, gestures be both decent and significant, or at least conformable to the action. When Moses consecrated the tabernacle, the altar, and the vessels belonging to them, he anointed them with the oil which God had commanded to be made for that purpose:418 and they were holy. There was nothing exorcized, to drive away phantasms. The same Moses (the civil sovereign of Israel), when he consecrated Aaron (the high priest) and his sons, did wash them with water (not exorcized water), put their garments upon them, and anointed them with oil; and they were sanctified, to minister unto the Lord in the priest's office, which was a simple and decent cleansing and adorning them before he presented them to God, to be His servants. When King Solomon (the civil sovereign of Israel) consecrated the temple he had built, he stood before all the congregation of Israel; and having blessed them, he gave thanks to God for putting into the heart of his father to build it, and for giving to himself the grace to accomplish the same; and then prayed unto Him, first, to accept that house, though it were not suitable to His infinite greatness, and to hear the prayers of His servants that should pray therein, or (if they were absent) towards it; and lastly, he offered a sacrifice of peace offering, and the house was dedicated.419 Here was no procession; the King stood still in his first place; no exorcized water; no Asperges me, nor other impertinent application of words spoken upon another occasion; but a decent and rational speech, and such as in making to God a present of his new-built house was most conformable to the occasion.
418 Exodus, 40
419 II Kings, 8
We read not that St. John did exorcize the water of Jordan; nor Philip the water of the river wherein he baptized the eunuch; nor that any pastor in the time of the Apostles did take his spittle and put it to the nose of the person to be baptized, and say, in odorem suavitatis, that is, "for a sweet savour unto the Lord"; wherein neither the ceremony of spittle, for the uncleanness; nor the application of that Scripture, for the levity, can by any authority of man be justified.
To prove that the soul, separated from the body, liveth eternally, not only the souls of the elect, by especial grace, and restoration of the eternal life which Adam lost by sin, and our Saviour restored by the sacrifice of himself to the faithful; but also the souls of reprobates, as a property naturally consequent to the essence of mankind, without other grace of God but that which is universally given to all mankind; there are diverse places which at the first sight seem sufficiently to serve the turn: but such as when I compare them with that which I have before (Chapter thirty-eight) alleged out of the fourteenth of Job seem to me much more subject to a diverse interpretation than the words of Job.
And first there are the words of Solomon, "Then shall the dust return to dust, as it was, and the spirit shall return to God that gave it."420 Which may bear well enough (if there be no other text directly against it) this interpretation, that God only knows, but man not, what becomes of a man's spirit when he expireth; and the same Solomon, in the same book, delivereth the same sentence in the sense I have given it. His words are, "All go to the same place; all are of the dust, and all turn to dust again; who knoweth that the spirit of man goeth upward, and that the spirit of the beast goeth downward to the earth?"421 That is, none knows but God; nor is it an unusual phrase to say of things we understand not, "God knows what," and "God knows where." That of Genesis, 5. 24, "Enoch walked with God, and he was not; for God took him"; which is expounded, Hebrews, 11. 5, "He was translated, that he should not die; and was not found, because God had translated him. For before his translation, he had this testimony, that he pleased God," making as much for the immortality of the body as of the soul, proveth that this his translation was peculiar to them that please God; not common to them with the wicked; and depending on grace, not on nature. But on the contrary, what interpretation shall we give, besides the literal sense of the words of Solomon, "That which befalleth the sons of men befalleth beasts, even one thing befalleth them; as the one dieth, so doth the other; yea, they have all one breath; so that a man hath no pre-eminence above a beast, for all is vanity."422 By the literal sense, here is no natural immortality of the soul; nor yet any repugnancy with the life eternal, which the elect shall enjoy by grace. And, "Better is he that hath not yet been than both they";423 that is, than they that live or have lived; which, if the soul of all them that have lived were immortal, were a hard saying; for then to have an immortal soul were worse than to have no soul at all. And again, "The living know they shall die, but the dead know not anything";424 that is, naturally, and before the resurrection of the body.
420 Ecclesiastes, 12. 7
421 Ibid., 3. 20, 21
422 Ibid., 3. 19
423 Ibid., 4. 3
424 Ibid., 9. 5
Another place which seems to make for a natural immortality of the soul is that where our Saviour saith that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are living: but this is spoken of the promise of God, and of their certitude to rise again, not of a life then actual; and in the same sense that God said to Adam that on the day he should eat of the forbidden fruit, he should certainly die; from that time forward he was a dead man by sentence; but not by execution, till almost a thousand years after. So Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were alive by promise, then, when Christ spoke; but are not actually till the resurrection. And the history of Dives and Lazarus make nothing against this, if we take it, as it is, for a parable.
But there be other places of the New Testament where an immortality seemeth to be directly attributed to the to the wicked. For it is evident that they shall all rise to judgement. And it is said besides, in many places, that they shall go into "everlasting fire, everlasting torments, everlasting punishments; and that the worm of conscience never dieth"; and all this is comprehended in the word everlasting death, which is ordinarily interpreted "everlasting life in torments": and yet I can find nowhere that any man shall live in torments everlastingly. Also, it seemeth hard to say that God, who is the Father of mercies, that doth in heaven and earth all that He will; that hath the hearts of all men in His disposing; that worketh in men both to do and to will; and without whose free gift a man hath neither inclination to good nor repentance of evil, should punish men's transgressions without any end of time, and with all the extremity of torture that men can imagine, and more. We are therefore to consider what the meaning is of everlasting fire, and other the like phrases of Scripture.
I have shown already that the kingdom of God by Christ beginneth at the day of judgement: that in that day, the faithful shall rise again, with glorious and spiritual bodies and be his subjects in that his kingdom, which shall be eternal: that they shall neither marry, nor be given in marriage, nor eat and drink, as they did in their natural bodies; but live for ever in their individual persons, without the specifical eternity of generation: and that the reprobates also shall rise again, to receive punishments for their sins: as also that those of the elect, which shall be alive in their earthly bodies at that day, shall have their bodies suddenly changed, and made spiritual and immortal. But that the bodies of the reprobate, who make the kingdom of Satan, shall also be glorious or spiritual bodies, or that they shall be as the angels of God, neither eating, nor drinking, nor engendering; or that their life shall be eternal in their individual persons, as the life of every faithful man is, or as the life of Adam had been if he had not sinned, there is no place of Scripture to prove it; save only these places concerning eternal torments, which may otherwise be interpreted.
From whence may be inferred that, as the elect after the resurrection shall be restored to the estate wherein Adam was before he had sinned; so the reprobate shall be in the estate that Adam and his posterity were in after the sin committed; saving that God promised a redeemer to Adam, and such of his seed as should trust in him and repent, but not to them that should die in their sins, as do the reprobate.
These things considered, the texts that mention "eternal fire," "eternal torments," or "the worm that never dieth," contradict not the doctrine of a second and everlasting death, in the proper and natural sense of the word death. The fire or torments prepared for the wicked in Gehenna, Tophet, or in what place soever, may continue forever; and there may never want wicked men to be tormented in them, though not every nor any one eternally. For the wicked, being left in the estate they were in after Adam's sin, may at the resurrection live as they did, marry, and give in marriage, and have gross and corruptible bodies, as all mankind now have; and consequently may engender perpetually, after the resurrection, as they did before: for there is no place of Scripture to the contrary. For St. Paul, speaking of the resurrection, understandeth it only of the resurrection to life eternal, and not the resurrection to punishment.425 And of the first, he saith that the body is "sown in corruption, raised in incorruption; sown in dishonour, raised in honour; sown in weakness, raised in power; sown a natural body, raised a spiritual body." There is no such thing can be said of the bodies of them that rise to punishment. So also our Saviour, when he speaketh of the nature of man after the resurrection, meaneth the resurrection to life eternal, not to punishment. The text is Luke, 20, verses 34, 35, 36, a fertile text: "The children of this world marry, and are given in marriage; but they that shall be counted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more; for they are equal to the angels, and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection." The children of this world, that are in the estate which Adam left them in, shall marry and be given in marriage; that is, corrupt and generate successively; which is an immortality of the kind, but not of the persons of men: they are not worthy to be counted amongst them that shall obtain the next world, an absolute resurrection from the dead; but only a short time, as inmates of that world; and to the end only to receive condign punishment for their contumacy. The elect are the only children of the resurrection; that is to say, the sole heirs of eternal life: they only can die no more. It is they that are equal to the angels, and that are the children of God, and not the reprobate. To the reprobate there remaineth after the resurrection a second and eternal death, between which resurrection and their second and eternal death is but a time of punishment and torment, and to last by succession of sinners thereunto as long as the kind of man by propagation shall endure, which is eternally.
425 I Corinthians, 15
Upon this doctrine of the natural eternity of separated souls is founded, as I said, the doctrine of purgatory. For supposing eternal life by grace only, there is no life but the life of the body; and no immortality till the resurrection. The texts for purgatory alleged by Bellarmine out of the canonical Scripture of the Old Testament are, first, the fasting of David for Saul and Jonathan, mentioned II Samuel, 1. 12, and again, II Samuel, 3. 35, for the death of Abner. This fasting of David, he saith, was for the obtaining of something for them at God's hands, after their death: because after he had fasted to procure the recovery of his own child, as soon as he knew it was dead, he called for meat. Seeing then the soul hath an existence separate from the body, and nothing can be obtained by men's fasting for the souls that are already either in heaven or hell, it followeth that there be some souls of dead men that are neither in heaven nor in hell; and therefore they must be in some third place, which must be purgatory. And thus with hard straining, he has wrested those places to the proof of a purgatory: whereas it is manifest that the ceremonies of mourning and fasting, when they are used for the death of men whose life was not profitable to the mourners, they are used for honour's sake to their persons; and when it is done for the death of them by whose life the mourners had benefit, it proceeds from their particular damage: and so David honoured Saul and Abner with his fasting; and, in the death of his own child, recomforted himself by receiving his ordinary food.
In the other places which he allegeth out of the Old Testament, there is not so much as any show or colour of proof. He brings in every text wherein there is the word anger, or fire, or burning, or purging, or cleansing, in case any of the fathers have but in a sermon rhetorically applied it to the doctrine of purgatory, already believed. The first verse of Psalm 37, "O Lord, rebuke me not in thy wrath, nor chasten me in thy hot displeasure": what were this to purgatory, if Augustine had not applied the wrath to the fire of hell, and the displeasure to that of purgatory? And what is it to purgatory, that of Psalm, 66. 12 "We went through fire and water, and thou broughtest us to a moist place"; and other the like texts, with which the doctors of those times intended to adorn or extend their sermons or commentaries, haled to their purposes by force of wit?
But he allegeth other places of the New Testament that are not so easy to be answered. And first that of Matthew, 12. 32, "Whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him neither in this world, nor in the world to come"; where he will have purgatory to be the world to come, wherein some sins may be forgiven which in this world were not forgiven: notwithstanding that it is manifest there are but three worlds; one from the creation to the flood, which was destroyed by water, and is called in Scripture "the old world"; another from the flood to the day of judgement, which is "the present world, and shall be destroyed by fire; and the third, which shall be from the day of judgement forward, everlasting, which is called "the world to come"; and in which it agreed by all there shall be no purgatory: and therefore the world to come, and purgatory, are inconsistent. But what then can be the meaning of those our Saviour's words? I confess they are very hardly to be reconciled with all the doctrines now unanimously received: nor is it any shame to confess the profoundness of the Scripture to be too great to be sounded by the shortness of human understanding. Nevertheless, I may propound such things to the consideration of more learned divines, as the text itself suggesteth. And first, seeing to speak against the Holy Ghost, as being the third person of the Trinity, is to speak against the Church, in which the Holy Ghost resideth; it seemeth the comparison is made between the easiness of our Saviour in bearing with offences done to him while he himself taught the world, that is, when he was on earth, and the severity of the pastors after him, against those which should deny their authority, which was from the Holy Ghost. As if he should say, you that deny my power; nay, you that shall crucify me, shall be pardoned by me, as often as you turn unto me by repentance: but if you deny the power of them that teach you hereafter, by virtue of the Holy Ghost, they shall be inexorable, and shall not forgive you, but persecute you in this world, and leave you without absolution (though you turn to me, unless you turn also to them), to the punishments, as much as lies in them, of the world to come. And so the words may be taken as a prophecy or prediction concerning the times, as they have long been in the Christian Church: or if this be not the meaning (for I am not peremptory in such difficult places), perhaps there may be place left after the resurrection for the repentance of some sinners. And there is also another place that seemeth to agree therewith. For considering the words of St. Paul, "What shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? Why also are they baptized for the dead?"426 a man may probably infer, as some have done, that in St. Paul's time there was a custom, by receiving baptism for the dead, (as men that now believe are sureties and undertakers for the faith of infants that are not capable of believing) to undertake for the persons of their deceased friends, that they should be ready to obey and receive our Saviour for their king at his coming again; and then the forgiveness of sins in the world to come has no need of a purgatory. But in both these interpretations, there is so much of paradox that I trust not to them, but propound them to those that are thoroughly versed in the Scripture, to inquire if there be no clearer place that contradicts them. Only of thus much, I see evident Scripture to persuade me that there is neither the word nor the thing of purgatory, neither in this nor any other text; nor anything that can prove a necessity of a place for the soul without the body; neither for the soul of Lazarus during the four days he was dead; nor for the souls of them which the Roman Church pretend to be tormented now in purgatory. For God, that could give a life to a piece of clay, hath the same power to give life again to a dead man, and renew his inanimate and rotten carcass into a glorious, spiritual, and immortal body.
426 I Corinthians, 15. 29
Another place is that of I Corinthians, 3, where it is said that they which build stubble, hay, etc., on the true foundation, their work shall perish; but "they themselves shall be saved; but as through fire": this fire he will have to be the fire of purgatory. The words, as I have said before, are an allusion to those of Zechariah, 13. 9, where he saith, "I will bring the third part through the fire, and refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried": which is spoken of the coming of the Messiah in power and glory; that is, at the day of judgement, and conflagration of the present world; wherein the elect shall not be consumed, but be refined; that is, depose their erroneous doctrines and traditions, and have them, as it were, singed off; and shall afterwards call upon the name of the true God. In like manner, the Apostle saith of them that, holding this foundation, Jesus is the Christ, shall build thereon some other doctrines that be erroneous, that they shall not be consumed in that fire which reneweth the world, but shall pass through it to salvation; but so as to see and relinquish their former errors. The builders are the pastors; the foundation, that Jesus is the Christ; the stubble and hay, false consequences drawn from it through ignorance or frailty; the gold, silver, and precious stones are their true doctrines; and their refining or purging, the relinquishing of their errors. In all which there is no colour at all for the burning of incorporeal, that is to say, impatible souls.
A third place is that of I Corinthians, 15. 29, before mentioned, concerning baptism for the dead: out of which he concludeth, first, that prayers for the dead are not unprofitable; and out of that, that there is a fire of purgatory: but neither of them rightly. For of many interpretations of the word baptism, he approveth this in the first place, that by baptism is meant, metaphorically, a baptism of penance; and that men are in this sense baptized when they fast, and pray, and give alms; and so baptism for the dead, and prayer for the dead, is the same thing. But this is a metaphor, of which there is no example, neither in the Scripture nor in any other use of language; and which is also discordant to the harmony and scope of the Scripture. The word baptism is used for being dipped in one's own blood, as Christ was upon the cross, and as most of the Apostles were, for giving testimony of him.427 But it is hard to say that prayer, fasting, and alms have any similitude with dipping. The same is used also, Matthew, 3. 11 (which seemeth to make somewhat for purgatory), for a purging with fire. But it is evident the fire and purging here mentioned is the same whereof the Prophet Zechariah speaketh, "I will bring the third part through the fire, will refine them," etc.428 And St. Peter after him, "That the trial of your faith, which is much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise, and honour, and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ";429 and St. Paul, "The fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is."430 But St. Peter and St. Paul speak of the fire that shall be at the second appearing of Christ; and the Prophet Zechariah, of the day of judgement. And therefore this place of St. Matthew may be interpreted of the same, and then there will be no necessity of the fire of purgatory.
427 Mark, 10. 38, and Luke, 12. 50
428 Zechariah, 13. 9
429 I Epistle, 1. 7
430 I Corinthians, 3. 13
Another interpretation of baptism for the dead is that which I have before mentioned, which he preferreth to the second place of probability: and thence also he inferreth the utility of prayer for the dead. For if after the resurrection such as have not heard of Christ, or not believed in him, may be received into Christ's kingdom, it is not in vain, after their death, that their friends should pray for them till they should be risen. But granting that God, at the prayers of the faithful, may convert unto him some of those that have not heard Christ preached, and consequently cannot have rejected Christ, and that the charity of men in that point cannot be blamed; yet this concludeth nothing for purgatory, because to rise from death to life is one thing; to rise from purgatory to life is another; as being a rising from life to life, from a life in torments to a life in joy.
A fourth place is that of Matthew, 5. 25: "Agree with thine adversary quickly, whilst thou art in the way with him, lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing." In which allegory, the offender is the sinner; both the adversary and the judge is God; the way is this life; the prison is the grave; the officer, death; from which the sinner shall not rise again to life eternal, but to a second death, till he have paid the utmost farthing, or Christ pay it for him by his Passion, which is a full ransom for all manner of sin, as well lesser sins as greater crimes, both being made by the Passion of Christ equally venial.
The fifth place is that of Matthew, 5. 22: "Whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be guilty in judgement. And whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be guilty in the council. But whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be guilty to hell fire." From which words he inferreth three sorts of sins, and three sorts of punishments; and that none of those sins, but the last, shall be punished with hell fire; and consequently, that after this life there is punishment of lesser sins in purgatory. Of which inference there is no colour in any interpretation that hath yet been given of them. Shall there be a distinction after this life of courts of justice, as there was amongst the Jews in our Saviour's time, to hear and determine diverse sorts of crimes, as the judges and the council? Shall not all judicature appertain to Christ and his Apostles? To understand therefore this text, we are not to consider it solitarily, but jointly with the words precedent and subsequent. Our Saviour in this chapter interpreteth the Law of Moses, which the Jews thought was then fulfilled when they had not transgressed the grammatical sense thereof, howsoever they had transgressed against the sentence or meaning of the legislator. Therefore, whereas they thought the sixth Commandment was not broken but by killing a man; nor the seventh, but when a man lay with a woman not his wife; our Saviour tells them, the inward anger of a man against his brother, if it be without just cause, is homicide. You have heard, saith he, the Law of Moses, "Thou shalt not kill," and that "Whosoever shall kill shall be condemned before the judges," or before the session of the Seventy: but I say unto you, to be angry with one's brother without cause, or to say unto him Raca, or Fool, is homicide, and shall be punished at the day of judgement, and session of Christ and his Apostles, with hell fire. So that those words were not used to distinguish between diverse crimes, and diverse courts of justice, and diverse punishments; but to tax the distinction between sin and sin, which the Jews drew not from the difference of the will in obeying God, but from the difference of their temporal courts of justice; and to show them that he that had the will to hurt his brother, though the effect appear but in reviling, or not at all, shall be cast into hell fire by the judges and by the session, which shall be the same, not different, courts at the day of judgement. This considered, what can be drawn from this text to maintain purgatory, I cannot imagine.
The sixth place is Luke, 16. 9: "Make ye friends of the unrighteous mammon, that when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting tabernacles." This he alleges to prove invocation of saints departed. But the sense is plain, that we should make friends, with our riches, of the poor; and thereby obtain their prayers whilst they live. "He that giveth to the poor lendeth to the Lord."
The seventh is Luke, 23. 42: "Lord, remember me when thou comest into thy kingdom." Therefore, saith he, there is remission of sins after this life. But the consequence is not good. Our Saviour then forgave him, and, at his coming again in glory, will remember to raise him again to life eternal.
The eighth is Acts, 2. 24, where St. Peter saith of Christ, "that God had raised him up, and loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible he should be holden of it": which he interprets to be a descent of Christ into purgatory, to loose some souls there from their torments: whereas it is manifest that it was Christ that was loosed. It was he that could not be holden of death or the grave, and not the souls in purgatory. But if that which Beza says in his notes on this place be well observed, there is none that will not see that instead of pains, it should be bands; and then there is no further cause to seek for purgatory in this text.
Last updated Tuesday, August 25, 2015 at 14:09