Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Against Popery, by Thomas Watson, pt. 2

Fifthly, A fifth Error is, There is distinguishing between sins Mortal and sins Venial: Mortal sins are Murder, Perjury, Adultery, and such like; these (say they) deserve Death and Damnation; but Venial sins, such as vain thoughts, rash anger, concupiscence, these (say they) do not deserve Death.

But we say and affirm, That there is no such sins as they call Venial. It is true, the greatest sins being repented of, are pardonable through the blood of Christ; but there is no sin of which we can say, that do not deserve death and damnation. And this I will prove by a double Argument.

1. If the very least sin be (as indeed it is) a breach and violation of God’s Law, then ’tis no more venial than a greater: But the least sin is a violation of God’s Law; therefore the least sin is no more venial than a greater. The minor [proposition] is clearly proved from Matt. 5.28, Whosoever looks on a Woman to lust after her, hath committed Adultery with her in his heart: In which place our Saviour makes a lascivious look, an impure glance of the eye, to be a breach and violation of God’s Law.

2. If the least sin expose men to a Curse, then they are no more venial than greater; but the least sin doth expose men to a Curse, Gal. 3.10, Cursed is he that continues not in all things contained in the Law, to do them. He that faileth in the least iota or punctilio, it exposeth him unto a Curse. And remember this (my brethren) That without repentance, God hath provided a great Hell for little sins. That is the fifth.

Sixthly, A Sixth Error in Popery is, Their asserting the Doctrine of free-will. That Goliah of the Papists, Bellarmine, saith, That man’s will is inclinable unto good, and that a man hath an innate power to do that which is good. But man’s will being corrupted and depraved, is not inclinable to that which is good, but quite contrary. And this is evident from our own experience, had we no Bible to confirm it.
When the Rudder of a Ship is broke, the Ship is carried up and {} down, to and again, which way the wind will: even so it is with man’s will being corrupted. Austin, in his Confessions, saith, That before his conversion he did accustom himself to fruit stealing, not so much out of a love to the fruit, as to stealing. Hence is it that men are said to love evil, Micah 3.2.

Again, the will being depraved and corrupt, hath no innate power to do that which is good. Indeed the Papists say, That man hath some seed of good in him; but the Scripture doth not say so. Man as Ambrose well saith, hath a free will to sin, but how to perform that which is good he finds not.

Sin hath cut the locks where our strength lay. Therefore are we said to be without strength, Rom. 5.6. Sinners are said to be in the bond of iniquity, and so not in a posture to run heaven’s Race. A man by nature cannot do that that he hath the least bent and tendency to that which is good: he is so far from performing a good act, as that he cannot so much as think a good thought. Hence it is that man is said to have a heart of stone: he can no more prepare himself for his Conversion, than a stone can prepare itself for the Superstruction: Men naturally, are dead spiritually. In man’s will there is not only impotency, but obstinacy. Hence it is men are said to resist the holy Ghost, Acts 7: But I go on.

Seventhly, A seventh Error is, their Indulgences. They say, the Pope hath a power to give a pardon and Indulgence, by virtue of which men are freed from their sins in God’s sight.

Besides the Blasphemy of this assertion, what else is it but a cunning trick and sly artifice to get money by. This is that indeed brings grists to the Popes Mill. How contrary is this to the Scripture, which saith, None can forgive sin but God only? Mark 2.

This Doctrine of Popish Indulgence, is a key that unlocks and opens a door to all manner of licentiousness and uncleanness; for what need persons care what they do, if they (for their money) can obtain a pardon? Mr. Fox in his Book of Martyrs, mentions one that at first was a papist, and being brought before Bonner, said, Sir, at the first I was of your Religion, and then I cared not how I lived, because I could with my money obtain a pardon. But now I am otherwise persuaded and do believe, That none can forgive sins but God only?

Eightly, An eighth Error is, The Doctrine of Merits: they say that good works do expiate sin and merit glory. Bellarmine saith, a man hath a double right to glory; one by Christ’s merits, and the other by his own; And for this he urges 2 Tim. 4.8, Henceforth is laid up {} for me a crown of Righteousness, which the just Judge shall give unto me, and not only unto me, &c.

Which is the just Judge. Now Bellarmine saith, That God in justice doth reward our Works; and if he doth it of right and in Justice, then certainly they merit.

To this I answer two ways:
1. God giving us in justice a reward: It is not for the worthiness of our work, but for the worthiness of our Saviour.
2. God as a just judge rewards our works, not because we have merited a reward, but because he hath promised a Reward, and so is just in giving what he hath promised.


  1. God alone initiates salvation. He always turns toward man first and seeks him, as when God walked in the Garden (Genesis 3:8). Man does not seek God or turn to him without God first calling man to Himself (John. 6:37, 44; 1 John. 4:10,19).

    Second, God’s initiative does not exclude man’s free response, but demands it (Catechism of the Catholic Church [Catechism], nos. 154, 155, 2002; Phil. 2:12, 13). In other words, God wills that man be free to choose His grace or reject it.

    Third, salvation is extended to each and every human person, not limited to just some, and one can fall away from grace (Hebrews 2:1-4; 6:4; 2 Peter 1:10; 3:9; 1 John 5:16, 17).

    Furthermore, it is imperative that once one is touched by grace, he perseveres in charity lest he forfeit the free gift of salvation (Lumen Gentium [LG], no. 14). Within the confines of these principles, Catholics have sought to understand the mystery of predestination. Though opinions and formulations have varied among Catholic theologians, with these principles left intact, there is room for legitimate speculation.

    The only proper framework to understand predestination must be rooted in the notion of a communion of persons in love. Why? The nature of God as Trinity is this very kind of communion and God created man to share in that “blessed life” (cf. Catechism, no. 1).

    This communion of love demands freedom of will. For love is not something thrust upon a person, but offered as a gift. This communion of love in the Trinity is also the basis for evangelization in the Church (cf. Catechism, no. 850). As this is the very essence of the relationship between God and man, everything in one way or another must refer back to it and be measured by it. As this was God’s purpose in creating man, it is also intimately tied to our redemption and our ultimate destiny. God is love (1 John 4:8).

    Salvation is the gift of God alone: Grace

  2. There is no question that God initiates salvation. There is no argument there, provided of course that we are using the words in the same sense. However, there is no question that there is a certain number, the elect, who are known only to God. The preaching of the Gospel is to all people, but because God initiates salvation, He effectually calls to Himself, those who hear the general call of the Gospel as it is proclaimed. These are the sheep for whom Christ has given His life (John 10:15). Christ, a few verses later, verifies this by telling some of His listeners that they were not among the number of His sheep (John 10:26). Christ goes so far as to tell them that the cause of their unbelief was the very fact that they weren't His sheep. Lest we be tempted to cry foul, Paul has cut off his excuse in Romans 9. It is pure unadulterated sovereign grace that God has chosen anyone at all to be saved. There is no room to say that this is unfair. He was under no obligation to provide salvation for anyone at all, let alone everyone. Since predestination rests purely upon the sovereign will of God, and does not take any human action into account (Romans 9:11-16), it is clear that God not only initiates salvation, but He also completes it (Phil. 1:6). This does not discount the reality of the human response, but even that is a gift of God (Phil. 1:29, 2:13, Eph. 2:8).

    When God calls brings a person to Christ (John 6:44), this is effectual because He has regenerated that person. A person dead in sins and trespasses (Eph. 2:1-2) can no more return to God of his own volition than a corpse can leave the morgue and go home of its own volition. Augustine goes to great lengths to argue this point. He says in effect, "When man sinned, he destroyed himself and his will. If he is now dead because of the wrong use of his will, which is now destroyed, he cannot now by an act of his will restore himself to life" (Enchiridion 30). Believing savingly upon Christ is a spiritual act, and as Ignatius of Antioch states, "They who are carnal cannot do spiritual things… unbelief is incapable of the deeds of faith." (Eph. VIII) Inserting any synergistic cooperation between man and God in a man's salvation, to that extent places some of the outcome of salvation upon man, not God. Scripture curses those who trust in man. This is destructive of faith. It is no good to say, "By faith you are saved apart from the works of the Law," if I hasten to add, "But you need to live by the Law in order to maintain your salvation." Unless predestination is certain (The gifts and calling of God are without repentance - Romans 11:29), then the word is meaningless.

    Bellarmine said that the greatest heresy of Protestantism was assurance of salvation. Most Protestants would have expected him to say, justification by faith alone. When you place the final outcome of your salvation upon your own good works and merit, rather than on the finished work of Christ, you not only cast aspersions on His High Priesthood, but you make the shifting sand of mortal, sinful man the foundation of its success. When you do this, it is little wonder you can have no assurance of salvation. This is the result of semi-Pelagianism in Roman Catholicism. Semi-Pelagianism has had the same ugly effect in Evangelical circles via Arminianism. Our early Reformed theologians always warned that Arminianism was a backdoor into Popery: it certainly appears that way from here.


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