ARTICLE IV.– OF POPERY.
The Pope is not jure divino, or according to the Word of God, the head of all Christendom, for this belongs to one alone, who is Jesus Christ; but he is only bishop, or pastor of the church at Rome, and of others who have voluntarily, or through human authority, (that is, through the political magistracy,) joined themselves to him, not under him, as a lord, but equal with him, Christians and his brethren and companions, as the ancient councils and the age of St. Cyprian, show.
But now no bishop is allowed to call the Pope brother, as was done in the days of Cyprian; but they, and even emperors and kinds, must call him, "most gracious lord." This arrogance we cannot, with good conscience, nor will we, nor should we, approve. But whoever wishes to do so, may do it without consulting us.
Hence it follows, that all that the Pope through this false, arrogant, blasphemous, and usurped power, has done or undertaken, has been, and is still, a mere device and work of the devil, (excepting that which concerns political government, in which God, even through a tyrant and a knave, often permits much good to be effected for a people,) to the perdition of the holy, universal, Christian church, (so far as it depended on him,) and to the destruction of the first chief article concerning redemption secured by Jesus Christ.
For all his bulls and books are extant, in which he roars like a lion, (as the angel, Rev. 12, describes,) exclaiming that no Christian can be saved, unless he be obedient and subject to the Pope in all things that he wishes, says, or does. All of which is nothing else but asserting, that even if you believe in Christ, and are in possession of all things in him that are essential to salvation, it avails nothing, and all is vain, if you do not hold me as your god, and are not subject and obedient to me. When at the same time it is evident, that the holy Christian church was without a Pope, upwards of five hundred years at least; and even to this day the Greek church and those of many other languages, have never been, and are not now, under the Pope. Consequently it is, as has been frequently said, a human device, unadvised, useless, and ineffectual; for the holy Christian church can exist without such head, and it might have existed in better circumstances, if such head had not been reared up by the devil. Nor is Popery of any use in the church; for it exercises no Christian office, and thus the Christian church must continue and stand without the Pope.
And supposing that the Pope would admit that he is not supreme, jure divino, or according to the command of God, but in order that the union of Christians might be the more effectually preserved against sectarians and heretics, that there might be a head to which all the others adhere: such head then would be elected by men, and it would lie within human choice or power, to change or to remove that head. The council at Constance adopted this method with the Popes, removing three, and electing a fourth. Supposing, I say, that the Pope and the see at Rome, would admit and accept this, (which however is impossible, for he would then be compelled to permit his whole government and ecclesiastical establishment to be subverted and destroyed, with all his rites and books,) even then the condition of Christianity would not be amended by it, and there would be more sectarians than before.
If then, we are not compelled according to the command of God to be subject to such head, but only according to the good pleasure of men, it would readily and in a short time be rejected, and finally not retain a single member. Nor would it have to be always at Rome, or at any other particular place, but where and in whatever church God would raise up a man who might be qualified for this purpose. This indeed would constitute a perplexed, and confused state of affairs!
Therefore, the church can never be better governed and preserved, than by us all living under one head,– Christ,– the bishops being all equal with respect to their office, though unequal with respect to their endowments, and diligently adhering together in conformity of doctrine, faith, sacraments, prayer, and works of love, &c., as St. Jerome writes, that the priests at Alexandria ruled the church in one collective body: and so did the Apostles, and all bishops in the whole circle of Christianity, until the Pope elevated his head above all.
This fact proves fully that he is opposed to Christ, or is the true Antichrist, who has set himself against, and elevated himself above Christ, since he will not permit Christians to be saved without his power; nothing of which, however, is either ordered or commanded of God. This may with propriety be termed setting ones self above and against God, as Paul, 2 Thess. 2, 4, says. Neither Turks nor Tartars act in this way, as atrocious enemies as they are to Christians: but they allow those to believe in Christ who wish to do so, and they accept tribute and corporeal obedience from Christians.
But the Pope prohibits this faith, and says that men must be obedient to him, if they wish to be saved. This we are unwilling to do, but will rather die in the name of God. All this has resulted from the compulsion of calling him the supreme ruler, with divine right, over the Christian church. Therefore, he had to make himself equal with Christ, and above him, declaring himself the head, afterwards lord of the church, and finally of the whole world; boasting as if he were a terrestrial god, till he even undertook to command the angels in heaven. And when a line of distinction is drawn between the doctrine of the Pope, and that of the holy Scripture, or when they are held in comparison, it will appear that the Pope's doctrine, even in its best features, is taken from imperial and pagan rights: and it has reference to political affairs and jurisdiction, as his decretals prove. Accordingly, it teaches ceremonies concerning churches, vestments, meats, persons, and puerile plays of masks and mummeries without measure: but in all this there is nothing about Christ, faith, and the commandments of God.
Finally, he acts as the devil himself, when in opposition to God, the Pope urges and disseminates his falsehoods concerning masses, purgatory, monastic life, self-devised works, and services to God,– which constitute true Popery,– and tortures and puts to death all Christians, who will not regard and honor these abominations of his above all things. Therefore, as little as we can adore the devil as a lord or god, so little can we tolerate his apostle, the Pope or Antichrist, as head and lord in his kingdom. For falsehood and murder, eternal destruction of body and of soul, is his Papal government chiefly,– this I have shown in many of my books.