A Sermon Against the Roman Catholic Church
(A Sermon against Popery)


 Thomas Watson


"Wherefore, my dearly Beloved, flee from Idolatry." -- [1 Cor 10:14]

WHEN I consider that saying of the blessed Apostle Paul, I am pure from the Blood of all men, Acts 20.26; And that which made him say so, was, because he had not shuníd to declare (unto his hearers then committed to his charge) the whole Council of God. Paul had been faithful to the Souls of people; he had preached up Truth, and preached down Error. The consideration of which, hath put me at this time upon this Scripture, Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from Idolatry. From whence I shall (by Divine permission and assistance) assert the truth of the Protestant Religion, against popish Innovation; and amongst all the Errors that are leveled against the Gospel, none are more gross, dishonourable, nor dangerous, than those broachíd and set a running in the Popish Conclave: and therefore there was good reason why the Apostle should say, Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from Idolatry.

Idolatry doth bud and blossom in the Popish Religion. It should be the earnest prayer and endeavour of every good Christian that none of those poisonous streams that flow from the See of Rome, may ever infest this British Isle.

My main and principal design at this time is, to shew unto you some few of those many grand Errors that are in popery, or in the popish Religion, and likewise to fortify you against them.

Among many others, there are these thirteen grand Errors in popery, that every good Christian must take off, and flee from.

The first Error is this, The papists do hold, That the Pope is the Head of the Church: This is diametrically and point-blank opposite to the Scripture, Col. 2.9. Christ is there called, The Head of the Church. Now to make the Pope the Head of the Church is to make the Church monstrous by having two Heads. This is to make the Spouse of Christ an Harlot. I read, Rev. 13.1, of a Beast rising out of the sea. By the Beast there Interpreters understand the mystical Antichrist, i.e. the Pope. Now, if the Pope be the Beast there, and elsewhere spoken of; how ridiculous, yea how impious is it to make a Beast the Head of Christís Church. That is the first.

A second Error, which I shall but name, is this, That Papists hold, That the Pope is above Scripture, and that his Laws, Decrees, and Canons bind more than the Scriptures, than the Word of God. Well may he have that name written upon his Miter, thatís mentioned, Rev. 13.1, And upon his head was written the Names of blasphemy. But I add,

Their third Error, is the Mass, which indeed is gross Idolatry; there is in it these two Errors:

1. Transubstantiation. Bellarmine, with other Popish Writers, say, that the Bread the Host after consecration, is turned into the very body of Christ. Now this is against Philosophy, as well as Scripture and Divinity. ĎTis against Philosophy, for this is clear, if Christís Body be in Heaven, then it cannot possibly be in the bread: But Christís Body is in Heaven, Acts 3.22, Whom the Heavens must contain, (speaking of Christ) until the restitution of all things. Moreover, that the bread in the Sacrament is not turned into the Body of Christ, I prove thus, the wicked they do not receive Christ, 1 Cor. 2.14. But if the bread be the very body of Christ, then the wicked when they eat of the bread do eat the very body of Christ. This is so gross an Opinion, that most of the ancient Fathers wrote against it, as Cyprian, Origen, Tertullian, Austin, Ambrose, with many others.

But, 2ly. The second Error in the Mass is, they do daily offer up Christ in the Mass. I grant there are Priests in Gospel times, and Sacrifices too, but they are as such are spiritual; as the sacrifice of Prayer, of Praise, of a broken and contrite heart. But that there should be any external offering of Christ by way of Sacrifice, is a blasphemy against Christís Priestly Office; for it supposeth, that Christís Offering on the Cross was not perfect. That is notoriously contrary to the very letter of Scripture. See Heb. 10.12, That man, i.e. Christ, God-man, after he had once offered a Sacrifice for sin, sat down at the right hand of God: and verse 14, he saith, That by this one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. This Scripture sheweth the completeness of Christís Sufferings and Sacrifice, and that now there needs no offering up any more Sacrifices. That is the third: But,

Fourthly, A fourth Error is: The Doctrine of Popish Satisfactions; they hold that we do, in our own persons, satisfy Godís justice by our Penance, Whipping, Fasting, Alms-deeds. Thus the Council of Trent, and the Popish Rhemes. But where is any thing of this in Scripture? alas, what is our confession of sin? that is no satisfaction for sin: If a Traitor confess his guilt, this is no satisfaction for, but rather an aggravation {} of his Treason. Alas, our Repentance, Fasting, Humiliation, the best of our actions are be-leopard, and mixed with very much sin; our Humiliation is mixed with very much pride, our Repentance and Confession, with much Hypocrisy and Dissimulation. There is much of sin in the cream of our services, and sin cannot satisfy for sin. This is a sure rule (and I pray you mark it) that whatever offering we bring to God for acceptation, we must lay it upon the Altar Jesus Christ, for Godís Justice accepts no satisfaction, but by and through the Lord Jesus. And thatís a fourth.

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 Godís Law, then ítis no more venial than a greater: But the least sin is a violation of Godís 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 Godís 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 manís will is inclinable unto good, and that a man hath an innate power to do that which is good. But manís 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 manís 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 heavenís 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 manís 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 Godís 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 Christís 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.

Objection. But they say, God crowns our works, ergo they merit.

Answer. God (to speak after the manner of men) keeps two Courts, a Court of Justice, and a Court of Mercy: In his Court of Justice, nothing may come but Christís Merits; but in the Court of Mercy, our works may come. Nay, let me tell you, God in free grace crowns those works in the Court of Mercy, which he condemned in the Court of Justice. Now that we do not, nor cannot merit by our good works, I will prove by a threefold argument, and this threefold cord will not easily be broken.

First of all, (and I beseech you mind it) that which merits at Godís hand, must be a gift we give to him, and not a debt we owe to him. Now whatever we can do for, or give unto God, it is but a just and due debt.

2. He who would merit at Godís hand, must give God something overplus: But alas, if we cannot give God the principal, how shall we give him the interest? If we cannot give him his due, how can we give him overplus?

3. He who would merit any thing at Godís hand, must offer that to him that is perfect: But alas, can we give God any thing that is perfect? are not our best Offerings fly-blown with pride and corruption?

Beloved, Woe to the holiest man alive, if God weighs him in the Balance of the Sanctuary and do not allow him some grains. I conclude this with that saying of Ambrose, Good Works are the way to but not the cause of Salvation. Therefore when you have done all, say you are unprofitable servants. [Luke 17.10.]

There is no Angel can merit (for he chargeth them with folly [Job 4.18,]) much less vile and sinful man. Therefore count all your own Righteousness but as dung and dogs meat. In a word, rely not on your own merits, put the crown on the head of Free-grace. Thatís the eighth. {}

Ninthly, The ninth Error in the Popish Religion is, the Doctrine of Purgatory. There is, say they, a middle and infernal place, called Purgatory. Now what is this but a subtle artifice and trick to get money? for when they (especially those that are rich) are about to die and make Wills, if so be they will give large sums of money, the Priests will pray for them that they go not into Purgatory; or if they do, that they may be quickly delivered out of it. How contrary and repugnant is this to Scripture, that holds forth no Middle place?

The wicked when they die, their Souls go immediately to Hell, Luke 16.23, The rich man was buried, and in hell he lift up his eyes.

íTis true there is a Purgatory in this life, and that is the Blood of Christ, 1 John 1.17, If we are not purged by this blood, while we live, we shall never be purged after by fire. Wicked men, when they die, do not go into a fire of purgation but damnation.

And, on the other hand, Believers when they die pass immediately to Heaven, Luke 23.43, This day shalt thou be with me in Paradise. Christ Jesus was now on the Cross, and was instantly to be in Heaven; and the penitent Thief was immediately to be with Christ: Here is no mention of any such place as Purgatory. The ancient and Orthodox Fathers were all against Purgatory; as Chrysostom, Cyprian, Austine, Fulgentius.

Tenthly, A tenth Error is, the Invocation of Angels, a praying unto them. This is a certain rule, that Angel-worship is Will-worship, expressly forbidden in Scripture, Col. 2.18.

Their distinction of Mediators, of Redemption, and of Intercession, doth not help them; Though we pray (say they) to Angels as Mediators of Intercession, yet we pray to Christ as Mediator of Redemption.

Answer. Jesus Christ in Scripture is not only called a Redeemer, but also an Advocate: and it is a sin to make any our Intercessor but Jesus Christ. That it is sinful to pray to Angels, is clear from many Scriptures: See Rom. 5.10, How shall they call on him, in whom they have not believed? Mark, we may not pray to any but them in whom we believe: But we cannot believe an Angel, therefore we must not pray to an Angel.1 Heb. 10.17, Having therefore boldness to enter into the holiest by the Blood of Jesus; He only is to be prayed unto, by whom we have entrance into the Holiest: but it is by Jesus Christ that we enter into the holiest; therefore it is only Jesus Christ that we must pray unto. That is the tenth.

11ly. An eleventh Error is, Their Worshipping of Images; they burn {} Incense before the Image, which is a Divine worship unto the Image. Now this is directly contrary to the very letter of the Command, Exod. 20.4,5. Image-worship, and Idol-worship are terms synonimical. God saith of Idols, that they speak Vanity, Zach. 10.2. And is it not a vain thing to worship those things that are vain, and that speak vanities? None can draw the picture of a Spirit, who then [can] draw the Picture of him who is the Father of spirits? This Opinion of Image-worship hath been condemned and exploded by several Councils and Synods.

12ly. Another Error in the Popish Religion is, They deny Jesus Christ suffered the pains of Hell in his Soul. Indeed, to give them their due, they do aggravate the pains of Christís Body, but they deny he felt the Pains and Torments of Hell in his Soul. This Opinion doth much lessen the Sufferings of Christ for us, the same doth lessen the Love of Christ to us. But it is clear, Christ felt the pains of hell in his soul.

But when we say, Christ suffered the Pains of Hell in his Soul, we do not mean that he felt horror of conscience, as the damned do; but we mean he felt that that was equivalent to it, he felt the burden and pain of Godís wrath. Christ Jesus suffered equivalently the pains of Hell, that so he might free us really from the Torments of Hell.

13ly, And lastly, another Error is this, The Pope (say they) hath a power to absolve men from their Oaths. Of what sad consequence, and how dangerous this may be to Protestant States, I leave themselves to judge. It hath been often determined by learned Casuists, that an Oath once taken (the matter of it being lawful) persons cannot be absolved from it. But no more of this matter.

Iíll now wind up all in a word or two of application, and it shall be in the words of my text. Wherefore, my beloved, flee from Idolatry, flee from Popery; take heed of that Religion that brings forth so many Monsters. And besides these thirteen Errors, consider briefly these six or seven Particulars:

1. The Popish Religion is an impure, filthy Religion, they allow of Stews and Brothel-houses for money: nay some of the Popes themselves have been guilty of Sodomy and Simony.

2. It is a Superstitious Religion; that appears in their Christening of Bells, in their using of Salt, Spittle, and Cross in Baptism: Indeed Paul gloried and rejoiced in the Cross of Christ. Paul had the Power of the Cross in his heart, not the Sign of the Cross in his forehead. It is an unspeakable indignity and dishonour to Jesus Christ, to use that in his Worship that he never instituted. {}

3. Popery is upheld by Deceit and Lying: How have they belied both Calvin and Luther. They say of Luther, that when he died, the Devils were seen to dance about him, and that he died with much horror and despair, when as he went serenely and sweetly out of the world, his last words being those of our blessed Saviourís, Father, into thy hands I commit my Spirit.

4. The Popish Religion is an out-side carnal Religion, it consists in external things, as Whipping, Fasting, Chringing: Thereís nothing of Life and Spirit in their Worship, itís but a skeleton and carcass; there is nothing of Soul and Spirit in it.

5. The Popish Religion is an unedifying religion, it doth not build men up in their most holy Faith, it doth not carry on the work of Sanctification; there is more of Pomp than purity in it.

6. It is a cruel Religion, it is maintained and propagated by Blood and Cruelty. The Pope will have St. Paulís Sword, as well as St. Peterís Keys; and what he cannot maintain by dint and force of Argument, that will he endeavour to maintain by force of Arms. In a word, the Romish Church is a Purple Whore, dyed with the Blood of Saints and Martyrs.

7. And lastly, the Romish religion is a self-contradicting religion. One of their Canons saith, a man (in some cases) may take the Sacrament at the hand of an Heretick: another Canon saith, he may not. A learned and judicious Writer observes above an hundred Contradictions in their Religion. Therefore again I press the words of my Text, Wherefore, my beloved, nay, let me say, my dearly beloved, flee from Idolatry.

To shut up all let me exhort you to these two or three things:

First, Hold fast the Doctrine of the true Orthodox Protestant Religion: the very filings of this gold is precious. Keep all the Articles of the Christian Faith; if you let one fundamental article of your Faith go, you hazard your Salvation. When Samson pulled down but one Pillar, immediately the whole Fabrick tumbled: so, if you destroy one Pillar, if you let go one Fundamental of Truth, you endanger all.

Secondly, Hold forth the profession of the Protestant Religion, I say: do not only hold fast the Doctrine of the Protestant Religion: but hold forth the Profession of the Protestant Religion: Be not ashamed to wear Christís Colours. Christians remember this one thing, those Persons that are ashamed of Christ, are a very shame unto Christ. The Religion I exhort you to flee from, is a novelty: that which I press you to stand to, is a verity; it is consonant to Scripture; it is built on the foundation {} of the Prophets an Apostles, and hath been sealed to by the blood of many Saints and Martyrs.

Thirdly, and lastly, do not only hold fast, and hold forth, but also adorn the Protestant Religion: this is holy Paulís Exhortation to Titus, Titus 2.10, Adorn the Doctrine of God our Saviour. Adorn Religion with a holy Conversation. There is nothing hardens Papists so much as the looseness of Protestants. Therefore adorn your holy Religion with a holy Conversation: Do as Christ did, tread in his steps; make your Saviour your Pattern. Let me assure you, I can hardly think they do truly believe in Christ, that do not really conform unto Christ. The Primitive Christians Sanctity, did much-what propagate Christianity. And this is that I beseech you carry home with you: Hold fast and hold forth the Protestant Religion and adorn it with a Holy and Bible-Conversation; and when you do not hear me Preaching to you, yet let me beseech you hear this good Word speaking in you, Wherefore my dearly beloved, flee from Idolatry.

Consider what hath been said, and the Lord make it advantageous to all your Souls.


1 It may be our author had in mind that place of Scripture, Gal. 1.8, though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed, so that the meaning is, we may not believe anything which an angel teaches in contradiction to the revealed Word of God. Or perhaps, (which is suggested by the preceding phrase,) the meaning is, we cannot believe on an Angel as our Saviour, therefore we must not pray to an Angel. We believe that there are Angels, and such ones as the Scriptures relate to us. We may, as well as those to whom they spake in the Scriptures, believe the Angelís message, if such a one were sent to us from God. But we may not believe an Angel, that is, make him the object of our faith, as we believe on Christ Jesus for Salvation.óJTK.

Added to Bible Bulletin Board's  - Thomas Watson Collection" by:

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