Errors and Absurdities of the Papists, touching the Doctrine of the Law and of the Gospel

Patrick Hamilton`s “Patrick`s Places, “ (1528)

Cited in Townsend`s Foxes Martyrs,Vol iv, p 575-6.

I.They erroneously conceive opinion of salvation in the law, which is only to be sought in the faith of Christ, and in no other.

II. They erroneously do seek God`s favour by works of the law, not knowing that the law, in this our corrupt nature, worketh only the anger of God

III They err also in this, that whereas the office of the law is diverse from and contrary to the gospel, they, without any difference, confound the one with the other, making the gospel to be a law, and Christ to be a Moses.

IV. They err in dividing the law unskilfully into three parts: into the law natural, the law moral, and the law evangelical.

V. They err again dividing the law Evangelical into precepts and counsels, making the precepts to serve for all men, the counsels only to serve for them that be perfect.

VI. The chief substance of all their teaching and preaching resteth upon the works of the law, as may appear by their religion, which wholly consisteth in men's merits, traditions laws, canons, decrees, and ceremonies.

VII. In the doctrines of salvation, remission, and justification, either they admix the law equally with the gospel, or else, clean secluding the gospel. they teach and preach the law, so that little mention is made of the faith of Christ or none at all.

VIII. They err, in thinking that the law of God requireth nothing in us under pain of damnation, but only our obedience in external actions: as for the inward affections and concupiscence, they esteem them but light matters.

IX. They, not knowing the true nature and strength of the law, do erroneously imagine tlaat it is in man's power to fulfil it.

X. They err in thinking it not only to be in man's power to keep the law of God, but also to perform more perfect works than be in God's law commanded; and these they call the works of perfection. And hereof rise the works of supererogation, of satisfaction, of congruity, and condignity, to store up the treasure house of the pope's church, to be sold out to the people for money.

XI They err in saying, that the state monastical is more perfect for keeping the counsels of the gospel, than other states be in keeping the law of the gospel.

XII. The counsel of the gospel they call the vows ol their religious men, as profound humility, perfect chastity, and wilful poverty.

XIII. They err abominably, in equalling their laws and constitutions with God`s law; and in saying that man`s law bindeth, under pain of damnation, no less than God`s law.

XIV. They err sinfully, in punishing transgressors of their laws more sharply than the transgressors of the law of God; as appeareth by their inquisitions and their canon law etc.


XV. Finally they err most horribly in this , that where the free promise of God ascribeth our salvation only to our faith in Christ,excluding works; they on the contrary, ascribe salvation only, or principally, to works and merits,excluding faith; whereupon ariseth the application of the sacrifice of the mass, `ex opere operato ` for the quick and dead, application of the merits of Christ`s passion in bulls, application of the merits of all religious orders, and such others above specified more at large in the former part of this history.

Integral to these views was Hamilton`s observations on

`Three Cautions to be observed and avoided in the tru understanding of the Law.`

The first caution; that we through the misunderstanding of the Scriptures .do not take the law for the gospel, nor the gospel for the law; but shilfully discern and distinguish the voice of the one, from the voice of the other.

Many there be,who, reading the book of the New Testament, do take and understandwhatsoever they see contained in the said book to be only and merely the voice of the gospel: and contrariwise, whatsoever is contained in the compass of the Old Testament (that is, within the law, histories, psalms, and prophets),to be onlyy and merely the word and voice of the law.Wherein many are deceived; for the preaching of the law, and the preaching of the gospel, are mixed togetherin both the Testaments, as well the old as the New; neither is the order of these two doctrines to be distinguished by books and leaves, but by the diversity of God`s spirit speaking unto us. For sometimes in the Old Testament God doth comfort, as he comforted Adam, with the voice of the gospel:: Sometimes also in the New Testament he doth threaten and terrify, as when Christ threatened the Pharisees. In some places again, Moses and the prophets play the Evangelists; insomuch thast Jerome doubteth whether he should call Isaiah a prophet or an evangelist. In some places likewiseChrist and the apostles supply the part of Moses; and as Christ himself, until his death, was under the law ( which law he came not to break, but to fulfil), so his sermons made to the Jews, run all for the most part, upon the perfect doctrine and works of the law, showing and teaching what we ought to do by the right law of justice, and what danger ensued in not performing the same: all which places, though they be contained in the book of the New Testament, yet are they to be referred to the doctrine of the law, ever having them included a privy exception of repentance and faith in Christ Jesus. As for example , when Christ thus preacheth,`Blessed be they that be pure at heart, for they shall see God etc ` Again ` Except ye be made like these children,ye shall not enter etc.` Item, `But he that doth the will of my Father, they shall enter into the kingdom of heaven etc` Item,`the parable of the unkind servant justly cast into prison for not forgivinghis fellow etc` The casting of the rich glutton into hell etc. Item `He that denieth me here before men, I will deny him before my Father etc. with such other places of like condition. All these, I say, pertaining to the doctrine of the law, do ever include in them a secret exception of earnest repentance, and faith in Christ`s precious blood. For else, Peter denied, and yet repented. Many publicans and sinners were unkind, unmerciful, and hard hearted to their fellow servants; and yet many of them repented, and by faith were saved, etc. The grace of Christ Jesus work in us earnest repentance, and faith in him unfeigned. Amen !

Briefly, to know when the law speaketh, and when the gospel speaketh, and to discern the voice of the one from the voice of the other, this may serve for a note, that when there is any moral work commanded to be done, either for eschewing of punishment, or upon promise of any reward temporal, or eternal, or else when any promise is made with condition of any work commanded in the law, there is to be understood the voice of the law. Contrary where the promise of life and salvation is offered unto us freely without all our merits, and simply, without any condition annexed of any law, eitber natural, ceremonial, or moral: all those places , whether they be read in the Old Testament or in the New, are to be referred to the voice and doctrine of the gospel. And this ,promise of God, freely made to us by the merits of Jesus Christ, so long before prophesied to us in she Old Testament, and afterwards exhibited in the New Testament, and now requiring nothing but our faith in the Son of God, is called properly the voice of thi gospel, and differeth from the voice of the law in this, that it hath no condition adjoined of our meriting, but only respecteth the merits of Christ the Son of God; by whose faith only we are promised of God to be saved and justified: according as we read in Rom.iii ` The righteousness of God cometh by faith of Jesus Christ in all, and upon all, that do believe,'&c.

The second caution or danger to be avoided is, that we now, knowing how to discern rightly between the law and the goopel and having intelligence not to mistake the one for the other, must take heed again that we break not the order between these two, tking and applying the law, where the gospel is to be applied, either to ourselves or towards others. For albeit the law and the gospel many times are to be joined together in order of doctrine, yet the case may fall sometimes, that the 1aw must he utterly sequestered from the gospel: as when any person or persons do feel themselves, with the majesty of the law and judgment of God,so terrified and oppressed, and with the burden of their sins overweighed and thrown down into utter discomfort, and almost even to the pit of hell; as happeneth many times to soft and timorous consciences of God good servants. When such mortified hearts do hear, either in preaching or in reading, any such example or place of the Scripture which pertaineth to the law, let them think the same nothing to belong to them, no more than a mourning weed belongeth to a marriage feast : and therefore, removing utterly out of their minds all cogitation of the law, of fear, of judgment and condemnation, let them only set before their eyes the gospel, the sweet comforts of God's promise,frewe forgiveness of sins in Christ, grace, redemption, liberty, rejoicing, psalms, thanks, singing and a paradise of spiritual jocundity, and nothing else; thinking thus with themselves, that the law hath done his office

in them already, and now must need give place to his better, that is, must needs give room to Christ the Son of God, who is the lord and master, the fulfiller, and also the finisher of the law ; for the end of the law is Christ.

The third danger to be avoided is, that we do not use or apply on the contrary side, the gospel instead of the law.

For as the other before, was even as much to put on a mourning gown in the feast of a marriage, so is this but even to cast pearls before swine; wherein is a great abuse among many. For commonly it is seen that these worldly epicures and secure Mammonists, to whom the doctrine doth properly appertain, do receive and apply to themselves most principally the sweet promises of the gospel: and contrairiwise, the other contrite and bruised hearts, to whom belong only the joyful tidings of the gospel and not the law, for the most part receive and retain to themselves the terrible voice and sentence of the law. Hereby it cometli to pass that many do rejoice where they should mourn; and on the other side, many do fear and mourn where they need not: wherefore, to conclude, in private use of life, let every person discreetly discern between the law and the gospel. and aptly apply to himself that which seeth convenient.

And again, in public order of doctrine, let every discreet preacher put a difference between the broken heart of the mourning sinner, and the unrepentant worldling, and so conjoin both the law with the gospel, and the gospel with the law, that in throwing down the wicked, ever he spare the weak hearted; and again, so spare the weak, that he do not encourage the ungodly.

And thus much concerning the conjunction and difference between the law and the gospel, upon the occasion of Mr Patrick's Places.

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