Excerpt from “The Defense of the Seven Sacraments” (Henry VIII)


Autographed page from the 1521 Pynson edition of the "Assertio". ©Royal Collection.

We have in this little book, gentle reader, clearly demonstrated, I hope, how absurdly and impiously Luther has handled the holy sacraments.  For though we have not touched all things contained in his book, yet so far as was necessary to defend the sacraments (which was our only design), I suppose I have treated, though not so sufficiently as might have been done, yet more than is even necessary.  .  .  .  
But that others may understand how false and wicked his doctrine is, lest they might be so far deceived as to have a good opinion of him, I doubt not but in all parts there are very learned men .  .  who have much more clearly discovered the same, than can be shown by me. And if there be any who desire to know this strange work of his, I think I have sufficiently made it apparent to them. For seeing by what has been said, it is evident to all men what sacrilegious opinions he has of the sacrament of our Lord’s Body, from which the sanctity of all the other sacraments flow:  who would have doubted, if I had said nothing else, how unworthily, without scruple, he treats all the rest of the sacraments?  Which, as you have seen, he has handled in such sort that he abolishes and destroys them all, except Baptism alone.  .  .  .  
What everybody believes, he alone by his vain reason laughs at, denouncing himself to admit nothing but clear and evident Scriptures.  And these, too, if alleged by any against him, he either evades by some private exposition of his own, or else denies them to belong to their own authors.  None of the Doctors are so ancient, none so holy, none of so great authority in treating of Holy Writ, but this new doctor, this little saint, this man of learning, rejects with great authority.
Seeing, therefore, he despiseth all men and believes none, he ought not to take it ill if everybody discredit him again.  I am so far from holding any further dispute with him that I almost repent myself of what I have already argued against him.  For what avails it to dispute against one who disagrees with everyone, even with himself?  Who affirms in one place what he denies in another, denying what he presently affirms?  Who, if you object faith, combats by reason; if you touch him with reason, pretends faith?  If you allege philosophers, he flies to Scripture; if you propound Scripture, he trifles with sophistry.  Who is ashamed of nothing, fears none, and thinks himself under no law.  Who contemns the ancient Doctors of the church, and derides the new ones in the highest degree; loads with reproaches the Chief Bishop of the church.  Finally, he so undervalues customs, doctrine, manners, laws, decrees and faith of the church (yea, the whole church itself) that he almost denies there is any such thing as a church, except perhaps such a one as himself makes up of two or three heretics, of whom himself is chief.  .  .  .  



Published on June 7, 2011 at 9:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

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