John Knox



A Vindication of the Doctrine
that the Sacrifice of the Mass is Idolatry

John Knox

Extracted from: Selected Writings of John Knox: Public Epistles, Treatises, and Expositions to the Year 1559

Editor's Note

"When Knox was released from his imprisonment on board the French gallies in 1549, he proceeded to England, and was received by the Protestants with much joy. Cranmer and his associates in promoting the Reformation, having stationed several pious and zealous preachers to itinerate in different parts of the kingdom, sent Knox to Berwick, where he laboured for nearly two years with much success. His preaching was very disagreeable to the clergy of that country, who were almost entirely bigoted Romanists, and were countenanced by Tonstall, bishop of Durham, a Papist in his heart, and who opposed the Reformation as far as he could with safety, till he was deprived of his see in 1553.

"A charge was brought by these ecclesiastics against Knox for teaching that the service of the Mass was idolatrous, and the reformer was summoned to appear before the council of the North, which directed public affairs in that district. Bishop Tonstall and several of his clergy were also present, not being suffered by the Protestant counsellors to proceed against Knox according to the usual practice of the church of Rome. Knox being permitted to declare his mind fully and freely, made a most able and impressive defence, which completely silenced the Romish prelate and his clergy. He was allowed to continue his labours; in the following year he was stationed at Newcastle, and in December, 1551, received a further mark of approval of the government, being appointed one of King Edward's chaplains in ordinary." [Introductory note in the British Reformers edition of Writings of John Knox (Philadelphia, 1842), p. 154.]

In exposing the idolatrous nature of the Mass, Knox stresses that all religious ceremonies and institutions must have clear biblical warrant, if they are to be admitted as valid expressions of worship. All worship invented by man is idolatry. Knox demonstrates that the Mass is a human invention; and, therefore, the Mass is idolatrous. The entire discussion turns upon Knox's defence of the scriptural law of worship.

A Vindication of the Doctrine
that the Sacrifice of the Mass is Idolatry


The fourth of April, in the year 1550, was appointed to John Knox, preacher of the holy evangel of Jesus Christ, to give his confession why he affirmed the Mass [to be] idolatry: which day, in [the] presence of the council and congregation (amongst whom were also present the bishop of Durham and his doctors), on this manner he began:

This day I do appear in your presence, honourable audience, to give a reason why so constantly I do affirm the Mass to be, and at all times to have been, idolatry and abomination before God. And because men of great erudition in your audience affirmed the contrary, most gladly would I that they were present here, either in person, or else by their learned men, to ponder and weigh the causes moving me thereto. For unless I evidently prove my intent by God's holy scriptures, I will recant it as wicked doctrine, and confess myself most worthy of grievous punishment.

How difficult it is to pull forth of the hearts of the people the thing wherein [their] opinion of holiness stands, declares the great tumult and uproar moved against Paul by Demetrius and his fellows, who, by idolatry, got great advantage, as our priests have done by the Mass in time past. The people, I say, hearing that the honour of their great goddess Diana stood in jeopardy, with furious voices cried, "Great is Diana of the Ephesians" (Acts 19:23-41). As [if] they would say, "We will not have the magnificence of our great goddess Diana (whom not only Asia but the whole world worships) called into doubt, come into question or controversy. Away with all men intending that impiety." And hereunto they were moved by long custom and false opinion.

I know that in the Mass has not only been esteemed great holiness and honouring of God, but also the ground and foundation of our religion. So that, in the opinion of many, [if] the Mass [is] taken away, there rests no true worshipping nor honouring of God in the earth. The deeper it has pierced the hearts of men, it occupies the place of the last and mystical Supper of our Lord Jesus. But if I shall, by plain and evident scriptures, prove the Mass (in her most honest garment) to have been idolatry before God, and blasphemous to the death and passion of Christ, and contrary to the Supper of Jesus Christ; then good hope have I, honourable audience and beloved brethren, that the fear, love, and obedience of God, who in his scriptures has spoken all verity [truth] necessary for our salvation, will have you give place to the same.

"O Lord eternal! move and govern my tongue to speak the verity, and the hearts of thy people to understand and obey the same."

That you may better perceive and understand the manner of my doctrine in this my confession: first, I will collect and gather the sum thereof in a brief and short syllogism; and hereafter explain the same more largely.


The Mass is Idolatry. All worshipping, honouring, or service invented by the brain of man in the religion of God, without his own express commandment, is idolatry. The Mass is invented by the brain of man, without any commandment of God; therefore it is idolatry.

[Part One: All Worship
Invented by Man is Idolatry]

[I.] For probation of the first part, I will adduce none of the Gentiles' sacrifices, in which, notwithstanding, was less abomination than has been in the Mass; but of God's scriptures I will bring forth the witnesses of my words. And first, let us hear Samuel speaking unto Saul, after he had sacrificed unto the Lord upon Mt. Gilgal, what time his enemies approached against him. "Thou art become foolish," says Samuel, "thou hast not observed the precepts of the Lord, which he commanded thee. Truly the Lord had prepared to have established this kingdom above Israel for ever; but now thy kingdom shall not be sure" (1 Sam. 13).

Let us consider what was the offence committed by Saul. His enemies approaching, and he considering that the people declined from him, and that he had not consulted with the Lord, nor offered sacrifice for pacification of the Lord's wrath ­ by reason that Samuel (the principal prophet and high priest) was not present ­ [Saul] himself offered burnt and peace offerings.

Here is the ground of all his iniquity, and of this proceeds the cause of his dejection from the kingdom: that he would honour God otherwise than was commanded by his express word. For he [Saul], being none of the tribe of Levi (appointed by God's commandment to make sacrifice), usurps that office not due to him, which was most high abomination before God, as by the punishment appears.

Consider well that no excuses are admitted by God: [such] as that his enemies approached, and his own people departed from him; he could not have a lawful minister, and gladly would have been reconciled to God, and consulted with him of the end and chance of that journey; and therefore he, the king, anointed by God's commandment, makes sacrifice. But none of all these [excuses] were admitted by God; but Saul was pronounced foolish and vain. For no honouring knows God, nor will [he] accept, without it having the express commandment of his own word to be done in all points. And no commandment was given unto the king to make or offer unto God any manner of sacrifice: which, because he took upon him to do, he and his posterity were deprived from all honours in Israel.

[2.] Neither availed his preeminence, the necessity wherein he stood, nor yet his good intent. But let us hear more. When commandment was given unto Saul by Samuel, in God's name, to destroy Amalek (1 Sam. 15), because that sometime they troubled the people of Israel passing up from Egypt [cf. Ex. 17:8-16] (advert, you that presently persecute the people of God; albeit your pains be deferred, yet they are already prepared of God), this people Amalek were not immediately punished after the violence done against Israel (Deut. 25:17-19). But long after, they were commanded to be destroyed by Saul: man, woman, infant, suckling, oxen, cattle, camels, and asses ­ and finally, all that lived in that land.

Terrible should be the remembrance hereof to all such as trouble or molest such as would follow the commandment and vocation [calling] of God, leaving spiritual Egypt (the kingdom of Antichrist) and the abomination thereof. But Saul saved the king (named Agag) and permitted the people to save the best and fattest of the beasts, to the intent sacrifice should be made thereof unto God. But let us hear how this is accepted. Samuel before admonished [Saul] of his disobedience; [and] coming unto Saul asked, what voice was it which he heard? The king answers, "The people hath saved the fattest and best beasts thereof to make sacrifice unto their God." Here [it] may be marked, that Saul had no sure confidence in God; for he speaks as though God appertains nothing unto him. Samuel answers, "Suffer and I shall declare unto thee what the Lord hath spoken unto me this night." And shortly he rebuked him most sharply that he had not obeyed the voice of the Lord.

But Saul, standing in [the] opinion that he had not offended because he did all of good intent, says, "I have obeyed the Lord's voice: I have destroyed the sinners of Amalek, and I have saved only the king; and the people have reserved certain beasts to be offered unto God." And so he defended his own work to be just and righteous. But thereto answers Samuel, "Delighteth God in burnt offering, and not rather that his voice be obeyed?" The sin of witchcraft is not to obey his voice, and to be stubborn is the sin of idolatry. As [if] Samuel would say: "There is nothing that God more requires of man than obedience to the commandment; yea, he prefers obedience to the selfsame sacrifice ordained by himself, and no sin is more odious in God's presence than to disobey his voice; for God esteems that so odious that he does compare it to the two sins most abominable, incantation and idolatry ­ so that disobedience to his voice is very idolatry."

Disobedience to God's voice is not only when man does wickedly contrary to the precepts of God, but also when of good zeal, or good intent (as we commonly speak), man does anything to the honour or service of God not commanded by the express word of God, as in the matter plainly may be espied. For Saul transgressed not wickedly in murder, adultery, or like external sins, but saved one aged and impotent king (which thing who would not call a good deed of mercy?); and permitted the people, as is said, to save certain beasts to be offered unto the Lord ­ think ing that God should therewith stand content and appeased, because he and the people did it of good intent. [1]But both these Samuel called idolatry: first, because they were done without any commandment of God; and, secondly, because in doing thereof he thought himself not to have offended. And that is principal idolatry when our own inventions we defend to be righteous in the sight of God, because we think them good, laudable, and pleasant. We may not think us so free nor wise, that we may do unto God, and unto his honour, what we think expedient. No! the contrary is commanded by God, saying, "Unto my word shall ye add nothing; nothing shall ye diminish therefrom, that ye might observe the precepts of your Lord God" (Deut. 4:2); which words are not to be understood of the Decalogue and moral law only, but of statutes, rites, and ceremonies; for equal obedience of all his laws requires God.

3. And in witness thereof, Nadab and Abihu offered strange fire, whereof God had given unto them no charge, [and] were instantly (as they offered) punished to death by fire (Lev. 10:1-3). Strange fire which they offered unto God was a common fire, and not of that fire which God had commanded to burn day and night upon the altar of burnt sacrifice, which only ought to have been offered unto God.

O bishops! you should have kept this fire: at morning and at evening ought you to have laid fagots thereupon; yourselves ought to have cleansed and carried away the ashes; but God shall behold.

In punishment of these two aforesaid is to be observed, that Nadab and Abihu were the principal priests next to Aaron, their father; and that they were comprehended neither in adultery, covetousness, nor desire of worldly honour, but of a good zeal and simple intent were making sacrifice ­ desiring no profit of the people thereby, but to honour God and to mitigate his wrath. And yet in the doing of this selfsame act and sacrifice were they consumed away with fire. Whereof it is plain, that neither the preeminence of the person or man that makes or sets up any religion, without the express commandment of God, nor yet the intent whereof he does the same, is accepted before God. For nothing in his religion will he [God] admit without his own word; but all that is added thereto does he abhor, and punishes the inventors and doers thereof, as you have heard in Nadab and Abihu; by Gideon and diverse other Israelites setting up something to honour God (Judges 8:24-27), whereof they had no express commandment.

4. A story, which is recited in the Pope's Chronicles, will I recite, which differs nothing from the punishment of Nadab,etc. Gregorius Magnus, in the time of the most contagious pestilence wherewith God punished the iniquity of Rome (for now was the wicked hour that Antichrist sprang up and sat in authority); in this time, I say, Gregory the pope devised a new honouring of God, the invocation of saints called the Litany,[2] whereof in the scriptures neither is there authority nor commandment. Upon which sacrilege and idolatry God declared his wrath, even as he did upon Nadab and Abihu. For in the instant hour when first the Litany[3] was recited in open procession (as they call it), four score of the principal men that recited the same were stricken horribly with the plague of God to death, all in one hour. The Papists attribute this to the contagious air and vehemence of the plague;[4] but it was no other thing but a manifest declaration of God's wrath for inventing and bringing into the church a false and diabolical religion. For while we desire saints to make intercession and to pray for us, [by] what other thing do we then esteem the advocacy of Jesus Christ not to be sufficient for us? And what can be more devilish?

Of these precedents, it is plain that no man in earth has power nor authority to statute anything to the honour of God not commanded by his own word.

[5]5. It profits nothing to say the kirk has power to set up, devise, or invent honouring of God, as it thinks most expedient for the glory of God. This is the continual crying of the Papists, "The kirk, the kirk has all power; it cannot err, for Christ says, 'I will be with you to the end of the world.' 'Wheresoever are two or three gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.'"Of this they falsely conclude the kirk may do all that seems good for the glory of God; and whatsoever the church does, that God accepts and approves.

6. I could evidently prove that which they call the kirk, not to be the kirk and immaculate spouse of Jesus Christ, which does not err. But presently I ask, if the kirk of God be bound to this perpetual precept? "Not that thing which appeareth righteous in your own eyes, that shall you do, but what God hath commanded, that observe and keep" (cf. Deut. 12:8, 31-32). And if they will deny [this], I desire to be certified [notified] who has abrogated and made the same of none effect? In my judgment, Jesus Christ confirms the same, saying, "My sheep hear my voice, and a stranger they will not hear, but flee from him" (John 10:5). To hear his voice (which is also the voice of God the Father) is to understand and obey the same; and to flee from a stranger is to admit none other doctrine, worshipping, nor honouring of God than has proceeded forth of his own mouth ­ as he himself testifies, saying, "All that are of the verity [truth], hear my voice" (John 18:37). And Paul says, "The kirk is founded upon the foundation of the prophets and apostles" (Eph. 2:20): which foundation, no doubt, is the law and the evangel. So that it [the church] may command nothing that is not contained in one of the two; for if it does so, it is removed from the only foundation, and so ceases to be the true kirk of Christ.

7. Secondly, I would ask if Jesus Christ is not King and Head of his kirk? This will no man deny. If he is King, then he must do the office of a king; which is not only to guide, rule, and defend his subjects, but also to make and statute laws, which laws only are his subjects bound to obey, and not the laws of any foreign princes. Then it becomes the kirk of Jesus Christ to advert [heed] what he speaks, to receive and embrace his laws; and where he makes end of speaking or law-giving, here to rest; so that all the power of the kirk is subject to God's word. And that is most evident by the commandment given of God unto Joshua, his chosen captain and leader of his people, in these words, "Be strong and valiant that they may do according to the holy law, which my servant Moses commanded unto thee. Decline not from it, neither to the right hand nor to the left," etc. (Josh. 1:7-8). "Let not the book of the law depart from thy mouth, but meditate in it both day and night that you may keep and do, in all things, according to that which is written therein," etc. Here was it not permitted to Joshua to alter one jot, ceremony, or statute in all the law of God, nor yet to add thereunto, but diligently to observe that which was commanded. No less obedience requires God of us than he did of Joshua, his servant. For he will have the religion ordained by his only Son, Jesus Christ, most straightly observed, and not violated in any part.

8. For that I find given in charge to the congregation of Thyatira in these words: "I say unto you, and unto the rest that are in Thyatira, who hath not the doctrine (meaning of the diabolical doctrine before rehearsed), and who that knoweth not the deepness of Satan; I will put upon you none other burden but that which ye have. Hold till I come" (Rev. 2:24-25). Mark well, the Spirit of God calls all which is added to Christ's religion, the doctrine of the devil, and deep invention of the the adversary Satan. As also Paul, writing to Timothy (1 Tim. 4:1-3). And Jesus Christ says, "I will lay upon you none other burden than I have already; and that which ye have, observe diligently" (Rev. 2:24-25).

"O God eternal! hast thou laid none other burden upon our backs than Jesus Christ laid by his word? Then who hath burdened us with all these ceremonies, prescribed fasting, compelled chastity, unlawful vows, invocation of saints, and with the idolatry of the Mass?" The devil! the devil! brethren, invented all these burdens to depress imprudent men to perdition!

9. Paul, writing of the Lord's Supper, says, Ego accepi a Domino quod et tradidi vobis: "I have received and learned of the Lord that which I have taught to you" (1 Cor. 11:23). And consider if one ceremony he added or permitted to be used, other than Christ did use himself; but commanded them to use with reverence the Lord's institution until his returning to judgment.

10. Albeit Moses was replenished with the Spirit of wisdom, and was more familiar with God than ever was any mortal man; yet was there not of all the ceremonies [any] referred to his wisdom one jot. But all was commanded to him, to be made according to the similitude shown unto him (Ex. 25:9), and according as the word expresses. Of the which precedents I think it is plain, that all which is added to the religion of God, without his own express word, is idolatry.

[6]11. Yet I must answer to one objection, objected by the Papists; for never may they abide to be subject unto God's word. The apostles (say they), in the council held at Jerusalem, set up a religion, and made laws whereof no jot was contained in God's word; therefore the kirk may do the same.

That there was any religion (that is, honouring of God, whereby they might merit, as you call it, anything before God) invented in that council, you never are able to prove. [7]Precepts were given, but neither such, nor to that intent that you allege. All precepts given in that council had the commandment of God, as after shall be heard.

[8]First, let us hear the cause of the council. Paul and Barnabas had taught amongst the Gentiles that only faith in Christ's blood justifies; and a great multitude of Gentiles by their doctrine embraced Jesus Christ, and by him truly worshipped God. Unto Antioch from Judea came certain false teachers, affirming that unless they were circumcised according to Moses' law, they could not be saved (Acts 15:1-35): as our Papists say this day, that true faith in Christ's blood is not sufficient purgation for our sins, unless also we buy their mumbled Masses.[9] This controversy troubled the hearts and consciences of the brethren, insomuch that Paul and Barnabas were compelled to go to Jerusalem unto Peter and James, and others, I think, of the apostles; where, a convention had, the question was propounded: whether the Gentiles should be subject to the observation of Moses' law or not? That is, whether only faith in Jesus Christ did justify, or necessary was also to justification the law observed.

After great contention, Peter expounded how the house of [10]Cornelius, being all Gentiles, had, by his preaching, received Jesus Christ, and were declared in his presence just and righteous before God. For they did receive the Holy Ghost visibly, not only without the observation of Moses' law, but also before they had received any sacramental sign of Christ's religion. Peter concludes that to put a yoke upon the brethren's necks, which yoke might none of the Jews bear themselves, was nothing but to tempt God: that is, to prove if God would be pleased with such laws and ordinances as they would lay upon the necks of men, without his own word, which was most extreme impiety. [11]And so he concluded that the Gentiles ought not to be burdened with the law.

Hereafter, Paul and Barnabas declared what wondrous works God had shown by them amongst the Gentiles, who never observed Moses' law. And last, James, who appears to me principal in that council (for he collects the scriptures and pronounces the final sentence, as you shall hear plainly), declares that the vocation [calling] of the Gentiles was prophesied before, and that they should be accepted and accounted to be the people of God without observation of Moses' law ­ adding that no man ought to inquire a cause of God's work. And so he pronounces the sentence, that their liberty should not be diminished.

Advert now the cause, the process, and the determination of this council. The cause was to inquire the verity [truth] of certain doctrine: that is, whether the Gentiles should be charged with the observation of Moses' law, as was affirmed and taught by some. In this matter they proceeded by example of God's works, finding that his gracious Majesty had accepted the Gentiles, without any thralldom or ceremony observed. Last, the scriptures are produced, declaring so to be forespoken; and according to all that is concluded and defined, that the Gentiles shall not be burdened with the law.

[12]What congruence, I pray you, has the Antichrist's councils with this council of the apostles? The apostles gathered to consult upon the verity. The papistical councils are gathered for private commodity, setting up of idolatry, and all abomination, as their determinations manifestly prove. The apostles proceeded in their council by consideration of God's works and applying of them to the present cause, whereupon deliberation was to be taken and determined as God's scriptures command. But the Papists, in their councils, proceed according as their wisdom and foolish brain thinks good and expedient; and concluding not only without authority of God's scriptures, but also manifestly contrary to the same. And that I offer myself most clearly to prove, if any would deny or allege that it is not so.

[13]But yet, they say, the apostles commanded the Gentiles to abstain from certain things, whereof they had no commandment of God. Let us hear the things inhibited: "Ye shall abstain (says the epistle sent to Antioch) from fornication" (Acts 15:29). This is the commandment of God. So, although the Gentiles esteemed it to be no sin, yet it is expressly forbidden in God's law.

But it follows, "From things offered unto idols, from [things] strangled, and from blood shall ye abstain." If the causes moving the apostles to forbid these things be well considered, it shall be found that they had the express commandment of Jesus Christ to do so. The Spirit of truth and knowledge, working in the apostles with all abundance, showed them that nothing was more profitable, and more might advance the glory of God, and increase the kirk of Christ, than that the Jews and Gentiles should use together in familiarity and daily conversation, that by mutual company, love might increase. One thing was easy to be espied: the Jews could not hastily be persuaded that the eating of meats forbidden in Moses' law was no sin before God. For difficult it is to pull forth of the heart that which is planted by God's own word; so the Jews would have abhorred the company of the Gentiles if they had eaten in their presence such meat as was forbidden in the law. The apostles considered that the abstaining from such things was nothing prejudicial to the liberty of Christians; for with time, and as the Jews grew more strong and were better instructed, they would not be offended for such matters. And therefore they commanded the Gentiles to abstain for a time. For that it was not a perpetual precept declares this day, when no man holds the eating of such things sin.

But what precept had they to do so? The last and new precept given by Jesus Christ to his disciples [is], "that every one love one another, as he hath loved us" (John 15:12). May not Christian love command that none of us do in the sight of others that which may offend or trouble the conscience of the infirm and weak? So witnesses Paul, affirming, "that if a man eat with offence he sinneth" (1 Cor. 10:32). And by virtue of this same precept, the apostles forbid that the Gentiles shall eat things offered unto idols, etc., that bearing some part with the infirmity of the Jews, they might grow together in mutual amity and Christian love. And these are the traditions of the seniors [elders] which Paul commanded to be observed. I pray you, what similitude have our papistical laws with this precept of the apostles?

[14]But greatly it is to be marvelled that men do not advert that the book of God's law (that is, of all his ordinances, testament, promises, and exhibition thereof) was sealed and confirmed in the days of the apostles: the effect and contents thereof promulgated and published; so that most extreme impiety it is to make any alteration therein. Yea, and the wrath and fearful malediction of God is denounced to fall upon all them that dare attempt to add or diminish anything in his religion, confirmed and proclaimed by his own voice.

O Papists! where shall you hide from the presence of the Lord? You have perverted his law; you have taken away his ordinances; you have placed up your own statutes instead of his. Woe and damnation abide you! Albeit that the apostles had made laws other than the express word commanded, what appertains that to you? Have you the Spirit of truth and knowledge in abundance as they had? Was the kirk of Christ left imperfect after the apostles' days? Bring yourselves to mind, and be ashamed of your vanity. For all men, whose eyes Satan has not blinded, may espy that neither wisdom nor authority of man may change or set up anything in the religion of God, without his own express commandment and word.

And thus, I think, the first part of my argument sufficiently proved: which is, that all worshipping, honouring, or service of God invented by the brain of man (in the religion of God), without his own express commandment, is idolatry.

[Part Two: The Mass is an Invention of Man]

But in vain, some will think, that all this labour I have taken; for no man of whole judgment any part of this would half deny. Nor yet does it prove anything of my intent; for the Mass is not the invention of man, but the very ordinance of God. Then I descend to prove the Mass to be the mere invention of man, set up without all commandment of God.

And first, of this name Missa, which we call the Mass, I would ask at such as would defend that papistical abomination: "Of what spirit is it invented that Missa shall signify a sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead?" Of the Spirit of God? Or of the spirit of man? Or of what origin is it descended?" Some will answer, from the Hebrew diction, Missah, which, after some, does signify an oblation or a gift ­ like as tribute which the inferior offers or pays to the superior. In the Hebrew tongue I confess myself ignorant, but have (as God knows) fervent thirst to have some entrance therein: and so of the Hebrew diction cannot contend. But men of great judgment in the same tongue say that nowhere in [the] scriptures [does] Missah betoken an oblation. But admitting that it did so, what shall they be able to prove thereby? My question is, if the Spirit of God has invented and pronounced this diction Missa to signify a sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead. Which if they be not able to prove, then must they needs confess that it is of man's invention, and not of God's imposition. I could give unto them a more apparent cause and derivation of that diction, Missa; but of the name I am not greatly solicitous.

Secondly, I desire to be certified what they call their Mass ­ whether [it is] the whole action, with all ceremonies used now of old, or a part thereof? It will not satisfy the hearts of all [the] godly to say, "St. James and St. Peter celebrated the first Mass in Jerusalem or Antioch." If it were so, one of the two celebrated first, and the other after; but neither of the two can be proved by scripture. Great marvel it is that so manifestly men shame not to lie! Peter and James (say the Papists) celebrated the first Mass.

[15]But I shall prove that Pope Sixtus was the first that did institute the altars. Felix, the first of that name, did consecrate them and the temples both. Bonifacius commanded the altars to be covered with clean cloths. Gregorius Magnus commanded the candles to be lighted at the Evangel, and did institute certain clothes. Pontianus commanded Confiteor to be said.[16] And wherefore should I trouble you and myself both, in reciting what every pope added. You may for two pence[17] have the knowledge [of] what every pope added, until at last was compact [put together] and set up the whole body of that blasphemous idol. And yet shame they not to say, "St. Peter said the first Mass," although that many hundred years after him no such abominable ceremonies were invented.

[18]But they say, "All these ceremonies are not the substance of the Mass, but are added for good causes." What commandment have they received to add anything to the ordinance of God, for any cause appearing to them? But let them certify [to] me what is the Mass. "The canon," they will answer, "with the words of consecration."

Who is the author of the canon, can they precisely tell? Be well advised before you answer, lest by neglecting yourself you be proved liars. [19]Will you say that the apostles used your canon? So you have affirmed in times past. If the canon descended from the apostles to the popes, bold and malapert impiety it had been to have added anything thereto; for a canon is a full and sufficient rule, which in all parts and points is perfect. But I will prove diverse popes to have added their portions to this holy canon. If they will deny, advise what Sergius added, and what Leo added, and what the two Alexanders added; for I may not abide presently to recite all; but if they doubt, their own law shall certify them.

Secondly, the remembrance of the names of such men, who were not born [until] many hundred years after the days of the apostles, declares the canon not to have been invented [for] many years after the apostles. For who used to make mention of a man in his prayers before he is born? And masteris memorie[20] is made in the canon of such men and women whose holiness and godly life credible histories make little mention [of], which is an evident testimony that your holy canon is vain and of none effect. And if any will take upon him to defend the same, I will prove that therein is indigestible, barbarous, foolish congestion of words, imperfection of sentences, ungodly invocations, and diabolical conjurations. All this is that holy canon whose authority excels all scripture. O! it was so holy, it might not be spoken plainly as the rest, but secretly it behooved to be whispered![21] That was not evil [poorly] devised, for if all men had heard it, men would have espied the vanity thereof.

But to the words of consecration: by whom have they that name, I desire to know? "By Jesus Christ," will they say? But nowhere are they able to prove that the words which he pronounced at his Last Supper called he, or any of his apostles after him, "words of consecration." And so have they received the name by the authority of man.

Which are the words? Let us hear. Accipite et manducate ex hoc omnes. Hoc est enim corpus meum. Similiter et calicem post quam coenavit, dicens, etc. ["Take and eat ye all of this, for this is my body. In like manner he took the cup after supper, saying," etc.] (Cf. Matt. 26:26-28; Mark 14:23-24; Luke 22:19-20; 1 Cor. 11:23-24.) Let us inquire if anything be here added to Christ's words, or if anything be changed or altered therein. First, in which of the evangelists are these words, "ex hoc omnes" [all of this], spoken of the bread? Jesus Christ did speak them of the cup, but not of the bread.

[22]O Papists! you have made alteration, not so much in words as in deed. And of the selfsame action commanded to be used by him, you permitted all to eat of the bread, but of the cup you reserved to you ­ clipped in the crowns [heads] and anointed upon the fingers.[23] And in pain of your anathema ­ of your great cursing ­ you forbade that any laity presume to drink thereof. But tell me, Papists, were the apostles clipped and besmeared as you are? Or will you say that the congregation of the Corinthians were Papist priests? I think you will not. And yet they all drank of the cup, like as they ate of the bread. Mark, brethren, that of Christ's own words they make alteration.

But let us proceed. They say, Hoc est enim corpus meum ["For this is my body"]. I pray them, show where they find enim. Is this not their own invention, and added of their own brain? O! here make they a great matter, and here lies a secret mystery and hidden operation. For in five words the virgin Mary conceived, they say, when she conceived the Son of God. What if she had spoken seven, ten, or twenty words? Or what if she had not spoken three? Should thereby the determined counsel [have] been impeded? But, O Papists! is God a juggler? Uses he [a] certain number of words in performing his intent? But whereto are you ascended, to be exalted in knowledge and wisdom above Jesus Christ? He says only, Hoc est corpus meum. But you, as though there lacked something necessarily requisite, have added enim ["for"], saying, Hoc est enim corpus meum. So that your affirmation makes all perfect.

Consider, I exhort you, beloved brethren, if they have not added here of their own invention to Christ's words. And as they add, so steal they from them. Christ says, Hoc est corpus meum, quod pro vobis datur, or frangitur. "This is my body which is given for you," or "which is broken for you." These last words, wherein stands our whole comfort, they omit, and make no mention of them. And what can be judged more bold or wicked than to alter Christ's words, to add unto them, and diminish from them. Had it not been convenient, that after they had introduced Jesus Christ speaking, that his own words had been recited, nothing interchanged, added, or diminished; which, seeing they have not done, but have done the express contrary, as before is proved.

[Conclusion of First Syllogism:
The Mass is Proven to be Idolatry]

I think it is in vain to labour further to prove the rest of this abominable action to be invented and devised by the foolish brain of man, and so it cannot be denied to be idolatry. It shall not profit them to say, "The epistle and evangel are in the Mass; hereto is nothing added." What shall they prove thereby? For the epistle and the evangel, as themselves do confess, are not of the substance of the Mass. And although they were, it did nothing excuse the rest of that idolatry. For the devil may speak the words of God, and his false prophets also, and yet thereby are they neither better nor more holy. The epistle and evangel are God's words, I confess, but there they are spoken for no edification of the people, but for to be a cloak unto the body of that mischievous idolatry. All the action is abominable, because it is the invention of man; and so a few or certain good words cannot sanctify that whole Mass and body of abomination.

But what if I shall admit to the Papists, that the whole action of the Mass were the institution and very ordinance of God, and never one jot of man's invention therein; [if] I admit it be the ordinance of God (as it is not), yet will I prove it abomination before God.


All honouring, or service of God, whereunto is added a wicked opinion, is abomi nation. Unto the Mass is added a wicked opinion. Therefore it is abomination.

[The First Part: All Service with a
Wicked Opinion is Abomination]

The first part, I think, no godly man will deny. And if any would, I ask, "What made the selfsame sacrifice, instituted and ordained to be used by God's express commandment, odious and abominable in his sight?" As it is written, "Bring unto me no more your vain sacrifices; your burnt offering is abomination; your new moons, sabbaths, and conventions I may not abide; your solemn feasts, I hate them from the heart" (Isa. 1:13-14). And also, "Who slayeth an ox in sacrifice, killeth a man:" that is, doth me no less dishonour than if he killed a man. "Who slayeth a sheep," says he, "choketh a dog: who brought meat offerings unto me, doth offer swine's blood" (Isa. 66:3). These two beasts, the dog and the swine, were abominable to be offered in sacrifice, the one for the cruelty, the other for filthiness. But, O priests! your sacrifices are mixed with the blood of dogs and swine; while that, on the one part, most cruelly you do persecute the professors of Christ's word; upon the other part, yourselves live most filthily.

The prophet proceeds, "Who maketh a memorial of incense, praiseth a thing that is vain." Amos says, "I hate and detest your solemn feasts. I will not accept your incense; your burnt offerings and meat offerings are not thankful before me" (Amos 5:21-23). And why all this? Because, says the prophet Isaiah, "They have chosen these in their own ways, and their own hearts have delighted in their abominations" (Isa. 66:3). And it is plain, that the aforesaid sacrifices were commanded to be done by God, and were not invented ­ no, not one jot thereof ­ by man's wisdom. Read the books of Moses (Exodus and Leviticus), and you shall perceive them to be very commandments of God. And yet says the prophet, "They have chosen them in their own ways." Whereby the prophet meant and understood, that they had added unto them an opinion which made them to be abominable before God.

This opinion was, as in the same prophet and diverse others may be espied, that by working of the external work, they might purchase the favour of God, and make satisfaction for their sins by the same sacrifices. And that I collect of Jeremiah saying, "Ye believe false words which shall not profit you. For when you have stolen, murdered, committed adultery, and perjury, etc., then ye come and stand before me in this house, which hath my name given unto it; and ye say, 'We are delivered or absolved, albeit we have done all these abominations' " (Jer. 7:8-10). They thought and verily believed their sins to have been remitted by virtue of their sacrifice offered. But Isaiah asks of them, "Why spend ye silver for that which is not sure, and consume labour for that which does not satiate?" (Isa. 55:2). "Ye do hide yourselves with lies (but they esteemed them to have been verities) and ye make a band or covenant with death; but it shall not stand, for when destruction cometh it shall overwhelm you" (Isa. 28:15, 18). Their false prophets had taught them to cry, "Peace, peace," when yet there was no peace in their consciences (Jer. 6:14; 8:11). For they which did eat the sin of the people (as our priests have long done), for the more wicked men were, the more desire they had of the Mass, thinking by virtue thereof all was purged. The pestilent priests of Moses' law, as witness the prophets, caused the people to believe that by oblation of the sacrifice, they were just and innocent; and did desire, for such offerings, plague and the wrath of God to be removed (Hos. 7; Jer. 2). But it is answered unto them by the prophet Micah, "Shall I come in his presence with burnt offerings, and yearling lambs? Or doth a thousand rams please him, or ten thousand boats [containers] of oil? Shall I give my first-born son for expiation of mine iniquity; or the fruit of my womb a sin offering for my soul?" (Micah 6:6-7). Here the prophet plainly witnesses that no external work, how excellent ever it be, does purge or make satisfaction for sin. [24]And so of the precedents, it is plain that a wicked opinion added to the very work, sacrifice, or ceremony commanded to be done and used by God, makes it abomination and idolatry. For idolatry is not only to worship that thing which is not God, but also to trust or lean unto that thing which is not God, and has not in itself all sufficiency. And therefore Paul calls covetous men idolaters (Col. 3:5), because their confidence and trust are in their riches; much more would he call him an idolater whose heart believed remission of sins [comes] by a vain work, done by himself or by any other in his name.

[Part Two: Unto the Mass is
Joined a Wicked Opinion]

[25]But now let us hear if unto the Mass be joined a wicked opinion. It has been held in common opinion; it plainly has been taught; by law it is decreed; and in the words of the Mass it is expressed, that the Mass is a sacrifice and oblation for the sins of the quick and the dead: so that remission of sins undoubtedly was believed by that same action and work presently done by the priest. Sufficient it were for me, by the plain words of the aforesaid prophets, therefore to conclude it [an] abomination; seeing they [the prophets] plainly show that remission of sins comes only of the mere mercy of God, without all deserving of us, or of our work proceeding of ourselves. As Isaiah writes, saying, "I am he which removeth thine iniquity, and that for my own sake."

But if I shall prove this aforesaid opinion which has been held of the Mass to be false, deceitful, and vain ­ and that it is no sacrifice for sin (Isa. 43:25) ­ shall either consuetude [custom], long process of time, or multitude of papistical patrons, defend that it is not abomination and idolatry?

And first I ask, "Who offers this sacrifice, and what is offered?"

"The priest," say the Papists, "offers Jesus Christ unto the Father."

Then I demand, if a man can offer unto God a more precious thing than himself? And it appears not, for Paul commands that "we offer unto God a holy, lively, and reasonable sacrifice," which he calls our own bodies (Rom. 12:1). And Jesus Christ, having nothing more precious than himself, did offer up himself. If Paul had known any other sacrifice, after the death of Jesus Christ (that is, in all the times of the New Testament), more acceptable unto God than the mortification of our own bodies, would he not have advertised us thereof? If there was any other sacrifice, and he did not know thereof, then the Spirit led him not into all verity: which to say is blasphemy. If he knew it, and yet did not advertise us thereof, then did he not the duty and office of a true preacher; and to affirm that is like impiety. If any man might have offered Jesus Christ but himself only, in vain had it been to him to have suffered so cruel torment in his own person by oblation of himself. And so to affirm that mortal man may offer him who is immortal God, in my opinion is malapert proudness.

But let us hear more. Paul says, "By one oblation hath he made perfect forever them which are sanctified" (Heb. 10:14). And also, "Remission of sins once gotten, there resteth no more sacrifice" (Heb. 10:18). They will not avoid Paul's words, although they say Paul speaks of the Levitical sacrifice. No, Papists! he excludes all manner of sacrifice, saying, Nulla amplius restat Oblatio, "No more sacrifice resteth." And thereto testifies Jesus Christ himself upon the cross, saying, Consummatum est ["It is finished"] (John 19:30): that is, whatever is required for pacifying my Father's wrath justly moved against sin; whatever is necessary for reconciliation of mankind to the favour of my eternal Father; and whatever the purgation of the sins of the whole world required, is now completed and ended, so that no further sacrifice rests for sin.

Hear, you Papists! Two witnesses speak against you. How can you deny the opinion of your Mass to be false and vain? You say that it is a sacrifice for sin, but Jesus Christ and Paul say only the death of Christ was sufficient for sin, and after it rests none other sacrifice. Speak! or else you are likely to be condemned.

[27]I know you will say, it is no other sacrifice, but the selfsame, save that it is iterated [repeated] and renewed. But the words of Paul bind you more straightly than that so you may escape. [28]For in his whole disputation, he contends not only that there is no other sacrifice for sin, but also that the selfsame sacrifice, once offered, is sufficient, and never may be offered again. [29]For otherwise of no greater price, value, nor extenuation, should the death of Christ be, than the death of those beasts which were offered under the law ­ which are proved to be of none effect, nor strength, because it behooved them often times to be iterated.

The apostle, by comparing Jesus Christ to the Levitical priests, and his sacrifice unto theirs, makes the matter plain that Christ might be offered but once. First, the Levitical priests were mortal, and therefore it behooved them to have successors; but Christ is an eternal priest, and therefore is alone, and needs no successor. The Levitical priests offered the blood of beasts; but Jesus Christ offered his own body and blood. The Levitical priests, for impotence of their sacrifice, did iterate the same; but the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, having in itself all perfection, needs not to be iterated. Yea, to affirm that it ought (or may be) iterated, is extreme blasphemy; for that were to impute imperfection thereupon, contrary to the whole religion, and the plain words of Paul, saying, "Such is our High Priest, holy, just, unpolluted, separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens; to whom it is not necessary every day to offer, as did those priests first offer for their own sins, and then for the sins of the people: for that he hath done once, when he offered himself" (Heb. 7:26-27). What words can be more plain? Here Paul shows all causes, wherefore it needs not Christ to be offered again; and would conclude, that he may not be offered again.

[30]Yet, they say, it repugns nothing that we offer Christ, so that he offer not himself. The text says plainly, as before is shown, that Christ only might offer himself ­ which sacrifice is sufficient, and never may be offered again. "For if it had behooved him to have been oftener offered than once, he should have suffered often times from the beginning of the world. But once hath he appeared for the away taking of sin, offering himself" (Heb. 9:26): that is, of his own body, once slain, now living, and may suffer death no more. "For by his only one sacrifice hath he made us perfect, and sanctifieth forever."

Here is answered to that objection, that some object: "Men every day sin; therefore it is necessary that every day be sacrifice made for sin." Paul says, "By one sacrifice hath he consummated [completed] us forever" (Heb. 10:14). For otherwise, his death is not the only and sufficient sacrifice for our sins: which to affirm is blasphemy. And so there rests of our whole redemption nothing but his second coming, which shall be to judgment: where we, depending upon him, shall receive glory and honour; but his enemies shall be made a footstool to his feet. Not that I mean that his death ought not to be preached, and the remembrance thereof extolled and praised in the right administration of his Supper; but none of this to be sacrifice for sin. [31]What will you answer to this, which Paul produces against your Mass? [32]He plainly says there is no sacrifice for sin, but Christ's death only, etc.; and that neither may you offer him, nor yet may he offer himself any more.

[33]You will say, "It is a memorial sacrifice, under which Jesus Christ is offered unto the presence of God the Father by the kirk, under the appearance of bread and wine, for remission of sins. I answer with Paul, Apparet nunc in conspectu Dei pro nobis, "He appeareth now in the presence of God for us" (Heb. 9:24). So that it is not requisite that any man offer or represent him to the Father; for that he does himself, making continual intercession for us.

But let us consider this doctrine more deeply. The kirk, say they, offered Jesus Christ unto God the Father for a memorial sacrifice, or in a memorial sacrifice. Is there any oblivion or forgetfulness fallen upon God the Father? Has he forgotten the death and passion of Jesus Christ, so that he needs to be brought in memory thereof by any mortal man? Behold, brethren, how that impiety discloses and declares itself! Can there be any greater blasphemy than to say, God the Father has forgotten the benefits which he gave to mankind in his only Son Jesus! And whoever will say that they offer any memorial sacrifice or remembrance thereof unto God, does plainly say that God has forgotten them. For otherwise, what needs a representation or remembrance?

Advert, Papists, and consider how Satan has blinded you; you do manifestly lie, and do not espy the same. You do blaspheme God at every word, and can you not repent?

[34]They say it is Sacrificium speaking here; for a memorial sacrifice it cannot be. They say it is a Sacrificium applicatorium [an applicatory sacrifice], a sacrifice whereby they do and may apply the merits of Christ's passion unto sinners. They will be layers-to of plasters![35] But I fear the wound be not well ripened, and therefore that the plasters are unprofitable.

You say you may apply the merits of Christ's passion to whom you list. This is proudly spoken. Then may you make peace with God at your pleasure. But the contrary he speaks in these words, "Who may make" (Isa. 27:5). Here God says, that as none may move his wrath against his chosen (and hereof ought you to rejoice, brethren: the pope, nor his priests, nor bishops whomsoever may not cause God to be angry against you, albeit they curse you with cross, bell, and candle),[36] so no man may compel him to love or receive in favour but whom it pleases his infinite goodness. Moses, I confess, prayed for the people when God was displeased with them (Ex. 32:11-14; 32:32). But he speaks not proudly as you do, but either desired God to remit the offence of the people, or else destroy him altogether with them. I fear that your love be not so fervent. He obtained his petition of God.

But will you say, "So it was determined before in the counsel of God?" Advise you well. The nature of God is to be free, and thrall unto nothing. For although he is bound and obliged to fulfill all that his word promises to faithful believers, yet is that neither subjection nor thralldom; for freely he made his promises, and freely he does fulfill the same. I desire to be certified where God made his promises unto you Papist priests, that you should have power to apply (as you speak) the merits of Christ's passion to all and sundry who told or numbered money to you for that purpose? Takes God any part of the profit you receive? Alas, I have compassion upon your vanity, but more upon the simple people that have been deceived by you and your false doctrine.

Are you better heard with God than Samuel was? He prayed for King Saul, and that most fervently, and yet obtained not his petition, nor might not apply any merits or holiness unto him. And it is said to Jeremiah, "Pray thou not for this people, for my heart is not towards it; no, though Moses and Samuel should pray for them, yet would I not hear them, for they love to go wrong, and do not abstain from iniquity. Albeit they fast and cry, yet will I not hear them; and although they offer burnt sacrifice, I take no pleasure in it. And therefore pray not for this people, nor yet make any intercession for them, for I will not hear thee" (Jer. 14:11-12; cf. Jer. 15:1, Ezek. 14:14, 20).

What say you to these words, Papists? The prophet is forbidden to pray, for God says he neither will hear him nor yet the people. He will accept none of their sacrifices; and that because the people manifestly rebelled against God, rejoiced in iniquity, committed idolatry and abomination. And he manifestly shows that nothing may appease him but true repentance and conversion again unto God. O priests! has there not as great iniquity abounded in your days as ever did from the beginning? Have you not been enticers and leaders of the people to all idolatry? Yea, has not the mischievous example of your abominable lives provoked thousands unto iniquity? And yet do you say, that you may apply the merits of Christ's passion to whom you list! Hear you not that God never will accept prayers nor sacrifice whiles [until] true repentance were found? Of that you were dumb, and always kept silence. Your clamour and crying was, "Come, come to the Mass; buy with money, substance, and possessions, remission of your sins. We have the merits of Christ's passion. We may offer Jesus Christ unto the Father, whom he must needs receive for an acceptable sacrifice and satisfaction of all your sins." Think not, brethren that I allege anything upon them which they themselves do not speak, as their own law and Mass shall testify.

In the beginning of the canon,[37] the proud priest, lifting up his eyes, as that he had God even always bound to his commandment, says, "We beseech thee, most merciful Father, by Jesus Christ our Lord, that you receive and bless this untasted sacrifice (unsavoury sacrifice, truly he might have said) which we offer to thee for thine universal church."

O proud and perverse prelates and priests! who gave you that authority? Is it not expressly forbidden by the apostle Paul that any man should usurp the honour to make sacrifice, except he be called by God, as was Aaron? Have you the same commandment which was given to Aaron (Heb. 5:4)? His sacrifices are abrogated by Christ. Let us hear where you are commanded to make sacrifices. Search the scriptures, but search them with judgment. It will not be, Hoc facite ["Do this"], for that is spoken of eating, drinking, and thanksgiving, and not of sacrifice making. Nor yet will the order of Melchizedek, nor the text of Malachi prove you priests to make sacrifice. Advise with others that have more appearance to prove your intent; for if this be well pondered, the weight of them will depress the proudness of your papistical priesthood.

Now will I collect shortly, all that is said for probation, that the Mass is no sacrifice for sin. Advert: the New Testament is eternal, that is, once made, can never be dissolved (Isa. 9:6-7; Jer. 7:31-37), and therefore the blood wherewith this Testament is confirmed is eternal: for it is the blood of the eternal Son of God. Only the blood of Jesus Christ takes away our sins; for it is he alone that takes away the sins of the world, and who by his own blood has reconciled all (Col. 1:14, 19-20). [38] For if otherwise sin might have been taken away, then Christ has died in vain. And if full remission stood not in him alone, then they that ate him yet hungered, and they that drank him yet thirsted (John 6:35). And that were contrary to his own words. "The blood of Christ is once offered," and is sufficient, for it is the eternal blood of the eternal Son of God; and "by his own blood hath he once entered into the holy place" (Heb. 9:12). Therefore, the blood of Christ once offered remains forever, for purgation of all sins; and so rests there no sacrifice in the Mass. Advert these reasons precedent,[39] and give place to the verity. For while the scriptures of God shall be held of authority, never are you able to resolve these arguments.

[Summary and Conclusion
of the Second Syllogism]

Consider now, brethren, if the opinion of the Mass be not vain, false, and deceitful? Caused they not you to believe it was a sacrifice, whereby remission of sins was obtained? And you may plainly perceive that no sacrifice there is, nor at any time was, for sins, but the death of Jesus Christ only. For the sacrifices of the old law were only figures of that verity and true sacrifice offered by Jesus Christ. And in them was a commemoration of sins made, but neither was remission of sins obtained, nor purgation made by any such sacrifice.

What will you do, Papist priests? There rests no sacrifice to be offered for sin by you, nor by any mortal man. These are dolorous tidings unto your hearts. And no marvel. For by that vain opinion that the Mass was a sacrifice for sin, have you so quietly rested into that flood of Euphrates,[40] that is, in all worldly felicity, which flows unto you as a continual flood. But the Mass known not only to be no sacrifice, but also to be idolatry, the waters appear to dry up. And it is likely that you lack some liquor to refresh your tongues, being excruciated [tormented] with drought and heat intolerable.

[Further Arguments
Against the Mass]

Would you then hear glad tidings? What if I should permit unto you (as one willing to play the good fellow, and not to be stiff-necked) that the Mass were a sacrifice for sin, and that you did offer Jesus Christ for sin? Would you be content that this were permitted unto you? I think you would, for therefore have you long contended. Then let us consider, what should subsequently follow thereupon.

A sacrifice for sin was never perfect until the beast offered was slain. If in your Mass you offer Jesus Christ for sin, then necessarily in your Mass must you needs kill Jesus Christ. Do not esteem, beloved brethren, these words shortly spoken, to be vain or of small effect. They are collected of the very ground of scriptures, for they plainly testify that Christ to be offered, Christ to suffer, and Christ to shed his blood or die, are all one thing.

Paul, in the epistle to the Hebrews, says, "He appeareth now in the presence of God for us, not to offer himself often times for us, for otherwise it behooved him to have suffered often times, from the beginning of the world" (Heb. 9:24-26). Mark well, that Paul makes to offer and to suffer both one thing, and therefore he proves that Christ made but one sacrifice, because he once did suffer the death. Jesus Christ says, as it is written in Matthew, "This is my blood of the New Testament, which shall be shed for you and for many, in remission of sins" (Matt. 26:28). Mark, that remission of sins is attributed to the shedding of Christ's blood. And Paul says, "Christ is dead for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3). And in another place, "By one oblation or sacrifice hath he made us perfect forever" (Heb. 10:14). Consider diligently that remission of sins is attributed sometime to the shedding of Christ's blood, sometime to his death, and sometime to the whole sacrifice which he made in suffering all pain. And why is this? Whether if there be diverse manners to obtain remission of sins? No, but because every one of these three necessarily follows [the] others. Remission of sins is commonly ascribed to any of them, for wherever Christ is offered, there is his blood shed, and his death subsequently follows.

And so Papists, if you offer Christ in sacrifice for sin, you shed his blood, and thus newly slay him. Advert what fine [end] your own desire shall bring you ­ even to be slayers of Jesus Christ. You will say, you never pretended such abomination. I dispute not what you intended, but I only show what absurdity does follow upon your own doctrine. For necessarily if you do offer Christ for sin, as you confess, and your law does teach, you cruelly shed his blood, and finally do slay him.

But now I will relieve you of this anguish. Dolourous it were daily to commit manslaughter, and oftentimes to crucify the King of Glory. Be not afraid; you do it not; for Jesus Christ may suffer no more, shed his blood no more, nor die no more. For he has died ­ he so died for sin ­ and that once; and now he lives, and death may not prevail against him. And so you do not slay Christ, for no power have you to do the same. Only you have deceived the people, causing them [to] believe that you offered Jesus Christ in sacrifice for sin in your Mass ­ which is frivolous and false, for Jesus Christ may not be offered, because he may not die.

I most gently exhort all desiring to object against these precedents, ripely to consider the ground thereof, which stands not upon the opinion of man, but upon the infallible word of God; and to resume [review] every part of their arguments and lay them to the whole body of God's scriptures. And then, I doubt not, but all men whose sense the Prince of Darkness and of this world has not execated [blinded], shall confess with me, that in the Mass can be no sacrifice for sin. And yet, to the great blasphemy of Christ's death, and open denial of his passion, it has been affirmed, taught, and believed, that the Mass was a sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead: which opinion is most false, vain, and wicked. And so, I think, the Mass to be abominable and idolatry no man of indifferent judgment will deny.

[The Mass is Not the Lord's Supper]

Let no man intend to excuse the Mass with the pretext of the Lord's Supper. For now will I prove that therewith it has no congruence, but is expressly contrary to it; and has taken the remembrance of the same out of mind. And further, it is blasphemous to the death of Jesus Christ.

First, they are contrary in institution. For the Lord's Supper was instituted to be a perpetual memory of those benefits which we have received by Jesus Christ, and by his death. And first we should call to mind in what estate we stood in the loins of Adam, when we all blasphemed the majesty of God in his face.

Secondly, that his own incomprehensible goodness moved him to love us ­ most wretched and miserable, yea, most wicked and blasphemous ­ and love most perfect compelled him to show mercy. And mercy pronounced the sentence, which was that his only Son should pay the price of our redemption. Which thing being rightly called to memory in the present action of the Supper, could not but move us to unfeigned thanksgiving unto God the Father, and to his only Son Jesus, who has restored us again to liberty and life. And this is it which Paul commands, saying, "As often as ye shall eat of this bread, and drink of this cup, ye shall declare the Lord's death till he come" (1 Cor. 11:26). That is, you shall laud, magnify, and extol the liberal kindness of God the Father, and the infinite benefits which you have received by Christ's death.

But the Mass is instituted, as the plain words thereof and their own laws do witness, to be a sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead: for doing of the which sacrifice, God is bound not only to remit our sins, but also to give unto us whatever we will ask. And that shall testify diverse Masses celebrated for diverse causes: some for peace in time of war, some for rain, some for fair weather; yea, and (alas, my heart abhors such abomination!) some for sickness of beasts. They will say, they severally take prayers for obtaining such things. And that is all which I desire they say; for the obtaining such vain trifles, they destinate [appoint] their whole purpose, and so profane the sacrament of Christ's body and blood (if that were any sacrament which they abused so), which should never be used but in memory of Christ's death. Then should it not be used to pray that the toothache be taken away from us, that our oxen should not take the lowing ill, our horse the spavin or farcy [diseases], and so of all manner of diseases for our cattle. Yea, what was it wherefore you would not say Mass, perverse priests? But let us hear more.

The Supper of the Lord is the gift of Jesus Christ, in which we should laud the infinite mercy of God. The Mass is a sacrifice which we offer unto God, for doing whereof we allege God should love and commend us.

In the Supper of the Lord, we confess ourselves redeemed from sin by the death and blood of Jesus Christ only. In the Mass, we crave remission of sins ­ yea, and whatsoever thing we list ­ by working of that same work, which we presently do ourselves. And herein is the Mass blasphemous unto Christ and his passion. For insofar as it offers or permits remission of sins, it imputes imperfection upon Christ and his sacrifice; affirming that all sins were not remitted by his death, but that a great part are reserved to be purged by virtue and the value of the Mass. And also it is injurious unto Christ Jesus, and not only speaking most falsely of him, but also usurping to itself that which is proper to him alone. For he affirms that he alone has, by his own death, purged the sins of the world; and that no part rests to be changed by any other means. But the Mass sings another song, which is, that every day, by that oblation offered by the priests, sin is purged and remission obtained. Consider, Papists, what honour your Mass gives unto Christ Jesus!

Last, in the Supper of the Lord, we grant ourselves eternal debtors to God, and unable any way to make satisfaction for his infinite benefits which we have received. But in the Mass, we allege God to be a debtor unto us for oblation of that sacrifice which we there presently offer, and dare affirm that we there make satisfaction by doing thereof, for the sins of ourselves and of others.

If these precedents be not contrary, let men judge with indifference [impartiality]. They differ in use; for in the Lord's Supper, the minister and the congregation sat both at one table ­ no difference between them in preeminence nor habit, as witnesses Jesus Christ with his disciples, and the practice of the apostles after his death. But in the papistical Mass, the priests (so they will be styled) are placed by themselves at one altar. [41]And I would ask of the authority thereof, and what scripture commands so to be done. They must be clad in several habits,[42] whereof no mention is made in the New Testament. It will not excuse them to say, Paul commanded all to be done with order and decently (1 Cor. 14:40). Dare they be so bold as to affirm that the Supper of Jesus Christ was done without order, and indecently, wherein were seen no such disguised vestments? Or will they set up to us again the Levitical priesthood? Should not all be taught by the plain word?

Prelates or priests, I ask one question: You would be like the vestments of Aaron in all things. Aaron had affixed unto his garments certain bells, which were commanded to ring, and to make sound, as often as he was clad therein. But, priests, your bells want tongues; they ring not; they sound of nothing but of the earth. The people understand nothing of all your ceremonies. Fear you not the wrath of God? It was commanded Aaron that the sound of bells should be heard, that he died not. Advise with this, for the matter appertains to you.

In the Supper of the Lord all were equally participants: the bread being broken, and the cup being distributed amongst all, according to his holy commandment. In the papistical Mass, the congregation gets nothing except the beholding of your jukings, noddings, crossings, turning, uplifting, which all are nothing but a diabolical profanation of Christ's Supper. Now, juke, cross, and nod as you list; they are [nothing] but your own inventions. And finally, brethren, you got nothing, but gazed and beheld while one did eat and drink all.

It shall not excuse you to say, the congregation is participating spiritually. O, wicked Antichrists! says not Jesus Christ, "Eat of this, and drink of this; all do this in remembrance of me?" (Matt. 26:26-27). Christ commanded not that one should gaze upon it, bow, juke, and beck [nod] thereto, but that we should eat and drink thereof ourselves; and not that we should behold others do the same; unless we would confess the death of Jesus Christ to appertain nothing to us. For when I eat and drink at that table, I openly confess the fruit and virtue of Christ's body, of his blood and passion, to appertain to myself; and that I am a member of his mystical body; and that God the Father is appeased with me, notwithstanding my first corruption and present infirmities.

Judge, brethren, what comfort has this taken from us, [by them] which will that the sight thereof shall be sufficient. I would ask, first, if the sight of corporeal meat and drink does feed or nourish the body? I think they will say, "Nay." And I affirm that no more profit receives the soul in beholding another eat and drink the Lord's very Supper (as for their idolatry it is always damnable), than the body does in beholding another eat and drink, and though receiving no part thereof.

But now briefly, let this contradiction be collected [examined].[43] In the Lord's Supper are offered thanks for the benefits which we have received of God. In the Mass, the Papist will compel God to grant all that he asks of him, by virtue of the sacrifice, and so alleges that God should refer thanks unto him that does [the] Mass.

In the Supper of the Lord, the actors [partakers] humbly do confess themselves redeemed only by Christ's blood, which once was shed. In the Mass, the priest vaunts himself to make a sacrifice for the sins of the quick and the dead.

In the Lord's Supper, all the partakers at that table grant and confess themselves debtors unto God, unable to refer thanks for the benefits which we have received of his liberality. In the papistical Mass, the priest alleges that God is a debtor to him, and unto all them for whom he makes that sacrifice. For he does affirm remission of sins to be obtained thereby; and in that the Mass is blasphemous to Christ's death.

In the Lord's Supper, all sit at one table: no difference in habit or vestment between the minister and the congregation. In the papistical Mass, the priests are placed by themselves at one altar (as they call it), and are clad in disguised garments.

In the Lord's Supper, finally, all do eat of one bread and drink of one cup. But in the mischievous Mass, one man did eat and drink all.


Consider now, beloved brethren, what the fruits of the Mass have been, even in her greatest purity. The Mass is nothing but the invention of man, set up without all authority of God's word, for honouring of God; and therefore it is idolatry. Unto it is added a vain, false, deceitful, and most wicked opinion: that is, that by it is obtained remission of sins; and therefore it is abomination before God. It is contrary unto the Supper of Jesus Christ, and has taken away both the right use and remembrance thereof, and therefore it is blasphemous to Christ's death. Maintain or defend the papistical Mass who so list, this honour and service did all which used the same. And here I speak not of the most abominable abuses, as of buying and selling, used now of late by the mischievous priests; but of the Mass in her most high degree, and most honest garment; yea, even of the great Gaudeamus[44] sung or said by Gregory the Great, as Papists do call him.

Let no man think that, because I am in the realm of England, therefore so boldly I speak against this abomination. Nay, God has taken that suspicion from me, for this body lying in most painful bonds, amongst the midst of cruel tyrants,[45] his mercy and goodness provided that the hand should write, and bear witness to the confession of the heart more abundantly than ever yet the tongue spoke.

And here I call my God to record that neither profit to myself, hatred of any person or persons, nor affection or favour that I bear towards any private man, causes me this day to speak as you have heard; but only the obedience which I owe unto God in [the] ministry, showing of his word, and the common love which I bear to the salvation of all men. For so odious and abominable I know the Mass to be in God's presence, that unless you decline from the same, to life can you never attain. And therefore, brethren, flee from that idolatry, rather than from the present death.

Here would I have spoken of the diversity of sacrifice, but neither does time nor the wickedness [frailty] of my own flesh permit that I do so. I will you [to] observe, that where I say there rests no sacrifice, nor yet are there any priests; that I mean, there rests no sacrifice to be offered for sin, nor yet are there any priests having power to offer such oblations. Otherwise, I do know that all true Christians are kings and priests, and do daily offer unto God a sacrifice most acceptable: the mortification of their affections, as Paul commanded in Romans. But hereof I may not remain to speak presently.

Such doctrine as was taught in your audience, upon Sunday before noon, I will prove, as opportunity shall permit, by God's scriptures, not only unprofitable, but also erroneous and deceitful. But first, according to my promise, I will send unto the teacher the extract thereof, to add or diminish as by his wisdom shall be thought most expedient. For God knows my mind is not captiously to trap men in words, but my only desire being that you, my audience, be instructed in the verity; wherefrom dissents some doctrine taught [to] you (if truly I have collected) moves me to speak against all that may have appearance of lies and superstition.

And pray with me, brethren, that the Spirit may be ministered unto me in abun dance, to speak at all times as it becomes a true messenger. And I will likewise pray that you may hear, understand, and obey with all reverence, the good will of God, declared unto the world by Jesus Christ, whose omnipotent Spirit remain with you forever. Amen.

Give the glory to God alone.



1. Marginal note: Note

2. Knox here refers to the Greater Litany of the church of Rome, containing invocation to saints, and ascribed by that church to Pope Gregory the First. Basnage, a divine of the reformed church, in his Ecclesiastical History, has noticed very fully the subject of the ancient litanies; and [he] states, that the earliest litanies now extant, which contain addresses to saints, were not written before the conclusion of the eighth or the beginning of the ninth century. The litanies, when regularly celebrated, were recited in Ascension week; persons walked in the processions barefooted and fasting. Such invocations were added to the earlier litanies in more corrupt times; and the names of saints to whom prayers for intercession were offered were frequently changed at different periods. The variety of formularies used in the church of Rome was a subject which came under the notice of the Council of Trent. The revision of the service book was committed to Pope Pius V; and the Roman Litany now contains direct invocations only to forty-three saints. [Note abridged from the British Reformers, Writings of John Knox (American edition; Philadelphia: Presbyterian Board of Publication, 1842), pp. 187-88.]

3. "Gregory, in the time of a common pestilence, ordained this service, called Litany, which is a Greek word, as much in English to say, as Supplication or Prayer." (The Primer in English, 1808, sign. i, ij.) In this edition, the Litany contains eighty-three distinct invocations. [D.L.]

4. The historical event referred to by Knox is thus related by the earliest biographers of Pope Gregory I. In 590, Rome suffered very severely from an infectious distemper, when Gregory, not then installed in the popedom, preached a sermon, earnestly calling upon the people to repent. The conclusion is preserved in his works, and contains an exhortation to the people to unite publicly in supplication to God, appointing that they should meet at day-break in seven different companies, according to their several ages, sex, and stations, and walk in seven processions, reciting litanies or supplications, till they all met in one place. They did so, and proceeded singing and uttering the words, "Kyrie eleison," or "Lord have mercy upon us." In the space of one hour, while thus engaged, eighty persons fell to the ground, and breathed their last. (Vit. Gregor. a Jo. Diacon. xlii. et. seq. See also Fleury, liv. 35, § 1. Baron. Annal. 590, p. 6.) Baronius relates that Gregory caused an image of the virgin to be carried on this occasion. With regard to the persons who died while thus engaged, we may remember that the plague then raged fiercely, and doubtless many had assembled who were already infected by it. [Part of a note from the British Reformers edition of the Writings of John Knox, pp. 187-88.]

5. Marginal note: Objection

6. Marginal note: Objection

7. Marginal note: Precepts were given

8. Marginal note: The cause of the council of Jerusalem.

9. A reference to private Masses.

10. Marginal note: Cornelius

11. Marginal note: Conclusion of the council

12. Marginal note: Question

13. Marginal note: Objection

14. Marginal note: Note

15. Marginal note: Popes who instituted the Mass

16. That is, the general Confession in the Ordinary of the Mass, beginning, Confiteor Deo omnipotenti, beatæ Mariæ semper virgini, beato Michaeli archangelo, etc. [D.L.]

17. The price of many of the smaller religious tracts published at this time. [D.L.]

18. Marginal note: Evasion

19. Marginal note: Improbation of the canon

20. A reference to the commemoration of holy men in the ritual of the Romish church.

21. That is, some parts of the Mass are repeated by the priest in a tone inaudible to the people. [D.L.]

22. Marginal note: Note

23. The priests were shaved and consecrated according to the Romish practices.

24. Marginal note: Note

25. Marginal note: Opinion held of the Mass

26. Marginal note: Note

27. Marginal note: Answer of the Papists

28. Marginal note: Contra

29. Marginal note: Note

30.. Marginal note: Papists anwer

31. Marginal note: Question

32. Marginal note: Papists advert

33. Marginal note: Evasion

34. Marginal note: Papists

35. That is, those who apply plaster or ointment to heal a wound.

36. The Romish form of cursing. [D.L.]

37. The service of the Mass. [D.L.]

38. Marginal note: Note

39. That is, notice these reasons which have preceded.

40. The waters of Babylon. [D.L.]

41. Marginal note: Question

42. Knox here refers to the dresses worn by the Romish priests while saying Mass, as they are described in some of their works of devotion. The colours of the priestly ornaments used in the Romish church service vary at different seasons; and to each colour a mystical meaning is attached. [D.L.]

43. That is, let these contradictions be examined.

44. Gaudeamus omnes in Domino, etc., sung in the Mass on the festival of the Assumption of the virgin.

45. This is an allusion to Knox's imprisonment aboard the French gallies.

Go back to "Introductory Essay" to True and False Worship by John Knox

Go to "Knox's Call to the Ministry and First Public Debate"

Copyright © 1995 by Kevin Reed
Presbyterian Heritage Publications
P.O. Box 180922
Dallas, Texas 75218

This edition has been edited to reflect contemporary spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Bracketed words are supplied where needed to complete the sense of a sentence. Bracketed words in italics are inserted following some antiquated terms or phrases as a convenience to the modern reader. Therefore, the words in brackets are not a part of the original text.

This publication has been provided in electronic form for the personal convenience of our readers. No part of this publication may be transmitted or distributed in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical photocopying, or otherwise) without prior permission of the publisher.


John Knox - Back to FREE BOOKS and MP3s by JOHN KNOX