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law, which the Italians call il mandato volante,'' a flying or ambulatory commandment,' in which the duty is divided, and several persons have several parts of the precept incumbent on them. He that chooses and he that ordains him, are bound for their share, to take care that he be canonically capable; but he that is so chosen, is not bound to any thing but what is in his power; that is, he is not obliged to put her away whom he hath legally married, and her whom, without sin, he can lawfully retain: but because that which is without sin, is not always without reproach and obloquy,— and that which may be innocent, may sometimes not be laudable, and of a clergyman more may be required than of another that is not so ;-they who call him to the office, are to take care of that, and he which is called, is not charged with that. But then though he be not burdened with that which is innocent and at present out of his power, and such a person may be innocently chosen, when they who choose him, are not innocent; yet when any thing of the will is ingredient on his part, he must take care of that himself. He may be chosen, but he must not ambire,' not' sue' for it, nor thrust himself upon it; for here begins his obligation there can be no duty, but what is voluntary and can be chosen; but when a man can choose, he can be obliged. I do not here dispute how far, and in what cases, this law does oblige; for of that I am to give an account in the chapter of the ecclesiastical laws: but the present inquiry is, Who are the persons concerned in the obligation? It was also taken care that a bishop should not be a novice :' and yet St. Timothy was chosen a bishop at the age of five-andtwenty years; and he was innocent, because it was the act of others, who came off from their obligation upon another account. But if he had desired it, or, by power or faction, thrust himself upon the church with that canonical insufficiency, he had prevaricated the canon apostolical: for to so much of it he was bound; but in what he was a passive, he was not concerned, but others were.
2. But this is to be limited in two particulars. 1. In what the clerk is passive, he is not obliged; that is, in such matters and circumstances as are extrinsical to his office, and matter of ornament and decency. Thus if he have been married to an infamous woman which he cannot now help;
if he be young, which he cannot at all help, but it will help itself in time; if he have an evil and an unpleasant countenance, if he be deformed; for in these things and things of like nature, the choosers and ordainers are concerned; but the clerk may suffer himself to be chosen, the law notwithstanding. But if the canonical impediment be such as hinders him from doing of his future duty, there he may not suffer himself to be chosen; and if he be, he must refuse it. The reason of the difference is plain: because the electors and ordainers are concerned but till the election is past but the elected is concerned for ever after; therefore although there may be many worthinesses in the person to be chosen to outweigh the external insufficiency and incapacity, and if there be not, the electors are concerned, because it is their office and their act, and they can hinder it, and therefore they only are charged there; yet for ever after the elected is burdened, and if he cannot do his duty, he is a sinner all the way; ;-he is a wolf to the revenue, and a butcher to the flock. 3. (2.) Though, in matters of decency and ornament, the person to be chosen is not so obliged but that he may suffer himself to be chosen if he be otherwise capable, because those things, which are not in his power, are not in his duty, yet even for these things he also is obliged afterward; and he is bound not to do that afterward, which if it was done before, others were obliged not to choose him. If a person was divorced before and married again, he may accept of a bishoprick; but if he do so afterward, he is guilty of the breach of the commandment; for he must not go back to that door where he might not enter, but then he is wholly obliged; he alone, because then it is his own act, and he alone can hinder it. I say, he must not back. go
4. But if he be thrust back to that door, where if he had stood at first, he ought not to have been let in; he is no more obliged at last than at first: he that does not govern his house well, and hath not his children in subjection,' may not, by the Apostle's rule, be chosen ; but when he is a bishop, and falls into the calamity of having evil and rebellious children, this is no impediment to his office directly, and does not so much as indirectly pass upon him any irregularity.
5. But then as to the rule itself, this instance is fit to explicate it. For parents are tied to rule their children, mas
ters to govern their servants; but children are also obliged to be governable, and servants must be obedient. For in relative duties every man must bear his own burden, and observe his own share of the commandment.
Custom is no sufficient Interpreter of the Laws of Jesus Christ.
2. The purpose of this rule is not to bar custom from being of use in the exposition of the sense of a law or doctrine. For when it is certain that Christ gave the law, and it is uncertain what sense was intended to the law, custom is very useful in the interpretation; that is, the customs of the first and best ages of the church: and then the longer the cus
De Virgin. Veland.
tom did ascend, still we have the more confidence, because we have all the wise and good men of so many ages concurring in the interpretation and understanding of the law. Thus the Apostle gave the church a canon, "that we should in all things give thanks :" the custom of the ancient church did in pursuance of this rule say a short prayer, and give thanks at the lighting up of candles. The history of it I have from St. Basil":"Visum est patribus nostris beneficium vespertini luminis non silentio suscipere, sed statim, ut apparuit, gratias agere;" "They said grace for their light as well as for their meat."-This custom was good; for it was but the particular instance of a general duty.
3. But then custom is to be allowed but as one topic, not as all: it is the best argument, when we have no better; but it is the most inartificial of all arguments; and a competent reason to the contrary is much to be preferred before a great and long prescribing custom. Both these propositions are severally affirmed by the fathers of the church. The first by St. Austin in his epistle to Casulanus. "In his rebus, de quibus nihil certi statuit Divina Scriptura, nobis populi Dei et olim justi, statuta majorum pro lege tenenda sunt: et sicut prævaricatores legum divinarum, ita contemptores consuetudinum ecclesiasticarum coercendi sunt." The holy Catholic church is certainly guided by the Spirit of God, and therefore where the question is concerning any thing that is not clear in Scripture, the customs of the Catholic church are not to be despised; for it is to be presumed (where the contrary is not proved), that she piously endeavours, and therefore is graciously assisted in the understanding of the will and commandments of her Lord: and in this sense, custom is the best interpreter, because there is no better, and no clearer light shining from any angel.
4. Custom can thus, in cases of destitution of other topics, declare the meaning of a law; but custom of itself cannot be the interpreter of the will of Christ, or a sufficient warrant of a law, or immediately bind the conscience, as if it were a signification of the divine pleasure; much less ought it to be opposed to any words of Scripture or right reason and proper argument derived from thence. And that is the other thing which, I also said, is taught us by the fathers of a Cap. 29. de Spir. S.
the church. So St. Cyprian": "Frustra quidam, qui ratione vincuntur, consuetudinem nobis opponunt, quasi consuetudo major sit veritate, aut non fuerit in spiritualibus sequendum, si melius fuerit à S. Spiritu revelatum;" "In vain is custom opposed to reason, as if it were greater than truth: not custom, but that which is best, is to be followed by spiritual persons, if any thing better than custom be revealed by the Spirit of God."
5. All good customs are good warranties and encouragements; but whether they be good or no is to be examined and proved by the rule and by the commandment: and therefore the custom itself is but an ill indication of the commandment; from whence itself is marked for good, or else is to be rejected as reprobate and good for nothing. "Consuetudo auctoritati cedat: pravum usum lex et ratio vincat: cum vero nec sacris canonibus nec humanis legibus consuetudo obviare monstratur, inconcussa servanda est," said Isidore"; "Let custom yield to authority, to law, and to reason; but when it agrees with the laws of God and of man, let it be kept inviolate."
6. When custom is consonant to some other instrument of probation, when it is apparently pious, and reasonable, and of the analogy of faith, it is an excellent corroborative and defensative of truth, and warrant to the conscience; but when it stands alone, or hath an ill aspect upon other more reasonable and effective ways of persuasion, it is very suspicious and very dangerous, and is commonly a very ill sign of an ill cause, or of corrupted manners. Cedrenus & tells that "the patriarch Abraham was wont to say, that there is great difference between truth and custom; that being very hard to be found, this, whether good or bad, being obvious to every eye and which is worse, by following custom a man gets no comfort if it be in the right, and no great shame if it be in the wrong, because he relies not upon his own reason, but the judgment of old men that lived long ago, who whether they judged wisely or foolishly must appear by some other way but this he will find, that it will be very hard to leave it, though it be never so foolish and ridiculous."
7. Of what obligation in matters of practice, and of what
In Synonymis, lib. 2. d Hist. Compend. ferè in initio, pag. 25.
b Ad Jubaian.