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persuasion in the inquiries of truth, ecclesiastical customs are to be esteemed, I shall afterward discourse when I treat of ecclesiastical laws: but that which I would persuade for the present is, that the customs and usages of the world are but an ill commentary on the commandments of our blessed Lord.
8. (1.) Because evil is crept into most of the manners of men; and then a custom is most likely to transmit her authority to that which ought to be destroyed. "Inter causas malorum nostrorum, quod vivimus ad exempla, nec ratione componimur, sed consuetudine abducimur. Quod si pauci facerent, nolumus imitari: quum plures facere cœperunt, quasi honestius sit quia frequentius, sequimur, et recti apud nos locum tenet error, ubi publicus factus est:" so Seneca complained: "It is one great cause of our mischiefs, that we are not led by truth, but led away by custom; as if a thing were the honester because it is frequent; and error becomes truth when it is common and public." Excellent therefore was that saying of Pope Nicolas I.: “ Parvus numerus non obest, ubi pietas abundat: magnus non prodest, ubi impietas regnat;" "If right and religion be on our side, the smallness of our company is nothing: but a multitude cannot justify impiety."
9. (2.) Custom in moral practices becomes a law to men by pressing upon their modesty, and by outfacing truth and piety; so that unless the custom have warranty from the law, it hath the same effect against a law as for it; and therefore in such cases is at no hand to be trusted, but at every hand to be suspected, lest it make it necessary that men become vicious. The customs of the German and neighbour nations so expound the laws of Christ concerning temperance, that if by their measures it be defined, it looks so like intemperance, as milk to milk; and the common customs of the world expound all the laws of the blessed Jesus so as to be truly obligatory at no time but in the danger, or in the article of death: but certainly it is but an ill gloss, that evacuates all the holy purposes of the commandment; and at the day of judgment, when we shall see numberless numbers of the damned hurried to their sad sufferings, it will be but an ill apology to say, 'I did as all the world almost besides me, by whose customs I understood the laws of the gospel to a
sense of ease and gentleness, and not by the severity of a few morose preachers.' Poggius tells of a Neapolitan shepherd, that against Easter going to confession, he told his confessor, with a tender conscience and great sorrow of heart, that he had broken the holy fast of Lent, by chance indeed, but yet with some little pleasure; for when he was pressing of a new cheese, some of the whey started from the vessel and leaped into his mouth, and so went into his stomach. The priest smiling a little at the fantastic conscience of the man, asked him if he was guilty of nothing else. The shepherd saying, he knew of nothing else that did or ought to trouble him; his confessor, knowing the customs of those people upon the mountains of Naples, asked him if he had never robbed or killed any strangers passengers. O yes,' replied the shepherd, 'I have often been at that employment; but that we do every day, and always did so, and I hope that is no sin :'-but the cheese, the forbidden cheese, stuck in his stomach, because every one did abominate such meat upon fasting-days: only the custom of killing and stealing had hardened his heart and forehead till it was not perceived.
dedit hanc contagio labem,
Et dabit in plures; sicut grex totus in agris
Uvaque conspecta livorem ducit ab uva'.
10. Evil manners begin from one evil man, or from one weak or vicious principle, and pass on to custom, and then to be virtuous is singularity, and is full of envy; and concerning the customs of the world it is ten to one if there be not some foulness in them. The advice therefore of St. Cyprian is a good compendium of this inquiry: "Consuetudo, quæ apud quosdam irrepserat, impedire non debet, quo minus veritas prævaleat et vincat; nam consuetudo sine veritate vetustas erroris est: propter quod, relicto errore, sequamur veritatem; scientes, quod veritas vincit, veritas valet et invalescit in æternum, et vivit et obtinet in secula seculorum:" "Custom ought not to prevail against any truth; but truth, which is eternal, will live and prevail for ever and ever. Custom without truth is but a prescription of falsehood and irregularity."
! Juven. Sat. 2. 78. Ruperti.
s Ad Pompei.
11. Upon occasion of this argument it is seasonable, and of itself a very useful inquiry, Whether the customs of Jews and gentiles, or indefinitely of many nations, be a just presumption that the thing so practised is agreeable to the law of nature, or is any ways to be supposed to be consonant to the will of God.
12. To this, some of eminence in the church of Rome answer affirmatively; and are so far from blushing, that many of their rites are derived from the customs of heathens, that they own it as a thing reasonable, and prudent, and pious, according to the doctrine and practice of Gregory surnamed Thaumaturgus,-who, as St. Gregory Nyssen reports, that he might allure the common people to the love of Christianity, gave way that those dances and solemn sports, which they celebrate to the honour of their idols, should be still retained, but diverted to the honour of the saints departed; and Baronius supposes it to be no other than as the Israelites taking of the silver and brass from the Egyptians, and employing it in the service of the tabernacle. And in particular, the custom of burning candles to the honour of the Virgin Mary he imputes to the same principle, and owns it to be of heathenish extraction. The same also is in divers other instances avowed by Polydore Virgil'; by Fauchet'in his books of the Antiquities of France; by Du Choul", Blondus", and Bellarmine, who bring this as an argument for the doctrine of purgatory, because the Jews, the Turks, and the heathens, did believe something of it; it being very likely, that what almost all nations consent in, derives from the natural light of reason which is common to all men: and upon this very thing Cardinal Perron P boasts in the behalf of the service in an unknown tongue; that not only the Greeks, and
hOrat. de Vita S. Grego. Thaum.
i Annal. A. D. 44. sect. 88. et A. D. 58. sect. 76, 77. et in Martyrol. Febr. k De Inventor. Rerum, lib. 5. cap. 2.
1 Lib. 2. cap. 9. et lib. 5. de Origin. Dignit. Gall. cap. 17.
m Lib. de Religione Romanorum, in fine.
In lib. 1. et 2. de Roma Triumphante.
Lib. 1. de Purgatorio, cap. 7. sect. Tertia Ratio.
P Adv. Regem Jacobum in Prima Instantia, cap. 1.
many other Christian churches, but even all religions, the Persians and the Turks, use it.
This pretence therefore is fit to be considered.
13. (1.) Therefore I answer, that it is true that the primitive church did sometimes retain some ceremonies, which the heathens used; but they were such ceremonies, which had no relation to doctrine, but might be made apt for order and decent ministries external. Such were the garments of the priests, lights, girdles, fasts, vigils, processions, postures, festivals, and the like: and they did it for good reason and with good effect; that the people, who were most of all amused with exterior usages, finding many of their own customs adopted into Christianity, might with less prejudice attend to the doctrines of that persuasion, which so readily complied in their common ceremonies. This did well enough at first, and was a prudent imitation of the practice of our great Master,-who, that the Jews might the easier pass under his discipline and institution, made the passages as short, and the difference as little, as could be. For since he would retain but two external ministries in his whole institution, he took those rites, to which the Jews had been accustomed; only he made their baptisms sacramental, and effective of great purposes, and some of the paschal rites he consecrated into the highest mystery; retaining apparent footsteps, or rather bodies, of their government and discipline ecclesiastical. And this proceeding we find owned and justified by St. Austin against Faustus the Manichee, and St. Jerome against Vigilantius, and Ephraim Syrus of old; and of later times by Alcuinus, Amalarius', and by Gratians: and who please to see it more largely pleaded for, may read Mutius Pansa's Osculum Christianæ et Ethnicæ Philosophiæ,' and Nicolaus Mont-Georgius 'de Mosaico Jure Enucleando:' and that it may be reasonable from the services of such men, from whom we justly abhor, to borrow some usages, is excellently discoursed of by Mr. Hooker, in his fourth book of Ecclesiastical Polity.'
14. But however this might fit the necessities and circumstances of the infant ages of the church, yet they ought not to be done easily, but ever with very great caution. For though it served a present turn, yet it made Christian religion
De Divin, Offic.
De Offic. Eccles.
• De Consecrat.
less simple and less pure; but by becoming a miscellany it became worse and worse. It was or might be at the first a "complying with the infirmities of the weak," a pursuance of St. Paul's advice so to do; but when these weak persons are sufficiently instructed in the religion, and that to dissent is not infirmity, but peevishness and pride, or wilfulness,--all compliance and condescension are no longer charity, but give confidence to their error. For when the reasonable discourses of the religion will not satisfy the supposed weak brother, he that complies with him, confesses his the better way; and when learned men follow the ignorant to superstition, they will no longer call it compliance and condescension, but duty and necessity and approbation. A good man will go a little out of his road to reduce the wandering traveller; but if he will not return, it will be an unreasonable compliance to go along with him to the end of his wandering. And where there is any such danger (as in most cases it is), we have the example of God himself, and his commandment' expressly given to the children of Israel, that they should abstain from all communion with the gentiles, their neighbours, even in things indifferent; and that they should destroy the very monuments and rituals, and the very materials, of their religion, lest, by such a little compliance, they be too far tempted. And thus also they did sometime in the primitive church; for Tertullian", because the gentiles used in the services of their idols to sit down immediately after they had prayed, would not have the Christians do so, though the ceremony of itself was wholly indifferent. And when many Christian churches had taken some gentile ceremonies into their Christmas so- ́ lemnity, being occasioned by the circumcision of Christ falling on the calends of January, or the new-year's day, they were not only forbidden in the council of Auxerre, but the church did particularly appoint private litanies, processions, and austerities, to be used for three days with the twelve of Christmas," ad calcandam gentilium consuetudinem," "to destroy and countermine the superstitious customs of the heathen," which, by the compliance and fondness of some Christians, had dishonoured the excellency and innocency of the Christmas festivity; as we find noted by the fathers of "De Orat. cap. 12. Concil. Antisiodor. cap. 1.
t Deut. vii. 5. xii. 4.