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man, St. Athanasius, although at other times confidently and truly pretended, it was an argument the tradition was not so clear, but both sides might with some fairness pretend to it! And therefore, one of the prime founders of their heresy, the heretic Artemon ",—having observed the advantage might be taken by any sect that would pretend tradition, because the medium was plausible, and consisting of so many particulars, that it was hard to be redargued, pretended a tradition from the apostles, that Christ was ψιλός άνθρωπος, and that the tradition did descend by a constant succession in the church of Rome to Pope Victor's time inclusively, and till Zephyrinus had interrupted the series and corrupted the doctrine; which pretence, if it had not had some appearance of truth, so as possibly to abuse the church, had not been worthy of confutation, which yet was with care undertaken by an old writer, out of whom Eusebius transcribes a large passage to reprove the vanity of the pretender". But I observe from hence, that it was usual to pretend to tradition, and that it was easier pretended than confuted, and I doubt not but oftener done than discovered. A great question arose in Africa concerning the baptism of heretics, whether it were valid or no. St. Cyprian and his party appealed to Scripture; Stephen bishop of Rome, and his party would be judged by custom and tradition ecclesiastical. See how much the nearer the question was to a determination, either that probation was not accounted by St. Cyprian, and the bishops both of Asia and Africa, to be a good argument, and sufficient to determine them, or there was no certain tradition against them; for unless one of these two do it, nothing could excuse them from opposing a known truth, unless peradventure, St. Cyprian, Firmilian, the bishops of Galatia, Cappadocia, and almost two parts of the world, were ignorant of such a tradition, for they knew of none such, and some of them expressly denied it. And the sixth general synod approves of the canono made in the council of Carthage under Cyprian upon this very ground, because in “prædictorum præsulum
1 Vide Petav. in Epiph. her. 69.
η Και γάρ εισί τινες, ώ φίλοι, έλεγον από του ημετέρου γένους ομολογούντες αυτόν Χριστόν είναι, άνθρωπον δε εξ ανθρώπων γενόμενον αποφαινόμενοι, οις ου συντίθεμαι, ουδε αν πλείστοι ταύτά Mot dotácartES ET OLEV. Justin. Mart. Dial. ad Tryph. Jud. n Euseb, 1. 5. c. ult,
o Can. 2.
locis et solum secundum traditam eis consuetudinem servatus est;" they had a particular tradition for rebaptization, and therefore, there could be no tradition universal against it; or if there were, they knew not of it, but much for the contrary : and then it would be remembered, that a concealed tradition was like a silent thunder, or a law not promulgated; it neither was known, nor was obligatory. And I shall observe this too, that this very tradition was so obscure, and was so obscurely delivered, silently proclaimed, that St. Austin, who disputed against the Donatists upon this very question, was not able to prove it but by a consequence which he thought probable and credible, as appears in his discourse against the Donatists. “The apostles,” saith St. Austin P, "prescribed nothing in this particular : but this custom, which is contrary to Cyprian, ought to be believed to have come from their tradition, as many other things which the Catholic church observes.” That is all the ground and all the reason; nay, the church did waver concerning that question, and before the decision of a council, Cyprian and others might dissent without breach of charity". It was plain then there was no clear tradition in the question; possibly there might be a custom in some churches postnate to the times of the apostles, but nothing that was obligatory, no tradition apostolical. But this was a suppletory device ready at hand whenever they needed it; and St. Austin confuted the Pelagians, in the question of original sin, by the custom of exorcism and insufflation", which St. Austin said, came from the apostles by tradition; which yet was then, and is now so impossible to be proved, that he that shall affirm it, shall gain only the reputation of a bold man and a confident.
4. Secondly, I consider, if the report of traditions in the primitive times, so near the ages apostolical, was so uncertain, that they were fain to aim at them by conjectures, and grope as in the dark, the uncertainty is much increased since; because there are many famous writers, whose works are lost, which yet if they had continued, they might have been good records to us, as Clemens Romanus, Hegesippus, Nepos, Coracion, Dionysius Areopagite, of Alexandria, of
p L. 5. de Baptism. contr. Donat. c. 23. 1 Lib. 1. de Baptism. c. 18. r De peccat, original. 1. 2. c. 40. contra Pelagi. et Cælest.
Corinth, Firmilian, and many more: and since we see pretences have been made without reason in those
where they might better have been confuted, than now they can,-it is greater prudence to suspect any later pretences, since so many sects have been, so many wars, so many corruptions in authors, so many authors lost, so much ignorance hath intervened, and so many interests have been served, that now the rule is to be altered : and whereas it was of old time credible, that that was apostolical whose beginning they knew not,-now quite contrary, we cannot safely believe them to be apostolical, unless we do know their beginning to have been from the apostles. For this consisting of probabilities and particulars, which put together make up a moral demonstration,—the argument which I now urge, --hath been growing these fifteen hundred years; and if anciently there was so much as to evacuate the authority of tradition,-much more is there now absolutely to destroy it, when all the particulars, which time and infinite variety of human accidents have been amassing together, are now concentred, and are united by way of constipation. Because every age, and every great change, and every heresy, and every interest, hath increased the difficulty of finding out true traditions.
5. Thirdly: there are very many traditions which are lost, and yet they are concerning matters of as great consequence as most of those questions for the determination whereof traditions are pretended : it is more than probable, that as in baptism and the eucharist the very forms of ministration are transmitted to us, so also in confirmation and ordination, and that there were special directions for visitation of the sick, and explicit interpretations of those difficult places of St. Paul, which St. Peter affirmed to be so difficult, that the ignorant do wrest them to their own damnation; and yet no church hath conserved these or those many more, which St. Basil affirms to be so many, that ÉTTLλείψει ημέρα τα άγραφα της εκκλησίας μυστήρια διηγούμενον; ;
the day would fail him in the very simple enumeration of all traditions ecclesiastical S.' And if the church hath failed in keeping the great variety of traditions, it will hardly be thought a fault in a private person to neglect tradition, which either the whole church hath very much neglected incul
Cap. 29. de Spir. Sancto.
pably, or else the whole church is very much to blame. And who can ascertain us, that she hath not entertained some which are no traditions, as well as lost thousands that are ? That she did entertain some false traditions, I have already proved; but it is also as probable, that some of those which these ages did propound for traditions, are not so, as it is certain, that some which the first ages called traditions, were nothing less.
6. Fourthly: there are some opinions, which, when they began to be publicly received, began to be accounted prime traditions, and so became such, not by a native title, but by adoption ; and nothing is more usual than for the fathers to colour their popular opinion with so great an appellative. St. Austin called the communicating of infants an apostolical tradition; and yet we do not practise it, because we disbelieve the allegation. And that every custom, which at first introduction was but a private fancy or singular practice, grew afterward into a public rite, and went for a tradition after awhile continuance, appears by Tertullian, who seems to justify it; “ Non enim existimas tu licitum esse cuicunque fideli constituere quod Deo placere illi visum fuerit, ad disciplinam et salutem ?” And again, “ A quocunque traditore censetur, nec autorem respicias sed autoritatem.” And St. Jerome most plainly, “ Præcepta majorum apostolicas traditiones quisque existimat.” And when Irenæus had observed that great variety in the keeping of Lent, which yet to be a forty-days' fast is pretended to descend from tradition apostolical, some fasting but one day before Easter, some two, some forty, and this even long before Irenæus's time, he gives this reason ; “ Varietas illa jejunii cæpit apud majores nostros; qui non accuratè consuetudinem eorum, qui vel simplicitate quâdam vel privatâ autoritate in posterum aliquid statuissent, observârant ";" and there are yet some points of good concernment, which if any man should question in a high manner, they would prove indeterminable by Scripture, or sufficient reason ; and yet I doubt not their confident defenders would say, they are opinions of the church, and quickly pretend a tradition from the very apostles, and believe themselves so secure, that they could
1 Contra Marcion. de Coron. Milit. c. 3, 4. Apud Easeb. I. 5. c. 24. u Ex translatione Christophorsoni.
not be discovered, because the question never having been disputed gives them occasion to say, that which had no beginning known, was certainly from the apostles. For why should not divines do in the question of reconfirmation as in that of rebaptization ? Are not the grounds equal from an indelible character in one as in the other? and if it happen such a question as this after contestation should be determined, not by any positive decree, but by the cession of one part, and the authority and reputation of the other, does not the next age stand fair to be abused with a pretence of tradition, in the matter of reconfirmation, which never yet came to a serious. question ? For so it was in the question of rebaptization, for which there was then no more evident tradition than there is now in the question of reconfirmation, as I proved formerly, but yet it was carried upon that title.
7. Fifthly: there is great variety in the probation of tradition, so that whatever is proved to be tradition, is not equally and alike credible; for nothing but universal tradition is of itself credible; other traditions in their just proportion, as they partake of the degrees of universality. Now that a tradition be universal, or, which is all one, that it be a credible testimony, St. Irenæus* requires that tradition should derive from all the churches apostolical. And therefore, according to this rule, there was no sufficient medium to determine the question about Easter, because the eastern and western churches had several traditions respectively, and both pretended from the apostles. Clemens Alexandrinus ' says, it was a secret tradition from the apostles, that Christ preached but one year: but Irenæus” says it did derive from heretics; and says, that he, by tradition, first from St. John, and then from his disciples, received another tradition, that Christ was almost fifty years old when he died, and so by consequence preached almost twenty years: both of them were deceived, and so had all, that had believed the report of either, pretending tradition apostolical. Thus the custom, in the Latin church, of fasting on Saturday, was against that tradition which the Greeks had from the apo
* Lib. 3. c. 4.
y Lib. 1. Stromat, z Lib. 2. c. 39. Omnes seniores testantur, qui in Asia apud Johannem, disci. palum Domini, convenerunt, id ipsum tradidisse eis Johannem, &c. et qui alios apostolos viderunt, hæc eadem ab ipsis audierunt, et testantur de ejusmodi relatione. Salmeron. disput. 51. in Rom. VOL. VIII.