Obrazy na stronie

stles; and therefore, by this division and want of consent, which was the true tradition, was so absolutely indeterminable, that both must needs lose much of their reputation. But how then, when not only particular churches, but single persons, are all the proof we have for a tradition? And this often happened. I think St. Austin is the chief argument and authority we have for the assumption of the Virgin Mary; the baptism of infants is called a tradition by Origen alone at first, and from him by others. The procession of the Holy Ghost from the Son, which is an article the Greek church disavows, derives from the tradition apostolical, as it is pretended; and yet before St. Austin we hear nothing of it very clearly or certainly, forasmuch as that whole mystery concerning the blessed Spirit, was so little explicated in Scripture, and so little derived to them by tradition, that, till the council of Nice, you shall hardly find any form of worship or personal address of devotion to the Holy Spirit, as Erasmus observes, and I think the contrary will very hardly be verified. And for this particular in which I instance, whatsoever is in Scripture concerning it, is against that which the church of Rome calls tradition, which makes the Greeks so confident as they are of the point, and is an argument of the vanity of some things, which for no greater reason are called traditions, but because one man hath said so, and that they can be proved by no better argument to be true. Now in this case, wherein tradition descends upon us with unequal certainty, it would be very unequal to require of us an absolute belief of every thing not written, for fear we be accounted to slight tradition apostolical. And since nothing can require our supreme assent, but that which is truly catholic and apostolic, and to such a tradition is required, as Irenæus says, the consent of all those churches which the. apostles planted, and where they did preside, this topic will be of so little use in judging heresies, that (beside what is deposited in Scripture) it cannot be proved in any thing but in the canon of Scripture itself, and as it is now received, even in that there is some variety.

8. And therefore, there is wholly a mistake in this business; for when the fathers appeal to tradition, and with much earnestness, and some clamour, they call upon heretics to conform to or to be tried by tradition, it is such a tra

dition as delivers the fundamental points of Christianity, which were also recorded in Scripture. But because the canon was not yet perfectly consigned, they called to that testimony they had, which was the testimony of the churches apostolical, whose bishops and priests being the 'antistites religionis,' did believe and preach Christian religion, and conserve all its great mysteries according as they have been taught. Irenæus calls this a tradition apostolical, “ Christum accepisse calicem, et dixisse sanguinem suum esse, et docuisse novam oblationem novi Testamenti, quam ecclesia per apostolos accipiens offert per totum mundum.” And the fathers, in these ages, confute heretics by ecclesiastical tradition; that is, they confront against their impious and blasphemous doctrines that religion, which the apostles having taught to the churches where they did preside, their successors did still preach, and, for a long while together, suffered not the enemy to sow tares amongst their wheat. And yet these doctrines, which they called traditions, were nothing but such fundamental truths which were in Scripture, πάντα σύμφωνα ταϊς γραφαϊς, as Ireneus in Eusebius observes, in the instance of Polycarpus: and it is manifest by considering what heresies they fought against, the heresies of Ebion, Cerinthus, Nicolaitans, Valentinians, Carpocratians ", persons that denied the Son of God, the unity of the Godhead, that preached impurity, that practised sorcery and witchcraft. And now that they did rather urge tradition against them than Scripture, was, because the public doctrine of all the apostolical churches was at first more known and famous than many parts of the Scripture, and because some heretics denied St. Luke's Gospel, some received none but St. Matthew's, some rejected all St. Paul's epistles, and it was a long time before the whole canon was consigned by universal testimony, some churches having one part, some another, Rome herself had not all; so that, in this case, the argument from tradition was the most famous, the most certain, and the most prudent. And now, according to this rule, they had more traditions than we have, and traditions did by degrees lessen as they came to be written; and their necessity was less, as the knowledge of them was ascertained to us by a better keeper of divine truths. All that great a Lib. 5. cap. 20.

Vid. Irenæ. 1. 3. et 4. cont, bæres.

mysteriousness of Christ's priesthood, the unity of his sacrifice, Christ's advocation and intercession for us in heaven, and many other excellent doctrines, might very well be accounted traditions before St. Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews was published to all the world; but now they are written truths, and if they had not, possibly we might either have lost them quite, or doubted of them, as we do of many other traditions, by reason of the insufficiency of the propounder. And therefore it was, that St. Peter took order that the Gospel should be writ; for he had promised that he would do something, which, after his decease, should have these things in remembrance. He knew it was not safe trusting the report of men, where the fountain might quickly run dry, or be corrupted so insensibly, that no cure could be found for it, nor any just notice taken of it till it were incurable. And, indeed, there is scarce any thing but what is written in Scripture, that can, with any confidence of argument, pretend to derive from the apostles, except rituals, and manners of ministration; but no doctrines or speculative mysteries are so transmitted to us by so clear a current, that we may see a visible channel, and trace it to the primitive fountains. It is said to be a tradition apostolical, that no priest should baptize without chrism and the command of the bishop : suppose it were, yet we cannot be obliged to believe it with much confidence, because we have but little proof for it, scarce any thing but the single testimony of St. Jeromed. And yet, if it were, this is but a ritual, of which, in passing by, I shall give that account : That, suppose this and many more rituals did derive clearly from tradition apostolical,—which yet but very few do,--yet it is hard that any church should be charged with crime for not observing such rituals, because we see some of them which certainly did derive from the apostles, are expired and gone out in a desuetude; such as are abstinence from blood and from things strangled ;--the cenobitic life of secular persons,--the college of widows;-to worship standing, upon the Lord's day,—to give milk and honey to the newly baptized, and many more of the like nature; now there having been no mark to distinguish the necessity of one from the indifferency of the other, they are all alike necessary, or alike c 2 Pet. i. 13.

& Dialog. adv. Lucifer.

indifferent; if the former, why does no church observe them? If the latter, why does the church of Rome charge upon others the shame of novelty, for leaving of some rights and ceremonies, which, by her own practice, we are taught to have no obligation in them, but the adiaphorous ? St. Paul gave order, that " a bishop should be the husband of one wife;" the church of Rome will not allow so much ; other churches allow more: the apostles commanded Christians to fast on Wednesday and Friday, as appears in their canons; the church of Rome fasts Friday and Saturday, and not on Wednesday: the apostles had their agapæ or love-feasts ; we should believe them scandalous: they used a kiss of charity in ordinary addresses; the church of Rome keeps it only in their mass, other churches quite omit it: the apostles permitted priests and deacons to live in conjugal society, as appears in the fifth Can. of the apostles (which to them is an argument who believe them such), and yet the church of Rome by no means will endure it; nay, more, Michael Medina e gives testimony, that of eighty-four canons apostolical which Clemens collected, scarce six or eight are observed by the Latin church; and Peresius gives this account of it; "In illis contineri multa, quæ temporum corruptione non plenè observantur, aliis pro temporis et materiæ qualitate aut obliteratis, aut totius ecclesiæ magisterio abrogatis.” Now it were good that they, which take a liberty to themselves, should also allow the same to others. So that, for one thing or other, all traditions, excepting those very few that are absolutely universal, will lose all their obligation, and become no competent medium to confine men's practices, or limit their faiths, or determine their persuasions. Either for the difficulty of their being proved, the incompetency of the testimony that transmits them, or the indifferency of the thing transmitted, all traditions, both ritual and doctrinal, are disabled from determining our consciences either to a necessary believing or obeying.

9. Sixthly: to which I add, by way of confirmation, that there are some things called traditions, and are offered to be proved to us by a testimony, which is either false or not extant. Clemens of Alexandria pretended it a tradition, that

• De sacr. hom. continent, lib. 5. c. 105. De Tradit. part. 3. c. de Author. Can. Apost.


the apostles preached to them that died in infidelity, even after their death, and then raised them to life; but he proved it only by the testimony of the book of Hermes; he affirmed it to be a tradition apostolical, that the Greeks were saved by their philosophy; but he had no other authority for it but the apocryphal books of Peter and Paul. Tertullian and St. Basil pretended it an apostolical tradition, to sign in the air with the sign of the cross; but this was only consigned to them in the Gospel of Nicodemus. But to instance, once for all, in the Epistle of Marcellus to the bishop of Antioch, where he affirms that it is the canon of the apostles, “ præter sententiam Romani pontificis, non posse concilia celebrari.” And there is no such canon extant, nor ever was, for aught appears in any record we have ; and yet the collection of the canons is so entire, that though it hath something more than what was apostolical, yet it hath nothing less. And now that I am casually fallen upon an instance from the canons of the apostles, I consider that there cannot in the world a greater instance be given, how easy it is to be abused in the believing of traditions. For, 1. to the first fifty, which many did admit for apostolical, thirty-five more were added, which most men now count spurious, all men call dubious, and some of them universally condemned by peremptory sentence, even by them who are greatest admirers of that collection, as sixty-fifth, sixty-seventh, and eighty-fourth and fifth canons.

For the first fifty, it is evident that there are some things so mixed with them, and no mark of difference left, that the credit of all is much impaired, insomuch that Isidore of Seville says, " they were apocryphal, made by heretics, and published under the title Apostolical, but neither the fathers nor the church of Rome did give assent to them.” And yet they have prevailed so far amongst some, that Damascen is of opinion they should be received equally with the canonical writings of the apostless. One thing only I observe (and we shall find it true in most writings, whose authority is urged in questions of theology), that the authority of the tradition is not it, which moves the assent, but the nature of the thing; and because such a canon is delivered, they do not therefore believe the sanction or proposition so delivered, but disbelieve the tradition, if they do not like the

Apad Gratian. dist. 16. c. Canones.

8 Lib. 1. c. 18. de Orthod. Fide.

« PoprzedniaDalej »