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matter; and so do not judge of the matter by the tradition, but of the tradition by the matter. And thus the church of Rome rejects the eighty-fourth or eighty-fifth canon of the apostles, not because it is delivered with less authority than the last thirty-five are, but because it reckons the canon of Scripture otherwise than it is at Rome. Thus also the fifth canon amongst the first fifty, because it approves the marriage of priests and deacons, does not persuade them to approve of it too, but itself becomes suspected for approving it: so that either they accuse themselves of palpable contempt of the apostolical authority, or else that the reputation of such traditions is kept up to serve their own ends, and therefore, when they encounter them, they are no more to be upheld; which what else is it but to teach all the world to contemn such pretences, and undervalue traditions, and to supply to others a reason why they should do that, which to them that give the occasion, is most unreasonable?
10. Seventhly: the testimony of the ancient church being the only means of proving tradition, and sometimes their dictates and doctrine being the tradition pretended of necessity to be imitated, it is considerable that men, in their estimate of it, take their rise from several ages and differing testimonies, and are not agreed about the competency of their testimony; and the reasons that on each side make them differ, are such as make the authority itself the less authentic and more repudiable. Some will allow only of the three first ages, as being most pure, most persecuted, and therefore most holy, least interested, serving fewer designs, having fewest factions, and therefore more likely to speak the truth for God's sake and its own, as best complying with their great end of acquiring heaven in recompense of losing their lives : others says, that those ages, being persecuted, minded the present doctrines proportionable to their purposes and constitution of the ages, and make little or nothing of those questions which at this day vex Christendom : and both speak true: the first ages speak greatest truth, but least pertinently. The next ages, the ages of the four general councils, spake something, not much more pertinently to the present questions, but were not so likely to speak true, by reason of their dispositions contrary to the capacity and circumstance
h Vid. Car. Perron. Lettre au Sieur Casaubou.
of the first ages; and if they speak wisely as doctors, yet not certainly as witnesses of such propositions which the first ages noted not; and yet, unless they had noted, could not possibly be traditions. And therefore, either of them will be less useless as to our present affairs. For indeed the questions, which now are the public trouble, were not considered or thought upon for many hundred years, and therefore prime tradition there is none as to our purpose, and it will be an insufficient medium to be used or pretended in the determination; and to dispute concerning the truth or necessity of traditions, in the questions of our times, is as if historians, disputing about a question in the English story, should fall on wrangling whether Livy or Plutarch were the best writers: and the earnest disputes about traditions are to no better purpose. For no churcb at this day admits the one half of those things, which certainly by the fathers were called traditions apostolical, and no testimony of ancient writers does consign the one half of the present questions, to be or not to be traditions. So that they who admit only the doctrine and testimony of the first ages, cannot be determined in most of their doubts which now trouble us, because their writings are of matters wholly differing from the present disputes; and they which would bring in after-ages to the authority of a competent judge or witness, say the same thing; for they plainly confess that the first ages spake little or nothing to the present question, or at least nothing to their sense of them; for therefore they call in aid from the following ages, and make them suppletory and auxiliary to their designs, and therefore are no traditions to our purposes. And they who would willingly have it otherwise, yet have taken no course it should be otherwise ; for when they had opportunity, in the councils of the last ages, to determine what they had a mind to, yet they never named the number, nor expressed the particular traditions which they would fain have the world believe to be apostolical : but they have kept the bridle in their own hands, and made a reserve of their own power, that, if need be, they may make new pretensions, or not be put to it to justify the old by the engagement of a conciliar declaration.
11. Lastly: we are acquitted, by the testimony of the primitive fathers, from any other necessity of believing, than of
such articles as are recorded in Scripture: and this is done by them, whose authority is pretended the greatest argument for tradition, as appears largely in Irenæus', who disputes professedly for the sufficiency of Scripture against certain heretics, who affirm some necessary truths not to be written. It was an excellent saying of St. Basil, and will never be wiped out with all the eloquence of Perron in his Serm. de Fide. “Manifestus est fidei lapsus, et liquidum superbiæ vitium, vel respuere aliquid eorum quæ Scriptura habet, vel inducere quicquam quod scriptum non est.” And it is but a poor device to say that every particular tradition is consigned in Scripture by those places, which give authority to tradition ; and so the introducing of tradition is not a superinducing any thing over or besides Scripture, because tradition is like a messenger, and the Scripture is like his letters of credence, and therefore authorizes whatsoever tradition speaketh. For supposing Scripture does consign the authority of tradition (which it might do, before all the whole instrument of Scripture itself was consigned, and then afterward there might be no need of tradition), yet supposing it, it will follow that all those traditions which are truly prime and apostolical, are to be entertained according to the intention of the deliverers, which indeed is so reasonable of itself, that we need not Scripture to persuade us to it;—itself is authentic as Scripture is, if it derives from the same fountain ; and a word is never the more the word of God for being written, nor the less for not being written; but it will not follow that whatsoever is pretended to be tradition, is so, neither is the credit of the particular instances consigned in Scripture; 'et dolosus versatur in generalibus,' but that this craft is too palpable. And if a general and indefinite consignation of tradition be sufficient to warrant every particular that pretends to be tradition, then St. Basil had spoken to no purpose, by saying, it is pride and apostasy from the faith, to bring in what is not written: for if either any man brings in what is written, or what he says is delivered, then the first being express Scripture, and the second being consigned in Scripture, no man can be charged with superinducing what is not written, he hath his answer ready; and then these are zealous words absolutely to no purpose; but if such general con
i Lib. 3. c. 2. contr. bæres.
signation does not warrant every thing that pretends to tradition, but such only as are truly proved to be apostolical ; then Scripture is useless as to this particular; for such tradition gives testimony to Scripture, and therefore is of itself first, and more credible, for it is credible of itself; and therefore, unless St. Basil thought that all the will of God in matters of faith and doctrine were written, I see not what end, nor what sense, he could have in these words : for no man in the world, except enthusiasts and madmen, ever obtruded a doctrine upon the church, but he pretended Scripture for it, or tradition; and therefore, no man could be pressed by these words, no man confuted, no man instructed, no, not enthusiasts or Montanists. For suppose either of them should say, that since in Scripture the Holy Ghost is promised to abide with the church for ever,-to teach whatever they pretend the Spirit in any age hath taught them, is not to superinduce any thing beyond what is written, because the truth of the Spirit, his veracity, and his perpetual teaching, being promised and attested in Scripture, Scripture hath just so consigned all such revelations, as (Perron saith) it hath all such traditions. But I will trouble myself no more with arguments from any human authorities; but he that is surprised with the belief of such authorities, and will but consider the very many testimonies of antiquity to this purpose, as of Constantine", St. Jerome', St. Austin, St. Athanasius", St. Hilaryo, St. Epiphanius P, and divers others, all speaking words to the same sense, with that saying of St. Paul', " Nemo sentiat super quod scriptum est,” will see that there is reason, that since no man is materially a heretic, but that he errs in a point of faith, and all faith is sufficiently recorded in Scripture, the judgment of faith and heresy is to be derived from thence, and no man is to be condemned for dissenting in an article, for whose probation tradition only is pretended; only according to the degree of its evidence, let every one determine himself; but of this evidence we must not judge for others : for unless it be in things of faith, and absolute certainties, evidence is a word of relation, and so supposes two terms, the object and the faculty ;
* Orat. ad Nicen. pp. Apud Theodor. I. 1. c. 7.
o Ip Psal. cxxxii.
and it is an imperfect speech to say a thing is evident in itself (unless we speak of first principles, or clearest revelations); for that may be evident to one, that is not so to another, by reason of the pregnancy of some apprehensions, and the immaturity of others.
This discourse hath its intention in traditions doctrinal and ritual, that is, such traditions which propose articles new “in materiâ ;' but now if Scripture be the repository of all divine truths sufficient for us, tradition must be considered as its instrument, to convey its great mysteriousness to our understandings : it is said there are traditive interpretations, as well as traditive propositions, but these have not much distinct consideration in them, both because their uncertainty is as great as the other upon the former considerations; as also because, in very deed, there are no such things as traditive interpretations universal : for as for particulars, they signify no more but that they are not sufficient determinations of questions theological ; therefore, because they are particular, contingent, and of infinite variety, and they are no more argument than the particular authority of these men whose commentaries they are, and therefore must be considered with them.
12. The sum is this: since the fathers, who are the best witnesses of traditions, yet were infinitely deceived in their account; since sometimes they guessed at them, and conjectured by way of rule and discourse, and not of their knowledge, not by evidence of the thing; since many are called traditions which were not so, many are uncertain whether they were or no, yet confidently pretended, and this uncertainty, which at first was great enough, is increased by infinite causes and accidents in the succession of sixteen hundred years; since the church hath been either so careless or so abused, that she could not or would not preserve tradition with carefulness and truth ; since it was ordinary for the old writers to set out their own fancies, and the rites of their church, which had been ancient, under the specious title of apostolical traditions; since some traditions rely but upon single testimony at first, and yet, descending upon others, come to be attested by many, whose testimony, though conjunct, yet in value is but single, because it relies upon the first single relator, and 80 can have no greater authority, or certainty, than they de