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which we know to be the word of God: but if we may lawfully recede from the councils' decrees, in case they be contrariant to Scripture, it is all that I require in this question. For if they be tied to a rule, then they are to be examined and understood according to the rule, and then we are to give ourselves that liberty of judgment which is requisite to distinguish us from beasts, and to put us into a capacity of reasonable people, following reasonable guides. But however, if it be certain that the councils are to follow Scripture, then if it be notorious that they do recede from Scripture, we are sure we must obey God rather than men, and then we are well enough. For unless we are bound to shut our eyes, and not to look upon the sun, if we may give ourselves liberty to believe what seems most plain, and unless the authority of a council be so great a prejudice as to make us to do violence to our understanding, so as not to disbelieve the decree, because it seems contrary to Scripture, but to believe it agrees with Scripture, though we know not how, therefore because the council hath decreed it, -unless, I say, we be bound in duty to be so obediently blind and sottish, we are sure that there are some councils which are pretended general, that have retired from the public notorious words and sense of Scripture. For what wit of man can reconcile the decree of the thirteenth session of the council of Constance with Scripture, in which session the half communion was decreed, in defiance of Scripture, and with a‘non obstante' to Christ's institution. For in the preface of the decree, Christ's institution and the practice of the primitive church are expressed, and then, with a' non obstante,' communion in one kind is established. Now then suppose the ‘non obstante' in the form of words relates to the primitive practice, yet since Christ's institution was taken notice of in the first words of the decree, and the decree made quite contrary to it, let the 'non obstante' relate whither it will, the decree (not to call it a defiance) is a plain recession from the institution of Christ, and therefore the ‘non obstante' will refer to that without any sensible error; and, indeed, for all the excuses to the contrary, the decree was not so discreetly framed, but that, in the very form of words, the defiance and the non obstante' are too plainly relative to the first words. For what sense can there else be in the first licet ;' licet Christus in utraque
specie,” and “ licet ecclesia primitiva," etc. " tamen hoc non
* Lib. 2. c. 14. Concord. Catbol.
of such councils, wherein the proceedings were as prejudicate and unreasonable, as in the council wherein Abailardus was condemned, where the presidents having pronounced • Damnamus', they at the lower end being awaked at the noise, heard the latter part of it, and concurred as far as Mnamus went, and that was as good as Damnamus ; for if they had been awake at the pronouncing the whole word, they would have given sentence accordingly. But by this means St. Bernard numbered the major part of voices against his adversary Abailardus': and as far as these men did do their duty, the duty of priests, and judges, and wise men; so we may presume them to be assisted: but no farther. But I am content this (because but a private assembly) shall pass for no instance: but what shall we say of all the Arian councils celebrated with so great fancy, and such numerous assemblies? we all say that they erred. And it will not be sufficient to say they were not lawful councils : for they were convened by that authority, which all the world knows did at that time convocate councils, and by which (as it is a confessed and is notorious) the first eight generals did meet, that is, by the authority of the emperor all were called, and as many and more did come to them, than came to the most famous council of Nice: so that the councils were lawful, and if they dịd not proceed lawfully, and therefore did err, this is to say, that councils are then not deceived, when they do their duty, when they judge impartially, when they decline interest, when they follow their rule; but this says also, that it is not infallibly certain that they will do so; for these did not, and therefore the others may be deceived as well as these were. But another thing is in the wind; for councils not confirmed by the Pope, have no warrant that they shall not err, and they, not being confirmed, therefore failed. But whether is the Pope's confirmation after the decree or before? It cannot be supposed before ; for there is nothing to be confirmed, till the decree be made, and the article composed. But if it be after, then possibly the Pope's decree may be requisite in solemnity of law, and to make the authority popular, public, and human ; but the decree is true or false before the Pope's confirmation, and is not at all altered by the supervening decree, which being postnate to the decree, alters not what y Epist. Abailardi ad Heliss. conjugem. ? Cusanos, I. 2. cap. 25. Concord.
went before: “Nunquam enim crescit ex postfacto præteriti æstimatio," is the voice both of law and reason. So that it cannot make it divine, and necessary to be heartily believed. It may make it lawful, not make it true; that is, it may possibly by such means become a law, but not a truth. I speak now upon supposition the Pope's confirmation were necessary, and required to the making of conciliar and necessary sanctions. But if it were, the case were very
hard : for suppose a heresy should invade, and possess the chair of Rome, what remedy can the church have in that case, if a general council be of no authority, without the Pope confirm it? Will the Pope confirm a council against himself? will he condemn his own heresy? That the Pope may be a heretic appears in the canon law", which says he may for heresy be deposed, and therefore by a council, which in this case hath plenary authority without the Pope. And therefore in the synod at Rome held under Pope Adrian the Second, the censure of the synod against Honorius, who was convict of heresy, is approved with this appendix, that in this case, the case of heresy, “minores possint de majoribus judicare:” and therefore if a Pope were above a council, yet when the question is concerning heresy, the case is altered; the Pope may be judged by his inferiors, who in this case, which is the main case of all, become his superiors. And it is little better than impudence to pretend, that all councils were confirmed by the Pope, or that there is a necessity in respect of divine obligation, that any should be confirmed by him, more than by another of the patriarchs. For the council of Chalcedon itself, one of those four which St. Gregory did revere next to the four evangelists, is rejected by Pope Leo, who, in his fifty-third epistle to Anatolius, and in his fifty-fourth to Martian, and in his fifty-fifth to Pulcheria, accuses it of ambition and inconsiderate temerity, and therefore no fit assembly for the habitation of the Holy Spirit; and Galasius, in his tome • de Vinculo Anathematis,’affirms, that the council is in part to be received, in part to be rejected, and compares it to heretical books of a mixed matter, and proves his assertion by the place of St. Paul, “Omnia probate, quod bonum est retinete.”—And Bellarmine says the same: “In concilio Chalcedonensi quædam sunt bona, quædam mala, quædam
a Dist. 40. Can, si Papa.
recipienda, quædam rejicienda; ita et in libris hæreticorum," and if any thing be false, then all is questionable, and judicable, and discernible, and not infallible antecedently. And however that council hath 'ex postfacto,' and by the voluntary consenting of after-ages obtained great reputation ; yet they that lived immediately after it, that observed all the circumstances of the thing, and the disabilities of the persons, and the uncertainty of the truth of its decrees, by reason of the unconcludingness of the arguments brought to attest it, were of another mind, Quod autem ad concilium Chalcedonense attinet, illud id temporis (viz. Anastasii Imp.) neque palam in ecclesiis sanctissimis prædicatum fuit, neque ab omnibus rejectum; nam singuli ecclesiarum præsides pro suo arbitratu in ea re egerunt.” And so did all men in the world that were not mastered with prejudices, and undone in their understanding with accidental impertinences; they judged upon those grounds which they had and saw, and suffered not themselves to be bound to the imperious dictates of other men, who are as uncertain in their determinations as others in their questions. And it is an evidence that there is some deception and notable error, either in the thing or in the manner of their proceeding, when the decrees of a council shall have no authority from the compilers, nor no strength from the reasonableness of the decision, but from the accidental approbation of posterity: and if posterity had pleased, Origen had believed well and been an orthodox person. And it was pretty sport to see that Papias was right for two ages together, and wrong ever since; and just so it was in councils, particularly in this of Chalcedon, that had a fate alterable according to the age, and according to the climate, which, to my understanding, is nothing else but an argument that the business of infallibility is a latter device, and commenced to serve such ends as cannot be justified by true and substantial grounds; and that the Pope should confirm it as of necessity, is a fit cover for the same dish.
4. In the sixth general council, Honorius, Pope of Rome, was condemned: did that council stay for the Pope's confirmation before they sent forth the decree? Certainly they did not think it so needful, as that they would have suspended or cassated the decree, in case the Pope had then
b De Laicis, 1. 3. c. 20, sect, ad hoc ult. © Evag. lib. 3. cap. 30.