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marriage-feasts : besides that this is expressly against the doctrine of St. Paul, it is also against the doctrine of the council of Laodicea, which took off such penances, and pronounced second marriages to be free and lawful. Nothing is more discrepant than the third council of Carthage, and the council of Laodicea, about assignation of the canon of Scripture; and yet the sixth general synod approves both. And I would fain know if all general councils are of the same mind with the fathers of the council of Carthage, who reckon into the canon five books of Solomon. I am sure St. Austin reckoned but three", and I think all Christendom beside are of the same opinion. And if we look into the title of the law.de conciliis,' called 'concordantia discordantiarum,' we shall find instances enough to confirm that the decrees of some councils are contradictory to others, and that no wit can reconcile them. And whether they did or no, that they might disagree, and former councils be corrected by later, was the belief of the doctors in those ages, in which the best and most famous councils were convened ; as appears in that famous saying of St. Austin: speaking concerning the rebaptizing of heretics, and how much the Africans were deceived in that question, he answers the allegation of the bishops' letters, and those national councils which confirmed St. Cyprian's opinion, by saying that they were no final determination. For · Episcoporum literæ emendari possunt a conciliis nationalibus, concilia nationalia a plenariis, ipsaque plenaria priora a posterioribus emendario. Not only the occasion of the question, being a matter not of fact, but of faith, as being instanced in the question of rebaptization, but also the very fabric and economy of the words, put by all the answers of all those men, who think themselves pressed with the authority of St. Austin. For as national councils may correct the bishops’ letters, and general councils may correct national, so the latter general may correct the former, that is, have contrary and better decrees of manner, and better determinations in matters of faith. And from hence hath risen a question, -whether is to be received, the former or the latter councils, in case they contradict each other ? The former are nearer the fountains apostolical, the latter are of greater considera tion: the first have more authority, the latter more reason : the first are more venerable, the latter more inquisitive and
* Lib. 17. de Cul. Dei, c. 20, • Lib. 2. de Bapt. Donat. c. 3.
seeing. And now what rule shall we have to determine our beliefs, whether to authority, or reason, the reason and the authority both of them not being the highest in their kind, both of them being repudiable, and at most but probable? And here it is that this great uncertainty is such as not to determine any body, but fit to serve every body: and it is sport to see that Bellarmine P will by all means have the council of Carthage preferred before the council of Laodicea, because it is later; and yet he prefers the second Nicene councila before the council of Frankfort, because it is elder. St. Austin would have the former generals to be mended by the later; but Isidore in Gratian says, when councils do differ, “standum esse antiquioribus,' 'the elder must carry it.' And indeed these probables are buskins to serve every foot, and they are like 'magnum et parvum,' they have nothing of their own, all that they have is in comparison of others : so these topics have nothing of resolute and dogmatical truth, but in relation to such ends as an interested person hath a mind to serve upon
them. 9. Fifthly: there are many councils corrupted, and many pretended and alleged when there were no such things; both which make the topic of the authority of councils to be little and inconsiderable. There is a council brought to light in the edition of Councils by Binius, viz. Sinuessanum, pretend ed to be kept in the year three hundred and three, but it was so private till then, that we find no mention of it in any ancient record: neither Eusebius, nor Ruffinus, St. Jerome, nor Socrates, Sozomen, nor Theodoret, nor Eutropius, nor Bede, knew any thing of it; and the eldest allegation of it is by Pope Nicolas I. in the ninth century. And he that shall consider, that three hundred bishops, in the midst of horrid persecutions (for so then they were), are pretended to have convened, will need no greater argument to suspect the imposture. Besides, he that was the framer of the engine, did not lay his ends together handsomely : for it is said, that the deposition of Marcellinus by the synod was told to Diocletian when he was in the Persian war; when, as it is known, before that time he had returned to Rome, and triumphed for his Persian conquest, as Eusebius in his Chronicle reports : and this is so plain, that Binius and Baronius pretended the
P Lib. 2. de Conc. c. 8. Sect. respondeo imprimis.
text to be corrupted, and to go to'mend it by such an emendation, is a plain contradiction to the sense, and that so unclerklike, viz. by putting in two words, and leaving out one; which whether it may be allowed them by any licence less than poetical, let critics judge. St. Gregory s saith, that the Constantinopolitans had corrupted the synod of Chalcedon, and that he suspected the same concerning the Ephesine council. And in the fifth synod there was a notorious prevarication, for there were false epistles of Pope Virgilius, and Menna the patriarch of Constantinople, inserted ; and so they passed for authentic till they were discovered in the sixth general synod, actions twelve and fourteen. And not only false decrees and actions may creep into the codes of councils; but sometimes the authority of a learned man may abuse the church with pretended decrees, of which there is no copy or shadow in the code itself. And thus Thomas Aquinas says that the Epistle to the Hebrews was reckoned in the canon by the Nicene council, no shadow of which appears in those copies we now have of it ; and this pretence and the reputation of the man prevailed so far with Melchior Canus, the learned bishop of the Canaries, that he believed it
this ground, Vir sanctus rem adeo gravem non astrueret, nisi compertum habuisset:' and there are many things which have prevailed upon less reason, and a more slight authority. And that very council of Nice hath not only been pretended by Aquinas, but very much abused by others, and its authority and great reputation have made it more liable to the fraud and pretences of idle people. For whereas the Nicene fathers made but twenty canons (for so many and no more were received by Cecilian of Carthage', that was at Nice in the council; by Austin", and two hundred African bishops with him; by St. Cyril * of Alexandria, by Atticus y of Constantinople, by Ruffinus?, Isidore, and Theodoret, as Baroniuso witnesses); yet there are fourscore lately found out in an Arabian MS. and published in Latin by Turrian and Alfonsus of Pisa, Jesuits surely, and like to be masters of the mint. And not only the canons, but the very acts of the Nicene council, are false and spurious, and are so confessed by Baronius; though how he and Lindanus will be reconciled upon the point, I neither know well nor much care. Now if one council be corrupted, we see, by the instance of St. Gregory, that another can be suspected, and so all: because he found the council of Chalcedon corrupted, he suspected also the Ephesine; and another might have suspected more, for the Nicene was tampered foully with; and so three of the four generals were sullied, and made suspicious, and therefore we could not be secure of any. If false acts be inserted in one council, who can trust the actions of any, unless he had the keeping the records himself, or durst swear for the register? And if a very learned man, as Thomas Aquinas was, did either wilfully deceive us, or was himself ignorantty abused, in allegation of a canon which was not, it is but a very fallible topic at the best ; and the most holy man that is, may be abused himself, and the wisest may deceive others.
* Pro (cùm esset in bello Persarum] legi volant [cùm reversus esset è bello Persarum.) Euseb. Chronicon. Vide Binium in notis ad Concil. Singessanum, lom. 1. Concil. et Baron. Annal. tom. 3. A. D. 303. nom. 107.
• Lib. 5. Ep. 14. ad Narsem. Comment. in Hebr. i Con. Carthag. VI. cap. 9. u Con. Afric.
Lib. 1. Eccl. Hist, e. 6. ? In princ. Con. de Synod. princ. a Baronius, tom. 3. A.D. 325. n. 156. tom. 3. ad A. D. 325. 0, 62, 63.
* Ibid. c. 102. c. 133.
10. Sixthly and lastly, to all this and to the former instances, by way of corollary, I add some more particulars, in which it is notorious that councils general and national,--that is, such as were either general by original, or by adoption into the canon of the catholic church,-did err, and were actually deceived. The first council of Toledo admits to the communion him that hath a concubine, so he have no wife besides : and this council is approved by Pope Leo in the ninety-second epistle to Rusticus, bishop of Narbona. Gratian says, that the council means by a concubine, a wife married sine dote et solennitate * ;' but this is daubing with untempered mortar. For though it was a custom amongst the Jews to distinguish wives from their concubines, by dowry and legal solemnities, yet the Christian distinguished them no otherwise than as lawful and unlawful, than as chastity and fornication. And besides, if by a concubine is meant a lawful wife without a dowry, to what purpose should the council make a law, that such a one might be admitted to the communion ? For I suppose it was never thought to be a law of Christianity, that a man should have a portion with his wife, nor he that married a poor virgin, should deserve to be excommunicate. So that Gratian and his fol. - 6 Pavopl. lib. 2. c. 6.
c Dist. 34. can, omnibus.
lowers are pressed so with this canon, that to avoid the impiety of it, they expound it to a signification without sense or purpose. But the business then was, that adultery was so public and notorious a practice, that the council did choose rather to endure simple fornication, that by such permission of a less, they might slacken the public custom of a greater ; just as at Rome they permit stews, to prevent unnatural sins. But that, by a public sanction, fornicators, habitually and notoriously such, should be admitted to the holy communion, was an act of priests so unfit for priests, that no excuse can make it white or clean. The council of Worms does authorize a superstitious custom at that time too much used, of discovering stolen goods by the holy sacrament, which Aquinas justly condemns for superstition. The sixth synod separates persons lawfully married upon an accusation and crime of heresy. The Roman council under Pope Nicolas II. defined, that not only the sacrament of Christ's body, but the very body itself of our blessed Saviour, is handled and broke by the hands of the priest, and chewed by the teeth of the communicants : which is a manifest error derogatory from the truth of Christ's beatifical resurrection, and glorification in the heavens, and disavowed by the church of Rome itself. But Bellarmine," that answers all the arguments in the world, whether it be possible or not possible, would fain make the matter fair, and the decree tolerable; for, says he, the decree means that the body is broken, not in itself, but in the sign; and yet the decree says, that not only the sacrament (which, if any thing be, is certainly the sign), but the very body itself, is broken and champed with hands and teeth respectively : which indeed was nothing but a plain over-acting the article in contradiction to Berengarius. And the answer of Bellarmine is not sense ; for he denies that the body itself is broken in itself (that was the error we charged upon the Roman synod), and the sign abstracting from the body is not broken (for that was the opinion that council condemned in Berengarius): but, says Bellarmine, the body in the sign. What is that? for neither the sign, nor the body, nor both together, are broken. For if either of them distinctly, they either rush upon the error which the d Cap. 3. e Per. 3. q 80. a. 6. ad 3. m.