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Roman synod condemned in Berengarius, or upon that which they would fain excuse in Pope Nicolas: but if both are broken, then it is true to affirm it of either, and then the council is blasphemous in saying, that Christ's glorified body is passible and frangible by natural manducation. So that it is and it is not this way, and yet it is no way else; but it is some way, and they know not how; and the council spake blasphemy, but it must be made innocent; and therefore it was requisite a cloud of a distinction should be raised, that the unwary reader might be amused, and the decree scape untouched: but the truth is, they that undertake to justfy all that other men say, must be more subtile than they that said it, and must use such distinction, which possibly the first authors did not understand. But I will multiply no more instances, for what instance soever I shall bring, some or other will be answering it; which thing is so far from satisfying me in the particulars, that it increases the difficulty in the general, and satisfies me in my first belief. For i if no decrees of councils can make against them, though they seem never so plain against them, then let others be allowed the same liberty (and there is all the reason in the world they should), and no decree shall conclude against any doctrine that they have already entertained : and by this means the church is no fitter instrument to decree controversies than the Scripture itself, there being as much obscurity and disputing in the sense, and the manner, and the degree, and the competency, and the obligation of the decree of a council, as of a place of Scripture. And what are we the nearer for a decree, if any sophister shall think his elusion enough to contest against the authority of a council? yet this they do, that pretend highest for their authority: which consideration, or some like it, might possibly make Gratian prefer St. Jerome's single testimony before a whole council, because he had Scripture on his side, which says, that the authority of councils is not avTÓTLOTOS, and that councils may possibly recede from their rule, from Scripture: and in that, which indeed was the case, a single person proceeding according to rule is a better argument: so saith Panormitan;“ In concernentibus fidem
· Illa demum eis videntur edicta et concilia, quæ in rem suam faciunt; reliqaa non pluris æstimant quàm conventum muliercularum in testrina vel thermis. Lad. Vives in Scholiis, I. 20. Aug. de Civ. Dei. c. 26. 36. q. 2. c. placuit.
etiam dictum unius privati esset dicto Papæ aut totius concilii præferendum, si ille moveretur melioribus argumentis k.”
11. I end this discourse with representing the words of Gregory Nazianzen in his epistle to Procopius: “Ego, si vera scribere oportet, ita animo affectus sum, ut omnia episcoporum concilia fugiam, quoniam nullius concilii finem lætum faustúmque vidi, nec quod depulsionem malorum potiùs quàm accessionem et incrementum habueritk."-But I will not be so severe and dogmatical against them: for I believe many councils to have been called with sufficient authority, to have been managed with singular piety and prudence, and to have been finished with admirable success and truth. And where we find such councils, he that will not with all veneration believe their decrees, and receive their sanctions, understands not that great duty he owes to them who have the care of our souls, whose
*faith we are bound to follow," saith St. Paul'; that is, so long as they follow Christ: and certainly many councils have done so. But this was then when the public interest of Christendom was better conserved in determining a true article, than in finding a discreet temper or a wise expedient to satisfy disagreeing persons. (As the fathers at Trent did, and the Lutherans and Calvinists did at Sendomir in Polonia, and the Sublapsarians and Supralapsarians did at Dort.) It was in ages when the sum of religion did not consist in maintaining the grandezza of the papacy; where there was no order of men with a fourth vow upon them to advance St. Peter's chair; when there was no man, nor any company of men, that esteemed themselves infallible: and therefore they searched for truth, as if they meant to find, and would believe it if they could see it proved, not resolved to prove it because they had upon chance or interest believed it; then they had rather have spoken a truth, than upheld their reputation but only in order to truth. This was done sometimes, and when it was done, God's Spirit never failed them, but gave them such assistances as were sufficient to that good end for which
Par. 1. de election, et elect. potest. c. significasti.
Athanas. lib. de Synod. Frustrà igitur circumcursitantes prælexunt ob fidein se synodos postulare, cùm sit Divina Scriptura omnibus polentior.
m Heb. xiii. 7. VOL. VIII.
they were assembled, and did implore his aid. And therefore it is that the four general councils, so called by way of eminency, have gained so great a reputation above all others; not because they had a better promise, or more special assistances, but because they proceeded better according to the rule, with less faction, without ambition and temporal ends.
12. And yet those very assemblies of bishops had no authority by their decrees to make a divine faith, or to constitute new objects of necessary credence; they made nothing true that was not so before, and therefore they are to be apprehended in the nature of excellent guides, and whose decrees are most certainly to determine all those, who have no argument to the contrary of greater force and efficacy than the authority or reasons of the council. And there is a duty owing to every parish-priest, and to every diocesan bishop; these are appointed over us, and to answer for our souls, and are therefore morally to guide us, as reasonable creatures are to be guided, that is, by reason and discourse : for in things of judgment and understanding, they are but in form next above beasts that are to be ruled by the imperiousness and absoluteness of authority, unless the authority be divine, that is, infallible. Now then, in a juster height, but still in its true proportion, assemblies of bishops are to guide us with a higher authority, because, in reason, it is supposed they will do it better, with more argument and certainty, and with decrees, which have the advantage by being the results of many discourses of very wise and good men. But that the authority of general councils was never esteemed absolute, infallible, and unlimited, appears in this, that before they were obliging, it was necessary that each particular church respectively should accept them, “Concurrente universali totius ecclesiæ consensu, &c. in declaratione veritatum quæ credendæ sunt",” &c. That is the way of making the decrees of councils become authentic, and be turned into a law, as Gerson observes; and till they did, their decrees were but a dead letter: and therefore it is that these later Popes have so laboured that the council of Trent should be received in France; and Carolus Molineus, a
• Vid. St. August. I. 1. c. 18. de Bapt. contra Donat.
great lawyer, and of the Roman communion, disputedo against the reception. And this is a known condition in the canon law; but it proves plainly that the decrees of councils have their authority from the voluntary submission of the particular churches, not from the prime sanction and constitution of the council. And there is great reason it should: for as the representative body of the church derives all power from the diffusive body which is represented, so it resolves into it; and though it may have all the legal power, yet it hath not all the natural; for more able men may be unsent than sent; and they who are sent, may
be wrought upon by stratagem, which cannot happen to the whole diffusive church. It is therefore most fit, that since the legal power, that is, the external, was passed over to the body representative, yet the efficacy of it and the internał should so still remain in the diffusive, as to have power to consider whether their representatives did their duty yea or no, and so to proceed accordingly. For unless it be in matters of justice, in which the interest of a third person is concerned, no man will or can be supposed to pass away all power from himself of doing himself right, in matters personal, proper, and of so high concernment: it is most unnatural and unreasonable. But besides that they are excellent instruments of peace, the best human judicatories in the world, rare sermons for the determining a point in controversy, and the greatest probability from human authority; besides these advantages, I say, I know nothing greater that general councils can pretend to with reason and argument sufficient to satisfy any wise man. And as there was never any council so general, but it might have been more general; for in respect of the whole church, even Nice itself was but a small assembly; so there is no decree so well constituted, but it may be proved by an argument higher than the authority of the council: and therefore general councils, and national, and provincial, and diocesan, in their several degrees, are excellent guides for the prophets, and directions and instructions for their prophesyings; but not of weight and authority to restrain their liberty so wholly, but that they may dissent, when they see a reason strong enough
• So did the third estate of France in the convention of the three estates under Lewis XIII. earnestly contend against it.
so to persuade thern, as to be willing, upon the confidence of that reason and their own sincerity, to answer to God for such their modesty, and peaceable, but, as they believe, their necessary, disagreeing.
Of the Fallibility of the Pope, and the Uncertainty of his
erpounding Scripture, and resolving Questions. 1. But since the question between the council and the Pope grew high, there have not wanted abettors so confident on the Pope's behalf, as to believe general councils to be nothing but pomps and solemnities of the catholic church, and that all the authority of determining controversies is formally and effectually in the Pope. And therefore to appeal from the Pope to a future council is a heresy, yea, and treason too, said Pope Pius II. and therefore it concerns us now to be wise and wary. But before I proceed, I must needs remember that Pope Pius II. while he was the wise and learned Æneas Sylvius P, was very confident for the pre-eminence of a council, and gave a merry reason why more clerks were for the Popes then the council, though the truth was on the other side, even because the Popes give bishopricks and abbeys, but councils give none: and yet as soon as he was made Pope, as if he had been inspired, his eyes were open to see the great privileges of St. Peter's chair, which before he could not see, being amused with the truth, or else with the reputation of a general council. But however, there are many that hope to make it good, that the Pope is the universal and the infallible doctor, that he breathes decrees as oracles, that to dissent from any of his cathedral determinations is absolute heresy, the rule of faith being nothing else but conformity to the chair of Peter. So that here we have met a restraint of prophecy indeed: but yet to make amends, I hope we shall have an infallible guide;and when a man is in heaven, he will never complain that his choice is taken from
p Epist. ad Norimberg. Patrum et avorum nostrorum tempore pauci audebant dicere Papam esse supra concilium, l. 1. de gestis Concil. Basil.