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those wise persons, who, knowing their own aptness to be deceived, use what endeavours they can to secure themselves from error, and so become the better and more probable guides.
19. Well, thus far we are come: although we are secured in fundamental points from involuntary error by the plain, express, and dogmatical places of Scripture; yet in other things we are not, but may be invincibly mistaken, because of the obscurity and difficulty in the controverted parts of Scripture, by reason of the uncertainty of the means of its interpretation, since tradition is of an uncertain reputation, and sometimes evidently false; councils are contradictory to each other, and therefore certainly many of them are equally deceived, and therefore all may; and then the Popes of Rome are very likely to mislead us, but cannot ascertain us of truth in matter of question; and in this world we believe in part, and prophesy in part, and this imperfection shall never be done away, till we be translated to a more glorious state: either then we must throw our chances, and get truth by accident or predestination; or else we must lie safe in a mutual toleration, and private liberty of persuasion, unless some other anchor can be thought upon, where we may fasten our floating vessels, and ride safely.
SECTION VIII. Of the Disability of Fathers, or Writers Ecclesiastical, to deter
mine our Questions with Certainty and Truth. 1. There are some that think they can determine all questions in the world by two or three sayings of the fathers, or by the consent of so many as they will please to call a concurrent testimony: but this consideration will soon be at an end. For if the fathers, when they are witnesses of tradition, do not always speak truth, as it happened in the case of Papias and his numerous followers for almost three ages together; then is their testimony more improbable, when they dispute or write commentaries.
2. The fathers of the first ages spake unitedly concerning divers questions of secret theology, and yet were afterward contradicted by one personage of great reputation, whose credit had so much influence upon the world, as to make the
contrary opinion become popular : why then may not we have the same liberty, when so plain an uncertainty is in their persuasions, and so great contrariety in their doctrines? But this is evident in the case of absolute predestination, which till St. Austin's time no man preached, but all taught the contrary; and yet the reputation of this one excellent man altered the scene. But if he might dissent from so general a doctrine, why may not we do so too (it being pretended that he is so excellent a precedent to be followed), if we have the same reason? He had no more authority nor dispensation to dissent than any bishop hath now. And therefore, St. Austin hath dealt ingenuously; and as he took this liberty to himself, so he denies it not to others; but indeed forces them to preserve their own liberty. And therefore, when St. Jerome had a great mind to follow the fathers in a point that he fancied, and the best security he had was, “ Patiaris me cum talibus errare," St. Austin would not endure it, but answered his reason, and neglected the authority. And therefore it had been most unreasonable that we should do that now, though in his behalf, which he towards greater personages (for so they were then) at that time judged to be unreasonable. It is a plain recession from antiquity which was determined by the council of Florence”, “piorum animas purgatas,” &c. "mox in cælum recipi, et intueri clare ipsum Deum trinum et unum, sicuti est;" as who please to try, may see it dogmatically resolved to the contrary by Justin Martyra, by Irenæus", by Origen“, by St. Chrysostom, Theodoreto, Arethas Cæsariensis', Euthymiuss, who may answer for the Greek church. And it is plain, that it was the opinion of the Greek church, by that great difficulty the Romans had, of bringing the Greeks to subscribe to the Florentine council, where the Latins acted their masterpiece of wit and stratagem, the greatest that hath been till the famous and superpolitic design of Trent. And for the Latin church, Tertullian", St. Ambrose', St. Austin, St. Hilary', Prudentius", Lactantius", Victorinus Martyr', and St. Bernard P, are known to be 2 Sess. ult.
a Q. 60. ad Christian. Hom. 7. in Levit. d Hom. 39. in 1 Cor. r In c. 6. Apoc. $ In 16. c. Luc.
h Lib. 4. adv. Marc. * L. de Cain. c. 2. k Ep. 111. ad Fortunatian. 1 In Psal. cxxxviii. De exeq. defunctor. ) L. 7. c. 21.
o In c. 6. Apoc. P Serm. 3. de omn. sanctis. Vid. etiam S. Aug. in Enchir. c. 108. et. 1, 12. de Civ. Dei, c. 9. et in Ps. xxxvi. et in l. 1. Retract. c. 14. Vid. insuper testimonia quæ collegit Spalat. 1.5. c.8. n. 98. de Repub. Eccl. et Sist. Senens. I. 6. annot. 345.
b Lib. 5.
of opinion, that the souls of the saints are "in abditis receptaculis et exterioribus atriis," where they expect the resurrection of their bodies, and the glorification of their souls ; and though they all believe them to be happy, yet they enjoy not the beatific vision before the resurrection. Now there being so full a consent of fathers (for many more may be added), and the decree of Pope John XXII. besides, who was so confident for his decree, that he commanded the university of Paris to swear that they would preach it and no other, and that none should be promoted to degrees in theology that did not swear the like, as Occham, Gerson', Marsilius, and Adrianus', report: since it is esteemed lawful to dissent from all these, I hope no man will be so unjust to press other men to consent to an authority, which he himself judges to be incompetent. These two great instances are enough; but if more were necessary, I could instance in the opinion of the Chiliasts, maintained by the second and third centuries, and disavowed ever since: in the doctrine of communicating infants, taught and practised as necessary by the fourth and fifth centuries, and detested by the Latin church in all the following ages: in the variety of opinions concerning the very form of baptism, some keeping close to the institution and the words of its first sanction, others affirming it to be sufficient if it be administered in nomine Christi ;' particularly St. Ambrose, Pope Nicolas the First, Venerable Bede", and St. Bernard", besides some writers of after-ages, as Hugo de Sancto Victore, and the doctors generally his contemporaries. And it would not be inconsiderable to observe, that if any synod, general, national, or provincial, be receded from by the church of the later age (as there have been very many), then so many fathers, as were then assembled and united in opinion, are esteemed no authority to determine our persuasions. Now suppose two hundred fathers assembled in such a council, if they all had writ books, and two hundred authorities had been alleged in confirmation of an opinion,-it would have made a mighty noise, and loaded any man with an insupportable prejudice that should dissent: and yet every opinion, maintained against the authority of any one council though but provincial, is, in its proportion, such a
. In oper. 90. dierum.
In 4. sent. q. 13. a. 3.
r Serm. de Pasch.
violent recession and neglect of the authority and doctrine of so many fathers as were then assembled, who did as much declare their opinion in those assemblies by their suffrages, as if they had writ it in so inany books; and their opinion is more considerable in the assembly than in their writings, because it was more deliberate, assisted, united, and more dogmatical. In pursuance of this observation, it is to be noted, by way of instance, that St. Austin and two hundred and seventeen bishops, and all their successors y, for a whole age together, did consent in denying appeals to Rome; and yet the authority of so many fathers (all true catholics) is of no force now at Rome in this question: but if it be in a matter they like, one of tirese fathers alone is sufficient. The doctrine of St. Austin alone brought in the festival and veneration of the assumption of the blessed Virgin; and the hard sentence passed at Rome upon unbaptized infants, and the Dominican opinion concerning predetermination, derived from him alone as from their original. So that if a father speaks for them, it is wonderful to see what tragedies are stirred up against them that dissent, as is to be seen in that excellent nothing of Campian's Ten Reasons. But if the fathers be against them, then “patres in quibusdam non leviter lapsi sunt,” says Bellarmine"; and “constat quosdam ex præcipuis,” it is certain the chiefest of them have foully erred. Nay, Posa, Salmeron, and Wadding, in the question of the immaculate conception, make no scruple to dissent from antiquity, to prefer new doctors before the old ; and to justify themselves, bring instances in which the church of Rome had determined against the fathers. And it is not excuse enough to say,
that singly the fathers may err, but if they concur, they are certain testimony. For there is no question this day disputed by persons that are willing to be tried by the fathers, so generally attested on either side, as some points are which both sides dislike severally or conjunctly. And therefore it is not honest for either side to press the authority of the fathers as a concluding argument in matter of dispute, unless themselves
Vid. Epist. Bonifacii II. apad Nicolinum, tom. 2. Concil. pag. 544. et exémplar precum Eulalii apud eandem, ibid. p. 525. Qui anathematizat ompes decisores suos, qui in ea causa, Romæ se opponendo, rectæ fidei regulam prævaricati sunt; inter quos tamen fuit Augustinus, quem pro maledicto Cælestinus tacitè agnoscit, admitlendo sc. exemplar precum. Vid. Doctor. Mart. de jurisdict. part. 4.p. 273. et Erasm. annot. in Hieron. præfat. in Daniel.
2 De Verbo Dei, 1. 3. c. 10. sect. Dices. VOL. VII.
will be content to submit in all things to the testimony of an equal number of them; wbich, I am certain, neither side will do.
3. If I should reckon all the particular reasons against the certainty of this topic, it would be more than needs as to this question, and therefore I will abstain from all disparagement of those worthy personages, who were excellent lights to their several diocesses and cures. And therefore I will not instance that Clemens Alexandrinusa taught that Christ felt no hunger or thirst, but ate only to make demonstration of the verity of his human nature ; nor that St. Hilary taught that Christ, in his sufferings, had no sorrow; nor that Origen taught the pains of hell not to have an eternal duration ; nor that St. Cyprian taught rebaptization; nor that Athenagoras condemned second marriages; nor that St. John Damascenus said Christ only prayed in appearance, not really and in truth : I will let them all rest in peace, and their memories in honour : for if I should inquire into the particular probations of this article, I must do to them as I should be forced to do now; if any man should say, that the writings of the schoolmen were excellent argument and authority to determine men's persuasions, I must consider their writings, and observe their defaillances, their contradictions, the weakness of their arguments, the misallegations of Scripture, their inconsequent deductions, their false opinions, and all the weaknesses of humanity, and the failings of their persons ; which no good man is willing to do, unless he be compelled to it by a pretence that they are infallible; or that they are followed by men even into errors or impiety. And therefore, since there is enough in the former instances to cure any such mispersuasion and prejudice, I will not instance in the innumerable particularities, that might persuade us to keep our liberty entire, or to use it discreetly. For it is not to be denied but that great advantages are to be made by their writings, “et probabile est, quod omnibus, quod pluribus, quod sapientibus videtur:” If one wise man says a thing, it is an argument to me to believe it in its degree of probation, that is, proportionable to such an assent as the authority of a wise man can produce, and when there is nothing against it that is greater; and so in proportion higher and
a Strom. I. 3. el 6.