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the Jesuits to this day account this question pro non definita,' and have rare pretences for their escape. As, first, it is true, a council is above a Pope, in case there be no Pope, or he uncertain: which is Bellarmine's answer, never considering whether he spake sense or no, nor yet remembering that the council of Basil deposed Eugenius, who was a true Pope, and so acknowledged.—Secondly: sometimes the Pope did not confirm these councils: that is their answer. And although it was an exception that the fathers never thought of, when they were pressed with the authority of the council of Ariminum, or Sirmium, or any other Arian convention ; yet the council of Basil was convened by Pope Martin V.; then, in its sixteenth session, declared by Eugenius IV. to be lawfully continued, and confirmed expressly in some of its decrees by Pope Nicolas, and so stood till it was at last rejected by Leo X. very many years after ; but that came too late, and with too visible an interest: and this council did decree • fide catholica tenendum concilium esse supra Papam.' But if one Pope confirms it, and another rejects it, as it happened in this case and in many more, does it not destroy the competency of the authority? And we see it by this instance, that it so serves the turns of men, that it is good in some cases, that is, when it makes for them, and invalid when it makes against them.-Thirdly, but it is a little more ridiculous in the case of the council of Constance, whose decrees were confirmed by Martin V. But that this may

be no argument against them, Bellarmine tells you he only confirmed those things quæ facta fuerant conciliariter, re diligenter examinata :' of which there being no mark, nor any certain rule to judge it, it is a device that may evacuate any thing we have a mind to, it was not done conciliariter,' that is, not according to our mind; for conciliariter is a fine new-nothing, that may signify what you please.--Fourthly, but other devices yet more pretty they have; as, whether the council of Lateran was a general council or no, they know not (no, nor will not know), which is a wise and plain reservation of their own advantages, to make it general or not general, as shall serve their turn.--Fifthly, as for the council of Florence, they are not sure whether it hath defined the question satis aperte;' aperte' they will grant, if you will allow them not satis aperte.'-Sixthly and lastly, the council

of Pisa is neque approbatum neque reprobatum :' which is the greatest folly of all, and most prodigious vanity. So that by something or other, either they were not convened lawfully, or they did not proceed conciliariter,' or it is not certain that the council was general or no, or whether the council were approbatum' or reprobatum,' or else it is partim confirmatum, partim reprobatum,' or else it is neque approbatum neque reprobatum;' by one of these ways, or a device like to these, all councils and all decrees shall be made to signify nothing, and to have no authority.

7. Thirdly: there is no general council that hath determined, that a general council is infallible; no Scripture hath recorded it; no tradition universal hath transmitted to us any such proposition : so that we must receive the authority at a lower rate, and upon a less probability, than the things consigned by that authority. And it is strange that the decrees of councils should be esteemed authentic and infallible, and yet it is not infallibly certain that the councils themselves are infallible, because the belief of the councils infallibility is not proved to us by any medium but such as may deceive us.

8. Fourthly: but the best instance that some councils are, and all may be, deceived, is the contradiction of one council to another: for in that case both cannot be true, and which of them is true, must belong to another judgment, which is less than the solemnity of a general council; and the determination of this matter can be of no greater certainty after it is concluded, than when it was propounded as a question, being it is to be determined by the same authority, or by a less than itself. But for this allegation we cannot want instances. The council of Trent" allows picturing of God the Father: the council of Nice' altogether disallows it. The same Nicene council, which was the seventh general, allows of picturing Christ in the form of a lamb: but the sixth sy'nod by no means will endure it, as Caranza affirms. The council of Neocæsarea confirmed by Leo IV. dist. 20. de libellis,' and approved in the first Nicene council, as it is said in the seventh session of the council of Florence, forbids second marriages, and imposes penances on them that are married the second time, forbidding priests to be present at such i Bellar, de conc. 1. 1. c. 8.

m Can. 82.

k Sess. 25.

1 Act. 2.

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. Cy. prian'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 bishop's letters, and general councils may correct national, 50 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 consideration: the first have more authority, the latter more reason : the first are more venerable, the latter more inquisitive and 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 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 council" 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

n-Lib. 17. de Cul. Dei, c. 20. • Lib. 2. de Bapt. Donat. c. 3.

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, pretended 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 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 license less than poetical, let critics judge. St. Gregorys 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 upon this ground, • Vir sanctus rem adeo

p Lib. 2. de Conc. c. 8. Sect. respondeo imprimis. 9 Ibid. Sect. de Concilio autem. Dist. 20. Cạn. Domino Sancto.

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 Carthaget, 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 Baronius a 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

* Pro (cum esset in bello Persarum] legi volunt [cùm reversus esset è bello Persarum.] Euseb. Chronicon. Vide Binium in notis ad Concil. Sinuessanum, tom. 1. Concil. et Baron. Annal. tom. 3. A. D. 303. num. 107.

Lib. 5. Ep. 14. ad Narsem. Comment. in Hebr. t Con. Cai thag. VI. cap. 9. u Con. Afric. * Ibid. c. 102. c. 133. ỹ Lib. 1. Ecc. Hist. c. 6. z In princ. Con. de Synod. princ. a Baronius, tom. 3. A. D. 325. n. 156. tom. 3. ad A. D. 325. n. 62, 63.

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