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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 recon. ciled 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 ignorantly 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.
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• Panopl. lib. 2. e: 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 a doès 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 8 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, h 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 a Cap. 3.
e Per. 3. q. 30. a. 6. ad 3. m. 8 Can. ego Berengar. de Consecrat. dist. 2. b Lib, 2.c. 8. de Concil.
f Can. 72
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 justify all that other men say, must be more subtle 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. Fori 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 QÚTÓHOTOS, 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
i Illa demum eis videntur edicta et concilia,quæ in rem suam faciunt; reliqua non pluris æstimant quam conventum muliercularum in textrina vel thermis. Lud. Vives in Scholiis, 1. 20. Aug. de Civ. Dei. c. 26. 36. q. 2. c. placuit.
etiam dictum unius privati esset dicto Papæ aut totius concilii preferendum, si ille moveretur melioribus argumentisk.”
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 habuerit'.”—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 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 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 k Par. 1. de election. et elect. potest. c. significasti.
Athanas. lib. de Synod. Frustra igitur circumcursitantes prætexunt ob fidem se synodos postulare, cum sit Divina Scriptura omnibus potentior. m Heb. xiii. 7.
they were assembled, and did implore his aid. And therefore it is that the four general councils, só 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 consenisu, &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 à 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
n Vid. St. August. I. 1. c. 18. de Bapt. contra Donat.