But if any man seem to be contentious, we have no such custom, neither the Churches of God.
Si quis autem videtur contentiosus esse, non talem consuetudinem non habemus, neque Ecclesiae Dei.
This is no Easter text as we are wont to have, nothing of the Resurrection in it. It is not for the day.
It is not directly, but if it should happen there were any contention about Easter, that would bring it within the word contentious here. Specially, if that contention about Easter were, whether it has been ever a custom in the Church of God, for that would bring in the word 'custom' here mentioned; and so would it both ways fall within the compass of the text. The custom of Easter made a contention, would make it an Easter-day text.
I say not any such contention there is, I desire to proceed, as the Apostle doth, without the least offence. 1. He saith not, there be any 'contentious,' but 'if any seem to be.' That any be 'contentious,' it may not be said. They will deeply protest that from their hearts they abhor all contentions, and desire to walk peaceably. Be not then, but [404/405] 2. Nay, not 'seem to be' neither, St. Paul says not so much; says only, si quis, 'if any;' puts a case, and there is no harm in that. No more will we, go no farther than the text: 'If any such seem to be,' this text tells what to do; if none be, none 'seem to be,' it is but a case put. And so by way of supposition be all said that shall be.
Upon the view, three points give forth themselves: 1. Here are contentions; and 2. here are customs; and 3. customs opposed to the contentions. These the three heads.
To break them yet farther into certain theses or propositions, to proceed by. 1. First, it should see there were there were contentions in the Apostle's times. 2. Contentions about what? About matter of circumstance. So was this here, whether men were to pray uncovered, and women veiled or no? 3. And that there were which did not contend but which is more, were even 'contentious' about these. 4. For those that were so, here is a si quis set up, 'if any seem to be' such, what to do to them.
Not to pass them in silence and say nothing to them, but this to say: 'we have no such custom, nor the Churches of God.' And so oppose the Church's custom to contention.
In which saying, there are these heads: 1. First that the Church hath her customs. 2. As she hath them, so she may, and doth allege them. 3. And allege them finally, as the Apostle here, we see, resolveth the whole matter into them, as into a final resolution. 4. And all this by Scripture confirmed, even by this Scripture, on which the customs of the Church are grounded, and the power that will be ever in them, to overrule the 'contentious.'
And let not this move you, that it seems to be negative, Non habemus talem. As this time twelve-month Non dabitur nisi, a negative in shew, proved an affirmative, Dabitur, sed non nisi; so will this Non habemus talem prove to habemus, sed non talem. 'Custom''we have, but 'none such.' To apply it to the Apostle's purpose: 'none,' to sit covered at prayer, non talem, 'none such,' but the contrary rather; to be uncovered then, talem, such is our custom, such an one the Church hath.
Where, because the negative refers not to habemus, but to talem, and a custom is not therefore good, because we have [404/405] it, but because it is talem, so qualified. The talem to be: 1. First, if 'we,' that is the Apostles have had it, if it were Apostolic; the non talem to be, if our new masters have taken it up the other day, and the Apostles never knew it. 2. The talem to be, if 'the Churches of God' in general have had it, if it be Catholic. The non talem to be, if the Church of Corinth, or some one Church perhaps had it, but the rest never had any such.
Then, will we descend to shew the keeping of Easter, to be such, ever in use with 'the Churches of God' from the time of the Apostles themselves. Which, if we can make plain, here is a plain text for it; that if one should ask, what Scripture have you why Easter may not be laid down? It may well be answered, Non habemus talem consuetudinem, nec Ecclesiæ Dei. Custom to keep it we have-the Apostles, the Church had it; but to abolish it, 'such custom have we none,' we depart from them both if we do.
Protesting yet, that we have no purpose to wave Scripture quite for the keeping of Easter. St Augustine is plain: Hoc ex auithoritate divinarum Scripturarum, per anniversarium Pascha celebratur; 'Even by authority of divine Scripture it is, that every year Easter is kept solemnly.' We have touched two Scriptures heretofore: 'The day, which the Lord had made,' applied ever to this feast. That text for the Old. And for the New Testament that verse in this Epistle, 'Christ our Passover is offered, let us therefore keep a feast.'
But everything standeth fast and surest upon his own base, and the right base of this I take to be custom. We do but make ourselves to be pitied otherwhile, when we stand wringing the Scriptures, to strain that out of them that is not in them, and so can never come liquide from them, when yet we have for the same point the Church's custom clear enough. And that is enough, by virtue of this text. There is and will be enough ever in this text, to avow any custom,-the Apostles, the Churches of God had it; to disavow any-the Apostles, the Church of God had it not.
The fruit of our labour will be this I hope at least, to confirm us in the keeping of it. We keep Easter, many of us, we know not upon what ground. By this we shall see we have a ground for that we do; we do no more than the [406/407] Churches of God, than the Apostles have done before us. So, our ears shall hear the voice in Esay behind us, Hæc est via, 'This is the way,' ambulate in eâ, 'walk in it' as you do, you are in the right, and there hold you.
'If any.' This 'if' I take it, is no idle if, no vain supposition; to say, 'if there be any,' where there were none. No; contentions there were. When? when 'we'-who be they? St. Paul and his fellow Apostles, when they lived. And 'the Churches'-what Churches? the Churches under them, of their times. In the very prime of the Primitive Church then were there contentions.
And those not with an enemy without, Jew or Gentile-that were p_lemoj, 'war' abroad; this is uuekooj, but 'a jar' at home, among themselves. That former abroad they represent by Ishmael and Isaac, and they were of two venters. This latter at home, by the two twins in Rebecca's womb. I fear the time; else could I let you see this strife, in every Church of them.
This I note first, that we may not xeuuixoqai, to use St. Peter's term, 'think it strange,' if there be contentions in our times. They shall be no strangers with us, in ours; they were not with them, in theirs. Neither contentions, in this verse; nor 'schisms' in the next, the eighteenth; nor 'heresies,' in the nineteenth, next to that. It is of 'the fiery trial' St. Peter speaks it, of persecution; it is as true of the watery trial of contention. As true it is of the last as of the first Church, 'I proved thee also at the waters of strife.' Those waters, the waters of Meribah, will hardly be drained for ever.
There were contentions then; about what? For though peace be precious, yet of such moment may the matters be, as they are be contended for, yea even to the death. For what then were these? For nothing but a matter of rite-men praying, whether they should be uncovered; women, whether veiled or not. For a hat and a veil was all this ado. It was not about any the high mysteries, any of the vital parts of religion, preaching, praying, the Sacraments; only about the manner how, the gesture and behaviour wherewith; in what sort to carry themselves at preaching, prayer, the Sacraments; about matter of circumstance merely, and nothing else.
[407/408] And even these, even the meanest thing would be done 'for the better,' not 'for the worse,' saith the Apostle in the next verse. And the more order the better. So the Apostle had set order for them, and inter alia, for this too. Other his ordinances, he saith, they remembered well, but not this; this was opposed. For with some all is not worth a rush, if they see not farther than their fellows, nay their betters, then; if they find not somewhat to find fault with, if it be but a ceremony. And to pick a quarrel with a ceremony is easy. A plausible theme, not to burden the Church with ceremonies; the Church to be free, which hath almost freed the Church of all such decency.
About such points as these were there who did not only contend, but who grew contentious. Nekoj is one thing, to contend; filoueka another, to be 'contentious.' The apostle saith not, if any contend; but si quis contentiosus, and osus is full: fle is one that love sit, is given to it. Strange any such should be, but the Apostle's 'if' proves to be no if. We see it daily in persons but meanly qualified, God wot, yet so peremptory, as 'if the word of God had come, if not from them, yet to them only, and none besides.' Good Lord! Why should any love to be 'contentious?' Why? It is the way to be somebody. In time of peace, what reckoning is there of Wat Taylor, or Jack Straw? Make a sedition, and they will bear a brain with the best. Primianus and Maximianus were the heads of the two factions of Donatists in St. Augustine's time. He saith, it was well for them that faction fell out; else Primianus might have been Postreminianus, and Maximianus be Minimianus, well enough. But now in schism either of them was a jolly fellow, head of a party. This makes we shall never want contentious persons, and they will take order we shall never want contentions.
Well, if any such should happen to be, what is to be done in such a case? What saith the Apostle? Saith he thus? Seeing it is no great matter, it skills not greatly whether they do it or not, covered or bare, sit or kneel, all's one; set it light, and lets it go. No; but calls them back to the 'custom' of the Church, will not have them swerve from that, makes a matter of it. For we see he presses the point hard, spends many words, many verses, even half the chapter about it.
[408/409] Why doth he so? For two reasons. 1. First, he likes not contention at all. Why? If it be not taken at the first, within a while, within one verse after, ye shall hear of a 'schism,'-look the eighteenth verse; and within a little after that-look but to the nineteenth, ye shall have a flat 'heresy' of it. The one draws on the other; if the contentious humour be not let out, it will fester straight, and prove to an apostume.
2. Nor, he likes not the matter wherefore, though it seems but small. St. Paul knew Satan's method well; he seems somewhat shamefaced at first, asks but some small trifle. Give him but that, he will be ready for greater points. If he win ground in the Ceremonies, then have at the Sacrament; if he can disgrace the one, it will not be long but you will hear of him at the other.
Speak I beside the book? was it not so here? At the very next verse, then he falls in hand with an abuse of the Sacrament, and that takes up the rest of the chapter.
For when they had sat covered at prayer awhile, they grew even as unreverent, as homely with the Sacrament; eat and drunk there as if they had been at home, in triclinio, that the Apostle is fain to tell them at the twenty-second verse, they had homes to be homely at: the Church, the House of God-they were to be used with greater reverence. 'He did not commend them' for this their rude carriage, at the Sacrament. 'Did not commend them?' you know what that meaneth -minus dicitur, plus intelligitur, He blamed them much for it.
Then are we to make stay at these less matters at first, as the Apsotle doth? To think the Wise Man's counsel worth the following, ne sit tibi minimum, non negligere minima, 'count it no small matter, not to neglect small matters.' What so small as an hair? when these small hairs were gone from Samson, his strength left him. In itself, in his own nature, a rite is not so much. This is much, that by it they learn to break the Church's orders, and that thereby they are fleshed to go on to greater matters.
Opposing then to these, what course takes he? Lays for his ground this, non habemus talem. The force of his reason is, If 'we,' if 'the Churches of God' had any such custom, it were somewhat, that were warrant enough for a Rite. But [409/410] now, we and they both have none such, nay we and they have the quite contrary; therefore, let us hear no more of it.
Where, it is plain, the Apostle is for the Church-customs. 1. And first, that she hath them. Every society, beside their laws in books, have their customs also in practice; and those, not to be taken up or laid down at every man's pleasure. The civil law saith this of custom, Imo magnæ authoritas hoc jus habetur, quod in tantum probatum est, ut non fuerit scripto comprehendre necesse. Men, it seems, had a great good liking to their customs, that they remembered them without book, that they never needed to be put in writing, as their laws and statutes did. Now as every society, so the Church, besides her habemus legem, hath her habemus consuetudinem too. There is such a thing as mos populi Dei.
And fear not traditions a whit. Those respect credenda, 'points of doctrine;' these but agenda, 'matters of practice.' and that, not in points of substance, reach only to matter of circumstance, go no farther. Nor do we even them with, much less oppose them to, that which is written. Never any custom against that; no custom that comes from the will or wit of man, against Scripture which comes from the wisdom and will of God. But hæc oportet, et illa non omittere. Only so.
The Church then hath her customs. I add, these 'we' here, that is, the Apostles had them, and the Churches under them had theirs. It was but early days then, yet had they their customs, even then. At the writing of the Epistle, it was not at the most thirty years from Christ's ascension. If that were time enough to make a 'custom,' now after these twenty times thirty years, and thirty times thirty years, and a hundred years to spare, still it not be a 'custom' now by much better right? A custom is susceptible of more and less; the farther it goeth, the longer it runneth, the more strength it gathereth; the more gray hairs it getteth, the more venerable it is, for indeed the more a custom it is.
Now then as the Church hath them, so she stands upon them; fears not, we see, to allege them, to say habemus or non habemus. Habemus, to uphold an ancient good one; non habemus, to lay down an evil one new taken up.
Here, negative, non habemus talem. As our Saviour like-wise-a principio non fuit sic. pp.410/411 And yet by application this here is, One we have, but not such an one. And our Saviour's there, A way there was, 'from the beginning,' but this was not it.
But otherwhere, it is positive also, to affirm and to maintain a good; and men positively referred to know, what has been the use in former times.
Higher than Moses we cannot go. Moses as a lawgiver, one would think, would be all for law. He is positive full for custom too. 'Enquire,' saith he, 'of the days that be past, how it hath gone since the day God created the earth.' And that, in the second edition, or setting forth of the Law.
Job is for it too. 'Enquire, I pray you, of the former age, and set yourselves to ask after the Fathers, for we are but of yesterday-will not they tell you,' thus, and thus it was in their times?
And say not the Prophets the same? 'Stand upon the ways,'-it is Jeremy, 'and there look for the good old way, and that way take, it is the only way to find rest for your souls.'
To all which agreeable is that wherewith I shall shut up this point, which all the Fathers in the first Nicene Council took up, and which ever since has been the Church's cry, t_ _rcaa e"qh kratetw, mos antiuus obtineat, 'let old customs prevail,' let them carry it. By this you see, habemus consuetudinem hath been counted a sound allegation, not only from the Apostles', but even from Moses' time.
And now for the talem, for it is not the habemus that binds, but the talem. Not because we have it, but because it is so qualified. It is not every custom, hand over head, we may stand on. Why binds not this? 1. Because, though it may be it was at Corinth, Ecclesia Dei, 'a Church of God,' one Church, yet Ecclesiæ Dei, the other 'Churches' of God had it not; the word is plural. 2. Because, though it hath liked some not long since to like well of it, yet the Apostles never knew it; or the other way, if it have liked them to dislike it and lay it down, yet the Apostles liked it well enough.
Non talem, saith the Apostle, 'none such.' Qualem then? How shall we do to know the right talem? Thus. Non talem [411/412] is here opposed to two; to 'the Churches of God,' to nos, that is the Apostles.
If it be but of some one Church, but at Corinth alone, it is too narrow; not large, not general enough. If it be but taken up by some of our masters of late, it is too fresh, it is not ancient enough; non talem, 'no such.'
But by these two, we know our right qualem. If it be Ecclesiarum, that is, if it be general; if nos come to it, that is, the Apostles, if it be ancient; then it is rightly qualified, then it is as it should be, then it may be alleged and stood upon, then it will bind; and then, if any oppose, videtur contentiosus esse.
I begin with the Church, in the plural. Every Church hath power to begin a custom, and that custom power to bind her own children to it; provided her private custom affront not the general, received by all others, for then binds it not. By the rule in the mathematics, evertotum est parte majus; and by the rule in the morals, ever turpis pars omnis toti non congrua.
As neither is any particular Church bound to the private custom of another, like particular as itself is. But if the other Church's custom have also been the general custom of the Church, then it binds and may not be set light, for then said it must be that St. Augustine doth say, if the whole Church usually have observed aught, to go from that or to question whether it be to be observed, insolentissimæ insaniæ est. It savours of a distempter coming of a heat or humour of pride, for 'only by pride,' saith Solomon, 'cometh contention.' This for the Churches' custom.
But if to this we add, or rather if before this we set this, nos, the Apostles had it too, that it is Apostolic; we have then said as much as in this point can be said, as much as may content any who is not 'contentious,' that is not more wedded to show his wit than to seek the truth, and more set fnl£tteiu t_n qe/siu, 'to maintain his own position,' than to regard the Churches' peace. For sure, if a custom be to be esteemed by antiquity, such a custom is ab heroics usque temporibus, for what authors more worthy in themselves, more worthy of our imitation, than they? Nothing can be devised more reasonable [412/413] than that in the one hundred and eighteenth, Quæst. ad Orthod. in Justin Martyr, that of, and from, whom we received tÕ eßcesqai to pray; of and from them, we should also receive tÕ pîj eßcesqai, how and when, at what time, at what feasts to do it. Their example, that is, the Apostles', the Church commended to her children to practise-a better she could not; that practice in time grew to a custom. That custom is talem, may safely be alleged.
Lastly, as this sheweth it may be alleged for a good argument in Divinity, so doth it 1. what the men are, against whom; 2. what the matters, wherein; 3. what the penalty, whereupon it may be alleged.
1. Whom against. This may be alleged against si quis videtur contentiosus esse, such as are, or at least 'seem contentious.' Habemus, or non habemus consuetudinem, is their proper answer. No reasoning with such, it will be to small purpose; they will be sine fine dicentes. St. Augustine saith well, they cannot distinguish between respondere posse, and tacere nolle, they take them all for one. So they cry loudest and have the last word, they take it they have answered sufficiently. Against these it lieth most properly. None so ready a way to stop their mouths, for custom is matter of fact, habemus or non habemus may be put to the twelve men, and there is an end. St. Paul then using it here against these, teacheth us to use it against the like. Against such parties, against si quis videtur contentiosus esse, to put it upon this, Is there a custom, or is there be none?
Specially, if the matter be of the nature of this here in the text, where the question seemed to concern but matter of circumstance and outward order, there hath it his right use, that the proper place of it. You will say, But had it not been good though to have used some reason for it? It had, and the Apostle used divers, if that would have served-from the signification at the third verse, from decency at the thirteenth, from nature at the fourteenth. But to say the truth, such he saw a wrangling wit would elude. The nature of the question afforded none other. It was well observed, and set down for a rule by the philosopher, That in moral matters, men may not look for mathematical proofs, the nature of the subject will not bear them. If not in moral, in ritual much less; [413/414] they of all other least susceptible of a demonstrative reason.
The Apostle saw this, and therefore finally resolves all into the Churches' practice, by custom confirmed in matters of this kind, enough of itself to suffice any that will sapere as sobrietatem. In so doing, as he took the right course we are sure, so he taught us by his example in points of this nature, of ceremony or circumstance, even to pitch upon habemus or non habemus talem consuetudinem. This is to be final.
2. And then follows upon what penalty. Upon no other pain, but to be pronounced to be fallen into the Apostle's si quis, to be taken and declared pro contentioso. Then if any for every point of rite that takes him in the head, will hazard the Church's peace; will not acquiescere, but set himself against the Church's custom, he knows his doom here. For it turns back reciproce as, if any be 'contentious,' the Churches' custom is against him, so if any turn upon the Churches' custom, be against it, it is no good sign; videtur, saith St. Paul, to the Apostle 'he seems' so, and he had his eyes in his head. And what such seemed to him, they may well seem to us; and we take them for no less that are like stirring in matters of no more weight. And so an end of this matter. For the Apostle, when he had said this, thought he had said enough, needed to say no more. The Churches' custom will ever be of force, to overrule such as are contentious. And when St. Paul had said this, he had said. And so have we.
This then being set down, That customs so qualified are to be kept, shall we now go on to the hypothesis that the keeping of Easter is such? And now I would the hour were to begin again, so much is to be said for it.
One foot of our compass we fix in the Apostles' times. The other, where? They appoint us Gelasius' time who was fast upon the five hundredth year. Be it so,
From the Apostles' age which ended with St. John who survived Christ sixty-eight years, and died the year 102, under Trajan to Gelasius' age. Of these five hundred, the first hundred years are for nos, the Apostles' time. From thence, the four hundred years following, are for the Churches'. Which four hundred we may divide again into two even [414/415] moieties-two hundred under persecution, two hundred under peace.
To prove then our habemus consuetudinem, we cannot better begin than with this in the text, the contentions that from the beginning rose about it. Those very contentious prove it. It must be that must be contended for, and then it must be, when it
contended for. These three things in this one proof. 1. The contentions that were about it, even presently upon the Apostles' times; 2. The great care had, and continual pains taken to lay them down, that is, the Churches' contending for the feast; 3. The censuring of those that took them up, with St. Paul's contentiosus here, and with somewhat more; of Blastus, at Rome in Europe; of Crescentius in Egypt, for Africa; of Audæus, in Syria, for Asia:- these were the principals, these were all written up in the black book, by those that registered the heretics; by Tertullian, Epiphanius, Philastrius, Augustine, and Theodoret, all five.
But as God would have it, the question never was of the feast itself, but of the time of it only. All kept Easter, though not at the same time. For the keeping they had the Churches' custom; for the time of keeping, they had their own;-the feast of the Christians, the time of the Jews.
And I will tell you how this came, first. From St. James, who was the first, there were successively one after another fifteen bishops of Jerusalem, all of them of the Circumcision. These, the sooner to win their brethren the Jews, condescended to keep their Easter, XIV. Lunæ, as they did. That which was by them thus done by way of condescension, was after by some urged as a matter of necessity, as if it were not lawful but on that day to hold it.
The first that it took thus in the head, Tertullian in the end of De Præscriptione saith, was one Blastus about the days of Commodus. He began a schism. And Iranæus presently wrote De Schismate contra Blastum. But after, from schism Blastus fell to heresy, and began that of the Quartodecimani; to whose manner of keeping it, for the most part, other heretics did cleave, leaving the Churches' custom of purpose since they were departed from her.
Great pity some in our days had not been living to have advised the Church to have saved her pains, and never [415/416] have striven so about it; the shortest way was to have made no more ado, but kept none at all. But non habemus talem consuetudinem, would have been their answer. But you will easily guess, if these for not keeping it at the right time were scored up for heretics, what would become of them that had been against the keeping of it at all.
Till now in our days, there was never any such but Aërius; he took it away clean, as Jewish. His reason was, saith Epiphanius, scorning it because 'Christ our Passover is offered. Christ our Passover is offered, let us therefore keep a feast,' said St. Paul. Let us therefore keep none, said Aërius, holden for so saying for little better than crazed. There was never any Council called about him; but as Aërius was his name, so was his opinion, and so it vanished into air, and was blown over straight. Otherwise all heretics, an Easter they had; not so much as the Novatians that called themsleves Cathari, that is, the Puritans of the Primitive Church, but one they had; but like good fellows, by their Canon adiaphorus, they left every one at liberty, so he kept one, to keep it whether way he listed; but keep one he must. This contending about this custom from the beginning, sheweth from the beginning such a custom there was.
Next we avouch the Cycli Paschales, for the keeping it right, which was indeed the Church's yearly Calendar, which to this day the Greek church call their pasc_liou, made of purpose for the just keeping it, at the very time. A pregnant proof for this custom, if there were none but it. By Hippolytus first, a famous bishop and holy martyr,-his was the sixteen-year Canon, set forth by him so timely, as it ended in the first year of Alexander Severus.
And after him, that of eight years devised by Dionysius, bishop of Alexandria, who was a martyr also, and of high account ever in the Church. And both these under the persecution.
Then came Eusebius, whose device the Golden Number was, or cycle of nineteen years. His held till Theophilus of Alexandria's began. Now the time of the setting his is recorded to have been the year 380.
Prosper came after him, and he set another. And last came Victorinus of Aquitaine about the year 460, not much [416/417] before Gelasius. Two more came after these before it was fully settled, but we will not pass our bounds. If no such custom were, what needed all these pains, all this ado, in these cycles setting, and calculations of times? It shews the great esteem the Church had the feast in, that it was so careful of the precise time of it every year.
And there was reason for it. Otherwhile they were at an after-deal about the time. The year 454, within a year or two after the Council of Chalcedon, all were at a stand. Easter fell so high in April, they were in doubt they had been wrong; yea Leo himself, that then lived, and all. Presently fell Leo to writing of letters about, to all reputed any thing seen that way. To the Bishop of Lilybæum in Sicily. To the Bishop of the Isle Coos. To the Emperor Marcian himself, and to the Empress to solicit him, that he would not fail but send to Proterius Bishop of Alexandria to help them out; as he did. And the like fell out in St. Ambrose's time. Damasus and all were to seek about it, and he then fain to clear it by his eighty-third Epistle to the Bishops of Æmilia.
Now, upon the consulting of the Bishop of Alexandria there hangs a third proof-the Paschales Epistolæ yearly sent abroad by that See, to this end. Leo confesseth to the Emperor, that because they of Egypt were held for the most skilful in the mathematics, best at calculations, it was by the first Council at Nice laid upon them, this trust, yearly to calculate the day exactly, and to give notice of it in time to other Churches, yea, to Rome and all.
And it was antiqua consuetudo, saith Cassian, who lived with Chrysostom, and was his Deacon, that every year, the morrow after the Epiphania, the Bishop of Alexandria sent abroad his Paschales Epistolæ, to warn Easter over the world. And when after, by reason of wars in the spring time, in many places they were intercepted that they came not time enough, order was taken anew by the great Council of Africa, that letters for warning Easter should come forth sooner, by the one-and-twentieth of August every year, that so they might have time to come whither they were sent soon enough.
These Paschales Epistolæ were ever famous and of high [417/418] account, for other good matter contained in them. Three of them of Theophilus we extant, so highly esteemed by St. Hierome, as he took the pains to turn them into Latin, and to him we owe them. But though by the Nicene Council this was laid upon the Bishop of Alexandria, I would not have you conceive it began then. Ruffin saith, the Council did but antiquum Canonen tradere, 'deliver the old Canon' that had been before in use. For long before, Eusebius mentioned those Paschales Epistolæ sent about by Dionyse, Bishop there, even under the persecution.
Now if we will follow Job's advice, and set ourselves to 'ask of the Fathers,' we shall find habemus talem consuetudinem, clear with them for it. 1. Those first, that lived after the Church's peace; 2. Then those, that during the persecution. those in the Churches' peace, four ways: 1. By the Homilies or Sermons made purposely by them, to be preached on this day. We have a full jury, Greek and Latin of them; and that, of the most chief and eminent among them: St St. Basil, Nazianzen, Chrysostom, Nyssen, Theolphilus Alexandrinus, Cyril, Chrysologus, Leo &c. And yet I deal not with any of those in Ambrose, Augustine, Maximus, now extant; I know they are questioned. I rely only on the report of St. Jerome and Gennadius, who saw the right copies, and what they saw have reported.
I will give you a taste of one. It shall be Nazianzen, surnamed the Divine, and so one who knew what belonged to Divinity. Thus begins he a Sermon of his upon it. 'Easter day is come, God's own Easter day; and again I say, Easter day is come, in honour of the Trinity; the feast of feasts, the solemnity of all solemnities, so far passing all other feasts, holden not only by or for men, but even in honour of Christ Himself, as the sun doth the stars.'
And in his Funeral Sermon for his father, having occasion but to name it by the way, for that his father once, brought to the last cast in a sickness of his, suddenly, as it were by a miracle, recovered upon an Easter-day morning. 'It was,' saith he, 'Easter, the great and famous feast of Easter, the queen and sovereign of all the days in the year.' That in his days they had sure such a custom.
And so it seems they had in Ignatius' days, for from him [418/419] borrowed he that term of lady and queen of days, out of his Epistle ad Magnesianos.
2. B the hymns set for this day, to be sung on it. By Prudentius who lived in St. Ambrose's time. By St. Ambrose himself. Before him by St. Hilary. But Paulinius I insist on. He, in his panegyric for Felix, sets down in particular all the feast in the year, as they were then in use amongst them; Easter for a chief feast. He lived with St. Augustine. A pregnant record for the Church's custom then.
3. By their writings. 1.Some of them in their commentaries, as St. Hierome, and namely on the Galatians, and on that place, 'ye observe days.' 'If that be a fault,' saith he, we Christians do incur that fault, all. For we keep, by name, 'Easter, but not the Jews' Easter of unleavened bread which the Apostle excepts to, but the Christian Easter of the Resurrection of Christ.' 3.Some, by way of Epistles and answers; as St. Ambrose's eighty- third Epistle, full to it; St. Augustine's hundred and eighteenth, and hundred and nineteenth, set Epistles concerning questions about it. 3. Some, by their polemik£. As Epiphanius, the treasure of antiquity, in his fiftieth, seventieth, and seventy-fifth heresy, ad oppositum. Postively, in his compendium of the true Church's orders, at the end of his Pannarium, whereof on is pau»gurij meg£lh eu Ême/ra toà P£sca,, 'great solemnity upon Easter-day.' 2. As St. Augustine expressly contra Adiamantum, the sixteenth chapter, and the thirty-second book against Faustus, that found fault the Church kept it, yet kept it not as the Jews, confesseth the one-the Church's keeping, traverses the other, that she ought, neither at that time, nor in that manner to keep it, as they did; and that at large. 4. Some, by short Treatises, as Ambrose De Mysterio Paschae; and some by full full books, as Eusebius, who wrote a book of the whole order of the Churches' Service then, dedicated it to Constantine, was by the Emperor highly commended for it.
4. Lastly, as by writing, so by matter of fact. As Chrysostom, who when he was deposed, and so enjoined not to come in any Church; yet Easter day coming, so loath he was not to keep it, as he got him in Thermas Constantini, a spacious great building for the public bath of the city, [419/420] and there held his Easter, with a very great company, who would not forsake Him. As Athanasius, who being accused to Constantius the Emperor for keeping the feast of Easter in the great Church at Alexandria, then but newly finished and as yet not dedicated, he lays the blame from himself upon the people, who would have it kept there, do what he could, the other Churches were so narrow, and the concourse to the feast so great, as he saith, it would have done the Emperor's heart good to have seen it.
And in his Epistle ad Africanos, with open mouth he cried out upon the Arians, who came in military manner to instal their new bishop, and the many outrages by them done. Above all, that not only they did those outrages, but did them of all days upon Easter-day, Et ne ipsu, quidem Dominicum diem sanctissimi festi ullâ in reverentiâ habuere, 'and had not in any reverence, not the very Sunday of that most holy feast.'
Now the Sunday; for we are to know, the custom that is continued with us still they then had, to keep two days beside the Sunday, three in all; for the Latin Church, plain by St. Augustine de Civitate Dei 22:8-in tertium Festi diem; for the Greek, by Nyssen, who expressly termeth it tri»meroj proqesma.
Thus, all these ways, by singing, by saying, by writing, by doing, all bear witness to it; and I may safely say, there is not one of them but one of these ways or other, he hath his hand in it, and among them they make up a full proof, if this habemus consuetudinem.
From the Fathers I pass to the Councils, and plead it by all the four. The Nicene first.
1. Two causes there were, saith Athanasius of the assembling that Council. Nam et claudicabant circa festum, and he makes that the first cause. 'They halted about the feast, kept it not uniformly;' and that was set straight against Crescentius. And the Deity of the Son of God was questioned, and that was put into the Nicene Creed, against Arius. You have the Council's Epistle for the settling it; you have the Emperor's Sacra for the ratifying it, directed Ad omnes Ecclesias, in the third book of his life, by Eusebius.
2. For the two General at Constaninople. As Constantine [420/421] in the first, so Theodosius at this was not behind. His law remains, whereby he provided that for fifteen days, from the Sunday before the day till the Sunday after, no process should go forth, none should be arrested; a general cessation of all, both processes and proceedings, in honour of the high feast. That you have Easter day, and the custom of holding it solemnly, in the body of the law too, in Theodosius' code.
3. At the third, of Ephesus, there have you, in the 2. Tom c. 32., Rudius, Hesychius, and Ruffin, three Quartodecimani heretics, publicly in the face of the Council, recanting their error, subscribing, and promising ever after to conform and keep their Easter after the custom of the Churches of God.
4. And at the fourth, of Chalcedon, the sixth session, the Emperor being there then present in person, the whole Council with one voice made this acclamation, Unum Pascha orbi terrarum; thanks be to God, 'One Easter now, and but one, all the world over.'
But before all these, the Nicene and all, by a dozen years at least, was the Council of Arles, and in it this custom proclaimed. I mention it, not so much for the antiquity, as that by it appeareth how the custom of Easter went here with us in this realm; for at it was present and subscribed the Bishops of London, Restitutus. A plain argument we had such a custom then.
And for the other realm, Gelasius shall speak. In a Synod of seventy bishops, where he and they decreed what books were to be read, what not, they say there was then a poem of venerable Sedulius, who had the addition of Scotland for his nation, which they do insigni laude præferre, that is, 'very highly commend.' Sedulius entitles it his Opus Paschale, and begins it with Paschales quincunque dapes-as it were inviting his readers, his countrymen I dare say especially, if they will come to it, to a feast upon Easter-day.
But for both, none so worthy a witness as the Emperor Constantine, who in his rescript about Easter, directed to all Churches, expressly named this isle, the isle of Brittany, among those places, where this custom was duly and orderly observed.
All this while the Church had rest. During the persecution, [421/422] how went it? Two we will take in, in the passage between the times of peace and persecution.
1. Lactantius, the most part of his life lived under the persecution, but died in the Church's peace. 2. So did Pierius of Alexandria, for his excellent learning called Origen the younger. In Lanctantius' seventh book, and nineteenth chapter, there is a plain testimony for the solemn keeping of Easter-eve. And Pierius, saith St. Hierome, had a long sermon upon the Prophet Osee, made by him and preached at the solemn assembly on Easter-eve. And if the eve were so held, we make no doubt of the day.
1. Now in the midst of the persecution there fell out a special case of Philip the Emperor, supposed to have given his own and his son's name to the Christian profession, as Eusebius reporteth. In sign thereof he on Easter-eve offered to join himself at the Church-service, as knowing that to be their chiefest solemnity; which they failed not to keep, no not then, when their case was at the hardest.
2. And even then at Alexandria, Dionysius the bishop there held this custom. Thus writes he to Hierax, a bishop too, and to others, out of prison, that though the persecution then raged much, and the plague more, yet were the Christians even then so careful not to break this custom as they kept their Easter, some in woods, some on ship board, some in barns and stables; yea, they in the very gaol, keep it they did even then, persecution and plague both notwithstanding.
3. Cyprian held this custom; not by his homily-I wave it as doubtful, but in four of his Epistles I find it. I name but one, his fifty-third. Some had consulted him in a question of some difficulty. He writes back. It was now Easter, his brethren were from him, every one at his own charge, solemnizing the feast with their people. So soon as the feast was over, and they met again, they should hear from him, he would take their opinions, and return them a sound answer.
4. Origen had this custom. In his eighth against Celsus frankly he confesseth, that other feasts, Easter by name, the Christians held them; and that, as he saith semu_terou, 'in more solemn manner' than Celsus, or any heathen men of them all held theirs.
[422/423] 5. Tertullian had this custom. Many places in him. Only one I cite, in the fourteenth chapter, de jejunio quod si omnem in totum devotionem dierum erasit Apostolus, cur Pascha celebramus annuo cicrulo? 'If it were the Apostle's mind to raze out all devout observing of days quite, how comes it to pass, we celebrate Easter yearly, at the circle of the year turning about?'
6. Irenæus had this custom. His Epistle to Victor sheweth it; to Victor, and to many more, saiths Eusebius, about that question-understand still the question of the time, not of the feast. A book also we find he wrote de Paschate, in the 115th Quæst. in Justin Martyr. So he will be for it, certainly.
7. And it is strange, even during the persecution, how many books we find written to deduce the custom by. 1. Beside that of Irenæus, 2. One by Anatolius the great learned Bishop of Laodicea; 3. By Theophilus Bishop of Cæsarea, and 4. by Bacchyllus Bishop of Corinth, either of them one. 5. Another by Hippolytus, that made up the first cycle. Yet, 6. another by Clemens Alexandrinus. And last, which indeed was first in time of all, two books, 7. by the holy Martyr and Prophet Melito, Bishop of Sardis, in the next age to the Apostles themselves, set forth by him as he saith, at the time of the feast, and in the very holy-days of it.
Nay, there wanted not Councils then neither, and that in seven several parts of the world at once; all in the midst of the fervor of the fiery trial, when the Church, God wot, could but evil intend it. It was no time to contend then, but it shows they made a matter of it, and no slight reckoning of the retaining it. Else might they have slipt it without any more ado.
Enough, I trow, to shew such a custom there was in all the Churches these parties lived in, which were all the Churches God then had. They must needs seem 'contentious' who will contend against all these. I see not how they can escape the Apostle's si quis, that do. And this I say, if some one example of some eminent man of worth will serve to make an authority, if that; then this cloud of witnesses, and those, 1. not persons, but whole Councils and Churches; 2. not in some one region, but in divers, all the world over; 3. and that [423/424] not for one time, but so many ages successively continued, from generation to generation; what manner of authority ought that to be? the greatest sure, and none greater, but of God Himself.
Now to nos, that is, to the Apostles themselves. First, that it was a custom Apostolic and so taken; St. Augustine is direct in his one hundred and eighteenth Epistle to Januarius, who had purposely sent to him to know his opinion touching certain questions, all of them about Easter, Thus saith he there. 'For such things as come to us not by writing, but by practice, and yet such as are observed quite through the world, we are given to understand they come commended to us, and were instituted either by the Apostles themselves, or by General Councils, whose authority hath ever been accounted of as wholesome in the Church.' Now what be those things so generally observed toto orbe terrarum? These; that the 'Passion, the Resurrection, the Ascension of Christ, and the coming of the Holy Spirit from Heaven,' anniversaria solennitate celebrantur, are yearly in solemn manner celebrated.
First, he is clear, it was the custom of the Church, far and wide the world through. Then, that it must either by the Apostles be institute, or by some Council. Not by any council. Many met about the time-about the feast never any; that not questioned at all, taken pro confesso ever, and so apostolic. They be his own words; 'if the whole Church observe anything, not having been ordained by some General Council,' rectissime creditur, 'we are to believe,' rectissime, 'by as good right as any can be, right in the superlative, that it came to us,' non nisi ab Apostolis, 'from the Apostles and from none else,' nor by any other way. So St. Augustine is for nos habemus talem. So he held it.
A hundred years before him, Constantine is as direct in his Epistle, Ad omnes Ecclesias. Many remarkable things there are in that Epistle. 1. 'The most holy feast of Easter,' four times he calls it; that is the good Emperor's style; 'In so great a matter, in so high a feast of our religion to disagree,' ¢qe/mitou 'utterly unlawful.' And 3. T k£lliou t semu_terou, 'what more honest, what more seemly, than that [424/425] this feast should be inviolably kept, by which we hold our hopes of immortality.' Mark that reason well.
But for Apostolic; 'Be it lawful for us Christians,' saith he, 'rejecting the Jewish manner, that day,' _u ekpprèthj toà p£qouj Ême/raj ¤cri toà par_utoj eful£xameu, 'which day ever since the very first day of His Passion we have to this present kept, to transmit the due observing of it to all ages to come.' Mark the words. 1. 'They had kept Easter from the first day of Christ's Passion, till that present time.' 2. And after that, 'We have received it of our Saviour.' 3. And yet again, 'which our Saviour delivered to us.' And concludes, that accordingly, 'when he came among them, he and they would keep their Easter together.' Nothing can be more full than in his time this custom was, and that it was reputed to have come from the Apostles, as begun from the very day of Christ's Passion, which Leo shortly but fully expresseth, Legalis quippe festivitas dum mutatur, impletur. 'The legal feast of the Passover, at the fulfilling of it was changed, both at once.' Fulfilled and changed, at one time both. No distance between, and fulfilled, I am sure, it was in the Apostle's time, and so changed then also.
If you will see it deduced in story, that may you too. Thus of himself Iranæus writeth that he was brought up in Asia under Polycarp, and that he, young though he were, observed and remembered well all his course of life. And namely, how coming to Rome in Anicetus' time, he kept his Easter there. Not when Anicetus kept it, but keep he did though. In the keeping they agreed, in the time they differed. Either held his own.
Polycarp then kept Easter. Now Polycarp had lived and conversed with the Apostles, was made a bishop by them. Bishop of Smyrna-Irenæus and Tertullian say it directly, and he is supposed to be the Angel of the Church of Smyrna; and Polycarp, as saith Irenæus, kept Easter with St. John, and with the rest of the Apostles, totidem verbis.
Polycrates in his Epistle there, in Eusebius, expressly saith that St. Philip the Apostle kept it. If St. Philip and St. John, by name, if the rest of the Apostles had it, then nos habemus is true; then it is Apostolic.
[425/426] But yet we have a more sure ground than all these. The Lord's Day has testimony in Scripture-I insist upon that; that Easter day must needs be as ancient as it. For how came it to be 'the Lord's Day,' but that, as it is in the Psalm, 'the Lord made it?' And why made He it? but because on it, 'the Stone cast aside,' that is Christ, 'was made the Head-stone of the corner?'-that is, because then the Lord rose, because of His resurrection fell upon it?
Now what a thing were it, that all the Sundays in the year that are but abstracts, as it were, of this day, the very day of the Resurrection, that they should be kept; and this day, the day itself, the prototype and archetype of them all, should not be kept, but laid aside, and be clean forgotten? That the day in the week we should keep; and the day of the month itself, and return of the year, we should not keep? Even of very congruity it is to be as they, and somewhat more.
Take example by ourselves. For his Majesty's deliverance the fifth of August; for his Majesty's, and ours, the fifth of November, being Tuesday both;-for these a kind of remembrance we keep, one Tuesday every week in the year. But when by course of the year in their several months, the very original days themselves come about; shall we not, do we not celebrate them in much more solemn manner? What question is there? weigh them well, you will find the case alike. One cannot be, but the other also must be Apostolic.
1. For the last proof I have yet reserved one; or rather three in one. 1. The custom of Baptism, known to have been ministered as upon that day, all the Primitive Church through. A thing so known, as their homilies de Baptismo were most upon that day. St. Basil I name. In his upon Easter day, he shows the custom of baptizing then, and the reason of it.
2. The use of the keys, at that specially. Then were the censures inflicted; then were they released. 1. Inflicted: Against that time, did St. Paul cut off the incestuous person, that a little leaven might not sour them all. Even against the time that 'Christ our Passover was offered, and they therefore to hold this feast.' 2. Released. So you shall find [426/427] the Council of Ancyra, elder than that of Nice, order, the censures should determine all, endure no longer 'than the great day'-so in their common speech they termed Easter, and then all to be restored. 3. To which purpose the Council of Nice took order, there should be in Lent a Synod yearly to this end; that by it all quarrels being taken up, and all things set straight, they might be in better case to come with their oblation at Easter to the Sacrament.
And last, by the never broken custom of a solemn Eucharist, ever upon this day. Origen in his seventh upon Exodus, he saith, our Easter day far passeth the Jewish Easter. They had no manna on theirs-the Passover was eaten in Egypt, manna came not till they were in the wilderness-but we, saith he, we never keep our Passover, but we are sure of manna upon it, the true Manna, 'the Bread of life that came down from heaven.' For they had no Easter then without a Communion.
Leo joins both, he might well all three. Paschalis quippe solemnitatis hoc est proprium, 'This is a peculiar that Easter day has, that on it, all the whole Church obtains the remission of their sins.' One part qui sacro Baptismate renascuntur, by virtue of the solemn Baptism then ministered; the rest, by benefit of the Eucharist they then receive, ad rubiginem mortalitiatis-it is his term, 'to the scouring off the rust, which our mortality gathereth' by the sins and errors of the whole year.
I will conclude all with the words which St. Ambrose concludes his eighty-third, his Paschal Epistle with to the bishops of Æmilia: Ergo, sum tot veritatis indicia concurrant, juxta majorum exemplum, Festum hoc publicæ salutis læti exultantesque celebremus. 'Since then there be so many proofs for this truth that thus meet, according to the example of our forefathers, let us with joy and gladness keep this feast of our common salvation.' How? Sumamus spiritu ferventi Sacramentum in azymis sinceritatis; 'Let us receive the holy Sacrament, with the sweet bread of sincerity.' Postes nostros, ubi est ostium verbi, sanguine Christi, in fide passionis coloremus. 'The posts of the door of our mouth, that is, our lips, let us [427/428] dye them with the Blood of Christ, in the faith of His blessed Passion.' Ensuing the steps of the Apostles and the Churches of God, all, with whom joining in both, let us expect the blessing of God upon us, &c.