Catena Patrum. No. III.
Testimony of Writers in the Later English Church to the Duty of Maintaining Quod Semper, Quod Ubique, Quod ab Omnibus Traditum Est.
THE following extracts from English Divines, are but expositions and comments upon the celebrated Tract of Vincentius Lirinensis on Heresy, which has been so generally adopted by them, that it may justly be considered as the formal manifestation of our Church as regards all the controversies of the last three hundred years. [This Tract has just been republished, with a translation, at Oxford, and should be carefully studied by all who wish to understand in what sense the English Church upholds tradition.] In selecting them, it has been thought advisable, as in the two previous Catenas, not to include the writings of the Reformers of the 16th century, because the particular complexion of their opinions is the very subject keenly debated and claimed by opposite schools of opinion at the present day. It has been thought safer to show that the Succession of our Standard Divines ever since their times, understood them to hold that view of doctrine which it has been the endeavour of these Tracts to recommend; and that no other can be taken without contradicting both that illustrious Succession itself, and its judgment concerning the Reformers.
And in the next place, were the Reformers directly appealed to in these Catenas, it might be plausibly asked why the list stopped with them, and did not ascend to the generation before them, as if they were to be considered the founders of our Church, instead of being, as they are really, one link in a chain. No greater injury can be done them than to make it appear, (as is too often done at this day,) that they occupied or professed a position which belongs only to heretics, that of originating the faith they maintained. Against such a notion especially, the subject of the present selection of Testimonies is expressly directed; in which it is maintained that no individuals, since the Apostles, are by themselves expositors of the will of Christ; that the unanimous witness of Christendom is the only, and the fully sufficient, and the really existing guarantee of the whole revealed Faith; that Catholicity is the only test of truth.
Considering the copiousness and value of the following extracts, the doctrine maintained in them need not here be discussed. With relation to the supreme authority of inspired Scripture it stands thus:-Catholic tradition teaches revealed truth, Scripture proves it; Scripture is the document of Faith, tradition the witness of it; the true Creed is the Catholic interpretation of Scripture, or Scripturally proved tradition; Scripture by itself teaches mediately and proves decisively; tradition by itself proves negatively and teaches positively; Scripture and tradition taken together are the joint Rule of Faith.
Acknowledgment must here be made for the kind assistance of two friends of the compiler, who have supplied him with many valuable references.
List of Authors cited.
2. Convocation of 1571.
3. The Queen's Council of 1582.
6. Convocation of 1603.
24. Commissioners of 1662.
42. Van Mildert
YET are there some that whisper in corners, that the Mass is a blessed and a Catholic thing, and that the holy Communion, which now GOD of His great mercy hath restored to us, is wicked and schismatical, and therefore they murmur against it, therefore they refrain it, and will not come to it. O merciful GOD, who would think there could be so much wilfulness in the heart of man! O Gregory! O Augustine! O Hierome! O Chrysostom! O Leo! O Dionyse! O Anacletus! O Sistus! O Paul!
O CHRIST! if we be deceived herein, ye are they that have deceived us. You have taught us these schisms and divisions, you have taught us these Heresies. Thus ye ordered the holy Communion in your time, the same we received at your hand, and have faithfully delivered it unto the people. And that ye may the more marvel at the wilfulness of such men, they stand this day against so many old Fathers, so many Doctors, so many examples of the primitive Church, so manifest and so plain words of the holy Scriptures, and yet have they herein not one Father, not one Doctor, not one allowed example of the primitive Church to make for them. And when I say, no one, I speak not this in vehemency of spirit, or heat of talk, but even as before GOD, by the way of simplicity and truth, lest any of you should haply be deceived, and think there is more weight in the other side, than in conclusion there shall be found. And therefore once again I say, of all the words of the holy Scriptures, of all the examples of the primitive Church, of all the old Fathers, of all the ancient Doctors, in these causes they have not one.
Here the matter itself that I have now in hand, putteth me in remembrance of certain things that I uttered unto you, to the same purpose, at my last being in this place. I remember I laid out then, here before you, a number of things that are now in controversy, whereunto our adversaries will not yield. And I said, perhaps boldly, as it might then seem to some men, but as I myself and the learned of our adversaries themselves do well know, sincerely and truly, that none of all them, that this day stand against us, are able, or shall ever be able to prove against us, any one of all those points, either by the Scriptures, or by example of the primitive Church, or by the old Doctors, or by the ancient general Councils.
Since that time it hath been reported in places, that I spake then more than I was able to justify and make good. However, these reports were only made in corners, and therefore ought the less to trouble me. But if my sayings had been so weak, and might so easily have been reproved, I marvel that the parties never yet came to the light, to take the advantage. For my promise was, and that openly here before you all, that if any man were able to prove the contrary, I would yield and subscribe to him and he should depart with the victory. Loth I am to trouble you with rehearsal to such things as I have spoken afore; and yet because the case so requireth, I shall desire you that have already heard me, to bear the more with me in this behalf. Better it were to trouble your ears with twice hearing of one thing, than to betray the truth of GOD, The words that I then spake, as near as I can call them to mind, were these: If any learned man of all oar adversaries, or if all the learned men that be alive, be able to bring any one sufficient sentence out of any old Catholic Doctor, or Father, or out of any old general Council, or out of the holy Scriptures of GOD, or any one example of the primitive Church, whereby it may be clearly and plainly proved that there was any private mass in the whole world at that time, for the space of six hundred years after CHRIST; or that there was then any Communion ministered unto the people under one kind; or that the people had their common prayers then in a strange tongue, that they understood not: or that the Bishop of Rome was then called an universal Bishop, or the head of the universal Church; or that the people was then taught to believe that CHRIST'S Body is really', substantially, corporally, carnally or naturally in the Sacrament, &c..... If any man alive were able to prove any of these articles, by any one clear or plain clause or sentence, either of the Scriptures or of the old Doctors, or of any old general Council, or by any example of the primitive Church: I promised then that I would give over and subscribe unto him. [Jewell must not be considered to differ from the words "verily and indeed" in our Catechism. He interprets "really" by "carnally;" the Catechism opposes "verily and indeed" to figuratively and nominally. A mystical, spiritual, true, and positive presence of CHRIST'S blessed Body and Blood, is at once not carnal and not figurative.]
These words are the very like, I remember, I spake here openly before you all. And these be the things that some men say, I have spoken and cannot justify. But I, for my part, will not only not call in any thing that I then said, (being well assured of the truth therein,) but also will lay more matter to the same: that if they that seek occasion, have any thing to the contrary, they may have the larger scope to reply against me.
Wherefore, besides all that I have said already, I will say further, and yet nothing so much as might be said. If any one of all our adversaries be able clearly and plainly to prove, by such authority of the Scriptures, the old Doctors and Councils, as I said before, that it was then lawful for the Priest to pronounce the words of consecration closely and in silence to himself; or that the Priest had then authority to offer up CHRIST unto His Father: or to communicate and receive the Sacrament for another as they do, or to apply the virtue of CHRIST'S death and passion to any man by means of the Mass: or that it was then thought a sound doctrine to teach the people that the Mass ex opere operato, that is, even for that it is said and done, is able to remove any part of our sin, &c. &c.....if any one of all our adversaries be able to avouch any one of all these articles, by any such sufficient authority of Scriptures, Doctors, or Councils, as I have required, as I said before, so say I now again, I am content to yield unto him and to subscribe. But I am well assured that they shall never be able truly to allege one sentence. And because I know it, therefore I speak it, lest ye haply should be deceived.--Works, pp. 57, 58. [Vide also Apol. pp. 43. 53--5. 62, 63. Defence, pp. 614--617.]
THEY shall in the first place be careful never to teach any thing from the pulpit, to be religiously held and believed by the people, but what is agreeable to the doctrine of the Old or New Testament, and collected out of that very doctrine by the Catholic Fathers, and ancient Bishops.--Canon about Preachers.
IF the Papists shall show any ground of Scripture, and wrest it to their sense, let it be showed by the interpretation of the Old Doctors, such as were before Gregory I. But if they can show no Doctor that agreed with them in their said opinion before that time, then to conclude that they have no succession in that doctrine from the time of the Apostles, and above four hundred years after (when doctrine and religion were most pure), for that they can show no predecessor whom they might succeed in the same.--Rules given to the Bishops; vide Strype's Whitgift, p. 98.
PHI. What one point of our Religion is not Catholic?
THEO. No one point of that, which this realm hath refused, is truly Catholic. Your having and adoring of images in the Church: your public service in a tongue not understood of the people: your gazing on the Priest while he alone eateth and drinketh at the LORD'S table: your barring the people from the LORD'S cup: your sacrificing the Son of GOD to His Father for the sins of the world: your adoring the elements of bread and wine with Divine honour instead of CHRIST: your seven sacraments: your shrift: your releasing souls out of Purgatory by prayers and pardons: your compelling Priests to live single: your meritorious vowing and performing pilgrimages: your invocation of Saints departed: your rules of perfection for Monks and Friars: your relying on the Pope as head of the Church, and Vicar General unto CHRIST: these with infinite other superstitions in action, and errors in doctrine, we deny to have any foundation in the Scriptures, or confirmation in the general consent or use of the Catholic Church.
PHI. We stick not on your words, which you utter to your most advantage: but be not these things as we defend them, and you reject them, Catholic?
THEO. Nothing less.
PHI. What count you Catholic?
THEO. You were best define that: it toucheth you nearest.
PHI. I mean Catholic, as Vincentius doth, that wrote more than one thousand one hundred years ago.
THEO. So do I. And in that sense no point of your Religion, which this realm hath refused, is Catholic.
PHI. These are but brag.
THEO. Indeed they are so. Nothing is more common in your mouths than Catholic: and in your Faith nothing less.
PHI. Who proveth that?
THEO. Yourselves; who, after you have made great stir for Catholic, Catholic, and all Catholic, when you come to issue, you return it with a non est inventus.
PHI. Will you lie a little?
THEO. I might use that sometimes, which is so often with you: but in this I do not.
PHI. I say you do.
THEO. That will appear, if you take any of those points which I have rehearsed.
PHI. Which you will.
THEO. Nay, the choice shall be yours, because the proof must be yours.
PHI. Take them as they lie. Having and worshipping of images in the Church, is it not Catholic?
THEO. It is not.
PHI. Eight hundred years ago the General Council of Nice, the second, decreed it lawful, and ever since it hath been used.
THEO. Catholic should have four conditions by Vincentius1 rule, and this hath not one of them. There can nothing he Catholic, unless it be confirmed two ways: first by the authority of GOD'S law, and next by the tradition of the Catholic Church, not that the Canon of Scripture is not perfect and sufficient enough for all points of Faith, but because many men draw and stretch the Scriptures to their fancies, therefore it is very needful that the line of the Prophetical and Apostolical interpretation should be directed by the rule of the Ecclesiastical and Catholic sense. Now in the Catholic Church herself we must take heed we hold that which hath been believed at all times, in all places, of all persons, for that is truly and properly Catholic.
By this rule your erecting and adoring of Images in the Church is not Catholic. For first it is prohibited by GOD'S law: and where the text goeth against you, the gloss cannot help you. If there be no precept for it in the word of GOD, in vain do you seek in the Church for the Catholic sense and interpretation of that which is no where found in the Scriptures. If it be not Prophetical nor Apostolical, it cannot be Catholic nor Ecclesiastical.
Again, how hath this been always in the Church, which was first decreed seven hundred and eighty years after CHRIST? It is too young to be Catholic that began so late: you must go nearer CHRIST and His Apostles, if you will have it Catholic or ancient.
Thirdly; all places and persons did not admit the decrees of that Council. For besides Africa, and Asia the greater, which never received them, the Churches of England, France; and Germany did contradict and refute both their actions and reasons. And in Greece itself not long before, a synod of three hundred and thirty Bishops at Constantinople condemned as well the suffering as reverencing of Images.--p. 546.
"Were the word of GOD in this point indifferent, which for aught I yet see is very resolute against them, the general consent of all antiquity, that never so expounded St. Paul's words, nor ever mentioned any Lay-Presbyters to govern the Church, is to me a strong rampire against all these new devices.".... "For my part what I find generally received in the first Church of Christ, I will see it strongly refuted before I will forsake it."--Epistle to Reader, and p. 280.
But our naming of JESUS CHRIST our Lord is not enough to prove us Christians, unless we also embrace that Faith which CHRIST hath published unto the world. To show that the Angel of Pergamus continued in Christianity, behold how the Spirit of CHRIST speaketh, "Thou keepest my name, and thou hast not denied my Faith:" concerning which Faith, "the rule thereof," saith Tertullian, "is one alone, immoveable, and no way possible to be better framed anew!" What rule that is, he showeth by rehearsing those few articles of Christian belief. And before Tertullian, Ireney: "The Church, though scattered through the whole world, unto the utmost borders of the earth, hath from the Apostles and their Disciples received belief." The parts of which belief he also reciteth, in substance the very same with Tertullian, and thereupon inferred], "This Faith, the Church being spread far and wide, preserveth, as if one house did contain them: these things it equally embraceth, as though it had even one soul, one heart, and no more: it publisheth, teacheth, and delivereth these things with uniform consent, as if GOD had given it but one only tongue wherewith to speak. He which amongst the guides of the Church is best able to speak, uttereth no more than this; and less than this the most simple doth not utter" when they make profession of their faith.--Book iii. § 1.
.... Following the royal steps of our most worthy King, because he therein followeth the rules of the Scriptures and the practice of the Primitive Church, we do commend to all the true members of the Church of England, these our directions and observations ensuing.....The honour and dignity of the name of the cross begat a reverend estimation even in the Apostles' times (for aught that is known to the contrary), of the sign of the cross, which the Christians shortly after used in all their actions. This use of the sign of the cross in baptism was held in the Primitive Church, as well by the Greeks as the Latins, with one consent and great applause. . .This continual and general use of the sign of the cross is evident by many testimonies of the ancient Fathers. . .But the abuse of a thing doth not take away the lawful use of it. Nay, so far was it from the purpose of the Church of England to forsake and reject the Churches of Italy, France, Spain, Germany, or any such like Churches, in all things which they held and practised, that, as the Apology of the Church of England confesseth, it doth with reverence retain those ceremonies, which do neither endamage the Church of GOD nor offend the minds of sober men; and only departed from them in those particular points wherein they were fallen both from themselves in their ancient integrity, and from the Apostolical Churches, which were their first founders.--Canon 30.
I believe there are few things in your book, which will not be approved by the Bishop of Ely (Launcelot Andrews) and the rest of our more learned Divines: unless, perhaps, they may hesitate respecting those passages which seem to give to lay powers a definitive judgment in matters of Faith; to deny the true power and jurisdiction of Pastors of the Church; and to rank Episcopacy among unnecessary things. For our Divines hold, that the right of definitive judgment, in matters of Faith, is to be given to Synods of Bishops, and other learned Ministers of the Church, chosen and convened for this purpose, according to the usage of the Ancient Church: who shall determine, from the Holy Scriptures, explained by the consent of the Ancient Church, and not by the rival spirit of Neoterics. [Vide Bp. Jebb's Pastoral Instructions, p. 306.]
I do therefore here solemnly profess, in the presence of Almighty GOD, that by His grace preventing and assisting me, I have always lived, and purpose to die, in the true Catholic Faith wherein I was baptized; firmly believing all the Canonical Scripture of the Old and New Testament, and fully assenting to every article of all those three Creeds, (commonly called the Apostles' Creed, the Nicene or Constantinopolitan Creed, and the Athanasian Creed,) which in the Ancient Church were accounted the adequate rules of Faith, and have accordingly been received as such, by the Church of England.
As for Councils, that are free and generally consisting of competent persons, lawfully summoned, and proceeding according to the word of GOD, such as were the four first, viz. those of Nice, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon; I do reverence them as the supreme tribunals of the Church of CHRIST upon earth, for judging of heresies, and composing differences in the Church. And as I utterly condemn all heresies that have been condemned by any of them, so I heartily wish that all the present differences in the Church of GOD might be determined by such a free General Council, as any of those four were already mentioned.--His Last Will. [Vide Christian Remembrancer, Nov. 1823, p. 658.]
For first, we receive the number and names of the authors of books Divine and Canonical, as delivered by tradition. This tradition we admit, for that, though the Books of Scripture have not their authority from the approbation of the Church, but win credit of themselves, and yield sufficient satisfaction to all men, of their Divine truth, whence we judge the Church that receiveth them, to be led by the Spirit of GOD; yet the number, authors, and integrity of the parts of these Books, we receive as delivered by tradition.
The second kind of tradition which we admit, is that summary comprehension, of the chief heads of Christian doctrine, contained in the Creed of the Apostles, which was delivered to the Church, as a rule of her Faith. For though every part thereof be contained in the Scripture, yet the orderly connexion and distinct explication of these principal articles gathered into an epitome, wherein are implied, and whence are inferred all conclusions Theological, is rightly named a tradition. The third, is that form of Christian doctrine, and explication of the several parts thereof, which the first Christians receiving of the same Apostles, that delivered to them the Scriptures, commended to posterities. This may rightly be named a tradition, not as if we were to believe anything without the warrant and authority of the Scripture, but for that we need a plain and distinct explication of many things, which are somewhat obscurely contained in the Scripture: which being explicated, the Scriptures which otherwise we should not so easily have understood, yield us satisfaction that they are so indeed, as the Church delivereth them unto us.
The fourth kind of tradition, is the continued practice of such things, as neither are contained in the Scripture expressly, nor the examples of such practice expressly there delivered, though the grounds, reasons, and causes of the necessity of such practice, be there contained, and the benefit, or good that followeth of it; of this sort is the Baptism of Infants, which is therefore named a tradition, because it is not expressly delivered in Scripture, that the Apostles did baptize infants, nor any express precept there found, that they should so do. Yet is not this so received by bare and naked tradition, but that we find the Scripture to deliver unto us the grounds of it. The fifth kind of tradition, comprehendeth such observations, as in particular, are not commanded in Scripture, nor the necessity of them from thence concluded, though in general without limitation of times, and other circumstances, such things be there commanded. Of this sort, many think, the observation of the Lent fast to be, the fast of the fourth and sixth days of the week, and some other. . . .
Thus having set down the kinds and sorts of traditions, it remaineth to examine, by what means we may come to discern, and by what rules we may judge, which are true and indubitate traditions. The first rule is delivered by Augustine; quod universa tenet ecclesia, nec conciliis institutum, sed semper retentum est, non nisi auctoritate Apostolicâ traditum, rectissime creditur. Whatsoever the whole Church holdeth, not being decreed by the authority of Councils, but having been ever holden, may rightly be thought to have proceeded from Apostolic authority. The second rule is, whatsoever all, or the most famous and renowned ,in all ages, or at the least in diverse ages, have constantly delivered, as received from them that went before them, no man contradicting or doubting of it, may be thought to be an Apostolical tradition. The third rule, is the constant testimony of the Pastors of an Apostolic Church, successively delivered: to which some add the present testimony of an Apostolic Church, whose declinings when they began, we cannot precisely tell. But none of the Fathers admit this rule. For when they urge the authority and testimony of Apostolic Churches, for the proof, or reproof of true or pretended traditions, they stand upon the consenting voice, or silence, of the Pastors of such Churches, successively in diverse ages concerning such things. Some add the testimony of the present Church: but we inquire after the rule, whereby the present Church may know true traditions from false; and besides, though, the whole multitude of believers, at one time in the world, cannot err pertinaciously, and damnably, in embracing false traditions instead of true; yet they that most sway things in the Church may, yea even the greater part of a general Council; so that this can be no sure rule for men to judge of traditions by. And therefore Canus reasoneth foolishly, that whatsoever the Church of Rome practised), which she may not do without special warrant from GOD, and yet hath no warrant in Scripture so to do, the same things and the practice of them she hath received by tradition. He giveth example in the present practice of the Romish Church, in dispensing with, and remitting vows and oaths, and in dissolving marriages, (not consummated by carnal knowledge,) by admitting men into orders of Religion. But this practice of the Romish Church, we condemn, as wicked and Antichristian.--pp. 375. 378.
The Holy Scripture is the fountain and living spring, containing in all-sufficiency and abundance the pure water of life, and whatsoever is necessary to make GOD'S people wise unto salvation. The consentient and unanimous testimony of the true Church of CHRIST in the primitive ages thereof, is canalis, a conduit-pipe to derive and convey to succeeding generations the celestial water contained in the Holy Scriptures. . . . The Ecclesiastical story reporteth of Nazianzen and Basil, that in their studying the Holy Scriptures they collected the sense of them, not from their own judgment or presumption, but from the testimony and authority of the ancients, who had received the rule of the true intelligence of Scripture from the Holy Apostles by succession. . . . The reformed Churches reject not all traditions, but such as are spurious, superstitious, and not consonant to the prime rule of faith, to wit, the Holy Scripture; but genuine traditions, agreeable to the rule of faith, subservient to piety, consonant with holy Scripture, derived from the Apostolical times by a successive current, and which have the uniform testimony of pious antiquity, are received and honoured by us. Now such are those which follow the historical tradition concerning the number, integrity, dignity, and perfection of the books of Canonical Scripture, the Catholic exposition of many sentences of Scripture, the Apostles' Creed, the baptism of infants, the perpetual virginity of the blessed Virgin Mary, the righteous observation of the Lord's Day, and some other Festivals, as Easter, Pentecost, &c. baptizing and administration of the holy Eucharist in public assemblies and congregations, the service of the Church in a known language, the delivering of the Communion to the people in both kinds, the superiority and authority of Bishops over Priests and Deacons in jurisdiction and power of ordination, &c.--On the Sabbath, pp. 12. 14. 97.
In truth he who heartily subscribes to the Word of GOD, consigned, as it is, to the everlasting record of letters, to all the primitive Creeds, to the four General Councils, to the concordant judgment of the Fathers for the first six hundred years from Christ, which we of the Reformed Church religiously profess to do, even though he be not exempt from error in minor points, yet he shall never be an heretic. Any particular Church may easily err, by affixing heresy to an opinion undeserving of it, whether a truth, or but a light error; but heavily neither soul nor Church can err, which walks needfully in the steps of the universal and ancient Church.
The third particular I consider is, Suppose in the whole Catholic Church Militant, an absolute infallibility in the prime foundations of Faith absolutely necessary to Salvation; and that this power of not erring so, is not communicable to a General Council, which represents it, but that the Council is subject to error. This supposition does not only preserve that which you desire in the Church, an infallibility, but it meets with all inconveniences, which usually have done, and daily do perplex the Church. And here is still a remedy for all things. For if private respects, if bandies in a faction, if power and favour of some parties, if weakness of them which have the managing, if any unfit mixture of State Counsels, if any departure from the rule of the Word of GOD, if any thing else sway and wrench the Council; the whole Church upon evidence found in express Scripture, or demonstration of this miscarriage, hath power to represent herself in another Body, or Council, and to take order for what was amiss, either practised, or concluded. So here is a means without any infringing any lawful authority of the Church, to preserve or reduce unity, and yet grant, as I did, and as the Church of England doth, that a General Council may err: and this course the Church heretofore took; for she did call, and represent herself in a new Council, and define against the heretical conclusions of the former, as in the case at Ariminum, and the second of Ephesus, is evident; and in other councils named by Bellarmine. Now the Church is never more commonly abused than when men out of this truth, that she may err, infer this falsehood, that she is not to be obeyed. For it will never follow, she may err, therefore she may not govern. For he that says, "Obey them which have the rule over you, and submit yourselves, for they watch for your souls" (Heb. xiii. 17.), commands obedience, and expressly ascribes rule to the Church. And that not only a Pastoral power, to teach and direct, but a Praetorian also, to controul and censure too, where errors or crimes are against points fundamental, or of great consequence, else St. Paul would not have given the rule of excommunication, (1 Cor. v.) Nor CHRIST Himself have put the man that will not hear and obey the Church into the place and condition of an Ethnic and a Publican, as He doth, (Matt, xviii.) And Solomon's rule is general, and he hath it twice: My son, forsake not the teaching or instruction of thy mother. Now this is either spoken or meant of a natural mother; and her authority over her children is confirmed, (Ecclus. iii.) And the fool will be upon him that despiseth her, (Prov. xv.) or 'tis extended also to our Mystical and Spiritual Mother, the Church, and so the general note upon the place expresses it. And I cannot but incline to this opinion, because the blessings which accompany this obedience are so many and great, as that they are not like to be the fruits of obedience to a natural mother only, as Solomon expresses them all. (Prov. vi.) And in all this there is no exception of the Mother's erring. For Mater errans, an erring Mother loses neither the right nor the power of a Mother by her error. And I marvel what Son should show reverence or obedience if no Mother that hath erred might exact it. 'Tis true, the Son is not to follow his Mother's error, or his Mother into error. But 'tis true too, 'tis a grievous crime in a Son to cast off all obedience to his Mother, because at some time, or in some things, she hath fallen into error. And howsoever this consideration meets with this inconvenience, as well as the rest, for suppose (as I said) in the whole Catholic Militant Church an absolute infallibility in the prime foundations of Faith absolutely necessary to salvation: and then, though the Mother Church, provincial or national, may err, yet if the Grand Mother, the whole Universal Church, cannot in these necessary things, all remains safe, and all occasions of disobedience taken from the possibility of the Church's erring, are quite taken away. Nor is this Mother less to be valued by her children, because in some smaller things age had filled her face fuller of wrinkles. For where 'tis said, that CHRIST makes to Himself a Church without spot or wrinkle, (Eph. v.) that is not understood of the Church Militant but of the Church Triumphant. And to maintain the contrary is a branch of the spreading Heresy of Pelagianism. Nor is the Church on earth any freer from wrinkles in Doctrine and Discipline than she is from spots in Life and Conversation.--p. 256.
Where is it bidden in Scripture to baptize infants, or to administer to communicants in the Lord's Supper under both kinds? There are ever so many such instances in sacred matters, instituted by GOD, committed to the Church, practised by the Church, of which notwithstanding it may be declared, Scripture teacheth nothing such, Scripture does not preach these things.--Orig. Eccles. ii. 67. p. 396.
The three special notes of the Catholic Faith or Church, by him required, are Universality, Antiquity, and Consent. Whether these three members be different or subordinate, and ofttimes coincident, I leave it to be scanned by Logicians. According to the author's limitation, all three marks agree to us, not to the Romanist.
First, concerning Universality, the question is not, whether at this present time, or in any former age for these thousand years past, there are or have been more, which profess the present Romish Religion established in the Church of Rome, than the Religion established in the Reformed Churches since the separation was made. If we should come to calculate voices after this manner, whether will you be a Roman Catholic, or a Protestant: they might, perhaps, have three for one amongst such as profess themselves Christians, ready to cry, I am not for the Protestants; but for the Roman Catholics will I be. But it was far from Vincentius his meaning, that Universality should be measured after this fashion; for he very well knew that the Arian faction had prevailed especially by this tumultuary kind of canvass or calculation. The multitude of voices thus taken for them, may prove their faction to be stronger and greater than our Church; it cannot prove their Faith to be so universal as our Faith is. The fallacy by which the Romanists deceive poor simple people, is in making them believe, that our Religion and their Religion, our Faith and their Faith are duo prima diversa, or so totally distinct, that part of the one could not be included in the other. But for the universality of our Faith we have every member of the Roman Church a suffragant or witness for us. First, nothing is held as a point of Faith in our Church, but the present Romish Church doth hold the same, and confess the same to have been held by all orthodoxal antiquity. So that for the form of Faith established in our Church, we have the consent of the Primitive Church, of the four first General Councils, of all succeeding ages unto this present day, the consent likewise of the present Romish Church, and of ourselves. Now, as France is a great deal bigger than Normandy, if we compare them as distinct and opposite, and yet France and Normandy is bigger than France without Normandy: so likewise, though the present visible Romish Church be much greater than the Church of England, yet seeing the Romish Church, how great soever, doth hold all the points of Faith which our Church doth, for Catholic and orthodoxal; our consent, and their consent, our confession, and their confession, is more universal than their consent without ours. But if their consent unto the points of Faith believed by us, prove our Faith to be universal, and our Church by consequence to be Catholic; why should not our consent unto the points of Faith believed by them, prove their Faith to be universal, or their Church to be Catholic? Because it is not enough to hold all points of Catholic Faith, unless the same points be kept holy and undefiled. The Romish Church, we grant, doth hold all points of Catholic Faith, and so far as she holds these points, we dissent not from her: yet dissent from her we do in that she hath defiled and polluted the Catholic Faith, with new and poisonous doctrines; for which she neither hath the consent of antiquity, nor of the Reformed Churches. And in respect of these doctrines, she stands convicted of schism and heresy, by Vincentius his rules. For it is with him a fundamental rule, that no present visible Church, hath any authority to commend anything as a point of Faith to posterity, which hath not been commended to the said Church by antiquity derived from the Apostles' times. A proficiency or growth in Faith, he allows and granteth, modo sit in eodem genere, so it be in the same kind, or proceed from the same root; but for additions or new inventions, he takes them for the marks of schism and heresy.
So then we hold the Catholic Faith, and they hold the Catholic Faith. And seeing they hold the Catholic Faith in the same measure that we do, is it not reason they should be termed Catholics as well as we, though not so good Catholics as we? No reason they should be termed Catholics at all. Where is the difference? In this. We hold it pure and undefiled, they have defiled and polluted it for many generations, and do still defile it with many loathsome additions and inventions. Now in this case the denomination followeth the worser part, that is, they are not so much to be reputed Catholics for that they hold the Catholic Faith, as to be adjudged heretics and schismatics, because they have denied and polluted it with many new inventions, and being admonished hereof and reproved, will not purify their Faith, will not reform their religion according to the rule of Faith and the practice of antiquity. Their Faith not purified from the additions of the second Nicene and Trent Council, can be no Catholic Faith. Their religion not reformed, can be no true religion, save only in reference to Paganism, Judaism, or Mahometism. For as Dionysius saith, Bonum non est nisi ex integra causa, malum ex quolibet defectu. Nothing is good which is not entire and sound, evil ariseth from every defect. Every new addition or invention in matters of Faith or Doctrine, is enough to make that Church schismatical, which before was Catholic and orthodoxal. Catholic and orthodoxal no Church can be, unless it hold all points of Faith without admixture of human inventions or of new articles. The admixture of a great deal of man's meat with a little swine's meat, makes the whole dish to be no man's meat, but swine's meat. Our Church according to Vincentius his rule, admits a growth or proficiency in Faith, in that it holds not only those propositions which are expressly contained in Scripture, but such as may by necessary consequence be deduced out of them, for points of Faith and this growth is still in eodem genere, from the same root. Other points of Faith besides these, our Church admitteth none, but ties even her Prelates and Governors, to obtrude no other doctrines as points of Faith upon their auditors, than such as are either expressly contained in Scriptures, or may infallibly be deduced from them. And this is the fundamental and radical difference between our Church and the Romish Church, which admitteth such an illimitted increase or growth of Faith as is in heaps or congests of Heterogeneals.
The pain-worthiest inquiry in this argument, were first to make search what additions, or adinventions unto the ancient or primitive Canon of Catholic Faith have been made, received or authorized by the Romish Church, since the Council of Ephesus, which was some three years before Vincentius Lirinensis wrote his admonitions concerning this point; and in what age and upon what occasions, such additions have been made or received. Secondly, to make proof or demonstration, how far and in what manner such additions do corrupt or contaminate the holy Catholic Faith; and how far each or all of them, jointly or severally, do undermine or overthrow the holy Catholic Faith.
The first addition or adinvention of moment, which comes into my memory, is the invocation of Saints and veneration of images. Both which points were added as Articles of Faith or parts of the Creed, which all were bound to believe and profess, by Tharasius, Patriarch of Constantinople and President of that illiterate, parasitical and factious assembly, which hath been commonly styled the seventh general or second Nicene Council. In these and the like abominable decrees the then Bishop of Rome was Tharasius's accomplice, his instigator and abettor, as may appear from the speeches of his Legates in that Council, and by his own Epistles, although part of the Epistle may be justly suspected to have been framed since. But by what spirit this Council was managed, or in whose name they met together. I refer the reader unto that learned Treatise in the Book of Homilies (whereunto we have all subscribed) concerning the peril of idolatry, especially the third part. What ingenuous minds of this kingdom thought of that council, before either the author of these Homilies or Luther was born, may in part be gathered from an ancient English Historiographer, who saith the Church of GOD did hold this decree in execration.
The selfsame points, with a great many more of like or worse nature, all whatsoever any council which the Romish Church accounteth general or oecumenical, or any Canons which the same Church accounteth Catholic, even all decrees whereto the Trent Council hath affixed their Anathemas, have been annexed by Pius Quartus to the Nicene Creed, and are inserted as principal points of that oath which every Roman Bishop at his consecration is to take; one part of which oath or solemn vow it likewise is, that every Bishop shall exact the like confession of his inferiors to be ratified by oath or solemn vow, Caetera omnia a sacris, &c.
The particular decree concerning invocation of Saints and adoration of images, is much enlarged by the Trent Council, and by Pius Quartus. But of the equivalency of idolatry in Rome Heathen, and Rome Christian, elsewhere at large. In this one point, to omit others, the present Romish Church far exceeds the Eastern Church, in the time of the second Nicene Council, in that it ratifies the worshipping of all such Saints as are canonized by the Pope.
The second addition made by the Roman Church unto the ancient Canon of Faith, is a transcendant one, and illimited; and that is, the making of Ecclesiastical tradition to be an integral part of the Canon of Faith. This doth not only pollute, but undermine the whole fabric of the holy, primitive and Catholic Faith. That there is a certain rule or authentic Canon of Faith, is a principle, wherein the ancient primitive Church, the modern Roman, and all reformed Churches agree. The first point of difference betwixt us, is about the extent of the written Canon, especially of the old Testament. The main points of difference are these. First, we affirm with antiquity, and in particular with Vincentius Lirinensis, that the Canon of Scripture is a rule of Faith, perfect for quantity, and sufficient for quality; that is, it contains all things in it, that are necessary to salvation, or requisite to be contained in any rule; and so contains them as they may be believed and understood, without relying on any other rule or authority equivalent to them in certainty, or more authentic in respect of us, than the Scriptures are. The modern Romish Church denies the Canon of Scripture to be perfect and complete in respect of its quantity, or sufficient for its quality or efficacy. To supply the defect of its quantity, they add tradition, as another part of the same rule, homogeneal and equivalent to it for quality. To supply the insufficiency as well of Canonical Scriptures as of tradition in respect of their quality or efficacy towards us, they add the infallible authority of the present visible Church. The former addition of unwritten tradition as part of the infallible rule doth undermine: this latter addition of the Church's infallible and absolute authority as well in determining the extent, as in declaring the true sense and meaning of the whole rule, utterly pulls down the structure of Faith: yet when we reject Ecclesiastical tradition from being any part of the rule of Faith, we do not altogether deny the authority or use of it. Howbeit that Ecclesiastical tradition, whereof there was such excellent use in the primitive Church was not unwritten tradition, or customs commended or ratified by the supposed infallibility of any visible Church. That Ecclesiastical tradition, which Vincentius Lirinensis so much commends, did especially consist in the confessions or registers of particular Churches. Now the unanimous consent of so many several Churches, as exhibited their confessions to the Nicene Council, being not dependent one of another, not overswayed by authority, nor misled by faction to frame the confessions of their Faith by imitation, or according to some pattern set them, but voluntarily and freely exhibiting such confessions as had been framed and taught before these controversies arose, was a pregnant argument to any impartial, understanding man, that this Faith wherein they all agreed, had been delivered unto them by the Apostles and their followers by the first planters of the Churches thus agreeing; a pregnant argument, likewise, that these first planters had been inspired and taught by one and the same Spirit. Each particular Church was a competent or authentic witness of every other Church's integrity and fidelity in servando depositum, in carefully preserving the truth committed to their special trust. On the contrary, in that Arius, Eutyches, Nestorius, and other Heretics, did obtrude such constructions of Scriptures upon their auditors as had nowhere been heard of before, but sprung up with themselves, or from the places where they lived, this was an argument more than probable, that if the Apostles had delivered the whole form of wholesome doctrine unto posterity, (a point questioned by no Church in those times) these men, or the particular Churches which abetted them, had not kept the doctrine delivered unto them by our SAVIOUR and His Apostles; but had corrupted or defiled it with the idle fancies of their own brains, or with the muddy conceit of their discontented passions.
To speak more briefly, though perhaps more fully; the unanimous consent of so many distinct visible Churches, as exhibited their several confessions, catechisms, or testimonies of their own and their forefathers' Faith, unto the four first (Ecumenical Councils, was an argument of the same force and efficacy, against Arius and other Heretics, for whose conviction these Councils were called, as the general consent and practice of all nations in worshipping some Divine power or other, hath been, in all ages, against the Atheists. Nothing, besides the ingrafted notion of a Deity or Divine power, could have inclined so many several nations, so much different in natural disposition, in civil discipline and education, to affect or practise the duty of adoration. Nothing besides the evidence of truth delivered unto the Christian world by CHRIST and His Apostles, could have kept so many several Churches, as communicated their confessions unto the Councils of Nice and Ephesus, &c. in the unity of the same Faith.
Howbeit this unanimous tradition Ecclesiastic, was not in these times held for any proper part of the rule of Faith, but alleged only as an inducement to incline the hearts of such as before acknowledged the written word for the only rule of Faith, to believe that the interpretations or decisions of those Councils, did contain the true sense and meaning of the rule acknowledged by all. So that the written tradition which Vincentius so much commends, was not by the Nicene Council used to any such purpose as the Romanists now use unwritten traditions. The only use of it was to direct the present Church in her examination of the Catholic truth, or points of Faith. The chief authority which the visible Church then challenged, did consist in the unanimous consent of the Ecclesiastic tradition, and that (as was said before) but an inducement to embrace the interpretations of the present Church, and reject the interpretations of upstart Heretics.
But was it a received truth in these primitive times, or a truth acknowledged by Vincentius, (the pretended patron of Roman Catholic tradition) that the joint consent of so many Bishops, as were assembled in the first Council of Nice, or the joint confessions of so many several Dioceses as were then delivered to that Council, should unto the world's end, continue an argument or inducement of like force or validity, as it then was, either for establishment of the Canons which succeeding Councils should make, or for condemning such opinions as with the consent of as many (or more) Bishops, as were there assembled, should be condemned for Heresies? No, the same Vincentius hath given posterity a caveat, as full of wisdom, as of religion; in some cases not to admit of his former admonition, concerning the trial of Catholic Faith, either for retelling Heresies, or for establishing the truth. The limitation of his former admonition is, in his own words, thus. As for ancient and inveterate Heresies, they are not in any wise to be refuted by the former method, because continuance of time (after Heresies be once set on foot) may afford Heretics many opportunities of stealing truth out of the writings of the ancient, or for exchanging orthodoxal antiquity with profane novelties.
Now what opportunities of falsification did these eight hundred years last past afford, which the Roman Church was not always ready to take? The opportunities afforded by dissolution of the Roman Empire and variance of Christian Kings, first made the Roman Clergy such sacrilegious thieves, as Vincentius supposeth any opportunity may make Heretics to be. And the Roman Church, being flesht with the spoil of CHRIST'S flock and Christian Churches through the West, have not been wanting unto themselves in devising new opportunities in coining a new act of falsifying antiquity, of stealing the consent and suffrages of the Christian world, from orthodoxal and primitive truth. So that if this controversy may be examined and discussed by Vincentius's rules, since the first acknowledgment of the Pope's supremacy, since the making of edicts for the acknowledging of it, since the exemption of Clerks from royal or civil jurisdiction; all the written testimonies, or unwritten traditions, which the children of the Romish Church do or can rake together, are void in law, and void in conscience: there is not so much as one legal single testimony, but all are as a multitude of false and illegal witnesses, of parties or conspirators in their own cause.
But although Heresies of long standing and continuance cannot be refuted, nor may not be assaulted, in Vincentius's judgment, by the former method, that is, by multitude of suffragants, or joint consent of several Provinces, is there therefore no other means left to convince them, no way left to eschew them? Yes, we may eschew them, (saith he), as already condemned by ancient and orthodoxal Councils; or we may convince them, so it be needful or expedient, by the sole authority of Scriptures. Now if the Scriptures be sufficient to convince Heresies of long continuance or long standing, and to confute such Heretics, as want neither wit, will, nor opportunity to falsify ancient records, and imprint traditions of their own coining with inscriptions of antiquity, I hope the same Scripture was (in Vincentius's judgment) a rule of faith neither incomplete for its quantity, nor insufficient for its quality: a rule every way competent for ending controversies in Religion, without the assumption either of tradition or Decrees of Council, as any associates or homogeneal parts of the same rule.
Unto what use then did Ecclesiastical tradition, or general Councils serve for quelling Heresies? Ecclesiastical traditions or unanimous consent of particular Churches throughout several Kingdoms or Provinces in points of Faith, was in ancient times and yet may be an excellent means, by which the Spirit of GOD leads general Councils into the truth. And the Councils whose care and office it was to compare and examine traditions exhibited, were the sovereign and principal means, under the guidance of GOD'S Spirit, by which as many as embraced the love of truth, were led into all those truths, which are at all times necessary to salvation, but were much questioned and obscured by the jugglings and falsifications of former Heretics. Into the same truths which these Councils were then, we now are led, not by relying upon the sole authority of the Councils which the Spirit did lead, but by tracing their footsteps, and viewing the way by which the Spirit did lead them. And this was, by necessary deductions or consequences, which reason, enlightened by the Spirit, and directed by the sweet disposition of Divine Providence, did teach them to make, and doth enable us to judge that they were truly made by them.--Vol. iii. p. 888.
It grieves me not a little, yea perplexes me, to hear that Mr. Dury is come off with no better success from my L. . . . I am loth male augurari; but I like it not. I fear it is mali ominis, and that our State and Church have no mind to put their hand to this work: Deus avertat omen! But our Church, you know, goes upon differing principles from the rest of the Reformed, and so steers her course by another rule than they do. We look after the form, rites and discipline of antiquity, and endeavour to bring our own as near as we can to that pattern. We suppose the Reformed Churches have departed farther therefrom than needed, and so we are not very solicitous to comply with them; yea, we are jealous of such of our own as we see over-zealously addicted to them, lest it be a sign they prefer them before their Mother. This, 1 suppose, you have observed, and that this disposition in our Church is of late very much increased. Well then, if this union sought after be like to further and advantage us in the way we affect, we shall listen to it. If it be like to be prejudicial, as namely to give strength and authority to those amongst us who are enamoured with the foreign platform, or bring a yoke upon our own by limiting and making us obnoxious; we'll stand aloof and not meddle with it, lest we infringe our liberty.--Works, book iv. p. 865.
That the multitude of teachers dispersed over the world, without any such dependency or correspondency, should agree together in laying the foundations of the same faith, is a special work of GOD'S Spirit. And it is "the unity of the spirit" which the Apostle here speaketh of, and exhorteth us to "keep in the bond of peace." Whereas the unity of which our adversaries boast so much (which is nothing else but a wilful suffering of themselves to be led blindfold by one man, who commonly is more blind than many of themselves) is no fruit of the Spirit, but of mere carnal policy; and may serve, peradventure, for a "bond of peace" betwixt themselves and their own party, such as the priests of Antichrist were to have, and as many as would be content to yield themselves to the conduct of such a commander, but hath proved the greatest block that ever stood in the way for giving impediment to the peace and unity of the universal Church, which here we look after. And therefore Nilus, Archbishop of Thessalonica, entering into the consideration of the original ground of that long-continued schism, whereby the West standeth as yet divided from the East, and the Latin churches from the Greek, wrote a whole book purposely on this argument, wherein he sheweth "that there is no other cause to be assigned of this distraction, but that the Pope will not permit the cognizance of the controversy unto a General Council, but will needs sit himself as the alone teacher of the point in question, and have others hearken unto him as if they were his scholars; and that this is contrary both to the ordinances and the practice of the Apostles and the Fathers." Neither indeed is there any hope that ever we shall see a general peace for matters of religion settled in the Christian world, as long as this supercilious master shall be suffered to keep this rule in GOD'S house, how much soever he be magnified by his own disciples, and made the only foundation upon which the unity of the Catholic Church dependeth.
Now in the next place, for the further opening of the "unity of faith," we are to call unto mind the distinction which the Apostle maketh betwixt the foundation and that which is builded thereupon, betwixt the principles of the doctrine of CHRIST and that which he calleth perfection. The "unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of GOD" here spoken of hath reference, as we have heard, to the foundation; as that which followeth, of a "perfect man," and "the measure of the statute of the fulness of CHRIST," to the superstruction and perfection. In the former there is a general unity among all true believers; in the latter a great deal of variety; there being several degrees of perfection to be found in several persons, "according to the measure of the gilt of CHRIST." So we see in a material building that still there is but one foundation, though great disparity be observed in sundry parts of the superstructure; some rooms are high, some low, some dark, some lightsome, some more substantially, some more slightly builded, and in tract of time some prove more ruinous than others; yet all of them belong to one building, as long as they hold together and stand upon the same foundation. And even thus is it in the spiritual building also, whether we respect the practical part of Christianity or the intellectual. In the practical we see wonderful great difference betwixt Christian and Christian; some by GOD'S mercy attain to a higher measure of perfection, and keep themselves unspotted from the common corruptions of the world: others watch not so carefully, &c.
The oracles of GOD contain abundance of matter in them, and whatsoever is found in them is a fit subject for faith to apprehend; but that all Christians should uniformly agree in the profession of those truths that are revealed there, is a thing that rather may be wished than ever hoped for. Yet the variety of men's judgments in those many points that belong to theological faith, doth not dissolve the unity which they hold together in the fundamental principles of the Catholic faith. The "unity of faith" commended here is a Catholic unity, and such as every Christian attaineth unto. "Till we ALL come in the unity of faith," saith the Apostle. As there is a common salvation, so is there a common faith, which is alike precious in the highest Apostle and the meanest believer. For we may not think that heaven was prepared for deep clerks only, and therefore beside that larger measure of knowledge whereof all are not capable, there must be "a rule of faith common to small and great," which, as it must consist of few propositions (for simple men cannot bear away many), so is it also requisite that those articles should be of so much weight and moment, that they may be sufficient to make a man "wise unto salvation;" that howsoever in other points learned men may go beyond common Christians, and exceed one another likewise by many degrees, yet in respect, of these radical truths which is the necessary and common food of all the children of the Church, there is not an unity only but such a kind of equality also, brought in among all sorts of Christians, as was heretofore among the congregation of the Israelites in the collection of their manna, where "he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack."
If then salvation by believing these common principles may be had, and to salvation none can come that is not first a member of the Catholic Church of Christ, it followeth thereupon, that "the unity of the faith" generally requisite for the incorporating of Christians into that blessed society is not to be extended beyond those common principles which may further be made manifest unto us by the continual practice of the Catholic Church herself in the matriculation of her children and the first admittance of them into her communion; for when she prepared her Catechumeni for baptism, and by that door received them into the congregation of CHRIST'S flock, we may not think her judgment to have been so weak that she should omit anything herein that was essentially necessary for the making of one to be a member of the Church. Now, the profession which she required of all that were to receive baptism, was for the Agenda, or practical part, an ab-renunciation of the devil, the world, and the flesh, with all their sinful works and lusts; and for the Credenda, the things to be believed, an acknowledgement of the Articles of the Creed; which being solemnly done, she then baptized them "in this faith;" intimating thereby sufficiently that this was that "one faith" commended unto her by the Apostles, as the other that "one baptism" which was appointed to be the Sacrament of it.
This Creed, though for substance it was the same every where, yet for form was somewhat different, and in some places received more enlargements than in others.
That which in the time of the ancient Fathers was accounted to be "truly and properly Catholic," namely, "that which was believed everywhere, always, and by all," that in the succeeding ages hath evermore been preserved, and is at this day entirely professed in our Church. And it is well observed by a learned man, who hath written a full discourse of this argument, that "Whatsoever the father of lies either hath attempted or shall attempt, yet neither hath he hitherto effected, nor shall ever bring it to pass hereafter, that this Catholic doctrine, ratified by the common consent of Christians always and everywhere, should be abolished; but that in the thickest mist rather of the most perplexed troubles it still obtained victory, both in the minds and open confession of all Christians, no ways overturned in the foundation thereof; and that in this verity that one Church of Christ was preserved in the midst of the tempests of the most cruel winter, or in the thickest darkness of her wanings."
Thus, if at this day we should take a survey of the several professions of Christianity that have any large spread in any part of the world, as of the religion of the Roman and the Reformed Churches in our quarters, of the Egyptians and the Ethiopians in the south, of the Grecians and other Christians in the eastern parts, and should put by the points wherein they did differ one from another, and gather into one body the rest of the articles wherein they all did generally agree, we should find, that in those propositions which without all controversy are universally received in the whole Christian world, so much truth is contained as, being joined with holy obedience, may be sufficient to bring a man unto everlasting salvation. Neither have we cause to doubt, but that "as many as do walk according to this rule," (neither overthrowing that which they have builded by superinducing any damnable heresies thereupon, nor otherwise vitiating their "holy faith" with a lewd and wicked conversation) "peace shall be upon them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of GOD."
Now these common principles of the Christian faith, which we call KoivoKiaTa or things generally believed of all, as they have "universality," and "antiquity," and "consent," concurring with them, which by Vincentius's rule are the special characters of that which is truly and properly Catholic; so for their duration we are sure that they have still held out, and been kept as the seminary of the Catholic Church in the darkest and difficultest times that ever have been; where, if the Lord of hosts had not in his mercy reserved this seed unto us, we should long since "have been as Sodom, and should have been like unto Gomorrah." It cannot be denied indeed, that Satan and his instruments have used their utmost endeavour cither to hide this light from men's eyes by keeping them in gross ignorance, or to deprave it by bringing in pernicious heresies; and that in these latter ages they have much prevailed both ways, as well in the West and North as in the East and South. Yet far be it, for all this, from any man to think that "GOD should so cast away his people," that in those times, there should not be left "a remnant according to the election of Grace."
The Christian Church was never brought unto a lower ebb than was the Jewish synagogue in the days of our Saviour CHRIST, when, &c. pp. 700--713.
If your intention be only to invite his Majesty to embrace the Catholic Faith, you might have spared both your toil and labour. The Catholic Faith flourished one thousand two hundred years in the world, before Transubstantiation was defined among yourselves. Persons better acquainted with the Primitive times than yourself (unless you wrong one another) do acknowledge that the Fathers did not touch either the word or the matter of Transubstantiation. Mark it well; neither Name nor Thing. His Majesty doth firmly believe all supernatural Truth revealed in Sacred Writ. Ho embraceth cheerfully whatsoever the holy Apostles, or the Nicene Fathers, or blessed Athanasius, in their respective Creeds or Summaries of Catholic Faith did set down as necessary to be believed. He is ready to receive whatsoever the Catholic Church of this Age doth unanimously believe to be a particle of saving Truth.
But if you seek to obtrude upon him the Roman Church, with its adherents, for the Catholic Church, excluding three parts of four of the Christian world from the communion of CHRIST; or the Opinions thereof, for Articles and Fundamentals of Catholic Faith, neither his reason, nor his Religion, nor his Charity, will suffer him to listen unto you. The truths received by our Church are sufficient, in point of Faith, to make him a good Catholic. More than this, your Roman Bishops, your Roman Church, your TYklentine Council, may not, cannot, obtrude upon him. Listen to the Third General Council, that of Ephcsus, which decreed, that it should he lawful for no man to publish or compose another Faith or Creed than that which was defined by the Nicene Council; and that whosoever should dare to compose or offer any such to any persons willing to be converted from Paganism, Judaism, or Heresy, if they were Bishops or Clerks, should be deposed; if Laymen, should be anathematised.
Suffer us to enjoy the same Creed the Primitive Fathers did, which none will say to have been insufficient, except they be mad, as was alleged by the Greeks in the Council of Florence. You have violated this Canon, you have obtruded a New Creed upon Christendom. New I say, not in words only, but in sense also.
Some things are de Symbolo, some things are contra Symbolum, and some things are only praeter Symbolum. Some things are contained in the Creed, either expressly or virtually, either in the letter or in the sense, and may be deduced by evident consequence from the Creed, as the Deity of CHRIST, his Two Natures, the Procession of the Holy Ghost. The addition of these was properly no addition, but an explication; yet such an explication, no person, no assembly, under an Oecumenical Council, can impose upon the Catholic Church. And such an one your Tri-dentine Synod was not.
Secondly, some things are contra Symbolum, contrary to the Symbolical Faith, and either expressly or virtually overthrow some article of it. These additions are not only unlawful, but heretical also in themselves, and after conviction render a man a formal Heretic; whether some of your additions be not of this nature, I will not now dispute.
Thirdly, some things are neither of the Faith, nor against the Faith, but only besides the Faith; that is, opinions or truths of an inferior nature, which are not so necessary to be actually known; for though all revealed truths be alike necessary to be believed when they are known, yet all revealed truths are not alike necessary to be known. It is not denied, but that General or Provincial Councils may make constitutions concerning these for Unity and Uniformity, and oblige all such as are subject to their jurisdiction to receive them, either actively, or passively, without contumacy or opposition. But to make these, or any of these, a part of the Creed, and to oblige all Christians under pain of damnation to know and believe them, is really to add to the Creed, and to change the Symbolical, Apostolical Faith, to which none can add, from which none can take away, and comes within the compass of St. Paul's curse: "If we, or an angel from Heaven, shall preach unto you any other Gospel (or Faith) than that which we have preached, let him be accursed." Such are, your universality of the Roman Church, by the institution of CHRIST, (to make her the Mother of her Grandmother the Church of Jerusalem, and the Mistress of her many elder Sisters) your doctrine of Purgatory and Indulgences, and the worship of Images, and all other Novelties defined in the Council of Trent, all of which are comprehended in your New Roman Creed, and obtruded by you upon all the world to be believed upon pain of damnation. He that can extract all these out of the old Apostolic Creed, must needs be an excellent chymist, and may safely undertake to draw water out of a pumice.--Works, p. 22.
Concerning the proper expounders of Scripture, we do believe that the Gospel doth not consist in the words, but in the sense; non in superficie, sed in medullâ; and therefore that, though this infallible rule be given for the common benefit of all, yet, every one is not an able or fit artist to make application of this rule, in all particular cases. To preserve the common right, and yet prevent particular abuses, we distinguish judgment into three kinds:
Judgment of Discretion; Judgment of Direction; and Judgment of Jurisdiction.
As in the former instance of the law (the ignorance whereof excuseth no man) every subject hath judgment of discretion, to apply it particularly to the preservation of himself, his estate and interest; the advocates, and those who are skilful in the law, have moreover a judgment of direction, to advise others of less knowledge and experience; but those who are constituted by the sovereign power, to determine emergent difficulties, and differences, and to distribute and administer justice to the whole body of a Province or Kingdom, have moreover a Judgment of Jurisdiction, which is not only discretionary, or directive, but authoritative, to impose an obligation of obedience unto those who are under their charge. If these last shall transgress the Rule of the Law, they are not accountable to their inferiors, but to him or them that have the Sovereign power of Legislative Judicature; Ejus est legem interpretari, cujus est condere.
To apply this to the case in question concerning the exposition of the Holy Scripture. Every Christian keeping himself within the bounds of due obedience and submission to his lawful superiors, hath a Judgment of Discretion; "prove all things, hold fast that which is good." He may apply the rule of Holy Scripture for his own private instruction, comfort, edification, and direction, and for the framing of his life and belief accordingly. The Pastors of the Church (who are placed over GOD'S people as watchmen and guides) have more than this, a Judgment of Direction, to expound and interpret the Holy Scriptures to others, and out of them to instruct the ignorant, to reduce them who wander out of the right way, to confute errors, to foretell dangers, and to draw sinners to repentance. The chief Pastors, to whose care the regiment of the Church is committed in a more special manner, have yet an higher degree of judgment, a Judgment of Jurisdiction, to prescribe, to enjoin, to constitute, to reform, to censure, to condemn, to bind, to loose, judicially, authoritatively, in their respective charges. If their Key shall err, either their key of knowledge, or their key of jurisdiction, they are accountable to their respective superiors, and in the last place to a General Council, which under CHRIST, upon earth, is the highest Judge of controversies. Thus we have seen what is the Rule of Faith, and by whom, and how far respectively, this Rule is to be applied.--
This hath always been the doctrine, and the practice of our English Church; First, it is so far from admitting Laymen to be Directive Interpreters of Holy Scripture, that it allows not this liberty to clergymen so much as to gloss upon the text until they be licensed to become preachers. Secondly, for Judgment of Discretion only, it gives it not to private persons above their talent, or beyond their last. It disallows all phantastical and enthusiastical presumption of incompetent and unqualified expositors. It admits no man into Holy Orders, that is, to be capable of being made a Directive Interpreter of Scripture, howsoever otherwise qualified, unless he be able to give a good account of his faith in the Latin tongue, so as to be able to frame all his expositions according to the analogy thereof. It forbids the licensed preachers to teach the people any doctrine as necessary to be religiously held and believed, which the Catholic Fathers, and Old Bishops of the Primitive Church have not collected out of the Scriptures. It ascribes a Judgment of Jurisdiction over Preachers to Bishops, in all manner of Ecclesiastical Duties, as appears by the whole body of our Canons. And especially where any difference or public opposition hath been between Preachers about any point or doctrine deduced out of Scripture. It gives a power of determining all emergent controversies of Faith above Bishops to the Church, as to the witness and keeper of the Sacred Oracles; and to a lawful Synod, as the representative Church.
We receive not your upstart supposititious traditions, nor unwritten fundamentals; but we admit Genuine, Universal, Apostolical Traditions; as the Apostles' Creed, the Perpetual Virginity of the Mother of GOD, the Anniversary Festivals of the Church, the Lenten Fast. Yet we know that both the duration of it, and the manner of observing it, was very different in the Primitive times. We believe Episcopacy, to an ingenuous person, may be proved out of Scripture without the help of tradition; but to such as are froward, the perpetual practice and tradition of the Church, renders the interpretation of the text more authentic, and the proof more convincing. What is this to us who admit the practice and tradition of the Church, as an excellent help of exposition? Use is the best interpreter of laws, and we are so far from believing, that we cannot admit tradition without allowing the Papacy, that one of the principal motives why we rejected the Papacy, as it is now established with Universality of Jurisdiction, by the Institution of CHRIST, and superiorly above Oecumenical Councils, and Infallibility of Judgment, was the constant tradition of the Primitive Church.--Works, p. 33.
The Communion of the Christian Catholic Church is partly internal, partly external. The internal Communion consists principally in these things: To believe the same entire substance of saving necessary truth revealed by the Apostles, and to be ready implicitly in the preparation of the mind to embrace all other supernatural verities when they shall be sufficiently proposed to them: to judge charitably one of another; to exclude none from the Catholic Communion and hope of Salvation, either Eastern, or Western, or Southern, or Northern Christians, which profess the ancient Faith of the Apostles and Primitive Fathers, established in the first General Councils, and comprehended in the Apostolic, Nicene, and Athanasian Creed; to rejoice at their well-doing, to sorrow for their sins, to condole with them in their sufferings, to pray for their constant perseverance in the true Christian Faith, for their reduction from all their respective errors, and their reunion to the Church in case they be divided from it, that we may be all one sheep-fold under that One Great Shepherd and Bishop of our souls; and lastly, to hold an actual External Communion with them in votis, in our desires, and to endeavour it by all those means which are in our power. This Internal Communion is of absolute necessity among all Catholics.
External Communion consists first in the same Creeds, or Symbols, or Confessions of Faith, which are the ancient badges or cognizances of Christianity. Secondly, in the participation of the same Sacraments. Thirdly, in the same external worship and frequent use of the same Divine Offices, or Liturgies, or Forms of serving GOD. Fourthly, in the use of the same public Rites and Ceremonies. Fifthly, in giving communicatory letters from one Church, or one person, to another. And lastly, in admission of the same discipline, and subjection to the same Supreme Ecclesiastical Authority, that is, Episcopacy, or a General Council: for as single Bishops are the heads of particular churches, so Episcopacy, that is, a General Council, or Oecumenical Assembly of Bishops, is the head of the Universal Church.--Works, p. 57.
No man can justly blame me for honouring my spiritual Mother the Church of England, in whose womb I was conceived, at whose breasts I was nourished, and in whose bosom I hope to die. Bees, by the instinct of nature, do love their hives, and birds their nests. But GOD is my witness that, according to my uttermost talent and poor understanding, I have endeavoured to set down the naked truth impartially, without either favour or prejudice, the two capital enemies of right judgment. The one of which, like a false mirror, doth represent things fairer and straighter than they are: the other like the tongue, infected with choler, makes the sweetest meats to taste bitter. My desire hath been to have truth for my chiefest friend, and no enemy but error. If I have had any bias, it hath been desire of peace, which our common SAVIOUR left as a legacy to His Church, that I might live to see the reunion of Christendom, for which I shall always bow the knees of my heart to the Father of our LORD JESUS CHRIST. It is not impossible but that this desire of unity may have produced some unwilling error of love, but certainly I am most free from the wilful love of error. In questions of an inferior nature, CHRIST regards a charitable intention much more than a right opinion.
Howsoever it be, I submit myself and my poor endeavours, First, to the judgment of the Catholic Oecumenical Essential Church, which if some, of late days, have endeavoured to hiss out of the schools as a fancy, I cannot help it. From the beginning it was not so. And if I should mistake the right Catholic Church out of human frailty or ignorance, (which, for my part I have no reason in the world to suspect; yet it is not impossible when the Romanists themselves are divided into five or six several opinions, what this Catholic Church, or what their Infallible Judge is) I do implicitly, and in the preparation of my mind submit myself to the true Catholic Church, the Spouse of CHRIST, the Mother of the Saints, the Pillar of Truth. And seeing my adherence is firmer to the Infallible Rule of Faith, that is, the Holy Scriptures, interpreted by the Catholic Church, than to mine own private judgment or opinions; although I should unwittingly fall into an error, yet this cordial submission is an implicit retractation thereof, and I am confident will be so accepted by the Father of mercies, both from me and all others who seriously and sincerely do seek after Peace and Truth.
Likewise I submit myself to the representative Church, that is, a free General Council, or so general as can be procured; and until then to the Church of England wherein I was baptized, or to a National English Synod. To the determination of all which, and each of them respectively, according to the distinct degrees of their authority, I yield a conformity and compliance, or at the least, and to the lowest of them, an acquiescence.
Finally, I crave this favour from the courteous reader, that because the surveyor hath overseen almost all the principal proofs of the cause in question, (which I conceive not to be so clearly and candidly done,) he will take the pains to peruse the vindication itself. And then in the name of GOD let him follow the dictate of right reason. For as that scale must needs settle down whereinto most weight is put, so the mind cannot choose, but yeld to the weight of perspicuous demonstration.--Works, p. 14I.
The great bustling in the controversy concerning Papal power, or the Discipline of the Church, hath been either about the true sense of some texts of Holy Scripture; as, "thou art Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church, and to thee will I give the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven", and "feed my sheep": Or about some privileges conferred upon the Roman See by the Canons of the Fathers, and the Edicts of Emperors, but pretended by the Roman Court, and the maintainers thereof, to be held by Divine right. I endeavour in this treatise to disabuse thee, and to shew that this challenge of Divine right is but a blind, or diversion, to withhold thee from finding out the true state of the question. So the hare makes her doubles and her jumps before she comes to her form, to hinder tracers from finding her out.
I demonstrate to thee, that the true controversy is not concerning St. Peter, we have no formed difference about St. Peter, nor about any point of Faith, but of interest and profit; nor with the Church of Rome, but with the court of Rome, and wherein it doth consist, namely, in these questions; who shall confer English Bishopricks? who shall convocate English Synods? who shall receive Tenths, and First-fruits, and Oaths of Allegiance and Fidelity? Whether the Pope can make binding laws in England, without the consent of the King and Kingdom, or dispense with English Laws at his own pleasure, or call English subjects to Rome without the Prince's leave, or setup Legantine Courts in England against their wills? And this I shew not out of the opinions of particular authors, but out of the public laws of the Kingdom.
I prove, moreover, out of our Fundamental Laws, and the writings of our best Historiographers, that all these branches of Papal power were abuses, and innovations, and usurpations, first attempted to be introduced into England above eleven hundred years after CHRIST, with the names of the innovators, and the precise time when each innovation began, and the opposition that was made against it by our Kings, by our Bishops, by our Peers, by our Parliaments, with the groans of the Kingdom under these Papal innovations and extortions.
Likewise, in point of doctrine, thou hast been instructed that the Catholic Faith doth comprehend all those points which are controverted between us and the Church of Rome, without the express belief whereof no Christian can be saved: whereas, in truth, all these are but opinions, yet some more dangerous than others. If none of them had ever been started in the world, there is sufficient to salvation for points to be believed in the Apostles' Creed. Into this Apostolical Faith, professed in the Creed, and explicated by the four first General Councils, and only into this Faith we have all been baptized. Far be it from us to imagine, that the Catholic Church hath ever more baptized, and doth still baptize but into one half of the Christian Faith.
In sum, doth thou desire to live in the communion of the true Catholic Church? So do I. But as I dare not change the cognizance of my Christianity, that is, my Creed, nor enlarge the Christian Faith (I mean the essentials of it) beyond those bounds which the Apostles have set, so I dare not (to serve the interest of the Roman Court) limit the Catholic Church, which CHRIST hath purchased with his blood, to a fourth or a fifth part of the Christian world.
Thou art for tradition, so am I. But my tradition is not the tradition of one particular Church contradicted by the tradition of another Church, but the universal and perpetual tradition of the Christian world united. Such a tradition is a full proof, which is received semper, ubique, et ab omnibus; always, everywhere, and by all Christians. Neither do I look upon the opposition of an handful of heretics (they are no more, being compared to the innumerable multitudes of Christians,) in one or two ages, as inconsistent with universality, any more than the highest mountains are inconsistent with the roundness of the earth.
Thou desirest to bear the same respect to the Church of Rome that thy ancestors did; so do I. But for that fulness of power, yea, co-active power in the exterior Court, over the subjects of other Princes, and against their wills, devised by the Court of Rome, not by the Church of Rome; it is that pernicious source from whence all these usurpations did spring. Our ancestors from time to time made laws against it; and our Reformation, in point of Discipline, being rightly understood, was but a pursuing of their steps. The true controversy is, whether the Bishop of Rome ought, by Divine right, to have the external regiment of the English Church, and co-active jurisdiction in English Courts, over English subjects, against the will of the King and the Laws of the Kingdom.--Works, p. 289.
As for Essentials of Faith, the pillars of the earth are not founded more firmly than our belief upon that undoubted rule of Vincentius, Quicquid ubique semper et ab omnibus, &c. Whatsoever we believe as an article of our Faith, we have for it the testimony and approbation of the whole Christian world of all ages, and therein the Church of Rome itself. But they have no such perpetual or universal tradition for their twelve new Articles of Pope Pius. This objection would have become me much better than him. Whatsoever we believe, they believe, and all the Christian world of all places, and all ages, doth now believe, and ever did believe, except condemned heretics. But they endeavour to obtrude new essentials of Faith upon the Christian world which have no such perpetual or such universal tradition. He that accuseth another, should have an eye to himself.
Does not all the world see that the Church of England stands no otherwise in order to the Church of Rome, than it did in Henry the Seventh's days? He addeth further, that it is confessed that the Papal power in Ecclesiastical affairs was cast out of England in Henry the Eighth's days. I answer that there was no mutation concerning Faith, nor concerning any legacy which CHRIST left to His Church, nor concerning the power of the Keys, or any jurisdiction purely spiritual, but concerning coactive power in the Exterior Court, concerning the Political or External Regiment of the Church, concerning the Patronage or Civil Sovereignty over the Church of England, and the Legislative, Judiciary, and Dispensative power of the Pope in England, over English subjects, which was no more than a reinfranchisement of ourselves, from the upstart usurpations of the Court of Rome, of all which I have showed him expressly the first source, who began them, when, and where; before which he is not able to give one instance of any such practices attempted by the Bishop of Rome, and admitted by the Church of England.--Works, p, 342.
Nor will their flying to tradition help them in this case, or free them from Pharisaism; but rather make the more against them. For to omit that it hath been the usual course of false teachers, when their doctrines were found not to be Scripture-proof, to fly to tradition: do but inquire a little into the original and growth of Pharisaical traditions, and you shall find that one egg is not more like another, than the Papists and the Pharisees are alike in this matter. When Sadoc (or whosoever else was the first author of the sect of the Sadducees) and his followers began to vent their pestilent and Atheistical doctrines against the immortality of the soul, the resurrection of the body, and other like: the best learned among the Jews, (the Pharisees especially) opposed against them by arguments and collections drawn from the Scriptures. The Sadducees finding themselves unable to hold argument with them, (as having two shrewd disadvantages, but a little learning, and a bad cause;) had no other means to avoid the force of all their arguments, than to hold them precisely to the letter of the text, without admitting any exposition thereof, or collection therefrom. Unless they could bring clear text, that should affirm totidem verbis what they denied, they would not yield. The Pharisees, on the contrary refused (as they had good cause) to be tied to such unreasonable conditions; but stood upon the meaning of the Scriptures, as the Sadducees did upon the letter; confirming the truth of their interpretations partly from reason, and partly from tradition. Not meaning by tradition (as yet) any doctrine other than what was already sufficiently contained in the Scriptures; but merely the doctrine which had been in all ages constantly taught and received with an universal consent among the people of GOD, as consonant to the Holy Scriptures, and grounded thereon. By this means, though they could not satisfy the Sadducees (as Heretics and Sectaries commonly are obstinate), yet so far they satisfied the generality of the people, that they grew into very great esteem with them; and within a while carried all before them: the detestation of the Sadducees and of their loose errors also conducing not a little thereunto. And who now but the Pharisees: and what now but tradition? in every man's eye and mouth. Things being at this pass, any wise man may judge, how easy a matter it was for men so reverenced as the Pharisees were, to abuse the credulity of the people and the interest they had in their good opinion, to their own advantage; to make themselves lords of the people's faith, and by little and little to bring into the worship whatsoever doctrines and observances they pleased; and all under the acceptable name of the traditions of the Elders. And so they did, winning continually upon the people by their cunning, and shows of religion, and proceeding still more and more, till the Jewish worship by their means was grown to that height of superstition and formality, as we see it was in our SAVIOUR'S days. Such was the beginning, and such the rise, of those Pharisaical traditions.
Popish traditions also came in and grew up just after the same manner. The orthodox Bishops and Doctors in the ancient Church, being to maintain the Trinity of Persons in the GODhead, the Consubstantiality of the Son with the Father, the Hypostatical union of the two natures in the Person of Christ, the Divinity of the Holy Ghost, and other like articles of the Catholic Religion against the Arians, Eunomians, Macedonians, and other Heretics; for that the words Trinity, Homousion, Hypostasis, Procession, &c. (which for the better expressing of the Catholic sense they were forced to use), were not expressly to be found in the Holy Scriptures; had recourse, therefore, very often in their writings against the Heretics of their times, to the tradition of the Church. Whereby they meant not (as the Papists would now wrest their words) any unwritten doctrine not contained in the Scriptures, but the very doctrine of the Scriptures themselves, as they had been constantly understood and believed by all faithful Christians in the Catholic Church, down from the Apostles' times till the several present ages wherein they lived. This course of theirs, of so serviceable and necessary use in those times, gave the first occasion and after-rise to that heap of errors and superstitions, which in process of time (by the power and policy of the Bishop of Rome especially, were introduced into the Christian Church under the specious name and colour of Catholic traditions. Thus have they trodden in the steps of their forefathers the Pharisees; and stand guilty even as they of the superstition here condemned by our SAVIOUR, in teaching for doctrines, men's precepts.--Ad Clerum, v. p. 85.
In truth we have continued the old religion; and the ceremonies which we have taken from them that were before us, are not things which belong to this or that sect, but they are the ancient rites and customs of the Church of Christ, whereof ourselves being a part, we have the selfsame interest in them, which our fathers before us had, from whom the same descended to us. To abrogate those things without constraint of apparent harm thence arising, had been to alter unjustly the universal practice of the people of GOD, and those general decrees of the Fathers, which (in St. Augustin's language) is madness and insolence to do, both in respect of the universal authority of the Church, which no particular Church has power to controul, and also in regard of reasons before mentioned.--p. 50. (in Nicholls' Commentary.)
If the Roman Catholics would make the essence of their Church (as we do ours) to consist in the following points, we are at accord with them: in the reception and belief of ...... the unanimous and general consent of the ancient Catholic Fathers, and the universal Church of CHRIST in the interpretation of the Holy Scriptures, and the collection of all necessary matters of faith from them, during the first six centuries downwards to our own day. [Vide Bp. Hickes's Letters, vol. i. Ap. paper iv.]
1. This then being the adequate object of the Christian's Faith, those verities which have been revealed to us by GOD to be thus believed to righteousness, called therefore ugiainonteV logoi, words not only true but wholesome, the belief whereof is required in order to our souls' health; the next inquiry is, how we that live in the same distance from CHRIST and His Apostles in respect of time, that we are situate from heaven, which now contains CHRIST, in respect of place, may come within the reach of these revelations of CHRIST, or to any competent undoubted assurance, that those are such indeed, which are pretended to be so.
2. And to this also my concession shall be as liberal as any Romanist can wish, that there are two ways of conveying such revelations to us; one in writing, the other by oral traditions; the former in the Gospels and other writings of the Apostles, &c. which make up the Sacred Writ, or Canon of the New Testament; the latter in the Apostles' preaching to all the Churches of their plantations, which are nowhere set down for us in the Sacred Writ, but conserved as deposita by them to whom they were entrusted.
3. And although in sundry respects the former of these be much the more faithful, steady way of conveyance, and for want thereof many things may possibly have perished, or been changed by their passage through many hands, thus much being on these grounds confest by Bellarmine himself, that the Scripture is the most certain and safe rule of belief; yet there being no less veracity in the tongues, than the hands, in the preachings, than the writings of the Apostles; nay, Prior sermo quam liber, prior sensus quam stylus, saith Tertullian, the Apostles preacht before they writ, planted Churches before they ad-drest Epistles to them: on these grounds I make no scruple to grant, that Apostolical traditions, such as are truly so, as well as Apostolical writings, are equally the matter of a Christian's belief; who is equally secured by the fidelity of the conveyance, that as one is Apostolical writing, so the other is Apostolical tradition.
§ IV. 1. Next then the enquiry must proceed by examining what is this equal way of conveyance, common to both these, upon strength of which we become obliged to receive such or such a tradition for Apostolical.
2. And this again is acknowledged not to be any Divine testimony; for GOD hath nowhere affirmed in Divine Writ that the Epistle, inscribed of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, consisting of so many periods as now it is in our Bibles, was ever written by that Apostle, nor are there any inward characters or signatures, or beams of light in the writing itself, that can be admitted, or pretended for testimonies of this, any more than the like may exact to be admitted as witnesses, that the Creed called the Apostles', was indeed in the full sense of it, delivered to the Churches.
3. It remains then, that herein on both sides we rest content with human testimonies of undoubted authority, or such as there is not any rational motive to distrust, and of which alone the matter is capable. For as in case of question concerning the Epistle to the Romans, whether this be it, which was addrest by St. Paul to that Church, the only regular way of satisfying the question, is, 1st, By devolution or appeal to the authority of those Fathers and Councils, to whom it was de facto sufficiently testified and approved, (viz. by examination of the records of that Church to whom it was written, and by whom received, through the hands of some trusty messenger of that Apostle, such as Phoebe that ministered unto him, and by other creditable ways of confirmation) and 2ndly, and by that consequence, to those very original records and proofs of undoubted fidelity: so the way of trial of any tradition, pretended to be Apostolical, whether it be such or no, is by devolving it to those same, or the like Fathers and Councils, which having occasion and commodity to examine the truth of the matter by the records or testimonies of those Churches, to which it was delivered, found it sufficiently testified by them, that it was in truth according as is pretended.
4. And from hence it follows, that as we of this age have no other way of judging of the Canon of Scripture, or of any book, or chapter, or period contained in it, but by the affirmation and authority of those testifiers in the first ages of the Church, either by their writings, or by the unquestioned relations of others, brought down and made known to us; so are we as unable to judge of Apostolical traditions unwritten, whether this or that doctrine be such or no, unless it be thus by the undoubted affirmations of the ancients (who are presumable by their antiquity to know the truth, and by their uniform consent, neither to mistake themselves, nor to deceive us); communicated and conveyed to us.
5. Tis not possible for any man or men of the greatest understandings or integrity, to see or know what is not done within the reach of their faculties, unless either they be inspired by GOD, or otherwise informed either mediately or immediately from those, who had really knowledge of it. Stories of former times are not wont to be written by the strength of men's natural parts, invention, or judgment, but only by consulting of those records, either dead or living, by whose help such matters of fact have been preserved. Every thing else is but conjecture, and that very uncertain, the utmost probability in such matters being little worth, that being ofttimes done which really was (and much more to us, who know not the motives of actions far removed from us, is) of all things least probable to have been done. Only a creditable witness, such as no prudent man hath reason to distrust either as nescient or false, is worth considering, or able to found belief in this matter.
§ V. 1. Now then comes the upshot of the inquiry, what qualifications there are of a testimony or testifier, without which, it or he may not be thus deemed creditable, ouk axiopistoV, worthy to be believed by a sober Christian; and where these qualifications are to be found, which when we have once resolved, it will also be possible for us to pass some judgment of traditions duly styled Apostolical, which as such must be allowed to be the object of our Faith.
2. And herein I shall hope also that the resolution will be unquestionable, if it be bounded by those three terms, to which Vincentius Lirinensis in his defence of the Catholic Faith against Heresies and innovations hath directed us, Universitas, Antiquitas, Consensio, Universality, Antiquity, Consent, viz. That the testimony we depend on, be the result of all, the ancients, consenting, or without any considerable dissent. Or, in yet fewer words, a Catholic testimony, truly such, i. e. universal in all respects; (1) of place, (2) of time, (3) of persons.
3. For first, if it be not testified from all places, it is not qualified for our belief, as Catholic in respect of place, because the Faith being one and the same, and by all and every of the Apostles preached, and deposited in all their plantations, what was ever really thus taught, by any of them in any Church, will also be found to have been taught, and received in all other Apostolical Churches.
4. To which purpose the words of Irenaeus are express, lib. i. cap. 3. The Church disseminated over all the world, having received this preaching and this Faith, preserves it diligently, as the inhabitants of the same house, believe them alike, as having the same soul and heart, and teach, and preach, and deliver them alike, as having the same mouth, for though their languages are unlike, the virtue of tradition is one and the same, and neither do the Churches which are found in Germany believe or deliver otherwise than those which were constituted in Spain, in France, in the Orient, in Egypt, in Africk, in the middle of the world, but as one and the same sun shines through the whole world, so doth the light and preaching of the truth in every place, where it is received, disperse itself.
5. So also Tertullian de Praescript. c. 20. Presently, therefore, the Apostles having first in Judea testified the Faith and instituted Churches, and then taken them over all the world, made known to the nations the same doctrine of the same Faith, and so planted Churches in every city, from which the rest of the Churches afterward borrowed their seeds of Faith and doctrine, and so daily continue to do and are formed into Churches.
6. From which premises his conclusion is just that which I here deduce; if so, then it is evident that every doctrine must be deemed true which conspires with the Apostolical Churches, which are the wombs and originals whence the Faith came out, as maintaining that without any question, which the Churches received from the Apostles, the Apostles from CHRIST, and CHRIST from GOD; and that all other doctrine is under the prejudice of being false, which is contrary to the truth of the Churches of the Apostles, of CHRIST, and of GOD.
7. It is true, indeed, that whatsoever one Church professeth to have received from the Apostle that planted it, is of itself sufficient, without the confirmation of all others, to beget and establish belief in him, to whom it thus testifies: whereupon Tertullian refers the inquirer to that Apostolic Church which is next to him, be it Corinth, if he live in Achaia, Philippi, or Thessalonica, if in Macedonia, Ephesus, if in Asia, or if he be near Italy, Rome. But this is no farther to be extended, than while we suppose without inquiry, that other Apostolical Churches have received, and are ready to testify the same; which presumption or supposal must then cease, when upon inquiry we find the contrary; there being then none of this first kind of universality; viz. of place, and so far, no validity in the testification.
8. Secondly, for the universality of time, that must be cautiously understood; not so as to signify it a prejudice to any doctrine, if in some one or more ages it have not been universally received; for then there could be no Heretics at any time in the world: but so as to extend to the first and purest, and not only to the latter ages of the Church.
9. That which was delivered by the Apostles was certainly received in that first age, wherein they lived; and by careful inquiry will be found from their monuments to have been among them. And that which by this trial is discerned to be of later date, not to be descried in the first times, nor testified by sufficient authority to be derived from thence, falls short again of this second part of universality in respect of time.
10. Thirdly, for the consent of testifiers, that is also necessary to the rendering it a Catholic and authentic testimony; any considerable number of dissenters being of necessity to weaken our belief, and infuse reasons of doubting, and a preponderancy of dissenters the other way, to weigh down (at least to incline) the belief to the contrary.
§ VI. 1. This, therefore, being thus established, and the conjunction of all the three sorts of universality being in all reason required to the authentic testifying of tradition, it is soon defined, where these qualifications are to be looked for, and where they may be found.
2. Questionless not in any one Bishop, or succession of Bishops' in any See for many later ages, not including the Apostles; for whatever his pretensions may be to authority and supremacy over all other Churches, this can never convert a particular whether man or Church, into the universal, nor make his testimony authentic according to those rational and Christian rules, which we have learned from Lirinensis.
3. There are many Apostolic Churches beside that of Rome: great difference of Rome in these latter ages from the Primitive Apostolic Rome, to which the depositum was intrusted. And there are many dissenters to be found, who have always lived and flourished in the Catholic Church, which never acknowledged those doctrines to be delivered to them by the Apostles, which the Church of Rome hath of late assumed to be such. And for any privilege annexed to that Bishop's chair, or to that society of men, which live in external communion with him, that he or they can never define any thing to be (de fide) part of the Faith, which is not so, as that is, beyond all other their pretensions, most denied by us, and least attempted to be proved by the Romanist, and not so much as consented on among themselves; so must it in no reason be supposed in this dispute, or taken for granted by them, but is rejected with the same ease that it is mentioned by them.
4. As for other pretenders, I know not any, save only that of the universal consent of the Doctors of the first ages, or that of an universal Council. And both these we are willing to admit with such cautions only as the matter exacts, and the grounds of defining already laid.
5. The universal consent of the Doctors of the first ages, bearing testimony that such or such a doctrine was from the Apostles' preachings delivered to all Churches by them planted, or their general conform testimony herein, without any considerable dissenters producible, is, I acknowledge, authentic or worthy of belief, and so hath been made use of by the orthodox of all times, as sufficient for the rejecting of any new doctrine.
6. So likewise is the declaration of a general Council, free, and gathered from all quarters, and in such other respects, truly so called, founded in the examination of the monuments of the several Apostolical plantations, either produced in Council, or authentically confirmed from the letters of the several Churches, either formerly prepared in provincial and national Councils, or otherwise sufficiently confirmed to them, and this declaration conciliarly promulgated, and after the promulgation universally received and accepted by the Church diffusive; or else it is evident all this while, that it is not a Catholic (truly so styled) testimony.
7. For that any Council of Bishops, the most numerous that ever was in the world (much less a but major part of those few that be there present) is not yet really the universality of Christians, is too evident to be doubted of.
8. It can only then be pretended, that it is the universal representative, or such an assembly, wherein is contained the virtue and influences of the whole universal Church. And thus, indeed, I suppose it to be, as often as the doctrines there established by universal consent (founded in Scripture and tradition) have either been before discussed and resolved in each provincial Council, which have sent their delegates thither from all the parts of the world, or else have post factum, after the promulgation, been accepted by them, and acknowledged to agree with that Faith which they had originally received--Works, vol. i. p. 545.
But what if the particular Church wherein I was baptized, shall fall from its own stedfastness, and by authority or law set up that, which if it be not contrary to plain words of Scripture, is yet contrary to the doctrine or practice of the universal Church of the first and purest times; what will meekness require me to do in that case? Meekness will require me to be very wary in passing such judgment on that Church; but if the light be so clear and the defection be so palpably discernible to all, that I cannot but see and acknowledge it, and in case it be true, that I am actually convinced, that the particular Church in which I live, is departed from the Catholic Apostolic Church; then it being certain that the greater authority must be preferred before the lesser, and that next the Scripture the Catholic Church of the first and purest times, (especially when the subsequent ages do also accord with that for many hundreds of years) is the greatest authority, it follows that meekness requires my obedience and submission to the Catholic Apostolic Church, and not to the particular wherein I live: so far I mean, as that I am to retain that Catholic Apostolic, and not this novel, corrupt, not Catholic doctrine. And if for my doing so I fall under persecution of the rulers of that particular Church, meekness then requires me patiently to endure it, but in no case to subscribe to or act anything which is contrary to this Catholic doctrine.--Some other obligations there are upon every Christian (wherein meekness interposeth not) which do require me not to depart from any Catholic Apostolic truth or practice, at least not to submit to (or act) the contrary, or to do anything which is apt to confirm others in so doing, or to lead those that doubt (by my example) to do what they doubt to be unlawful. For in all these particulars, the Christian law of scandal obliges me, not only not to yield to any schism from the Catholic Apostolic Church, or other the like corruption, but not to do those things by which I shall be thought by prudent men to do so.--Meekness permits me also to seek out for some purer Church, if that may conveniently be had for me. Nay, if I am by my calling fitted for it, arid can prudently hope to plant (or contribute to the planting) such a pure Apostolic Church where there is none, or to reconcile and restore peace between divided members of the Church Catholic, my endeavour to do so is in this case extremely commendable, and that which GOD'S providence seems to direct me to, by what is thus befallen me..... The authority by which it stands in the whole Church, is that of the practice of the primitive universal Christian Church; not that we have any certain evidence of the time of its beginning, but that the immemorial observation of it is an argument of the primitive, if not Apostolic institution of it.--Lib. ii. § 1. & 12.
The practice and writings of the ancient Church, which is the best way to explicate any such difficulty in Scripture, is a clear testimony and proof, that both the bread and the wine belong to all the people, in the name of his Disciples at that time. But why may it not be said, that laymen may baptize also, and do those other things, for which CHRIST gave power to His Disciples, as well as this bread and wine, divided among the Disciples, should belong to them? The answer is given already, that the Apostolical practice and the universal consent of the ancient primitive Church have defined the one, and defined against the other, and that ought to satisfy any sober man's scruples; it being no way probable that CHRIST'S institution would be presently frustrated and corrupted by His own Apostles, or their practice so falsified by the universal agreement of all that lived next after them, especially there being no universal Council, wherein it were possible for them all uniformly to agree on such an opposition.--Lib. vi. § 4.
Whatsoever then is said of the rule of Faith in the writings of the Fathers, is to be understood of the creed; whereof, though it be not maintained, that the words which pretenders were required to render by heart were the same, yet the substance of it, and the reasons and grounds which make every point necessary to be believed, were always the same in all Churches, and remain unchangeable. I would not have any hereupon to think, that the matter of this rule is not, in my conceit, contained in the Scriptures. For I find St. Cyril (Catech. v.) protesting, that it contains nothing but that which concerned our salvation the most, selected out of the Scriptures. And, therefore, in other places he tenders his scholars evidence out of the Scriptures, and wishes them not to believe that whereof there is no such evidence. And to the same effect, (Eucherius in Symb. Hom. 1. Paschasius de Sp. S. in Praef., and after them Thomas Aquinas, secunda ii. Quest. 1. Art. ix.) all agree that the form of the Creed was made up out of the Scriptures; giving such reasons as no reasonable Christian can refuse. Not only because all they whose salvation is concerned have not leisure to study the Scriptures, but because they that have, cannot easily or safely discern, wherein the substance of faith, upon the profession whereof our salvation depends, consisteth; supposing that they were able to discern between true and false, in the meaning of the Scriptures. To which I will add only that which Tertullian and others of the Fathers observe of the ancient Heretics, that their fashion was to take occasion, upon one or two texts, to overthrow and deny the main substance and scope of the whole Scriptures; which, whether it be seen in the sects of our time, or not, I will not say here, (because I will not take any thing for granted which I have not yet principles to prove) but supposing it only a thing possible, I will think I give a sufficient reason why GOD should provide tradition as well as Scripture, to bound the sense of it; as St. Cyril also cautioneth in the place aforenamed, where he so liberally acknowledged the Creed to be taken out of the Scripture. For (saith he) "the Faith was not framed as it pleased men, but the most substantial matters collected out of the Scripture do make up one doctrine of the Faith." For, I beseech you, what had they, whosoever they were that first framed the Creed, but Tradition, whereby to distinguish that which is substantial from that which is not? Hear Origen in the Preface to his books peri arcwn. "There being many that think their sense to be Christian, and yet the sense of some differs from their predecessors; but that, which the Church preaches, as delivered by order of succession from the Apostles, being preserved and remaining the same in the Church; that only is to be believed for truth, which nothing differs from the Tradition of the Church. This, notwithstanding, we must know; that the Holy Apostles, preaching the Faith of CHRIST, delivered some things, (as many as they held necessary) most manifestly to all believers, even those whom they found the duller in the search of Divine knowledge; leaving the reason why they affirmed them to the search of those that got to receive the eminent gifts of the Holy Ghost, especially of utterance, wisdom, and knowledge, by the Holy Ghost. Of other things they said that they are, but how, or whereupon they are, they said not. Forsooth, that the more studious of their successors, loving wisdom and knowledge, might have some exercise wherein to show the fruit of their wit; to wit, those that should prepare themselves to be worthy and capable of wisdom. Now, the particulars of that which is manifestly delivered by the preaching of the Apostles are these, which he proceedeth to set down. But Vincentius Lirinensis hath writ a Discourse on purpose to show that this rule of Faith, being delivered by succession to the principal, as St. Paul requires Timothy to do, and by them to those that were baptized, was the ground upon which all heresies, attempting upon the Faith, were condemned. So that, so many heresies, as historical truth will evidence, to have been excluded the Church from the Apostles' time, for matter of belief, so many convictions of this rule; which, because all agreed that they transgressed, therefore they were excluded the Church. But Vincentius, besides this, advanceth another mark to discern what belongs to the Rule, that is, what the ground and scope of our Creed requires. For it might be said, that perhaps something may come in question whether consistent with the rule of Faith or not, in which there hath passed no decree of the Primitive Church, because never questioned by that time: wherein, therefore, we shall be to seek, notwithstanding the decrees past by the Church upon ancient heresies. Which to meet with, Vincentius saith further, that whatsoever hath been unanimously taught in the Church by writing, that is, always, by all, everywhere, to that, no contradiction is ever to be admitted in the Church. Here the style changes; for whereas Irenaeus, Tertullian, and others of former time, appeal only to that which was visible in the practice of all Churches; by the time of the Council at Ephesus, (the date of Vincentius's book) so much had been written upon all points of Faith, and upon the Scriptures, that he presumeth, evidence may be made of it all, what may stand with that which the whole Church had taught, what may not. p. 44.
It is not the decree of the present Church, but the witness and agreement of the whole Church, that renders any thing infallible.--Seeing, therefore, that the malice of man, by dividing the rendereth it invisible, as hard to be seen, though not in Church, visible, as not possible to be seen, what remaineth, but that all public persons, and whosoever is interested in the divisions of the Church, understand and consider what account they owe, for the souls that must needs miscarry by the divisions which they maintain, when they need not? For how shall he be clear, that professes not a desire of condescending to all that which truth will allow on either side, for the advantage of peace on both sides? And seeing neither side can make peace without the consent of both, but either may have truth alone; what remaineth, but that all reformation be confined within those bounds, which the faith and the law of the Catholic Church fixeth?--The true sense of the Scripture is not to be had, but out of the records of antiquity; especially of GOD'S ancient people first, and then of the Christian Church. The obligation of that sense upon the Church at this time, is not to be measured against the Primitive practice of the whole Church. The reformation of the Church is nothing but the restoring of that which may appear to have been in force.--It is, therefore, necessary, that both sides professing the Reformation, should agree upon the true ground of Reformation; and so upon the rule which that ground will maintain and evidence; that is, to submit all that is in question to the visible practice of the primitive times, before those abuses were brought in, which the Reformation pretendeth to restore.--There is the same ground to believe--that there is, for the common Christianity, namely, the Scriptures interpreted by the perpetual practice of GOD'S Church.--And seeing the abating of the first form under Edward VI. hath wrought no effect, but to give them that desired it an appetite to root up the whole; what thanks can we render to GOD for escaping so great a danger, but by sticking firm to a rule that will stick firm to us, and carry us through any dispute in religion, and land us in the haven of a quiet conscience, what troubles soever we may pass through, in maintaining that the Reformation of the Church will never be according to the rule which it ought to follow, till it cleave to the Catholic Church of CHRIST in this particular? p. 50, 51. 98. 159.
The chief ground that I suppose here, because I have proved it at large, is the meaning of that Article of our Creed, which professeth one Catholic Church. For either it signifies nothing, or it signifies that GOD hath founded one visible Church, that is, that he hath obliged all churches (and all Christians of whom all Churches consist) to hold visible communion with the whole Church in the visible offices of GOD'S public service. And therefore I am satisfied, that the differences upon which we are divided, cannot be justly settled upon any terms, which any part of the whole Church shall have just cause to refuse, as inconsistent with the unity of the whole Church. For in that case we must needs become schismatics, by settling ourselves upon such laws, under which any Church may refuse to communicate with us, because it is bound to communicate with the whole Church, p. 225.
It was the challenge of St. Austin to the Donatists, who (as the Church of Rome does at this day) enclosed the Catholic Church within their own circuits: "Ye say that CHRIST is heir of no lands, but where Donatus is co-heir. Read this to us out of the law and the Prophets, out of the Psalms, out of the Gospel itself, or out of the letters of the Apostles: read it thence, and we believe it:"--plainly directing us to the fountains of our faith, the Old and New Testament, the words of Christ, and the words of the Apostles. For nothing else can be the fountain of our faith: whatsoever came in after these, "foris est," it belongs not unto Christ.
To these we also add, not as authors or finishers, but as helpers of our faith, and heirs of the doctrine apostolical, the sentiments and catholic doctrine of the Church of GOD, in the ages next after the Apostles. Not that we think them or ourselves bound to every private opinion, even of a primitive bishop and martyr; but that we all acknowledge that the whole Church of GOD kept the faith entire, and transmitted faithfully to the after-ages the whole faith, tupon didachV, "the form of doctrine, and sound words, which was at first delivered to the saints," and was defective in nothing that belonged unto salvation; and we believe that those ages sent millions of saints to the bosom of CHRIST and sealed the true faith with their lives and with their deaths, and by both gave testimony unto JESUS, and had from him the testimony of his Spirit.
And this method of procedure we now choose, not only because to them that know well how to use it, to the sober and moderate, the peaceable and the wise, it is the best, the most certain, visible and tangible, most humble and satisfactory: but also because the Church of Rome does, with greatest noises, pretend her conformity to antiquity. Indeed the present Roman doctrines, which are in difference, were invisible and unheard of in the first and best antiquity, and with how ill success their quotations are out of the fathers of the three first ages, every inquiring man may easily discern. But the noises, therefore, which they make, are from the writings of the succeeding ages; where secular interest did more prevail, and the writings of the fathers were vast and voluminous, full of controversy and ambiguous senses, fitted to their own times and questions, full of proper opinions, and such variety of sayings, that both sides, eternally and inconfutably, shall bring sayings for themselves respectively. Now although things being thus, it will be impossible for them to conclude from the sayings of a number of fathers, that their doctrine, which they would prove thence, was the catholic doctrine of the Church; because any number that is less than all, does not prove a catholic consent; yet the clear sayings of one or two of these fathers, truly alleged by us to the contrary, will certainly prove that what many of them (suppose it) do affirm, and which but two or three as good Catholics as the other do deny, was not then matter of faith, or a doctrine of the Church; for if it had, these had been accounted heretics, and not have remained in the communion of the Church. But although for the reasonableness of the thing, we have thought fit to take notice of it; yet we shall have no need to make use of it, since, not only in the prime and purest antiquity, we are indubitably more than conquerors, but even in the succeeding ages, we have the advantage both 'numero, pondere, et mensura,' in number, weight, and measure.
We do easily acknowledge, that to dispute these questions from the sayings of the fathers, is not the readiest way to make an end of them; but, therefore, we do wholly rely upon Scriptures, as the foundation and final resort of all our persuasions, and from thence can never be confuted; but we also admit the fathers as admirable helps for the understanding of the Scriptures, and as good testimony of the doctrine delivered from their forefathers down to them, of what the Church esteemed the way of salvation: and therefore, if we find any doctrine now taught, which was not placed in their way of salvation, we reject it as being no part of the Christian faith, and which ought not to be imposed upon consciences. They were 'wise unto salvation' and 'fully instructed to every good work;' and therefore, the faith, which they professed and derived from Scripture, we profess also; and in the same faith, we hope to be saved even as they. But for the new doctors, we understand them not, we know them not; our faith is the same from the beginning, and cannot become new.
But because we shall make it to appear, that they do greatly innovate in all their points of controversy with us, and show nothing but shadows instead of substances, and little images of things instead of solid arguments; we shall take from them their armour in which they trusted, and choose this sword of Goliath to combat their errors; for non est alter talis; it is not easy to find a better than the word of GOD, expounded by the prime and best antiquity.--Part i. book i. § i. Works, vol. x. p. 129.
Things that have been generally in the Church of Christ are generally conceived to have been derived from apostolical tradition, without any special mandate left in Scripture for the doing of them. Praying directly towards the East is conceived to be of that condition; why may we not conclude the like of setting up the altar along the wall? Many things come into our minds by a successional tradition, for which we cannot find an express command, which yet we ought to entertain, ex vi Catholicae consuetudinis; of which traditions there are many, which still retain their force among us in England. This Church (the Lord be thanked for it) hath stood more firm for apostolical traditions, than any other whatsoever of the Reformation.--Antid. Lincoln, p. 87. [As extracted in "the Canterburians' self conviction," 1640. p. 63.]
Ancient Liturgies in the Church, St. Chrysostom's, St. Basil's, St. James's, and others, and such things as are found in them all consistent with Catholic and Primitive doctrine, may well be presumed to have been from the first, especially since we find no original of these Liturgies from General Councils.--Reply to Presbyterians, § 16.
As our religion is Catholic, it holdeth fast that 'faith which was once delivered to the saints,' and since preserved in the Church; and therefore I expound such verities, in opposition to the heretics arising in all ages, especially against the Photinians, who of all the rest have most perverted the articles of our Creed and found out followers in these latter ages, who have erected a new body of divinity in opposition to the Catholic theology. Against these I proceed upon such principles as they themselves allow, that is, upon the word of GOD delivered in the Old and New Testament, alleged according to the true sense, and applied by right reason; not urging the authority of the Church which they reject, but only giving in the margin the sense of the primitive Fathers, for the satisfaction of such as have any respect left for antiquity, and are persuaded that Christ had a true Church on the earth before these times.--Preface.
It can indeed no wise be safe to follow any such leaders (whatever pretences to special illumination they hold forth, whatever specious guises of sanctity they bear) who in their doctrine or practice deflect from the great beaten roads of holy Scripture, primitive tradition, and Catholic practice, roving in by-paths suggested to them by their private fancies and humours, their passions and lusts, their interests and advantages: there have in all ages such counterfeit guides started up, having debauched some few heedless persons, having erected some parasunagwgaV or petty combinations against the regularly settled corporations; but never with any durable success or countenance of Divine Providence; but like prodigious meteors, having caused a little gazing, and some disturbance, their sects have soon been dissipated, and have quite vanished away: the authors and abettors of them being either buried in oblivion, or recorded with ignominy; like that Theudas in the speech of Gamaliel, who "rose up boasting himself to be somebody; to whom a number of men about four hundred joined themselves; who were slain, and all as many as obeyed him were scattered and brought to nought."--Works, vol. iii. p. 206.
GOD knows the secrets of my heart; so far am I from the itch of originality in Theological Doctrines, . . . that whatever are sanctioned by the consent of Catholic Fathers and ancient Bishops, though my own small ability attain not to them, yet I will embrace them with all reverence. In truth I had already learned by no few experiments, in writing my Harmony while yet a young man, what now in my mature age I am most thoroughly persuaded of, that no one can contradict Catholic consent, however he may seem to be countenanced for a while by some passages of Scripture wrongly understood and by the illusions of unreal arguments, without being found in the end to have contradicted both Scripture and sound reason. I daily deplore and sigh over the unbridled license of prophesying which obtained for some years in this our England, .... under the tyranny of what some considered a wretched necessity. In a word, my hearty desire is this, Let the ancient customs, doctrines remain in force. [Concil. Nicaen. Can.]
The Church of England doth very piously declare her consent with the ancient Catholic Church, in not admitting any thing to be delivered as the sense of Scripture, which is contrary to the consent of the Catholic Church in the four first ages. Not as though the sense of the Catholic Church were pretended to be any infallible rule of interpreting Scripture in all things which concern the rule of faith; but that it is a sufficient prescription against anything which can be alleged out of Scripture, that if it appear contrary to the sense of the Catholic Church from the beginning, it ought not to be looked on as the true meaning of the Scripture. All this security is built upon this strong presumption, that nothing contrary to the necessary Articles of Faith should be held by the Catholic Church, whose very being depends upon the belief of those things which are necessary to salvation. As long therefore as the Church might appear to be truly Catholic by those correspondencies which were maintained between the several parts of it, that what was refused by one, was so by all; so long this unanimous and uncontradicted sense of the Catholic Church ought to have a great sway upon the minds of such who yet profess themselves members of the Catholic Church. From whence it follows, that such doctrines may well be judged destructive to the rule of faith, which were so unanimously condemned by the Catholic Church within that time. And thus much may suffice for the first enquiry, viz. What things are to be esteemed necessary, either in order to Salvation, or in order to Ecclesiastical Communion, p. 55.
As for my religion, I die in the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Faith, professed by the whole Church before the disunion of East and West; more particularly I die in the Communion of the Church of England, as it stands distinguished from all Papal and Puritan Innovations, and as it adheres to the doctrine of the Cross.--His last Will.
To such a degree of temerity has this our senseless age advanced, that there is scarcely any thing in Christianity itself which is not either called into doubt in private, or made matter of controversy in public. So much so, that even those doctrines and rites which, during many ages back, and from the very beginnings of the Church, have every where been received, at last in these our days come into hazard, and are assailed, just as if we were the first Christians, and all our ancestors had assumed and borne the mere name of Christ, and nothing more; or at least, as if all had been constantly involved in the gravest errors, whoever before this time embraced the faith made known in the Gospel. Forsooth in these full late times, it seems new lights are boasted of, new and greater gifts of the Holy Spirit are pretended, and therefore new forms of believing, new forms of praying, new forms of preaching, new forms in the use of ecclesiastical administrations, are daily framed and commonly adopted. And, what is most absurd, nothing now is esteemed of before novelty itself, but the newer any thing is, so much the greater number and the more does it please, and the more anxiously is it defended. Hence these tears, hence so many horrible schisms in the Church! For whilst individuals, indulging, beyond what is meet, their abilities, or rather their own wanton fancies, devote themselves to the introduction of novelties into religion, the whole body, through the infinite diversity of opinions, comes to be rent into contrary schools and factions.
But if we will only even now recollect ourselves, arid weigh things with that temperate and fair spirit which is right, it will at once be clear that we, who now inhabit this and other countries around, are not either the first or the only worshippers of Christ, but only a small part of that great body whose head is Christ: inasmuch as that body, by the exceeding mercy of GOD, hath been spread abroad into all parts of the earth, and that from the very times of the Apostles; so that there is no age, and scarcely any country, in which there have not been very many who, by the faith which we profess, have attained unto heaven. According to this view, if we attentively survey this vast body of all Christians of every age, which is commonly called the Catholic or Universal Church, as constituted every where and always, we shall find in it certain fixed, and, as it were, common principles, which run through the whole, and connect all its parts both with each other and with the head. The first of these, and that from which the rest arise, is, that Holy Scripture, or the Old and New Testament, is divinely inspired. In this all Christians every where agree, and have always agreed; and therefore he who denies it, is pronounced unworthy of their fellowship and of their name. Still further, this holy Scripture, although in these precepts, which are absolutely necessary for every man's salvation, it be most clear and evident to all, yet, as to what respects doctrine and external discipline of the Church, it is not, from its very depth, received by all in one and the same sense, but "the divine sayings of this same Scripture are by one man interpreted in one way, and by another in another; so that it would"seem to admit almost as many meanings as there are men," as formerly Vincent of Lirins observed, and as is more than sufficiently proved from the case of heretics and schismatics, inasmuch as, among them, every individual elicits his own erroneous opinions and practices out of the holy Scriptures interpreted after his own manner. In things therefore of this nature, if we would be secured from error and falling, first of all, beyond all doubt, we must beware that we do not over pertinaciously adhere to the private opinions and conjectures of ourselves and others, but do rather carefully examine what the ancient Church, or, at least, the great majority of Christians, have held in these matters, and must acquiesce in that decision which has obtained the consent of Christians in all ages. For as, according to Cicero, on every subject, "the consent of all men is the voice of nature," so also in things of this sort, the consent of all Christians may be deservedly accounted the voice of the Gospel. But there are many things which, although they are not read in express and definite terms in the Holy Scriptures, are yet by the common consent of all Christians drawn out of these Scriptures. For example; "that there are in the ever-blessed Trinity three distinct Persons to be worshipped, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost, and that these are, each of them, truly GOD, and yet that there is but one GOD: that Christ is GOD and man, qeanqrwpoV, truly GOD and truly man, in one and the same person." These and such like, although they are not, either in the Old or New Testament, declared in so many words and syllables, yet have they, as founded on both, ever been agreed on by all Christians, certain few heretics only excepted, of whom no more account is to be had in religion, than of monsters in nature. So also, "that infants are to receive the ablution of holy Baptism, and that sponsors are to be used for that Sacrament. That the Lord's day, or the first day in every seven, is to be religiously observed as a festival. That our Lord's passion, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, as also the coming of the Holy Ghost, are to be commemorated every year. That the Church is every where to be administered by Bishops, distinguished from Presbyters, and set over them." These and others of this sort are no where in the sacred Scriptures enjoined directly and by name, yet have they notwithstanding, during fourteen hundred years from the Apostles, been every where received into public use of the Church; nor can there be found any Church during that period not agreeing to these things. So that there have been, as it were, certain common notions from the beginning implanted in the minds of all Christians, not so much from any particular passages of holy Scripture, as from all; from the general scope and tenor of the whole Gospel; from the very nature and purpose of the religion therein established; and, finally, from the constant tradition of the Apostles, who, together with the faith, propagated ecclesiastical rites of this sort, and, if I may so speak, general interpretations of the Gospel. For on any other supposition it would be incredible, or even impossible, that they should have been received with so unanimous a consent every where, always, and by all.
3. From these premises, it is clear at the first glance what will follow. For seeing that no one doubts but that more confidence is to be placed in the whole body than in individual Christians, and more in the Universal Church than in any particular Churches whatsoever: seeing also that there are very many points in which the Universal Church, during many ages after the Apostles, agreed: seeing, finally, that this consent of the Universal Church is the surest interpretation of holy Scripture on those points on which it may be had: it hence most clearly follows, of what and how great use the ancient Fathers, and other writers of all ages of the Church, must be, and how necessary to be consulted by them, who, in the prosecution of ecclesiastical controversies, have at heart either their own salvation, or the peace of the Church. For, were there no commentaries of the ancient Church, no acts of councils, no monuments of ecclesiastical history, extant at this day, in how great darkness should we be involved respecting our very religion itself? How easy would it be for any subtle heretic, or even for any the most flagitious impostor, under the mask of piety, to deceive the generality, and to lead them into the most pernicious errors of every description? Who could then convict the Church of Rome, or any other even the most corrupt communion, of fault or error, in those particulars which are not expressly prohibited in holy Scripture? For whence could it be proved, whether those things which are in use in that Church had, or had not, been handed down from the very Apostles, and approved by the consent of the Universal Church? Finally, how many and how great disadvantages of every kind would arise hence? But there is no reason that we should occupy our time in the enumeration of these things, seeing that amidst so many and so great confusions of empires, convulsions of particular Churches, and perturbation of all human affairs, it hath been so ordered by the most wise and merciful providence of Almighty GOD, that from the very times of the Apostles even unto these our own times, there is no age whose ecclesiastical memorials are not preserved to us. From which memorials accordingly we are enabled to conceive a perfect idea of the Universal Church, and to feel assured and certain, what has through all ages been admitted and what rejected; what rites and doctrines have prevailed, what heresies and schisms have been disapproved and condemned. Finally, from these and these alone we may see, on what points of doctrine and discipline agreement hath ever prevailed among all Churches, and on what again controversy hath existed between them, and consequently what is more, and what less, necessary to be believed and observed. For whatever is to be said of other things, those things at any rate in which all Churches every where have agreed, cannot but be most certain, and necessary, even at this very time, to be retained of all.
4. This consent however, be it remembered, of which we are speaking, of the Universal Church, on any articles of Faith or ecclesiastical rites, is not to be sought from one or two writers, much less from any one or two passages in any particular writer, apart from the rest, but from all combined, or at least from the greatest part of those, who, in all ages of the Church, (and especially the earlier) were the authors of any written works, in which they treated on these subjects. For in all societies, such as is the Church, the majority takes place of the minority, and has the same right as the whole. The words of the civil law are, "What is done by the majority of the court, is accounted the same as if done by all." Nay, this is one of the ordinary rules of that law: "That is ascribed to the whole, which is publicly done by the majority." That therefore which is by the majority either appointed or affirmed, that is rightly to be considered the act of the Universal Church; much more that which is confirmed by the united testimonies of all, or nearly all. To which class very many things in ecclesiastical matters may easily be reduced. For although we have not the express opinions of every individual Christian, through all ages, handed down to us, yet we possess what is to the same effect. For, first, when we speak of the consent of the Universal Church, it is not necessary that we regard the opinions of the people also, or laity. For they have never been admitted to deliver their judgment on the doctrine or discipline of the Church, in that it was presumed that in all things they, as is right, followed, not led, the opinions of their pastors. And besides, seeing that the people were anciently wont to vote in the election of their own bishops, and to give their testimony concerning those to be elected; by that very act they shewed openly enough that they agreed to their doctrine and discipline; so that whatever might be the opinion of any one bishop, the people over whom he presided might fairly be held to be guided by the same. In consequence, that this consent of the Church is to be sought not from the people, but from their bishops, from the teachers and priests, Vincent of Lirins formerly rightly observed: "Consent also in like manner we shall arrive at," says he "if in this very antiquity we follow the definitions and expressed opinions of all, or, at any rate, of nearly all, the priests and teachers." And indeed this position, namely, "that the consent of the Universal Church is to be sought not from the people, but from the bishops and clergy," is one of those very many points in which we have the Universal Church itself agreeing; seeing that when about to discuss ecclesiastical matters, she hath rarely suffered the people to be present, never to deliver an opinion, or to vote. For neither, in all the councils which have ever been held on matters of that sort, do we read, that any one from among the people set his name to the decrees. But in each age the common affairs of the Church were transacted by bishops alone in council assembled, with, occasionally, certain presbyters, holding the places of their respective bishops. Which councils, if held in any one province, represented that provincial Church alone; but if attended by all conjointly, or by the majority of them, they then represented the Universal Church. "By which" (councils), as Tertullian says, "both such points as are of a deeper character are discussed in common, and the very assembly, as representing the whole Christian name, is held in great reverence." But councils of this sort, as well provincial, held by particular provinces, as Universal, held (as the origin of their name declares) by the Universal Church, such councils are even now extant, with many of their acts and decrees. There are extant also very many commentaries of individual bishops and presbyters, not indeed of all, but yet of those who, in each age, were most learned, and best acquainted with the doctrines and rites of the Church. From all of which, we are able most clearly to see (if any other thing) the common opinions both of all, and each of, the Churches, and so to collect most assuredly what we are to hold on these points. For although we grant it to be doubtful whether others, who either were not authors, or whose writings are not now in existence, may not perchance have held otherwise, yet since that is not capable of proof, and not to be capable of proof, in causes of this sort, is manifestly the same as not to exist; whatever all, or the majority of those, whose genuine works have been left us, taught, as it were in common, that is without any doubt, to be held for the common and constant doctrine of the Universal Church. Especially when the Universal Church also has itself fully enough testified her agreement to that doctrine, which is preserved in the ancient writings of Councils and Fathers, from this fact, that, the providence of GOD so ordering, she hath preserved to us those writings in which that doctrine is contained, the commentaries, in the mean time, of others, who held otherwise, having been buried in so deep oblivion, that scarcely have their names been transmitted to posterity. From all which things, as briefly and summarily premised, we may rightly conclude, that all, both separate works of individual fathers, and acts and monuments of Synods, as well provincial as universal, which exist at this day, are, in the first place, of this very great and remarkable use to us, in that from them we may consider as certainly proved, what the Universal Church hath ever believed and openly taught, on necessary articles of Faith and rites ecclesiastical, and therefore what is to be ever believed and taught in the Church. For no one can doubt, but that it is both most safe, and supremely necessary, in all things, as far as is possible, religiously to walk in the steps of the faith and customs of the Universal Church.
5. But perhaps some one may say, "that the Fathers, both separately as individuals, and many of them conjointly, erred in various points of religion; and that they at times disagree among themselves, and that indeed, sometimes, on matters of great moment." These objections, I confess, against the ancient Fathers of the Church, and their authority in the settlement of ecclesiastical controversies, have been of late introduced. But whether they be true or false, is a point which we need not now discuss. For, even if we grant them true to the fullest extent, yet can no argument be drawn from them against our judgment concerning the right use of the Fathers. Inasmuch as we are speaking of the Fathers, not as individuals taken separately, but as taken all conjointly. And therefore how many errors soever may have been detected in one or more, and how much soever in some things, possibly of great moment, they may even disagree with one another, or at least may appear to disagree, yet our position remains firm enough and stable, since there are certainly, after allowance made for them, many things, on which an agreement prevails among all the Fathers universally, and very many, to which a majority of them have given their united assent. But all the dissensions which have been raised among them on certain subjects, take nothing from their supreme authority on those points in which they agree, but rather in an eminent degree confirm it. For the fact, that in other things they have differed, most plainly manifests, that those things, on which they have agreed, they have handed down, not from any compact or agreement, not from any party formed, not from any communication of design, nor finally, from their own private opinions, but naked and unadulterated, as derived from the common and general interpretation and tradition of the Universal Church. And, indeed, although on certain less necessary points, as well of faith as of discipline, the ancient Fathers do in some little degree differ one from another, yet that very many things have been received with the fullest agreement by all, is so clear, that we may judge of it with our own eyes. For there are many things which we see have been defined by the Universal Church in councils truly oecumenical, many things which have been approved by the consent of several, many things again by the consent of all the writers of the Church; many things, finally, concerning which there was in ancient times no controversy moved, some of this class have been mentioned by us above, to which very many others may be added. Those especially which, although not definitively prescribed in holy Scripture, have yet been retained by our very pious and prudent reformers of the English Church.
6. For when this our English Church, through long communion with the Roman Church, had contracted like stains with her, from which it was necessary that it should be cleansed, they who took that excellent and very necessary work in hand, fearing that they, like others, might rush from one extreme to the other, removed indeed those things, as well doctrines as ceremonies, which the Roman Church had newly and insensibly superinduced, and, as was fit, abrogated them utterly. Yet notwithstanding, whatsoever things had been, at all times, believed and observed, by all Churches, in all places, those things they most religiously took care not so to abolish with them. For they well knew, that all particular Churches are to be formed on the model of the Universal Church, if indeed, according to that general and received rule in ethics, "every part which agreeth not with its whole is therein base." Hence therefore these first reformers of this particular Church directed the whole line of that reformation, which they undertook, according to the rule of the whole or universal Church, casting away those things only which had been either unheard of, or rejected by, the Universal Church, but most religiously retaining those which they saw, on the other side, corroborated by the consent of the Universal Church. Whence it hath been brought to pass, that although we have not communion with the Roman, nor with certain other particular Churches, as at this day constituted, yet have we abiding communion with the Universal and Catholic Church, of which evidently ours, as by the aid of GOD first constituted, and by his pity still preserved, is the perfect image and representation.
7. But, that we digress no further from our proposed object, when we are speaking of the Universal Church, and its agreement, without any doubt, regard is to be had especially to the Primitive Church: inasmuch as, although it be only a part of the whole, yet is it universally agreed that it was the more pure and genuine part. For the same hath happened to the Church, which hath happened to each several commonwealth, namely, that, ancient customs passing by degrees into disuse, new institutions are devised by the wanton imaginations of men's minds, which very fault is above all other to be eschewed in religion. For it is agreed among all Christians, that the Apostolic Church as constituted by the Apostles of our Lord in person, under the guidance of Divine inspection, and by them whilst yet living administered, was of all Churches the purest and most perfect. Furthermore nothing seems more at variance with the common faith of Christians than that the doctrine or discipline instituted by the Apostles, should have been corrupted or any way changed by their immediate successors. For all confess, that the Apostles were most faithful men, and of consequence willed to ordain none as their successors, except those whose faith and integrity was fully approved by themselves personally. Therefore the first successors of the Apostles doubtless kept inviolate and uncorrupted the Church, whose government had been entrusted to them; and in like manner handed it down to their own successors, and these again to others, and so on; insomuch that there can exist no doubt, but that at least during two or three ages from the Apostles, the Church flourished in her primitive vigour, and, so to say, in her virgin estate, that is, in the same condition in which she had been left by the Apostles themselves; except that from time to time new heresies burst forth even in those days, by which the Church was indeed harassed, but in no way corrupted; clearly no more than the Church, strictly Apostolic, was perverted by those errors, which arose whilst the Apostles were yet living. For they had scarcely time to rise up, before they were rejected by the Catholic Church. Which things therefore notwithstanding, the Universal Church which followed ever held that Primitive Church to be most pure, and, in refuting all heresies which afterwards arose, appealed to her as the rule of other Churches. For if any one endeavoured to bring any thing new into the doctrine or discipline of the Church, those Fathers who opposed themselves to him, whether individually or assembled together in a body, sought their arguments, as out of the holy Scriptures, so also out of the doctrines and traditions of the Church of the first ages. For this is observable in nearly all acts of councils, and commentaries of individual Fathers, wherever, that is, ecclesiastical controversies are discussed. And indeed nothing still is more rational, nothing certainly more desirable, than that all particular Churches at this day wherever constituted, were reformed after the model of the Primitive Church. For this measure would immediately cast forth whatever corruptions have crept in during later ages, and would restore to their ancient original, on the other hand, all things which are required for the true constitution of a Christian Church.
And farther we likewise acknowledge, that the sum and substance of the Christian Religion, contained in the Scriptures, hath been delivered down to us, even from the Apostles' days, in other ways or forms, besides the Scriptures. For instance, in the Baptismal Vow, in the Creed, in the Prayers and Hymns of the Church, which we may call Traditions, if we please; but they bring down to us no new Doctrine, but only deliver, in an abridgment, the same Christianity which we find in the Scriptures.
Upon this there is no need that I should enlarge; but I proceed farther to affirm,
That we reverently receive also the unanimous Tradition or Doctrine of the Church in all ages, which determines the meaning of the holy Scripture, and makes it more clear and unquestionable in any point of Faith, wherein we can find it hath declared its sense. For we look upon this Tradition as nothing else but the Scripture unfolded: not a new thing, which is not in the Scripture; but the Scripture explained and made more evident.
And thus some part of the Nicene Creed may be called a Tradition; as it hath expressly delivered unto us the sense of the Church of GOD, concerning that great Article of our Faith, that JESUS CHRIST is the Son of GOD, which they teach us was always thus understood: the Son of GOD, "begotten of his Father before all worlds, and of the same substance with the Father."
But this Tradition supposes the Scripture for its ground, and delivers nothing but what the Fathers, assembled at Nice, believed to be contained there, and was first fetched from thence. For we find in Theodoret (L. i. 66) that the famous Emperor Constantine admonished those Fathers, in all their questions and debates, to consult only with these heavenly inspired writings; "because the Evangelical and Apostolical Books, and the oracles of the old Prophets, do evidently instruct us what to think in Divine matters." This is so clear a testimony, that in those days they made this complete rule of their faith, whereby they ended controversies, (which was the reason that in several other Synods we find they were wont to lay the Bible before them,) and that there is nothing in the Nicene Creed, but what is to be found in the Bible; that Cardinal Bellarmine bath nothing to reply to it, but this: "Constantine was indeed a great Emperor, but no great Doctor." Which is rather a scoff, than an answer; and casts a scorn not only upon him but upon that great council, who, as the same Theodoret witnesseth, assented unto that speech of Constantine. So it there follows in these words: "The most of the Synod were obedient to what he had discoursed, and embraced both mutual concord and sound doctrine."
And accordingly St. Hilary a little after extols his son Constantius for this, that he adhered to the Scriptures; and blames him only for not attending to the true Catholic sense of them. His words are these, (in his little Book which he delivered to Constantius) "I truly admire thee, O Lord Constantius the Emperor, who desirest a Faith according to what is written." They pretended to no other in those days; bat (as he speaks a little after) looked upon him that refused this, as Antichrist. It was only required that they should receive their Faith out of GOD'S Books, not merely according to the words of them, but according to their true meaning, (because many "spake Scripture without Scripture, and pretended to Faith without Faith," as his words are); and herein Catholic and constant Tradition was to guide them. For whatsoever was contrary to what the whole Church had received and held from the beginning, could not in reason be thought to be the meaning of that Scripture which was alleged to prove it. And, on the other side, the Church pretended to no more than to be a witness of the received sense of the Scriptures; which were the bottom upon which they built this Faith.
Thus I observe Hegesippus saith, (in Euseb. his History, L. iv. c. 22.) that when he was at Rome, he met with a great many Bishops, and that" he received the very same Doctrine from them all." And then, a little after, tells us what that was, and whence they derived it, saying, "That in every succession of Bishops, and in every City, so they held; as the Law preached, and as the Prophets, and as the Lord." That is according to the Doctrine of the Old and New Testament.
I shall conclude this particular with a pregnant passage which I remember in a famous Divine of our Church, (Dr. Jackson, in his Treatise of the Catholic Church, chap. 22,) who writes to this effect:--
That Tradition which was of so much use in the Primitive Church, was not unwritten Traditions, or Customs, commended or ratified by the supposed infallibility of any visible Church, but did especially consist in the confessions or registers of particular Churches. And the unanimous consent of so many several Churches, as exhibited their confessions to the Nicene Council, out of such forms as had been framed and taught before this controversy arose, about the Divinity of Christ; and that voluntarily and freely (these Churches being not dependent one upon another, nor overswayed by any authority over them, nor misled by faction to frame their confessions of Faith by imitation, or according to some pattern set them), was a pregnant argument, that this faith wherein they all agreed, had been delivered to them by the Apostles and their followers, and was the true meaning of the holy writings in this great Article; and evidently proved, that Arius did obtrude such interpretations of Scripture, as had not been heard of before; or were but the sense of some private persons in the Church, and not of the generality of believers.
In short, the unanimous consent of so many distinct visible Churches, as exhibited their several Confessions, Catechisms, or Testimonies of their own or forefathers' Faith, unto the Council of Nice, was an argument of the same force and efficacy against Arius and his partakers, as the general consent and practice of all nations, in worshipping a Divine Power in all ages, is against Atheists. Nothing but the ingrafted notion of a Deity, could have induced so many several nations, so much different in natural disposition, in civil discipline and education, to affect or practise the duty of Adoration. And nothing but the evidence of "the ingrafted word" (as St. James calls the Gospel) delivered by CHRIST and his Apostles in the holy Scriptures, could have kept so many several Churches as communicated their confessions unto that Council, in the unity of the same Faith.
The like may be said of the rest of the four first General Councils; whose decrees are a great confirmation of our belief, because they deliver to us the consent of the Churches of Christ, in those great truths which they assert out of the holy Scriptures.
And could there any Traditive Interpretation of the whole Scripture be produced upon the authority of such original Tradition, as that now named, we would most thankfully and joyfully receive it. But there never was any such pretended; no, not by the Roman Church, whose doctors differ among themselves about the meaning of hundreds of places in the Bible. Which they would not do sure, nor spend their time unprofitably in making the best conjectures they are able, if they knew of any exposition of those places in which all Christian Doctors had agreed from the beginning.
But more than this, we allow that Tradition gives us a considerable assistance in such points as are not in so many letters and syllables contained in the Scriptures, but may be gathered from thence, by good and manifest reasoning. Or, in plainer words perhaps, whatsoever Tradition justifies any Doctrine that may be proved by the Scriptures, though not found in express terms there, we acknowledge to be of great use, and readily receive and follow it, as serving very much to establish us more firmly in that truth, when we see all Christians have adhered to it.
This may be called a confirming Tradition: of which we have an instance in the Doctrine of Infant Baptism, which some ancient Fathers call an Apostolical Tradition. Not that it cannot be proved by any place of Scripture; no such matter: for though we do not find it written in so many words that Infants are to be baptized, or that the Apostles baptized Infants: yet it may be proved out of the Scriptures; and the Fathers themselves, who call it an Apostolical Tradition, do allege testimonies of the Scriptures to make it good. And therefore we may be sure they comprehend the Scriptures within the name of Apostolical Tradition; and believed that this Doctrine was gathered out of the Scriptures, though not expressly treated of there.
In like manner we, in this Church, assert the authority of Bishops above Presbyters, by a Divine right; as appears by the Book of Consecration of Bishops, where the person to be ordained to this office, expresses his belief "that he is truly called to this Ministration according to the will of our LORD JESUS CHRIST." Now this we are persuaded may be plainly enough proved to any man that is ingenuous, and will fairly consider things, out of the holy Scriptures, without the help of Tradition: but we also take in the assistance of this for the conviction of gainsayers; and by the perpetual practice and Tradition of the Church from the beginning confirm our Scripture proofs so strongly, that he seems to us very obstinate, or extremely prejudiced, that yields not to them. And therefore to make our Doctrine in this point the more authentic, our Church hath put both these proofs together, in the preface to the form of giving orders, which begins in these words: "It is evident unto all men, diligently reading holy Scripture and ancient Authors, that from the Apostles' time there have been these Orders of Ministers in CHRIST'S Church; Bishops, Priests, and Deacons."
I hope nobody among us is so weak, as to imagine, when he reads this, that by admitting Tradition to be of such use and force as I have mentioned, we yield too much to the Popish cause, which supports itself by this pretence. But if any one shall suggest this to any of our people, let them reply, that it is but the pretence, and only by the name of Tradition, that the Romish Church supports itself: For true Tradition is as great a proof against Popery, as it is for Episcopacy. The very foundation of the Pope's Empire (which is his succession in St. Peter's Supremacy) is utterly subverted by this; the constant Tradition of the Church being evidently against it. And therefore let us not lose this advantage we have against them, by ignorantly refusing to receive true and constant Tradition; which will be so far from leading us into their Church, that it will never suffer us to think of being of it, while it remains so opposite to that which is truly Apostolical.
I conclude this with the direction which our Church gives to Preachers in the Book of Canons, 1517, (in the Title Concionatores,) That "no man shall teach the people any thing to be held and believed by them religiously, but what is consentaneous to the Doctrine of the Old and New Testament; and what the Catholic Fathers and ancient Bishops have gathered out of that very doctrine." This is our rule whereby we are to guide ourselves; which was set us on purpose to preserve our Preachers from broaching any idle, novel, or Popish Doctrines; as appears by the conclusion of that injunction: "vain and old wives' opinions, and Heresies, and Popish, Errors, abhorring from the Doctrine and Faith of CHRIST, they shall not teach; nor any thing at all whereby the unskilful multitude may be inflamed either to the study of novelty, or to contention."
But though nothing may be taught as a piece of Religion, which hath not the fore-named original, yet I must add, that those things which have been universally believed, and not contrary to Scripture, though not written at all there, nor to be proved from thence, we do receive as pious opinions. For instance, the perpetual Virginity of the Mother of GOD our SAVIOUR, which is so likely a thing, and so universally received, that I do not see why we should not look upon it as a genuine Apostolical Tradition.
I have but one thing more to add, which is, that we allow also the Traditions of the Church, about matters of Order, Rites and Ceremonies. Only we do not take them to be parts of GOD'S worship; and if they be not appointed in the holy Scriptures, we believe they may be altered by the same or the like authority with that which ordained them.--
As for what is delivered in matters of Doctrine, or Order, by any private Doctor in the Church, or by any particular Church, it appears by what hath been said, that it cannot be taken to be more than the private opinion of that man, or the particular decree of that Church, and can have no more authority than they have: that is, cannot oblige all Christians, unless it be contained in the holy Scripture.
Now such are the Traditions which the Roman Church would impose upon us, and impose upon us after a strange fashion.--
Our people may hereby be admonished not to suffer themselves to be deceived and abused by words and empty names, without their sense and meaning. Nothing is more common than this, especially in the business of Traditions, about which a stir is raised, and it is commonly given out, that we refuse all Traditions. Than which nothing is more false, for we refuse none truly so called; that is, Doctrine delivered by CHRIST, or His Apostles. No, we refuse nothing at all, because it is unwritten, but merely because we are not sure it is delivered by that authority to which we ought to submit.
Whatsoever is delivered to us by our LORD and His Apostles, we receive as the very word of GOD, which we think is sufficiently declared in the holy Scriptures. But if any can certainly prove, by any authority equal to that which brings the Scriptures to us, that there is any thing else delivered by them, we receive that also. The controversy will soon be at an end, for we are ready to embrace it when any such thing can be produced.
Nay, we have that reverence for those who succeeded the Apostles, that what they have unanimously delivered to us, as the sense of any doubtful place, we receive it, and seek no farther. There is no dispute whether or no we should entertain it.
To the Decrees of the Church also we submit in matters of Decency and Order; yea, and acquiesce in its authority, when it determines doubtful opinions.
But we cannot receive that as a Doctrine of CHRIST, which we know is but the tradition of man, nor keep the ordinances of the ancient Church in matters of decency, so unalterably as never to vary from them, because they themselves did not intend them to be of everlasting obligation. As appears by the changes that have been made in several times and places; even in some things which are mentioned in the holy Scriptures, being but customs suited to those ages and countries.
In short, Traditions we do receive, but not all that are called by that name. Those which have sufficient authority, but not those which are imposed upon us, by the sole authority of one particular Church, assuming a power over all the rest.--
It is a calumny to affirm, that the Church of England rejects all tradition, and I hope none of her true children are so ignorant, as when they hear that word, to imagine they must rise up and oppose it. No, the Scripture itself is a tradition; and we admit all other traditions, which are subordinate, and agreeable unto that; together with all those things which can be proved to be Apostolical by the general testimony of the Church in all ages: nay, if any thing not contained in Scripture, which the Roman Church now pretends to be a part of GOD'S word, were delivered to us by as universal uncontrolled tradition as the Scripture is, we should receive it as we do the Scripture.
But it appears plainly that such things were at first but private opinions, which now are become the doctrines of that particular Church, who would impose her decrees upon us under the venerable name of Apostolical universal tradition; which I have shown you hath been an ancient cheat, and that we ought not to be so easy as to be deceived by it. But to be very wary, and afraid of trusting the traditions of such a Church, as hath not only perverted some, abolished others, and pretended them where there hath been none; but been a very unfaithful preserver of them, and that in matters of great moment, where there were some; and lastly, warrants those which it pretends to have kept, by nothing but its own infallibility. For which there is no tradition, but much against it, even in the original tradition, the holy Scriptures; which plainly suppose the Roman Church may not only err, but utterly fail and be cut off from the Body of CHRIST; as they that please may read, who will consult the eleventh chapter to the Romans, v. 20, 21, 22. Of which they are in the greater danger, because they proudly claim so high a prerogative as that now mentioned, directly contrary to the Apostolical admonition in that place: "be not high-minded, but fear."--pp. 11. 16. 32.
We see from hence how groundlessly, how unreasonably, we Protestants are charged with Heresy by our adversaries. They make no scruple of calling us Heretics, and telling us we shall be damned upon that account, unless we come over to their Belief. Why, what is it they would have us believe? We believe all that JESUS CHRIST and His Apostles taught to the world, so far as we have knowledge of it. We believe all the holy Scriptures, and not only so, but we make them the rule of our Faith. We believe all those articles of Faith, into which all Christians in every country, from CHRIST'S time to this, have been baptized, and which by all the ancients have been accounted a perfect summary of the Christian Faith; nor do we hold any thing inconsistent with them. We own both CHRIST'S Sacraments; and we administer them entirely. We renounce all the Heresies that were condemned by the ancient general Councils; nay, we are ready to refer ourselves to those Councils, and to the primitive Fathers who lived at that time, for the trial of all the points which are disputed between us. And lastly, we are sure we are not obstinate in our errors, if they should prove so; we are sure we have no secular ends to serve in the maintaining them; and most of all sure we are, that we are not self-condemned, that our own conscience doth not accuse us for being of this way; (which yet is one of those things that go to the making of an Heretic). Now if all these things can be truly said of us, (as I think they may be truly said of the Church of England, and of all the honest members of it) how is it possible that we can in any sense be guilty of Heresy? In the sense of the Scriptures and of the Fathers I am sure we are orthodox Christians; and in the sense of the greatest Divines, even in the Roman Communion, I am sure we are no heretics. And if after all that, we must be branded with that name, all that we can say is, that "after the way which they call Heresy, so worship we the GOD of our Fathers."--Vol. vi. p. 5.
We do not find, that in the controversies which arose in the ancient Church about matters of Faith, the guides of the Church ever made use of this argument of the Church's infallibility for the quieting and ending of them: which yet, had they known of any such thing, had been the properest and the easiest means they could have used. Nay further we know, that the ancient Fathers had another method of confuting Heretics and Schismatics than by appealing to the Church's infallibility: namely, by bringing their doctrines to be tried by the ancient usages and doctrines of the Apostolic Churches, and especially by the Divine oracles of Scripture, which they looked upon as the entire and only Rule of Faith.--Vol. vii. p. 61.
To begin with Faith, the foundation of all other Christian duties. You cannot be ignorant, what attempts have lately been made, and are still daily further advancing, to destroy some of the principal doctrines, not of ours only, but of the Catholic Church in all ages; and I wish I could not say, to weaken and undermine all the rest: "these things have not been done in a corner."
Great industry hath been used, and that with too much success, to revive the Arian and Semi-arian Heresies; and with the professors thereof to unite almost all other sects of Christians, however they may differ from one another as to opinion, in the same visible Communion. So that instead of rejecting those, who deprave the Christian Faith, as St. Paul commands; or, in obedience to St, John, of refusing even to "receive them into our houses," or to "bid them GOD speed;" should this design prevail, we must pray with them! and partake with them of the LORD'S Table, and associate together in all other parts of religious worship; and those alone will be reputed Schismatics, who separate themselves from the Communion of Heretics.
Some have so far proceeded in this scheme of general comprehension, or rather confusion, as to assert, that all sorts of error, except those which immediately relate to practice, are innocent and unblameable. With these men one may, perhaps, deserve the name of an Heretic, who outwardly professeth something he inwardly disbelieves, and in that sense condemns himself: but in any other case, besides this of acting directly against the dictates of conscience, under which it is on all hands confessed to be a fault to defend the truth itself, they plainly intimate, that there is no harm in maintaining even the doctrine of Mahomet, or any other, though ever so opposite to the Christian Revelation. We must not, therefore, wonder to hear it affirmed, that in order to be justified before GOD, there is no need of anything more, than to act agreeably to our present inward persuasion, or in other terms, with sincerity: or. that equal degrees of this quality will in all cases (for I find no exception made), entitle men to equal degrees of Divine favour: whence it follows, that they who denied, or even crucified our SAVIOUR, provided they did it without remorse or hesitation, might deserve an equal reward with those, who are martyrs for Him.
We have been accustomed, and this agreeably to the judgement of all other Churches, and the most evident principles both of Natural and Revealed Religion, to think it the duty of Christian princes to maintain GOD'S true Religion and virtue; and the Church, our Mother, hath taught us in the Communion office to pray, that all in authority under them may do the same. Now, if by GOD'S true Religion nothing be meant, but that moral virtue, from which it is plainly distinguished in this place, then our new masters may still perhaps allow the magistrate to execute this part of his office; but, if GOD'S true Religion signifies that, which it always hath signified among Christians, the worship of One True GOD, as opposed to that of idols and false GODs, or the way of worship prescribed in the Holy Scripture, in opposition to Heathenish, and other superstitions; or, if GOD'S true Religion be understood to imply the belief of Three Persons in one GODhead, of the Incarnation, sufferings, and satisfaction of CHRIST, of the Resurrection of the Body, or of any other doctrine ever so plainly revealed by GOD; then it is openly declared, that for Christian magistrates to discourage false Religion, even in the least degree, or to favour and encourage that which is true, is to do something highly inconsistent both with the nature and ends of their own authority, and with the kingdom of CHRIST.
This may seem strange doctrine in a Christian country: but, since the Faith was for several ages maintained without the favour or protection of the civil magistrate, they, who advance these and the like novel opinions, may perhaps be thought more excusable, if they endeavour to recompense for the loss of these temporal advantages by their hearty concern and just zeal for that spiritual power, which our LORD hath left in His Church. But instead of this, these men describe the Church, rather as a number of persons disunited from, and independent on one another, than as an orderly society under lawful governors of Divine, or necessary appointment; and thus root up, as far as in them lieth, the very foundation of all Ecclesiastical authority at once. It might easily be shown, how by the schemes lately published, every branch of this authority hath been very much weakened and impaired; or, rather, totally subverted and destroyed: but I shall confine myself to the subject, of which I have been chiefly speaking, viz. the Christian Faith; in things relating to which, it hath been thought, not only highly inconvenient, but absurd and impracticable for the Church to have any sort of authority whatsoever. Our own Church, indeed, in her twentieth article hath expressly declared, that the Church hath authority in controversies of Faith; and therefore some of them, who do not approve this passage, have taken great pains to persuade the world, that it was not originally in the article, but inserted there by some, who affected more power, than of right belonged to them: but this attempt not succeeding according to their desires, the rest always speak of it with such reservations and evasions, as plainly show they heartily wish it were quite expunged. One of the chief causes of their complaint, is the obliging men to declare their assent to human decisions, as they are called; that is, to articles of Faith, or doctrines, which however clearly deduced from the Holy Scriptures, are not found there in express words. For, when "unlearned and unstable" men, to use the words of St. Peter, "wrested the Scriptures to their own destruction," it was always customary, even from the most primitive ages, for the Church, in order to prevent the spreading of such infections, to require her members, especially such of them as had been distinguished by any public character, to make an open and solemn confession of their Faith; not in the very words of Holy Scripture, which had been perverted and misunderstood, because that would have been ineffectual to the purpose intended; but in others more fully, and distinctly setting forth the true sense and interpretation of those words. With this view it was, that the Fathers of Nice inserted into their Creed those clauses, which declare the true Divinity of our Blessed LORD, against Arius; that not long after, in opposition to the Heresy of Macedonius, others were added by the general Council of Constantinople, to assert the Divinity of the Holy Spirit; and that in the next century, though no further change was made in the Creed, other declarations of the true Faith, concerning the Incarnation of CHRIST, and the Personal union of His two Natures, were composed by general Synods assembled at Ephesus and Chalcedon, when the two opposite Heresies of Nestorius and Eutyches first showed themselves in the world. In these later times, indeed, this authority hath been very much abused; instead of articles of Faith, men have been compelled to declare their assent, not only to disputable opinions, but to such, as are evidently contrary, as well to the principles of natural reason, as to the Holy Scriptures, and the doctrine of the best ages; and those worthy men, whom GOD endued with power from on high, to withstand these unjust impositions, have been exposed to so many and great trials, as even the first Christians endured in the Heathen persecutions. These practices, together with the principles from which they proceed, can hardly be too much detested: but shall we then, instead of reforming these or the like abuses, quite discard that sacred authority which hath been abused? . . . .
But I am in hopes, that in the opinion of every true son of this Church, it will be a sufficient confutation of all innovations, which have been, or hereafter shall be, advanced, to say with St. Paul, "we have no such custom, neither the Churches of GOD;" or, in the words of our Blessed LORD, "from the beginning it was not so." To become the author of new Hypotheses in Religion, or to call those doctrines into question, which have always been firmly believed in the Church, even from the most early ages to our times, savours more of the pride and arrogance of some vainglorious philosopher, who by making strange discoveries, and contradicting the rest of the world, seeks to raise in others a great esteem of himself, than of the humility of a good Christian; whose chief glory consists in the entire resignation of his understanding, and the stedfast belief of all the truths, which GOD hath revealed to him, whether he doth, or doth not, clearly comprehend them. I speak not of improvements in the liberal arts and sciences; which had their rise from study and observation, and therefore must be advanced, and perfected in the same method: whereas the Christian Religion having been completely published to the world by our Blessed LORD, and His Apostles, no addition can be made to it without a new Revelation. Here, then, is no room for invention or discovery; but, on the contrary, if any doctrine be new, if it be not truly primitive and Apostolical, we may, safely, without further examination, reject it as false and spurious, and no part of "the Faith once delivered to the Saints." Whence our best writers, as well in their controversies with the Papists, as with other Sectaries and Heretics, constantly appeal to the judgment and practice of the Church in the next centuries after the Apostles: which as she had better means of information, than can be pretended to in any succeeding age, so cannot reasonably be supposed, either through negligence or design, and this, in all parts, of the world at once, to have depraved the Faith, whilst her Pastors, and other chief members, were daily suffering martyrdom in its defence: and few there are, or rather none at all, as far as I have been able to observe, who refuse to allow the testimony of the primitive writers its due weight and authority, such only excepted, as have not read them, or are afraid of their evidence, and, therefore, in order to divert us from the true sense of the Holy Scriptures, (in discovering which those interpreters have commonly the best success, who most carefully compare them with other books of the same or the next ages, as the best critics always do in explaining other authors) would strictly confine us to the mere words, because these alone, and unsupported, may more easily be forced to countenance their innovations.--Works, vol. i. pp. 283. 296.
There is not, therefore, the least ground to think, that the practice of the Church in this respect is contrary to Scripture. Let us now see, whether this writer hath succeeded better in another accusation he hath brought against it, viz. that it is Popish. I have allowed that this practice hath been abused to very ill ends by the Church of Rome; which, instead of explaining the true sense of Scripture, hath invented and imposed new Articles of Faith, contrary both to Scripture and reason. Which doth by no means satisfy this writer, who will, therefore, have the practice itself to be Popish; for unless he means this, he would, instead of contradicting me, say only the same thing I have done before. He pretends, that "by this engine it was that step by step came on the claim of Infallibility." (p. 252.) Whereby if he understands that the authority of the Church was through the ambition of some men, and the negligence of others, so far by degrees increased and abused, that at length a claim of Infallibility was set up, he affirms nothing more than what I have allowed, that this authority hath been much abused; but then I must still put him in mind, that the abuse of authority in one age is no just ground for laying it aside in another. But if he would have it thought that the claim of Infallibility is a certain or necessary concomitant, or consequent, of this authority as exercised at the Council of Nice, or the other general councils mentioned by me, he must pardon me if this be not granted; for there is nothing more evident in History, than that no such authority was either then, or for many hundred years after, claimed by any person in the world. Nay, so far was anything done in these councils, from giving birth to the exorbitant power of the Pope, who claims this Infallibility, that the popish writers have never been able to prove, that in several of them he was allowed so much as to preside; and even in the last of them, that at Chalcedon, the See of Constantinople was, notwithstanding the warm and earnest opposition of the Pope's Legates, put upon the level with that of Rome, agreeably to what had been before decreed at Constantinople in the second General Council. These councils, therefore, are so many plain proofs against the Pope's authority, and are commonly insisted on as such by the Protestant writers. Neither doth it appear, that any authority was there exercised in relation to the interpretation of Scripture, which is not exercised or approved by the Church of England and other Protestant Churches: for in these there are Creeds, or Confessions of Faith; and such as reject any of the principal Articles of these Creeds, or Confessions, are commonly debarred both from Holy Orders, and also from Communion. This, therefore, having been the practice of Protestant Churches, and particularly of the Church of England, ever since the Reformation, which cannot be questioned, will, I hope, be excused from the imputation of serving the popish claim of Infallibility; unless it can be supposed, that the Protestant Churches, and this, from the very beginning, have generally so far misunderstood, or acted inconsistently with their own principles, as to retain the very essence of popery. But to give some show or colour of popery to the practice of which I have been speaking, this writer hath filled his discourse with long and heavy complaints of the injustice of denying Christians the liberty of examining, and judging for themselves; in which unfair proceeding of his, I desire leave once more to say, that I am no farther concerned than the body of Protestants; who, as they invite men to read the Scriptures, and to see with their own eyes, so have never denied the Church authority to judge what persons are qualified for her Communion and for Holy Orders.
I must not forget under this head, that I am again charged not only with favouring Popery, but with being a Papist in disguise, with "acknowledging the Protestant principles for decency sake, but steadfastly adhering to the Popish" (p. 275), and all this, as it seems, for having referred you to the practice and writers of the Primitive times, and of the next ages after the Apostles; whereby I am represented to understand the reign of Constantine, which happened, as he saith (pp. 270-274), almost three hundred years after. Now I am not in the least apprehensive of my being suspected as a favourer of Popery by any man, who knows the true meaning of Popery; but sure it is such a compliment to the Popish Religion, as no Protestant would have made, who understands his own principles, to date its rise from the time of Constantine; the claim of Infallibility, and of the Papal Supremacy, as now exercised, the Doctrine of Transubstantiation, Invocation of Saints, Image Worship, Prayers in an unknown tongue, forbidding laymen to read the Scriptures, to say nothing of other peculiar tenets of the Church of Rome, having never been heard of during the reign of this great Emperor, or for a long time after; as a very little insight into the Popish Controversies, or Ecclesiastical Historians, would have informed this writer. It would have been much more to his purpose, and equally consistent with truth and justice, to have told his readers that by the next ages after the Apostles, I meant the times immediately preceding the Reformation: but then one opportunity would have been lost of declaiming against the times wherein the Nicene Creed was composed, and Arianism condemned. As to the primitive writers I am not ashamed, or afraid to repeat, that the best method of interpreting Scripture seems to me to be the having recourse to the writers, who lived nearest the time wherein the Scriptures were first published, that is, to the next ages after the Apostles; and that a diligent inquiry into the Faith and practice of the Church in the same ages, would be the most effectual way, next after the study of the Scriptures themselves, to prevent innovations in doctrine; and, lastly, that this hath been practised with great success by some of our best advocates for the Protestant cause, as Bishop Jewel, for example, Archbishop Laud, Archbishop Ussher, Bishop Cosins, Bishop Stillingfleet, Dr. Barrow, Bishop Bull, with many others at home and abroad. To which it will be replied: That "our best writers, at least, in their controversies with the Papists, are so far from appealing to the judgment of the Church in the next centuries after the Apostles, in any such sense as the Bishop is arguing for against his adversaries; that the very best of them, Mr. Chillingworth, has declared upon the most mature consideration, how uncertain generally, how self-contradictory sometimes how insufficient always he esteemed this judgment to be. He had seen Fathers against Fathers, Councils against Councils, the consent of one age against the consent of another; the same Fathers contradicting themselves, and the like, and he found no rest but in the Protestant Rule of Faith. He was willing to yield to every tiling as truth, Quod semper, ubique et ab omnibus; because he well judged that nothing could be conceived to be embraced as truth at the very beginning, and so continue in all places, and at all times, but what was delivered at the beginning. But he saw, with respect to some controverted points, how early the difference of sentiment was." (p. 265. 266.) In answer to this, I shall not take upon me to determine what rank Mr. Chillingworth ought to bear among the Protestant writers; it being sufficient for my purpose, that many others, and those of chief note for learning and judgment, in their controversies with the Papists and others, have appealed, and this in the manner I have recommended, to the Primitive writers, as every one may soon learn who will take the pains to look into their books. In the next place, it appears from this very passage of Mr. Chillingworth, as here represented, that this design was to prevent appealing to Fathers and Councils as a Rule of Faith; agreeably whereunto I have all along declared, that, in my opinion, the Scripture is the only Rule of Faith, and have no farther recommended the study of the Primitive writers, than as the best method of discovering the true sense of Scripture. In the third place, here is nothing expressly said by Mr. Chillingworth of the most Primitive writers or Councils, or of any who lived in the next ages after the Apostles; but he may very well be understood, notwithstanding any thing here produced, of those latter ages, wherein both Fathers and Councils degenerated from the Faith and doctrine of those who went before them; which is the more likely, because mention here follows of the Article which divided the Greeks from the Roman Communion; this having not been openly disputed before the seventh century. Fourthly, he is introduced as speaking in express terms of controverted points, but saying nothing of any principal point of Faith, nothing of any Article which was originally in the Nicene Creed. On the contrary it may be observed, in the last place, that he plainly speaks of doctrines received by the Church in all places and at all times, even from the very beginning, which, for that reason, he presumed not to reject. Now it cannot possibly be known what these are, without having recourse to the writers of the Primitive ages. So that, upon the whole, the method I have recommended is so far from being contradicted, that it is rather enforced by what this writer hath cited from Mr. Chillingworth.--p. 358.
It is the contempt of the Ecclesiastical Tradition, reaching down from the Apostolic age to our own, which causes Christians who are called to one Faith and to one hope, to split into various sects; each of which professes Scripture for its Rule of Faith, but bends our LORD'S declarations to its private likings and wishes, and refuses communion to all who differ from it, depriving them of all privileges, bodily and spiritual. On one side upon Traditions truly Catholic and Apostolic, are superadded new opinions and superstitions which falsely pretend to the name; on the other that is torn away, overlooked, nay, sometimes rejected which has been believed and practised in the Church always, everywhere, and by all, and for this sole reason, because it is inconsistent with the new decrees and determinations, or altogether hostile to them.--Meanwhile, till public peace is restored to the world, we must see to our own private peace and safety, lest we be involved in the aforementioned evils, and perish in the ruin of others. We shall escape this mischief if we build ourselves up upon the faith once delivered to the Saints, and best unfolded in the writings of the ancient Fathers, not admitting aught which beyond or against it be latterly added, uncertain, false, vain, superstitious, idolatrous, nor agreeing with those who detract from the traditions of the Catholic Church, and conten-tiously revile the most ancient doctrine and discipline, nay, those who do not obey it with their whole heart.
The form of consecration and opinion of the consecrated elements, in which both Catholics and Heretics, in the age immediately succeeding the holy Apostles, have agreed together, and which, ever since, has been kept in all ancient Churches, and is by some of the Fathers expressly reckoned amongst the unwritten apostolical traditions, and is moreover hinted at in the very writings of the New Testament, cometh undoubtedly from the Apostles, if not from our LORD himself, and ought, therefore, by no means to be changed, otherwise it will make the consecration doubtful, or at least unlawful for them that understand this matter. It is, therefore, an indispensable duty incumbent upon every Christian Church, and every priest in it, strictly to keep to the same matter and form, which our LORD JESUS CHRIST and his holy Apostles have used in the first institution and celebration of this sacred mystery, and to do in and with it what these have done, lest if they diminish or take aught off it, they should lose either the substance or the benefit of this most holy Sacrament, and consequently, if through ignorance or mistake a fault or defect hath happened any where in these things, it is the bounden duty of the bishops and priests of that Church to rectify the same, the received customs and human laws notwithstanding; and of every one who, by reading the holy Scriptures and writings of the ancient Apostolical Fathers, is come to the knowledge of such fault or defect, to put them in mind of it, and to shew the same in order that it may be amended, since every one who knoweth the truth and doth not declare it, shall be judged by the LORD on the last day.--p. 75. 84.
Since then the will of GOD being once revealed, is to be known afterwards by tradition only, it behoves us to inquire how we may be satisfied that this tradition does not deceive us: for it is a general opinion here that tradition is very deceitful and not at all to be relied upon; and I do readily grant that mere oral tradition delivered from father to son, corroborated by no written evidence, is by no means to be relied upon for any long succession. And, therefore, we find that no nation or country can give any tolerably satisfactory account of the state and condition of their ancestors, before they come to have the use of letters amongst them, by which their manners, laws, customs, and acts, might be transmitted to posterity. But this is no argument against such a tradition as is delivered or corroborated by written evidence, of such things, and in such manners, as we cannot think ourselves deceived by it. All our knowledge of laws, customs, and facts, which we are not ourselves eyewitnesses of, must be delivered to us by evidence, such as we have reason to believe, and we have no other way of coming to the knowledge of them. Now we could not be eye-witnesses of what happened before we were born, therefore, we must either say that we can come to the true knowledge of nothing which happened before we were born, which I think none but downright Sceptics will pretend to say, or else that we must believe such tradition as deserves the name of a just and proper evidence; and I conceive that to be just and proper evidence, which we receive from those who could not be themselves deceived in what they relate, nor could have any design or purpose to deceive us in the relation, but, on the contrary, must have exposed themselves to all their contemporaries, if they had given a wrong account of those matters. Therefore when an author of credit speaks of the customs or practice of the Church at a time when he lived, we have all the reason imaginable to believe him; for in that case it is certain he could not be deceived himself, neither could he write what was false in such a case without exposing himself to all that were living at that time. Thus for instance, if any one at this time should tell the world, that it is the custom or practice of the Church of England to carry the Host or consecrated Eucharistical Bread in a solemn procession, as they do in the Church of Rome, he must expose himself as a shameless liar, and could never be esteemed an author of any credit, because every man now living in England would know the thing to be false. Nay, if he should say that this was the practice in this realm an hundred and fifty years ago, or any time since the beginning of Queen Elizabeth's reign, every Englishman would know it to be false, though there is no man now living that can remember what was done in her reign. And the like may be said with regard to any other public part of Divine worship. No man can impose upon the world so far, as to make them believe that any thing is a public practice, which he himself does not know, or see to be so. And though a man might possibly put upon a stranger, who may be supposed ignorant of the customs of the people, to whom he is a stranger; yet he that had the least value for his own reputation, would not dare to do this to a stranger living among the people of whose customs he pretends to give him an account, especially, if by that account he hopes to obtain a favour from that stranger, and may have just apprehensions of suffering through the displeasure of that stranger, if he should go about to deceive him. We may therefore be satisfied that St. Barnabas, for instance, would not have told the Jews that GOD had appointed us to keep holy the eighth day, or first day of the week, in memory of CHRIST'S resurrection, and abolished the observation of the Sabbath day, if the Apostles had not taught this as the will of GOD: for he could not be deceived in this matter himself, being a companion of the Apostles, and well acquainted with the doctrine which they taught. Neither could he, if he would, put a deceit in this case upon any others, because all the Christians then living could have refuted him if he had uttered a falsehood in this particular. Therefore, though we do not place his Epistle among the inspired writings, yet we cannot question his evidence as to this matter. And the same may be said of Justin Martyr; if he had told the Emperors any falsehood with relation to the practice of the Christians, it was impossible but they must easily have discovered it, not a Christian then living but must have known it to be a falsehood, if it had been so; consequently he would not only have exposed himself as a shameless liar, but would likewise have made himself liable to the just displeasure of the Emperors, if he had not spoke the truth: nay, if any thing that he told the Emperors had been a new practice, and such as had not been the constant practice of the Christian Church from the beginning, he durst not have pleaded in behalf of such a practice as a Christian institution, for which so many Christians then living could have convicted him of falsehood, it being hut forty years from the death of the Apostles when he wrote, and many of the Apostles' disciples who learned the Christian institutions immediately from them, being then alive. Justin then could not be deceived himself with regard to the Christian institutions, since he had opportunity of informing himself from the immediate disciples of the Apostles, and he durst not pretend to impose upon the Emperors, nor could have any interest either to write a false relation to them, or to put a cheat upon those that should come after. Therefore what we find to have been delivered as a custom of the Church, by St. Barnabas, or St. Justin, or any writers contemporary to them, that we firmly believe to have been of Apostolical institution. And we may say the same also of those that followed them for one hundred and fifty years after the Apostles, such as Irenaeus, Clemens Alexandrinus, Tertullian, Origen, St. Cyprian, and their contemporaries, who could no more be put upon, and made to believe that any thing was an Apostolical institution, and publicly practised by the whole Church, than any man of sense and learning could now be put upon, and made to believe that such a thing (though really it was not so) was established here at the Reformation under Queen Elizabeth, and had continued to be the practice of the English Church ever since. And the same may be said if we add fifty or sixty years more to the account, which brings us down to the time of the Council of Nice. A Christian Synod could no more be deceived at that time in declaring the doctrine and practice taught and practised by the Apostles, than a bench of English Judges could be deceived in any law or custom which should be pretended to have been begun here in the reign of King Henry VII. And, therefore, where we have the declaration of that Council, or of any authors contemporary with it, or with any members of it, I conceive we may very reasonably depend upon their testimony for the truth of an Apostolical tradition. The testimony of the Church, therefore, is thus far at least to be esteemed a certain evidence of Divine or Apostolical institutions, and hitherto we may safely follow it without danger of being led into error by so doing; and that which may confirm us that hitherto the Church had not been deceived with regard to Apostolical institutions and practices is her unanimity in those matters. Whatever was held as derived from Apostolic authority by one Church, was esteemed as such also by all other Churches, which could not have been if there had been a failure in the tradition; for error is various, and all Churches from East to West, from North to South, from one end of the world to another, could never have agreed in an erroneous tradition. Therefore where we find all Churches agreed in the same doctrines and forms of worship, and we are not able to trace the beginning of them, we may safely conclude that they are derived to us from the Apostles: for this is the rule laid down by St. Austin on this occasion: "whatsoever the universal Church holdeth, and which was not instituted by any Council, but has been always observed, that we most rightly conclude to have been a tradition derived from Apostolical authority." And in another place he says, "many things which are not to be found in their writings," (that is, in the writings of the Apostles) "nor in the Councils of later ages, yet because they are observed by the whole Church, are believed not to have been delivered or recommended by any authority but of them." Again, says he, "there are many things which the universal Church holds, and which for this reason are rightly believed to be commanded by the Apostles, although they are not found written." But it is to be observed, that it is only such traditions as have been held by the universal Church in all ages, and all places, such as we can trace up to the Apostolical age, and have the evidence of some of the Fathers, who living either in the Apostolical times, or so near to them, that they could not but distinguish between Apostolical traditions and later institutions, have given their testimony concerning. And therefore we justly reject the doctrine of purgatory, invocation of Saints, worship of relics and images, and other corrupt traditions of the Church of Rome, because we cannot find any evidence for their universality and antiquity. We can trace the original of all of them, and find them many years later than the times of the Apostles: but on the contrary we find the doctrines and customs of the ages nearest to the Apostles to be directly opposite to these modem traditions. It is not then every tradition that lays an obligation upon Christians, but only such traditions as we have good evidence to believe to have been derived from the Apostles, that is, the testimony of those who lived either in the Apostles' age, or so near to it, that they could not easily be imposed upon in this case, and made to believe that to be of Apostolical tradition which really was not so, that is to say, about the time of the Council of Nice, about two hundred years after the Apostolical age. And we may also believe the testimony of those who lived in the century following that Council, since in that time they could not be deceived in the tradition of what was acknowledged at the time of that Council to be Apostolical. But there is no better rule for the judging concerning the authority of tradition, than that which is given by Vincentius Lirinensis in the beginning of his Commonitory.--§ ix. pp. 35-42.
If any other matters not yet received or practised in our Church, should be found to be of equal Antiquity and Universality, I declare it to be my hearty desire that they also may be restored: for I am well assured, that from the beginning of the Gospel of Christ to the time of the Council of Nice, and long after during the fourth century, the Catholic Church all over the world was united in one holy doctrine, discipline, and manner of worship.--The practice of the Church therefore at the time of the Council of Nice is certainly best fitted to be the standard for every reformation of the Church.--Since then we have seen and experienced the folly of deviating so far from the Primitive plan to gain those who cannot be gained by any thing but the utter extirpation of Episcopacy and Liturgy, and all that is not according to their own novel fancies, why should we not entirely restore our Liturgy to the Primitive standard, and revive those usages,--by returning to which we shall plainly lead the van for the introduction of Catholic unity into the Church of Christ. For we shall then want nothing (as we now most certainly do) that is agreeable to the practice of the Primitive Church, when a Catholic uniformity was universally preserved.--The only means to remove this disunion, is by every Church returning to a closer union with the Primitive Church in doctrine, discipline, and worship: for as the church never was so strictly and firmly united as in the Primitive times, and particularly about the time when the Council of Nice was celebrated:--so if ever the Church be as firmly united again, it must be upon the same principles, and practices. The Church never was united but upon the principles and usages which obtained at the time of the Nicene Council: and we have therefore good reason to believe that it never can be united but upon those principles and usages. That Church then, which shall first restore all those principles and usages, may be justly said to lead the way to Catholic Union.--p. 7--10.
But if any modern writer who is of yesterday, will otherwise interpret these words upon his own head, I will reply unto him what our late blessed Sovereign, the Martyr for the Apostolical Government, said unto Mr. Henderson in his second paper, "If the practice of the primitive Church (saith he) and the universal consent of the Fathers be not a convincing argument, when the interpretation of Scripture is doubtful, I know nothing." And elsewhere; "Although I never esteemed any argument equal to the Scriptures, yet I do think the unanimous consent of the Fathers, and the universal practice of the primitive Church to be the best, and most authentical interpreters of GOD'S word; and consequently the fittest judges between me and you, till you find me a better." According to what St. Augustin said of Infant Baptism, but may with much more reason be said of Episcopal Government, that which the Universal Church doth hold, and was never instituted by Councils, but hath always been retained in the Church, we most justly believe to have descended from no authority but the Apostles'.--Vol. iii. p. 82.
I desire to know, what authority any particular society of Christians of the sixteenth century had to desert from the custom of the Universal Church, from early and more enlightened ages, and which, as our author observes, were better guides, as being much nearer the fountain's head, than those so long behind them. And if they had no good warrant for stepping out of the old paths, the fences of a modern constitution signify little.--That this was the practice of the Universal Church, St. Augustin is clear and decisive. And since nothing but certain evidence will satisfy our author, here he has it. Here is the attestation of all Christendom. Here is number, weight, and authority, with a witness; and is not the practice of the Universal Church a good ground for reliance? What? Not in those early and unblemished ages? In those happy times when learning, and piety, and right belief had so visible an ascendant?--It was a maxim with Luther and his adherents, to resign to nothing but a text of Scripture, of which themselves were to be the expositors. The Bible was GOD'S, but the comment was their own; as for Antiquity, they had no regard for it. Calvin likewise was much of the same mind. He gives no deference to Antiquity, and seems to confine the rule of worship to express declarations of Scripture. These men, though they discovered some errors, fell into others. Particularly Calvin and his followers held some principles very destructive of the public peace.--Knox rails upon the Emperor and our Queen Mary.-Part 2. pp. 72. 81. 164--166.
But there is an infallibility in the Church, not personal in any one or all of Christians put together; for millions of fallibles can never make an infallible. But the infallibility consists in the nature of the evidence, which having all the four marks mentioned in the short method with the Deists, cannot possibly be false. As you and I believe there is such a town as Constantinople, that there was such a man as Henry VIII. as much as if we had seen them with our eyes: not from the credit of any historian or traveller, all of whom are fallible; but from the nature of the evidence, wherein it is impossible for men to have conspired and carried it on without contradiction if it were false.
Thus, whatever doctrine has been taught in the Church, (according to the rule of Vincentius Lirinensis,) semper, ubique, et ab omnibus, is the Christian doctrine; for in this case, such doctrine is a fact, and having the aforesaid marks must be a true fact, viz. that such doctrine was so taught and received.
This was the method taken in the Council called at Alexandria against Arius; It was asked by Alexander, the Archbishop who presided, Quis unquam talia audivit? who ever heard of this doctrine before? And it being answered by all the Bishops there assembled in the negative, it was concluded a novel doctrine, and contrary to what had been universally received in the Christian Church. Thus every doctrine may be reduced to fact; for it is purely fact, whether such doctrine was received or not?
And a council assembled upon such an occasion stands as evidence of the fact, not as judges of the faith: which they cannot alter by their votes or authority.
A council has authority in matters of discipline in the Church; but in matters of faith, what is called their authority, is their attestation to the truth of fact: which if it has the marks before mentioned, must be infallibly true: not from the infallibility of any or all of the persons, but from the nature of the evidence, as before is said.
And this is the surest rule whereby to judge of doctrines, and to know what the Catholic Church had believed and taught, as received from the Apostles.
And they who refuse to be tried by this rule, who say we care not what was believed by the Catholic Church, either in former ages or now, we think our own interpretation or criticisms upon such a text of as great authority as theirs; these are justly to be suspected, nay it is evident that they are broaching some novel doctrines which cannot stand this test. Besides the monstrous arrogance in such a pretence, these overthrow the foundation of that sure and infallible evidence upon which Christianity itself does stand, and reduce all to a blind enthusiasm. Works, vol. i. p. 70.
In Ecclesiastical History, and there only, I may say, is the decision of all controverted points in Divinity, either as to doctrine or discipline. For every one of them must be determined by matter of fact. It is not refining, and criticisms, and our notions of things, but what that faith was, which at first was delivered to the Saints. This is matter of fact, and must be determinated by evidence. And where any text of the New Testament is disputed, the best evidence is from those Fathers of the Church, who lived in the Apostolical age, and learned the faith from the mouths of the Apostles themselves, such as St. Clement, Ignatius, Polycarp, &c. These must know the best sense and meaning of the words delivered by the Apostles. And next to them, they to whom they did deliver the same, and so on through the several ages of the Church to this day. And those doctrines and that government of the Church, which has this evidence, must be the truth. And they who refuse to be determined by this rule, are justly to be suspected, nay, they give evidence against themselves, that they are departed from the truth.--p. 411.
It is not at all likely, that any whole Church of those early times should vary from Apostolical Doctrine in things of moment: but it is, morally speaking, absurd to imagine that all the Churches should combine in the same error, and conspire together to corrupt the doctrine of Christ. This is the argument which Irenaeus and Tertullian insist much upon, and triumph in over the heretics of their times: and it is obliquely glanced upon by Hcgesippus and Clemens Alexandrinus of the same second century, and by Origen also of the third. The argument was undoubtedly true and just as it then stood, while there were no breaks in the succession of doctrine, but a perfect unanimity of the Churches all along, in the prime articles: though, afterwards, the force of this argument came to be obscured, and almost lost, by taking in things foreign to it, and blending it with what happened in later times. The force of it could last no longer than such unanimity lasted. I say, while the Churches were all unanimous in the main things, (as they were in Irenaeus's time and Tertullian's and for more than a century after,) that very unanimity was a presumptive argument that their faith was right, derived clown to them from the Apostles themselves. For it was highly unreasonable to suppose, that those several Churches, very distant from each other in place, and of different languages, and under no common visible head, should all unite in the same errors, and deviate uniformly from their rule at once. But that they should all agree in the same common faith, might easily be accounted for, as arising from the same common cause, which could be no other but the common delivery of the same uniform faith and doctrine to all the Churches by the Apostles themselves. Such unanimity could never come by chance, but must be derived from one common source: and therefore the harmony of their doctrine was in itself a pregnant argument of the truth of it. As to the fact, that the Churches were thus unanimous in all the prime things, in those days, Irenaeus, who was a very knowing person, and who had come far east to settle in the west, bears ample testimony to it. Tertullian, in the two passages last cited from him, testifies the same thing, as to the unanimity of the Churches of those times, in the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. Hegesippus, contemporary with Irenaeus, gives much the same account of the succession of true doctrine, down to his own time, in the several Churches. Clemens of Alexandria means the same thing, where he recommends the faith of the Universal Church as one, and as more ancient than heresies. And Origen, of the third century, testifies the same of the church in his time, and argues in the same manner from it. Irenaeus and Tertullian were both of them so strongly persuaded of the certainty; first of the fact, and next of the inference from it, that they scrupled not to urge it as a very full and convincing proof of the Apostolical faith singly considered, and abstracting from Scripture proof; an argument which there is no need to be jealous of, if it be but rightly understood, and limited to such circumstances as it was grounded upon. For the meaning was not, that Apostolical Churches could never err, nor that tradition would be always a safe rule to go by: but such tradition as that was, which might easily be traced up to the Apostles, by the help of writings then extant, as easily (as we may now trace up the doctrine of our Church to the reign of Charles, or of James the First,) such a tradition might be depended upon. Besides that the unanimity of the Churches all the world over (which could not be rationally accounted for on any other supposition but that they had been so taught from the beginning) confirmed the same thing. The argument in this light, and in those circumstances, was a very good one. But when those circumstances came to be altered, and there had been several breaks in the succession of doctrine, and that too even in the Apostolical Churches, then there could be no arguing in the same precise way as before: only thus far they might argue in after times (upon a supposition that their faith could be proved to be the same as in the former ages), that since their doctrine was still that very doctrine which the Churches held while they were unanimous and had admitted no breaks, therefore it is such as was from the beginning in the Church of CHRIST. In this manner we can reason even at this day, and can thereby make Irenaeus's or Tertullian's argument our own: provided we have first proved that the faith we contend for is the very same that obtained in the Churches of that age.....
It has been objected, that our sixth Article condemns the method of interpreting Scripture by antiquity, or at least supersedes it; because it says, "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation; so that whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man, that it should be believed as an Article of Faith, or necessary to salvation." The article says nothing but what is perfectly right, and perfectly consistent with all we have been pleading for. We allow no doctrine as necessary, which stands only on Fathers, or on tradition, oral or written; we admit none for such, but what is contained in Scripture, and proved by Scripture, rightly interpreted. And we know of no way more safe in necessaries to preserve the right interpretation, than to take the ancients along with us. We think it a good method to secure our rule of faith, against impostures of all kinds; whether of enthusiasm or false criticism, or conceited reason, or oral tradition, or the assuming dictates of an infallible chair. If we thus preserve the true sense of Scripture, and upon that sense build our faith, we then build upon Scripture only; for the sense of Scripture is Scripture. Suppose a man were to prove his legal title to an estate; he appeals to the laws; the true sense and meaning of the laws must be proved by the best rules of interpretation; but after all, it is the law that gives the title, and that only. In like manner after using all proper means to come at the sense of Scripture, (which is Scripture,) it is that, and that only, which we ground our faith upon, and prove our faith by. We allege not Fathers as grounds, or principles, or foundations of our faith, but as witnesses, and as interpreters, and faithful conveyers.
That the Church of England has a very particular regard to antiquity, may sufficiently appear from a canon set forth in the same year when our Articles were first perfected and authorized by Act of Parliament, namely in the year 1571. By that canon it is provided, "that preachers shall not presume to deliver any thing from the pulpit, as of moment, to be religiously observed and believed by the people, but that which is agreeable to the doctrine of the Old or New Testament, and collected out of the same doctrine by the Catholic Fathers and the Bishops of the ancient Church." A wise regulation, formed with exquisite judgment, and worded with the exactest caution. The Canon does not order, that they shall teach whatever had been taught by Fathers; no, that would have been setting up a new rule of faith; neither does it say that they shall teach whatsoever the Fathers had collected from Scripture; no, that would have been making them infallible interpreters, or infallible reasoners: the doctrine must be found first in Scripture: only to be the more secure that we have found it there, the Fathers are to be called in, to be, as it were, constant checks upon the presumption or wantonness of private interpretation; but then again as to private interpretation, there is liberty enough allowed to it. Preachers are not forbidden to interpret this or that text, or hundreds of texts, differently from what the Fathers have done; provided still they keep within the analogy of faith, and presume not to raise any new doctrine: neither are they altogether restrained from teaching any thing new, provided it be offered as opinion only, or an inferior truth, and not pressed as necessary upon the people. For it was thought that there could be no necessary article of faith or doctrine now drawn from Scripture, but what the ancients had drawn out before, from the same Scripture: to say otherwise, would imply that the ancients had failed universally in necessaries, which is morally absurd.
From this account it may appear that the Church of England is exactly in the same sentiments which I have been pleading for. And indeed, if there be any Church now in the world, which truly reverences antiquity, and pays a proper regard to it, it is this Church. The Romanists talk of Antiquity, while we observe and follow it.--Works, vol. v. p. 265, 316.
If it be now inquired what articles of Faith, and what points of practice were reckoned thus fundamental, or essential to the very being of a Christian, and the union of many Christians into one body or Church, the Ancients are very plain in resolving this. For as to fundamental Articles of Faith, the Church had them always collected or summed up out of Scripture in her Creeds, the profession of which are ever esteemed both necessary on the one hand and sufficient on the other, in order to the admission of members into the Church by baptism; and consequently both necessary and sufficient to keep men in the unity of the Church, so far as concerns the unity of Faith generally required of all Christians, to make them one body and one Church of Believers. Upon this account, as I have had occasion to show in a former book, the Creed was commonly called by the ancients the kanwn, and Regula Fidei, because it was the known standard or Rule of Faith, by which Orthodoxy and Heresy were judged and examined. If a man adhere to this rule he was deemed an Orthodox Christian, and in the union of the Catholic Faith; but if he deviated from it in any point, he was esteemed as one that cut himself off, and separated from the communion of the Church, by entertaining heretical opinions and deserting the common Faith. Thus the Fathers in the Council of Antioch charge Paulus Samosatensis with departing from the Rule of Canon, meaning the Creed, the Rule of Faith, because he denied the divinity of CHRIST. Irenaeus calls it the unalterable Canon or Rule of Faith, and says, This Faith was the same in all the world; men professed it with one heart and one soul: for though there were different dialects in the world, yet the power of Faith was one and the same. The Churches in Germany had no other Faith or tradition than those in Spain, or in France, or in the East, or Egypt, or Libya. Nor did the most eloquent ruler of the Church say any more than this, for no one was above his master, nor the weakest diminish any thing of this tradition. For the Faith being one and the same, he that said most of it could not enlarge it, nor he that said least, take any thing from it. So Tertullian says, There is one rule of Faith only, which admits of no change or alteration, 'That which teaches us to believe in one GOD ALMIGHTY, the Maker of the world, and in JESUS CHRIST HIS SON, &c.' This rule, he says, was instituted by CHRIST Himself, and there were no disputes in the Church about it, but such as Heretics brought in, or such as made Heretics; to know nothing beyond this, was to know all things. This Faith was the Rule of believing from the beginning of the Gospel, and the antiquity of it was sufficiently demonstrated by the novelty of heresies, which were but of yesterday's standing in comparison of it. Cyprian says, It was the law which the whole Catholic Church held, and that the Novatians themselves baptized into the same Creed, though they differed about the sense of the Article relating to the Church. Therefore Novatian in his book of the Trinity makes no scruple to give the Creed the same name, Regula Veritatis, the Rule of Truth. And St. Jerome after the same manner, disputing against the errors of the Montanists, says, The first thing they differed about was the Rule of Faith. For the Church believed the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to be each distinct in his own Person, though united in substance. But the Montanists, following the doctrine of Sabellius, contracted the Trinity into one Person. From all which it is evident, that the fundamental Articles of Faith were those which the Primitive Church summed up in her Creeds, in the profession of which she admitted men as members into the unity of Body by baptism; and if they deserted or corrupted this faith, they were no longer reputed Christians, but Heretics, who break the unity of the Church by breaking the unity of the Faith, though they had otherwise made no farther separation from her Communion. For as Clemens Alexandrinus says, out of Hermes Pastor, Faith is the virtue that binds and unites the Church together. Whence Hegesippus, the ancient historian, giving an account of the old Heretics, says, They divided the unity of the Church by pernicious speeches against GOD and His CHRIST; that is, by denying some of the prime, fundamental Articles of Faith. He that makes a breach upon any one of these, cannot maintain the unity of the Church, nor his own character as a Christian. We ought therefore, says Cyprian, in all things to hold the unity of the Catholic Church, and not to yield in any thing to the enemies of Faith and Truth. For he cannot be thought a Christian who continues not in the truth of CHRIST'S Gospel and Faith. If men be Heretics, says Tertullian, they cannot be Christians. The like is said by Lactantius, and Jerome, and Athanasius, and Hilary, and many others of the ancients, whose sense upon this matter I have fully represented in another place. As therefore, there was an unity of Faith necessary to be maintained in certain fundamental Articles in order to make a man a Christian, so these Articles were always to be found in the Church's Creeds; the profession of which was esteemed keeping the unity of the Faith; and deviating in any point from them, was esteemed a breach of that one Faith and a virtual departing from the unity of the Church.--
We are next to examine what communion different Churches held with one another, that we may discover the harmonious unity of the Catholic Church, and here first of all we are to. observe, that as there was one common Faith, consisting of certain fundamental Articles, essential to the very being of a particular Church and its unity, and the being of a Christian; so the same faith was necessary to unite the different parts of the Catholic Church, and make them one body of Christians. So that if any Church deserted or destroyed this Faith, in whole or in part, they were looked upon as rebels and traitors against CHRIST, and enemies to the common Faith, and treated as a conventicle of Heretics, and not of Christians. Upon this account every Bishop not only made a declaration of his faith at his ordination, before the Provincial Synod that ordained him, but also sent his circular or encyclical letters as they were called, to foreign Churches, to signify that lie was in communion with them. And this was so necessary a thing in a Bishop newly ordained, that Liberatus tells us, the omission of it was interpreted a sort of refusal to hold communion with the rest of the world, and a virtual charge of heresy upon himself or them.
To maintain this unity of Faith entire, every Church was ready to give each other their mutual assistance to oppose all fundamental errors, and heat down heresy at its first appearance among them. The whole world in this respect was but one common Diocese, the Episcopate was an universal thing, and every Bishop had his share in it in such a manner as to have an equal concern in the whole; as I have more fully showed in another place, where I observed, that in things not appertaining to the Faith, Bishops were not to meddle with other men's Dioceses, but only to mind the business of their own: but when the Faith or welfare of the Church lay at stake, and religion was manifestly invaded, then, by this rule, of their being but one Episcopacy, every other Bishopric was as much their Diocese as their own; and no human Laws or Canons could tie up their hand from performing such acts of the Episcopal office in any part of the world, as they thought necessary for the preservation of Faith and Religion. This was the ground of their meeting in Synods, Provincial, National, and sending their joint opinions and advice from one Church to another. The greatest part of Church History is made up of such acts as these, so that it were next to impertinent to refer to any particulars. I only observe one thing farther upon this head, that the intermeddling with other men's concerns, which would have been accounted a real breach of unity in many other cases, was in this case thought so necessary, that there was no certain way to preserve the unity of the Catholic Church and Faith without it. And as an instance of this, I have noted in the fore-cited book, that though it was against the ordinary rule of the Church for any Bishop to ordain in another man's Diocese, yet in case a Bishop turned Heretic, and persecuted the Orthodox, and would ordain none but heretical men to establish Heresy in his Diocese, in that case any Orthodox Bishop was not only authorized, but obliged, as opportunity served, and the needs of the Church required, to ordain Catholic teachers in such a Diocese, to oppose the malignant designs of the enemy, and stop the growth of Heresy, which might otherwise take deep root, and spread and overrun the Church. Thus Athanasius and the famous Eusebius of Samosata went about the world in the prevalency of the Arian heresy, ordaining in every Church where they came, such clergy as were necessary to support the Orthodox cause in such a time of distress and desolation; and this was so far from being reckoned a breach of the Church's unity, though against the letter of a Canon in ordinary cases, that it was necessary to be done, in such a state of affairs, to maintain the unity of the Catholic Faith, which every Bishop was obliged to defend, not only in his own Diocese, but in all parts of the world, by virtue of that rule which obliges Bishops in weighty affairs to take care of the Catholic Church, and requires all Churches in time of danger to give mutual aid and assistance to one another.--Vol. ii. pp. 2, 14.
But you will feel with me, that it is something in favour of Vincentius's rule, that it has been received, extolled, and acted upon, by such men as Ridley, Jewel, Grotius, Overall, Hammond, Beveridge, Bull, Hickes, Bramhall, Grabe, Cave, and our own Archbishop King; that it has been admitted expressly even by Chillingworth; and that it has been unreservedly acknowledged as a just and true guide by Bishop Taylor, in one of his latest works, his visitation sermon at Connor; a tribute, this last, the more remarkable, because, in his 'Liberty of prophesying,' and in his 'Ductor Dubitantium,' he had spoken less respectfully of the principle; and his remarkable change of language can be accounted for only by his having undergone a correspondent change of sentiment. He had seen, felt, and weighed every difficulty; the result of all was, a deliberate persuasion, that Vincentius was right, and that he himself had been wrong. But, to say no more of mere authorities, however strong, I own I cannot at present feel any difficulty in applying Vincentius's rule. If a doctrine is propounded to me, as vitally essential, that is, to speak technically, as matter of Faith, before I can receive it as such, I must go to the Catholic succession, and ascertain whether that doctrine has been held semper, ubique, ab omnibus; convinced, if it has not been so held, my assent is not due to it as a matter of Faith. If, again, a doctrine which I hold, is impugned as Heretical, next the Scripture, and as interpretative of Scripture, I must go to the Catholic succession; and if I find this doctrine universally asserted, I cannot believe that it is any other than the sincere truth of the Gospel. The universality here mentioned, is not of course, a mathematical, but a moral universality: the universality, to use Vincentius's own words, of those "Qui in fide et communione Catholicâ, sancte, sapienter, et constanter viventes, vel mori in Christo fideliter, vel occidi pro Christo feliciter meruerint." And here, I may observe, that Vincentius himself has anticipated your great objection; a very fair one, no doubt, and which requires, and deserves an answer;--namely, 'that true Christianity, far from being diffused ubique, or received ab omnibus, was sometimes confined to a very narrow channel: when the great majority of the Bishops were Arians, what becomes of the rule?' Let Vincentius answer, Quid si novella aliqua contagio, non jam portiunculam tantum, sed totam pariter Ecelesiam commaculare conetur? Tunc item providebit ut Antiquitati inhaereat. Nor be it thought, that by this means, the quod ubique, and quod ab omnibus, are idly absorbed in the quod semper: they are, as above hinted, to be taken, not mathematically, but morally; and, so taken, they are an effectual guard to the quod semper. From the beginning, or at least, from very remote antiquity, worthy individuals have frequently held, some one or more, unsound opinions; and looking to individuals merely, the quod semper might be alleged, as it has been alleged, in favour of every opinion: it is to be rectified, however, by looking to universality and consent: not universality without exception--for such is not to be found: but the concurrent, and consistent sentiments, of the most, and greatest, doctors, in the whole body of the Church; not at any given period, but throughout the whole succession. Nor will such a research he so laborious as might be imagined; for, in the first place, the Catholic verities, those to be believed for necessity of salvation, are but few; and in the next place, the concurrent sense of Catholic Christians, on those few, but important points, has been amply elicited by controversy; insomuch that, from the works of Bishop Bull, and a very few more, any candid and intelligent student might obtain competent and intelligent satisfaction, respecting the sense of the universal Church, on any and every of the Catholic verities. As to all other verities, and as to the interpretation of particular texts of Scripture, they are left at large, provided always that no Catholic truth be impugned, and that the analogy of the Faith be maintained inviolable.--Life, vol. ii. pp. 249--252.
Much discussion has from time to time arisen respecting the deference due to the writings of the Primitive Fathers of the Church, and the use and value of ecclesiastical antiquity; points of considerable moment, and deserving of attentive examination.
It seems to be indisputable, that the Primitive Fathers are not to be regarded as Divinely inspired, since otherwise their writings would necessarily have formed a part of the Sacred Canon. The question, therefore is, whether, admitting them to have no more than human authority, they have any special claim to our reverential regard, which places them on higher ground than that of their ecclesiastical successors. And this question is to be determined by a fair consideration of any peculiar advantages they might possess, and of their ability and disposition to turn them to good account.
Against any such deference being had to these our spiritual forefathers, it has been sometimes contended, that their writings now extant are few in number; that several of them, if not spurious, are adulterated, through the pious frauds, the sinister designs, or the ignorance of after ages; that their style and reasoning are obscure; that in their zeal to defeat opponents, they occasionally suppress or disguise the truth; that they are on certain points inconsistent with each other, and with themselves; and that it is often difficult to ascertain whether the opinions they advance are meant to be declaratory of the judgment of the Church, or delivered only as their own private interpretations. For these and similar reasons it has been alleged, that their testimony as genuine witnesses of the Faith may deservedly be impeached; and that neither Protestants nor Papists have hesitated occasionally to depart from their authority.
But of these charges it has repeatedly been shown, that many are greatly exaggerated; some wholly unfounded; while others affect not their writings, more than the writings of almost all controversial authors of ancient date, adverting (as they must necessarily do) to times and persons, and local circumstances, now but imperfectly known, and which cast a shade of obscurity over some of their narratives and their reasonings. These afford no good argument for laying their productions under a general interdict. Against an implicit submission to their authority, they are, doubtless, important considerations: but against the use and application of them as documents of more than ordinary value; they merit but little attention.
In answer, therefore, to such objections, it may suffice to observe, that supposing the Primitive Fathers to have been men of only common discernment and integrity, their testimony respecting the doctrines then actually received by the Church, and maintained against the heresies then prevailing, must have peculiar weight. Those among them who had been personally conversant with the Apostles, and who derived their knowledge of the Christian Faith from what they continually heard of their preaching and discourse, as well as from their writings, seem to have claim to a regard only short of that which was due to their inspired preceptors. To place such men as Clement, Ignatius, and Polycarp, no higher in the scale of authority, with respect to the value of their testimony on these points, than Bishops and Pastors in later times, betrays an error of judgment which on any other subject of investigation analogous to this, would be deemed preposterous. On the part of their immediate successors, somewhat of the same extraordinary claim to acceptance still presents itself, though with a certain diminution of its force. Descending still lower in the scale of history, this authority rapidly diminishes, and our judgment in their favour will he chiefly, if not solely, influenced, by the internal evidence their writings afford of some superior qualifications in the authors themselves. Yet, until the great schism between the Eastern and Western Churches, and the full establishment of the Papal usurpation, the Fathers of the Church appear to have been deeply sensible of the obligation laid upon them to "contend for the Faith once delivered to the saints," and to guard the sacred deposit committed to their charge against every vain imagination which the Heretic or Schismatic might labour to introduce.
Disclaiming, therefore, any superstitious reverence towards these venerable men, it may reasonably be urged, that their peculiarly advantageous circumstances demand especial consideration; and that unless their characters, both moral and intellectual, could be so successfully impeached as to prove them wholly unworthy of credit, their testimony is of the very first importance in ascertaining the Primitive Faith. In matters requisite to the formation of the Church; in framing Confessions of Faith, more or less explicit according to the errors it was necessary to discountenance; and in adopting means for the perpetuation of these benefits to the latest ages; they appear as having been at first deputed by the Apostles for purposes the most important, and as acting under impressions of a most awful responsibility. To them were also confided those Sacred Oracles on which our faith now most essentially depends. Through their ministry we have received these invaluable treasures; to their zeal and fidelity, under Providence, we owe the transmission of the pure word of GOD to these present times: and the charge thus consigned to our care, we are bound to deliver unimpaired to succeeding generations.
If, in addition to these special grounds of confidence in the early Fathers, we admit what has been contended for by learned and judicious Divines, that the extraordinary gifts of the Spirit, (especially that of "discerning of Spirits,") were not entirely withdrawn from the Church till long after the time of the Apostles; this would give still stronger confirmation to their claims. For though we should not be warranted in a supposition that even these extraordinary gifts conferred authority for promulgating new articles of Faith, or infringing on any exclusive prerogative of the Sacred writers, yet it would go far towards establishing interpretations of Christian Doctrine thus received and sanctioned, on a firmer basis than any on which their less gifted successors can ground their pretensions.
But, not to insist on any disputable points, the use and value of ecclesiastical antiquity in general, and of its earliest productions in particular, is sufficiently evident, upon the ordinary principles of criticism and evidence. As works so nearly contemporary with those of the Sacred Canons, they illustrate the diction and phraseology of the inspired Penmen; they give an insight into the history of the age in which the writings of the New Testament were composed; they explain allusions to rites and customs, which otherwise might be involved in much obscurity; and, what is of still more importance, they assist in fixing the sense of controverted texts of Scripture, by the substantial evidence they afford of their generally received interpretation in the primitive ages of the Church. These advantages are derived to us from the public acts of the Church recorded in the most ancient ecclesiastical histories; from the prescribed formularies of Faith then in general use: and from the censures authoritatively passed upon such as departed from these standards of reputed orthodoxy. Hence we are assured of the care and solicitude manifested from the beginning by spiritual rulers, to preserve the truth from corruption: and when the importance of the doctrines themselves, as well as the opportunities they enjoyed of tracing them to the fountain head, are duly considered; it can hardly be conceived, that they who had the guidance and government of the Primitive Church, should either be universally uninformed as to any fundamental truth, or universally embrace any fundamental error.
It is, therefore, with no common reverence that these authorities are to be regarded; nor can we detract from their just pretensions without hazard to some of the main foundations of our Faith. "No man," says Bishop Bull, "can oppose Catholic consent, but he will at last be found to oppose both the Divine Oracles and sound reason." Nevertheless, we do not claim for them any infallibility, any commission to make further revelations of the Divine will, or any absolute authority as Scripture interpreters. The appeal still lies from them, as from all other religious instructors, to that Word itself, which was no less their Rule of Faith than it is ours: and the highest degree of deference that can be due to them, may be paid without any infringement of that inviolable maxim, "If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of GOD."--Sermon v. p. 94.
The Feast of the Purification.
On the particular subject of this Catena, may be profitably consulted,
Laud's conference with Fisher.
Thorndike de ratione ac jure finiendi controversiae Ecclesiae.
Patrick on Tradition.
Brett on Tradition.
Waterland on the Use and value of Ecclesiastical Antiquity.
Allix--Judgment of the Jewish Church.
To which may be added the following references;
Whitgift, Defence, pp. 95. 881
Wall, Pref. to Infant Baptism, vol. I. p. 6
Reeves, Pref. to Apologies, vol. I. pp 6. 16. 2C
Johnson, Unbloody Sacrifice, vol. I. p. 212
Marshall, Pref. to Cyprian, pp. 3. 4. 6. 12
Bisse, Sermon before Sons of Clergy (1717), pp. 11. 12.