« EdellinenJatka »
are clear and plain, like as the fundamentals of faith expressed in Scripture, but also it pretends to expound Scrip. ture, and to determine questions with so much clarity and certainty, as there shall neither be error nor doubt remaining, and therefore no disagreeing is here to be endured. And, indeed, it is most true, if tradition can perform these pretensions, and teach us plainly, and assure us of all truths, which they require us to believe, we can in this case have no reason to disbelieve them, and therefore are certainly heretics if we do, because, without a crime, without some human interest or collateral design, we cannot disbelieve traditive doctrine or traditive interpretation, if it be infallibly proved to us that tradition is an infallible guide.
2. But here I first consider that tradition is no repository of articles of faith, and therefore the not following it is no argument of heresy; for besides that I have shewed Scripture in its plain expresses to be an abundant rule of faith and manners, tradition is a topic as fallible as any other: so fallible that it cannot be sufficient evidence to any man in a matter of faith or question of heresy.
3. For first, I find, that the fathers were infinitely deceived in their account and enumeration of traditions : sometimes they did call some traditions such, not which they knew to be so, but by arguments and presumptions they concluded them so. Such as was that of St. Austin, “ Ea quæ universalis tenet ecclesia nec à conciliis instituta reperiuntur, credibile est ab apostolorum traditione descendisse.” Now suppose this rule probable, that is the most, yet it is not certain; it might come by custom, whose original was not known, but yet could not derive from an apostolical principle. Now when they conclude of particular traditions by a general rule, and that general rule not certain, but, at the most, probable in any thing, and certainly false in some things,-is it wonder if the productions, that is, their judge ments and pretence, fail so often. And if I should but instance in all the particulars, in which tradition was pretende ed falsely or uncertainly in the first ages, I should multiply them to a troublesome variety: for it was then accounted so glorious a thing to have spoken with the persons of the apostles, that if any man could with any colour pretend to it,
i Epist. 118. ad Januar. De Bapt. contr. Donat. lib. 4.C:21.
he might abuse the whole church, and obtrude what he listed under the specious title of apostolical tradition ; and it is very notorious to every man, that will but read and observe the Recognitions or Stromata of Clemens Alexandrinus, where there is enough of such false wares shewed in every book, and pretended to be no less than from the apostles. In the first age after the apostles, Papias pretended he received a tradition from the apostles, that Christ, before the day of judgment, should reign a thousand years upon earth, and his saints with him in temporal felicities; and this thing proceeding from so great an authority*as the testimony of Papias, drew after it all or most of the Christians in the first three hundred years. For besides, that the millenary opinion is expressly taught by Papias, Justin Martyr, Irenæus, Origen, Lactantius, Severus, Victorinus, Apollinaris, Nepos, and divers others famous in their time; Justin Martyr in his Dialogue against Tryphon says, it was the belief of all Christians exactly orthodox, nai ei tivés cioi xetà weyta ogθογνώμονες Χριστιανοί; and yet there was no such tradition, but a mistake in Papias : but I find it no where spoke against, till Dionysius of Alexandria confuted Nepos’ book, and converted Coracion the Egyptian from the opinion.
Now if a tradition, whose beginning of being called so be- gan with a scholar of the apostles (for so was Papias), and then continued for some ages upon the mere authority of so famous a man, did yet deceive the church: much more fallible is the pretence, when, two or three hundred years after it, but commences, and then by some learned man is first called a tradition apostolical. And so it happened in the case of the Arian heresy, which the Nicene fathers did confute by objecting a contrary tradition apostolical, as Theodoret reportsk; and yet if they had not had better arguments from Scripture than from tradition, they would have failed much in so good a cause; for this very pretence the Arians themselves made, and desired to be tried by the fathers of the first three hundred years, which was a confutation sufficient to them who pretended a clear tradition, because it was unimaginable, that the tradition should leap so as not to come from the first to the last by the middle. But that this trial was sometime declined by that excellent
Lib. 1. Hist. c. 8,
man, St. Athanasius, although at other times confidently and truly pretended, it was an argument the tradition was not so clear, but both sides might with some fairness pretend to it! And therefore, one of the prime founders of their heresy, the heretic Artemon", -having observed the advantage might be taken by any sect that would pretend tradition, because the medium was plausible, and consisting of so many particulars, that it was hard to be redargued, pretended a tradition from the apostles, that Christ was Viaós ävOpwmos, and that the tradition did descend by a constant succession in the church of Rome to Pope Victor's time inclusively, and till Zephyrinus had interrupted the series and corrupted the doctrine ; which pretence, if it had not had some appearance of truth, so as possibly to abuse the church, had not been worthy of confutation, which yet was with care undertaken by an old writer, out of whom Eusebius transcribes a large passage to reprove the vanity of the pretender". But I observe from hence, that it was usual to pretend to tradition, and that it was easier pretended than confuted, and I doubt not but oftener done than discovered. A great question arose in Africa concerning the baptism of heretics, whether it were valid or no. St. Cyprian and his party appealed to Scripture; Stephen bishop of Rome, and his party would be judged by custom and tradition ecclesiastical. See how much the nearer the question was to a determination, either that probation was not accounted by St. Cyprian, and the bishops both of Asia and Africa, to be a good argument, and sufficient to determine them, or there was no certain tradition against them; for unless one of these two do it, nothing could excuse them from opposing a known truth, unless peradventure, St. Cyprian, Firmilian, the bishops of Galatia, Cappadocia, and almost two parts of the world, were ignorant of such a tradition, for they knew of none such, and some of them expressly denied it. And the sixth general synod approves of the canono made in the council of Carthage under Cyprian upon this very ground, because in “ prædictorum præsulum | Vide Petav. in Epiph. her. 69.
η Και γάρ εισί τινες, ώ φίλοι, έλεγον από του ημετέρου γένους ομολόγούντες αυτόν Χριστόν είναι, άνθρωπον δε εξ ανθρώπων γενόμενον αποφαινόμενοι, οις ου συντίθεμαι, ουδε üy trsiotoi taūze pos ookúcartes Prosv.-- Justin Mart. Dial. ad Tryph. Jud. » Euseb. 1.5. c. ult.
o Can, 2.
locis et solum secundum traditam eis consuetudinem servatus est;" they had a particular tradition for rebaptization, and therefore, there could be no tradition universal against it; or if there were, they knew not of it, but much for the contrary: and then it would be remenibered, that a concealed tradition was like a silent thunder, or a law not promulgated; it neither was known, nor was obligatory. And I shall observe this too, that this very tradition was so obscure,' and was so obscurely delivered, silently proclaimed, that St. Austin, who disputed against the Donatists upon this very question, was not able to prove it but by a consequence which he thought probable and credible, as appears in his discourse against the Donatists. " The apostles," saith St. Austin", "prescribed nothing in this particular: but this custom, which is contrary to Cyprian, ought to be believed to have come from their tradition, as many other things which the Catholic church observes.” That is all the ground and all the reason ; nay, the church did waver concerning that question, and before the decision of a council, Cyprian and others might dissent without breach of charity 9. It was plain then there was no clear tradition in the question ; possibly there might be a custom in some churches postnate to the times of the apostles, but nothing that was obligatory, no tradition apostolical. But this was a suppletory device ready at hand whenever they needed it; and St. Austin confuted the Pelagians, in the question of original sin, by the custom of exorcism and insufflation", which St. Austin said, came from the Apostles by tradition ; which yet was then, and is now so impossible to be proved, that he that shall affirm it, shall gain only the reputation of a bold man and a confident.
4. Secondly: I consider, if the report of traditions in the primitive times, so near the ages apostolical, was so uncertain, that they were fain to aim at them by conjectures, and grope as in the dark, the uncertainty is much increased since; because there are many famous writers, whose works are lost, which yet if they had continued, they might have been good records to us, as Clemens Romanus, Hegesippus, Nepos, Coracion, Dionysius Areopagite, of Alexandria, of Corinth, Firmilian, and many more: and since we see pretences have been made without reason in those ages, where they might better have been confuted, than now they can,-it is greater prudence to suspect any later pretences, since so many sects have been, so many wars, so many corruptions in authors, so many authors lost, so much ignorance hath intervened, and so many interests have been served, that now the rule is to be altered : and whereas it was of old time credible, that that was apostolical whose beginning they knew not,—now quite contrary, we cannot safely believe them to be apostolical, unless we do know their beginning to have been from the apostles. For this consisting of probabilities and particulars, which put together make up a moral demonstration, the argument which I now urge,--hath been growing these fifteen hundred years; and if anciently there was so much as to evacuate the authority of tradition,--much more is there now absolutely to destroy it, when all the particulars, which time and infinite variety of human accidents have been amassing together, are now concentred, and are united by way of constipation. Because every age, and every great change, and every heresy, and every interest, hath increased the difficulty of finding out true traditions..
p L. 5. de Baptism. contr. Donat. c. 23. 9 Lib. 1. de Baptism, c. 18. r De peccat, original. 1. 2. c. 40. contra Pelagi. et Cælest.
5. Thirdly: there are very many traditions which are lost, and yet they are concerning matters of as great consequence as most of those questions for the determination whereof traditions are pretended : it is more than probable, that as in baptism and the eucharist the very forms of ministration are transmitted to us, so also in confirmation and ordination, and that there were special directions for visitàtion of the sick, and explicit interpretations of those difficult places of St. Paul, which St. Peter affirmed to be so difficult, that the ignorant do wrest them to their own damnation ; and yet no church hath conserved these or those. many more, which St. Basil affirms to be so many, that miλείψει ημέρα τα άγραφα της εκκλησίας μυστήρια διηγούμενον ; 'the day would fail him in the very simple enumeration of all traditions ecclesiasticals? And if the church hath failed in keeping the great variety of traditions, 'it will hardly be thought a fault in a private person to neglect tradition, which either the whole church hath very much neglected incul
$ Cap. 29. de Spir. Sancto.