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violent recession and neglect of the authority and doctrine of so many fathers as were then assembled, who did as much declare their opinion in those assemblies by their suffrages, as if they had writ it in so many books ; and their opinion is more.considerable in the assembly than in their writings, because it was more deliberate, assisted, united, and more dog'' matical. In pursuance of this observation, it is to be noted, by way of instance, that St. Austin and two hundred and seventeen bishops, and all their successors”, for a whole age together, did consent in denying appeals to Rome; and yet the authority of so many fathers (all true catholics) is of no force now at Rome in this question: but if it be in a matter they like, one of these fathers alone is sufficient. The doctrine of St. Austin alone brought in the festival and veneration of the assumption of the blessed Virgin; and the hard sentence passed at Rome upon unbaptized infants, and the Dominican opinion concerning predetermination, derived from him alone as from their original. So that if a father speaks for them, it is wonderful to see what tragedies are stirred up against them that dissent, as is to be seen in that excellent nothing of Campian's Ten Reasons. But if the fathers be against them, then “ patres in quibusdam non leviter lapsi sunt,” says Bellarmine”; and “constat quosdam ex præcipuis," it is certain the chiefest of them have foully erred. Nay, Posa, Salmeron, and Wadding, in the question of the immaculate conception, make no scruple to dissent from antiquity, to prefer new doctors before the old ; and to justify themselves, bring instances in which the church of Rome had determined against the fathers. And it is not excuse enough to say, that singly the fathers may err, but if they concur, they are certain testimony. For there is no question this day disputed by persons that are willing to be tried by the fathers, so generally attested on either side, as some points are which both sides dislike severally or conjunctly. And therefore it is not honest for either side to press the authority of the fathers as a concluding argument in matter of dispute, unless themselves
, Vid. Epist. Bonifacii II. apud Nicolinum, tom. 2. Concil. pag. 544. et exemplar precum Eulalii apud eundem, ibid. p. 525. Qui anathematizat omnes decisores suos, qui in ea causa, Romæ se opponendo, rectæ fidei regulam prævaricati sunt; inter quos tamen fuit Augustinus, quem pro maledicto Cælestinus tacitè agnoscit, admittendo sc. exemplar præcum. Vid. Doctor. Mart. de jurisdict. part 4. p. 273. et Erasm. annot, in Hieron. præfat. in Daniel. i De Verbo Dei, 1. 3. c. 10. sect. Dices. VOL, VIII.
will be content to submit in all things to the testimony of an equal number of them ; which, I am certain, neither side will do.
3. If I should reckon all the particular reasons against the certainty of this topic, it would be more than needs as to this question, and therefore I will abstain from all disparagement of those worthy personages, who were excellent lights to their several diocesses and cures. And therefore I will not instance that Clemens Alexandrinus taught that Christ felt no hunger or thirst, but ate only to make demonstration of the verity of his human nature; nor that St, Hilary taught that Christ, in his sufferings, had no sorrow; nor that Origen taught the pains of hell not to have an eternal duration ; nor that St. Cyprian taught rebaptization; nor that Athenagoras condemned second marriages ; nor that St. John Damascenus said Christ only prayed in appearance, not really and in truth: I will let them all rest in peace, and their memories in honour: for if I should inquire into the particular probations of this article, I must do to them as I should be forced to do now; if any man should say, that the writings of the schoolmen were excellent argument and authority to determine men's persuasions, I must consider their writings, and observe their defaillances, their contradictions, the weakness of their arguments, the misallegations of Scripture, their inconsequent deductions, their false opinions, and all the weaknesses of humanity, and the failings of their persons; which no good man is willing to do, unless he be compelled to it by a pretence that they are infallible; or that they are followed by men even into errors or impiety. And therefore, since there is enough in the former instances to cure any such mispersuasion and prejudice, I will not instance in the innumerable particularities, that might persuade us to keep our liberty entire, or to use it discreetly. For it is not to be denied but that great advantages are to be made by their writings, “ et probabile est, quod omnibus, quod pluribus, quod sapientibus videtur :" If one wise man says a thing, it is an argument to me to believe it in its degree of probation, that is, proportionable to such an assent as the authority of a wise man can produce, and when there is nothing against it that is greater; and so in proportion higher and
a Strom. 1. 3, et 6.
higher, as more wise men (such as the old doctors were) do affirm it. But that which I complain of is, that we look upon wise men that lived long ago, with so much veneration and mistake, that we reverence them, not for having been wise men, but that they lived long since. But when the question is concerning authority, there must be something to build it on; a divine commandment, human sanction, excellency of spirit, and greatness of understanding, on which things all human authority is regularly built. But now if we had lived in their times (for so we must look upon them now, as they did who without prejudice beheld them), I suppose we should then have beheld them, as we in England look on those prelates who are of great reputation for learning and sanctity: here only is the difference; when persons are living, their authority is depressed by their personal defaillances, and the contrary interests of their contemporaries, which disband when they are dead, and leave their credit entire upon the reputation of those excellent books and monuments of learning and piety which are left behind. But beyond this, why the bishop of Hippo shall haye greater authority than the bishop of the Canaries, cæteris paribus,' I unders stand not. For did they, that lived (to instance) in St. Austin's time, believe all that he wrote ? If they did, they were much to blame; or else himself was to blame for retracting much of it a little before his death. And if while he lived, his affirmative was no more authority than derives from the credit of one very wise man, against whom also very wise men were opposed, I know not why his aythority should prevail farther now; for there is nothing added to the strength of his reason since that time, but only that he hath been in great esteem with posterity. And if that be all, why the opi, nion of the following ages shall be of more force than the opinion of the first ages, against whom St. Austin, in many things, clearly did oppose himself, I see no reason. Or whether the first ages were against him or no, yet that he is approved by the following ages, is no better argument; for it makes his authority not be innate, but derived from the opinion of others, and so to be precaria,' and to depend upon others, who if they should change their opinions (and such examples there have been many,) then there were nothing left to urge our consent to him, which when it was at the best
proved by the hority not be in a precaria, and
was only this, because he had the good fortune to be believed by them that came after, he must be so still : and because it was no argument for the old doctors before him, this will not be very good in his behalf. The same I say of any company of them, I say not so of all of them, it is to no purpose to say it; for there is no question this day in contestation, in the explication of which all the old writers did consent. In the assignation of the canon of Scripture, they never did consent for six hundred years together; and then, by that time, the bishops had agreed indifferently well, and but indifferently, upon that, they fell out in twenty more: and except it be in the Apostle's creed, and articles of such nature, there is nothing which may with any colour be called a consént, much less tradition universal.
4. But I will rather choose to shew the uncertainty of this topic by such an argument which was not in the fathers' power to help, such as makes no invasion upon their great reputation, which I desire should be preserved as sacred as it ought. For other things, let who please read M. Daille
du Vray Usage des Peres :' but I shall only consider that the writings of the fathers have been so corrupted by the intermixture of heretics, so many false books put forth in their names, so many of their writings lost which would more clearly have explicated their sense, and at last an open profession 'made and a trade of making the fathers speak, not what themselves thought, but what other men pleased, that it is a great instance of God's providence and care of his church, that we have so much good preserved in the writings which we receive from the fathers, and that all truth is not as clear gone as is the certainty of their great authority and reputation.
5. The publishing books with the inscription of great names, began in St. Paul's time; for some had troubled the church of Thessalonica with a false epistle in St. Paul's name, against the inconvenience of which he arms them in 2. Thess. ii. 1. And this increased daily in the church. The Arians wrote an epistle to Constantine under the name of Athanasius, and the Eutychians wrote against Cyril of Alexandria under the name of Theodoret; and of the age in which the seventh synod was kept, Erasmus reports, “ Libris
& Apol. Athanas. ad Constant. Vid. Baron. A. D. 553.
istom of thatBasil,—by citih ter him, ang
falso celebrium virorum titulo commendatis scatere omnia." It was then a public business, and a trick not more base than public: but it was more ancient than so; and it is memorable in the books attributed to St. Basil, containing thirty chapters de Spiritu Sancto,' whereof fifteen were plainly by another hand under the covert of St. Basil, -as appears in the difference of the style, in the impertinent digressions, against the custom of that excellent man,-by some passages contradictory to others of St. Basil,-by citing Meletius as dead before him, who yet lived three years after him,--and by the very frame and manner of the discourse : and yet it was so handsomely carried, and so well served the purposes of men, that it was indifferently quoted under the title of St. Basil by many, but without naming the number of chapters, and by St. John Damascenus in these words ; “ Basilius in opere triginta capitum de Spiritu Sancto ad Amphilochiumc;" and to the same purpose, and in the number of twenty-seven and twenty-nine chapters, he is cited byd Photius, by Euthymius, by Burchard, by Zonaras, Balsamon, and Nicephorus. But for this, see more in Erasmus's preface upon this book of St. Basil. There is an epistle goes still under the name of St. Jerome ad Demetriadem virginem,' and is of great use in the question of predestination with its appendices; and yet a very learned mane eight hundred years ago did believe it to be written by a Pelagian, and undertakes to confute divers parts of it, as being high and confident Pelagianism, and written by Julianus, Episc, Eclanensis : but Gregorius Ariminensis f from St. Austin affirms it to have been written by Pelagius himself. I might instance in too many: there is not any one of the fathers who is esteemed author of any considerable number of books, that hath escaped untouched. But the abuse in this kind hath been so evident, that now if any interested person of any side be pressed with an authority very pregnant against him, he thinks to escape by accusing the edition, or the author, or the hands it passed through, or at last be therefore suspects it because it makes against him : both sides being resolved that they are in the right, the authorities that they admit,
Vid. Baron. in Annal. c Lib. 1. de imag. orat. 1. d Nomocan. tit. 1. cap. 3. e V. Beda de gratia Christi ady. Julianum,
Greg. Arim. in 2. sent. dist. 26. q. 1-3.