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text to be corrupted, and to go to'mend it by such an emendation, is a plain contradiction to the sense, and that so unclerklike, viz. by putting in two words, and leaving out one; which whether it may be allowed them by any licence less than poetical, let critics judge. St. Gregory s saith, that the Constantinopolitans had corrupted the synod of Chalcedon, and that he suspected the same concerning the Ephesine council. And in the fifth synod there was a notorious prevarication, for there were false epistles of Pope Virgilius, and Menna the patriarch of Constantinople, inserted; and so they passed for authentic till they were discovered in the sixth general synod, actions twelve and fourteen. And not only false decrees and actions may creep into the codes of councils; but sometimes the authority of a learned man may abuse the church with pretended decrees, of which there is no copy or shadow in the code itself. And thus Thomas Aquinas says that the Epistle to the Hebrews was reckoned in the canon by the Nicene council, no shadow of which appears in those copies we now have of it ; and this pretence and the reputation of the man prevailed so far with Melchior Canus, the learned bishop of the Canaries, that he believed it upon this ground, Vir sanctus rem adeo gravem non astrueret, nisi compertum habuisset:' and there are many things which have prevailed upon less reason, and a more slight authority. And that very council of Nice hath not only been pretended by Aquinas, but very much abused by others, and its authority and great reputation have made it more liable to the fraud and pretences of idle people. For whereas the Nicene fathers made but twenty canons (for so many and no more were received by Cecilian of Carthage', that was at Nice in the council; by Austin', and two hundred African bishops with him; by St. Cyril * of Alexandria, by Atticus' of Constantinople, by Ruffinus?, Isidore, and Theodoret, as Baroniuswitnesses); yet there are fourscore lately found out in an Arabian MS. and published in Latin by Turrian and Alfonsus of Pisa, Jesuits surely, and like to be masters of the
Pro (cùm esset in bello Persarum] legi volant [cùm reversus esset è bello Persarum.) Euseb. Chronicon. Vide Binium in notis ad Concil. Sinuessanum, lom. 1. Concil. et Baron. Annal. tom. 3. A. D. 303. num. 107.
• Lib. 5. Ep. 14. ad Narsem. Comment, in Hebr.
* Ibid. c. 102. c. 133.
2 In princ. Con. de Synod. princ.
u Con. Afric.
* Lib. 1. Eccl. Hist, c. 6.
mint. And not only the canons, but the very acts of the Nicene council, are false and spurious, and are so confessed by Baronius; though how he and Lindanus will be reconciled upon the point, I neither know well nor much care. Now if one council be corrupted, we see, by the instance of St. Gregory, that another can be suspected, and so all: because he found the council of Chalcedon corrupted, he suspected also the Ephesine; and another might have suspected more, for the Nicene was tampered foully with; and so three of the four generals were sullied, and made suspicious, and therefore we could not be secure of any. If false acts be inserted in one council, who can trust the actions of any, unless he had the keeping the records himself, or durst swear for the register ? And if a very learned man, as Thomas Aquinas was, did either wilfully deceive us, or was himself ignorantty abused, in allegation of a canon which was not, it is but
fallible topic at the best ; and the most holy man that is, may be abused himself, and the wisest may deceive others.
10. Sixthly and lastly, to all this and to the former instances, by way of corollary, I add some more particulars, in which it is notorious that councils general and national,-that is, such as were either general by original, or by adoption into the canon of the catholic church,—did err, and were actually deceived. The first council of Toledo admits to the communion him that hath a concubine, so he have no wife besides : and this council is approved by Pope Leo in the ninety-second epistle to Rusticus, bishop of Narbona. Gratian says, that the council means by a concubine, a wife married sine dote et solennitate ";' but this is daubing with untempered mortar. for though it was a custom amongst the Jews to distinguish wives from their concubines, by dowry and legal solemnities, yet the Christian distinguished them no otherwise than as lawful and unlawful, than as chastity and fornication. And besides, if by a concubine is meant a lawful wife without a dowry, to what purpose should the council make a law, that such a one might be admitted to the communion ? For I suppose it was never thought to be a law of Christianity, that a man should have a portion with his wife, nor he that married a poor virgin, should deserve to be excommunicate. So that Gratian and his fol. Panopl. lib. 2. c. 6.
c Dist. 34. can. omnibas.
lowers are pressed so with this canon, that to avoid the impiety of it, they expound it to a signification without sense or purpose. But the business then was, that adultery was so public and notorious a practice, that the council did choose rather to endure simple fornication, that by such permission of a less, they might slacken the public custom of a greater ; just as at Rome they permit stews, to prevent unnatural sins. But that, by a public sanction, fornicators, habitually and notoriously such, should be admitted to the holy communion, was an act of priests so unfit for priests, that no excuse can make it white or clean. The council of Worms does authorize a superstitious custom at that time too much used, of discovering stolen goods by the holy sacrament, which Aquinas justly condemns for superstition. Thefsixth synod separates persons lawfully married upon an accusation and crime of heresy. The Roman couneil under Pope Nicolas II. defined, that not only the sacrament of Christ's body, but the very body itself of our blessed Saviour, is handled and broke by the hands of the priest, and chewed by the teeth of the communicants : which is a manifest error derogatory from the truth of Christ's beatifical resurrection, and glorification in the heavens, and disavowed by the church of Rome itself. But Bellarmine," that answers all the arguments in the world, whether it be possible or not possible, would fain make the matter fair, and the decree tolerable; for,
says he, the decree means that the body is broken, not in itself, but in the sign; and yet the decree says, that not only the sacrament (which, if any thing be, is certainly the sign), but the very body itself, is broken and champed with hands and teeth respectively : which indeed was nothing but a plain over-acting the article in contradiction to Berengarius. And the answer of Bellarmine is not sense ; for he denies that the body itself is broken in itself (that was the error we charged upon the Roman synod), and the sign abstracting from the body is not broken (for that was the opinion that council condemned in Berengarius): but, says Bellarmine, the body in the sign. What is that? for neither the sign, nor the body, nor both together, are broken. For if either of them distinctly, they either rush upon the error which the d Cap. 3.
e Per. 3. q. 80. a. 6. ad 3. m. & Can, ego Berengar. de Consecrat. dist. 2. b Lib. 2. c. 8. de Concil.
i Can. 72.
Roman synod condemned in Berengarius, or upon that which they would fain excuse in Pope Nicolas : but if both are broken, then it is true to affirm it of either, and then the council is blasphemous in saying, that Christ's glorified body is passible and frangible by natural manducation. So that it is and it is not this way, and yet it is no way else; but it is some way, and they know not how; and the council spake blasphemy, but it must be made innocent; and therefore it was requisite a cloud of a distinction should be raised, that the unwary reader might be amused, and the decree scape untouched: but the truth is, they that undertake to justfy all that other men say, must be more subtile than they that said it, and must use such distinction, which possibly the first authors did not understand. But I will multiply no more instances, for what instance soever I shall bring, some or other will be answering it; which thing is so far from satisfying me in the particulars, that it increases the difficulty in the general, and satisfies me in my first belief. Fori if no decrees of councils can make against them, though they seem never so plain against them, then let others be allowed the same liberty (and there is all the reason in the world they should), and no decree shall conclude against any doctrine that they have already entertained : and by this means the church is no fitter instrument to decree controversies than the Scripture itself, there being as much obscurity and disputing in the sense, and the manner, and the degree, and the competency, and the obligation of the decree of a council, as of a place of Scripture. And what are we the nearer for a decree, if any sophister shall think his elusion enough to contest against the authority of a council? yet this they do, that pretend highest for their authority: which consideration, or some like it, might possibly make Gratian prefer St. Jerome's single testimony before a whole council, because he had Scripture on his side, which says, that the authority of councils is not avrómotoc, and that councils may possibly recede from their rule, from Scripture: and in that, which indeed was the case, a single person proceeding according to rule is a better argument: so saith Panormitan; “ In concernentibus fidem
i Illa demum eis videntar edicta et concilia, quæ in rem suam faciunt; reliqua non pluris æstimant quàm conventum muliercularum in textrina vel thermis. Lud, Vives in Scholiis, 1. 20. Aug. de Civ. Dei. c. 26. 36. q. 2. c. placuit.
etiam dictum unius privati esset dicto Papæ aut totius concilii præferendum, si ille moveretur melioribus argumentis k.”
11. I end this discourse with representing the words of Gregory Nazianzen in his epistle to Procopius : "Ego, si vera scribere oportet, ita animo affectus sum, ut omnia episcoporum concilia fugiam, quoniam nullius concilii finem lætum faustúmque vidi, nec quod depulsionem malorum potiùs quàm accessionem et incrementum habuerit k."--But I will not be so severe and dogmatical against them: for I believe many councils to have been called with sufficient authority, to bave been managed with singular piety and prudence, and to have been finished with admirable success and truth. And where we find such councils, he that will not with all veneration believe their decrees, and receive their sanctions, understands not that great duty he owes to them who bave the care of our souls, whose “faith we are bound to follow,” saith St. Paul"; that is, so long as they follow Christ: and certainly many councils have done so. But this was then when the public interest of Christendom was better conserved in determining a true article, than in finding a discreet temper or a wise expedient to satisfy disagreeing persons. (As the fathers at Trent did, and the Lutherans and Calvinists did at Sendomir in Polonia, and the Sublapsarians and Supralapsarians did at Dort.) It was in ages when the sum of religion did not consist in maintaining the grandezza of the papacy; where there was no order of men with a fourth vow upon them to advance St. Peter's chair; when there was no man, nor any company of men, that esteemed themselves infallible: and therefore they searched for truth, as if they meant to find, and would believe it if they could see it proved, not resolved to prove it because they had upon chance or interest believed it; then they had rather have spoken a truth, than upheld their reputation but only in order to truth. This was done sometimes, and when it was done, God's Spirit never failed them, but gave them such assistances as were sufficient to that good end for which
* Par. 1. de election, et elect. potest. c. sige
| Athanas. lib. de Synod. Frustrà igitur circumcursitantes prætexunt ob fidem se synodos postulare, cùm sit Divina Scriptura omnibus potentior.
m Heb. xjii. 7. VOL. VIII.