CHAP. LIX. Concerning the arguments for the inuocation of Saints, taken from the Fathers of the Church.
HOw venerable the consent of the ancient Doctors of the Church is in matters of religion, where they agree vnto the Scriptures of god, ther is, I think, no man but wil confess.
Ieremie commandeth toainquire for the ould way, which is the good way, and walke therein. And Moses exhorteth Is∣rael tobremember the dayes of ould, and to consider the yeares of so many generations: aske thy father, and hee will shew thee; thine elders, and they will tell thee.cBildad therefore calleth vpon Iob to inquire of the former age, and to prepare himself to search of his Fathers. Tully well saith in Philosophie, that men the nearer they were to the beginning, and to the diuine progenie, so much better did they discerne the truth. Yet notwithstanding there are diuers cautions and rules to Page 178 bee obserued in alledging the sentences of ancient Doctors, without the which the authority euen of the best Fathers is but a Spiders web instead of clothing, & grauell instead of bread. Wherefore the Papists themselues admitt not abso∣sutely of the authority of the Fathers, but only where they serue their turnes; As you may see in Bellarmine. Who in the controuersie,d whether Saints are fully blessed, re∣iecteth the authoritie of Tertullian, as an Hereticke: and of Lactantius, as one better read in Cicero, then in Scriptures: and of Ʋictorius, as one altogether vnlearned.
[Can. 1] That authority is alwaies fit for our example, which doth not swarue from the rule & Canon of al truth, the* word of the ancient of daies, who is before all tyme;o the light of lights, & the Father of all that is called Father in Heauen & Earth. By his spirite, the Prophets, Apostles and Euange∣lists in deliuering of scriptures were directed. Which scrip∣tures being neglected, wee may answer, as Socrates did to Eleusius;e How commeth it to passe, that you call them Fathers, which mett in the assembly at Antioch, & deny their elders to be Fathers who assembled long before in the Coun∣cell of Nice? Why doe they accept of some of later daies as Fathers, & doe not receiue the Apostles & Prophets in their Canonicall writings as Fathers? Wee must then so alledge Fathers, as that wee acknowledge them to bee all seruants, and in subiection to the word of God. A Doctor (saith Chrysostome) may adde nothing besides the lawe, out of his owne sense: nor take away any thing from it after his owne vnderstanding; But must preach that only which is contei∣ned in the lawe. So doth Cyprian also teach, that the opini∣on of Fathers must bee no further receiued, then they agree with the scriptures.f Wherefore, if Christ alone must be hearkned vnto, wee ought not to attend what any one be∣fore vs doth thinke meet to bee done; but what Christ, that is before all, hath done. For wee must not follow the cus∣tome of men, but the truth of God &c.g Do wee trie the faith by the persons, or the persons by the faith? saith Ter∣tullian. Ambrose saith,h Nothing may bee added to the Page 179 commandement; no, though it seeme to bee good. Augus∣tine saith;i Sitting vpon the chaire of Moses they teach the lawe of God; therefore God teacheth by them. But if they will teach their owne things, heare them not, doe not after them; for such seeke their owne things, and not the things of Christ. And this is the first caution to bee obserued in the reading of the Fathers, To try them by scriptures, and to acknowledge their writings to bee but seruants and hand∣maydes to the word of God.
Secondly, it must bee considered, whether the Father, [Can. 2] whose authority is alledged, were not misled with any phantasticall opinion of Heretikes, or superstition of false teachers in his time. VVherefore wee may iustly ex∣cept againstkTertullian in the controuersie of Mariage, and of fasting, and of difference of Meats, who fauoured the dotage of the Heretick Montanus concerning Mariage, and choice of meates; which little differeth from the opinion of the church of Rome.l The workes of Tertullian by Gra∣tian himselfe are counted Apocryph. So the bokes of Origen in the matter of free will, orignall sinne, Purgatorie, and such like cannot be alledged; in which points hee is notoriously knowne to haue dispersed many venimous opinions. As, that in this life the Saints haue the same perfection, that Adam had before he fell: that euery Man may exterminate from himselfe the Seede or inclination to sinne, which is cal∣led Fomes peccati. Yea, the Romish Church it selfe reiecteth Origen and all his works; which Ierome approueth not.
Thirdly, wee must consider, whether the books of the [Can. 3] Fathers become to our hands vncorrupted or not. Of Ori∣gen Ruffinus saith,m that many things which are repre∣hensible in his bookes, were foysted in by his enemies: and he bringeth foorth an Epistle of Origen to his friends in Alexan∣dria, in which Origen himself doth therof complaine. Hierome saith,n that Origen confest his errours to Fabian the Ro∣man Bishop, and blamed Ambrosius his friend, who did immaturely diuulge the writings, which Origen for his owne priuate vse secretly composed. The same my bee said of the Page 180 rest of ther Fathers, and of Augustine himselfe. Of this sort are the Apostolicall Canons: whereof the most part are plaine forgeries, and the rest doubtfull. For touching them there hath neuer been any certainty in the Church. Diuers condemned them all as Apocrife and false.* Some allow only 60; and of that opinion is Pope Zepherim: some approue but 50; & of this opinion is Pope Leo in his Epistle against Abbot Nicetas: the 6. Councell approueth 85. Canons. Now then what sound authority can be taken frō such doubtfull & am∣biguous surmifes, whereof euen Rome it selfe is not resolued?
The same estimation is to be made of the decretal Epistles, which they pretend to haue beene written by the Primitiue Bishoppes of Rome. But Esops Asse is easily bewraied by his eares. For the argument of them agreeth not with the time of those Fathers, nor the phrase with the stile of those times: besides sundry other euident reasons, by which they are de∣prehended to bee false and forged deceipts. They haue not the testimonie of any Fathers: they are not al∣ledged by any ancient Councells: no approued Histories re∣cord them. And it is manifest that the Popish Iugglers haue thrust diuers things into them, which they neuer wrote; as not only those famous learned men; Erasmus, and Philip Melancthon abundantly declare: but the sundrie editions of the Fathers at Rome, at Paris, and at Lyons, within these for∣ty yeares printed, euidently witnesse. To this let vs adde those Indices expurgatorii, perfidious falseries, worthie to bee condemned by the Cornelian law;o especially that Spa∣nish Index, mentioned by Posseuinus. But of the falsification of Fathers I shal no more need to speake, being so notably de∣tected by Andreas Crastonius; Mr. Iohn Fox in his Historie, the Magdeburgenses, and by that Star of Oxforde Doctor Rey∣nolds; and lastly, by the excellent learned man Doctor Iames, to whose fidelitie the famous librarie of Oxforde is cōmitted.
[Can. 4] Fourthlie, we must diligently regard in what time or age of the Church, the Father, whose authouritie is pressed against vs, did liue. For euery authour must not be reckoned among the Fathers; but such only as liued neare the time of the Page 181 Apostles, or in the Primitiue Curch. For then the Church (as Eusebius well obserueth) was a virgin. Wherefore, as onep said of Philopemen, that he was the last of all the Gre∣cians: so may wee say, that the age of the Fathers ended al∣most with Saint Austin; as that learned man Bartholomeus Keckermannus truly obserueth.
By this rule then, the testimonies of Bernard, Gregorie Beda, Damascen, Theophylact, Anselme, and diuers others, whome the Romish Church hath put into the Albe of the Fathers, is to bee iudged and examined by the reasons and arguments they bring, not by the authoritie and celebrity of their names; since they liued long after the tyme of the Churches puritie, in corrupt and superstitious ages.
Lastly, it is specially to bee obserued, that wee iudge not [Can. 5] any of the Fathers by one or two singular or speciall senten∣ces, nor yet the whole colledge of Fathers by one or two that are called Fathers: but (asqTertullian saith) the fewest must be vnderstood by the greater number: the Tree must bee iudged by the woode: the branch by the Tree: the dropp by the Riuer: the sparke by the fire; That is, one particular saying by the whole Tenet and doctrine of a Father in the rest of his works, and one particular Father by the ge∣nerall concent of all the whole quire of the Fathers. For it were most absurd to iudge the generall by the speciall, all the doctrine of a man by one sentence, or all the Fathers by one Father. These rules and Canons being obserued, the Church of Rome shall haue no cause to boast of the Fathers in the matter of Inuocation and adoration of Saints, or any other question. Now to the third point.