CHAP. XXVIII. How weak is the foundation of the grand Engine of Indulgences in the Roman Church.
WHEN first I came to examin the grounds of the doctrine of Indulgence used in the Roman Church, I confess I was astonished to see how little ground they could shew in the Fountains of divine Faith for this mystery of the Romish belief, of so great noise and so much use among them. I thought it a strong nega∣tive argument against such a dectrine, not to be contained in the Word of God; that two so great Champions of the Roman Church, Cajetan and Suarez, both emploied by public authority to defend this doctrine, should not meet with any convincing testimony of it in divine Scripture, as both do confess plainly. Both do examine the two chief Testimonies alledged for this doctrine: the first out of John 20.23. Whose soever sins you remitt, they are remitted to them. The second out of Matth. 18.18. Whatsoever you shall bind on Earth, shall be bound in Heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose on Earth, shall be loosed in Heaven. And both do acknowledg them not to convince the doctrine of Indulgences as now practised in the Roman Church. Cajetan, tom. 1. opusc. tract. 8. q. 4. says the foresaid testimonies are without doubt to be understood of a remission to be given Page 189by way of Sacraments, not of the remission of pains in the other life, as the Pope doth pra∣ctice in the giving of Indulgences, and finally gives for the only reason the Authority of the Church, and of Pope Leo, then governing, which he tells us must suffice, tho no other reason should appear, by these remarkable words, Absque ha∣sitatione aliquâ etiamsi nulla adesset ratio fatendum est dicti Thesauri dispensationem non solùm per Sa∣cramenta, quoad merita Christi, sed aliter quam per Sacramenta, qnoad merita Christi & Sancto∣rum commissam esse Praelatis Ecclesiae, & praecipuè Papae, & hoc tanto magis fatendum est quanto per Leonem decimum determinatum est.
Suarez, tom. 4. in 3. partem. disp. 49. sect. 1. delivers his opinion of the foresaid Testimonies of Scripture to be insufficient to prove the do∣ctrine of Indulgences. Of that of Joh. 20. he says the same that Cajetan, above mentioned. Of the other touching the power of binding and loosing, Matth. 18.18. he says the literal sense of those words to be the power of binding by Laws and Page 190Censures, and of absolving from Censures and dispensing in Laws. And finally in the number 17. of the same Section, he concludes, there is no place in the Gospel whence the giving of this power may be concluded, if it be not, Joh. 21.16. where our Savior said to S. Peter, feed my Sheep, in which words Suarez doth pretend the power Universal, and Supremacy over all the Church to have bin given to S. Peter, and under that Universalïty the power of Indulgences to have bin given to him. But as S. Peter did never receive such an Universal power over the Church, as the Bishops of Rome do now usurp, so did he never pretend it, nor ever troubled Thomas in India, or Andrew in Achaia, or James in Je∣rusalem, or any other of his Fellow-Apostles, and Bishops, in their respective Provinces, about a power over them or a dependance of them upon him, all and ea•h one of them complying faith∣fully with their Ministry, without incroaching one upon the other, nor staining the repute of Christian holiness with the profane spirit of Am∣bition, which in Rome did grow to the confu∣sion and distraction of Christendom.
But tho such a Supremacy would have bin granted to the Pope, and to the succeeding Bi∣shops of Rome, farr must Suarez go for a con∣sequence of the doctrine of Indulgences to be in∣ferred from such a grant. If the power of dis∣pensing those immense Treasures of the merits of Christ and all Saints was given to S. Peter in those words of our Savior, commending to him the feeding of his Sheep, how came he, and the other succeeding Bishops of Rome for so many Page 191Ages, to neglect the use of this power to the be∣nefit of Souls, and great advantage of the Roman Church, as now is practised?
Suarez did easily perceive the weakness of his argument from this testimony, and so betook himself in the second Section following to the common refuge of the use and autority of the Church. That there is such a use, says he, is not denied; we see it: that it is not an abuse but a lawful use is proved, first, by the authority of the Council of Trent last Session, where is added that this use hath bin approved by the au∣tority of sacred Councils, for which purpose are wont to be related, the Council of Nice, Can. 11. of Carthage, 4.75. of Neooaesarea, ch. 3. of Laodicea, Can 1.2. but in these Coun∣cils, says Suarez, we only find that it was lawful for Bishops to remit some of the public Penitences enjoined by Canons for divers crimes: but that such a remission should be extended to a pardon of penalties due in the Tribunal of God, may not be inferred from those Councils.
Another main argument for the Antiquity of Indulgences they fet•h out of 2. Cor. 2.10. where S. Paul remits a part of the penalty due to an in∣cestuous Person whom he had formerly punished, saving: To whom you forgave any thing, I forgive also: for if I forgive an• thing, to whom I forgave it, for your sakes forgave I it in the p•rson of Christ.
From these latter words, in the person of Christ, they pretend to infer that the practice of In∣dulgences now used in the Roman Church had its beginning from Christ, and that S. Paul did practise it in the occalion now mentioned by au∣tority Page 192received from Christ. This Argument Sua∣rez proposes in the above mentioned second Se∣ction, num. 3. but from the following fourth Number to the 11. he doth most vigorously prove the inefficaciousness of that argument. That the remission given by S. Paul to that incestuous man, did only relate to an exterior penalty due by course or Canon of Ecclesiastical Government, not to penalties of the other life depending from Divine Justice, that the words in the person of Christ only proves it to be an act of Jurisdiction, or power received from Christ, which may be sufficiently verified by a remission of an exterior temporal penalty due by the common course of Ecclesiastical human power: and finally concludes that there is no warrantable history or testimony extant, by which it may be convinced, that the practise of Indulgences now used in the Roman Church was known before the times of Gregory the great, of whom he says is reported, that he gave a Plena•y Indulgence: tho even of this, says Suarez, I find no written History, but a public re∣port in Rome, and other places.
And finally, what Suarez says with resolu∣tion, is only that this practise is now in use in the Church, so as they are reputed heretics who reprehend such a custome, and it is impossible that the Universal Church should err herein; for it were, says he, an intolerable moral error in practise. If the Universal Church, indeed, did practise now, and always from the beginning and in all places this custom, according to the rules of Apostolic lawful Tradition delivered by Ly∣rinensis and S. Augustin, l. 4. de Baptismo, cap. 24. Page 193we would look upon this argument as of force. But Suarez himself doth acknowledg and con∣fess, that this practise is neither so ancient nor Universal. And therefore it may not be taken for Apostolic tradition, but ranked among the modern Institutions of the present Romish Church, to stand or fall with the autority of it; which we have sufficiently proved not to be infallible. And by this (Reader) you may see, how rashly Mr. I. S. says I did most falsly aver, that Suarez is not so certain, whether the power of absolving given to the Church did extend to the profuse grant of Indulgences practised at present by the Roman Church. Let the Learned Reader reflect upon Suarez his discourse upon this subject in the place forementioned, and he shall find how farr he is from any certainty that this doctrine is grounded upon Scripture and pri∣mitive Antiquity, but shall find that he only believes it, as Scotus did that of Transubstantia∣tion, Non propter rationes quae non cogunt, not in force of arguments alledged for it, which are not convincing, but for the autority of his Church.
And mark, Reader, that so great men as Cajetan and Suarez, being employed by public autority in defending this doctrine, after be∣stowing all their Learning, and no small labor in procuring to establish it, we find them con∣fess they have nothing to say seriously for it, but what the Collier for his Faith, viz. that he believed as the Church believes. And here also they mistake the true notion of the Church and autority of it; a mistake, in truth, more tole∣rable Page 194in a Collier, then in men of the Learning and repute of Cajetan and Suarez. But such is the condition of their cause, that it could not be defended better; and such was their enga∣gement, that they must defend it by right or wrong. I conceive my Antagonist complaining that I have neglected him in this Chapter, and I confess freely I delight more in dealing with people of that Learning and ingenuity I see in Cajetan and Suarez, then with Mr. I. S. but being we are debtors to all, I will give a turn to him also upon this subject, and it will be in the next Chapter.