Images de page

when he hath any occasion of alleging this author, ordinarily calleth him, St. Vincent de Lerins, Saint Vincent of Lerins; thus by a very ill example canonizing a person who was strongly suspected to have been an heretic. Since, therefore, he was such a one, why should any one think it strange that he should so much cry up the judgment and opinions of the fathers, seeing that there is no man but knows that the Pelagians and Semi-Pelagians had the better of it, by the citing their authorities, and laboured by this means to bear down St. Augustine's name; and all this, forsooth, only by reason that the greatest part of the fathers, who lived before Pelagius' time, had delivered themselves with less caution than they might have done, touching those points which were by him afterwards brought into question; and many times too in such strange expressions as will very hardly be reconciled to any orthodox sense? Yet, notwithstanding, should we allow this Vincentius to have been a person who was thus qualified, and to have had all those conditions which he requireth in a man, to render him capable of being hearkened to in this particular; what weight I would fain know ought this proposal of his to carry with it, which yet is not found any where in the mouth of any of all those fathers who went before him; who is also so strongly contradicted both by St. Augustine and St. Jerome, as we have seen in those passages before alleged out of them: and who, besides, is full of obscure passages and inexplicable ambiguities? So that, 'How learned and holy a man soever he might be, whether he were a bishop, confessor, or martyr,' (which yet he was not) 'this proposal of his' (according to his own maxims) ought to be excluded from the authority of public determinations, and to be accounted of only as his own particular private opinion.' Let us, therefore, in this business rather follow the judgment of St. Augustine, which is grounded upon evident reason, a person whose authority (whenever it shall be questioned) will be found to be incomparably greater

than Vincentius Lirinensis'; and let us not henceforth give any credit to any sayings or opinions of the fathers, save only such, the truth whereof they shall have made appear evidently unto us, either by the Canonical books of Scripture, or else by some probable reason."-Daillé on the Fathers, book 2nd. p. 29-39.

"First of all, therefore, you shall find in the fathers very many earnest and zealous exhortations to holiness of life, and to the observation of the discipline of Jesus Christ. Secondly, you shall there meet with very strong and solid proofs of those fundamental principles of our religion, touching which we are all agreed and also many excellent things laid open, tending to the right understanding of these mysteries, and also of the Scriptures wherein they are contained. In this very particular their authority may be of good use unto you, and may serve as a probable argument of the truth. For is it not a wonderful thing to see that so many great wits, born in so many several ages during the space of fifteen hundred years, and in so many several countries, being also of so different tempers, and who, in other things, were of so contrary opinions, should, notwithstanding, be found, all of them, to agree so constantly and unanimously in the fundamentals of Christianity? that, amidst so great diversity in worship, they all adore one and the same Christ? preach one and the same sanctification? hope, all of them, for one and the same immortality? acknowledge, all of them, the same gospels? find therein, all of them, great and high mysteries? The exquisite wisdom and the inestimable beauty itself of the discipline of Jesus Christ, I confess is the most forcible and certain argument of the truth of it: yet, certainly, this consideration also is, in my opinion, no small proof of the same. For, I beseech you, what probability is there that so many holy men, who were endued (as it appeareth by their writings) with such admirable parts, with so much strength and clearness of understanding, should, all of them, be so

grossly overseen as to set so high a price and esteem upon this discipline, as to suffer, even to death, for it; unless it had in it some certain heavenly virtue for to make an impression on the souls of men? *


"But now, besides what hath been hitherto said, we may, in my opinion, make another very considerable use of the fathers. For there sometimes arise such troublesome spirits, as will needs broach doctrines, devised of their own head, which are not at all grounded upon any principle of the Christian religion. I say, therefore, that the authority of the ancients may very properly and seasonably be made use of against the impudence of these men, by shewing that the fathers were utterly ignorant of any such fancies as these men propose to the world. And if this can be proved we ought then certainly to conclude that no such doctrine was ever preached to mankind, either by our Saviour Christ, or by his Apostles. For what probability is there that those holy doctors of former ages, from whose hands Christianity hath been derived down unto us, should be ignorant of any of those things which had been revealed and recommended by our Saviour as important and necessary to salvation? It is true, indeed, that the fathers, being deceived either by some false manner of argumentation, or else by some seeming authority, do sometimes deliver such things as have not been revealed by our Saviour Christ, but are evidently either false or ill grounded: as we have formerly shewed in those examples before produced by us. It is true, moreover, that among those things which have been revealed by our Saviour Christ in the Scripture, which yet are not absolutely necessary to salvation, the fathers may have been ignorant of some of them; either by reason that time had not as yet discovered what the sense of them was; or else, because that for lack of giving good heed unto them, or by their being carried away with some passion, they did not then perceive what hath since been found out. But that they should, all of

them, have been ignorant of any article that is necessarily requisite to salvation is altogether impossible. For, after this account, they should all have been deprived of salvation; which, I suppose, every honest soul would tremble at the thought of.

* * * *""

"And thus you see that the authority of the fathers is of very great use in the Church, and serveth as an outwork to the Scriptures, for the repelling the presumption of those who would forge a new faith. *


* *""

"If, therefore, the Protestants should propose of their own head, and should press, as absolutely necessary to salvation, any positive article which doth not at all appear in antiquity, without all question this course might, with very good reason, be made use of against them. But it is most evident that there is no such thing at all in their belief; for they maintain only such things as are either expressly delivered in the Scriptures, or else are evidently deduced from thence, and such as have also been expounded, the greatest part of them, and interpreted by the ancients, not in their own private writings only, but even in their creeds and synodical determinations also. They pretend not either to any particular revelation, or secret tradition, or any other new principle of doctrine. Their faith is grounded only upon the Old and (which is the most authentic instrument of Christianity) the New Testament. Only in their expositions either of the doctrines therein contained, or other passages, they produce some few things that are not all found in the fathers. But these things being not necessary to salvation, the argument which is brought from the silence of the fathers herein, is not sufficient to prove the falseness of them. Time, experience, assistance of others, and the very errors also of the fathers having (as they say) now laid that open to them, which was heretofore more difficult and hard to be discovered and taken notice of in divine revelation.



My opinion, therefore, is, that although the authority of the fathers be not sufficient to prove the truth of those articles, which are now maintained by the Church of Rome, against the Protestants, although the ancients should, perhaps, have believed the same; it may, notwithstanding, serve to prove the falseness of them, in case that we should find by the fathers that the ancients were either wholly ignorant of them, or, at least, acknowledge them not for such as they would now have us believe them to be: which is a business that so nearly concerns the Protestants, as that to be able to bring about their design, I conceive they ought to employ a good part of their time in reading over the books of the ancients."-Daillé on the Fathers, book 2. p. p. 184. 187. 190. 191. 194.

No. 9.

[ocr errors]

Ir is with great reluctance that I once more revert to the subject of baptismal regeneration, upon which I have briefly touched in the Charge. But as I have there alleged that the author of the tracts relative to this subject has discussed the texts which are at variance with his scheme in a most superficial and cursory manner,"-I wish to substantiate the truth of the allegation, more fully than the limits of the Charge would allow. From the same cause I was under the necessity of omitting those animadversions on some of the extracts from the writings of the fathers, with reference to sins after baptism, for which they imperatively call.

[ocr errors]

That the reader may be enabled to judge whether the terms cursory" and "superficial" are not the least harsh that could be applied to the manner in which the texts in question are treated by the author of the Tracts, I will here reprint the only paragraph in which they are noticed, and insert in a note the texts exactly in the same manner as they are inserted in the Tracts." First, then, I would remark on the fact, that

« PrécédentContinuer »