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seemingly Catholic: and probably the majority u departed with the same high value and opinion of the Nicene faith, which they brought with them. Four years after the Synod of Ariminum, * Athanasius reckons up particularly the churches which still embraced the Nicene faith. Those of Spain, Britain, Gaul, all Italy, Dalmatia, Dacia, Mysia, Macedonia, Greece, Africa, Sardinia, Cyprus, Crete, Pamphylia, Lycia, Isauria, Egypt, Libya, Pontus, Cappadocia, and the churches of the East; excepting a few that followed Arius. He calls them the whole world, and all the churches throughout the world. He declares that he knows it, and has their letters by him to prove it. And it is worth reciting what account the bishops of Egypt and Libya, and among them Athanasius, give of the extent of the Nicene faith, about ten years after the time that you pretend there was a general council against it. Writing to the bishops in Africa, they begin thus : " y It is the greatest satisfaction to us to have seen what “ Damasus, our fellow-minister, and Bishop of the great
city of Rome, and such a number of bishops in council " with him, besides other synods in Gaul and Italy, have
wrote in defence of the true orthodox faith : that faith 6 which Christ delivered, and the Apostles taught, and
our Fathers assembled at Nice, from out of the whole - Christian world, handed down to us. So intense was 66 their zeal at that time, in regard to the Arian heresy; “ that they who had fallen into it, might be reclaimed; 66 and that the heads or authors of it might have a mark “ set upon them. To this determination of the Nicene “ Fathers) formerly the 2 whole Christian world consent"ed: and at this very time, many councils have con“ firmed and published the same : by means of which of all they of Dalmatia, Dardania, Macedonia, Epirus, “ Greece, Crete, and the other islands, Sicily, Cyprus, 6 and Pamphylia, Lycia, Isauria, all Egypt, the two “ Libyas, and the most of Arabia, have acknowledged it.” They go on to set forth the great respect and veneration due to the decisions of the Nicene Council; and show how far it was preferable, in every respect, to all the Arian synods: and particularly to the pretended General Council of Ariminum, which some presumed, at that time of day, to set against it. The whole would be well worth the reader's perusal; and thither I refer you for a more particular answer ; that you may learn bereafter not to call every thing hugely romantic, which may have happened to escape your notice or observation. I must take leave to tell you, there never was a synod on your side, so free, so large, so, in every respect, unexceptionable, as the Council of Nice was. Nay farther; that whatever opposition was made to it, was carried on with such wiles, crafts, subtilties, and refined artifices, as every honest man would be ashamed of: 'and farther; that, notwithstanding all they could do, the Arians were not able long to maintain their ground; but the men who sustained the shock, and kept up the credit of the Nicene Creed, were not only the most numerous, but appear to have been as wise, as judicious, and as pious men, as ever the Church was adorned with, since the times of the Apostles.
u Vid. Ambros. Ep. cap. i. p. 862.
* Athanas. Ep. ad Jovian. pag. 781. Theod. E. H. 1. iv. c. 3. See Liberius's Letters an. 366. apud Socrat l. iv. c. 12. Damasus's Lett. Sozom. I. vi.
Hoc est illud Homousion, quod in Concilio Nicæno adversus hæreticos Arianos, a Catholicis patribus, veritatis auctoritate, et auctoritatis veritate firmatum est: quod postea in Concilio Ariminensi (propter novitatem verbi, minus quam potuit intellectam, quod tamen fides antiqua repererat) multis paucorum fraude deceptis, hæretica impietas sub hæretico imperatore labefactare tentavit. Sed post non longum tempus, libertate fidei Catholicæ prævalente,-Homousion Catholicæ fidei sanitate longe lateque defensum est. August: tom. viii. p. 704.
y Apud Athanas. p. 891.
I do not pretend that there is demonstration in this
2 To the same purpose says Marius Victorinus, speaking of the sposowy.
Conditum juxta veterum fidem (nam et ante tractatum) et multi orbis episcopi, trecenti quindecim in civitate Nicæa, quam per totum orbem decretam fidem mittentes, episcoporum millia in eadem habuerunt, vel illius temporis, vel sequentium annorum. I. 3. contr. Arian.
kind of reasoning, in favour of any cause. But it will have its weight with cool and considering men: who, reflecting that religion is not a thing to be coined and recoined every month; that it has been thought on so long and well, and by persons blessed with as good a share of understanding, and as great sincerity, as any are, or have been ; and that the generality of the wisest and most excellent men have hitherto gone on in such a way, and that too after a strict and severe examination, being well apprised of the objections made against it ; I say, who, reflecting thus, will be very cautious of contradicting what seems to have been so well and so deliberately settled; and will be rather willing to suspect their own judgment, and modestly decline what looks like leaning too much to their own understandings. However, such considerations may be of use to those who, not having leisure, inclination, or patience to examine throughly into this controversy, (as perhaps, few have,) must be content to judge as they can: and since they find the same Scriptures so very differently interpreted by the contending parties, till they can themselves enter into the very heart of the controversy, how can they do better than close in with those who have been in possession of this faith for so many centuries, and have had, in a manner, in every age, for at least fourteen hundred years, I will venture to say sixteen, the most eminent lights and ornaments of the Christian Church to support and defend it? This I mention as the safest way; and such as will be taken by modest, humble, and discreet men; being what they can best answer to God and their own consciences, even though, at length, it should prove erroneous; which yet has not hitherto, nor ever will be, I am persuaded, made appear. As for those who choose to go out of the common road, and to run counter to all that has hitherto been called and reputed Catholic, or orthodox ; let them look to it, and be it at their own peril. They must believe that the ancient heretics were the soundest Christians; that the first general council which met from all parts of Christendom, and having no bias, so far as appears, to determine them this way or that, either did not know what was the faith of their respective churches, and what had been handed down to them by their predecessors, or else wilfully and unanimously agreed to corrupt it; and that too in a very material article, in which the sum of the Christian religion is contained ; and in which the nature and object of our worship is very nearly concerned. They must believe farther that the churches, in general, throughout the Christian world, through every age, (and even since the Reformation, upon which matters were strictly looked into and carefully reexamined,) have fallen into the same error; and so continue, even to this day; some few private men only, here and there, showing their dislike of it. Now, they who pretend this, must bring some very strong proofs to make good their pretences. If they have not something very weighty and momentous to urge; something that carries the force and evidence of demonstration with it, they are first very unreasonable in calling us to attend to what so little deserves it; and next very inexcusable in their attempts to draw others into their precarious sentiments, and to raise doubts and perplexities in the minds of simple well meaning men. But I pass on to
QUERY XXX. Whether, supposing the case doubtful, it be not a wise man's
part to take the safer side ; rather to think too highly, than too meanly of our blessed Saviour ; rather to pay a modest deference to the judgment of the ancient and modern Church, than to lean to one's own understanding ?
UPON the question, whether it be not safer and better (supposing the case doubtful) to think too highly, rather than too meanly of our blessed Saviour; you answer, “questionless it is ;" which one might think a very fair and ingenuous confession; and you need not have added a word more.
You go on to say, that this is our “ most “plausible pretence;” in which, I think, you do it a deal too much honour. I did but just hint it; and lest it should not be of force sufficient, immediately strengthened it with another consideration, which I am persuaded will bear, if this should not; and the rather, because you have not thought fit so much as to take notice of it. I must however follow you, upon the former point, that plausible plea, and which is so just, that you seem yourself to give into it. Yet, I know not how, by some peculiar turn of thought, you at length come to say, that it “ proves as “ weak and false as any other they ever allege." If it prove no weaker, I shall be satisfied. Let us hear what you have to say, Your argument is this : “ Since Revela« tion is the only rule in the case, if we go beyond, or if "we fall short, are we not equally culpable?” I am very glad to hear from you, that Revelation is the only rule in the case: abide by that, and matters may easily be adjusted. To the argument I answer; that you equivocate in the word equally, and make a sophistical syllogism with four terms. i Equally culpable, signifies, either that one is culpable as well as the other, or that one is culpable as much as the other; equally a fault, or an equal fault. Our dispute is about the latter, and yet all that you really prove is only the former. Revelation undoubt edly is the rules and to go beyond it is certainly culpable, as well as it is to fall short of it; and yet not culpable (at least not in this instance) in the same degree. Is there no such thing as an error on the right hand, (as we say,) or a fault on the right side? Of two extremes, may it not often happen, that one is more dangerous than the other? This I assert to be the case here: and I will give you my reasons for it. Our blessed Lord hath done great and wonderful things for us. If our respect, duty, and gratitude happen, through our ignorance and excessive zeal, to rise too high; this is the overflowing of our good-natured qualities, and may seem a pitiable failing. But, on the other hand, if we happen to fall short in our regards, there is not only ingratitude, but blasphemy in it. It is degrad