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Churches of Christendom, but with those in the west, which had a more immediate connexion with that Church. He might consistently have challenged the same weight, in favour of the Church of Antioch, or of that of Alexandria, in their respective vicinities. *
It is worthy of remark that Irenæus, whose authority, through the medium of a translation, has been brought to establish the faith of a particular Church as the standard of Christendom, is the bi. shop who, so much to his honour, reproved the bishop of the same Church, for his arbitrary and violent conduct towards the Asiatick Churches, on the question of the time of celebrating Easter. In the reproof, there is nothing that bespeaks the consciousness of addressing the bishop of a dominant Church.
The present subject has been purposely discussed, without a reference to the asserted supremacy of the bishop of Rome; which will come more properly under notice, in a dissertation attached to another lecture. That the Church of Rome will continue pure, although her bishop should swerve from the faith, must of course be maintained by all those Roman Catholicks, who acknowledge the temporary apostacy of pope Liberius in the middle of the fourth century. Fleury and Dupin are explicit to this point.
Great stress is laid on the other side, on the supposed difficulty among Protestants, to establish on their principles the oneness of the Church of Christ. But no such difficulty is found. On this side it is conceded, that the Churches are spoken of as one in some places of the New Testament, as Eph. i. 22., iii. 10., v. 24, 25. 27, &c. On the other hand, it is conceded, that the body, thus one in a certain respect, is plural in another: as in Acts, ix. 31. xv. 41., xvi. 5, &c. Now that unity, as it regards the essentials of the faith and the Sacraments, may subsist with plurality of discipline, each having a government within itself; is evident from the consideration, that after the withdrawing of the apostolick govern. ment by death, the different Churches retained their independency on any centre of unity vested in à particular Church, during some centuries. Or if this should be denied-although acknowledged by some writers of the Roman Catholick communion and evident on the face of history--the-senti. ment may be illustrated by a reference to the Jewish Church, which, although at present in a state of rejection, are not finally cut off from being the people of God. Now that this body, extended as they are over the earth, and acting in its various countries in a state of independence on one another, in respect to any common discipline, are yet contem. plated as one both by the New Testament and by preceding prophecy, may be seen in St. Paul's reasoning concerning their fall and their recovery, in the ninth, tenth and eleventh chapters of the Epistle to the Romans. In like manner, the Church throughout the world is one, in agreement as to what essentially constitutes its members Christian: but it is diverse, according to the sites of its various component Churches; which owe to one ano. ther the exercise of charity, and a common Catholick communion; except so far as the latter may be prevented on the part of any Church, by any other's engrafting of grievous errour on their common stalk of Christianity:
* In quoting Fleury and Dupin, the editions referred to are, of the former, the quarto edition of 1727; and of the latter, the folio of 1723: both of them being translations from the French; but never charged with unfaithfulness, so far as is here known.
But this view of the unity of the Church will not come up to the conceptions of those, who think, that it must have needs been designed by the Divine Author of our religion, to make the provision of a living and infallible judge in matters of faith, to continue through all times to come. It would carry the author beyond his limits, 'were he to enter on the proof, that the Scriptures were contemplated from the beginning as the rule of faith. This, however, will be briefly attended to in another dissertation. At present, the subject shall be limited to the position, that there arise insuperable objections to the affirmed infallibility, in the manifest want of agreement of its advocates, as to the seat of its residence; and in the circumstance, that of the theories invented for the purpose, each calls for the aid of another; so that to constitute among them the infallibility in question, the different parts meet as in a circle.
One of the theories, lodges the questioned infallibility in the succession of bishops in the Roman chair: and this they are supposed to have inherited from St. Peter, whom St. Paul “ withstood to the face because he was to be blamed,"'* in a matter in which Christian verity was concerned. It must be acknowledged, that papal infallibility is the only scheme, which can answer the purposes of those who demand a living judge; because there alone can such a resource be found, to be repaired to at all times. This opinion, however, is here supposed to be generally, at the present period, abandoned by all intelligent subjects of the see of Rome; however violently it may have been stickled for in some times and places. In short the errours of some popes have been too glaring to admit a veil. In the instance of Liberius in the fourth century, there was a deposi. tion for heresy. In the seventh century, Honorius another bishop of Rome, wascensured for the same.t And in the fourteenth century, John the twentysecond adopted and propagated a tenet deemed heretical; which however he retracted-it is said à few nioments before his death..15 6.11!!!
* Gal. ii. 11.
† The condemnation of Honorius, was by the sixth of the councils called general Both Fleury and Dupin acknow. ledge the fact; and latter defends the acts of the council at large, against Baronius: contending, that the charge was true, and that the Pope was properly denominated a heretick.
Accordingly, it is not surprizing to find infalli bility rested on the ground of the decisions of a general council, in conjunction with the Pope as their head. Here occur several difficulties: such as the subsistence of the Church for three hundred years without councils--their being called by em: perours and not by popes, and their independence on the latter, for the sanction of their decreess *15,
But the ground of general councils is thought to be strengthened, by the prop of the acceptance of their decrees by the individual Churches: and this is here supposed to be the sentiment of the most moderate of the advocates of the Roman see. The obvious result, would seem to be the inefficiency of the determinations, in regard to all the Churches by which the assent is withheld: and in that case, what claim, in the light of conditions of communion, have all the decrees of the councils called general, on all the numerous Churches of the East, ever since their separation? But here, to make good the theory, another principle is brought in, thus completing the circle at the point in which it beganThe limiting of the necessary acceptance, to the Churches in union with the bishop of Rome. It is thus, that the three schemes, although they have their several partisans, are made to constitute together a ground of infallibility; while each of them, resting on its peculiar merits, is perceived to be insufficient.
Even when they are taken together, it is difficult to see how they clothe with authority the decrees of the council of Trent, as they respect the countries of France and Hungary; wherein they have not been ratified to the present day.
There is not here unknown, the distinction taken between the decrees relating to doctrine, and those relating to discipline; the former of which were declared in France to establish points, which the Church of that country had always held. Still, they had rested and now remain on different ground than that of the decrees of Trent, or any other general council. Besides, this distinguishing between doctrine and discipline, is not so easy as is by some supposed. One of the objections in France to the adoption of the decrees, was their being made de. pendent on the confirmation of the Pope, * and the saving of the authority of the papal see. In these particulars, there were evidently doctrine and discipline united.
From all this, there is still a retreat in the doctrine of tradition; which is supposed to have brought down the truths of Christianity, through the Episcopal succession. Of this, it is proposed to treat in a subsequent dissertation. Only let it be remarked, how entirely on this ground, infallibility would be come lost in the known discrepancy of opinion; were it not, that the possession of the gift is supposed to be confined to those, who are united to the Roman chair that chair, in which errour has been confessedly sometimes seated. As oneness was brought round through the circle of general councils and general consent, to the point of the papacy; so infallibility comes round to the same, through another circle-that of tradition.
Session XXV. Chapter 22.