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(All the editions of this work prefix the letter of the bishop of
Meaux to Nelson, which is printed in the Life, p. 329, &c., and therefore omitted here.]
DR. BULL'S ANSWER.
HE approbation of my writings by so learned
and illustrious a prelate as monsieur de Meaux, especially when joined with the congratulations of the learned clergy of France in general, is so high an honour done me, that if I did not set a great value on it, I were altogether unworthy of it.
But as to the wonder of monsieur de Meaux, I cannot but very much wonder at it, especially at the reasons on which it is grounded. He wonders “how
I, that speak so advantageously of the church, &c., “ can continue a moment without acknowledging “ her.” Her! What her doth the bishop mean? Doubtless, the present church of Rome, in the communion whereof he himself lives, and to which his design seems to be to invite me. But where do I speak so advantageously of the present church of Rome? Nowhere, I am sure. My thoughts concerning her, I have plainly (perhaps too plainly and bluntly in the opinion of monsieur de Meaux) delivered in the book which he so commends, Jud. Eccl. cathol. c. 5. . 3, where having spoken of that singular purity of the faith, which was in the church of Rome in the first ages, and taken notice of and extolled by some of the primitive Fathers, I thus conclude: “Oh, that so great a happiness, such purity
“ of faith, had always continued in that church ! “ But, alas! we may now cry out in the holy pro
phet's words, How is the faithful city become an “ harlot a !” Isaiah i. 21.
But monsieur de Meaux seems to think the Roman and the catholic church to be convertible terms, which is strange in so learned a man, especially at this time of the day. Cannot the catholic church be mentioned, but presently the Roman church must be understood ? The book, which the bishop refers to, bears this title, Judicium Ecclesie Catholice trium primorum Seculorum, &c. Of the catholic church of the three first centuries I do indeed speak with great deference. To her judgment (next to the holy Scriptures) I appeal against the oppugners of our Lord's divinity at this day, whether Arians or Socinians. The rule of faith, the symbols or creeds, the profession whereof was, in those ages, the condition of communion with the catholic church, (mentioned by Irenæus, Tertullian, and others,) I heartily and firmly believe. This primitive catholic church, as to her government and discipline, her doctrines of faith, and her worship of God, I think ought to be the standard by which we are to judge of the orthodoxy and purity of all other succeeding churches, according to that excellent rule of Tertullian, de Præscript. adv. Heres. c. 20, 21: Every descent “ must necessarily deduce itself from its first ori
ginal. If these things are true, it is plain that every doctrine which these apostolical, these original and mother churches held as analogous to
a Utinam hæc felicitas, hæc fidei puritas ecclesiæ isti perpetua fuisset ! Sed proh dolor! Nunc prophetæ divini verbis exclamare possumus, Quomodo effecta est meretrix urbs fidelis !
" the rule of faith, is to be owned as true, and as “ containing, without doubt, what the churches re“ceived from the apostles, the apostles from Christ, “ Christ from God; but that all other doctrine is to “ be looked upon as false, and no ways savouring of
those truths which have been delivered by the
churches, and the apostles, and Christ, and God b." And to the same purpose he discourseth, cap. 31. ejusdem libri.
According to this rule, the Church of England will be found the best and purest church at this day in the Christian world. Upon which account, I bless God that I was born, baptized, and bred up
in her communion; wherein I firmly resolve by his grace to persist, usque ad extremum vitæ spiritum. How far the present church of Rome hath departed from this primitive pattern, will appear hereafter.
Monsieur de Meaux adds, as a farther reason of his wonder, “ that I speak of salvation as only to be “ found in unity with her.” Her! doth the bishop here again mean the present church of Rome? If he. doth, I must plainly tell him, that I am so far from ever thinking that salvation is only to be found in unity with her, that, on the contrary, I verily believe they are in great danger of their salvation, who live in her communion; that is, who own her erroneous
b Omne genus ad originem suam censeatur necesse est. Si hæc ita sunt, constat proinde omnem doctrinam, quæ cum illis ecclesiis apostolicis matricibus et originalibus fidei conspiret, veritati deputandam, sine dubio tenentem quod ecclesiæ ab apostolis, apostoli a Christo, Christus a Deo accepit : omnem vero doctri. nam de mendacio præjudicandam, quæ sapiat contra veritatem ecclesiarum et apostolorum et Christi et Dei.
doctrines, and join in her corrupt worship, of which I shall give a large account before I have done. I do indeed, in the book which the bishop hath an eye unto, shew, that there was a canon or rule of faith received in the primitive church, which whoever in any point thereof denied or opposed, was judged an heretic, and if he persisted in his heresy, cast out of the communion of the catholic church, and so out of the ordinary way of salvation. But what is this to the present church of Rome and her communion?
The bishop's last reason is, “that I own the in“ fallible assistance of the Holy Ghost in the council “ of Nice, which infers the same assistance for all “ others assembled in the same church.” To which I answer, I mention this indeed as the opinion of Socrates, but at the same time I give another account of the credit that is to be given to the determination of the Nicene council in the article of our Saviour's divinity, in the Procemium of my Defensio Fidei Nicenæ, 9. 3. where my words are these : “ But the same Socrates, chap. ix. of the same book,
reproves Sabinus for not considering with himself, “ that they who came to this council, how illiterate “ soever they were, yet being enlightened by God « and the grace of the Holy Ghost, could in no wise
depart from the truth. For he seems to have thought the enlightening grace of the Holy Ghost “ always to accompany a general council of bishops, " and to preserve them from error, especially in any “ of the necessary articles of faith.
Which supposi“ tion, if any one shall refuse to admit of, Socrates's argumentation may be thus directed and urged
against him: The Nicene Fathers, (let any imagine " them as unskilful and illiterate as he will,) yet, in
“ the main, were doubtless pious men: but it is in“ credible that so many holy and approved men, “ assembled from all parts of the Christian world,
(who, how defective soever in any other sort of
knowledge, could by no means be ignorant of the “ first and fundamental doctrine of the holy Trinity, “a doctrine wherein the very catechumens were not “ uninstructed, or of what themselves had received “ from their predecessors concerning it,) should
wickedly conspire amongst themselves, to new “ model the faith received in the church concerning “ this principal article of Christianity.” And, indeed, all these things considered and laid together, it was morally impossible that the Nicene Fathers should have erred, in the determination of the article before them. And that they did not actually
c Idem vero Socrates ejusdem libri cap. IX. p. 31. reprehendit Sabinum quod non etiam secum reputaverit, ως ει και ιδιώται ήσαν οι της συνόδου, κατελάμποντο δε υπό του θεού, και της χάριτος του αγίου Πνεύματος, ουδαμώς αστοχήσαι της αληθείας εδύναντο. i. e, e08, qui ad synodum illam convenerant, quamvis rudes essent atque imperiti, a Deo tamen et Spiritus S. gratia illustratos, nullatenus a veritate aberrare potuisse. Quippe sensisse videtur Socrates, concilio episcoporum vere universali semper adesse Spiritus Sancti gratiam illuminatricem, quæ ipsos ab errore, saltem in necessariis fidei articulis, liberos custodiat. Quam hypothesin si quis nolit admittere, poterit ad ipsum argumentatio Socratis ita institui ac formari: Patres Nicæni, ut imperiti et literarum rudes fuisse fingantur, pii tamen certe maximam partem fuere : incredibile autem est, tot viros sanctos et probatos, ex omnibus orbis Christiani regionibus convenientes, (qui qualicunque alias imperitia laboraverint, certe ignorare non poterant elementariam de SS. Trinitate doctrinam, etiam catechumenis tradi solitam, aut quid ipsi ea de re a majoribus accepissent,) nefarie conspirare potuisse ad hoc, ut receptam in ecclesia fidem, de primario Christianismi articulo, innovarent.
BULL, VOL. II.