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err, I have sufficiently proved, in the bishop's own judgment, in the following treatise.
But suppose I were fully of Socrates's opinion, concerning the infallible assistance of the Holy Ghost attending every truly general council in matters of faith, I should be never the nearer to the communion of the church of Rome, as it is now subjected to the decrees of the Trent council. For as I afterwards add in the same preface, g. 8: “The assembly at “ Trent is to be called by any other name, rather “ than that of a general council d.”
I proceed to the bishop's questions. He asks me “What I mean by the catholic church?” I answer: What I mean by the catholic church in the book which he all along refers to, I have already shewn, and the very title of the book sufficiently declares. If he asks me, What I mean by the catholic church, speaking of it as now it is? I answer: By the catholic church, I mean the church universal, being a collection of all the churches throughout the world, who retain the faith (ärag) once delivered to the saints, Jude 3; that is, who hold and profess, in the substance of it, that faith and religion which was delivered by the apostles of Christ to the first original churches, according to Tertullian's rule before mentioned. Which faith and religion is contained in the holy Scriptures, especially of the New Testament, and the main fundamentals of it comprised in the canon or rule of faith, universally received throughout the primitive churches, and the profession thereof acknowledged to be a sufficient tessera,
d Tridentina conventio quidvis potius quam generale concilium dicenda est.
or badge, of a catholic Christian. All the churches at this day which hold and profess this faith and religion, however distant in place, or distinguished by different rites and ceremonies, yea, or divided in some extra-fundamental points of doctrine, yet agreeing in the essentials of the Christian religion, make up together one Christian catholic church under the Lord Christ, the supreme Head thereof. The catholic church, under this notion, is not “a confused
heap of societies, separated one from another.” But it seems, no other union of the church will satisfy the bishop, but a union of all the churches of Christ throughout the world under one visible head, having a jurisdiction over them all, and that head the bishop of Rome for the time being. But such a union as this was never dreamed of amongst Christians for at least the first six hundred years, as shall be shewn in its due place.
The catholic church, I believe, shall never totally fail, that is, Christianity shall never utterly perish from the face of the earth, but there shall be some to maintain and uphold it to the end of the world; although some of the ancient doctors of the church have given us a very tragical description of the state of the universal church of Christ, which shall be under the reign of the great Antichrist. But I know of no promise of indefectibility from the faith made to any particular church, no, not to the church of Rome itself. And if we may judge by the holy Scriptures, and by the doctrine and practice of the primitive catholic church, the present church of Rome hath already lamentably failed, and fallen into many dangerous and gross errors, as will by
and by appear. Now that church which hath already so far failed, why may she not utterly fail? If she be found but in one error, the infallible direction of her judgment, upon which her indefectibility from the faith must depend, is gone and destroyed. I add, that divers eminent e doctors, even of the Roman communion, have discovered out of the Apocalypse, that Rome itself shall at length become the seat of Antichrist. If so, where will the church of Rome then be ?
But I wonder why monsieur de Meaux should ask me, Whether by the catholic church I mean the church of Rome or the church of England ? He knows full well, I mean neither the one nor the other. For to say either of the church of Rome, or of the church of England, or of the Greek church, or of any other particular church, of what denomination soever, that it is the catholic or universal church, would be as absurd as to affirm that a part is the whole. And to be sure I never meant the church of Rome to be the catholic church exclusively to all other churches. I am so far from any such meaning, that my constant judgment of the church of Rome hath been, that if she may be allowed still to remain a part or member of the catholic church, (which hath been questioned by some learned men, upon grounds and reasons not very easy to be answered,) yet she is certainly a very unsound and corrupted one, and sadly degenerated from her primitive purity. This I must insist upon, and have obliged myself to prove; and I prove it thus : II. The church of Rome hath quite altered the
e Ribera et Viega in Apoc. xvii.
primitive ecclesiastical government, changed the primitive canon or rule of faith, and miserably corrupted the primitive Liturgy or form of divine worship
1st. She hath quite altered the primitive ecclesiastical government, by erecting a monarchy in the church, and setting up her bishop as the universal pastor and governor of the whole catholic church, and making all other bishops to be but his vicars and substitutes, as to their jurisdiction.
For that the bishop of Rome had no such universal jurisdiction in the primitive times, is most evident from the sixth canon of the first Nicene council, occasioned, as it appears, by the schism of Meletius, an ambitious bishop in Egypt, who took upon him to ordain bishops there without the consent of the metropolitan bishop of Alexandria. The words of the canon are these: “ Let the ancient customs pre“ vailf that are in Egypt, Libya, and Pentapolis, “ that the bishop of Alexandria have the power over “ them all, forasmuch as the bishop of Rome also “ hath the like custom. In like manner, in Antioch, “ and all other provinces, let the privileges be pre“ served to the churches." From this canon it is plain, that the three metropolitan bishops, or primates, (they were not as yet, I think, called patriarchs,) of Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch, had their distinct jurisdictions, each independent on the other; and that all other chief bishops or primates of provinces had the same privileges which are here confirmed to them. It is true, this canon doth not
f Tα αρχαία έθη κρατείτω. [The words of this canon may be seen at p. 231 of this volume.) v. Can. Apost. 34. et Conc. Ephesin. can. 8.
particularly describe or determine what the bounds are of the Roman bishop's power, as neither doth it the limits of the bishop of Antioch's jurisdiction, but only those of the bishop of Alexandria's province. The reason hereof is manifest; the case of the bishop of Alexandria only was at this time laid before the synod, whose jurisdiction in Egypt had been lately invaded by the schismatical ordinations of Meletius, as I before observed. But that the Roman bishop's power, as well as that of the other metropolitans, had its bounds, is most manifest from the example that is drawn from thence, for the limits of other churches. For what an absurd thing is it, that the church of Rome should be made the pattern for assigning the limits to other metropolitan churches, if that churcb also had not her known limits at the same time when this canon was made ! Intolerable is the exposition which Bellarmin and other Romanists give of these words of the canon; “ forasmuch as the bishop of Rome also hath the “ like custom 8 ;" i. e. (they say,) “ It was the custom “ of the bishop of Rome to permit, or leave to the
bishop of Alexandria, the regimen of Egypt, Libya, “ and Pentapolis.” Certainly, TOÛTO oúvndés éotiv implies a like custom in the church of Alexandria and in the church of Rome; and the sense of the canon is most evident, that the bishop of Alexandria should, according to the ancient custom of the church, (not by the permission of the Roman bishop,) enjoy the full power in his province, as by the like ancient custom the bishop of Rome had the jurisdiction of his. But they that would see this canon fully explained, and cleared from all the
8 Επειδή και το εν τη Ρώμη επισκόπω τούτο σύνηθες εστιν. .