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ARTICLE THE TWENTY-FIRST.

Of the Authority of General Councilş.

GENERAL COUNCILS MAY NOT BE GATHERED

TOGETHER WITHOUT THE COMMANDMENT AND WILL OF PRINCES, AND WHEN THEY BE GATHERED TOGETHER (FORASMUCH AS THEY BE AN ASSEMBLY OF MEN, WHEREOF ALL BE NOT GOVERNED WITH THE SPIRIT AND WORD OF GOD) THEY MAY ERR, AND SOMETIMES HAVE ERRED, EVEN IN THINGS PERTAINING UNTO GOD. WHEREFORE THINGS ORDAINED BY THEM, AS NECESSARY TO SALVATION, HAVE NEITHER STRENGTH NOR AUTHORITY, UNLESS IT MAY BE DECLARED THAT THEY BE TAKEN OUT OF HOLY SCRIPTURE.

In the last Article, the power of an individual church was considered; this relates to the authority of General Councils, which are the aggregate of all particular churches, that is, of persons lawfully appointed to represent them.

It may be reasonably supposed that as Christianity spread, circumstances would arise which would make consultation necessary among those who had embraced the Gospel, or at least among

those

those who were employed in its propagation. A memorable instance of this kind, which we noticed in the preceding article, occurred not long after the ascension of our Saviour. In consequence of a dispute which had arisen at Antioch concerning the necessity of circumcising Gentile converts, it was determined that “ Paul and Barnabas, and certain others of them, should go up to Jerusalem unto the apostles and elders about this question.”—“ And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter (a)." -- After a consultation, they decided the point in question; and they sent their decree, which they declared to be made under the direction of the Holy Ghost, to all the churches, and commanded that it should be the rule of their conduct. This is generally considered as the first Council ; but it differed from all others in this circumstance, that its members were under the especial guidance of the Spirit of God. The Gospel was soon after conveyed into many parts of Europe, Asia, and Africa; but it does not appear that there was any public meeting of Christians for the purpose of discussing any contested point till the middle of the second century. From that time councils became frequent; but as they consisted only of those who

belonged (a) Acts, c. 15. v. 6.

belonged to particular districts or countries, they were called Provincial or National councils. The first General Council was that of Nice, convened by the emperor Constantine, A. D. 325; the second General Council was held at Constantinople, in the year 381, by order of Theodosius the Great; the third, at Ephesus, by order of Theodosius Junior, A. D. 431 ; and the fourth, at Chalcedon, by order of the emperor Marcian, A. D. 451. These, as they were the first four General Councils, so they were by far the most eminent. They were caused respectively by the Arian, Apollinarian, Nestorian, and Eutychian controversies (b), and their decrees are in high esteem both among Papists and orthodox Protestants; but the deliberations of most councils were disgraced by violence, disorder, and intrigue, and their decisions were usually made under the influence of some ruling party. Authors are not agreed about the number of General Councils ; Papists usually reckon eighteen, but Protestant writers will not allow that nearly

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(b) The Arians denied the Divinity of Christ. The Apollinarians asserted that there was no intelligent soul in Christ, and that the Divine Nature supplied the place of a soul; They denied the Humanity of Christ, and contended that his birth, sufferings, and resurrection, were only in appearance. The Nestorian and Eutychian heresies have been already explained. so many had a right to that name. The last General Council was that held at Trent, for the purpose of checking the progress of the Reformation. It first met by the command of Pope Paul the Third, A. D. 1545; it was suspended during the latter part of the pontificate of his successor Julius the Third, and the whole of the pontificates of Marcellus the Second and Paul the Fourth, that is, from 1552 to 1562, in which year it met again by the authority of Pope Pius the Fourth, and it ended, while he was pope, in the year 1563. Provincial Councils were very numerous; Baxter enumerates 481, and Dufresnoy many more (c).

GENERAL COUNCILS MAY NOT BE GATHERED TOGETHER WITHOUT THE COMMANDMENT AND WILL OF PRINCES. As the Clergy must be always subject to the civil power (d), it cannot be lawful for them to assemble in General Councils without the consent of the government of the countries to which they respectively belong. If

the

(c) There is a History of Councils, published at Paris in 1644, in 37 vols. folio. Cave gives a concise account of all the considerable Councils, both general and pare ticular, in his Historia Literaria; and Broughton, in his dictionary, under the word Synod, states very briefly what passed at the principal General Councils.

(d) This will appear from the thirty-seventh article.

belonged to particular districts or countries, they were called Provincial or National councils. The first General Council was that of Nice, convened by the emperor Constantine, A. D. 325; the second General Council was held at Constantinople, in the year 381, by order of Theodosius the Great; the third, at Ephesus, by order of Theodosius Junior, A. D. 431 ; and the fourth, at Chalcedon, by order of the emperor Marcian, A. D. 451. These, as they were the first four General Councils, so they were by far the most eminent. They were caused respectively by the Arian, Apollinarian, Nestorian, and Eutychian controversies (b), and their decrees are in high ésteem both among Papists and orthodox Protestants; but the deliberations of most councils were disgraced by violence, disorder, and intrigue, and their decisions were usually made under the influence of some ruling party. Authors are not agreed about the number of General Councils; Papists usually reckon eighteen, but Protestant writers will not allow that nearly

so (b) The Arians denied the Divinity of Christ. The Apollinarians asserted that there was no intelligent soul in Christ, and that the Divine Nature supplied the place of a soul; They denied the Humanity of Christ, and contended that his birth, sufferings, and resurrection, were only in appearance. The Nestorian and Eutychian heresies have been already explained.

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