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Saviour, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”' * For if Christ's being in the midst of them does make them infallible, since it is sure he will never be worse than his word, it is also certain that if but two or three only shall meet together in his name in London, they will be then, so met together, infallible. And if infallibility may be had at home, and at so cheap a rate, great fools are they that will put themselves to the trouble and expense of travelling to Rome for it.
Those other Scriptures produced to this purpose, as, “Tell it to the Church, and if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be to thee as an heathen man and a publican.”+ "Obey them that have the rule over you, and submit yourselves,” I &c., are even to a prodigy impertinent. For whosoever from these, and such like texts shall infer that any person, or society of persons is infallible, he must also, by the same rules of arguing, conclude, that every prince and subordinate magistrate, yea, that every parent and master is so; since the commands of God to hear and obey these are as express and peremptory, as to hear and obey the other.
Secondly: And, as the Scriptures alleged, do not prove any Church now in being to be infallible ; so much less that the Church of Rome is. For what proof is this ?
Christ promised his Apostles that “his Spirit should lead them into all truth," therefore the Church of Rome is infallible: is not the consequence altogether as good; therefore the Church of England is infallible ?
Christ hath promised that the gates of hell shall not prevail against his Church. And is not this promise as applicable to the Church of England as to the Church of Rome ?
The Church is the pillar and ground of the truth : so was the Church of Ephesus, when these words were directed to Timothy ; and so was every one of the Asian churches, as long as they continued churches : and so is the Church of England now, and other reformed churches, in a higher sense than the Church of Rome (which, together with the truth she still upholds, does also maintain so many errors, that the pillar and ground of error, is a title better becoming her), and so will the universal Church be in all succeeding ages.
Christ hath promised to be with his Church to the end of the world. But is this promise limited to the Church of
Matth. xviii. 20.
of Matth. xviii. 17.
Heb. xiii. 17.
Rome? May not the Church of England put in as good a claim to it? And may not Christ be in the midst of two or three that are gathered together in his name in England, as well as in Italy ?
But, as more especially relating to the Church of Rome, they tell us, that Christ prayed for St. Peter, that his faith might not fail.* It is true ; but is every man infallible whose faith fails not ? Yea, suppose Christ had prayed that St. Peter might be infallible; does it thence follow that the Church of Rome is so? Christ promised St. Paul, that no man should set on him to hurt him: and it seems as fairly to follow from this promise made to St. Paul, that the Church of Rome is infallible, as from the prayer made for St. Peter.
But St. Peter was that rock Christ meant, when he said, Upon this rock will I build my Church.”+ That is a question : for St. Chrysostom understood by the rock, not the person, but the confession of St. Peter, I and so did St. Cyril of Alexandria, and many more of the Fathers. And if the Pope be infallible, it is certain, that by the rock is meant the faith or confession of St. Peter; for so Pope Felix III. hath expounded it. But suppose, that by this rock is meant the person of St. Peter, does it follow that the Church of Rome is infallible? Yes, say they, because the Church of Rome was built upon him. Whether it was or no is much disputed; but it is out of question, that the Church of Antioch was, and that some years before there was a Church at Rome; if, therefore, any privilege accrue from thence, the precedency must be given to Antioch.
But was not St. Paul a rock, and all the rest of the Apostles, in the same sense that St. Peter was? If then a church becomes infallible, by being founded upon a rock, how comes it to pass, that all the other churches of apostolical foundation have erred ?
In brief, when they shall produce one text of Scripture, that but so much as fairly intimates, that his Holiness of Rome is not as subject to err as his Grace of Canterbury, that a
* Luke xxii. 32.
Matth. xvi. 18. + έπί ταύτη τη πέτρα οικοδομήσω μου την εκκλησίαν, τουτέστι Tỹ TinTet Tĩg duokorías. In cap. 16. Matt. Hom. 55. [Homily 54, printed at Eton.]
§ Super ista confessione ædificabo ecclesiam meam. Epist. 5, apud Binium, tom 3, p. 603. Edit. Paris. 1636. [Labbe, 1671, vol. 4. col. 1070.]
Lateran Council is more infallible than a Convocation at Westminster, they will produce something that is not at all impertinent.
II. Let us now consider whether their arguments from reason are more concluding. It will, I think, be sufficient to examine that alone, which they most frequently insist upon, and make the greatest noise with; for if that shall be found to be of no weight, we may warrantably conclude, that all the rest are lighter than nothing and vanity.
Now that is taken from the supposed necessity of an infallible living judge, in order to the peace of the Church. For though the Scripture, they grant, is a rule infallible, yet since controversies, notwithstanding, frequently arise about the sense of it, by what means shall these be determined, and sects and heresies, either prevented or suppressed, if there be no infallible interpreter of it?
Which argument supposes these three things :
1. That it is necessary, in order to peace, that all controversies which arise in the Church should be determined.
2. That controversies cannot be determined without an infallible judge.
3. That such a judge would certainly give a final determination to them.
Neither of which suppositions may be granted. For neither is it necessary to the peace of the Church, that all manner of controversies should be decided ; and if it
be other means by which they may be as well decided, as by an infallible judge; and in case there were not, yet this judge would not be so effectual to this purpose as is supposed.
1. There is no necessity, in order to this end, that all sorts of controversies should be determined, because every
difference in opinion does not necessarily infer the breach of peace. How frequently do we meet with those who live in peace together, and yet are in many things different in their judgments one from another? This the Romanists themselves must of necessity grant; for they boast much of their own peace and unity, and yet all the world knows, that there are many controversies among themselves that are yet undetermined, and are likely so to remain.
Nor is this true only of particular persons, but the same is also verified of particular churches, many of which maintain peace between themselves, notwithstanding their different judgments in many matters of smaller moment.
2. When controversies arise, which really disturb the peace of the Church, is there no way to decide them without recourse to an infallible judge? If not, then it is not enough that there be such a judge, but it is also necessary that he should be clearly known; if there be, then such a judge is not necessary, for that means cannot be necessary without which the end may be attained.
1. If controversies, which create disturbance to the Church, cannot be determined without an infallible umpire, it is also necessary for the determining of them, not only that there be such an umpire, but that we be assured who he is; for in this case, not to be known, and not to be, are in effect the same thing: so that let there be judges infallible, never so many, our controversies will be never the nearer an end, unless we are able to discern who they are. Now I cannot imagine at present, how they can be known, except one of these two ways only: either by being clearly revealed by God in Scripture, or by God's bearing witness to their infallibility by signs and wonders. But God hath neither expressly, nor by evident consequence, declared in Scripture that he hath any where constituted such a judge, much less hath he told us who he is, and where we may find him; till, therefore, they who pretend to
their infallibility by unquestionable miracles, let them not expect that we should take them for such. Nor can they in reason blame us for this, since the disagreement in this point is so great among themselves, that of all other questions it seems most to stand in need of an infallible judge to determine it.
2. If controversies may be decided by other means, then what need of an infallible judge? That cannot be necessary to an end, without which the end may be obtained. And that controversies may be otherwise determined, certain, because they have been. How were all the controversies decided, and the heresies suppressed, which sprang up in the early age of the Christian Church? Were the Gnostics, the Valentinians, the Novatians, the Macedonians, the Donatists, the Arians, suppressed by those who took upon them to be infallible? No such thing was in those days talked of; the bishops and councils that confuted them, did not so much as pretend to any such privilege. The only means they had recourse to, was the infallible rule, the Holy Scriptures ; this was the judge to which, in all their questions, they appealed; and those who are so perverse, as not to be determined by it, should Elias
come and take the chair, neither will they be determined by his sentence; for nothing can be objected to render the Scripture ineffectual to this end, but the same may with equal force be objected against the definitions of an infallible judge. And therefore,
3. An infallible judge is no such infallible means for the ending of controversies, as is by the Romanists supposed. For
1. When there was such a judge in the Jewish Church (I mean our blessed Saviour), did his authority put an end to the disputes between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and other sects among them? Yea, did not that Church then fall into the most damnable error, by rejecting this infallible teacher ? It will be said, the reason of that was, because they did not own his infallibility. Be it so; and may not then any other infallible guide be rejected? Can it be imagined, that any other person's infallibility should ever be attested with more unquestionable credentials than his was? But
2. Neither those who have been owned for infallible, have been so successful to this purpose among them who have owned them under this character. For, 1. The Apostles were thought infallible, by those churches which they planted, and yet errors and heresies sprang up in them, and they were divided into parties. And though St. Paul, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, had endeavoured to reduce them to unity, yet we find by his second Epistle, that that had not put an end to their divisions. Those who know they have a guide that cannot err, may go astray as much as others, in case they refuse to follow his conduct. 2. The Romanists tell us, that their Church cannot err,; and if they do indeed believe what they profess, it will be as effectual for the ending of differences among themselves, as if it were indeed infallible. And yet are there not many controversies among them? And though they upbraid us with our divisions, are not theirs as many ? And some of them such as are by the differing parties reckoned even matters of faith? If, then, their infallibility were such a sovereign cure of divisions, how comes it to pass, that reconciliation is made between the dissenting parties among themselves? The truth is, so far is their pretended infallible judge from lessening, that he increases their controversies ; for no sooner was he talked of, but instead of deciding those that were already, many were raised that were never before heard of. And therefore,