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their doctrine, that either they must not be ready to condemn their persons who are made suspicious by their indirect proceeding in attestation of that which they value so high as to call their religion; or else they must condemn themselves for making the scandal active and effectual.
6. As for false legends, it will be of the same consideration, because they are false testimonies of miracles that were never done; which differs only from the other as a lie in action; but of this we have witness enough in that decree of Pope Leo X., session the eleventh of the last Lateran council, where he excommunicates all the forgers and inventors of visions and false miracles: which is a testimony that it was then a practice so public as to need a law for its suppression. And if any man shall doubt whether it were so or not, let him see the centum gravamina' of the princes of Germany, where it is highly complained of. But the extreme stupidity and sottishness of the inventors of lying stories is so great, as to give occasion to some persons to suspect the truth of all church-story: witness the legend of Lombardy; of the author of which the bishop of the Canaries gives this testimony; "In illo enim libro miraculorum monstra sæpius quàm vera miracula legas. Hanc homo scripsit ferrei oris, plumbei cordis, animi certè parùm severi et prudentis." But I need not descend so low, for St. Gregory and Venerable Bede themselves reported miracles, for the authority of which they only had the report of the common people; and it is not certain that St. Jerome had so much in his stories of St. Paul and St. Anthony, and the fauns and the satyrs which appeared to them, and desired their prayers. But I shall only, by way of eminency, note what Sir Thomas More says in his epistle to Ruthal, the king's secretary, before the dialogue of Lucian Philopseudes;' that therefore he undertook the translation of that dialogue, to free the world from a superstition that crept in under the face and title of religion. For such lies, says he, are transmitted to us with such authority, that a certain impostor had persuaded St. Austin, that the very fable which Lucian scoffs and makes sport withal in that dialogue, was a real story, and acted in his own days.
• Τὰ γὰρ μὴ εἰρημένα ἐκβιαζόμενοι, καὶ τὰ ἀβιάστως εἰρημένα ὑποπτεύεσθαι παραστ xuálov. Isid. Pelus. Vid. Lib. 11. loc. Theol. cap. 6. Canus ibid.
Viz. De duobus spuriis, altero decedente, altero in vitam redeunte post viginti
The epistle is worth the reading to this purpose: but he says this abuse grew to such a height, that scarce any life of any saint or martyr is truly related, but is full of lies and lying wonders; and some persons thought they served God, if they did honour to God's saints by inventing some prodigious story or miracle for their reputation. So that now it is no wonder if the most pious men are apt to believe, and the greatest historians are easy enough to report, such stories, which serving to a good end, are also consigned by the report of persons otherwise pious and prudent enough. I will not instance in Vincentius's speculum,-Turonensis,--Thomas Cantipratanus,-John Herolt,-Vita Patrum,-nor the revelations of St. Bridget, though confirmed by two Popes, Martin V. and Boniface IX. Even the best and most deliberate amongst them, Lippoman, Surius, Lipsius, Bzovius, and Baronius, are so full of fables, that they cause great disreputation to the other monuments and records of antiquity, and yet do no advantage to the cause under which they serve and take pay. They do no good, and much hurt; but yet accidentally they may procure this advantage to charity, since they do none to faith, that since they have so abused the credit of story, that our confidences want much of that support we should receive from her records of antiquity,—yet the men that dissent and are scandalized by such proceedings, should be excused, if they should chance to be afraid of truth, that hath put on garments of imposture and since much violence is done to the truth and certainty of their judging, let none be done to their liberty of judging; since they cannot meet a right guide, let them have a charitable judge. And since it is one very great argument against Simon Magus and against Mahomet, that we can prove their miracles to be impostures; it is much to be pitied if timorous and suspicious persons shall invincibly and honestly less apprehend a truth which they see conveyed by such a testimony, which we all use as an argument to reprove the Mahometan superstition.
7. Sixthly here also come in all the weaknesses and trifling prejudices, which operate not by their own strength,
dies; quam in aliis nominibus ridet Lucianus. Vide etiam argumentum Gilberti Cognati, in Annotat. in hunc Dialog. Vic. Palæot. de Sacra sindoue, par. 1. Epist. ad Lector.
but by advantage taken from the weakness of some understandings. Some men, by a proverb or a common saying, are determined to the belief of a proposition, for which they have no argument better than such a proverbial sentence. And when divers of the common people in Jerusalem were ready to yield their understandings to the belief of the Messias, they were turned clearly from their apprehensions by that proverb, "Look and see, does any good thing come from Galilee?" and this, "When Christ comes, no man knows from whence he is;" but this man was known of what parents, of what city. And thus the weakness of their understanding was abused, and that made the argument too hard for them. And the whole seventh chapter of St. John's Gospel is a perpetual instance of the efficacy of such trifling prejudices, and the vanity and weakness of popular understandings. Some whole ages have been abused by a definition, which being once received, as most commonly they are upon slight grounds, they are taken for certainties in any science respectively, and for principles; and upon their reputation men use to frame conclusions, which must be false or uncertain according as the definitions are. And he that hath observed any thing of the weaknesses of men, and the successions of groundless doctrines from age to age, and how seldom definitions which are put into systems, or that derive from the fathers, or are approved among schoolmen,-are examined by persons of the same interests, will bear me witness how many and great inconveniences press hard upon the persuasions of men, who are abused, and yet never consider who hurt them. Others, and they very many, are led by authority or examples of princes and great personages: "Numquis credit ex principibus 8?" Some by the reputation of one learned man are carried into any persuasion whatsoever. And in the middle and later ages of the church this was the more considerable, because the infinite ignorance of the clerks and the men of the long robe gave them over to be led by those few guides, which were marked to them by an eminency, much more than their ordinary: which also did the more amuse them, because most commonly they were fit for nothing but to admire what they understood not. Their learning then was some skill in the Master of the Sentences,
in Aquinas or Scotus, whom they admired next to the most intelligent of angels: hence came opinions that made sects and divisions of names, Thomists, Scotists, Albertists, Nominals, Reals, and I know not what monsters of names; and whole families of the same opinion, the whole institute of an order being engaged to believe according to the opinion of some leading man of the same order, as if such an opinion were imposed upon them in virtute sanctæ obedientiæ.' But this inconvenience is greater, when the principle of the mistake runs higher, when the opinion is derived from a primitive man and a saint; for then it often happens that what at first was but a plain innocent seduction, comes to be made sacred by the veneration, which is consequent to the person for having lived long ago; and then, because the person is also since canonized, the error is almost made eternal, and the cure desperate. These and the like prejudices, which are as various as the miseries of humanity or the variety of human understandings, are not absolute excuses, unless to some persons: but truly if they be to any, they are exemptions to all from being pressed with too peremptory a sentence against them; especially if we consider what leave is given to all men by the church of Rome, to follow any one probable doctor in an opinion, which is contested against by many more. And as for the doctors of the other side, they being destitute of any pretences to an infallible medium to determine questions, must of necessity allow the same liberty to the people, to be as prudent as they can in the choice of a fallible guide; and when they have chosen, if they do follow him into error, the matter is not so inexpiable for being deceived in using the best guides we had, which guides, because themselves were abused, did also against their wills deceive me. So that this prejudice may the easier abuse us, because it is almost like a duty to follow the dictates of a probable doctor: or if it be overacted, or accidentally pass into an inconvenience, it is therefore to be excused because the principle was not ill, unless we judge by our event, not by the antecedent probability. Of such men as these it was said by St. Austin, "Cæteram turbam non intelligendi vivacitas, sed credendi simplicitas tutissimam facit." And Gregory Nazianzen, Σώζει πολλάκις τὸν λαὸν τὸ ἀβασάνιστον. The common sort
h Cont. Fund. c. 4. Orat. 21.
of people are safe in their not inquiring, by their own industry, and in the simplicity of their understanding, relying upon the best guides they can get.
8. But this is of such a nature, in which as we may inculpably be deceived, so we may turn it into a vice or a design; and then the consequent errors will alter the property, and become heresies. There are some men, that "have men's persons in admiration because of advantage," and some that have itching ears,' and 'heap up teachers to themselves.' In these and the like cases the authority of a person and the prejudices of a great reputation are not the excuse, but the fault; and a sin is so far from excusing an error, that error becomes a sin by reason of its relation to that sin as to its parent and principle.
Of the Innocency of Error in Opinion, in a pious Person.
1. AND therefore, as there are so many innocent causes of error as there are weaknesses within, and harmless and unavoidable prejudices from without; so if ever error be procured by a vice, it hath no excuse, but becomes such a crime, of so much malignity, as to have influence upon the effect and consequent, and by communication makes it become criminal. The apostles noted two such causes, 'covetousness,' and 'ambition;' the former in them of the circumcision, and the latter in Diotrephes and Simon Magus: and there were some that were ἀγόμενοι ἐπιθυμίαις ποικίλαις they were of the long robe too, but they were the she-disciples, upon whose consciences some false apostles had influence by advantage of their wantonness: and thus the three principles of all sin become also the principles of heresy; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. And in pursuance of these arts the devil hath not wanted fuel to set to work incendiaries in all ages of the church. The bishops were always honourable, and most commonly had great revenues, and a bishoprick would satisfy the two designs
i 2 Tim. iii.