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but reason is the judge: that is, we being the persons that are to be persuaded, we must see that we be persuaded reasonably; and it is unreasonable to assent to a lesser evidence, when a greater and clearer is propounded. But of that every man for himself is to take cognizance, if he be able to judge; if he be not, he is not bound under the tie of necessity to know any thing of it: that what is necessary shall be certainly conveyed to him, God, that best can, will certainly take care for that; for if he does not, it becomes to be not necessary; or if it should still remain necessary, and he damned for not knowing it, and yet to know it be not in his power, then who can help it? there can be no farther care in this business. In other things, there being no absolute and prime necessity, we are left to our liberty to judge that way that makes best demonstration of our piety and of our love to God and truth, not that way that is always the best argument of an excellent understanding; for this may be a blessing, but the other only is a duty.
6. And now that we are pitched upon that way, which is most natural and reasonable in determination of ourselves, rather than of questions, which are often indeterminable, since right reason, proceeding upon the best grounds it can, viz. of divine revelation and human authority and probability, is our guide, 'stando in humanis ;' and supposing the assistance of God's Spirit,-which he never denies them that fail not of their duty in all such things, in which he requires truth and certainty-it remains that we consider how it comes to pass, that men are so much deceived in the use of their reason and choice of their religion, and that, in this account, we distinguish those accidents which make error innocent, from those which make it become a heresy.
Of some Causes of Error in the Exercise of Reason, which are inculpate in themselves.
1. THEN I consider that there are a great many inculpable causes of error, which are arguments of human imperfections,
not convictions of a sin. And first, The variety of human understandings is so great, that what is plain and apparent to one, is difficult and obscure to another; one will observe a consequent from a common principle, and another from thence will conclude the quite contrary. When St. Peter saw the vision of the sheet let down with all sorts of beasts in it, and a voice saying, 'Surge, Petre, macta et manduca,' if he had not, by a particular assistance, been directed to the meaning of the Holy Ghost, possibly he might have had other apprehensions of the meaning of that vision; for to myself it seems naturally to speak nothing but the abolition of the Mosaical rights, and the restitution of us to that part of Christian liberty, which consists in the promiscuous eating of meats and yet besides this, there want not some understandings in the world, to whom these words seem to give St. Peter a power to kill heretical princes. Methinks it is a strange understanding that makes such extractions; but Bozius and Baronius did so. But men may understand what they please, especially when they are to expound oracles. It was an argument of some wit, but of singularity of understanding, that happened in the great contestation between the missals of St. Ambrose and St. Gregory. The lot was thrown, and God made to be judge; so that he was tempted to a miracle, to answer a question which themselves might have ended without much trouble. The two missals were laid upon the altar, and the church-door shut and sealed. By the morrow-matins they found St. Gregory's missal torn in pieces (saith the story), and thrown about the church; but St. Ambrose's opened and laid upon the altar in a posture of being read. If I had been to judge of the meaning of this miracle, I should have made no scruple to have said, it had been the will of God that the missal of St. Ambrose, which had been anciently used, and publicly tried and approved of, should still be read in the church; and that of Gregory let alone, it being torn by an angelical hand as an argument of its imperfection, or of the inconvenience of innovation. But yet they judged it otherwise; for by the tearing and scattering about, they thought it was meant it should be used over all the world, and that of St. Ambrose read only in the church of Milan. I am more satisfied that the former was the true meaning, than I am of the truth of the story: but we must
suppose that. And now there might have been eternal disputings about the meaning of the miracle, and nothing left to determine, when two fancies are the litigants, and the contestations about probabilities hinc inde.' And I doubt not this was one cause of so great variety of opinions in the primitive church, when they proved their several opinions,which were mysterious questions of Christian theology,-by testimonies out of the obscurer prophets, out of the Psalms and Canticles; as who please to observe their arguments of discourse, and actions of council, shall perceive they very much used to do. Now although men's understandings be not equal, and that it is fit the best understandings should prevail; yet that will not satisfy the weaker understandings, because all men will not think that another understanding is better than his own, at least not in such a particular, in which with fancy he hath pleased himself. But commonly they that are least able, are most bold, and the more ignorant is the more confident: therefore it is but reason, if he would have another bear with him, he also should bear with another; and if he will not be prescribed to, neither let him prescribe to others. And there is the more reason in this, because such modesty is commonly to be desired of the more imperfect for wise men know the ground of their persuasion, and have their confidence proportionable to their evidence; others have not, but overact their trifles. And therefore I said, it is but a reasonable demand, that they that have the least reason, should not be most imperious: and for others, it being reasonable enough, for all their great advantages upon other men, they will be soon persuaded to it. For although wise men might be bolder in respect of the persons of others less discerning; yet they know there are but few things so certain as to create much boldness and confidence of assertion. If they do not, they are not the men I take them for.
2. Secondly when an action or opinion is commenced with zeal and piety against a known vice or a vicious person, commonly all the mistakes of its proceeding are made sacred by the holiness of the principle,—and so abuses the persuasions of good people, that they make it as a characteristic note to distinguish good persons from bad: and then whatever error is consecrated by this means, is therefore
made the more lasting, because it is accounted holy; and the persons are not easily accounted heretics, because they erred upon a pious principle. There is a memorable instance in one of the greatest questions of Christendom, viz. concerning images. For when Philippicus had espied the images. of the six first synods upon the front of a church, he caused them to be pulled down: now he did it in hatred of the sixth synod; for he, being a Monothelite, stood condemned by that synod. The catholics that were zealous for the sixth synod, caused the images and representments to be put up again: and then sprung the question concerning the lawfulness of images in churches. Philippicus and his party strived, by suppressing images, to do disparagement to the sixth synod: the catholics, to preserve the honour of the sixth synod, would uphold images. And then the question came to be changed, and they who were easy enough to be persuaded to pull down images, were overawed by a prejudice against the Monothelites; and the Monothelites strived to maintain the advantage they had got, by a just and pious pretence against images. The Monothelites would have secured their error by the advantage and consociation of a truth; and the other would rather defend a dubious and disputable error, than lose and let go a certain truth. And thus the case stood, and the successors of both parts were led invincibly. For when the heresy of the Monothelites disbanded (which it did in a while after), yet the opinion of the Iconoclasts, and the question of images, grew stronger. Yet since the Iconoclasts at the first were heretics, not for breaking images, but for denying the two wills of Christ, his divine and his human; that they were called Iconoclasts was to distinguish their opinion in the question concerning the images; but that then Iconoclasts so easily had the reputation of heretics, was because of the other opinion, which was conjunct in their persons which opinion men afterward did not easily distinguish in them, but took them for heretics in gross, and whatsoever they held, to be heretical. And thus upon this prejudice grew great advantages to the veneration of images; and the persons at first were much to be excused, because they were misguided by that which might have abused the
Vid. Paulum Diaconum.
best men. And if Epiphanius, who was as zealous against images in churches as Philippicus or Leo Isaurus, had but begun a public contestation, and engaged emperors to have made decrees against them, Christendom would have had other apprehensions of it than they had, when the Monothelites began it. For few men will endure a truth from the mouth of the devil; and if the person be suspected, so are his ways too. And it is a great subtilty of the devil, so to temper truth and falsehood in the same person, that truth may lose much of its reputation by its mixture with error, and the error may become more plausible by reason of its conjunction with truth. And this we see by too much experience; for we see many truths are blasted in their reputation, because persons, whom we think we hate upon just grounds of religion, have taught them. And it was plain enough in the case of Maldonat", that said of an explication of a place of Scripture that it was most agreeable to antiquity; but because Calvin had so expounded it, he therefore chose a new one. This was malice. But when a prejudice works tacitly, undiscernibly, and irresistibly of the person wrought upon, the man is to be pitied, not condemned, though possibly his opinion deserves it highly. And therefore it hath been usual to discredit doctrines by the personal defaillances of them that preach them, or with the disreputation of that sect that maintains them in conjunction with other perverse doctrines. Faustus the Manichee, in St. Austin, glories much that in their religion God was worshipped purely and without images, St. Austin liked it well, for so it was in his too: but from hence Sanders concludes, that to pull down images in churches was the heresy of the Manichees. The Jews endure no images; therefore Bellarmine makes it to be a piece of Judaism to oppose them. He might as well have concluded against saying our prayers and church-music, that it is Judaical, because the Jews used it. And, he would be loath to be served so himself: for he that had a mind to use such arguments, might, with much better probability, conclude against their sacrament of extreme unction, because when the miraculous healing was ceased, then they were not catholics, but heretics, that did transfer it to the use of dying per
In cap. 6. Johan.
* Lib. 20. c. 3. cont. Faustum Man.