« PreviousContinue »
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,
& Jolin, vii.
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. 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 vivaeitas, sed credendi simplicitas tutissimam facith.” And Gregory Nazianzen, Σώζει πολλάκις τον λαόν το αβασάνιστον. 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 άγόμενοι επιθυμίαις 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.
of covetousness and ambition ; and this hath been the golden apple very often contended for, and very often the cause of great fires in the church. “Thebulis, quia rejectus ab episcopatu Hierosolymitano, turbare cæpit ecclesiam,” said Hegesippus in Eusebius. Tertullian turned Montanist in discontent for missing the bishoprick of Carthage after Agrippinus; and so did Montanus himself for the same discontent, saith Nicephorus. Novatus would have been bishop of Rome, Donatus, of Carthage,-Arius, of Alexandria,-Aerius, of Sebastia; but they all missed, and therefore all of them vexed Christendom. And this was so common a thing, that oftentimes the threatening the church with a schism or a heresy was a design to get a bishoprick. And Socrates reports of Asterius, that he did frequent the conventicles of the Arians: “Nam episcopatum aliquem ambiebat.” And setting aside the infirmities of men and their innocent prejudices, Epiphanius makes pride to be the only cause of heresies ; ύβρις και TPÓKQLOLS, ‘pride and prejudice' cause them all, the one criminally, the other innocently. And indeed St. Paul a does almost make pride the only cause of heresies: his words cannot be expounded, unless it be at least the principal ; eš TIS ÉTepodidaokalet, and consents not to sound words, and the doctrine that is according to godliness,' τετύφωται, μηδέν επιστάμενος, αλλά νοσών περί ζητήσεις και λογομαχίας εξ ών γίνεται φθόνος, έρις, βλασφημίαι, υπόνοιαι πονηραι.
2. The sum is this, if ever an opinion be begun with pride, or managed with impiety, or ends in a crime, the man turns heretic: but let the error be never so great, so it be not against an article of creed, if it be simple and hath no confederation with the personal iniquity of the man, the opinion is as innocent as the person, though, perhaps, as false as he is ignorant, and therefore shall burn, though he himself escape. But in these cases, and many more (for the causes of deception increase by all accidents, and weaknesses, and illusions), no man can give certain judgment upon the persons of men in particular, unless the matter of fact and crime be accident and notorious. The man cannot, by human judgment, be concluded a heretic, unless his opinion be an open recession from plain demonstrative divipe
authority (which must needs be notorious, voluntary, vincible, and criminal); or that there be a palpable serving of an end accidental and extrinsical to the opinion.
3. But this latter is very hard to be discerned, because those accidental and adherent crimes which make the man a heretic, in questions not simply fundamental or of necessary practice, are actions so internal and spiritual, that cognizance can but seldom be taken of them. And therefore, to instance, though the opinion of purgatory be false, yet to believe it cannot be heresy, if a man be abused into the belief of it invincibly; because it is not a doctrine either fundamentally false or practically impious, it neither proceeds from the will, nor hath any immediate or direct influence upon choice and manners. And as for those other ends of upholding that opinion which possibly its patrons may have, as for the reputation of their church's infallibility, for the advantage of dirges, requiems, masses, monthly minds, anniversaries, and other offices for the dead, which usually are very profitable, rich, and easy; these things may possibly have sole influences upon their understanding, but whether they have or no, God only knows. If the proposition and article were true, these ends might justly be subordinate, and consistent with a true proposition. And there are some truths that are also profitable, as the necessity of maintenance to the clergy, the doctrine of restitution, giving alms, lending freely, remitting debts in cases of great necessity: and it would be but an ill argument that the preachers of these doctrines speak false, because possibly in these articles they may serve their own ends. For although Demetrius and the craftsmen were without excuse for resisting the preaching of St. Paul, because it was notorious they resisted the truth upon ground of profit and personal emoluments, and the matter was confessed by themselves; yet if the clergy should maintain their just rights and revenues, which by pious dedications and donatives were long since ascertained upon them, is it to be presumed, in order of law and charity, that this end is in the men subordinate to truth, because it is so in the thing itself, and that therefore no judgment in prejudice of these truths can be made from that observation ?
4. But if . aliunde' we are ascertained of the truth or