Background Image
Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  52 / 470 Next Page
Basic version Information
Show Menu
Previous Page 52 / 470 Next Page
Page Background

4

INTRODUCTION.

This disagreement of

the Roman

doctors

about

the

nature

and

extent

of papal

authority

is a shrewd prejudice

against

it.

If

a

man

should

sue

for

a piece

of land,

and

his advocates,

the

notablest

[that]

could

be had,

and

well

paid, could

not

findwhere

it

lies, how

it

is

butted

and

bounded, from whom

it

was

conveyed

to

him,

one

would

be very

apt to

suspect

his title.

If

God

had

instituted

such

an

office,

it

is

highly probable

we

might

satisfactorily know what

the nature

and

use of

it

were;

the patents and

charters

for

it

would

declare it.

Yet

for resolution

in this

great

case

we

are left to

seek,

they

not

having either

the

will,

or

the

courage, or

the

power

to determine

it.

This insuperable problem has

baffled

all

their

infallible methods

of

deciding controversies;

their

traditions blundering,

their

synods

clash-

ing,

their

divines

wrangling

endlessly,

about what kind of

thing

the

pope

is,

and what power he rightly may

claim.

" There

is,"

says

a great

divine among

them,

"

so

much

contro-

versy

about

the

plenitude

of

ecclesiastical power, and

to what things

it

may extend

itself,

that

few

things in

that

matter

are

secure."'

This

is

a

plain argument of

the

impotency of

the

pope's

power

in

judging

and deciding

controversies, or of his cause

in this

matter,

that

he cannot

define

a

point

so

nearly

concerning him,

and

which

he

so

much

desires

an agreement

in; that

he cannot settle

his own

claim

out

of

doubt;

that

all his authority cannot

secure

itself

from

contest.

So

indeed

it

is,

that

no

spells can

allay

some

spirits; and

where

interests are

irreconcilable, opinions will be

so.

Some points are

so

tough and

so

touchy

that

nobody dare meddle

with them,

fearing

that

their

resolution

will fail of

success

and

sub-

mission.

Hence,

even

the

anathematizing

definers of

Trent

(the

boldest

undertakers to

decide controversies

that

ever

were) waived

this

point,

the

legates of

the

pope being enjoined

" to

advertise,

That

they

should not, for

any

cause whatever, come

to dispute about

the

pope's

authority."'

It

was

indeed

wisely

done of

them

to

decline

this

question,

their

authority not

being strong

enough

to bear

the

weight of

a

decision

in

favour of

the

Roman

see

(against which

they

could

do

nothing)

according

to its pretences,

as

appears

by

one clear

instance;

for

whereas

that

council

took upon

it

incidentally

to

enact,

that

any

prince

should be excommunicate,

and

deprived of

the

dominion of any

city

or

place where

he

should

permit a

duel to be fought,

the

prelates

of

Tanta

est

inter

doctores controversia de

plenitudine

ecclesiasticce

potestatis, et

ad

qum se

extendat,

ut

pauta

sint in ea materia

secura,

&c.

Almain.

de

Auct.

Eccl.,

cap.

iii.

2

di avertire, Che non

si venga

mai per qual causa

si

sia alla

disputa

dell auto

-

rita

di

papa.

Concil.

Trid., lib.

ii. p.

159.