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ONE of the great difficulties with which the clergy of the Church of England have to contend in the controversy with Rome, now re-opened, consists in the scarcity and costliness of the works from which alone accurate knowledge of the Roman doctrines is to be obtained. With a view to remedy this evil in part, there are presented to the Reader in the following collection, extracted from all the Councils authoritatively received in the Church of Rome, all the decrees upon the points in dispute between it and the Church of England; thus enabling the student upon this subject to substitute a small octavo volume for sixteen or seventeen folios. That the work may be useful to others besides the clergy, the decrees have been given in English, but the originals have been subjoined, that there might be no room to question the (at least intentional) accuracy of the translation. The work from which they have been extracted, is that which is understood to be in best repute with the Romans, namely, the
edition of the Councils by Labbé and Cossart, Paris, 1671-2.
There are annexed to this Introduction, an anathema extracted from the Bull in Cana Domini, which is repeated at Rome on Maunday Thursday, every year; the oath taken by the Roman Bishops at their consecration; and the authorized form of reconciling a convert; that every person may be convinced that the decrees here set forth are not dead letters, as some would fain have us believe, but form in part the obligation of the priesthood, and the term of communion in the Roman Church. Indeed, as long as the Bishops of the Roman communion will persist in ascribing to the deuteroNicene Council, and those subsequent to it, the character and authority of General Councils, (in which, according to their theory, it is the Holy Spirit that infallibly guides the decisions,) so long it is impossible that they can release themselves from the snare in which they are taken. They, and the churches under them, must needs receive the decrees of those Councils, however novel, monstrous, and self-contradictory, with the same feelings of implicit reverence with which the rest of the Catholic Church are taught to receive the deep things contained in the Books of the sacred Scriptures. When by God's grace their eyes shall be opened, and they shall be convinced that those cannot be considered as General Councils, the decrees of which both have not been generally received, and are repugnant to those
which have been generally received, nor have a claim to implicit respect as the channels of the communieation of the mind of the Holy Ghost, then, and not till then, can we hope that some approach may be made to a restoration of Catholic communion, and to binding up the deadly wound in the Christian Church which has given the enemies of the faith so great occasion to blaspheme. Without entering into the question as to the proper degree of defer
ence to be paid to a General Council, even when - acknowledged to be such, it may be of use to bear
in mind that our opponents, even according to their own theory, are not tied to the decrees of any council which cannot certainly be proved to deserve the character of a general one; and that if they shall see reason to doubt of this as respects any of the councils which they have commonly supposed to be of that kind, they will then be as much bound to reject them, as they conceive themselves now to be bound to receive them.
They will themselves, for the most part, acknowledge that that which rests on the authority of the Pope alone, ought not to be required of any man as necessary to salvation; yet on what but the authority of the Pope alone does the claim of the synod at Trent rest, toʻthe character of a General Council ? Neither the number of Bishops there assembled, nor of the countries which they represented, nor of the countries which received the decrees there passed, could furnish a pretext for such a claim; and the
same remark may be made of all the pseudo-General Synods up to the deutero-Nicene inclusive. They have not the essential marks of General Councils, and therefore, even according to the Roman theory, their decrees are not of necessity binding upon any Christian Bishop. But they serve as instruments in the hands of the Bishop of Rome to enslave the previously free churches of Spain, Lombardy, France, and Germany, and other countries, to debase the Apostolic character of the Bishops of those churches, and to promote his sole aggrandisement, at the cost of violating the communion of Catholic Christendom, and impeding the fulfilment of the wish of the Saviour of mankind. This is a slavery from which we must hope that God, in His good time, will deliver the churches of those countries as He has already delivered those of Great Britain and Ireland.
If the grounds for rejecting the authority of the deutero-Nicene Council, and those subsequent to it, be more particularly enquired after, the Reader will find below that in respect of the deutero-Nicene Council of so little authority was it esteemed, that the churches of Lombardy, Germany, Gaul, and Britain, did not hesitate to reject and condemn its decrees, nor did any interruption of communion thereupon ensue between the churches which rejected these decrees, and the Church of Rome which received them. Nor did Pope Adrian, who befriended the Council, venture, in his controversy with Charlemagne respecting it, to urge its authority as a bar to gainsaying. It was not counted by Pope Nicholas, nearly one hundred years afterwards among the General Councils, nor was it inserted at first in the Liber Diurnus: and so late as the sixteenth century so little did the members of the Church of Rome consider themselves bound to respect it, that Jacobus Merlin who published a collection of the General Councils at Paris in 1523, at Cologne 1530, and again at Paris, 1535, excludes it from his list. As regards what they call the eighth General Council, namely, that of Constantinople, 869, it was never received in the East, there being another Council at the same place, 879, to which they ascribed that title: nay, some reserved it for the Council of Florence, where a temporary re-union was patched up between Rome and Constantinople. It was likewise excluded from Jacobus Merlin's collection. At the four Lateran Councils it is not pretended that the Greek Church was represented ; they were never received in the East: only one was mentioned at Constance and Basle, but which of the four is not specified ; and they were all excluded from the collection of Jacobus Merlin. Of the fourth of these, which is the most important of them, it is further to be observed that, according to Platina, Nauclerus, and Matthew Paris, there were no canons passed at it. It appears that some were read to the Council by Pope Innocent, but not passed. Those which go under the name of the fourth Lateran were