Nonfiction > Henry Craik, ed. > English Prose > Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
Henry Craik, ed.  English Prose.  1916.
Vol. III. Seventeenth Century
The Silence of History and Tradition on the Pope’s Supremacy
By Isaac Barrow (1630–1677)
From A Treatise of the Pope’s Supremacy

BUT however, seeing the Scripture is so strangely reserved, how cometh it to pass that tradition is also so defective, and staunch in so grand a case? We have in divers of the Fathers (particularly in Tertullian, in St. Basil, in St. Jerome) catalogues of traditional doctrines and observances, which they recite to assert tradition in some cases supplemental to Scripture; on which their purpose did require, that they should set down those of principal moment; and they are so punctual, as to insert many of small consideration: how then came they to neglect this, concerning the papal authority over the whole church, which had been most pertinent to their design, and in consequence did vastly surpass all the rest which they do name?
  The designation of the Roman bishop by succession to obtain so high a degree in the church, being above all others a most remarkable and noble piece of history, which it had been a horrible fault in an ecclesiastical history to slip over, without careful reporting and reflecting upon it; yet Eusebius, that most diligent compiler of all passages relating to the original constitution of the church, and to all transactions therein, hath not one word about it! who yet studiously doth report the successions of the Roman bishops, and all the notable occurrences he knew concerning them, with favourable advantage.  2
  Whereas this doctrine is pretended to be a point of faith, of vast consequence to the subsistence of the church and to the salvation of men, it is somewhat strange that it should not be inserted into any one ancient summary of things to be believed (of which summaries divers remain, some composed by public consent, others by persons of eminence in the church) nor by fair and forcible consequence should be deducible from any article in them; especially considering that such summaries were framed upon occasion of heresies springing up which disregarded the pope’s authority, and which by asserting it were plainly confuted. We are therefore beholden to Pope Innocent III., and his Lateran synod for first synodically defining this point, together with other points no less new and unheard of before. The Creed of Pope Pius IV. formed the other day, is the first as I take it, which did contain this article of faith.  3
  It is much that this point of faith should not be delivered in any of those ancient expositions of the Creed (made by St. Austin, Ruffin, etc.) which enlarge it to necessary points of doctrine, connected with the articles therein, especially with that of the Catholic Church, to which the pope’s authority hath so close a connexion; that it should not be touched in the catechetical discourses of Cyril, Ambrose, etc.; that in the systems of divinity composed by St. Austin, Lactantius, etc., it should not be treated on: the world is now changed; for the Catechism of Trent doth not overlook so material a point; and it would pass for a lame body of theology which should omit to treat on this subject.  4
  It is more wonderful, that this point should never be defined, in downright and full terms, by any ancient synod; it being so notoriously in those old times opposed by divers who dissented in opinion, and discorded in practice from the pope; it being also a point of that consequence, that such a solemn declaration of it would have much conduced to the ruin of all particular errors and schisms, which were maintained then in opposition to the church.  5
  Indeed had this point been allowed by the main body of orthodox bishops, the pope could not have been so drowsy or stupid as not to have solicited for such a definition thereof; nor would the bishops have been backward in compliance thereto; it being, in our adversaries’ conceit, so compendious and effectual a way of suppressing all heresies, schisms, and disorders (although indeed later experience hath showed it no less available to stifle truth, justice, and piety); the popes after Luther were better advised, and so were the bishops adhering to his opinions.  6
  Whereas also it is most apparent that many persons disclaimed this authority, not regarding either the doctrines or decrees of the popes; it is wonderful that such men should not be reckoned in the large catalogues of heretics, wherein errors of less obvious consideration, and of far less importance, did place men; if Epiphanius, Theodoret, Leontius, etc., were so negligent or unconcerned, yet St. Austin, Philastrius,—western men, should not have overlooked this sort of desperate heretics: Aerius, for questioning the dignity of bishops, is set among the heretics; but who got that name for disavowing the pope’s supremacy, among the many who did it (it is but lately, that such as we have been thrust in among heretics)?  7
  Whereas no point avowed by Christians could be so apt to raise offence and jealousy in pagans against our religion as this, which setteth up a power of so vast extent and huge influence; whereas no novelty could be more surprising or startling, than the erection of an universal empire over the consciences and religious practices of men; whereas also this doctrine could not but be very conspicuous and glaring in ordinary practice; it is prodigious, that all pagans should not loudly exclaim against it.  8
  It is strange that pagan historians (such as Marcellinus, who often speaketh of popes, and blameth them for their luxurious way of living and pompous garb; as Zozimus, who bore a great spite at Christianity; as all the writers of the imperial history before Constantine) should not report it, as a very strange pretence newly started up.  9
  It is wonderful that the eager adversaries of our religion (such as Celsus, Porphyry, Hierocles, Julian himself) should not particularly level their discourse against it, as a most scandalous position and dangerous pretence, threatening the government of the empire.  10
  It is admirable that the emperors themselves, inflamed with emulation and suspicion of such an authority (the which hath been so terrible even to Christian princes), should not in their edicts expressly decry and impugn it; that indeed every one of them should not with extremest violence implacably strive to extirpate it.  11

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