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RELIGIOUS CONTROVERSY IN SCOTLAND
shew that in his dayes there was no such doctrine taught nor opinion held of the
church and bishop of Rome, as is at this day. The place is On Christian Doctrine:34
The most skilful interpreter of the sacred writings, then, will be he who in the first place
has read them all and retained them in his knowledge, if not yet with full understanding,
still with such knowledge as reading gives—those of them, at least, that are called canoni¬
cal. For he will read the others with greater safety when built up in the belief of the truth,
so that they will not take first possession of a weak mind, nor, cheating it with dangerous
falsehoods and delusions, fill it with prejudices adverse to a sound understanding. Now, in
regard to the canonical scriptures, he must follow the judgment of the greater number of
Catholic churches; and among these, of course, a high place must be given to such as have
been thought worthy to be the seat of an aposde and to receive epistles...
If he or the church in his time had held the same opinion of the supreme autoritye
and infallibilitie of the Church of Rome and all St Peter s successors that
nowadayes is maintained, he would never have written so of this matter. For
what needed more but to have sent his readers to have askt the judgment of the
Romane church, and her bishop? But here is no mention of that church in
particular. Or why should he not at least say that, of the apostolicall seas, Rome
was to be beleeved and followed first and above all the rest? But here we see he
absolutely preferreth the judgement of those churches which are moe in number,
to the judgement of those that are fewer. If both sides be of Hke autoritie; or if the
fewer be of the greater, the moe of the lesser autoritie; he would have the judge¬
ment of both sides to beare equal poise. So that if (as it was possible) the Church
of Rome, with some others adhereing to her, had then received some booke of
scripture which other churches being moe in number had not received, the
autoritie and judgment of those which were the greater number was to be fol¬
lowed, and consequently it was lawfull to dissent from the Church of Rome, and
that in a point of greatest importance, at least not to follow her and the lesser
number, though of greater autoritie, more then the greater number though of
lesser autoritie. 3. If such an infallibilitie had bene acknowledged by the ancient
church, is it credible [66v] that the Fathers thereof would have taken so great
paines in laboring to confute heresies, in procureing of councells, for the deter¬
mination of questions that did arise, and for that purpose so often to goe them¬
selves or to send to the emperor s court, sometimes with jeopardie of theire lives,
etc.? Whereas it had bene a farre readier course to have consulted the bishop of
Rome and sent his definitive sentence abroad into all Christendome to be by all
received and beleeved as an undoubted oracle of God. But though in some cases
the autoritie of the Romane (as of other patriarchal seas) was by the orthodox
Fathers used in theire writeings against heretiques, yet they never attributed
infallibilitie of judgment to any pope after St Peter, much lesse to all and every
one of them, many of whome were such monsters of men that I may truly say
bk.2,ch.8 [iii, 11]; Works,ix,4^-

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