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truth_n authority_n church_n pillar_n 1,970 5 10.4442 5 false
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ID Title Author Corrected Date of Publication (TCP Date of Publication) STC Words Pages
A59819 A discourse concerning the nature, unity, and communion of the Catholick Church wherein most of the controversies relating to the church are briefly and plainly stated / by William Sherlock. Sherlock, William, 1641?-1707. 1688 (1688) Wing S3291; ESTC R25626 35,974 70

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made to the Church do not belong to the Bishops of the Church as that the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it which certainly proves that the Church shall never totally fail but does not prove that the Bishops or any Bishop of the Church shall be Infallible For the Bishops are not the Church there are distinct Promises to the Church and to the Pastors and Ministers of it and they ought to be kept distinct which will put an end to a great many Controversies between us and the Church of Rome Thus if St. Paul in his Epistle to Timothy 1 Tim. 3. 15. calls the Church the Pillar and Ground of Truth whatever that signifies it belongs to the Church or to the company of the Faithful not meerly to the Pastors and Bishops of it and therefore the Infallibility of the Pope or General Council can never be proved from it though the Pillar and Ground of Truth should signifie Infallibility Thus whatever Authority Popes or General Councils may challenge in matters of Faith yet if they decree any thing contrary to the common Faith of Christians their Decrees are not the Faith of the Church but the Faith of Popes and General Councils who are not the Church though they are the Governours of it and yet under this venerable Name of the Catholick Church every packt Conventicle challenges an indisputable Authority to its Decrees 2. Nay as Bishops are not the Catholick Church so neither are they the Representatives of the Catholick Church much less is any one Bishop the whole Catholick Church virtual The Office of a Bishop is not to represent but to govern the Church and therefore Bishops are not the Churches Representatives by Institution no more than the King is the Representative of his Kingdom How then do they come to be the Churches Representatives Did all the Christians in the World who are the Catholick Church ever intrust them with this Power Did they ever resign up their Faith into the hands of their Bishops This never was done and yet no man has a Representative but by his own consent and if it could be done Bishops then must sit in Council not only as Bishops but as Lay Representatives if two such different capacities are not inconsistent and yet Bishops have challenged this Authority only as Bishops and excluded the Laity nay Presbyters themselves from any Votes and therefore such Councils of Bishops who acted only as Bishops could not be the Representatives of the Catholick Church In matters of Discipline and Government Bishops act not as Representatives but Governours of the Church by that Authority which they have received not from the People but from Christ and their Decrees and Constitutions about such matters have a sacred and venerable Authority when they do not contradict any divine Laws and Institutions But Bishops have no Authority over the Faith of the Church nay the Church herself has no Authority to alter the Faith and therefore can give no such Authority to her Bishops however if she could she never did and therefore no Council of Bishops can be the Church-representative in defining Articles of Faith. As Bishops are the Supreme Pastors and Teachers of the Church they may declare what the Faith is and agree what Doctrines shall be taught in their Churches and consent to censure and excommunicate those who will not profess to believe as they do but if they make any Decrees contrary to the common Faith of Christians no Christian is bound to believe them nor is ever the worse for their Anathema's and Excommunications and it is a ridiculous thing for them to call this the Faith of the Catholick Church which is only the Decrees and Definitions of some Bishops in it who are far enough from being the Catholick Church And this I think sufficiently proves that the most general Council that ever was may err and yet the Catholick Church not err for Bishops are not the Catholick Church nor so much as the Representatives of it and therefore could it be proved that the Catholick Church could not err this would not prove the Infallibility of a General Council which is not the Church for the Faith may still be preserved pure and uncorrupt among private Christians even when General Councils err 3ly I observe farther that the whole Catholick Church on Earth is not one organized Body for it is only the whole company of the faithful and no Ecclesiastical Ministers or Pastors belong to the definition of it and yet unless some Oecumenical Pastor be essential to the Notion and Definition of the Catholick Church it cannot be one organized Body The Catholick Church indeed is organized by parts that is the whole Company of the Faithful are distributed into particular Bodies under the government of particular Bishops which makes a particular Church and is essential to the definition of it of which more presently but the Catholick Church itself is the whole Company of the Faithful who are united in one Body to Christ only who is the only Head of his Church Now hence it evidently follows 1. That no organized Church can be the Catholick Church nor the Bishop of it an Oecumenical Pastor because the Catholick Church is not organiz'd but every organized Church is a particular Church Which shews how vain the Pretences of the Church of Rome are to be the Catholick Church and of the Pope of Rome to be the Universal Bishop 2. It as evidently follows that there neither is nor can be any visible Tribunal of the Catholick Church which shall be the Center of Catholick Communion and have Authority over all particular Churches in Matters of Faith and Worship and Government For the Catholick Church being no organized Body it has no Authority and can have no Tribunal 1. It has no Authority For the whole Company of the Faithful which is the true Notion of the Catholick Church are the Mystical Body of Christ and in subjection to him as a Wife is subject to her Husband The Catholick Church is made up of particular and individual Christians who are all immediately united to Christ their Head and are made one in him and though Bishops as the Ministers of Christ have received Authority from him to govern the Church which they exercise in particular Churches over which they are placed yet as Members of the Catholick Church they are not considered as Bishops but as private Christians for it is not their Authority in the Church but their Union to Christ which makes them Members of his Body and thus they are united to Christ no otherwise then all other private Christians are Now if the Chatholick Church be only a company of private and particular Christians united immediately to Christ and made one Body in him the Catholick Church has no more Authority than particular Christians have which is none at all The Catholick Church is united to Christ by a belief of his Gospel obedience to his Laws and a participation of his