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19. Whether it be right. Let us remember to whom they make this answer. For this council did undoubtedly represent the Church; but because they do abuse their authority, the apostles say flatly that they are not to be obeyed. And (as men use to do in an evident matter) they refer over the judgment unto their adversaries for a reproach unto them. Furthermore it is worth the noting, that they set the authority of God against their decrees; which thing should be done out of season, unless they were the enemies of God, who notwithstanding, were otherwise the ordinary pastors of the Church. Moreover, the apostles express a farther thing also to wit, that the obedience which men use toward evil and unfaithful pastors, howsoever they hold the lawful government of the Church, is contrary to God. This question doth the Pope answer pleasantly, 213213 “Hanc quaestionem lepide diremit Papa,” the Pope wittily disposes of this question. because he saith that all those things are divine oracles whatsoever it hath pleased him to blunder out un-advisedly. 214214 “Effutire,” to babble forth. By this means the danger of contrariety is taken away. But the bishops can challenge no more at this day than God had given then to the order of the priests. Therefore, this is a toy too childish, [viz.] that they can command nothing but that which is agreeable to the commandment of God. 215215 “Non posse eos nisi ex Dei mandato praecipere,” that no command can possibly proceed from them without being agreeable to the will of God. Yea, rather the thing itself declareth evidently that there shall be no conflict then if they suffer their vain and unbridled lust to range freely, having vanquished and renounced the doctrine of Christ.
Therefore, by what title soever men be called, yet must we hear them only upon this condition, if they lead us not away from obeying God. So that we must examine all their traditions by the rule of the Word of God. We must obey princes and others which are in authority, yet so that they rob not God (who is the chief King, Father, and Lord) of his right and authority. If we must observe such modesty in politic [civil] government, it ought to be of far more force in the spiritual government of the Church. And lest, according to their wonted pride, they think that their authority is abated, when God is extolled above them, Peter draweth them away from such pleasant flattering of themselves, telling them that this matter must be determined before the judgment-seat of God; for he saith plainly before [in the sight of] God; because, howsoever men be blinded, yet will God never suffer any man to be preferred before him. And surely the Spirit did put this answer in the mouth of the apostles, not only to the end he might repress the furiousness of the enemies, but that he might also teach us what we ought to do, so often as men become so proud, that having shaken off the yoke of God, they will lay their own yoke upon us. Therefore, let us then remember this holy authority of God, which is able to drive away the vain smoke of all man’s excellency.