AN ANSWER TO Dr. SHERLOCK's EXAMINATION OF THE Oxford Decree: IN A Letter from a Member of that Uni­versity, to his Friend in London.

The Second Edition, Corrected and Inlarged.

Printed Anno Dom. 1696.

AN ANSWER TO Dr. SHERLOCK's Examination, &c.


AS to what you ask, concerning Dr. Sher­lock's Modest Examination of the Oxford Decree (as he calls it:) I have seen it; and find He is very Angry, and under great Mistakes.

He is set forth in the Frontispice, with his Titles at large, WILLIAM SHER­LOCK, D. D. Dean of St. Paul's, Master of the Temple, and Chaplain in Ordinary to His Majesty: And thinks much, that what he says (though without naming him) should be Censured, considering his Profession, Character, and Station in the Church, p. 2.

[Page 2] The Title he gives it, (and at which he quarels) Decretum Oxoniense, or the Oxford Decree, is (for ought I know) a Title of his own. Sure, 'tis none of theirs who made it: who are therefore therein not concerned, whether it be, or be not, Decretum Oxoniense.

Nor was he Named in it; but onely a Ser­mon censured, which was Preached at Oxford by another Person. If Dr. Sherlock be of the same mind with that other Person; that is not our fault.

'Twas Printed (he says) in Latin in these words, &c. True; but not with that spel­ling. For instance, Prefectorum was not printed (once and again) with a single e, in­stead of Praefectorum with an ae.

And it was hoped, so great a Critick as he would be thought (pag. 5.) might have been able to spell true, when he had a printed Copy before him.

He then fansies (or would be thought to think) that some Malicious Animadverter (p. 1. 5.) had Translated this Latin into Eng­lish, for the Benefit and Edification of his Eng­lish Readers.

But that is one of his great Mistakes. 'Twas printed at Oxford, both in Latin and English, the same Day; and by the same Au­thority; [Page 3] (and 'tis believ'd, Dr. Sherlock knows it was;) And the English (as there printed) is as much an Original as the Latin; (how it is Re-printed at London, I know not.)

And, I doubt, the Animadverter (if he had done it) would rather have said, It was for the Benefit and Edification of Dr. Sherlock, for fear he should not have understood Latin. For it is at this rate, they use to talk to one ano­ther.

If the Hawkers at London, have caused it to be Re-printed, with a new Title, and Notes upon it, (to make it fell the better,) and put it into the Weekly Advertisements, for that purpose; who can help it?

But the Critick finds fault with the Latin, as transgressing the plain Rules of Grammar, in using Eorum fidei & curae commissis, for suae.

Of that, let the Criticks judge. If com­mitted to their care, had been meant of them Iointly, I think the word suae might have been used; but when to be understood of them Respectively, I think eorum doth better.

Suae curae commissi, is, in plain English, com­mitted to their own care: But it is here to be understood, of the care of others; and, who those others were, eorum was to sig­nify.

[Page 4] And I would fain know, by what plain Rule of Dr. Sherlock's Grammar (if he have a Grammar) Eorum may not be so used.

But I would not advise Dr. Sherlock to ven­ture too much at Criticism. I doubt his Ta­lent doth not lie that way. In what cases we must use suae, and in what eorum, and in what we may indifferently use either; better Criticks, than Dr. Sherlock and I, will not take upon them to determine.

The pretended false English in that Remark (whose ever it be) It may be Noted, that the Propositions above-mentioned are Dr. Sher­lock's in his Discourse of the Trinity; and the Defender's of it (of that Discourse;) and wrote against by the Animadverter; I am yet to seek. I think it is true English. When Dr. Sherlock tells us, where the bad English lies, let the Noter Answer it. The Vice-Chancellor and Heads of Houses are not therein concerned. Mean while, I think his two Criticisms, to be two Mistakes.

He tells us, The Decree of the Oxford Con­vocation, is indeed Decretum Oxoniense, or a Decree of the University of Oxford, (Be it so;) but, not that of the Heads of Colleges and Halls. Very true; Nor do they say it is.

[Page 5] But, if that would do him a Kindness, a Vote of Convocation might have been had as easily. For, as I do not hear, that any one dissented, in the Meeting of Heads; so I be­lieve there would have been as few in Convo­cation, if it had been proposed there.

Some perhaps would rather have had it passed, not there only, but in Convocation also; but, if so, it was to pass there first, be­fore it came to Convocation.

But he says, p. 6. The Statutes refer such Censures, not to the Meeting of Heads, but to the Vice-Chancellor, and six Heads, Doctors of Divinity, and to one or both of the Professors of Divinity.

The word Heads in this last Clause, is a­nother of his Mistakes. For it is not requi­site, that the six Doctors of Divinity should all be Heads of Houses; the Vice-Chancellor may as well advise with other Doctors.

But be it so; there were at least six Heads of Houses, Doctors of Divinity, and one or both of the two Professors of Divinity. But is it there said, He may not advise with more than six? If instead of calling six Heads, he call them All, is there any hurt in this? Especi­ally when they are all Unanimous?

[Page 6] But, he says, p. 3. they were not all pre­sent. (Very good! Before we had too many, now we have too few.) But all were warned; and if some chanced to be out of Town, it is but what would have been in a Convoca­tion.

Some of the Wisest Heads (he says) were Absent, and some present Dissented. That some were absent, is very like: But, that any present did Dissent, I have not heard; or, that any then absent did dislike the Sentence when they heard it.

But, if the Meeting of the Heads of Houses be so Venerable an Authority; he will (he says) undertake, any day in the Year, to pro­cure a Meeting of twice as many, as Wise and Learned Men, to censure their Decree. (Very modestly spoken!) No doubt but he and his are Wise and Learned Men; at least, he thinks so.

But what are those Wise and Learned Men to do? To censure their Decree.

Very good! Perhaps they would (some of them, not many,) advise to put suae instead of eorum. But would those Wise and Learned Men say (as he doth) That the three Persons in the Trinity, are three distinct Infinite Minds and Spirits, and three Individual Substances? [Page 7] I doubt, he would not find it so easy (every day in the Year) to procure a Meeting of Twice so many Wise and Learned Men, to say This. I do not find, that his New Doctrine doth make so many Proselites.

But, supposing their Authority, he asks, How far their Authority extends?

I say, if it extend so far as to censure our own Members; 'tis enough for our turn at present. Dr. Sherlock, if he please, may keep out of their reach.

And the words of the Statute be large e­nough, Haereticos, Schismaticos, & quoscun­que alios minus recte de fide Catholica, & Doctrina vel Disciplina Ecclesiae Anglicanae sentientes.—Utque tam Conciones quam Li­bri, quibus male-sanae opiniones propagantur, cohibeantur.

And this referred (with Dr. Sherlock's good leave) Vice-Cancellarii judicio, assidentibus ip­si Praefectis in ordinario ipsorum Conventu; (in the Chapter De Authoritate & Officio Vice-Cancellarii.)

And, as to Sermons in particular, (in the Chapter De Offensionis & Dissensionis mate­ria in Concionibus evitanda,) Siquis pro Conci­one aliqua, intra Universitatem ejusve praecin­ctum habita, quicquam Doctrinae vel Discipli­nae [Page 8] Ecclesiae Anglicanae publice receptae disso­num aut contrarium—protulerit; sive protu­lisse ab ipso Vice-Cancellario suspectus, vel ab alio aliquo, rationabilem suspicionis causam af­ferente, delatus fuerit; the Vice-Chancellor or his Deputy is to proceed as is there direct­ed, Adhibito consilio sex aliorum S. Theol. Do­ctorum, quorum unus sit S. Theologiae Professor Regius, si concioni interfuerit.

But, because Dr. Sherlock (tho' he pretend to cite them) doth (p. 5.) confess he doth not know our Statutes; I shall admit this excuse of Ignorance for his Mistakes; Provided, he will forbear thus to talk of he knows not what.

Now, as to what the Vice-Chancellor is thus to censure; it may be presum'd, that he (with the Advice afore-said) is (in some measure) to make some Judgement of it, in order to such Censure.

How far (out of the present case) they may declare and decree Heresy, I shall not take upon me to determine.

A Judge, in his Ordinary Proceedings, tho' I think he is not to declare New Treasons (besides those enumerated in the Statute of Treasons;) yet, when a Case is to be tried before him, I suppose, he may declare, Whe­ther he think the fact in question, to be [Page 9] Treason within that Statute. But, of this, let those judge, whose business it is to under­stand the Law.

I confess also, that I do not take our Sta­tutes, to be the Law of the Land, (for the whole Nation;) But they be our Rule (by which we are to proceed as to our own Mem­bers:) Ratified to us by the Arch-Bishop of Canterbury, under his Archiepiscopal Seal; and by the King's Majesty, under the great Seal of England.

The Statute of 1. Eliz. is, I suppose, to be understood of such Legal Conviction or De­finitive Sentence (in order to Burning) as upon which (as the Law then stood) the Writ De Haeretico comburendo, was of course to issue. Which is not the present Case.

That the Paper of Complaint was signed but by Two; I believe is true. But One had been enough. And the Vice-Chancellor was satisfied, there needed no more. And there­fore did forbid the gathering of more Hands: Because he meant to proceed Calmly, not Tu­multuously. (And, in so doing, I think he did wisely.) And it had been dispatched sooner; but that the Business of Entertaining the KING, did retard it till that Solemnity was over.

[Page 10] But a main business of these Angry Papers, is, a Quarel between Dr. Sherlock, and, his Malicious Animadverter, Dr. South.

The Vice-Chancellor and Heads of Houses had said nothing of Dr. Sherlock; But had onely censured an offensive Sermon, which they could not approve of; but might be supposed to do, if (when Preached to their Faces) they shewed no dislike of it. But Dr. Sherlock (whose Doctrine was the same) brings himself into the Quarel by a side-wind.

He first supposeth, That the Complaint was commenced by Dr. South. Which is a mis­take; for the Sermon was complain'd of, the same day it was Preached, or that following, before Dr. South knew any thing of it; being at that time far enough from Oxford.

Then, That the Person who Preached it, was never summoned or questioned for it, or his Name mentioned at the Meeting. Which is another mistake; for, upon the first com­plaint, the person was summoned, and did appear, and did give his Answer in writing, with his Name subscribed; owned the words; and said, what he had to say, in excuse there­of: and this his Answer was communicated to the Heads of Houses.

[Page 11] Next, That their Censure was in Latin only; whereas it was Originally in English also.

Then, That it was Translated by his Ma­licious Animadverter: when as there was no such matter.

That He caused it to be Re-printed at London; That, there, He gave it a notable Title; That He made the notable Remarks in the Post­script; That, when He had Railed himself out of Breath, he called for a Decretum Oxoniense to help him; which was the wisest thing he could do. That Dr. South sollicited the Cause with such Zeal and Importunity, as could not be resisted; That He triumphs in it; That He Published it in one of the weekly Prints; and much more to the same purpose.

Now, if you ask, How he knows all this? His proof is, It may be supposed, or It is easy to guess, p. 5.

Now, much of this we know to be false. And if we should add, It may be supposed, that the rest is so too; would not this be as good a Proof?

Or, if it should be said, That Dr. Sherlock being Baffled by Dr. South, and having Rail­ed to no purpose, got a Young man to Preach his Doctrine in the face of the University, [Page 12] (which happened, for his purpose, as if it had been contrived;) that in case, as was hoped, the University had taken it patiently; he might have gloried, That the University of Oxford found no fault with his Doctrine. Which might furnish him with new Topicks of Railing and Triumphing: Would not, It may be supposed, do as well here? Only we cannot say, It happened Luckily for his pur­pose; but rather Unluckily.

But be this as it will: Let the Two Doctors agree that Point amongst themselves; or let the Animadverter and the Defender fight it out. The Decree (as he calls it) names nei­ther; but only Censures a third Person.

That this Person was not summoned, is not true. Summoned he was; and had given in his Answer, in Writing, under his hand; and upon that Answer the Vice-Chancellor and Heads of Houses did proceed. They did Con­demn the Doctrine; and forbid the Preaching it; by him or any other.

Why they were so kind as to proceed no farther against him; many reasons may be alleged. He had (while the business was de­pending) quitted the University, and was gone; And, 'twas hoped (being a Young man) he would be more wary; and avoid the like, for the future.

[Page 13] And if Dr. Sherlock would, in time, have done the like, I think he had done better: and I believe the best of his Friends think so too. When he had let fall some unwary Ex­pressions, and not justifiable; he might have retracted them, with as little discredit as he has done some other. And it would be the Wisest thing he could do.

What are the thousand Iacobite Stories he talks of (p. 1.) I know not: Whether now he be or be not a Jacobite; Whether he have or have not been; or, Whether sometime he have and sometime have not; is nothing to this purpose?

If he will still insist upon it, that If a Per­son be a Mind, a Spirit, a Substance; then three Persons must be Three distinct Minds, Spirits, and Substances, p. 18. (as distinct as Adam and Abel, though not separate, p. 20.) he knows it will not be allow'd him: Because Mind, Spirit, Substance, are (in their proper signification) Absolute; but Person (in its proper signification) is a Relative Term.

If Dr. Sherlock were Dean of Paul s, Dean of Windsor, and Dean of Westminster; should we thence argue, That, since a Dean is a Man, an Animal, a Substance; therefore, because of three Distinct, Substantial Deaneries, they [Page 14] be (or he is) three distinct Men, three distinct Animals, and three distinct Substances? I think not. Because Man, Animal, Sub­stance, are terms Absolute, but Dean is Rela­tive. And the same Absolute Being, may ad­mit (without being multiplied) many Rela­tive Predicates.

I should rather say, that Dr. Sherlock would (in such case) sustain three Persons, without being three Men, three Animals, or three Substances.

Yet this is not Sabellianism; For, though Dean of Paul's, be a Relative Name; yet it is not merely an Empty Name; but doth im­port a Substantial Dignity, as the Ground of that Relation; and a Substantial Man as the Subject of That, as well as of his Other Re­lations.

And this hath been told him so often, that we cannot think the Dean so Dull, as not to Apprehend the Distinction; but so wilful, as that he scorns to own it: But would still have us think, that Mind, Spirit, Person, are terms Equivalent; (and therefore jum­bles them together as such;) which will not be admitted.

Or, if they be equivalent; why cannot he content himself with (what is generally re­ceived) [Page 15] three Persons, but must impose upon us his New Terms of Three Distinct Minds, Three Distinct Spirits, and Three Distinct Substances? But Scorn and Flouncing will not carry it off.

The Consequence will hold more strongly, thus, If an Infinite Eternal Mind or Spirit be God; Then Three Distinct Infinite Eternal Minds or Spirits, are Three Gods. (For, here, the Terms are all Absolute, not Relative.) And if to maintain (obstinately) That there be Three Gods; (that is, Three Eternal In­finite Minds or Spirits;) be not Heresy, What is?

It seems to me, but a New Trick, to play the Game into the Socinian's hand; By grant­ing to them (their darling Notion) that To affirm, the Father, Son, and Holy-Ghost, to be Three Persons of which each is God; is the same as to affirm that they are Three Gods. Which we must not allow.

If St. Hilary have sometime called them tres substantias; he may know, that substantia was at that time an ambiguous term, and taken sometimes as the Latin word for Hy­postasis, and sometimes for Ousia. For which reason the Latines were, for some time, shy of admitting the term Hypostasis, least it [Page 16] should be thought to imply the same with Substantia, in the same sense with Ousia.

And he might have understood from his own Citation, p. 38. that, by Substance, is there meant Subsistence. Tres Substantias esse dixerunt; Subsistentium Personas, per Sub­stantias, edocentes. That is, (by his own Translation) They said there were three Sub­stances; meaning thereby, three Subsisting Persons.

But when as now (for some Ages) it is a­greed (for prevention of Ambiguity) in the one sense, to say Substance, and in the other Subsistence; it is not now the same to call them three substances (in contradistinction to three subsistences) as then it was, while the word was used Ambiguously in both senses.

This, I suppose, may satisfy you, (so far as concerns the Vice-Chancellor and Heads of Houses;) if it will not satisfy Dr. Sher­lock, let Him and the Animadverter dispute it out.

Yours, &c.

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