It is groundless to pretend from this text, that the precepts and traditions of the Church are not binding and obligatory, for Christ himself has commanded all to hear his Church, and obey their lawful pastors. These indeed may be called the precepts of men, but they are precepts of men invested with power and authority from God, and of whom Christ himself said, (Luke x. 16.) He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that despiseth you, despiseth me.
We must not here suppose that Christ censures the commands of the Church, or the tradition of the apostles, because these are in nowise contrary to the divine law, but rather serve to enforce it, and reduce it to practice; nor are they so much the commands of men, as of God, delivered to us by his ambassadors. Christ censures such as are merely human, such as those mentioned here, which are vain and futile, as the superstitious washing of hands; or erroneous, as that the soul is defiled by meat; or openly contrary to natural and divine law, as the defrauding parents of their just support.
It is evidently erroneous to argue from this text against apostolic traditions. St. Paul tells the Thessalonians, to stand fast, and hold the traditions which they had been taught, whether by word of mouth or by epistles. (2 Thessalonians ii. 14.)
The doctrines and commandments here reprehended, are such as are either contrary to the law of God, (as that of neglecting parents, under pretence of giving to God) or at least are frivolous, unprofitable, and no ways conducing to true piety, as that of often washing hands, &c. without regard to the purity of the heart. But as to the rules and ordinances of the holy Church, touching fasts, festivals, &c. these are no ways repugnant to, but highly agreeable to God's holy word, and all Christian piety; neither are they to be counted among the doctrines and commandments of men, because they proceed not from mere human authority, but from that which Christ has established in his Church; whose pastors he has commanded us to hear and obey, even as himself. (Luke x. 16.; Matthew xviii. 17)