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Commonitorium-Vincent of Lerins

 
VINCENT OF LERINS

A COMMONITORY(1)

FOR THE ANTIQUITY AND UNIVERSALITY OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH AGAINST THE
PROFANE NOVELTIES OF ALL HERESIES.

[Translated by the Rev. C. A. Heurtley, D.D., The Lady Margaret's Professor
of Divinity in the University of Oxford, and Canon of Christ Church.]

CHAPTER I: The Object of the Following Treatise.

    [I.] I, PEREGRINUS,(2) who am the least of all the servants of God, remembering the admonition of Scripture, "Ask thy fathers and they will tell thee, thine elders and they will declare unto thee,"(8) and again, "Bow down thine ear to the words of the wise,"(4) and once more, "My son, forget not these instructions, but let thy heart keep my words:"(5)
remembering these admonitions, I say, I, Peregrinus, am persuaded, that,
the Lord helping me, it will be of no little use and certainly as regards
my own feeble powers, it is most necessary, that I should put down in
writing the things which I have truthfully received from the holy Fathers,
since I shall then have ready at hand wherewith by constant reading to make
amends for the weakness of my memory.

    [2.] To this I am incited not only by regard to the fruit to be
expected from my labour but also by the consideration of time and the
opportuneness of place:

    By the consideration of time,--for seeing that time seizes upon all
things human, we also in turn ought to snatch from it something which may
profit us to eternal life, especially since a certain awful expectation of
the approach of the divine judgment importunately demands increased
earnestness in religion, while the subtle craftiness of new heretics calls
for no ordinary care and attention.

    I am incited also by the opportuneness of place, in that, avoiding the
concourse and crowds of cities, I am dwelling in the seclusion of a
Monastery, situated in a remote grange,(6) where, I can follow without
distraction the Psalmist's(7) admonition, "Be still, and know that I am
God."

    Moreover, it suits well with my purpose in adopting this life; for,
whereas I was at one time involved in the manifold and deplorable tempests
of secular warfare, I have now at length, under Christ's auspices, cast
anchor in the harbour of religion, a harbour to all always most safe, in
order that, having there been freed from the blasts of vanity and pride,
and propitiating God by the sacrifice of Christian humility, I may be able
to escape not only the shipwrecks of the present life, but also the flames
of the world to come.

    [3.] But now, in the Lord's name, I will set about the object I have in
view; that is to say, to record with the fidelity of a narrator rather than
the presumption of an author, the things which our forefathers have handed
down to us and committed to our keeping, yet observing this rule in what I
write, that I shall by no means touch upon everything that might be said,
but only upon what is necessary; nor yet in an ornate and exact style, but
in simple and ordinary language,(1) so that the most part may seem to be
intimated, rather than set forth in detail. Let those cultivate elegance
and exactness who are confident of their ability or are moved by a sense of
duty. For me it will be enough to have provided a COMMONITORY (or
Remembrancer) for myself, such as may aid my memory, or rather, provide
against my forgetfulness: which same Commonitory however, I shall endeavor,
the Lord helping me, to amend and make more complete by little and little,
day by day, by recalling to mind what I have learnt. I mention this at the
outset, that if by chance what I write should slip out of my possession and
come into the hands of holy men, they may forbear to blame anything therein
hastily, when they see that there is a promise that it will yet be amended
and made more complete.

CHAPTER II: A General Rule for distinguishing the Truth of the Catholic
Faith from the Falsehood of Heretical Pravity.

    [4.] I HAVE often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many
men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak
universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith
from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost
every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any
one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics
as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we
must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the
authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic
Church.

    [5.] But here some one perhaps will ask, Since the canon of Scripture
is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than
sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the
Church's interpretation? For this reason,--because, owing to the depth of
Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one
understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to
be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For
Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius,
Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another,
Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another.
Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such
various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets
and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of
Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.

    [6.] Moreover, in the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be
taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always,
by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense "Catholic," which, as
the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all
universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality,
antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one
faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses;
antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is
manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent,
in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient
definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all
priests and doctors.

CHAPTER III: What is to be done if one or more dissent from the rest.

    [7.] WHAT then will a Catholic Christian do, if a small portion of the
Church have cut itself off from the communion of the universal faith? What,
surely, but prefer the soundness of the whole body to the unsoundness of a
pestilent and corrupt member? What, if some novel contagion seek to infect
not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it
will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly
be seduced by any fraud of novelty.

    [8.] But what, if in antiquity itself there be found error on the part
of two or three men, or at any rate of a city or even of a province? Then
it will be his care by all means, to prefer the decrees, if such there be,
of an ancient General Council to the rashness and ignorance of a few. But
what, if some error should spring up on which no such decree is found to
bear? Then he must collate and  consult and interrogate the opinions of the
ancients, of those, namely, who, though living in divers times and places,
yet continuing in the communion and faith of the one Catholic Church, stand
forth acknowledged and approved authorities: and whatsoever he shall
ascertain to have been held, written, taught, not by one or two of these
only, but by all, equally, with one consent, openly, frequently,
persistently, that he must understand that he himself also is to believe
without any doubt or hesitation.

CHAPTER IV: The evil resulting from the bringing in of Novel Doctrine shown
in the instances of the Donatists and Arians.

    [9.] BUT that we may make what we say more intelligible, we must
illustrate it by individual examples, and enlarge upon it somewhat more
fully, lest by aiming at too great brevity important matters be hurried
over and lost sight of.

    In the time of Donatus,(1) from whom his followers were called
Donatists, when great numbers in Africa were rushing headlong into their
own mad error, and unmindful of their name, their religion, their
profession, were preferring the sacrilegious temerity of one man before the
Church of Christ, then they alone throughout Africa were safe within the
sacred precincts of the Catholic faith, who, detesting the profane schism,
continued in communion with the universal Church, leaving to posterity an
illustrious example, how, and how well in future the soundness of the whole
body should be preferred before the madness of one, or at most of a few.

    [10.] So also when the Arian poison had infected not an insignificant
portion of the Church but almost the whole world,(2) so that a sort of
blindness had fallen upon almost all the bishops(3) of the Latin tongue,
circumvented partly by force partly by fraud and was preventing them from
seeing what was most expedient to be done in the midst of so much
confusion, then whoever was a true lover and worshipper of Christ,
preferring the ancient belief to the novel misbelief, escaped the pestilent
infection.

    [11.] By the peril of which time was abundantly shown how great a
calamity the introduction of a novel doctrine causes. For then truly not
only interests of small account, but others of the very gravest importance,
were subverted. For not only affinities, relationships, friendships,
families, but moreover, cities, peoples, provinces, nations, at last the
whole Roman Empire, were shaken to their foundation and ruined. For when
this same profane Arian novelty, like a Bellona or a Fury, had first taken
captive the Emperor,(4) and had then subjected all the principal persons of
the palace to new laws, from that time it never ceased to involve
everything in confusion, disturbing all things, public and private, sacred
and profane, paying no regard to what was good and true, but, as though
holding a position of authority, smiting whomsoever it pleased. Then wives
were violated, widows ravished, virgins profaned, monasteries demolished,
clergymen ejected, the inferior clergy scourged, priests driven into exile,
jails, prisons, mines, filled with saints, of whom the greater part,
forbidden to enter into cities, thrust forth from their homes to wander in
deserts and caves, among rocks and the haunts of wild beasts, exposed to
nakedness, hunger, thirst, were worn out and consumed. Of all of which was
there any other cause than that, while human superstitions are being
brought in to supplant heavenly doctrine, while well established antiquity
is being subverted by wicked novelty, while the institutions of former ages
are being set at naught, while the decrees of our fathers are being
rescinded, while the determinations of our ancestors are being torn in
pieces, the lust of profane and novel curiosity refuses to restrict itself
within the most chaste limits of hallowed and uncorrupt antiquity?(1)

CHAPTER V: The Example set us by the Martyrs, whom no force could hinder
from defending the Faith of their Predecessors.

    [12.] But it may be, we invent these charges out of hatred to novelty
and zeal for antiquity. Whoever is disposed to listen to such an
insinuation, let him at least believe the blessed Ambrose, who, deploring
the acerbity of the time, says, in the second book of his work addressed to
the Emperor Gratian:(2) "Enough now, O God Almighty! have we expiated with
our own ruin, with our own blood, the slaughter of Confessors, the
banishment of priests, and the wickedness of such extreme impiety. It is
clear, beyond question, that they who have violated the faith cannot remain
in safety."

    And again in the third book of the same work,(3) "Let us observe the
precepts of our predecessors, and not transgress with rude rashness the
landmarks which we have inherited from them. That sealed Book of Prophecy
no Elders, no Powers, no Angels, no Archangels, dared to open. To Christ
alone was reserved the prerogative of explaining it.(4) Who of us may dare
to unseal the Sacerdotal Book sealed by Confessors, and consecrated already
by the martyrdom of numbers, which they who had been compelled by force to
unseal afterwards resealed, condemning the fraud which had been practised
upon them; while they who had not ventured to tamper with it proved
themselves Confessors and martyrs? How can we deny the faith of those whose
victory we proclaim?"

    [13.] We proclaim it truly, O venerable Ambrose, we proclaim it, and
applaud and admire. For who is there so demented, who, though not able to
overtake, does not at least earnestly desire to follow those whom no force
could deter from defending the faith of their ancestors, no threats, no
blandishments, not life, not death, not the palace, not the Imperial
Guards, not the Emperor, not the empire itself, not men, not demons?--
whom, I say, as a recompense for their steadfastness in adhering to
religious antiquity, the Lord  counted worthy of so great a reward, that by
their instrumentality He restored churches which had been destroyed,
quickened with new life peoples who were spiritually dead, replaced on the
heads of priests the crowns which had been torn from them, washed out those
abominable, I will not say letters, but blotches (non literas, sed lituras)
of novel impiety, with a fountain of believing tears, which God opened in
the hearts of the bishops?--lastly, when almost the whole world was
overwhelmed by a ruthless tempest of unlooked for heresy, recalled it from
novel misbelief to the ancient faith, from the madness of novelty to the
soundness of antiquity, from the blindness of novelty to pristine light?

    [14.] But in this divine virtue, as we may call it, exhibited by these
Confessors, we must note especially that the defence which they then
undertook in appealing to the Ancient Church, was the defence, not of a
part, but of the whole body. For it was not right that men of such eminence
should uphold with so huge an effort the vague and conflicting notions of
one or two men, or should exert themselves in the defence of some ill-
advised combination of some petty province; but adhering to the decrees and
definitions of the universal priesthood of Holy Church, the heirs of
Apostolic and Catholic truth, they chose rather to deliver up themselves
than to betray the faith of universality and antiquity. For which cause
they were deemed worthy of so great glory as not only to be accounted
Confessors, but rightly, and deservedly to be accounted foremost among
Confessors.

CHAPTER VI: The example of Pope Stephen in resisting the Iteration of
Baptism.

    [15.] GREAT then is the example of these same blessed men, an example
plainly divine, and worthy to be called to mind, and meditated upon
continually by every true Catholic, who, like the seven-branched
candlestick, shining with the sevenfold light of the Holy Spirit, showed to
posterity how thenceforward the audaciousness of profane novelty, in all
the several rantings of error, might be crushed by the authority of
hallowed antiquity.

    Nor is there anything new in this? For it has always been the case in
the Church, that the more a man is under the influence of religion, so much
the more prompt is he to oppose innovations. Examples there are without
number: but to be brief, we will take one, and that, in preference to
others, from the Apostolic See,(1) so that it may be clearer than day to
every one with how great energy, with how great zeal, with how great
earnestness, the blessed successors of the blessed apostles have constantly
defended the integrity of the religion which they have once received.

    [16.] Once on a time then, Agrippinus,(2) bishop of Carthage, of
venerable memory, held the doctrine--and he was the first who held it --
that Baptism ought to be repeated, contrary to the divine canon, contrary
to the rule of the universal Church, contrary to the customs and
institutions of our ancestors. This innovation drew after it such an amount
of evil, that it not only gave an example of sacrilege to heretics of all
sorts, but proved an occasion of error to certain Catholics even.

    When then all men protested against the novelty, and the priesthood
everywhere, each as his zeal prompted him, opposed it, Pope Stephen of
blessed memory, Prelate of the Apostolic See, in conjunction indeed with
his colleagues but yet himself the foremost, withstood it, thinking it
right, I doubt not, that as he exceeded all others in the authority of his
place, so he should also in the devotion of his faith. In fine, in an
epistle sent at the time to Africa, he laid down this rule: "Let there be
no innovation-- nothing but what has been handed down."(8) For that holy
and prudent man well knew that true piety admits no other rule than that
whatsoever things have been faithfully received from our fathers the same
are to be faithfully consigned to our children; and that it is our duty,
not to lead religion whither we would, but rather to follow religion
whither it leads; and that it is the part of Christian modesty and gravity
not to hand down our own beliefs or observances to those who come after us,
but to preserve and keep what we have received from those who went before
us. What then was the issue of the whole matter?  What but the usual and
customary one? Antiquity was retained, novelty was rejected.

    [17.] But it may be, the cause of innovation at that time lacked
patronage. On the contrary, it had in its favor such powerful talent, such
copious eloquence, such a number of partisans, so much resemblance to
truth, such weighty support in Scripture (only interpreted in a novel and
perverse sense), that it seems to me that that whole conspiracy could not
possibly have been defeated, unless the sole cause of this extraordinary
stir, the very novelty of what was so undertaken, so defended, so belauded,
had proved wanting to  it. In the end, what result, under God, had that
same African Council or decree?(4) None whatever. The whole affair, as
though a dream, a fable, a thing of no possible account, was annulled,
cancelled, and trodden underfoot.

    [18.] And O marvellous revolution! The authors of this same doctrine
are judged Catholics, the followers heretics; the teachers are absolved,
the disciples condemned; the writers of the books will be children of the
Kingdom, the defenders of them will have their portion in Hell. For who is
so demented as to doubt that that blessed light among all holy bishops and
martyrs, Cyprian, together with the rest of his colleagues, will reign with
Christ; or, who on the other hand so sacrilegious as to deny that the
Donatists and those other pests, who boast the authority of that council
for their iteration of baptism, will be consigned to eternal fire with the
devil?(5)

CHAPTER VII: How Heretics, craftily cite obscure passages in ancient
writers in support of their own novelties.

    [19.] THIS condemnation, indeed,(1) seems to have been providentially
promulgated as though with a special view to the fraud of those who,
contriving to dress up a heresy under a name other than its own, get hold
often of the works of some ancient writer, not very clearly expressed,
which, owing to the very obscurity of their own doctrine, have the
appearance of agreeing with it, so that they get the credit of being
neither the first nor the only persons who have held it. This wickedness of
theirs, in my judgment, is doubly hateful: first, because they are not
afraid to invite others to drink of the poison of heresy; and secondly,
because with profane breath, as though fanning smouldering embers into
flame, they blow upon the memory of each holy man, and spread an evil
report of what ought to be buried in silence by bringing it again under
notice, thus treading in the footsteps of their father Ham, who not only
forebore to cover the nakedness of the venerable Noah, but told it to the
others that they might laugh at it, offending thereby so grievously against
the duty of filial piety, that even his descendants were involved with him
in the curse which he drew down, widely differing from those blessed
brothers of his, who would neither pollute their own eyes by looking upon
the nakedness of their revered father, nor would suffer others to do so,
but went backwards, as the Scripture says, and covered him, that is, they
neither approved nor betrayed the fault of the holy man, for which cause
they were rewarded with a benediction on themselves and their posterity.(2)

    [20.] But to return to the matter in hand: It behoves us then to have a
great dread of the crime of perverting the faith and adulterating religion,
a crime from which we are deterred not only by the Church's discipline, but
also by the censure of apostolical authority. For every one knows how
gravely, how severely, how vehemently, the blessed apostle Paul inveighs
against certain, who, with marvellous levity, had "been so soon removed
from him who had called them to the grace of Christ to another Gospel,
which was not another;"(8) "who had heaped to themselves teachers after
their own lusts, turning away their ears from the truth, and being turned
aside unto fables;"(4) "having damnation because they had cast off their
first faith;"(5) who had been deceived by those of whom the same apostle
writes to the Roman Christians, "Now, I beseech you, brethren, mark them
which cause divisions and offences, contrary to the doctrine which ye have
learned, and avoid them. For they that are such serve not the Lord Christ,
but their own belly, and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts
of the simple."(6) "who enter into houses, and lead captive silly women
laden with sins, led away with diverse lusts, ever learning and never able
to come to the knowledge of the truth;"(7) "vain talkers and deceivers, who
subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy
lucre's sake;"(8) "men of corrupt minds, reprobate concerning the
faith;"(9) "proud knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes
of words, destitute of the truth, supposing that godliness is gain,"(10)
"withal learning to be idle, wandering about from house to house, and not
only idle, but tattlers also and busy-bodies, speaking things which they
ought not,"(11) "who having put away a good conscience have made shipwreck
concerning the faith;"(12) "whose profane and vain babblings increase unto
more ungodliness, and their word doth eat as doth a cancer."(13) Well,
also, is it written of them: "But they shall proceed no further: for their
folly shall be manifest unto all men, as their's also was."(14)

CHAPTER VIII: Exposition of St. Paul's Words, Gal. i.

    [21.] When therefore certain of this sort wandering about provinces and
cities, and carrying with them their venal errors, had  found their way to
Galatia, and when the Galatians, on hearing them, nauseating the truth, and
vomiting up the manna of Apostolic and Catholic doctrine, were delighted
with the garbage of heretical novelty, the apostle putting in exercise the
authority of his office, delivered his sentence with the utmost severity,
"Though we," he says, "or an angel from heaven, preach any other Gospel
unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be
accursed."(15)

    [22.] Why does he say "Though we"? why not rather "though I "? He
means, "thou h Peter, though Andrew though John in a word, though the whole
company of apostles, preach unto you other than we have preached unto you,
let him be accursed." Tremendous severity! He spares neither himself nor
his fellow apostles, so he may preserve unaltered the faith which was at
first delivered. Nay, this is not all. He goes on "Even though an angel
from heaven preach unto you any other Gospel than that which we have
preached unto you, let him be accursed." It was not enough for the
preservation of the faith once delivered to have referred to man; he must
needs comprehend angels also. "Though we," he says, "or an angel from
heaven." Not that the holy angels of heaven are now capable of sinning. But
what he means is: Even if that were to happen which cannot happen,--if any
one, be he who he may, attempt to alter the faith once for all delivered,
let him be accursed.

    [23.] But it may be, he spoke thus in the first instance
inconsiderately, giving vent to human impetuosity rather than expressing
himself under divine guidance. Far from it. He follows up what he had said,
and urges it with intense reiterated earnestness, "As we said before, so
say I now again, If any man preach any other Gospel to you than that ye
have received, let him be accursed." He does not say, "If any man deliver
to you another message than that you have received, let him be blessed,
praised, welcomed,"-- no; but "let him be accursed," [anathema] i.e.,
separated, segregated, excluded, lest the dire contagion of a single sheep
contaminate the guiltless flock of Christ by his poisonous intermixture
with them.

CHAPTER IX: His warning to the Galatians a warning to all.

    [24.] But, possibly, this warning was intended for the Galatians only.
Be it so; then those other exhortations which follow in the same Epistle
were intended for the Galatians only, such as, "If we live in the Spirit,
let us also walk in the Spirit; let us not be desirous of vain glory,
provoking one another, envying one another," etc.;(1) which alternative if
it be absurd, and the injunctions were meant equally for all, then it
follows, that as these injunctions which relate to morals, so those
warnings which relate to faith are meant equally for all; and just as it is
unlawful for all to provoke one another, or to envy one another, so,
likewise, it is unlawful for all to receive any other Gospel than that
which the Catholic Church preaches everywhere.

    [25.] Or perhaps the anathema pronounced on any one who should preach
another Gospel than that which had been preached was meant for those times,
not for the present. Then, also, the exhortation, "Walk in the Spirit and
ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh,"(2) was meant for those times,
not for the present. But if it be both impious and pernicious to believe
this, then  it follows necessarily, that as these injunctions are to be
observed by all ages, so those warnings also which forbid alteration of the
faith are warnings intended for all ages. To preach any doctrine therefore
to Catholic  Christians other than what they have received never was
lawful, never is lawful, never will be lawful: and to anathematize those
who preach anything other than what has once been received, always was a
duty, always is a duty, always will be a duty.

    [26.] Which being the case, is there any one either so audacious as to
preach any other doctrine than that which the Church preaches, or so
inconstant as to receive any other doctrine than that which he has received
from the Church? That elect vessel, that teacher of the Gentiles, that
trumpet of the apostles, that preacher whose commission was to the whole
earth, that man who was caught up to heaven,(3) cries and cries again in
his Epistles to all, always, in all places, "If any man preach any new
doctrine, let him be accursed." On the other hand, an ephemeral, moribund
set of frogs, fleas, and flies, such as the Pelagians, call out in
opposition, and that to Catholics, "Take our word, follow our lead, accept
our exposition, condemn what you used to hold, hold what you used to
condemn, cast aside the ancient faith, the institutes of your fathers, the
trusts left for you by your ancestors and receive instead,--what? I tremble
to utter it: for it is so full of arrogance and self-conceit, that it seems
to me that not only to affirm it, but even to refute it, cannot be done
without guilt in Some sort.

CHAPTER X: Why Eminent Men are permitted by God to become Authors of
Novelties in the Church.

    [27.] BUT some one will ask, How is it then, that certain excellent
persons, and of position in the Church, are often permitted by God to
preach novel doctrines to Catholics? A proper question, certainly, and one
which ought to be very carefully and fully dealt with, but answered at the
same time, not in reliance upon one's own ability, but by the authority of
the divine  Law, and by  appeal to the Church's determination.

    Let us listen, then, to Holy Moses, and let him teach us why learned
men,  and such as because of their knowledge are even called Prophets by
the apostle, are sometimes permitted to put forth novel doctrines, which
the Old Testament is wont, by way of allegory, to call "strange gods,"
forasmuch as heretics pay the same sort of reverence to their notions that
the Gentiles do to their gods.

    [28.] Blessed Moses, then, writes thus in Deuteronomy:(1) "If there
arise among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams," that is, one holding
office as a Doctor in the Church, who is believed by his disciples or
auditors to teach by revelation: well,--what follows? "and giveth thee a
sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder come to pass whereof he
spake,"--he is pointing to some eminent doctor, whose learning is such that
his followers believe him not only to know things human, but, moreover, to
foreknow things superhuman, such as, their disciples  commonly boast, were
Valentinus, Donatus, Photinus, Apollinaris, and the rest of that sort! What
next? "And shall say to thee, Let us go after other gods, whom thou knowest
not, and serve them." What are those other gods but strange errors which
thou knowest not, that is, new and such as were never heard of before? "And
let us serve them;" that is, "Let us believe them, follow them." What last?
"Thou shall not hearken to the words of that prophet or dreamer of dreams."
And why, I pray thee, does not God forbid to be taught what God forbids to
be heard? "For the Lord, your God, trieth you, to know whether you love Him
with all your heart and with all your soul." The reason is clearer than day
why Divine Providence sometimes permits certain doctors of the Churches to
preach new doctrines--"That the Lord your God may try you;" he says. And
assuredly it is a great trial when one whom thou believest to be a prophet,
a disciple of prophets, a doctor and defender of the truth, whom thou hast
folded to thy breast with the utmost veneration and love, when such a one
of a sudden secretly and furtively brings in noxious errrors, which thou
canst neither quickly detect, being held by the prestige of former
authority, nor lightly think it right to condemn, being prevented by
affection for thine old master.

CHAPTER XI: Examples from Church History, confirming the words of Moses,--
Nestorius, Photinus, Apollinaris.

    [29.] HERE, perhaps, some one will require us to illustrate the words
of holy Moses by examples from Church History. The demand is a fair one,
nor shall it wait long for satisfaction.

    For to take first a very recent and very plain case: what son of trial,
think we, was that which the Church had experience of the other day, when
that unhappy Nestorius,(2) all at once metamorphosed from a sheep into a
wolf, began to make havoc of the flock of Christ, while as yet a large
proportion of those whom he was devouring believed him to be a sheep, and
consequently were the more exposed to his attacks? For who would readily
suppose him to be in error, who was known to have been elected by the high
choice of the Emperor, and to be held in the greatest esteem by the
priesthood? who would readily suppose him to be in error, who, greatly
beloved by the holy brethren, and in high favor with the populace,
expounded the Scriptures in public daily, and confuted the pestilent errors
both of Jews and Heathens? Who could choose but believe that his teaching
was Orthodox, his preaching Orthodox, his belief Orthodox, who, that he
might open the way to one heresy of his own, was zealously inveighing
against the blasphemies of all heresies? But this was the very thing which
Moses says: "The Lord your God doth try you that He may know whether you
love Him or not."

    [30.] Leaving Nestorius, in whom there was always more that men admired
than they were profited by, more of show than of reality, whom natural
ability, rather than divine grace, magnified, for a time in the opinion of
the common people, let us pass on to speak of those who, being persons of
great attainments and of much industry, proved no small trial to Catholics.
Such, for instance, was Photinus, in Pannonia,(3) who, in the memory of our
fathers, is said to have been a trial to the Church of Sirmium, where, when
he had been raised to the priesthood with universal approbation, and had
discharged the office for some time as a Catholic, all of a sudden, like
that evil prophet or dreamer of dreams whom Moses refers to, he began to
persuade the people whom God had intrusted, to his charge, to follow
"strange gods," that is, strange errors, which before they knew not. But
there was nothing unusual in this: the mischief of the matter was, that for
the perpetration of so great wickedness he availed himself of no ordinary
helps. For he was of great natural ability and of powerful eloquence, and
had a wealth of learning, disputing and writing copiously and forcibly in
both languages, as his books which remain. composed partly in Greek, partly
in Latin, testify. But happily the sheep of Christ committed to him,
vigilant and wary for the Catholic faith, quickly turned their eyes to the
premonitory words of Moses, and, though admiring the eloquence of their
prophet and pastor, were not blind to the trial. For from thenceforward
they began to flee from him as a wolf, whom formerly they had followed as
the ram of the flock.

    [31.] Nor is it only in the instance of Photinus that we learn the
danger of this trial to the Church, and are admonished withal of the need
Of double diligence in guarding the faith. Apollinaris(1) holds out a like
warning. For he gave rise to great burning questions and sore peplexities
among his disciples, the Church's authority drawing them one way, their
Master's influence the opposite; so that, wavering and tossed hither and
thither between the two, they were at a loss what course to take.

    But perhaps he was a person of no weight of character. On the contrary,
he was so eminent and so highly esteemed that his word would only too
readily be taken on whatsoever subject. For what could exceed his
acuteness, his adroitness, his learning? How many heresies did he, in many
volumes, annihilate! How many errors, hostile to the faith, did he confute!
A proof of which is that most noble and vast work, of not less than thirty
books, in which, with a great mass of arguments, he repelled the insane
calumnies of Porphyry.(2) It would take a long time to enumerate all his
works, which assuredly would have placed him on a level with the very chief
of the Church's builders, if that profane last of heretical curiosity had
not led him to devise I know not what novelty which as though through the
contagion of a sort of leprosy both defiled all his labours, and caused his
teachings to be pronounced the Church's trial instead of the Church's
edification.

CHAPTER XII.

A fuller account of the Errors of Photinus, Apollinaris and Nestorius.

    [32.] HERE, possibly, I may be asked for some account of the above
mentioned heresies; those, namely, of Nestorius, Apollinaris, and Photinus.
This, indeed, does not belong to the matter in hand: for our object is not
to enlarge upon the errors of individuals, but to produce instances of a
few, in whom the applicability of Moses' words may be evidently and clearly
seen; that is to say, that if at any time some Master in the Church,
himself also a prophet in interpreting the mysteries of the prophets,
should attempt to introduce some novel doctrine into the Church of God,
Divine Providence permits this to happen in order to try us. It will be
useful, therefore, by way of digression, to give a brief account of the
opinions of the above-named heretics, Photinus, Apollinaris, Nestorius.

    [33.] The heresy of Photinus, then, is as follows: He says that God is
singular and sole, and is to be regarded as the Jews regarded Him. He
denies the completeness of the Trinity, and does not believe that there is
any Person of God the Word, or any Person of the Holy Ghost. Christ he
affirms to be a mere man, whose original was from Mary. Hence he insists
with the utmost obstinacy that we are to render worship only to the Person
of God the Father, and that we are to honour Christ as man only. This is
the doctrine of Photinus.

    [34.] Apollinaris, affecting to agree with the Church as to the unity
of the Trinity, though not this even with entire soundness of belief,(1) as
to the Incarnation of the Lord, blasphemes openly. For he says that the
flesh of our Saviour was either altogether devoid of a human soul, or, at
all events, was devoid of a rational soul. Moreover, he says that this same
flesh of the Lord was not received from the flesh of the holy Virgin Mary,
but came down from heaven into the Virgin; and, ever wavering and
undecided, he preaches one while that it was co-eternal with God the Word,
another that it was made of the divine nature of the Word. For, denying
that there are two substances in Christ, one divine, the other human, one
from the Father, the other from his mother, he holds that the very nature
of the Word was divided, as though one part of it remained in God, the
other was converted into flesh: so that whereas the truth says that of two
substances there is one Christ, he affirms, contrary to the truth, that of
the one divinity of Christ there are become two substances.This, then, is
the doctrine of Apollinaris.

    [35.] Nestorius, whose disease is of an opposite kind, while pretending
that he holds two distinct substances in Christ, brings in of a sudden two
Persons, and with unheard of wickedness would have two sons of God, two
Christs,--one, God, the other, man, one, begotten of his Father, the other,
born of his mother. For which reason he maintains that Saint Mary ought to
be called, not Theotocos (the mother of God), but Christotocos (the mother
of Christ), seeing that she gave birth not to the Christ who is God, but to
the Christ who is man. But if any one supposes that in his writings he
speaks of one Christ, and preaches one Person of Christ, let him not
lightly credit it. For either this is a crafty device, that by means of
good he may the more easily persuade evil, according to that of the
apostle, "That which is good was made death to me,"(2)-- either, I say, he
craftily affects in some places in his writings to believe one Christ and
one Person of Christ, or else he says that after the Virgin had brought
forth, the two Persons were united into one Christ, though at the time of
her conception or parturition, and for some short time afterwards, there
were two Christs; so that forsooth, though Christ was born at first an
ordinary man and nothing more, and not as yet associated in unity of Person
with the Word of God, yet afterwards the Person of the Word assuming
descended upon Him; and though now the Person assumed remains in the glory
of God, yet once there would seem to have been no difference between Him
and all other men.

CHAPTER XlII: The Catholic Doctrine of the Trinity and the Incarnation
explained.

    [36.] IN these ways then do these rabid dogs, Nestorius, Apollinaris,
and Photinus, bark against the Catholic faith: Photinus, by denying the
Trinity; Apollinaris, by teaching that the nature of the Word is mutable,
and refusing to acknowledge that there are two substances in Christ,
denying moreover either that Christ had a soul at all, or, at all events,
that he had a rational soul, and asserting that the Word of God supplied
the place of the rational soul; Nestorius, by affirming that there were
always or at any rate that once there were two Christs. But the Catholic
Church, holding the right faith both concerning God and concerning our
Saviour, is guilty of blasphemy neither in the mystery of the Trinity, nor
in that of the Incarnation of Christ. For she worships both one Godhead in
the plenitude of the Trinity, and the equality of the Trinity in one and
the same majesty, and she confesses one Christ Jesus, not two; the same
both God and man, the one as truly as the other.(8) One Person indeed she
believes in Him, but two substances; two substances but one Person: Two
substances, because the Word of God is not mutable, so as to be convertible
into flesh; one Person, lest by acknowledging two sons she should seem to
worship not a Trinity, but a Quaternity

    [37.] But it will be well to unfold this same doctrine more distinctly
and explicitly again and again.

    In God there is one substance, but three Persons; in Christ two
substances, but one Person. In the Trinity, another and another Person, not
another and another substance (distinct Persons, not distinct
substances);(4) in the Saviour another and another substance, not another
and another Person, (distinct substances, not distinct Persons. How in the
Trinity another and another Person (distinct Persons) not another and
another substance (distinct substances)?(5) Because there is one Person of
the Father, another of the Son, another of the Holy Ghost;(1) but yet there
is not another and another nature (distinct natures) but one and the same
nature. How in the Saviour another and another substance, not another and
another Person (two distinct substances, not two distinct Persons)? Because
there is one substance of the Godhead, another of the manhood. But yet the
Godhead and the manhood are not another and another Person (two distinct
Persons), but one and the same fist, one and the same Son of God, and one
and the same Person of one and the same Christ and Son of God, in like
manner as in man the flesh is one thing and the soul another, but one and
the same man, both soul and flesh. In Peter and Paul the soul is one thing,
the flesh another; yet there are not two Peters,--one soul, the other
flesh, or two Pauls, one soul, the other flesh,--but one and the same
Peter, and one and the same Paul, consisting each of two diverse natures,
soul and body. Thus, then, in one and the same Christ there are two
substances, one divine, the other human; one of (ex) God the Father, the
other of (ex) the Virgin Mother; one co-eternal with and co-equal with the
Father, the other temporal and inferior to the Father; one consubstantial
with his Father, the other, consubstantial with his Mother, but one and 
the same Christ in both substances. There is not, therefore, one Christ
God, the other man, not one uncreated, the other created; not one
impassible, the other passible; not one equal to the Father, the other
inferior to the Father; not one of his Father (ex), the other of his Mother
(ex), but one and the same Christ, God and man, the same uncreated and
created, the same unchangeable and incapable of suffering, the same
acquainted by experience with both change and suffering, the same equal to
the Father and inferior to the Father, the same begotten of the Father
before time, ("before the world"), the same born of his mother in time ("in
the world"),(2) perfect God, perfect Man. In God supreme divinity, in man
perfect humanity. Perfect humanity, I say, forasmuch as it hath both soul
and flesh; the flesh, very flesh; our flesh, his mother's flesh; the soul,
intellectual, endowed with mind and reason. There is then in Christ the
Word, the soul, the flesh; but the whole is one Christ, one Son of God, and
one our Saviour and Redeemer: One, not by I know not what corruptible
confusion of Godhead and manhood, but by a certain entire and singular
unity of Person. For the conjunction hath not converted and changed the one
nature into the other, (which is the characteristic error of the Arians),
but rather hath in such wise compacted beth into one, that while there
always remains in Christ the singularity of one and the self-same Person,
there abides eternally withal the characteristic property of each nature;
whence it follows, that neither doth God (i.e., the divine nature) ever
begin to be body, nor doth the body ever cease to be body. The which may be
illustrated in human nature: for not only in the present life, but in the
future also, each individual man will consist of soul and body; nor will
his body ever be converted into soul, or his soul into body; but while each
individual man will live for ever, the distinction between the two
substances will continue in each individual man for ever. So likewise in
Christ each substance will for ever retain its own characteristic property,
yet without prejudice to the unity of Person.

CHAPTER XIV: Jesus Christ Man in Truth, not in Semblance.

    [38.] But when we use the word "Person," and say that God became man by
means of a Person, there is reason to fear that our meaning may be taken to
be, that God the Word assumed our nature merely in imitation, and peformed
the actions of man, being man not in reality, but only in semblance, just
as in a theatre, one man within a brief space represents several persons,
not one of whom himself is. For when one undertakes to sustain the part of
another, he performs the offices, or does the acts, of the person whose
part he sustains, but he is not himself that person. So, to take an
illustration from secular life and one in high favour with the Manichees,
when a tragedian represents a priest or a king, he is not really a priest
or a king. For, as soon as the play is over, the person or character whom
he represented ceases to be. God forbid that we should have anything to do
with such nefarious and wicked mockery. Be it the infatuation of the
Manichees, those preachers of hallucination, who say that the Son of God,
God, was not a human person really and truly, but that He counterfeited the
person of a man in reigned conversation and manner of life.

    [39.] But the Catholic Faith teaches that the Word of God became man in
such wise, that He took upon Him our nature, not feignedly and in
semblance, but in reality and truth, and performed human actions, not as
though He were imitating the actions of another, but as performing His own,
and as being in reality the person whose part He sustained. Just as we
ourselves also, when we speak, reason, live, subsist, do not imitate men,
but are men. Peter and John, for instance, were men, not by imitation, but
by being men in reality. Paul did not counterfeit an apostle, or feign
himself to be Paul, but was an apostle, was Paul. So, also, that which God
the Word did, in His condescension, in assuming and having flesh, in
speaking, acting, and suffering, through the instrumentality Of flesh, yet
without any marring of His own divine nature, came in one word to this:--He
did not imitate or feign Himself to be perfect man, but He shewed Himself
to be very man in reality and truth. Therefore, as the soul united to the
flesh, but yet not changed into flesh, does not imitate man, but is man,
and man not feignedly but substantially, so also God the Word, without any
conversion of Himself, in uniting Himself to man, became man, not by
confusion, not by imitation, but by actually being and subsisting. Away
then, once and for all, with the notion of His Person as of an assumed
fictitious character, where always what is is one thing, what is
counterfeited another, where the man who acts never is the man whose part
he acts. God forbid that we should believe God the Word to have taken upon
Himself the person of a man in this illusory way. Rather let us acknowledge
that while His own unchangeable substance remained, and while He took upon
Himself the nature of perfect man, Himself actually was flesh, Himself
actually was man, Himself actually was personally man; not feignedly, but
in truth, not in imitation, but in substance; not, finally, so as to cease
to be when the performance was over, but so as to be, and continue to be
substantially and permanently.(1)

CHAPTER XV: The Union of the Divine with the Human Nature took place in the
very Conception of the Virgin. The appellation "The Mother of God."

    [40.] THIS unity of Person, then, in Christ was not effected after His
birth of the Virgin, but was compacted and perfected in her very womb. For
we must take most especial heed that we confess Christ not only one, but
always one. For it were intolerable blasphemy, if while thou dost confess
Him one now, thou shouldst maintain that once He was not one, but two; one
forsooth since His baptism, but two at His birth. Which monstrous sacrilege
we shall assuredly in no wise avoid unless we acknowledge the manhood
united to the Godhead (but by unity of Person), not from the ascension, or
the resurrection, or the baptism, but even in His mother, even in the womb,
even in the Virgin's very conception.(2) In consequence of which unity of
Person, both those attributes which are proper to God are ascribed to man,
and those which are proper to the flesh to God, indifferently and
promiscuously.(8) For hence it is written by divine guidance, on the one
hand, that the Son of man came down from heaven;(4) and on the other, that
the Lord of glory was crucified on earth.(5) Hence it is also that since
the Lord's flesh was made, since the Lord's flesh was created, the very
Word of God is said to have been made, the very omniscient Wisdom of God to
have been created, just as propehtically His hands and His feet are
described as having been pierced.(6) From this unity of Person it follows,
by reason of a like mystery, that, since the flesh of the Word was born of
an undefiled mother, God the Word Himself is most Catholicly believed, most
impiously denied, to have been born of the Virgin; which being the case,
God forbid that any one should seek to defraud Holy Mary of her prerogative
of divine grace and her special glory. For by the singular gift of Him who
is our Lord and God, and withal, her own son, she is to be confessed most
truly and most blessedly--The mother of God "Theotocos," but not in the
sense in which it is imagined by a certain impious heresy which maintains,
that she is to be called the Mother of God for no other reason than because
she gave birth to that man who afterwards became God, just as we speak of a
woman as the mother of a priest, or the mother of a bishop, meaning that
she was such, not by giving birth to one already a priest or a bishop, but
by giving birth to one who afterwards became a priest or a bishop. Not
thus, I say, was the holy Mary "Theotocos," the mother of God, but rather,
as was said before, because in her sacred womb was wrought that most sacred
mystery whereby, on account of the singular and unique unity of Person, as
the Word in flesh is flesh, so Man in God is God.(1)

CHAPTER XVI: Recapitulation of what was said of the Catholic Faith and of
divers Heresies, Chapters xi-xv.

    [41.] BUT now that we may refresh our remembrance of what has been
briefly said concerning either the afore-mentioned heresies or the Catholic
Faith, let us go over it again more briefly and concisely, that being
repeated it may be more thoroughly understood, and being pressed home more
firmly held.

    Accursed then be Photinus, who does not receive the Trinity complete,
but asserts that Christ is mere man.

    Accursed be Apollinaris, who affirms that the Godhead of Christ is
marred by conversion, and defrauds Him of the property of perfect humanity.

    Accursed be Nestorius, who denies that God was born of the Virgin,
affirms two Christs, and rejecting the belief of the Trinity, brings in a
Quaternity.

    But blessed be the Catholic Church, which worships one God in the
completeness of the  Trinity, and at the same time adores the equality of
the Trinity in the unity of the Godhead, so that neither the singularity of
substance confounds the propriety of the Persons, not the distinction of
the Persons in the Trinity separates the unity of the Godhead.

    Blessed, I say, be the Church, which believes that in Christ there are
two true and perfect substances but one Person, so that neither doth the
distinction of natures divide the unity of Person, nor the unity of Person
confound the distinction of substances.

    Blessed, I say, be the Church, which understands God to have become
Man, not by conversion of nature, but by reason of a Person, but of a
Person not feigned and transient, but substantial and permanent.

    Blessed, I say, be the Church, which declares this unity of Person to
be so real and effectual, that because of it, in a marvellous and ineffable
mystery, she ascribes divine attributes to man, and human to God; because
of it, on the one hand, she does not deny that Man, as God, came down from
heaven, on the other, she believes that God, as Man, was created, suffered,
and was crucified on earth; because of it, finally, she confesses Man the
Son of God, and God the Son of the Virgin.

    Blessed, then, and venerable, blessed and most sacred, and altogether
worthy to be compared with those celestial praises of the Angelic Host, be
the confession which ascribes glory to the one Lord God with a threefold
ascription of holiness. For this reason moreover she insists emphatically
upon the oneness of the Person of Christ, that she may not go beyond the
mystery of the Trinity (that is by making in effect a Quaternity.)

    Thus much by way of digression. On another occasion, please God, we
will deal with the subject and unfold it more fully.(2) Now let us return
to the matter in hand.

CHAPTER XVII: The Error of Origen a great Trial to the Church.

    [42.] WE said above that in the Church of God the teacher's error is
the people's trial, a trial by so much the greater in proportion to the
greater learning of the erring teacher. This we showed first by the
authority of Scripture, and then by instances from Church History, of
persons who having at one time had the reputation of being sound in the
faith, eventually either fell away to some sect already in existence, or
else founded a heresy of their own. An important fact truly, useful to be
learnt, and necessary to be remembered, and to be illustrated and enforced
again and again, by example upon example, in order that all true Catholics
may understand that it behoves them with the Church to receive Teachers,
not with Teachers to desert the faith of the Church.

    [43.] My belief is, that among many instances of this sort of trial
which might be produced, there is not one to be compared with that of
Origen,(8) in whom there were many things so excellent, so unique, so
admirable, that antecedently any one would readily deem that implicit faith
was to be placed all his assertions. For if the conversation and manner of
life carry authority, great was his industry, great his modesty, his
patience, his endurance; if his descent or his erudition, what more noble
than his birth of a house rendered illustrious by martyrdom? Afterwards,
when in the cause of Christ he had been deprived not only of his father,
but also of all his property, he attained so high a standard in the midst
of the straits of holy poverty, that he suffered several times, it is said,
as a Confessor. Nor were these the only circumstances connected with him,
all of which afterwards proved an occasion of trial. He had a genius so
powerful, so profound, so acute, so elegant, that there was hardly any one
whom he did not very far surpass. The splendour of his learning, and of his
erudition generally, was such that there were few points of divine
philosophy, hardly any of human which he did not thoroughly master. When
Greek had yielded to his industry, he made himself a proficient in Hebrew.
What shall I say of his eloquence, the style of which was so charming, so
soft, so sweet, that honey rather than words seemed to flow from his mouth!
What subjects were there, however difficult, which he did not render clear
and perspicuous by the force of his reasoning? What undertakings, however
hard to accomplish, which he did not make to appear most easy? But perhaps
his assertions rested simply on ingeniously woven argumentation? On the
contrary, no teacher ever used more proofs drawn from Scripture. Then I
suppose he wrote little? No man more, so that, if I mistake not, his
writings not only cannot all be read through, they cannot all be found;(1)
for that nothing might be wanting to his opportunities of obtaining
knowledge, he had the additional advantage of a life greatly prolonged.(2)
But perhaps he was not particularly happy in his disciples? Who ever more
so? From his school came forth doctors, priests, confessors, martyrs,
without number.(3) Then who can express how much he was admired by all, how
great his renown, how wide his influence? Who was there whose religion was
at all above the common standard that did not hasten to him from the ends
of the earth? What Christian did not reverence him almost as a prophet;
what philosopher as a master? How great was the veneration with which he
was regarded, not only by private persons, but also by the Court, is
declared by the histories which relate how he was sent for by the mother of
the Emperor Alexander,(4) moved by the heavenly wisdom with the love of
which She, as he, was inflamed. To this also his letters bear witness,
which, with the authority which he assumed as a Christian Teacher, he wrote
to the Emperor Philip,(5) the first Roman prince that was a Christian. As
to his incredible learning, if any one is unwilling to receive the
testimony of Christians at our hands, let him at least accept that of
heathens at the hands of philosophers. For that impious Porphyry says that
when he was little more than a boy, incited by his fame, he went to
Alexandria, and there saw him, then an old man, but a man evidently of so
great attainments, that he had reached the summit of universal knowledge.

    [44.] Time would fail me to recount, even in a very small measure, the
excellencies of this man, all of which, nevertheless, not only contributed
to the glory of religion, but also increased the magnitude of the trial.
For who in the world would lightly desert a man of so great genius, so
great learning, so great influence, and would not rather adopt that saying,
That he would rather be wrong with Origen, than be right with others.(6)

    What shall I say more? The result was that very many were led astray
from the integrity of the faith, not by any human excellencies of this so
great man, this so great doctor, this so great prophet, but, as the event
showed, by the too perilous trial which he proved to be. Hence it came to
pass, that this Origen, such and so great as he was, wantonly abusing the
grace of God, rashly following the bent of his own genius, and placing
overmuch confidence in himself, making light account of the ancient
simplicity of the Christian religion, presuming that he knew more than all
the world besides, despising the traditions of the Church and the
determinations of the ancients, and interpreting certain passages of
Scripture in a novel way, deserved for himself the warning given to the
Church of God, as applicable in his case as in that of others, "If there
arise a prophet in the midst of thee," ... "thou shalt not hearken to the
words of that prophet," ... "because the Lord your God doth make trial of
you, whether you love Him or not."(1) Truly, thus of a sudden to seduce the
Church which was devoted to him, and hung upon him through admiration of
his genius, his learning, his eloquence, his manner of life and influence,
while she had no fear, no suspicion for herself,--thus, I say, to seduce
the Church, slowly and little by little, from the old religion to a new
profaneness, was not only a trial, but a great trial.(2)

    [45.] But some one will say, Origen's books have been corrupted. I do
not deny it; nay, I grant it readily. For that such is the case has been
handed down both orally and in writing, not only by Catholics, but by
heretics as well. But the point is, that though himself be not, yet books
published under his name are, a great trial, which, abounding in many
hurtful blasphemies, are both read and delighted in, not as being some one
else's, but as being believed to be his, so that, although there was no
error in Origen's original meaning, yet Origen's authority appears to be an
effectual cause in leading people to embrace error.

CHAPTER XVIII: Tertullian a great Trial to the Church.

    [46.] The case is the same with Tertullian.(8) For as Origen holds by
far the first place among the Greeks, so does Tertullian among the Latins.
For who more learned than he, who more versed in knowledge whether divine
or human? With marvellous capacity of mind he comprehended all philosophy,
and had a knowledge of all schools of philosophers, and of the founders and
upholders of schools, and was acquainted with all their rules and
observances, and with their various histories and studies. Was not his
genius of such unrivalled strength and vehemence that there was scarcely
any obstacle which he proposed to himself to overcome, that he did not
penetrate by acuteness, or crush by weight? As to his style, who can
sufficiently set forth its praise? It was knit together with so much
cogency of argument that it compelled assent, even where it failed to
persuade. Every word almost was a sentence; every sentence a victory. This
know the Marcions, the Apelleses, the Praxeases, the Hermogeneses, the
Jews, the Heathens, the Gnostics, and the rest, whose blasphemies he
overthrew by the force of his many and ponderous volumes, as with so many
thunderbolts. Yet this man also, notwithstanding all that I have mentioned,
this Tertullian, I say, too little tenacious of Catholic doctrine, that is,
of the universal and ancient faith, more eloquent by far than faithful,(4)
changed his belief, and justified what the blessed Confessor, Hilary,
writes of him, namely, that "by his subsequent error he detracted from the
authority of his approved writings."(5) He also was a great trial in the
Church. But of Tertullian I am unwilling to say more. This only I will add,
that, contrary to the injunction of Moses, by asserting the novel furies of
Montanus(6) which arose in the Church, and those mad dreams of new doctrine
dreamed by mad women, to be true prophecies, he deservedly made both
himself and his writings obnoxious to the words, "If there arise a prophet
in the midst of thee,"... "thou shall not hearken to the words of that
prophet. " For why? "Because the Lord your God doth make trial of you,
whether you love Him or not."

CHAPTER XIX: What we ought to learn from these Examples.

    [47] It behoves us, then, to give heed to these instances from Church
History, so many and so great, and others of the same description, and to
understand distinctly, in accordance with the rule laid down  Deuteronomy,
that if at any time a Doctor in the Church have erred from the faith,
Divine Providence permits it in order to make trial of us, whether or not
we love God with all our heart and with all our mind.

CHAPTER XX: The Notes of a true Catholic.

    [48.] This being the case, he is the true and genuine Catholic who
loves the truth of God, who loves the Church, who loves the Body of Christ,
who esteems divine religion and the Catholic Faith above every thing, above
the authority, above the regard, above the genius, above the eloquence,
above the philosophy, of every man whatsoever; who sets light by all of
these, and continuing steadfast and established in the faith, resolves that
he will believe that, and that only, which he is sure the Catholic Church
has held universally and from ancient time; but that whatsoever new and
unheard-of doctrine he shall find to have been furtively introduced by some
one or another, besides that of all, or contrary to that of all the saints,
this, he will under, stand, does not pertain to religion, but is permitted
as a trial, being instructed especially by the words of the blessed Apostle
Paul, who writes thus in his first Epistle to the Corinthians, " There must
needs be heresies, that they who are approved may be made manifest among
you:"(1) as though he should say, This is the reason why the authors of
Heresies are not forthwith rooted up by God, namely, that they who are
approved may be made manifest that is, that it may be apparent of each
individual, how tenacious and faithful and steadfast he is in his love of
the Catholic faith.

    [49.] And in truth, as each novelty springs up incontinently is
discerned the difference between the weight of the wheat and the lightness
of the chaff. Then that which had no weight to keep it on the floor is
without difficulty blown away. For some at once fly off entirely; others
having been only shaken out, afraid of perishing, wounded, half alive, half
dead, are ashamed to return. They have, in fact swallowed a quantity of
poison--not enough to kill, yet more than can be got rid of; it neither
causes death, nor suffers to live. O wretched condition! With what surging
tempestuous cares are they tossed about !One while, the error being set in
motion, they are hurried whithersoever the wind drives them; another,
returning upon themselves like refluent waves, they are dashed back: one
while, with rash presumption, they give their approval to what seems
uncertain; another, with irrational fear, they are frightened out of their
wits at what is certain, in doubt whither to go, whither to return, what to
seek, what to shun, what to keep, what to throw away.

    [50.] This affliction, indeed, of a hesitating and miserably
vacillating mind is, if they are wise, a medicine intended for them by
God's compassion. For therefore it is that outside the most secure harbour
of the Catholic Faith, they are tossed about, beaten, and almost killed, by
divers tempestuous cogitations, in order that they may take in the sails of
self-conceit, which, they had with ill advice unfurled to the blasts of
novelty, and may betake themselves again to, and remain stationary within,
the most secure harbour of their placid and good mother, and may begin by
vomiting up those bitter and turbid floods of error which they had
swallowed, that thenceforward they may be able to drink the streams of
fresh and living water. Let them unlearn well what they had learnt not
well, and let them receive so much of the entire doctrine of the Church as
they can understand: what they cannot understand let them believe.

CHAPTER. XXI: Exposition of St. Paul's Words.--1 Tim. vi.  20.

    [51.] Such being the case, when I think over these things, and revolve
them in my mind again and again, I cannot sufficiently wonder at the
madness of certain men, at the impiety of their blinded understanding, at
their lust of error, such that, not content with the rule of faith
delivered once for all, and received from the times of old, they are every
day seeking one novelty after another, and are constantly longing to add,
change, take away, in religion, as though the doctrine, " Let what has once
for all been revealed suffice," were not a heavenly but an earthly rule,--a
rule which could not be complied with except by continual emendation, nay,
rather by continual fault-finding; whereas the divine Oracles cry aloud,
"Remove not the landmarks, which thy fathers have set,"(2)  and "Go not to
law with a Judge,''(8) and "Whoso breaketh through a fence a serpent shall
bite him,"(4) and that saying of the Apostle wherewith, as with a spiritual
sword, all the wicked novelties of all heresies often have been, and will
always have to be, decapitated, "O Timothy, keep the deposit, shunning
profane novelties of words and oppositions of the knowledge falsely so
called, which some professing have erred concerning the faith."(1)

    [52.3] After words such as these, is there any one of so hardened a
front, such anvil- like impudence, such adamantine pertinacity, as not to
succumb to so huge a mass, not to be crushed by so ponderous a weight, not
to be shaken in pieces by such heavy blows, not to be annihilated by such
dreadful thunderbolts of divine eloquence? "Shun profane novelties," he
says. He does not say shun "antiquity." But he plainly points to what ought
to follow by the rule of contrary. For if novelty is to be shunned,
antiquity is to be held fast; if novelty is profane, antiquity is sacred.
He adds, " And oppositions of science falsely so called." "Falsely called "
indeed, as applied to the doctrines of heretics, where ignorance is
disguised under the name of knowledge, fog of sunshine, darkness of light.
"Which some professing have erred concerning the faith." Professing what?
What but some (I know not what) new and unheard-of doctrine. For thou
mayest hear some of these same doctors say, "Come, O silly wretches, who go
by the name of Catholics, come and learn the true faith, which no one but
ourselves is acquainted with, which same has lain hid these many ages, but
has recently been revealed and made manifest. But learn it by stealth and
in secret, for you will be delighted with it. Moreover, when you have
learnt it, teach it furtively, that the world may not hear, that the Church
may not know. For there are but few to whom it is granted to receive  the
secret of so great a mystery." Are not these the words of that harlot who,
in the proverbs of Solomon, calls to the passengers who go right on their
ways, "Whoso is simple let him turn in hither." And as for them that are
void of understanding, she exhorts them saying: "Drink stolen waters, for
they are sweet, and eat bread in secret for it is pleasant." What next?
"But he knoweth not that the sons of earth perish in her house."(1) Who are
those "sons of earth "? Let the apostle explain: "Those who have erred
concerning the faith."

CHAPTER XXII: A more particular Exposition of 1 Tim. vi. 20.

    [53.] But it is worth while to expound the whole of that passage of the
apostle more fully, "O Timothy, keep the deposit, avoiding profane
novelties of words."

    "O!" The exclamation implies foreknowledge as well as charity. For he
mourned in anticipation over the errors which he foresaw. Who is the
Timothy of to-day, but either generally the Universal Church, or in
particular, the whole body of The Prelacy, whom it behoves either
themselves to possess or to communicate to others a complete knowledge of
religion? What is "Keep the deposit "? " Keep it," because of thieves,
because of adversaries, lest, while men sleep, they sow tares over that
good wheat which the Son of Man had sown in his field. "Keep the deposit."
What is "The deposit"? That which has been intrusted to thee, not that
which thou hast thyself devised: a matter not of wit, but of learning; not
of private adoption, but of public tradition; a matter brought to thee, not
put forth by thee, wherein thou art bound to be not an author but a keeper,
not a teacher but a disciple, not a leader but a follower. "Keep the
deposit." Preserve the talent of Catholic Faith inviolate, unadulterate.
That which has been intrusted to thee, let it continue in thy possession,
let it be handed on by thee. Thou hast received gold; give gold in turn. Do
not substitute one thing for another. DO not for gold impudently substitute
lead or brass. Give real gold, not counterfeit.

    O Timothy! O Priest! O Expositor! O Doctor! if the divine gift hath
qualified thee by wit, by skill, by learning, be thou a Bazaleel of the
spiritual tabernacle,(8) engrave the precious gems of divine doctrine, fit
them in accurately, adorn them skilfully, add splendor, grace, beauty. Let
that which formerly was believed, though imperfectly apprehended, as
expounded by thee be clearly understood. Let posterity welcome, understood
through thy exposition, what antiquity venerated without understanding. Yet
teach still i the same truths which thou hast learnt, so that though thou
speakest after a new fashion, what thou speakest may not be new.

CHAPTER XXIII: On Development in Religious Knowledge.

    [54.] But some one will say. perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress
in Christ's Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is
there, so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to
forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the
faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged n itself,
alteration, that it be transformed into something else. The intelligence,
then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of all, as well
of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of ages and
centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but yet only in
its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same sense, and
in the same meaning.

    [55.] The growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the
growth of the body, which, though in process of years it is developed and
attains its full size, yet remains still the same. There is a wide
diference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age; yet they who
were once young are still the same now that they have become old, insomuch
that though the stature and outward form of the individual are changed, yet
his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the same. An infant's
limbs are small, a young man's large, yet the infant and the young man are
the same. Men when full grown have the same number of joints that they had
when children; and if there be any to which maturer age has given birth
these were already present in embryo, so that nothing new is produced in
them when old which was not already latent in them when children. This,
then, is undoubtedly the true and legitimate rule of progress, this the
established and most beautiful order of growth, that mature age ever
develops in the man those parts and forms which the wisdom of the Creator
had already framed beforehand in the infant. Whereas, if the human form
were changed into some shape belonging to another kind, or at any rate, if
the number of its limbs were increased or diminished, the result would be
that the whole body would become either a wreck or a monster, or, at the
least, would be impaired and enfeebled.

    [56.] In like manner, it behoves Christian doctrine to follow the same
laws of progress, so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time,
refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate,
complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak,
in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its
distinctive property, no variation in its limits.

    [57.] For example: Our forefathers in the old time sowed wheat in the
Church's field. It would be most unmeet and iniquitous if we, their
descendants, instead of the genuine truth of corn, should reap the
counterfeit error of tares. This rather should be the result,--there should
be no discrepancy between the first and the last. From doctrine which was
sown as wheat, we should reap, in the increase, doctrine of the same kind--
wheat also; so that when in process of time any of the original seed is
developed, and now flourishes under cultivation, no change may ensue in the
character of the plant. There may supervene shape, form, variation in
outward appearance, but the nature of each kind must remain the same. God
forbid that those rose-beds of Catholic interpretation should be converted
into thorns and thistles. God forbid that in that spiritual paradise from
plants of cinnamon and balsam darnel and wolfsbane should of a sudden shoot
forth.

    Therefore, whatever has been sown by the fidelity of the Fathers in
this husbandry of God's Church, the same ought to be cultivated and taken
care of by the industry of their children, the same ought to flourish and
ripen, the same ought to advance and go forward to perfection. For it is
right that those ancient doctrines of heavenly philosophy should, as time
goes on, be cared for, smoothed, polished; but not that they should be
changed, not that they should be maimed, not that they should be mutilated.
They may receive proof, illustration, definiteness; but they must retain
withal their completeness, their integrity, their characteristic
properties.

    [58.] For if once this license of impious fraud be admitted, I dread to
say in how great danger religion will be of being utterly destroyed and
annihilated. For if any one part of Catholic truth be given up, another,
and another, and another will thenceforward be given up as a matter of
course, and the several individual portions having been rejected, what will
follow in the end but the rejection of the whole? On the other hand, if
what is new begins to be mingled with what is old, foreign with domestic,
profane with sacred, the custom will of necessity creep on universally,
till at last the Church will have nothing left untampered with, nothing
unadulterated, nothing sound, nothing pure; but where formerly there was a
sanctuary of chaste and undefiled truth, thenceforward there will be a
brothel of impious and base errors. May God's mercy avert this wickedness
from the minds of his servants; be it rather the frenzy of the ungodly.

    [59.] But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of
the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them,
never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not
add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, does not appropriate what
is another's, but while dealing faithfully and judiciously with ancient
doctrine, keeps this one object carefully in view,--if there be anything
which antiquity has left shapeless and rudimentary, to fashion and polish
it, if anything already reduced to shape and developed, to consolidate and
strengthen it, if any already ratified and defined to keep and guard it.
Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees,
than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in
future be believed intelligently, that what was before preached coldly
should in future be preached earnestly, that what was before practised
negligently should thenceforward be practised with double solicitude? This,
I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of heretics,
has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils,--this, and nothing else,--
she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had
received from those of olden times only by tradition, comprising a great
amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding,
designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new
name.(1)

CHAPTER XXIV: Continuation of the Exposition of 1 Tim. vi. 20.

  [60.] But let us return to the apostle. "O Timothy," he says, "Guard the
deposit,; shunning profane novelties of words. " "Shun them as you would a
viper, as you would a scorpion, as you would a basilisk, lest  they smite
you not only with their touch, but I even with their eyes and breath." What
is "to shun"? Not even to eat  with a person of this  sort What is "shun"?
"If anyone," says St. John, "come to you and bring not this doctrine. What
doctrine? What but the Catholic and universal doctrine, which has continued
one and the same through the several successions of ages by the uncorrupt
tradition of the truth and so will continue for ever--"Receive him not into
your house, neither bid him Godspeed, for he that biddeth him Godspeed
communicates with him in his evil deeds."(8)

    [61.] "Profane novelties of words" What words are these? Such as have
nothing sacred, nothing religious, words utterly" remote from the inmost
sanctuary of the Church which is the temple of God. "Profane novelties of
words, that is, of doctrines, subjects, opinions, such as are contrary to
antiquity and the faith of the olden time. Which if they be received, it
follows necessarily that the faith of the blessed fathers is violated
either in whole, or at all events in great part; it follows necessarily
that all the faithful of all ages, all the saints, the chaste, the
continent, the virgins, all the clergy, Deacons and Priests, so many
thousands of Confessors, so vast an army of martyrs, such multitudes of
cities and of peoples, so many islands, provinces, kings, tribes, kingdoms,
nations, in a word, almost the whole earth, incorporated in Christ the
Head, through the Catholic faith, have been ignorant for so long a tract of
time, have been mistaken, have blasphemed, have not known what to believe,
what to confess.

    [62.] "Shun profane novelties of words," which to receive and follow
was never the part of Catholics; of heretics always was. In sooth, what
heresy ever burst forth save under a definite name, at a definite place, at
a definite time? Who ever originated a heresy that did not first dissever
himself from the consentient agreement of the universality and antiquity of
the Catholic Church? That this is so is demonstrated in the clearest way by
examples. For who ever before that profane Pelagius(4) attributed so much
antecedent strength to Free-will, as to deny the necessity of God's grace
to aid it towards good in every single act? Who ever before his monstrous
disciple Coelestius denied that the, whole human race is involved in the
guilt of Adam's sin? Who ever before sacrilegious Arius dared to rend
asunder the unity of the Trinity? Who before impious Sabellius was so
audacious as to confound the Trinity of the Unity? Who before cruellest
Novatian represented God as cruel in that He had rather the wicked should
die than that he should be converted and live? Who before Simon Magus, who
was smitten by the apostle's rebuke, and from whom that ancient sink of
every thing vile has flowed by a secret continuous succession even to
Priscillian of our own time,--who, I say, before this Simon Magus, dared to
say that God, the Creator, is the author of evil, that is, of our
wickednesses, impieties, flagitiousnesses, inasmuch as he asserts that He
created with His own hands a human nature of such a description, that of
its own motion, and by the impulse of its necessity-constrained will, it
can do nothing else, can will nothing else, but sin, seeing that tossed to
and fro, and set on fire by the furies of all sorts of vices, it is hurried
away by unquenchable lust into the utmost extremes of baseness?

    [63.] There are innumerable instances of this kind, which for brevity's
sake, pass over; by all of which, however, it is manifestly and clearly
shown, that it is an established law, in the case of almost all heresies,
that they evermore delight in profane novelties, scorn the decisions of
antiquity, and, through oppositions of science falsely so called, make
shipwreck of the faith. On the other hand, it is the sure characteristic of
Catholics to keep that which has been committed to their trust by the holy
Fathers, to condemn profane novelties, and, in the apostle's words, once
and again repeated, to anathematize every one who preaches any other
doctrine than that which has been received.(1)

CHAPTER XXV: Heretics appeal to Scripture that they may more easily succeed
in deceiving.

    [64.] HERE, possibly, some one may ask, Do heretics also appeal to
Scripture? They do indeed, and with a vengeance; for you may see them
scamper through every single book of Holy Scripture,--through the books of
Moses, the books of Kings, the Psalms, the Epistles, the Gospels, the
Prophets. Whether among their own people, or among strangers, in private or
in public, in speaking or in writing, at convivial meetings, or in the
streets, hardly ever do they bring forward anything of their own which they
do not endeavour to shelter under words of Scripture. Read the works of
Paul of Samosata, of Priscillian, of Eunomius, of Jovinian, and the rest of
those pests, and you will see an infinite heap of instances, hardly a
single page, which does not bristle with plausible quotations from the New
Testament or the Old.

    [65.] But the more secretly they conceal themselves under shelter of
the Divine Law, so much the more are they to be feared and guarded against.
For they know that the evil stench of their doctrine will hardly find
acceptance with any one if it be exhaled pure and simple. They sprinkle it
over, therefore, with the perfume of heavenly language, in order that one
who would be ready to despise human error, may hesitate to condemn divine
words. They do, in fact, what nurses do when they would prepare some bitter
draught for children; they smear the edge of the cup all round with honey,
that the unsuspecting child, having first tasted the sweet, may have no
fear of the bitter. So too do these act, who disguise poisonous herbs and
noxious juices under the names of medicines, so that no one almost, when he
reads the label, suspects the poison.

    [66.] It was for this reason that the Saviour cried, "Beware of false
prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are
ravening wolves."(2) What is meant by "sheep's closing"? What but the words
which prophets and apostles with the guilelessness of sheep wove beforehand
as fleeces, for that immaculate Lamb which taketh away the sin of the
world? What are the ravening wolves? What but the savage and rabid glosses
of heretics, who continually infest the Church's folds, and tear in pieces
the flock of Christ wherever they are able? But that they may with more
successful guile steal upon the unsuspecting sheep, retaining the ferocity
of the wolf, they put off his appearance, and wrap themselves, so to say,
in the language of the Divine Law, as in a fleece, so that one, having felt
the softness of wool, may have no dread of the wolf's fangs. But what saith
the Saviour? "By !their fruits ye shall know them;" that is, when they have
begun not only to quote those divine words, but also to expound them, not
as yet only to make a boast of them as on their side, but also to interpret
them, then will that bitterness, that acerbity, that rage, be understood;
then will the ill-savour of that novel poison be perceived, then will those
profane novelties be disclosed, then may you see first the hedge broken
through, then the landmarks of the Fathers removed, then the Catholic faith
assailed, then the doctrine of the Church torn in pieces.

    [67.] Such were they whom the Apostle Paul rebukes in his Second
Epistle to the Corinthians, when he says, "For of this sort are false
apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of
Christ."(1) The apostles brought forward instances from Holy Scripture;
these men did the same. The apostles cited the authority of the Psalms;
these men did so likewise. The apostles brought forward passages from the
prophets; these men still did the same. But when they began to interpret in
different senses the passages which both had agreed in appealing to, then
were discerned the guileless from the crafty, the genuine from the
counterfeit, the straight from the crooked, then, in one word, the true
apostles from the false apostles. "And no wonder," he says, "for Satan
himself transforms himself into an angel of light. It is no marvel then if
his servants are transformed as the servants of righteousness." Therefore,
according to the authority of the Apostle Paul, as often as either false
apostles or false teachers cite passages from the Divine Law, by means of
which, misinterpreted, they seek to prop up their own errors, there is no
doubt that they are following the cunning devices of their father, which
assuredly he would never have devised, but that he knew that where he could
fraudulently and by stealth introduce error, there is no easier way of
effecting his impious purpose than by pretending the authority of Holy
Scripture.

CHAPTER XXVI: Heretics, in quoting Scripture, follow the example of the
Devil.

    [68.] BUT some one will say, What proof have we that the Devil is wont
to appeal to Holy Scripture? Let him read the Gospels wherein it is
written, "Then the Devil took Him (the Lord the Saviour) and set Him upon a
pinnacle of the Temple, and said unto  Him: If thou be the Son of God, cast
thyself down, for it is written, He shall give His angels charge concerning
thee, that they may  keep thee in all thy ways: In their hands they shall
bear thee up, lest perchance thou dash thy foot against a stone."(2) What
sort of treatment must men, insignificant wretches that they are, look for
at the hands of him who assailed even the Lord of Glory with quotations
from Scripture? "If thou be the Son of God," saith be, "cast the, self
down." Wherefore? "For," saith he, "it is written." It behoves us to pay
special attention to this passage and bear it in mind, that, warned by so
important an instance of Evangelical authority, we may be assured beyond
doubt, when we find people alleging passages from the Apostles or Prophets
against the Catholic Faith, that the Devil speaks through their mouths. For
as then the Head spoke to the Head, so now also the members speak to the
members, the members of the Devil to the members of Christ, misbelievers to
believers, sacrilegious to religious, in one word, Heretics to Catholics.

    [69.] But what do they say? "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself
down;" that is,. If thou wouldst be a son of God, and wouldst receive the
inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, cast thyself down; that is, cast
thyself down from the doctrine and tradition of that sublime Church, which
is imagined to be  nothing less than the very temple of God. And if one
should ask one of the heretics who gives this advice, How do you prove?
What  ground have you, for saying, that I ought to cast away the universal
and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? he has the answer ready, "For it
is written;" and forthwith he produces a thousand testimonies, a thousand
examples, a thousand authorities from the Law, from the Psalms, from the
apostles, from the Prophets, by means of which, interpreted on a new and
wrong principle, the unhappy soul may be precipitated from the height of
Catholic truth to the lowest abyss of heresy. Then, with the accompanying
promises, the heretics are wont marvellously to beguile the incautious. For
they dare to teach and promise, that in their church, that is, in the
conventicle of their communion, there is a certain great and special and
altogether personal grace of God, so that whosoever pertain to their
number, without any labour, without any effort, without any industry, even
though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock, have such a dispensation from
God, that, borne up by angel hands, that is, preserved by the protection of
angels, it is impossible they should ever dash their feet against a stone,
that is, that they should ever be offended.(3)

CHAPTER XXVII: What Rule is to be observed in the Interpretation of
Scripture.

    [70.] BUT it will be said, If the words, the sentiments, the promises
of Scripture, are appealed to by the Devil and his disciples, of whom some
are false apostles, some false prophets and false teachers, and all without
exception heretics, what are Catholics and the sons of Mother Church to do?
How are they to distinguish truth from falsehood in the sacred Scriptures?
They must be very careful to pursue that course which, in the beginning of
this Commonitory, we said that holy and learned men had commended to us,
that is to say, they must interpret the sacred Canon according to the
traditions of the Universal Church and in keeping with the rules of
Catholic doctrine, in which Catholic and Universal Church, moreover, they
must follow universality, antiquity, consent. And if at any time a part
opposes itself to the whole, novelty to antiquity, the dissent of one or a
few who are in error to the consent of all or at all events of the great
majority of Catholics, then they must prefer the soundness of the whole to
the corruption of a part; in which same whole they must prefer the religion
of antiquity to the profaneness of novelty; and in antiquity itself in like
manner, to the temerity of one or of a very few they must prefer, first of
all, the general decrees, if such there be, of a Universal Council, or if
there be no such, then, what is next best, they must follow the consentient
belief of many and great masters. Which rule having been faithfully,
soberly, and scrupulously observed, we shall with little difficulty detect
the noxious errors of heretics as they arise.

CHAPTER XXVIII: In what Way, on collating the consentient opinions of the
Ancient Masters, the Novelties of Heretics may be detected and condemned.

    [71.] AND here I perceive that, as a necessary sequel to the foregoing,
I ought to show by examples in what way, by collating the consentient
opinions of the ancient masters, the profane novelties of heretics may be
detected and condemned. Yet in the investigation of this ancient consent of
the holy Fathers we are to bestow our pains not on every minor question of
the Divine Law, but only, at all events especially, where the Rule of Faith
is concerned. Nor is this way of dealing with heresy to be resorted to
always, or in every instance, but only in the case of those heresies which
are new and recent, and that on their first arising, before they have had
time to deprave the Rules of the Ancient Faith, and before they endeavour,
while the poison spreads and diffuses itself, to corrupt the writings of
the ancients. But heresies already widely diffused and of old standing are
by no means to be thus dealt with, seeing that through lapse of time they
have long had opportunity of corrupting the truth. And therefore, as to the
more ancient schisms or heresies, we ought either to confute them, if need
be, by the sole authority of the Scriptures, or at any rate, to shun them
as having  been already of old convicted and condemned by universal
councils of the Catholic Priesthood.

    [72.] Therefore, as soon as the corruption of each mischievous error
begins to break forth, and to defend itself by filching certain passages of
Scripture, and expounding them fraudulently and deceitfully, forthwith, the
opinions of the ancients in the interpretation of the Canon are to be
collected, whereby the novelty, and consequently the profaneness, whatever
it may be, that arises, may both without any doubt be exposed, and without
any tergiversation be condemned. But the opinions of those Fathers only are
to be used for comparison, who living and teaching, holily, wisely, and
with constancy, in the Catholic faith and communion, were counted worthy
either to die in the faith of Christ, or to suffer death happily for
Christ. Whom yet we are to believe on this condition, that that only is to
be accounted indubitable, certain, established, which either all, or the
more part, have supported and confirmed manifestly, frequently,
persistently, in one and the same sense, forming, as it were, a consentient
council of doctors, all receiving, holding, handing on the same doctrine.
But whatsoever a teacher holds, other than all, or contrary to all, be he
holy and learned, be he a bishop, be he a Confessor, be he a martyr, let
that be regarded as a private fancy of his own, and be separated from the
authority of common, public, general persuasion, lest, after the
sacrilegious custom of heretics and schismatics, rejecting the ancient
truth of the universal Creed, we follow, at the utmost peril of our eternal
salvation, the newly devised error of one man.

    [73.] Lest any one perchance should rashly think the holy and Catholic
consent of these blessed fathers to be despised, the Apostle says, in the
First Epistle to the Corinthians, "God hath placed some in the  Church,
first Apostles,"(1) of whom himself was one; "secondly Prophets," such as
Agabus, read in the Acts of the Apostles;(2) of whom we "then doctors," who
are now called Homilists, Expositors,(8) whom the same apostle sometimes
calls also "Prophets," because by them the mysteries of the Prophets are
opened to the people. Whosoever, therefore, shall despise these, who had
their appointment of God in His Church in their several times and places,
when they are unanimous in Christ, in the interpretation of some one point
of Catholic doctrine, despises not man, but God, from whose unity in the
truth, lest any one should vary, the same Apostle earnestly protests, "I
beseech you, brethren, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be
no divisions among you, but that ye be perfectly joined together in the
same mind and in the same judgment."(4) But if any one dissent from their
unanimous decision, let him listen to the words of the same apostle," "God
is not the God of dissension but of peace;"(5) that is, not of him who
departs from the unity of consent, but of those who remain steadfast in the
peace of consent: "as," he continues, "I teach in all Churches of the
saints," that is, of Catholics, which churches are therefore churches of
the saints, because they continue steadfast in the communion of the faith.

    [74.] And lest any one, disregarding every one else, should arrogantly
claim to be listened to himself alone, himself alone to be believed, the
Apostle goes on to say, "Did the word of God proceed from you, or did it
come to you only?" And, lest this should be thought lightly spoken, he
continues, "If any man seem to be a prophet or a spiritual person, let him
acknowledge that the things which I write unto you are the Lord's
commands." As to which, unless a man be a prophet or a spiritual person,
that is, a master in spiritual matters, let him be as observant as possible
of impartiality and unity, so as neither to prefer his own opinions to
those of every one besides, nor to recede from the belief of the whole
body. Which injunction, whoso ignores, shall be himself ignored;(6) that
is, he who either does not learn what he does not know, or treats with
contempt what he knows, shall be ignored, that is, shall be deemed unworthy
to be ranked of God with those who are united to each other by faith, and
equalled with each other by humility, than which I cannot imagine a more
terrible evil. This it is however which, according to the Apostle's
threatening, we see to have befallen Julian the Pelagian,(7) who either
neglected to associate himself with the belief of his fellow Christians, or
presumed to dissociate himself from it.

    [75.] But it is now time to bring forward the exemplification which we
promised, where and how the sentences of the holy Fathers have been
collected together, so that in accordance with them, by the decree and
authority of a council, the rule of the Church's faith may be settled.
Which that it may be done the more conveniently, let this present
Commonitory end here, so that the remainder which is to follow may be begun
from a fresh beginning.

[The Second Book of the Commonitory is lost. Nothing of it remains but the
conclusion: in other words, the recapitulation which follows.]

CHAPTER XXIX: Recapitulation.

    [76.] THIS being the case, it is now time that we should recapitulate,
at the close of this second Commonitory, what was said in that and in the
preceding.

    We said above, that it has always been the custom of Catholics, and
still is, to prove the true faith in these two ways; first by the authority
of the Divine Canon, and next by the tradition of the Catholic Church. Not
that the Canon alone does not of itself suffice for every question, but
seeing that the more part, interpreting the divine words according to their
own persuasion, take up various erroneous opinions, it is therefore
necessary that the interpretation of divine Scripture should be ruled
according to the one standard of the Church's belief, especially in those
articles on which the foundations of all Catholic doctrine rest.

    [77.] We said likewise, that in the Church itself regard must be had to
the consentient voice of universality equally with that of antiquity, lest
we either be torn from the integrity of unity and carried away to schism,
or be precipitated from the religion of antiquity into heretical novelties.
We said, further, that in this same ecclesiastical antiquity two points are
very carefully and earnestly to be held in view by those who would keep
clear of heresy: first, they should ascertain whether any decision has been
given in ancient times as to the matter in question by the whole priesthood
of the Catholic Church, with the authority of a General Council: and,
secondly, if some new question should arise on which no such decision has
been given, they should then have recourse to the opinions of the holy
Fathers, of those at least, who, each in his own time and place, remaining
in the unity of communion and of the faith, were accepted as approved
masters; and whatsoever these may be found to have held, with one mind and
with one consent, this Ought to be accounted the true and Catholic doctrine
of the Church, without any doubt or scruple.

  [78.] Which lest we should seem to allege presumptuously on our own
warrant rather than on the authority of the Church, we appealed to the
example of the holy council which some three years ago was held at
Ephesus(1) in Asia, in the consulship of Bassus and Antiochus, where, when
question was raised as to the authoritative determining of rules of faith,
lest, perchance, any profane novelty should creep in, as did the perversion
of the truth at Ariminum,(2) the whole body of priests there assembled,
nearly two hundred in number, approved of this as the most Catholic, the
most trustworthy, and the best course, viz., to bring forth into the midst
the sentiments of the holy Fathers, some of whom it was well known had been
martyrs, some Confessors, but all had been, and continued to the end to be,
Catholic priests, in order that by their consentient determination the
reverence due to ancient truth might be duly and solemnly confirmed, and
the blasphemy of profane novelty condemned. Which having been done, that
impious Nestorius was lawfully and deservedly adjudged to be opposed to
Catholic antiquity, and contrariwise blessed Cyril to be in agreement with
it. And that nothing might be wanting to the credibility of the matter, we
recorded the names and the number (though we had forgotten the order) of
the Fathers, according to whose consentient and unanimous judgment, both
the sacred preliminaries of judicial procedure were expounded, and the rule
of divine truth established. Whom, that we may strengthen our memory, it
will be no superfluous labour to mention again here also.!

CHAPTER XXX: The Council of Ephesus.

    [79.] THESE then are the men whose writings, whether as judges or as
witnesses, were recited in the Council: St. Peter, bishop of Alexandria, a
most excellent Doctor and most blessed martyr, Saint Athanasius, bishop of
the same city, a most faithful Teacher, and most eminent Confessor, Saint
Theophilus, also bishop of fie same city, a man illustrious for his faith,
his life, his knowledge, whose successor, the revered Cyril, now(8) adorns
the Alexandrian Church. And lest perchance the doctrine ratified by the
Council should be thought peculiar to one city and province, there were
added also those lights of Cappadocia, St. Gregory of Nazianzus, bishop and
Confessor, St. Basil of Caesarea in Cappadocia, bishop and Confessor, and
the other St. Gregory, St. Gregory of Nyssa, for his faith, his
conversation, his integrity, and his wisdom, most worthy to be the brother
of Basil. And lest Greece or the East should seem to stand alone, to prove
that the Western and Latin world also have always held the same belief,
there were read in the Council certain Epistles of St. Felix, martyr, and
St. Julius, both bishops of Rome. And that not only the Head, but the other
parts, of the world also might bear witness to the judgment of the council,
there was added from the South the most blessed Cyprian, bishop of Carthage
and martyr, and from the North St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan.

    [80.] These all then, to the sacred number of the decalogue,(4) were
produced at Ephesus as doctors, councillors, witnesses, judges. And that
blessed council holding their doctrine, following their counsel, believing
their witness, submitting to their judgment without haste, without foregone
conclusion, without partiality, gave their determination concerning the
Rules of Faith. A much greater number of the ancients might have been
adduced; but it was needless, because neither was it fit that the time
should be occupied by a multitude of witnesses, nor does any one suppose
that those ten were really of a different mind from the rest of their
colleagues.

CHAPTER XXXI: The Constancy of the Ephesine Fathers in driving away Novelty
and maintaining Antiquity.

    [81.] AFTER the preceding we added also the sentence of blessed Cyril,
which is contained in these same Ecclesiastical Proceedings. For when the
Epistle of Capreolus,(1) bishop of Carthage, had been read, wherein he
earnestly intreats that novelty may be driven away and antiquity
maintained, Cyril made and carried the proposal, which it may not be out of
place to insert here: For says he, at the close of the proceedings, "Let
the Epistle of Capreolus also, the reverend and very religious bishop of
Carthage, which has been read, be inserted in the acts. His mind is
obvious, for he intreats that the doctrines of the ancient faith be
confirmed, such as are novel, wantonly devised, and impiously promulgated,
reprobated and condemned." All the bishops cried out, "These are the words
of all; this we all say, this we all desire." What mean "the words of all,"
what mean "the desires of all," but that what has been handed down from
antiquity should be retained, what has been newly devised, rejected with
disdain?

    [82.] Next we expressed our admiration of the humility and sanctity of
that Council, such that, though the number of priests was so great, almost
the more part of them metropolitans, so erudite, so learned, that almost
all were capable of taking part in doctrinal discussions, whom the very
circumstance of their being assembled for the purpose, might seem to
embolden to make some determination on their own authority, yet they
innovated nothing, presumed nothing, arrogated to themselves absolutely
nothing, but used all possible care to hand down nothing to posterity but
what they had themselves received from their Fathers. And not only did they
dispose satisfactorily of the matter presently in hand, but they also set
an example to those who should come after them, how they also should adhere
to the determinations of sacred antiquity, and condemn the devices of
profane novelty.

    [83.] We inveighed also against the wicked presumption of Nestorius in
boasting that he was the first and the only one who understood holy
Scripture, and that all those teachers were ignorant, who before him had
expounded the sacred oracles, forsooth, the whole body of priests, the
whole body of Confessors and martyrs, of whom some had published
commentaries upon the Law of God, others had agreed with them in their
comments, or had acquiesced in them. In a word, he confidently asserted
that the whole Church was even now m error, and always had been in error,
in that, as it seemed to him, it had followed, and was following, ignorant
and  misguided teachers.

CHAPTER XXXII: The zeal of Celestine and Sixtus, bishops of Rome, in
opposing Novelty.

    [84.] THE foregoing would be enough and very much more than enough, to
crush and annihilate every profane novelty. But yet that nothing might be
wanting to such completeness of proof, we added, at the close, the twofold
authority of the Apostolic See, first, that of holy Pope Sixtus, the
venerable prelate who now adorns the Roman Church; and secondly that of his
predecessor, Pope Celestine of blessed memory, which same we think it
necessary to insert here also.

    Holy Pope Sixtus(2) then says in an Epistle which he wrote on
Nestorius's matter to the bishop of Antioch, "Therefore, because, as the
Apostle says, the faith is one,--evidently the faith which has obtained
hitherto,--let us believe the things that are to be said, and say the
things that are to be held." What are the things that are to be believed
and to be said? He goes on: "Let no license be allowed to novelty, because
it is not fit that any addition should be made to antiquity. Let not the
clear faith and belief of our forefathers be fouled by any muddy
admixture." A truly apostolic sentiment! He enhances the belief of the
Fathers by the epithet of clearness; profane novelties he calls muddy.

    [85.] Holy Pope Celestine also expresses himself in like manner and to
the same effect. For in the Epistle which he wrote to the priests of Gaul,
charging them with connivance with error, in that by their silence they
failed in their duty to the ancient faith, and allowed profane novelties to
spring up, he says: "We are deservedly to blame if we encourage error by
silence. Therefore rebuke these people. Restrain their liberty of
preaching." But here some one may doubt who they are whose liberty to
preach as they, list he forbids,--the preachers of antiquity or the
devisers of novelty. Let himself tell us; let himself resolve the reader's
doubt. For he goes on: "If the case be so (that is, if the case be so as
certain persons complain to me touching your cities and provinces, that by
your hurtful dissimulation you cause them to consent to certain novelties),
if the case be so, let novelty cease to assail antiquity." This, then, was
the sentence of blessed Celestine, not that antiquity should cease to
subvert novelty, but that novelty should cease to assail antiquity.(2)

CHAPTER XXXIII: The Children of the Catholic Church ought to adhere to the
Faith of their Fathers and die for it.

    [86.] WHOEVER then gainsays these Apostolic and Catholic
determinations, first of all necessarily insults the memory of holy
Celestine, who decreed that novelty should cease to assail antiquity; and
in the next place sets at naught the decision of holy Sixtus, whose
sentence was, "Let no license be allowed to novelty, since it is not fit
that any addition be made to antiquity;" moreover, he condemns the
determination of blessed Cyril, who extolled with high praise the zeal of
the venerable Capreolus, in that he would fain have the ancient doctrines
of the faith confirmed, and novel inventions condemned; yet more, he
tramples upon the Council of Ephesus, that is, on the decisions of the holy
bishops of almost the whole East, who decreed, under divine guidance, that
nothing ought to be believed by posterity save what the sacred antiquity of
the holy Fathers, consentient in Christ, had held, who with one voice, and
with loud acclaim, testified that these were the words of all, this was the
wish of all, this was the sentence of all, that as almost all heretics
before Nestorius, despising antiquity and upholding novelty, had been
condemned, so Nestorius, the author of novelty and the assailant of
antiquity, should be condemned also. Whose consentient determination,
inspired by the gift of sacred and celestial grace, whoever disapproves
must needs hold the profaneness of Nestorius to have been condemned
unjustly; finally, he despises as vile and worthless the whole Church of
Christ, and its doctors, apostles, and prophets, and especially the blessed
Apostle Paul: he despises the Church, in that she hath never failed in
loyalty to the duty of cherishing and preserving the faith once for all
delivered to her; he despises St. Paul, who wrote, "O Timothy, guard the
deposit intrusted to thee, shunning profane novelties of words;"(2) and
again, "if any man preach unto you other than ye have received, let him be
accursed."(8) But if neither apostolical injunctions nor ecclesiastical
decrees may be violated, by which, in  accordance with the sacred consent
of universality and antiquity, all heretics always, and, last of all,
Pelagius, Coelestius, and Nestorius have been rightly and deservedly
condemned, then assuredly it is incumbent on all Catholics who are anxious
to approve themselves genuine sons of Mother Church, to adhere henceforward
to the holy faith of the holy Fathers, to be wedded to it, to die in it;
but as to the profane novelties of profane men-- to detest them, abhor
them, oppose them, give them no quarter.

    [87.] These matters, handled more at large in the two preceding
Commonitories, I have now put together more briefly by way of
recapitulation, in order that my memory, to aid which I composed them, may,
on the one hand, be refreshed by frequent reference, and, on the other, may
avoid being wearied by prolixity.


Taken from "The Early Church Fathers and Other Works" originally published
by Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co. in English in Edinburgh, Scotland, beginning in
1867. (LNPF II/XI, Schaff and Wace). The digital version is by The
Electronic Bible Society, P.O. Box 701356, Dallas, TX 75370, 214-407-WORD.




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