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Patristic Support for Holy Tradition

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  • Christopher Orr
    http://orrologion.blogspot.com/2006/01/patristic-support-for-holy-tradition.html St. Irenaeus of Lyons, ANF I, 369 For even creation reveals Him who formed it,
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 25, 2007
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      St. Irenaeus of Lyons, ANF I, 369

      For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made
      suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it.
      The Universal Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received
      this tradition from the apostles.

      St. Irenaeus of Lyons, ANF I, 508

      True knowledge4282 is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the
      apostles, and the ancient constitution4283 of the Church throughout
      all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body4284 of
      Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have
      handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even
      unto us, being guarded and preserved4285 without any forging of
      Scriptures, by a very complete system4286 of doctrine, and neither
      receiving addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which
      she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the word of God] without
      falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with
      the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above
      all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love,4287 which is more
      precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels
      all the other gifts [of God].

      Tertullian, ANF III, 251-252

      Our appeal, therefore, must not be made to the Scriptures; nor must
      controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be
      impossible,197 or uncertain, or not certain enough.198 But even if a
      discussion from the Scriptures199 should not turn out in such a way as
      to place both sides on a par, (yet) the natural order of things would
      require that this point should be first proposed, which is now the
      only one which we must discuss: "With whom lies that very faith to
      which the Scriptures belong.200 From what and through whom, and when,
      and to whom, has been handed down that rule,201 by which men become
      Christians? "For wherever it shall be manifest that the true Christian
      rule and faith shall be, there will likewise be the true Scriptures
      and expositions thereof, and all the Christian traditions.

      Tertullian, ANF III, 598

      [We]… believe that there is one only God, but under the following
      dispensation, or oi0konomi/a, as it is called, that this one only God
      has also a Son, His Word, who proceeded14 from Himself, by whom all
      things were made, and without whom nothing was made. Him we believe to
      have been sent by the Father into the Virgin, and to have been born of
      her-being both Man and God, the Son of Man and the Son of God, and to
      have been called by the name of Jesus Christ; we believe Him to have
      suffered, died, and been buried, according to the Scriptures, and,
      after He had been raised again by the Father and taken back to heaven,
      to be sitting at the right hand of the Father, and that He will come
      to judge the quick and the dead; who sent also from heaven from the
      Father, according to His own promise, the Holy Ghost, the Paraclete,15
      the sanctifier of the faith of those who believe in the Father, and in
      the Son, and in the Holy Ghost. That this rule of faith has come down
      to us from the beginning of the gospel, even before any of the older
      heretics, much more before Praxeas, a pretender of yesterday, will be
      apparent both from the lateness of date16 which marks all heresies,
      and also from the absolutely novel character of our new-fangled
      Praxeas. In this principle also we must henceforth find a presumption
      of equal force against all heresies whatsoever-that whatever is first
      is true, whereas that is spurious which is later in date.17 But
      keeping this prescriptive rule inviolate, still some opportunity must
      be given for reviewing (the statements of heretics), with a view to
      the instruction and protection of divers persons; were it only that it
      may not seem that each perversion of the truth is condemned without
      examination, and simply prejudged;18 especially in the case of this
      heresy, which supposes itself to possess the pure truth, in thinking
      that one cannot believe in One Only God in any other way than by
      saying that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost are the very
      selfsame Person. As if in this way also one were not All, in that All
      are of One, by unity (that is) of substance; while the mystery of the
      dispensation19 is still guarded, which distributes the Unity into a
      Trinity, placing in their order20 the three Persons-the Father, the
      Son, and the Holy Ghost: three, however, not in condition,21 but in
      degree;22 not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in
      aspect;23 yet of one substance, and of one condition, and of one
      power, inasmuch as He is one God, from whom these degrees and forms
      and aspects are reckoned, under the name of the Father, and of the
      Son, and of the Holy Ghost.24

      St. Basil the Great, NPNF VIII, 195-196

      …nor do we speak of the Holy Ghost as begotten, for by the tradition
      of the faith we have been taught one Only-begotten: the Spirit of
      truth we have been taught to proceed from the Father, and we confess
      Him to be of God without creation.We are also bound to anathematize
      all who speak of the Holy Ghost as ministerial,9 inasmuch as by this
      term they degrade Him to the rank of a creature. For that the
      ministering spirits are creatures we are told by Scripture in the
      words "they are all ministering spirits sent forth to minister."10 But
      because of men who make universal confusion, and do not keep the
      doctrine of the Gospels, it is necessary to add yet this further, that
      they are to be shunned, as plainly hostile to true religion, who
      invert the order left us by the Lord, and put the Son before the
      Father, and the Holy Spirit before the Son. For we must keep unaltered
      and inviolable that order which we have received from the very words
      of the Lord, "Go ye therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in
      the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost."11

      St. Basil the Great, NPNF VIII 40-41

      Of the beliefs and practices whether generally accepted or publicly
      enjoined which are preserved in the Church562 some we possess derived
      from written teaching; others we have received delivered to us "in a
      mystery"563 by the tradition of the apostles; and both of these in
      relation to true religion have the same force. And these no one will
      gainsay;-no one, at all events, who is even moderately versed in the
      institutions of the Church. For were we to attempt to reject such
      customs as have no written authority, on the ground that the
      importance they possess is small, we should unintentionally injure the
      Gospel in its very vitals; or, rather, should make our public
      definition a mere phrase and nothing more.564 For instance, to take
      the first and most general example, who is thence who has taught us in
      writing to sign with the sign of the cross those who have trusted in
      the name of our Lord Jesus Christ? What writing has taught us to turn
      to the East at the prayer? Which of the saints has left us in writing
      the words of tim invocation at the displaying565 of the bread of the
      Eucharist and the cup of blessing? For we are not, as is well known,
      content with what the apostle or the Gospel has recorded, but both in
      preface and conclusion we add other words as being of great importance
      to the validity of the ministry, and these we derive from unwritten
      teaching. Moreover we bless the water of baptism andthe oil of the
      chrism, and besides this the catechumen who is being baptized. On what
      written authority do we do this? Is not our authority silent and
      mystical tradition? Nay, by what written word is the anointing of
      oil566 itself taught? And whence comes the custom of baptizing
      thrice?567 And as to the other customs of baptism from what Scripture
      do we derive the renunciation of Satan and his angels? Does not this
      come from that unpublished and secret teaching which oar fathers
      guarded in a silence out of the reach of curious meddling and
      inquisitive investigation? Well had they learnt the lesson that the
      awful dignity of the mysteries is best preserved by silence. What the
      uninitiated are not even allowed: to look at was hardly likely to be
      publicly paraded about in written documents. What was the meaning of
      the mighty Moses in not making all the parts of the tabernacle open to
      every one? The profane he stationed without the sacred barriers; the
      first courts he conceded to the purer; the Levites alone he judged
      worthy of being servants of the Deity; sacrifices and burnt offerings
      and the rest of the priestly functions he allotted to the priests; one
      chosen out of all he admitted to the shrine, and even this one not
      always but on only one day in the year, and of this one day a time was
      fixed for his entry so that he might gaze on the Holy of Holies amazed
      at the strangeness and novelty of the sight. Moses was wise enough to
      know that contempt stretches to the trite and to the obvious, while a
      keen interest is naturally associated with the unusual and the
      unfamiliar. In the same manner the Apostles and Fathers who laid down
      laws for the Church from the beginning thus guarded the awful dignity
      of the mysteries [Ed.: Latin, sacramentum] in secrecy and silence, for
      what is bruited abroad random among the common folk is no mystery at
      all. This is the reason for our tradition of unwritten precepts and
      practices, that the knowledge of our dogmas may not become neglected
      and contemned by the multitude through familiarity. "Dogma" and
      "Kerugma" are two distinct things; the former is observed in silence;
      the latter is proclaimed to all the world. One form of this silence is
      the obscurity employed in Scripture, which makes the meaning of
      "dogmas" difficult to be understood for the very advantage of the
      reader: Thus we all look to the East568 at our prayers, but few of us
      know that we are seeking our own old country,569 Paradise, which God
      planted in Eden in the East.570 We pray standing,571 on the first day
      of the week, but we do not all know the reason. On the day of the
      resurrection (or "standing again" Grk. a0na/stasij we remind ourselves
      of the grace given to us by standing at prayer, not only because we
      rose with Christ,572 and are bound to "seek those things which are
      above,"573 but because the day seems to us to be in some sense an
      image of the age which we expect, wherefore, though it is the
      beginning of days, it is not called by Moses first, but one.574 For he
      says "There was evening, and therewas morning, one day," as though the
      same day often recurred. Now "one and "eighth" are the same, in itself
      distinctly indicating that really "one" and "eighth" of which the
      Psalmist makes mention in certain titles of the Psalms, the state
      which follows after this present time, the day which knows no waning
      or eventide, and no successor, that age which endeth not or groweth

      St. John Chrysostom, NPNF XIII, 390

      [II Thess 2:15] “So then, brethren, stand fast, and hold the
      traditions which ye were taught, whether by word, or by Epistle of ours.”

      Hence it is manifest, that they did not deliver all things by Epistle,
      but many things also unwritten, and in like manner both the one and
      the other are worthy of credit. Therefore let us think the tradition
      of the Church also worthy of credit. It is a tradition, seek no
      farther. Here he shows that there were many who were shaken.

      St. Jerome, NPNF VI, 324

      Don't you know that the laying on of hands after baptism and then the
      invocation of the Holy Spirit is a custom of the Churches? Do you
      demand Scripture proof? You may find it in the Acts of the Apostles.
      And even if it did not rest on the authority of Scripture the
      consensus of the whole world in this respect would have the force of a
      command. For many other observances of the Churches, which are due to
      tradition, have acquired the authority of the written law, as for
      instance39 the practice of dipping the head three times in the layer,
      and then, after leaving the water, of40 tasting mingled milk and honey
      in representation of infancy;41 and, again, the practices of standing
      up in worship on the Lord's day, and ceasing from fasting every
      Pentecost; and there are many other unwritten practices which have won
      their place through reason and custom. So you see we follow the
      practice of the Church, although it may be clear that a person was
      baptized before the Spirit was invoked.

      St. Vincent of Lerins, NPNF XI, 132

      [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,â€"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.

      St. Vincent of Lerins, NPNF XI, 146

      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 understand, 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:”494 … 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.

      Origen of Alexandria, ANF IV, 239

      2. Since many, however, of those who profess to believe in Christ
      differ from each other, not only in small and trifling matters, but
      also on subjects of the highest importance, as, e.g., regarding God,
      or the Lord Jesus Christ, or the Holy Spirit; and not only regarding
      these, but also regarding others which are created existences, viz.,
      the powers5 and the holy virtues;6 it seems on that account necessary
      first of all to fix a definite limit and to lay down an unmistakable
      rule regarding each one of these, and then to pass to the
      investigation of other points. For as we ceased to seek for truth
      (notwithstanding the professions of many among Greeks and Barbarians
      to make it known) among all who claimed it for erroneous opinions,
      after we had come to believe that Christ was the Son of God, and were
      persuaded that we must learn it from Himself; so, seeing there are
      many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these
      think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the
      Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the apostles, and
      remaining in the Churches to the present day, is still preserved, that
      alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from
      ecclesiastical and apostolical tradition.

      3. Now it ought to be known that the holy apostles, in preaching the
      faith of Christ, delivered themselves with the utmost clearness on
      certain points which they believed to be necessary to every one, even
      to those who seemed somewhat dull in the investigation of divine
      knowledge;… while on other subjects they merely stated the fact that
      things were so….

      8. Then, finally, that the Scriptures were written by the Spirit of
      God, and have a meaning, not such only as is apparent at first sight,
      but also another, which escapes the notice of most. For those (words)
      which are written are the forms of certain mysteries,13 and the images
      of divine things. Respecting which there is one opinion throughout the
      whole Church, that the whole law is indeed spiritual; but that the
      spiritual meaning which the law conveys is not known to all, but to
      those only on whom the grace of the Holy Spirit is bestowed in the
      word of wisdom and knowledge.

      St. Augustine of Hippo, ML 42, 176

      But should you meet with a person not yet believing the gospel, how
      would you reply to him were he to say, I do not believe? For my part,
      I should not believe the gospel except as moved by the authority of
      the Catholic Church.

      Papias, FC, I, 374

      4 But whenever someone who had followed the presbyters came along, I
      would carefully ask about the words of the presbyters, what Andrew or
      what Peter had said or what Philip or what Thomas or James or what
      John or Matthew or any other of the disciples of the Lord, and which
      Aristion and the presbyter John, disciples of the Lord say too. For I
      did not assume that whatever comes from books is as helpful to me as
      what comes from a living and lasting voice.

      St. Irenaeus of Lyons, ANF I, 416

      4. But Polycarp also was not only instructed by apostles, and
      conversed with many who had seen Christ, but was also, by apostles in
      Asia, appointed bishop of the Church in Smyrna, whom I also saw in my
      early youth, for he tarried [on earth] a very long time, and, when a
      very old man, gloriously and most nobly suffering martyrdom,3314
      departed this life, having always taught the things which he had
      learned from the apostles, and which the Church has handed down, and
      which alone are true. To these things all the Asiatic Churches
      testify, as do also those men who have succeeded Polycarp down to the
      present time…

      St. Irenaeus of Lyons, ANF I, 568

      These doctrines, O Florinus, to speak mildly, are not of sound
      judgment. These doctrines disagree with the Church, and drive into the
      greatest impiety those who accept them. These doctrines, not even the
      heretics outside of the Church, have ever dared to publish. These
      doctrines, the presbyters who were before us, and who were companions
      of the apostles, did not deliver to thee.
      "For when I was a boy, I saw thee in lower Asia with Polycarp, moving
      in splendor in the royal court, and endeavoring to gain his
      approbation. I remember the events of that time more clearly than
      those of recent years. For what boys learn, growing with their mind,
      becomes joined with it; so that I am able to describe the very place
      in which the blessed Polycarp sat as he discoursed, and his goings out
      and his comings in, and the manner of his life, and his physical
      appearance, and his discourses to the people, and the accounts which
      he gave of his intercourse with John and with the others who had seen
      the Lord. And as he remembered their words, and what he heard from
      them concerning the Lord, and concerning his miracles and his
      teaching, having received them from eyewitnesses of the 'Word of
      life,' Polycarp related all things in harmony with the Scriptures.
      These things being told me by the mercy of God, I listened to them
      attentively, noting them down, not on paper, but in my heart. And
      continually, through God's grace, I recall them faithfully.

      St. Irenaeus of Lyons, ANF I, 330-331

      The Church, though dispersed through our the whole world, even to the
      ends of the earth, has received from the apostles and their disciples
      this faith: [She believes] in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of
      heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are in them; and
      in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who became incarnate for our
      salvation; and in the Holy Spirit, who proclaimed through the prophets
      the dispensations2786of God, and the advents, and the birth from a
      virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection from the dead, and the
      ascension into heaven in the flesh of the beloved Christ Jesus, our
      Lord, and His [future] manifestation from heaven in the glory of the
      Father “to gather all things in one,”2787 and to raise up anew all
      flesh of the whole human race, in order that to Christ Jesus, our
      Lord, and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the will of the
      invisible Father, “every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and
      things in earth, and things under the earth, and that every tongue
      should confess”2788 to Him, and that He should execute just judgment
      towards all; that He may send “spiritual wickednesses,”2789 and the
      angels who transgressed and became apostates, together with the
      ungodly, and unrighteous, and wicked, and profane among men, into
      everlasting fire; but may, in the exercise of His grace, confer
      immortality on the righteous, and holy, and those who have kept His
      commandments, and have persevered in His love, some from the beginning
      [of their Christian course], and others from [the date of] their
      repentance, and may surround them with everlasting glory.

      2. As I have already observed, the Church, having received this
      preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole
      world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it. She
      also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one
      soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches
      them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed
      only one mouth. For, although the languages of the world are
      dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For
      the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand
      down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor
      those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those
      which have been established in the central regions2790 of the world.
      But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout
      the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shineth
      everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a
      knowledge of the truth. Nor will any one of the rulers in the
      Churches, however highly gifted he may be in point of eloquence, teach
      doctrines different from these (for no one is greater than the
      Master); nor, on the other hand, will he who is deficient in power of
      expression inflict injury on the tradition. For the faith being ever
      one and the same, neither does one who is able at great length to
      discourse regarding it, make any addition to it, nor does one, who can
      say but little diminish it.

      St. Irenaeus of Lyons, ANF I, 415

      Chapter III.-A Refutation of the Heretics, from the Fact That, in the
      Various Churches, a Perpetual Succession of Bishops Was Kept Up.

      1. It is within the power of all, therefore, in every Church, who may
      wish to see the truth, to contemplate clearly the tradition of the
      apostles manifested throughout the whole world; and we are in a
      position to reckon up those who were by the apostles instituted
      bishops in the Churches, and [to demonstrate] the succession of these
      men to our own times; those who neither taught nor knew of anything
      like what these [heretics] rave about. For if the apostles had known
      hidden mysteries, which they were in the habit of imparting to "the
      perfect" apart and privily from the rest, they would have delivered
      them especially to those to whom they were also committing the
      Churches themselves. For they were desirous that these men should be
      very perfect and blameless in all things, whom also they were leaving
      behind as their successors, delivering up their own place of
      government to these men; which men, if they discharged their functions
      honestly, would be a great boon [to the Church], but if they should
      fall away, the direst calamity.

      2. Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this,
      to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to
      confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil
      self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion,
      assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say, ] by indicating
      that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very
      ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by
      the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing
      out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means
      of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity
      that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its
      pre- eminent authority,6 that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as
      the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those
      [faithful men] who exist everywhere.

      St. Irenaeus of Lyons, ANF I, 497

      2. Wherefore it is incumbent to obey the presbyters who are in the
      Church,-those who, as I have shown, possess the succession from the
      apostles; those who, together with the succession of the episcopate,
      have received the certain gift of truth, according to the good
      pleasure of the Father. But [it is also incumbent] to hold in
      suspicion others who depart from the primitive succession, and
      assemble themselves together in any place whatsoever, [looking upon
      them] either as heretics of perverse minds, or as schismatics puffed
      up and self-pleasing, or again as hypocrites, acting thus for the sake
      of lucre and vainglory. For all these have fallen from the truth. And
      the heretics, indeed, who bring strange fire to the altar of
      God-namely, strange doctrines-shall be burned up by the fire from
      heaven, as were Nadab and Abiud.362

      Tertullian, ANF III, 246

      From this, therefore, do we draw up our rule. Since the Lord Jesus
      Christ sent the apostles to preach, (our rule is) that no others ought
      to be received as preachers than those whom Christ appointed; for "no
      man knoweth the Father save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will
      reveal Him."213 Nor does the Son seem to have revealed Him to any
      other than the apostles, whom He sent forth to preach-that, of course,
      which He revealed to them. Now, what that was which they preached-in
      other words, what it was which Christ revealed to them-can, as I must
      here likewise prescribe, properly be proved in no other way than by
      those very churches which the apostles rounded in person, by declaring
      the gospel to them directly themselves, both vivG voce, as the phrase
      is, and subsequently by their epistles. If, then, these things are so,
      it is in the same degree214 manifest that all doctrine which agrees
      with the apostolic churches-those moulds215 and original sources of
      the faith must be reckoned for truth, as undoubtedly containing that
      which the (said) churches received from the apostles, the apostles
      from Christ, Christ from God. Whereas all doctrine must be
      prejudged216 as false217 which savours of contrariety to the truth of
      the churches and apostles of Christ and God. It remains, then, that we
      demonstrate whether this doctrine of ours, of which we have now given
      the rule, has its origin218 in the tradition of the apostles, and
      whether all other doctrines do not ipso facto219 proceed from
      falsehood. We hold communion with the apostolic churches because our
      doctrine is in no respect different from theirs. This is our witness
      of truth.

      Tertullian, ANF III, 260

      Chapter XXXVI.-The Apostolic Churches the Voice of the Apostles. Let
      the Heretics Examine Their Apostolic Claims, in Each Case,
      Indisputable. The Church of Rome Doubly Apostolic; Its Early Eminence
      and Excellence. Heresy, as Perverting the Truth, is Connected Therewith.
      Come now, you who would indulge a better curiosity, if you would apply
      it to the business of your salvation, run over [to] the apostolic
      churches, in which the very thrones381 of the apostles are still
      pre-eminent in their places,382 in which their own authentic
      writings383 are read, uttering the voice and representing the face of
      each of them severally. Achaia is very near you, (in which) you find
      Corinth. Since you are not far from Macedonia, you have Philippi; (and
      there too) you have the Thessalonians. Since you are able to cross to
      Asia, you get Ephesus. Since, moreover, you are close upon Italy,384
      you have Rome, from which there comes even into our own hands the very
      authority (of apostles themselves).385 How happy is its church, on
      which apostles poured forth all their doctrine along with their blood!
      where Peter endures a passion like his Lord's! where Paul wins his
      crown in a death like John's386 where the Apostle John was first
      plunged, unhurt, into boiling oil, and thence remitted to his

      St. Irenaeus of Lyons, ANF I, 416

      3. The blessed apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church,
      committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of
      this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him
      succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the
      apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen
      the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said
      to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and
      their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for
      there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the
      apostles. In the time of this Clement, no small dissension having
      occurred among the brethren at Corinth, the Church in Rome despatched
      a most powerful letter to the Corinthians, exhorting them to peace,
      renewing their faith, and declaring the tradition which it had lately
      received from the apostles,… In this order, and by this succession,
      the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of
      the truth, have come down to us. And this is most abundant proof that
      there is one and the same vivifying faith, which has been preserved in
      the Church from the apostles until now, and handed down in truth….

      Chapter IV.â€"The truth is to be found nowhere else but in the Catholic
      Church, the sole depository of apostolical doctrine. Heresies are of
      recent formation, and cannot trace their origin up to the apostles.

      1. Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek
      the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church;
      since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank,
      lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth:
      so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of
      life.3318 For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and
      robbers. On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make
      choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost
      diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how
      stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some
      important question3319 among us, should we not have recourse to the
      most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant
      intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard
      to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles
      themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in
      that case,] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed
      down to those to whom they did commit the Churches?

      2. To which course many nations of those barbarians who believe in
      Christ do assent, having salvation written in their hearts by the
      Spirit, without paper or ink, and, carefully preserving the ancient

      St. Irenaeus of Lyons, ANF I, 547

      1. Now all these [heretics] are of much later date than the bishops to
      whom the apostles committed the Churches; which fact I have in the
      third book taken all pains to demonstrate. It follows, then, as a
      matter of course, that these heretics aforementioned, since they are
      blind to the truth, and deviate from the [right] way, will walk in
      various roads; and therefore the footsteps of their doctrine are
      scattered here and there without agreement or connection. But the path
      of those belonging to the Church circumscribes the whole world, as
      possessing the sure tradition from the apostles, and gives unto us to
      see that the faith of all is one and the same, since all receive one
      and the same God the Father, and believe in the same dispensation
      regarding the incarnation of the Son of God, and are cognizant of the
      same gift of the Spirit, and are conversant with the same
      commandments, and preserve the same form of ecclesiastical
      constitution,4619 and expect the same advent of the Lord, and await
      the same salvation of the complete man, that is, of the soul and body.
      And undoubtedly the preaching of the Church is true and stedfast,4620
      in which one and the same way of salvation is shown throughout the
      whole world. For to her is entrusted the light of God; and therefore
      the “wisdom” of God, by means of which she saves all men, “is declared
      in [its] going forth; it uttereth [its voice] faithfully in the
      streets, is preached on the tops of the walls, and speaks continually
      in the gates of the city.”4621 For the Church preaches the truth
      everywhere, and she is the seven-branched candlestick which bears the
      light of Christ.

      Tertullian, ANF III, 252

      [The Apostles}… next went forth into the world and preached the same
      doctrine of the same faith to the nations. They then in like manner
      rounded churches in every city, from which all the other churches, one
      after another, derived the tradition of the faith,205 and the seeds of
      doctrine, and are every day deriving them,206 that they may become
      churches. Indeed, it is on this account only that they will be able to
      deem themselves apostolic, as being the offspring of apostolic
      churches. Every sort of thing207 must necessarily revert to its
      original for its classification.208 Therefore the churches, although
      they are so many and so great, comprise but the one primitive church,
      (rounded) by the apostles, from which they all (spring). In this way
      all are primitive, and all are apostolic, whilst they are all proved
      to be one, in (unbroken) unity, by their peaceful communion,209 and
      title of brotherhood, and bond210 of hospitality,-privileges211 which
      no other rule directs than the one tradition of the selfsame mystery.212

      Eusebius of Caesarea, FC XIX, 196

      4 And as he [Ignatius of Antioch] made the journey through Asia under
      the strictest military surveillance, he fortified the parishes in the
      various cities where he stopped by oral homilies and exhortations, and
      warned them above all to be especially on their guard against the
      heresies that were then beginning to prevail, and exhorted them to
      hold fast to the tradition of the apostles. Moreover, he thought it
      necessary to attest that tradition in writing, and to give it a fixed
      form for the sake of greater security.

      St. Athanasius of Alexandria, NPNF IV, 453

      Without pre-fixing Consulate, month, and day, they wrote concerning
      Easter, ‘It seemed good as follows,’ for it did then seem good that
      there should be a general compliance; but about the faith they wrote
      not, ‘It seemed good,’ but, ‘Thus believes the Catholic Church;’ and
      thereupon they confessed how they believed, in order to shew that
      their own sentiments were not novel, but Apostolical; and what they
      wrote down was no discovery of theirs, but is the same as was taught
      by the Apostles.3467

      St. Augustine of Hippo, Letter 54

      I desire you therefore, in the first place, to hold fast this as the
      fundamental principle in the present discussion, that our Lord Jesus
      Christ has appointed to us a "light yoke" and an "easy burden," as He
      declares in the Gospel : in accordance with which He has bound His
      people under the new dispensation together in fellowship by
      sacraments, which are in number very few, in observance most easy, and
      in significance most excellent, as baptism solemnized in the name of
      the Trinity, the Communion of His Body and Blood, and such other
      things as are prescribed in the canonical Scriptures, with the
      exception of those enactments which were a yoke of bondage to God's
      ancient people, suited to their state of heart and to the times of the
      prophets, and which are found in the five books of Moses. As to those
      other things which we hold on the authority, not of Scripture, but of
      tradition, and which are observed throughout the whole world, it may
      be understood that they are held as approved and instituted either by
      the apostles themselves, or by plenary Councils, whose authority in
      the Church is most useful, e.g. the annual commemoration, by special
      solemnities, of the Lord's passion, resurrection, and ascension, and
      of the descent of the Holy Spirit from heaven, and whatever else is in
      like manner observed by the whole Church wherever it has been established.

      …For often have I perceived, with extreme sorrow, many disquietudes
      caused to weak brethren by the contentious pertinacity or
      superstitious vacillation of some who, in matters of this kind, which
      do not admit of final decision by the authority of Holy Scripture, or
      by the tradition of the universal Church or by their manifest good
      influence on manners raise questions, it may be, from some crotchet of
      their own, or from attachment to the custom followed in one's own
      country, or from preference for that which one has seen abroad,
      supposing that wisdom is increased in proportion to the distance to
      which men travel from home, and agitate these questions with such
      keenness, that they think all is wrong except what they do themselves.


      5. Suppose some foreigner visit a place in which during Lent it is
      customary to abstain from the use of the bath, and to continue fasting
      on Thursday. "I will not fast today," he says. The reason being asked,
      he says, "Such is not the custom in my own country." Is not he, by
      such conduct, attempting to assert the superiority of his custom over
      theirs? For he cannot quote a decisive passage on the subject from the
      Book of God; nor can he prove his opinion to be right by the unanimous
      voice of the universal Church, wherever spread abroad; nor can he
      demonstrate that they act contrary to the faith, and he according to
      it, or that they are doing what is prejudicial to sound morality, and
      he is defending its interests. Those men injure their own tranquillity
      and peace by quarrelling on an unnecessary question. I would rather
      recommend that, in matters of this kind, each man should, when
      sojourning in a country in which he finds a custom different from his
      own consent to do as others do….


      6. Observe now to which of these three classes the first question in
      your letter is to be referred. You ask, "What ought to be done on the
      Thursday of the last week of Lent? Ought we to offer the sacrifice in
      the morning, and again after supper, on account of the words in the
      Gospel, Likewise also . . . after supper'? Or ought we to fast and
      offer the sacrifice only after supper? Or ought we to fast until the
      offering has been made, and then take supper as we are accustomed to
      do?" I answer, therefore, that if the authority of Scripture has
      decided which of these methods is right, there is no room for doubting
      that we should do according to that which is written; and our
      discussion must be occupied with a question, not of duty, but of
      interpretation as to the meaning of the divine institution. In like
      manner, if the universal Church follows any one of these methods,
      there is no room for doubt as: to our duty; for it would be the height
      of arrogant madness to discuss whether or not we should comply with it….

      8. Must we therefore censure the universal Church because the
      sacrament is everywhere partaken of by persons fasting? Nay, verily,
      for from that time it pleased the Holy Spirit to appoint, for the
      honour of so great a sacrament, that the body of the Lord should take
      the precedence of all other food entering the mouth of a Christian;
      and it is for this reason that the custom referred to is universally
      observed. For the fact that the Lord instituted the sacrament after
      other food had been partaken of, does not prove that brethren should
      come together to partake of that sacrament after having dined or
      supped, or imitate those whom the apostle reproved and corrected for
      not distinguishing between the Lord's Supper and an ordinary meal. The
      Saviour, indeed, in order to commend the depth of that mystery more
      affectingly to His disciples, was pleased to impress it on their
      hearts and memories by making its institution His last act before
      going from them to His Passion. And therefore He did not prescribe the
      order in which it was to be observed, reserving this to be done by the
      apostles, through whom He intended to arrange all things pertaining to
      the Churches. Had He appointed that the sacrament should be always
      partaken of after other food, I believe that no one would have
      departed from that practice. But when the apostle, speaking of this
      sacrament, says, "Wherefore, my brethren, when ye come together to
      eat, tarry one for another: and if any man hunger, let him eat at
      home; that ye come not together unto condemnation," he immediately
      adds, "and the rest will I set in order when I come." Whence we are
      given to understand that, since it was too much for him to prescribe
      completely in an epistle the method observed by the universal Church
      throughout the world, it was one of the things set in order by him in
      person, for we find its observance uniform amid all the variety of
      other customs.

      Theodoret, Letter 89, NPNF III, 283

      I have ever kept the faith of the apostles undefiled, and on this
      account alone I have cherished the hope that I shall meet with mercy
      on the day of the Lord’s appearing. On behalf of this faith I continue
      to contend against every kind of heresy; this faith I am ever giving
      to the nurslings of piety; by means of this faith I have metamorphosed
      countless wolves into sheep, and have brought them to the Saviour who
      is the Arch-shepherd of us all. So have I learnt not only from the
      apostles and prophets but also from the interpreters of their
      writings, Ignatius, Eustathius, Athanasius, Basil, Gregory, John, and
      the rest of the lights of the world; and before these from the holy
      Fathers in council at Nicæa, whose confession of the faith I preserve
      in its integrity, like an ancestral inheritance, styling corrupt and
      enemies of the truth all who dare to transgress its decrees.
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