But the Fathers were far from admitting any such speculations. Justin Martyr, St. Jerome, and St. Gregory of Nazianzum are not less emphatic on this subject. The sacred Books being thus absolutely free from error, any text quoted in its true sense must be decisive on any point in debate.
Among the early Christians they were constantly read in the assemblies, and made the basis of argument and exhortation.
The writings of the Fathers consist, to a great extent, of such commentaries on the Books of Scripture. On no other books have so many commentaries been written by men of the greatest intellectual ability; and these have sought out the meaning of every phrase. The result has been that in all Catholic countries the minds of men are filled with the phraseology of Holy Writ; they were saturated with it in the Ages of Faith.
The Jews have preserved the text with the greatest care; they have counted the verses in each Book, and noted which verse holds the middle place.
It is certain that they did not tamper with the text: there is no trace of any attempt of the kind, though the Old Testament contains matter which redounds to the discredit of their nation; in the New Testament they are never accused of such tampering. Besides, they could not have changed the Scriptures secretly; for during eight centuries before Christ the Jews were divided from the Ten Tribes, both parties having the Scriptures and jealously guarding them.
After Christ, the Greek, Latin, and Syriac versions were in the hands of the Christians, and any attempt at falsification on the part of the Jews would have been exposed by their opponents. In particular the great prophecies regarding the Messias are still found in the Hebrew as well as in the versions. Together with the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon the Church a copious supply of sacred doctrine, which is contained in the Ecclesiastical Tradition. It thus includes the canon itself of the Scriptures, and the proper interpretation of all their contents.
Without this Tradition, we should not know what is, and what is not, part of the Holy Scriptures, and whether they are inspired or not, nor what is meant by inspiration. Therefore, St. Augustine said that he would not believe the Scriptures if it were not for the authority of the Church; that is, he might accept them as valuable historical documents, but not as the Word of God, if the Tradition of the Church did not teach that they are such. Protestants reject this Tradition entirely. As Chillingworth puts it, the Bible, and the Bible only, is the religion of Protestants.
The few passages in it which recommend the reading of the Scriptures refer to the Old Testament as pointing to the expected Messias 2. III, 15; Jo. V, 39 ; or to the Gospel of St. Luke and an Epistle of St. Peter, as recording certain events and instructions formerly taught by word of mouth Luke I, ; 2. I, The text of St. If it was a command, it was addressed to the Jews, bidding them look in their Writings for prophecies of the Messias.
A system resting on such a foundation as these texts supply, is like a house built upon the sand. In opposition to the Protestant system, which makes the Scriptures alone the rule of faith, as if they contained clearly all the teachings of Christ, we have seen nn. He commissioned His Apostles, not to sit down and write a book, but to go and preach to all nations; and this they did, and they appointed others to continue this manner of teaching after them. If the Scriptures had been intended to be the sole guide of faith, the Apostles would necessarily have composed a systematic, full, and clear exposition of the faith.
They did nothing of the kind.
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Only two of them wrote anything except letters; these letters were called for by special occasions, and they are partly unintelligible to the general reader who does not know the circumstances under which they were written. Peter cautions his readers against the difficulties found in St. II, The argument of Prescription too is against the Protestant plan n. For instance, St. The ecclesiastical Tradition has gradually become embodied in monuments of various kinds: The chief are:.
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The sacred Liturgy and Ritual which are common to the universal Church. Pope St. The history of the Church, and in particular the Acts of the Martyrs, many of which are of undoubted antiquity. Clement is recorded to have assigned the seven districts of Rome to as many notaries, or short-hand writers, to set down the records of the early martyrdoms. Archaeology, which studies the relics of ancient art, in order to learn what was the belief of the Church in former ages.
For instance we find an early representation of the Prophet Habakuk caught by the hair of the head as he carries a basket of provisions. The artist evidently accepted this part of the Book of Daniel, which is not in the Protestant canon. Definitions of doctrines, and anathemas pronounced on errors. Many of them were distinguished for their deep and varied learning, their ability, and their sanctity, which fact adds weight to their authority as witnesses of Divine Truth.
It is an important consideration that they witnessed on very many points before any question was raised on those points. When they testify unanimously to a tradition, their evidence proves what was the belief of the Church in their age. But sometimes they speak only as critics, and give the conclusion to which they have personally come. Often the voice of a few authors expresses with certainty the mind of all, namely when they make important statements and the others do not contradict.
For error in the early Church was sure to be contradicted, because it was so greatly abhorred. Thus St. His disciple St. Even one witness may suffice, if he is a writer of unquestioned authority; St. Jerome considered St. Hilary of Poitiers to be such, and all give this praise to St. Gregory of Nazianzum.
Augustine has scarcely an equal among the Fathers; in particular on questions connected with grace, it would be rash for a private theologian to contradict him. But on certain other subjects, especially on that of free-will, phrases occur in his writing which, taken out of their context, are indefensible. Certain views on this subject which Baius professed to draw from St. Augustine were condemned by St. Pius V. The principal are, SS. Since many of the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, as well as other Ecclesiastical writers, are repeatedly quoted in these pages, we insert here a brief notice of the principal among them, mentioning them in chronological order.
Clement of Rome was a friend of St. Peter, and his third successor as Bishop of Rome.
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The authenticity and genuineness of his first epistle to the Corinthians are acknowledged. He was martyred about A. Ignatius, a disciple of St. John the Apostle, was Bishop of Antioch. While on his way to his martyrdom at Rome, he wrote seven short epistles, whose genuineness is acknowledged. He died gloriously between and Polycarp, made by St. John Bishop of Smyrna, was, as St.
He was martyred soon after A. Polycarp, became Bishop of Lyons in Clement of Alexandria, a writer well versed in gentile philosophy and polite literature, flourished toward the close of the second century.
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He warns his readers that he wrote with the express design of hiding the Christian Mysteries from the pagans and the uninitiated. Tertullian was born at Carthage in Become a Christian in , he was, on the death of his wife, ordained a priest. He defended Christianity with much zeal and ability. But by his love of moral severity he was attracted to Montanism, and may have died in his heresy.
Origen, a disciple of the Alexandrian Clement, was born about In he was already head of the Catechetical School at Alexandria. He travelled much, and wrote copiously, with extraordinary learning and originality of thought, but not with perfect soundness of doctrine. Cyprian was an African Bishop of great learning and zeal; but erring on a doctrine concerning Baptism he was corrected by Pope St.
He sealed his faith with his blood in Athanasius, born about , was during forty years Bishop of Alexandria. A most conspicuous and heroic opponent of the Arians, he was all his life persecuted by their faction, till his death in Gregory Nazianzen, born in , became Bishop of Constantinople. He was the bosom friend of St. Basil the Great studied in Palestine, Constantinople, and Athens; then retired into the desert. Made Bishop of Caesarea, he was driven by the factious to resign his see, and died in Ambrose, born in , was but a catechumen when he was made Bishop of Milan.
Learned, eloquent, and most noble-minded, he closed his life in John Chrysostom, or Golden-mouthed, was born at Antioch in , became Bishop of Constantinople, endured much for his constancy, and died an exile, A.
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Augustine, an African, first a Manichean heretic, later converted by St. Ambrose, became Bishop of Hippo, in Numidia, where he died in Cyril of Alexandria, the great champion of truth against Nestorius, was Patriarch of Alexandria; he died in Jerome, born about , died in He was the greatest among the interpreters of Holy Scripture, of which he gave us the Latin translation which is known as the Vulgate. Of the authors here enumerated, Tertullian, SS. It must be remembered that the promise of Divine assistance was not made to any particular writers since the time of the Apostles, but to the teaching Church n.
Yet priests and other men of theological learning, when they teach under the supervision of the Episcopacy, are the agents of the Church, occupied in our instruction; so that there is a close connection between contempt for such teaching and the bane of heresy. Though Protestants put the Scripture as the rule of faith, as a matter of fact they receive the tenets of their belief from their preachers and parents.