Lecture 13. On Scripture as the Document of Proof in the Early Church

{309} SHOULD any one feel uncertain about the argument against the Roman doctrine contained in the last Lecture, he may put it aside without interfering with what goes before and after. It is intended to show, how far there is a presumption that Scripture is what is commonly called, "the Rule of Faith," independently of the testimony of the Fathers, which is the direct and sufficient proof of it. And perhaps it may suggest profitable thoughts to those who will receive it, over and above the immediate service which it has been brought to supply.


Before proceeding to the Fathers, which I shall now do, let me, for the sake of distinctness, repeat what is the point to be proved. It is this; that Holy Scripture contains all things necessary to salvation, that is, either as being read therein or deducible therefrom; not that Scripture is the only ground of the faith, or ordinarily the guide into it and teacher of it, or the source of all religious truth whatever, or the systematizer of it, or the instrument of unfolding, illustrating, enforcing, and applying it; but that it is the document of ultimate appeal in controversy, and the touchstone of all doctrine. {310}

We differ, then, from Roman teaching in this, not in denying that Tradition is valuable, but in maintaining that there is no case in which by itself, and without Scripture warrant, it conveys to us any article necessary to salvation; in other words, that it is not a rule distinct and co-ordinate, but subordinate and ministrative. And this we hold, neither from any abstract fitness that it should be so, nor from the accident that it is so,—neither as a first principle, nor as a mere fact,—but as a doctrine taught us and acted on by the Fathers, as proved to us historically, as resting neither on argument nor on experience, but on testimony. Thus the same course is to be pursued, as in determining the Fundamentals; we must take what we have received, whether we know the reason of it or not.


The most simple and satisfactory mode of settling the question would be to find some judgment of Scripture upon it; but Scripture, as I have said, does not contemplate itself. The mention which it makes of inspiration, is rather a promise to persons, than a decision upon a document. It is a promise to the Apostles, and to the Church [Note 1] built on them; and the Roman divines ask why this promise need be confined to that first age any more than other promises,—than the promise of Christ's presence where two or three are gathered together, or of the power of His ministers to remit and retain sins; or than those precepts which we still observe, as the command to celebrate the Lord's Supper. But Scripture does not interpret itself, or answer objections rising out of misinterpretations. {311} We must betake ourselves to the early Church, and see how she understood the promise. We consider the Eucharist is of perpetual obligation, because the ages immediately succeeding the Apostles thought so; and so again we consider that the inspired Canon was cut short in the Apostles whose works are contained in the New Testament, and that their successors had no gift of expounding the Law of Christ such as they had, because the same ages so ruled it. Those ages witness to their own inferiority, like John the Baptist in speaking of Christ, and we accept what they say. One passage, indeed, there is, that with which the New Testament closes, which is remarkable certainly, as seeming to anticipate the testimony of the primitive Church on this subject; and considering its correspondence with the closing verses of the Prophet Malachi, and those of St. John's own Gospel, which is known to be supplementary, it would favour the notion that he was sealing up the revelation within the limits of the inspired volume, supposing any evidence could be brought that before his death such a volume existed. Any how, they demand the attention of the Roman controversialists, especially considering that the testimony of Antiquity agrees with them, when thus interpreted. To that testimony I now proceed.


The mode pursued by the early Church in deciding points of faith seems to have been as follows. When a novel doctrine was published in any quarter, the first question which the neighbouring Bishops asked each other was, "Is this part of the Rule of Faith? has this come down to us?" The answer being in the negative, they at once silenced it on the just weight of this presumption. The prevailing opinion of the Church was a sufficient, an overpowering objection against it; nor could truth suffer from proceedings which only subjected it, if it was on the {312} innovating side, to a trial of its intrinsic life and energy. When, however, the matter came before a Council, when it was discussed, when the Fathers reasoned, proved, and decided, they never went in matters of saving faith by Tradition only, but they guided themselves by the notices of the written word, as by landmarks in their course [Note 2]. Tradition was no longer more than a subordinate guide, as explaining, illustrating, reconciling, applying the Scriptures. Then, as under the Old Covenant, the appeal was made "to the Law and to the Testimony," to the testament of the Saviour, to the depository of His teaching, to the inspired document of Apostles and Prophets; nor is article of faith producible from the remains of the early Church inconsistent with this appeal, and resting on mere tradition and not on Scripture. The following passages from the Fathers are given in proof or explanation of what has been said [Note 3]. {313}


Tertullian, for instance, is well known as recommending Tradition as a means of silencing heresy, in preference to Scripture. He observes that there is no end of disputing if we go to Scripture, whereas the joint testimony of the Catholic world is at once clear and unanswerable. This is true; the force of the argument from Tradition is of singular use in hindering controversy, but the question is, what is to be done when controversy is persisted in, and heresy spreads so widely, or is countenanced so powerfully, that it cannot be put down by authority? Excommunication is doubtless the ultimate resolution of the difficulty; but meanwhile the Church, as being considerate and long-suffering towards her members, allows herself to dispute and argue, and she argues from Scripture. She proceeds from the negative argument from Tradition, that the opinions advanced were not known before, or not allowed, to the positive refutation from Scripture. Accordingly Tertullian says in his treatise against Hermogenes, who maintained the eternity of matter, "'In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.' I adore the depth of Scripture, in which are manifested to me a Creator and His work. The Gospel adds the Word as the Minister and Agent of Providence; but I read not a word anywhere of a pre-existing matter, out of which things were made. Let the school of Hermogenes show us that it is mentioned in Scripture; if it is not in Scripture, let it fear the woe destined for those who add or take away." [Note 4]


Origen in like manner: "We know that the Saviour is {314} Lord, and we seek to refer the words" of the Prophet Jeremiah "to the Saviour, according to the requirements of the text and the truth. It is necessary to take the Holy Scriptures as witnesses; for our comments and statements without these witnesses are not trustworthy." [Note 5]

In another place [Note 6] he says, "All the Scriptures, according to the Preacher, are 'words of the wise as goads and as stakes well planted, given as secret cyphers from one Shepherd;' nor is there ought superfluous in them. The Word is the One Shepherd of all things intelligent, which to those who have not ears to hear seem to disagree with one another, but in truth are most harmonious. For as the several strings of psaltery or harp, with each its own note, different (as it would seem) from the rest, make discords in the judgment of the unmusical and unscientific, because of their variety, so in like manner ears unpractised in the divine concord of Holy Scripture, set the Old Testament against the New, and the Prophets against the Law, and Gospel against Gospel, and St. Paul against Evangelist, or against himself, or against his brother Apostles. But when another comes well taught in God's harmonies, accomplished in deed and word, as a second David, 'cunning in playing,' he will bring out their perfect tones, being instructed thence to strike the strings in season, now those of the Law, now those which respond in the Gospel, now of the Prophets, now again, when fitting, of the Apostles in accordance, and so again those of the Apostles with the Evangelists. For he knows that Scripture, as a whole, is God's One Perfect and Complete Instrument, giving forth, to those who wish to learn, its one saving music from many notes combined, stilling and restraining all stirrings of the evil one, as David's music in Saul's madness." The main drift of this passage doubtless is to show the consistency of Scripture; {315} but it also bears a clear and strong testimony to its intrinsic completeness and its independence of all other sources of truth. Could Origen have so spoken, had he believed that Scripture contained only one portion of the Revelation, and that the rest was unwritten?


The light in which St. Cyprian regarded Holy Writ, is shown by his books of Testimonia, or Scripture Proofs, in which he goes through the various points of doctrine relating to the abolition of the Law, the person and office of Christ, and the discipline of the Christian Church, with a selection of texts in behalf of each of them. And the introductions to the first and third Books set before us the feeling under which he did this. The work is addressed to a friend:—

"I could not but comply, well-beloved Son, with your religious wish, most urgently imploring the divine directions, which God has vouchsafed through the Holy Scriptures for our grounding and building up; that, being rescued from the darkness of error, and illuminated by His pure and radiant light, we might, by such saving intimations, attain the way of life … The perusal of these books may serve you for the time for tracing out the first lineaments of faith. More strength will be given you, and the understanding of the heart will become more and more vigorous, the more fully you search into the Old and New Scriptures, and study one and all of the portions of those spiritual books. For in the following work I have but drawn somewhat from the divine fountains, to send to you for the season. You will be able to drink to the full and be satisfied, if you for yourself, as I have done, approach the same fountains of divine fulness to drink therefrom." {316}

It is still more remarkable that he should bring texts in maintenance of the lesser duties and usages of Christians, which he does with the following preface:—

"As becomes your known faith and devotion towards the Lord God, dearly-beloved Son, you have asked me to instruct you by extracts from the Holy Scriptures relating to the discipline of our religion; seeking a succinct course of divine reading, that your mind, devoted to God, instead of being wearied by long or many books, … might have its memory refreshed by a wholesome and complete summary."


St. Optatus, who lived in the same part of Christendom, about a century later (A.D. 360), argues against the repetition of Baptism as follows:—

"You say it may be repeated, we say it may not; the minds of our people fluctuate between the two. Let no one trust you, or us either; we are all of us party men. Arbiters must be found; but if they be Christians, such are not fairly producible on either side, for Truth suffers by our private prejudices. If we go out of doors for an arbiter, he must be either a pagan, and so unacquainted with our mysteries; or a Jew, who is necessarily the enemy of Christian Baptism. It follows that no human tribunal can be found for the question; we must have recourse to heaven. But why knock at heaven's gate, when we have with us a Testament in the Gospel? We may here fitly compare earthly things to heavenly. It is like the case of a man with a large family. While the father is alive, he gives his orders to each of them; a will is not yet necessary. Christ, in like manner, during His abode on earth, (may He never really be absent!) laid His commands on the Apostles, as this or that was necessary. But when a father feels himself to be {317} dying, and fears lest after his death his sons should quarrel and go to law, he summons witnesses, and transfers his will from his heart, which is soon to fail, to tablets which shall endure; so that, if afterwards a quarrel arise between the brothers, they have recourse, not to his tomb, but to his testament, and thus he who rests in his tomb yet speaks, though without voice, from his writing. Now He whose testament we speak of, is alive in heaven; therefore His will must be sought for, as in a testament so in the Gospel." And then he proceeds to prove the Church's view of Baptism, by the conduct and words of our Lord when He washed the disciples' feet [Note 7].


Cyril of Jerusalem: "As regards the divine and holy Mysteries of faith, it is necessary that not even a chance word should be delivered in our tradition without the warrant of divine Scripture, to the exclusion of mere probabilities or skilfully contrived arguments. Neither give credence to my mere words, unless they are demonstrated from the Scriptures. For this our saving faith is derived, not from our inventions, but from proofs of Holy Scriptures." [Note 8] What makes this passage the stronger, is, that Cyril speaks thus with reference to the Creed, which, if any statement of doctrine, might surely depend on Tradition.

St. Basil's judgment, as contained in the following passage, has been often adduced in the controversy. "It is a plain fall from the faith," he says, "and a sign of pride, either to annul anything that is in Scripture, or to add what is not in Scripture, since our Lord Jesus Christ has said, 'My sheep hear My voice.' ... And to add {318} to the inspired Scriptures, or to detract from them, is forbidden with especial earnestness by the Apostle, saying, 'Though it be but a man's Testament, no man disannulleth or addeth thereto.'" [Note 9]


Let us now proceed to St. Chrysostom, commenting on the words, "He who entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber." He speaks thus: "Behold the evidences of a robber; first, that he enters not openly; next, that he enters not by the Scriptures, for this is meant by not entering in at the door. Here Christ alludes to those before Him, and to those who were to come; Antichrist, and false Christs. Judas and Theudas, and such like. He suitably calls the Scriptures the door; for they bring us to God, and open upon us the knowledge of Him. They make the sheep, guard them, and fence off the wolves. As a trusty door, Scripture shuts out heretics, securing us from error, in whatsoever we desire; and, unless we damage it, we are unassailable by our enemies. By means of it we shall know who are pastors and who are not." [Note 10]


St. Austin: "If any one, in matters relating to Christ, or His Church, or any other thing which belongs to faith or our life,—I will not say, if we, ... but even (what St. Paul has added) 'if an angel from heaven shall preach unto you, besides what ye have received in the Scriptures of the Law and the Gospel, let him be accursed.'" [Note 11]

Again, speaking to the Donatists, he asks, "Why add {319} ye to God's Testament by saying, that Christ is heir of no lands but where He has Donatus for co-heir? We are not jealous. Read this to us out of the Law, out of the Prophets, out of the Psalms, out of the Gospel itself, or out of the letters of the Apostles, read it thence, and we believe it." [Note 12]

Anastatius of Antioch, speaking of the trees of life, and of the knowledge of good and evil, says, "It is manifest that those things are not to be inquired into, which Scripture has passed over in silence. For the Holy Spirit has dispensed and administered to us all things which conduce to our profit." [Note 13]


In our controversy with Rome, we need not bring early authorities; indeed, the later is the date of the evidence, the stronger is our case against its theology. With this view I quote John of Damascus (A.D. 730), whose exact and learned orthodoxy [Note 14] on the great points of faith is sullied by his defence of Image-worship. In the beginning of his work on the Orthodox Faith, he says, "God has not abandoned us in our complicated ignorance of Himself; nay, He has implanted in all men, by nature, the knowledge that there is a God … Moreover He has revealed to us a knowledge of Himself, as far as our weak nature can bear it, first by the Law and the Prophets, then also by His Only-begotten Son, our Lord and God and Saviour, Jesus Christ. All things, therefore, which are delivered to us by Law and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists, we receive, and acknowledge, and reverence; {320} but we seek for nothing beyond them. For in that God is good; He is the Giver of all good; He has neither jealousy nor other passion ... Whatever is profitable for us, that He has revealed: whatever were too great to bear, that He has buried in silence. These things, then, [which are given] let us, on our part, make much of, in these let us rest; neither overpassing the everlasting boundaries, nor in any respect transgressing the divine message." In the next chapter, he closes a reflection upon the most sacred doctrines of the Faith thus: "It cannot be that we should preach, or at all know, anything about God, besides what the divine oracles of the Old and New Testaments have divinely set forth, said, or manifested to us."


These extracts, strong as they are in themselves, give but a faint impression of the distinct and familiar apprehension of this great principle, in the minds of the Fathers, as evinced by their writings. It is not in one or two formal enunciations, but in the spirit, the drift, the concealed assumption of their arguments, that we discern this fundamental doctrine of the Anglican Church. It is by tracing the course of a controversy, and observing how habitually present it was to the reasonings of all the contending parties, how it guided the deliberations and decisions of Councils, how it is incidentally brought out into words, that we realize to ourselves the strength of our position. This cannot be adequately conveyed to the mind by a mere assertion that it is so, or by mere extracts, yet one or two more may be of service in illustrating what nothing but a perusal of the originals in course can suitably impress on the mind [Note 15]. {321}


Vincentius is commonly and rightly adduced as the champion of Tradition. He is certainly a remarkable witness of the sense of the Church in his day, that Private Judgment was not to be tolerated in the great matters of faith, which were as clearly determined, as much parts of the foundation of Christianity, as the Scriptures themselves, or their canonicity. He maintains that individuals must yield to the voice of the Church Catholic. But let it be observed after all, what kind of Tradition he is upholding; an independent witness of Christian Truth? far from it, merely and solely an interpretative Tradition, a Tradition interpretative of Scripture in the great articles of faith. Thus the very treatise, which is so destructive to mere Protestantism, is as fatal to the claims of Rome. Not only is all mention of the Pope omitted as the Judge of controversies, but all mention of Tradition, except as subordinate to Holy Scripture. The opening of his work will set this clearly before us:—

"I have made frequent inquiries," he says, "and that with much earnestness and anxiety, of a great number of {322} holy and learned men, for some definite and general rule for discriminating the truth of the Catholic faith, from the falsity of heretical pravity; and have always got an answer such as this, I may say, from all ... to fortify my faith in two ways ... first, by the authority of the Divine Law, next, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church. Here some one may ask, Since the Canon of the Scriptures is perfect, and sufficient, and more than sufficient in itself for all purposes, what is the need of joining to it the authority of the ecclesiastical sense? I answer, because the depth of Holy Scripture is such, that all do not take it in one and the same sense, but its statements are interpreted variously by various persons, so that as many senses seem deducible from it, as there are men to read it ... On this account it is very necessary, such complicated and various error abounding, to regulate the interpretation of Prophets and Apostles by the standard of the Ecclesiastical and Catholic Sense." [Note 16]

Now, on the former part of this extract I make this remark; Tradition, we know, is prior to Scripture in order of time, both historically and in its application to individuals [Note 17]. Rome indeed rests the claims of Tradition in no slight degree on this very circumstance. "Jesus Christ," says Bossuet [Note 18], "having laid the foundation of His Church by preaching, the unwritten word was consequently the first rule of Christianity; and when the writings of the New Testament were added to it, its authority was not forfeited on that account." This being the case, it is very remarkable that Vincentius should put the written Word first, and Tradition second. Had not Scripture been first in dignity and consideration, he would necessarily have made prior mention of the unwritten word. There is no other way of accounting for his saying, "first the authority of the Divine Law, next the Tradition {323} of the Church Catholic." What follows makes this abundantly clear. The very need of Tradition arises only from the obscurity of Scripture, and is terminated with the interpretation of it. Vincentius assumes as undeniable, the very doctrine rejected by the Romanists, the sovereign and sole authority of Scripture in matters of faith, nor has he a thought of any other question but the further one, how it is to be interpreted. His submission even to Catholic Tradition, is simply and merely as it subserves the due explanation of Scripture.


Vincentius's treatise was written during the Nestorian controversy. I will now review some of the documents of the Apollinarian, in which the same principle of verifying doctrine by means of Scripture is carefully and uniformly kept in view.

Athanasius, in the following passage, distinguishes between Tradition as teaching, and Scripture as proving, verifying doctrine. "Our faith is correct, and is derived from Apostolical teaching and the Tradition of the Fathers, being established out of the New and Old Testaments." [Note 19]

Again; he recommends the very course, as a mode of acting familiar to him, which has been already described as the Church's usual procedure towards innovators; viz. {324} first to silence them by her own authority and the received Tradition; but if matters became worse and a controversy ensued, then to have recourse to Scripture as a sure confirmation of the Catholic doctrine. He has been recounting the Apollinarian tenets, and then chides the Bishop to whom he writes, for not having silenced them at once. "For my part," he says, "I was astonished that your holiness endured such impieties, and did not silence the authors of them with the pious Faith of the Church; that they might either submit and be quiet, or resist and be treated as heretics … And though it might be necessary formally to prove and expose their extravagance, yet it were well, if possible, to stop here, and write not a word more. For doctrines so unsound on the very face of them, ought not to be discussed and made much of, lest to disputatious men they should appear really doubtful. They ought to receive this answer and nothing beyond, 'It is enough that these are not the doctrines of the Church nor of the Fathers.' However, lest these devisers of evil should be emboldened by our continued silence, it may be well to bring to memory a few things from the Holy Scripture, since this may shame them perhaps from pursuing their base notions." [Note 20]

Again: "Either then deny the Holy Scriptures, or, if you acknowledge them, do not indulge speculations beyond what is written, which will do irreparable mischief." [Note 21] Now, this is one of those passages, which, taken by itself, would stand for little; for it might easily be said, that it merely asserts that Scripture is of authority, not that Tradition is not. But when we find this appeal to Scripture repeated again and again in various shapes, and no similar appeal to Tradition, the argument for Scripture being at that time accounted the record of saving faith, becomes a strong one. {325}


For this reason, I add the following passages from the same treatise: "If then ye be disciples of the Gospels, speak not iniquity against God, but walk by what is written and done. But if ye desire to speak other things beyond what is written, why do you contend with us, who are determined neither to hear nor to speak beyond what is written, the Lord having said, 'If ye abide in My word, ye shall be truly free.'" [Note 22]

"What inconceivable abandonment of mind is this, which leads you to speak what is not in Scripture, and to entertain thoughts foreign to godliness?"

"While then we confess that Christ is God and man, we do not speak this as if to imply separation in His nature, (God forbid) but, again, according to the Scriptures."

He concludes with the following words, in which the same distinction is made, as has already been pointed out, between the Tradition of the Church, as in antecedent argument, a fair plea, ordinarily superseding inquiry, and, on the other hand, when for one reason or another the inquiry has proceeded, Scripture as the only basis of sound argument and inference. "I have written the above, beloved, though really it was unnecessary, for the Evangelical Tradition is sufficient; but because you asked concerning our faith, and because of those who are willing to make sport with their original views, and do not consider that he who speaks out of his private judgment speaks a lie. For neither the comeliness nor the glory of the Lord's human body can we attain to express by wit of man; but so far only, to confess what has been done, as it is in Scripture, and to worship the true God, for the glory and acknowledgment of His love towards man," [Note 23] &c. {326}

Again, in his second book against Apollinaris: "Whence you gained your notion," that the soul is of a fleshly nature, "I cannot understand; it is neither proved from the Holy Scriptures, nor is it according to the received opinion of the world." [Note 24]


I conclude with referring to Theodoret's mode of conducting the same or a similar controversy. In each of the three argumentative Dialogues, of which his Eranistes is composed, we find the following significant arrangement, in accordance with Vincentius's direction already commented on;—the arguments from Scripture come first, and then passages from the Fathers in illustration. Moreover in his first Dialogue, he introduces his authorities from the Fathers in the following way. Eranistes, the heterodox disputant, after hearing his proofs from Scripture, says, "You have expounded this text well; but I would fain learn how the ancient Doctors of the Church understood it." Orthodox replies, "You ought to have been satisfied with these proofs from Apostles and Prophets. However, since you desire besides the expositions of the Holy Fathers, I will give you this aid also, with God's blessing." As if he said, it is not now the place for bringing mere authority; I am proving the doctrine. Authority is well in its place, viz., before the controversy; but now our business is with Scripture.

Again, in his second Dialogue: "We will endeavour to persuade Arius to confess the one substance of the Holy Trinity, and we will bring the proofs of this from Holy Scripture."

And again: "How can a man dispute with those who deny our Lord has taken flesh, or human soul, or mind, except by adducing his proofs from Divine Scripture? how {327} refute those who with mad zeal disparage the Divinity of the Only-begotten, except by showing that Divine Scripture has spoken some things with reference to His Divine, other things with reference to His human Nature?" [Note 25]

Out of the third Dialogue I select the following. After Orthodox has stated the Catholic doctrine of the Passion and Resurrection, Eranistes answers, "The doctrines of the Church should be set forth, not in declaration merely, but by proof. Show me, then, that Holy Scripture teaches this." Upon which Orthodox proceeds to cite the Epistle to the Romans.

Again: "Eranistes,—St. Peter says, 'Christ having suffered for us in the flesh.' Orthodox.—Surely this is quite agreeable to our doctrine; for we have learned our Canon of doctrines from Holy Scripture."

One more passage shall be cited. "To add anything to the words of Scripture is madness and audacity; but to open the text, and to develope its hidden sense, is holy and religious." Here is the doctrine of the Gallic Vincentius in the mouth of a Syrian Bishop [Note 26].


Nothing, I think, is plainer from these extracts, than that the authors of them looked upon Scripture as the public standard of proof, the tribunal of appeal, in controversy, however conclusive the argument from Catholic Tradition might be for private conviction [Note 27]. Now how {328} strikingly coincident with this view are the words of our Articles! "Holy Scripture containeth all things necessary to salvation, so that" (i.e. in such sense that) "whatsoever is not read therein, nor may be proved thereby, is not to be required of any man." The Article is altogether of a polemical character.


[As to the passages quoted from the Fathers in the foregoing Lecture in favour of the exclusive authority of Holy Scripture in matters of faith, as opposed to Tradition, I have already said,—

1. That some of these prove too much for the Anglican theory, as going, if taken in the letter, to the extent of Protestant Private Judgment, p. 318.

2. That others of them give to Tradition the office of arbitrating between rival possible senses of Scripture, and predetermine and impose a sense, thus making Scripture subordinate, p. 289.

3. That others do but recognize and avail themselves of the necessary characteristic of a written document, as contrasted with a tradition, viz. as something that can be handled, examined, analyzed, and drawn out into conclusions,—a process which could not be applied to Tradition, till, as afterwards, it had been converted into the definitions of Councils and the theses and dicta of the Schools, p. 321.

4. That, if the Fathers speak strongly in favour of the authority of Scripture, as in the foregoing passages, they speak as strongly elsewhere in favour of Tradition, p. 312. In proof I will here set down some passages from their writings:—

1. Irenus, writing against the heretics, who, when confuted out of Scripture, appealed to a secret tradition from the Apostles, says,—"Through none others know we the disposition of our salvation, than through those through whom the gospel came to us, first heralding it, then by the will of God delivering it to us in the Scriptures, which were to be the foundation and pillar of our faith … But, when the heretics are refuted out of the Scriptures, they turn to find fault even with those Scriptures, as if they were wrong, and unauthoritative, and were variable, and the truth could not be extracted from them by those who were ignorant of" [a secret] "tradition ... And when we challenge them in turn with that" [true] "tradition, which is from the Apostles, which is guarded by the succession of elders in the churches, they oppose themselves to" [this] "Tradition, saying that they are wiser, not only than those elders, but even than the Apostles. The Tradition of the Apostles, manifested" on the contrary "in the whole world, is open in every Church to all who wish to see the truth … And, since it is a long matter in a work like this to enumerate these successions, we will {329} confute them by pointing to the Tradition of that greatest and most ancient and universally known Church, founded and constituted at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, a tradition which she has and a faith which she proclaims to all men from those Apostles." Hor. iii. 1-3.

2. Tertullian: "Our appeal must not be made to the Scriptures, nor must controversy be admitted on points in which victory will either be impossible or uncertain, or not certain enough. But even if a discussion from the Scriptures 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? From what original giver, and through whom, and when, and to whom, has been handed down that Rule by which men became Christians?" Prscrip. 19 (Holmes's Transl.).

3. Vincent of Lerins: "That holy and wise man" Pope Stephen, "understood aright that the rule of orthodoxy (rationem pietatis) admitted nothing but this, that all things should be consigned to the children by that same faith by which they had been received from the fathers, and that we, instead of making religion follow our lead, should on the contrary follow the lead of religion, and that it belonged to Christian sobriety and humility, not to hand down our own ideas to posterity, but to keep those which we have received from our ancestors." Comm. c. 9.

4. Athanasius, speaking of the Arian interpretations of Scripture, says, "Who was ever yet a hearer of such a doctrine? or, whence did they gain it? or who thus expounded to them, when they were at school? What is not from our Fathers, but has come to light in this day, how can it be but that which the blessed Paul has foretold, that "in the latter times, some shall depart from the sound faith," &c., Orat. i. 8. "Let them tell us from what teacher, or by what tradition, they derived those notions concerning the Saviour?'" De Decr. 13.

5. Athanasius: "That of what they now allege from the Gospels they certainly give an unsound interpretation we may easily see, if we now consider the object ([skopos]) of that faith which we Christians hold, and, using it as a rule, apply ourselves, as the Apostle teaches, to the reading of inspired Scripture. For Christ's enemies, being ignorant of this object, have wandered from the way of truth." Orat. iii. 28.

6. "Theodosius," says Socrates, "consulted Nectarius, Bishop of Constantinople, in what way best to rid the Christian religion of its differences of opinion, and to give unity to the Church. This being an anxious matter to Nectarius, Sicinnius advised him to avoid all dialectic contests, and to appeal to the statements of the ancients, and to put the question to the heresiarchs from the Emperor whether they made any account of the doctors who belonged to the Church before the division, or came to issue with them as aliens from Christianity." Hist. v. 10. {330}

7. Basil:—"Of the decrees and announcements kept in the Church, some we have from written teaching, some from the tradition of the Apostles … The day would fail me, if I went through the mysteries of the Church which are not in Scripture ([ta agrapha]). I pass by the others, the very confession of faith, in Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, from what written document have we?" De Spir. s. 66, 67.

8. "It is manifest," says Chrysostom, "that not all things have [the Apostles] delivered down by letter, but many things without writing. Both the one and the other have a claim on faith. So we consider the tradition also of the Church to have a claim on faith. It is a tradition; seek nothing more." In 2 Thess. ii. 15.

9. Augustine, speaking of religious usages says, "Those which we keep, not as being written, but as from tradition, if observed by the whole of Christendom, are thereby understood to be committed to us either by the Apostles themselves or by plenary Councils, and to be retained as instituted." Ep. 118.

10. Epiphanius: "One ought to use Tradition, for not all things can be learnt from Holy Scripture. Some things in writing, some in Tradition, did the Holy Apostles deliver." Hr. 61. 6.]

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1. [No promise of inspiration is given to the Church, but of infallibility, which is not a habit or permanent faculty, but consists in an external divine protection, when the Church speaks ex cathedra, against her falling into error.]
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2. [This is incorrect, and I cannot guess whence the author got such a statement. At Ephesus, for example, the General Council did not refer to a single passage of Scripture before condemning Nestorius, but principally to the Creed of Nica, and to ten or twelve passages from the Fathers. And in the fourth General Council at Chalcedon the language of its members was from first to last, "to keep to the faith of Nica, of Constantinople, of Athanasius, Cyril, Hilary, Basil," &c., Scripture being hardly once mentioned.]
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3. [Quite as ample a collection of passages might be made in favour of the independent authority of Tradition. Vid. infr. note p. 328. Here I will but quote in illustration a portion of what I have myself noted down in translating and editing at a later date (1841-43) some of the works of Athanasius.

Speaking of that exposition of various texts which is the staple of his Three Discourses, I say, p. 482, "It is remarkable that he ends, as he began, with a reference to the ecclesiastical scope, or Regula Fidei, which has so often come under our notice, (E.g. [ho tes aletheias logos elenchei], Orat. ii. 35; also, ii. 1, 3, 5, 13, 31, 18, 65, 60, 63, 70, &c. Orat. i. 44; iii. 28, 58. Apol. contr. Ar. 36, 46. Serap. ii. 2, 7; iv. 15. Orat.. i. 32, de Syn. 18. Sent. D. 19, de Decr. 13, 17, et passim. Epiphan. Hr. p.830. Euseb. Eccl. Theol. pp. 62, 164, &c. &c.) as if distinctly to tell us that Scripture did not so force its meaning on the individual as to dispense with an interpreter, and as if his own deductions were not to be viewed merely in their own logical power, great as that power often is, but as under the authority of the Catholic doctrines which those deductions subserve. It is hardly a paradox to say that, in patristical works of controversy, the conclusion in a certain sense proves the premisses."]
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4. Contr. Herm. c. 22.
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5. In Jerem. Hom. i. 7.
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6. In Matt. tom. ii.
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7. Optat. De Schism. Don. v. 3. Vid. also Austin on Ps. xxi. ii. 30.
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8. Cat. iv. 17.
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9. Serm. de Fide 1 fin. and Moral. reg. 72, c. i.
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10. In Joann. 58, ed. Duc. He is speaking primarily of the Old Testament.
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11. Contr. Lit. Petilian. iii. 7. [These passages are "pi legenda." Else, they prove too much for the Anglican view, viz. that Tradition has no force, and Private Judgment is incumbent on us.]
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12. Contr. Donatist. Ep. (De Unitate Eccl.) 11. This work is of the date of St. Austin, if not his.
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13. Anagog. Contempl. in Hexem. lib. 8 init.
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14. He denies, however, the Procession of the Third Person of the Holy Trinity from the Second, de F. O. i. 8 fin.
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15. [That the informations of Scripture were of the first importance with the early Church is indisputable, and I do not wish so far to modify what is said in the text. But before concluding that Scripture was therefore recognized as the sole rule of doctrine and document of proof in early times, the following consideration must be taken into account. The mode of proving a point varies, we know, with its subject matter. As investigations leading to physical conclusions must be physical, so when conclusions are in what may be called theological literature, the necessary investigations must lie in books. As the Author has allowed, supr. p. 291, mere tradition has not body enough to furnish materials for argument and research; what is needed in controversy is the expression of ideas and of trains of thought in language. The early Christians, when teaching and proving Christianity, had nothing tangible to appeal to but the Scriptures. As time went on, and a theological literature grew up, the appeal exclusively to Scripture ceased. Intermitted it never could be. Scripture had the prerogative of inspiration, and thereby a sacredness and power, sui generis; but, from the nature of the case, it was inferior as an instrument of proof, in directness and breadth, to Councils, to the Schola, and to the Fathers, doctors, theologians, and devotional writers of the Church.]
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16. Commonit. 1 and 2.
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17. Laud, Conf. xvi. 32, p. 101.
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18. Expos. ch. xvii.
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19. Ad. Adelph. 6. The same contrast between Scripture and Tradition is observed by Cyril of Jerusalem. He says just before the passage already quoted from him, after reciting and commenting on the Creed, "Keep in thy mind always this seal of faith, which I have now summarily stated in its chief articles. But if the Lord permit I will speak of them according to my power with proof from Scripture." And shortly after, "Learn and hold fast thy faith in what is taught and promised; that faith which alone is now delivered to thee by Tradition of the Church and established from Scripture. But, since not all have ability to read the Scriptures, but are hindered from knowing them, whether by want of education or of leisure, we comprehend in a few articles the whole doctrine of faith, lest souls perish from want of instruction." Catech. iv. 17, v. 12.
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20. Ad. Epict. 5.
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21. Contr. Apoll. i. 6
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22. Contr. Apollin. i. 8. fin.
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23. Ibid. 9, 11, 22, fin.
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24. Ibid. ii. 8. Vide also passages in 9, 13, 14, 17, 18, and 19.
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25. Pp. 43, 78, 113. Vide also pp. 79 and 97.
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26. Pp. 199, 213, 224.
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27. [After all is said, it would appear (as observed supr. p. 289) that the differences of Rome and England in the question of Scripture and Tradition are, in the hands of Anglican controversialists, verbal only. Catholic controversialists, while insisting that they need not prove their doctrine from Scripture, always do so prove it; and Anglicans, while insisting that Tradition is unauthoritative, treat it with a deference, which is the correlative of authority.]
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Newman Reader — Works of John Henry Newman
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