The Church Fathers and the Idefectibility of the Catholic Church by Joe Gallegos
"But [it has, on the other hand, been shown], that the preaching of the Church is everywhere consistent, and continues in an even course, and receives testimony from the prophets, the apostles, and all the disciples--as I have proved--through [those in] the beginning, the middle, and the end, and through the entire dispensation of God, and that well-grounded system which tends to man's salvation, namely, our faith; which, having been received from the Church, we do preserve, and which always, by the Spirit of God, renewing its youth, as if it were some precious deposit in an excellent vessel, causes the vessel itself containing it to renew its youth also. For this gift of God has been entrusted to the Church, as breath was to the first created man, for this purpose, that all the members receiving it may be vivified; and the [means of] communion with Christ has been distributed throughout it, that is, the Holy Spirit, the earnest of incorruption, the means of confirming our faith, and the ladder of ascent to God. 'For in the Church," it is said, "God hath set apostles, prophets, teachers,' and all the other means through which the Spirit works; of which all those are not partakers who do not join themselves to the Church, but defraud themselves of life through their perverse opinions and infamous behaviour. For where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God; and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church, and every kind of grace; but the Spirit is truth."
Irenaeus,Against Heresies,3:24 (A.D. 180),in ANF,I:458
"But I shall pray the Spirit of Christ to wing me to my Jerusalem. For the Stoics say that heaven is properly a city, but places here on earth are not cities; for they are called so, but are not. For a city is an important thing, and the people a decorous body, and a multitude of men regulated by law as the church by the word--a city on earth impregnable--free from tyranny; a product of the divine will on earth as in heaven."
Clement of Alexandria,Stromata,4:26(A.D. 202),in ANF,II:441
"And Peter, on whom the Church of Christ is built, against which the gates of hell shall not prevail..."
Origen,On John,5(A.D. 232),in ANF,X:346
"[F]or the rock is inaccessible to the serpent, and it is stronger than the gates of Hades which are opposing it, so that because of its strength the gates of Hades do not prevail against it; but the church, as a building of Christ who built His own house wisely upon the rock, is incapable of admitting the gates of Hades which prevail against every man who is outside the rock and the church, but have no power against it."
Origen,On Matthew,12:11(A.D. 244),in ANF,X:457
"But we who hope for the Son of God are persecuted and trodden down by those unbelievers. For the wings of the vessels are the churches; and the sea is the world, in which the Church is set, like a ship tossed in the deep, but not destroyed; for she has with her the skilled Pilot, Christ. And she bears in her midst also the trophy (which is erected) over death; for she carries with her the cross of the Lord. For her prow is the east, and her stern is the west, and her hold is the south, and her tillers are the two Testaments; and the ropes that stretch around her are the love of Christ, which binds the Church; and the net which she bears with her is the layer of the regeneration which renews the believing, whence too are these glories. As the wind the Spirit from heaven is present, by whom those who believe are sealed: she has also anchors of iron accompanying her, viz., the holy commandments of Christ Himself, which are strong as iron. She has also mariners on the right and on the left, assessors like the holy angels, by whom the Church is always governed and defended. The ladder in her leading up to the sailyard is an emblem of the passion of Christ, which brings the faithful to the ascent of heaven. And the top-sails aloft upon the yard are the company of prophets, martyrs, and apostles, who have entered into their rest in the kingdom of Christ."
Hippolytus,Christ and AntiChrist,59(A.D. 200),in ANF,V:216-217
"The spouse of Christ cannot be adulterous; she is uncorrupted and pure. She knows one home; she guards with chaste modesty the sanctity of one couch. She keeps us for God. She appoints the sons whom she has born for the kingdom. Whoever is separated from the Church and is joined to an adulteress, is separated from the promises of the Church; nor can he who forsakes the Church of Christ attain to the rewards of Christ. He is a stranger; he is profane; he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for his Father, who has not the Church for his mother. If any one could escape who was outside the ark of Noah, then he also may escape who shall be outside of the Church. The Lord warns, saying, 'He who is not with me is against me, and he who gathereth not with me scattereth.' He who breaks the peace and the concord of Christ, does so in opposition to Christ; he who gathereth elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, 'I and the Father are one;' and again it is written of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, 'And these three are one.' And does any one believe that this unity which thus comes from the divine strength and coheres in celestial sacraments, can be divided in the Church, and can be separated by the parting asunder of opposing wills? He who does not hold this unity does not hold God's law, does not hold the faith of the Father and the Son, does not hold life and salvation."
Cyprian,On Unity,6(A.D. 251),in ANF,V:423
"From which things it is evident that all the prophets declared concerning Christ, that it should come to pass at some time, that being born with a body of the race of David, He should build an eternal temple in honour of God, which is called the Church, and assemble all nations to the true worship of God. This is the faithful house, this is the everlasting temple; and if any one hath not sacrificed in this, he will not have the reward of immortality. And since Christ was the builder of this great and eternal temple, He must also have an everlasting priesthood in it; and there can be no approach to the shrine of the temple, and to the sight of God, except through Him who built the temple. David in the cixth Psalm teaches the same, saying: 'Before the morning-star I begat Thee. The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent; Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchisedec.' "
Lactantius,Divine Institutes,4:14(A.D. 310),in ANF,VII:113
"And besides, also, one only Catholic and Apostolic Church, which can never be destroyed, though all the world should seek to make war with it; but it is victorious over every most impious revolt of the heretics who rise up against it. For her Goodman hath confirmed our minds by saying, 'Be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.' "
Alexander of Alexandria,Epistle on the Arian Heresy,12(A.D. 321),in ANF,VI:296
"But I trust that the Church, by the light of her doctrine, will so enlighten the world's vain wisdom, that, even though it accept not the mystery of the faith, it will recognise that in our conflict with heretics we, and not they, are the true representatives of that mystery. For great is the force of truth; not only is it its own sufficient witness, but the more it is assailed the more evident it becomes; the daily shocks which it receives only increase its inherent stability. It is the peculiar property of the Church that when she is buffeted she is triumphant, when she is assaulted with argument she proves herself in the right, when she is deserted by her supporters she holds the field. It is her wish that all men should remain at her side and in her bosom; if it lay with her, none would become unworthy to abide under the shelter of that august mother, none would be cast out or suffered to depart from her calm retreat. But when heretics desert her or she expels them, the loss she endures, in that she cannot save them, is compensated by an increased assurance that she alone can offer bliss. This is a truth which the passionate zeal of rival heresies brings into the clearest prominence. The Church, ordained by the Lord and established by His Apostles, is one for all; but the frantic folly of discordant sects has severed them from her. And it is obvious that these dissensions concerning the faith result from a distorted mind, which twists the words of Scripture into conformity with its opinion, instead of adjusting that opinion to the words of Scripture. And thus, amid the clash of mutually destructive errors, the Church stands revealed not only by her own teaching, but by that of her rivals. They are ranged, all of them, against her; and the very fact that she stands single and alone is her sufficient answer to their godless delusions. The hosts of heresy assemble themselves against her; each of them can defeat all the others, but not one can win a victory for itself. The only victory is the triumph which the Church celebrates over them all."
Hilary of Poitiers,On the Trinity,7:4(A.D. 359),in NPNF2,IX:119
"[W]e are content with the fact that this is not the teaching of the Catholic Church, nor did the fathers hold this."
Athanasius,To Epicletus,Epistle 59:3(A.D. 371),in NPNF2,IV:571
" Of old the Psalmist sang, 'Bless ye God in the congregations, even the Lord, (ye that are) from the fountains of Israel'. But after the Jews for the plots which they made against the Saviour were cast away from His grace, the Saviour built out of the Gentiles a second Holy Church, the Church of us Christians, concerning which he said to Peter, 'And upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'. And David prophesying of both these, said plainly of the first which was rejected, 'l have hated the Congregation of evil doers'; but of the second which is built up he says in the same Psalm, 'Lord, I have loved the beauty of Thine hour'; and immediately afterwards. 'In the Congregations will I bless thee, O Lord'. For now that the one Church in Judaea is cast off, the Churches of Christ are increased over all the world; and of them it is said in the Psalms, 'Sing unto the Lord a new song, His praise in the Congregation of Saints'. Agreeably to which the prophet also said to the Jews, 'I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord Almighty'; and immediately afterwards, 'For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same, My name is glorified among the Gentiles'. Concerning this Holy Catholic Church Paul writes to Timothy, 'That thou mayest know haw thou oughtest to behave thyself in the House of God, which is the Church of the Living God, the pillar and ground of the truth'"
Cyril of Jerusalem,Catechetical Lectures,18:25(A.D. 350),in NPNF2,VII:140
"He seems to have designated the tabernacle of the Old Testament a likeness, or a type, and a temporary tabernacle, thereby to intimate that it was to last but for a time, and that, when at last set aside, for it would be substituted the church of Christ, and that this, as being perfect and complete pattern of the heavenly tabernacle, would abide for ever."
Ephraem,On Exodus,1:2(ante A.D.373),in FOC,223
"An heretical congregation is an adulteress woman: for the Catholic hath never from the beginning left the couch and the chamber of her spouse, nor gone after other and strange lovers. Ye have painted a divorced form in new colours; ye have withdrawn your couch from the old wedlock' ye have left the body of a mother, the wife of one husband, decking yourselves out with new arts of pleasing, new allurements of corruption."
Pacian,Epistle 3(ante A.D. 392),in FOC,224
"Such as these have no power against the ark; for holy Noah received a commission, according to the word of the Lord, to secure it;as the Lord said unto him, 'Thou shalt pitch it within and without'; that he might thereby point out the semblance of the holy church of God, which has that efficacy of pitchm which repells pernicious and destructive and serpent-like doctrines. For where is the smell of pitch, there the snake is unable to remain."
Epiphanius,Panarion,51(A.D. 377),in FOC,51
"Go thy way, therefore, to my brethren--that is, to those everlasting doors, which, as soon as they see Jesus, are lifted up. Peter is an 'everlasting door,' against whom the gates of hell shall not prevail. John and James, the sons of thunder, to wit, are 'everlasting doom.' Everlasting are the doors of the Church, where the prophet, desirous to proclaim the praises of Christ, says: 'That I may tell all thy praises in the gates of the daughter of Sion.' "
Ambrose,On the Christian Faith,4:26(A.D. 380),in NPNF2,X:265
"Yet, though your greatness terrifies me, your kindness attracts me. From the priest I demand the safe-keeping of the victim, from the shepherd the protection due to the sheep. Away with all that is overweening; let the state of Roman majesty withdraw. My words are spoken to the successor of the fisherman, to the disciple of the cross. As I follow no leader save Christ, so I communicate with none but your blessedness, that is with the chair of Peter. For this, I know, is the rock on which the church is built! This is the house where alone the paschal lamb can be rightly eaten. This is the ark of Noah, and he who is not found in it shall perish when the flood prevails. But since by reason of my sins I have betaken myself to this desert which lies between Syria and the uncivilized waste, I cannot, owing to the great distance between us, always ask of your sanctity the holy thing of the Lord. Consequently I here follow the Egyptian confessors who share your faith, and anchor my frail craft under the shadow of their great argosies. I know nothing of Vitalis; I reject Meletius; I have nothing to do with Paulinus. He that gathers not with you scatters; he that is not of Christ is of Antichrist."
Jerome,To Pope Damasus[regn. A.D. 366-384],Epistle 15:2(A.D. 377),in NPNF2,VI:18
"Do not hold aloof from the Church; for nothing is stronger than the Church. The Church is thy hope, thy salvation, thy refuge. It is higher than the heaven, it is wider than the earth. It never waxes old, but is always in full vigour. Wherefore as significant of its solidity and stability Holy Scripture calls it a mountain: or of its purity a virgin, or of its magnificence a queen; or of its relationship to God a daughter; and to express its productiveness it calls her barren who has borne seven: in fact it employs countless names to represent its nobleness. For as the master of the Church has many names: being called the Father, and the way, and the life, and the light, and the arm, and the propitiation, and the foundation, and the door, and the sinless one, and the treasure, and Lord, and God, and Son, and the only begotten, and the form of God, and the image of God so is it with the Church itself: does one name suffice to present the whole truth? by no means. But for this reason there are countless names, that we may learn something concerning God, though it be but a small part. Even so the Church also is called by many names. She is called a virgin, albeit formerly she was an harlot: for this is the miracle wrought by the Bridegroom, that He took her who was an harlot and hath made her a virgin. Oh! what a new and strange event? With us marriage destroys virginity, but with God marriage hath restored it. With us she who is a virgin, when married, is a virgin no longer: with Christ she who is an harlot, when married, becomes a virgin."
Chrysostom,Eutropius,2:6(A.D. 399),in NPNF2,IX:256
"It follows after commendation of the Trinity, 'The Holy Church.' God is pointed out, and His temple. 'For the temple of God is holy,' says the Apostle, 'which (temple) are ye.' This same is the holy Church, the one Church, the true Church, the catholic Church, fighting against all heresies: fight, it can: be fought down, it cannot. As for heresies, they went all out of it, like as unprofitable branches pruned from the vine: but itself abideth in its root, in its Vine, in its charity. 'The gates of hell shall not prevail against it.' "
Augustine,Sermon to the Catechumens on the Creed,6:14(A.D. 377),in NPNF1,III:374
" 'I have raised him up a king with justice, and all his ways are right.' The ways of Christ are right, and he has built the holy city, that is, the church, wherein also he dwelleth. For he abideth in the saints, and we have become temples of the living God, having Christ within us through the participation of the Holy Spirit. He, therefore, founded a church, himself being the foundation, in which we also, as rich and precious stones, are built into a holy temple, as a dwelling-place for God in the spirit; the church, having Christ for a foundation, and an immovableable support, is perfectly immoveable."
Cyril of Alexandria, On Isaiah,4(A.D. 429),in FOC,244
" 'But thou hast upheld me by reason of mine innocence, and hast established me in thy sight for ever.' This signifies the church in the apostles and prophets; for not philosphers and rhetoricians, but unlearned men and fishermen, upheld of God, founded a church which he has established in his sight forever."
Arnobius the Younger,On Psalms,40(A.D. 439),in FOC,248-249
"He also denotes, by these men, those who have risen up at divers times against the church, and were not able to overcome it, in accordance with that prohibition of our God and Saviour; 'For the gates of hell,' he says, 'shall not prevail against it.' "
Theodoret of Cyrus,Interpretation of Psalms,5(A.D. 449),in FOC,246
"But the Church of Christ, the careful and watchful guardian of the doctrines deposited in her charge, never changes anything in them, never diminishes, never adds, does not cut off what is necessary, does not add what is superfluous, does not lose her own, does not appropriate what is another's, but while dealing faithfully and judiciously with ancient doctrine, keeps this one object carefully in view,--if there be anything which antiquity has left shapeless and rudimentary, to fashion and polish it, if anything already reduced to shape and developed, to consolidate and strengthen it, if any already ratified and defined to keep and guard it. Finally, what other object have Councils ever aimed at in their decrees, than to provide that what was before believed in simplicity should in future be believed intelligently, that what was before preached coldly should in future be preached earnestly, that what was before practised negligently should thenceforward be practised with double solicitude ? This, I say, is what the Catholic Church, roused by the novelties of heretics, has accomplished by the decrees of her Councils,--this, and nothing else,--she has thenceforward consigned to posterity in writing what she had received from those of olden times only by tradition, comprising a great amount of matter in a few words, and often, for the better understanding, designating an old article of the faith by the characteristic of a new name. But let us return to the apostle. 'O Timothy,' he says, 'Guard the deposit,; shunning profane novelties of words. ' 'Shun them as you would a viper, as you would a scorpion, as you would a basilisk, lest they smite you not only with their touch, but I even with their eyes and breath.' What is "to shun' ? Not even to eat with a person of this sort What is "shun'? 'If anyone,' says St. John, 'come to you and bring not this doctrine. What doctrine ? What but the Catholic and universal doctrine, which has continued one and the same through the several successions of ages by the uncorrupt tradition of the truth and so will continue for ever--'Receive him not into your house, neither bid him Godspeed, for he that biddeth him Godspeed communicates with him in his evil deeds.' "
Vincent of Lerins,Commonitories,59-60(A.D. 450),in NPNF2,XI:148
"Since, therefore, the universal Church has become a rock (petra) through the building up of that original Rock , and the first of the Apostles, the most blessed Peter, heard the voice of the LORD saying, 'Thou art Peter, and upon this rock (petra) I will build My Church ,' who is there who dare assail such impregnable strength, unless he be either antichrist or the devil, who, abiding unconverted in his wickedness, is anxious to sow lies by the vessels of wrath which are suited to his treachery, whilst under the false name of diligence he pretends to be in search of the Truth."
Pope Leo the Great[regn. A.D. 440-461],To Leo Augustus,Epistle 156:2(ante A.D. 461),in NPNF2,XIII:100
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