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The Early Church Fathers on the Church's Sanctity.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



    St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258)
    Lactantius, (A.D. 240-c.330)
    Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338)
    St. Zeno of Verona, (unknown- A.D. c.383)
    St. Optatus of Milevis, (unknown - A.D. 384)
    St. Pacian of Barcelona, (A.D. c.310-375)
    St. Epiphanius of Salamis, (A.D. 332-403)
    St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396)
    St. Jerome, (A.D. 342-420)
St. Cyprian of Carthage, (A.D. 200-258), North African; bishop; biblical scholar, martyr.

"The Church is one, which having obtained the grace of eternal life, both lives forever, and gives life to the people of God."

Ep. lxxi. ad Quintum,p. 271.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 208

"When our Lord Jesus Christ declared in the Gospel that they who were not with Him were His adversaries, He specified not any particular kind of heresy, but pointed out all whatsoever that were not with Him, and that, not gathering with Him, scattered His flock, as being His adversaries, saying, "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth." So, neither did the blessed Apostle John distinguish any one heresy or schism, nor set down any in particular, as separatists, but gave to all who had gone out of the Church, and who acted against the Church, the name of Antichrists, saying, "You have heard that Antichrist cometh: even now there are become many Antichrists, whereby we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us; but they were not of us. For if they had been of us, they would no doubt have remained with us." (1 John, 2:18, 19) Whence it appears that all are adversaries of the Lord, and Antichrists, who are clearly known to have with drawn from the charity and unity of the Catholic Church. The Lord yet further, in the Gospel, lays it down, and says, "But if he shall also contemn the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican;" but if they who contemn the Church are accounted heathens and publicans, much more assuredly must rebels and enemies who invent false altars, and illicit priesthoods, and sacrilegious sacrifices, and spurious names, need be reckoned amongst "heathens and publicans"; since lesser sinners, and men who are simply contemners of the Church are, by the Lord's sentence, adjudged to be heathens and publicans. For that the Church is one, the Holy Ghost declares, in the Canticle of Canticles, saying, in the person of Christ, "One is my dove, my perfect one, she is the only one of her mother, the chosen one of her that bore her." (Song of Solomon 6:9); of whom He also saith, in another place, "My sister, my spouse, is a garden enclosed, a fountain sealed up, a well of living water." (Song of Solomon 4:12) But if the Spouse of Christ, which is the Church, is a garden enclosed, a thing closed cannot lie open to aliens and the profane; and if it is a fountain sealed up, he can neither drink thence, nor be sealed, who, as being placed without, has no access to the fountain. The well, also, of living water if it is one, and that same well is within, he who is placed without, cannot be vivified and sanctified by that water, to use and to drink of which, has been granted to those alone who are within.

[He proceeds to argue, from other passages of Scripture, in support of this his view, and continues]

For the Church is one, one which cannot be both within and without. For if it is with Novatian, it was not with Cornelius; whilst if it was with Cornelius, who by lawful ordination succeeded the bishop Fabian, Novatian is not in the Church, nor can he be accounted a bishop, who, the evangelical and apostolical tradition despised, succeeding to no one, has sprung from himself. For he who has not been ordained in the Church, can in no way have, or hold to, a church. For that the Church is not without, nor can be separated or divided against itself, but that it preserves the unity of an inseparable and undivided house, the testimony of divine Scripture manifests, since it is written concerning the sacrament of the Passover, and of the lamb, which lamb denoted Christ. "In one house shall it be eaten; ye shall not cast forth of the flesh thereof out of the house ." (Exodus 12:46)

The same likewise we see written respecting Raab, who also bore an image of the Church; it is enjoined and said to her, "Thy father and thy mother and thy brethren and all the household of thy father shalt thou gather unto thee into thine house, and whosoever shall go out of the door of thy house, his blood shall be upon his own head." (Joshua 2:19, 20) By which mystery, it is shown that they who would live and escape the general destruction of the world, must be gathered together into one only house, that is, into the Church; but that whosoever of those so gathered together shall go forth, that is, if any one, although having obtained grace in the Church, shall withdraw and go forth from the Church, "his blood shall be upon his own head," he must, that is, impute his destruction to himself. Which the Apostle Paul explains, teaching and enjoining, that a heretic is to be avoided, as being perverse and a sinner, and condemned of himself. (Titus 3:10, 11) For that man shall have brought destruction on himself, who, not cast out by the bishop, but a deserter of the Church of his own accord, (is) condemned of himself through heretical presumption. And therefore the Lord, indicating to us that unity cometh from divine authority, sets down this saying, "I and the Father are one;" to which unity reducing His Church, He again says, "And there shall be one flock and one Shepherd." But if the flock is one, how can he who is not in the number of the flock, be reckoned in the flock? Or how can he be accounted a shepherd, who,— the true shepherd remaining by successive ordination and presiding in the Church of God,— succeeding to no one, and beginning from himself, becomes an alien and profane, the enemy of the peace of the Lord and of divine unity, dwelling not in the house of God, that is, in the Church of God, in which only men of one mind and heart dwell, according as the Holy Spirit says in the Psalms, "God that maketh men of one mind dwell in a house (Psalm 67:7)? In fine, even the very sacrifices of the Lord show forth Christian unanimity, knit together by firm and inseparable charity. For when the Lord calls bread, which is formed from the union of many grains, His body, He indicates our people, whom He bore, united together; and when He calls wine, which is expressed out of many clusters and bunches of grapes, and is incorporated into one, His blood, He in like manner signifies our flock joined together by the admixture of a united multitude. . . . Lastly, how inseparable is the sacrament of unity, and how they are without hope, and purchase for themselves the deepest perdition through the wrath of God, who make a schism, and forsaking their bishop, set up for themselves a false bishop with out, is by divine Scripture declared in the Book of Kings." (3 Kings 11)

Ep. lxxvi. ad Magnum, pp. 316-318.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 137-140

"Heresies and schisms are his (the devil's) inventions, where with to subvert faith, to corrupt truth, and rend unity. Those whom he cannot detain in the blindness of the old way, he circumvents and deceives by misleading them on their new journey. He snatches men from out the Church itself. . . . . .This is the result as long as men have not recourse to the source of truth, nor seek the head, nor keep the doctrine of the heavenly Father. Which whosoever will consider and examine, for him there is no need of a lengthened treatise and much argument. Proof is ready for belief in a short statement of the truth. The Lord says unto Peter: "I say unto thee, saith He, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell shall not vanquish it; and to thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in Heaven." (St. Matthew 16:18, 19) And again, to the same, after His resurrection, He says, "Feed my sheep." Upon that one (man) He builds His Church, and to him He assigns His sheep to be fed. And although to all the Apostles, after His resurrection, He gives an equal power, and says, "As the Father sent me, I also send you: receive ye the Holy Ghost: whosesoever sins ye shall remit, they shall be remitted unto him; whosesoever ye shall retain, they shall be retained." (St. John 20:21); yet, in order to manifest unity, He has, by His own authority, so placed the origin of that same unity, as that it begins from one. Certainly the other Apostles also were what Peter was, endowed with an equal fellowship both of honor and power, but the commencement proceeds from unity, and the primacy is given to Peter, that the Church of Christ may be set forth as one, and the see (chair) as one. And they are all shepherds, yet the flock is shown to be one, such as may be fed by all the Apostles with unanimous agreement, that the Church of Christ may be set forth as one. Which one Church, in the Canticle of Canticles, the Holy Spirit designates, in the person of Christ, and says, "My dove, my spotless one, is but one; she is the only one of her mother, elect of her that bare her." (Song of Solomon 6:9) He who holds not this unity of the Church, does he think that he holds the faith? He who strives against and resists the Church, he who abandons the chair of Peter, upon whom the Church was founded,— does he feel confident that he is in the Church? Seeing that the blessed Apostle Paul also teaches this same thing, and shows the sacrament of unity in these words, "One body and one spirit, one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God." (Ephesians 4:4), this unity should we hold and vindicate firmly, especially we bishops, who preside in the Church in order that we may approve the episcopate itself one and undivided. Let no one deceive the brotherhood by falsehood, no one corrupt the truth of faith by faithless prevarication. The episcopate is one, a complete part of which is held by each bishop. The Church too is one. though extended far and wide, and is further multiplied by the increase of her fruitfulness. As the sun has rays many, yet one light; and the tree boughs many, yet its strength is one, resting on the firmly clinging root; and as, when many streams flow down from one fountain-head, though a multiplicity of waters may seem to be diffused from the bountifulness of the overflowing abundance, yet is unity preserved in the common source. Part a ray of the sun from its orb, this division of light the unity allows not: break a branch from the tree, once broken it can bud no more: cut the stream from its source, the remnant dries up. Thus the Church, flooded with the light of the Lord, puts forth her rays through the whole world; yet the light is one, which is spread over every place, while its unity of body is preserved. In the luxuriance of her plenty, she stretches her branches over the universal earth, and spreads out far and wide her bountiful and onward streams. Yet is there one head and one source, and one mother abundant in the results of her fruitfulness. It is of her that we are born; with her milk are we nourished; her breath is our life. The spouse of Christ cannot become adulterate, she is undeflled and chaste. She owns but one home; with spotless purity she guards the sanctity of one chamber. She keeps us for God; she appoints unto a kingdom the sons that she has borne. Whosoever, having separated from the Church, is joined to an adulteress, he is cut off from the promises of the Church. Neither shall he come unto the rewards of Christ who leaves the Church of Christ. He is an alien, he is profane, he is an enemy. He can no longer have God for a Father, who has not the Church for a mother. If any one was able to escape who was without the ark of Noah, then can he escape who is out of doors beyond the Church. The Lord warns and says, "He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathereth not with me, scattereth." He who breaks the peace and concord of Christ's Church, does so against Christ. He who gathers elsewhere than in the Church, scatters the Church of Christ. The Lord says, "I and the Father are one"; and again, of Father, and Son, and Holy Ghost, it is written, "And these three are one." And does any one believe that this unity, thus proceeding from the divine immutability, and cohering in heavenly sacraments, can be rent asunder in the Church, and be split by the divorce of antagonist wills? He who holds not this unity, holds not the law of God, holds not the faith of Father and Son, holds not life and salvation.

[Having shown that, by the seamless garment of Christ, was represented the unity of the Church, he says:]

Because Christ's people cannot be rent, His tunic, woven and conjoined throughout, was not divided by those to whom it fell. Individual, conjoined, co-entwined, it shows the coherent concord of our people who have put on Christ. In the sacrament and sign of His garment, He has declared the unity of the Church. Who then is the criminal and the traitor, who so inflamed with the madness of discord, as to think anything can rend, or to venture on rending, God's unity, the garment of the Lord, the Church of Christ? He himself warns us and teaches in His Gospel, saying, "And there shall he one flock and one shepherd." And does any one think that there can in one place be either many shepherds, or many flocks? So, too, the Apostle Paul, suggesting the same unity, entreats and exhorts, saying, "I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the very same thing, and there be not schisms amongst you. But be you settled in the same mind, and in the same judgment." (1 Corinthians 1:10) Thinkest thou that any can live and stand that withdraws from the Church, and forms for himself other resting-places and other homes?

[He then gives, in illustration of unity, the Passover, and thus makes the application;]

The flesh of Christ and the holy of the Lord cannot be sent out of doors, and there is no other dwelling-place for believers besides the one Church. This home, this hostelry of unanimity, the Holy Spirit designates and proclaims in the Psalms, saying, "God, who makes men of one mind dwell in a hous." (Psalm 67:7) In the house of God, in the Church of Christ, men dwell together of one mind, in concord and simplicity persevering. . . . Neither let certain persons deceive themselves by a vain interpretation, in that the Lord has said, "Wheresoever two or three are gathered together in my name, am with them." Corrupters of the Gospel, and false interpreters, they lay down what follows, and omit what has previously been said; giving heed to one part, while deceitfully suppressing what comes before it. ...If, saith He, "two of you shall agree together on earth." He places agreement first. . Yet how can he be at agreement with another who is at disagreement with the body of the Church itself, and with the universal brotherhood? How can two or three be gathered together in Christ's name, who are manifestly separated from Christ and from His Gospel? For we did not go out from them, but they went out from us. And as heresies and schisms have a later birth, when men set up different conventicles for themselves, they have left the (fountain) head and origin of truth. . . . When therefore He sets it forth in His precepts, and says, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am with them", He who instituted and made the Church, does not divide men from the Church, but rebuking the faithless with their discord, and by His voice commending peace to the faithful, He shows that He is rather with two or three who pray with one mind, than with many persons who are in dissent, and that more can be obtained by the concordant prayer of a few, than from the discordant prayer of many. . . . What peace then can they promise themselves, who are foes to the brethren? what sacrifices do they believe they celebrate, who are rivals of the priests? Or do they think that Christ is with them when gathered together, though gathered out of Christ's Church? Such men, even if killed for the confession of His name, not even by blood is this stain washed out. Inexpiable and heavy is the guilt of discord, nor cleansed away is it by any suffering. He cannot be a martyr, who is not in the Church. He cannot attain to the kingdom, who leaves her to whom the kingdom shall be given. . . . They cannot dwell with God, who have refused to be of one mind in God's Church. Though they be given over to be burnt in fire and flame, or lay down their lives by being a prey to wild beasts, theirs will not be the crown of faith, but the penalty of faithlessness; not the glorious issue of conscientious courage, but the death of despair. Such a man may be killed, crowned he cannot be. . . . The Lord teaches and warns us that we must withdraw from such men: "They are blind, says He, leaders of the blind. But when the blind leads the blind, both fall into the pit." That man is to be avoided and fled from, who is separated from the Church. Such an one is perverted and sinneth, and is condemned of himself. Thinks he that he is with Christ, who does counter to the priests of Christ, and separates himself from the fellowship of His clergy and people? That man bears arms against the Church; he withstands God's appointment: an enemy to the altar, a rebel against the sacrifice of Christ; for faithfulness, faithless; for religion, sacrilegious; a servant without obedience, a son without piety, a brother without love; setting bishops at naught, and abandoning the priests of God, he dares to build another altar, to offer up, with unlawful accents, another prayer, to profane with false sacrifices the truth of the dominical victim; without knowing that he who strives against the ordinance of God, is punished by the divine censure, for the boldness of his temerity. . . . This crime is worse than that which the lapsed appear to commit; who at least, when placed in a state of penitence for their offence, deprecate God with full satisfactions. In their case, the Church is sought for and appealed to; in the other, the Church is resisted: here there may have been compulsion in guilt, there the will is involved. The lapsed harms only himself; but one who tries to raise heresy and schism, betrays many by leading them along with him. Lastly, the lapsed, if he attain unto martyrdom, may receive the promises of the kingdom; the other, if he be killed out of the Church, cannot obtain the Church's rewards. . . . Neither let any one wonder that some, even from among the confessors, adventure thus far ... if, deserting that Church in which he had become a confessor, and rending the concord of unity, he have changed his first faith by a subsequent faithlessness, he cannot flatter himself on the score of his confession, as though he were elected to the reward of glory, since the desert of punishment is rendered greater from this cause: for the Lord chose Judas among the Apostles, and yet Judas afterwards betrayed the Lord. Not therefore, however, did the faith and firmness of the Apostles fail, because the traitor Judas fell away from their fellowship. . . . There is one God, and one Christ, and His Church is one, and the faith one, and the people one, joined into the solid unity of (one) body by the glue of concord. Unity cannot be sundered, nor the one body be separated by the dissolution of its structure; nor be torn in pieces by the rending of its inward vitals. Whatsoever is parted from the womb cannot live and breathe in a state of separation; it loses its principle of health."

De Unitate.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 140-146

Lactantius, (A.D. 240-c.330), was an early Christian author, the goal of his writings was to present Christianity in a form that would be attractive to philosophical pagans.

"As many heresies have sprung up, and as, by the instigation of demons, the people of God has been divided, truth is by us briefly to be defined, and at the same time to be placed in its own proper dwelling place; that so if any one desire to draw the water of life, he may not be carried to broken cisterns that hold no water, but become acquainted with the most bountiful fountain of God, watered by which he may possess perennial life. It behooves us, then, first of all, to know that both Himself and His ambassadors foretold that many sects and heresies would have existence, and sever the concord of the holy body, and warned us to use the utmost prudence and care, for fear lest we might at any time fall into the snares and wiles of that adversary with whom it is God's will that we should wrestle. . . . Some of ours there have been, either less settled in faith, or less learned, or less prudent, who have caused a breach in unity, and disunited the Church. . . . Whilst some there have been, not learned enough in the heavenly writings, who, unable to reply to their opponents, when they objected that it was both impossible and unbecoming that God should be enclosed within a woman's womb . . . have been perverted from the right path, and have corrupted the heavenly writings, so far as to fashion for themselves a new doctrine without any root or firmness: whilst some, enticed away by the predictions of false prophets, who have been, both by Him and by the true prophets, foretold, have fallen away from God's doctrine, and abandoned the true tradition. But all these, entangled in demoniacal wiles which they ought to have foreseen, and to have guarded against, have, by their imprudence, lost the divine name and worship. For whereas they are called Phrygians or Novatians, or Valentinians, or Marcionites, or Anthropians (Arians), or other such, they ceased to be Christians, who, having lost the name of Christ, assumed human and extraneous titles.

The Catholic Church is therefore the only one that retains the true worship. This is the source of truth; this the dwelling-place of faith; this the temple of God, which whosoever enters not, or from which whosoever departs, he is an alien from the hope of life, and eternal salvation. No one ought to flatter himself by means of obstinate disputation; for life and salvation are at stake, which, if not prudently and sedulously looked to, are lost and utterly destroyed.

But, as every sect of heretics thinks itself above every other Christian, the Catholic Church, it is to be known is the true Church wherein are Confession and penitence, which wholesomely heal the wounds and sins to which the weakness of the flesh is subject.
Thus much, in a few words, have I set down by way of admonition, lest any one desirous of avoiding error become entangled in a greater error, whilst ignorant of the shrine of truth."

Divin. Inst. L. iv. c. 30.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 43-44

Eusebius of Cæsarea, (A.D. c.263-338), appointed Bishop of Cæsarea in A.D. 314, Roman historian, exegete and Christian polemicist, scholar of the Biblical canon who was deeply embroiled in the Arian controversy.

"And I will establish his seed for evermore, and his throne as the days of Heaven." (Psalm 88:30) What are we to understand by the seed of Christ, but the churches established by Him throughout the whole universe, and they who amongst all nations have been regenerated unto Him? But His throne is that which has been constituted in His Church, throughout the whole universe, by means of the prelates who are by succession from Him. A throne which He says endures as the days of Heaven. Not like to the regal throne of the Jews, which, having endured for a while, passed away; but the throne here foretold, by means of the above-named prelates of the Church, endures and is preserved, even as the days of Heaven. And if it should ever happen that the people, and the sons of him who is prophesied of, I mean his successors, should act sinfully, He says that they should indeed suffer a reverse through persecutions, but that never should they be cast from their thrones, nor be deprived of the mercy of God. . . . And as it was needful not to think that such promises are announced in simple and bare words, he resumes, and repeats the declaration, sealing with an oath what had been said, in confirmation of the promises. Therefore, says He, "Once have I sworn by my holiness; I will not lie unto David, his seed endures for ever, and his throne as the sun before me, and as the moon perfect forever, and a faithful witness in Heaven." (verse 36, 38) God cannot lie, even though He make a promise without an oath. But as it was needful that, speaking to men, He should accommodate Himself to human ways, even as men swear and appeal to God as a witness to give credit to their own words, so, also, He says that He has sworn, and will not be false to His oath, that, as the divine Apostle says, "By two immutable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we may have the strongest comfort. (Hebrews 6:16)

But what does this oath contain? His seed, He says, "endures forever". This first: and this, the first promise, is concerning the seed, of which He had already said, "I will establish his seed for evermore". He pointed out the succession of Christ. But the second promise is concerning the afore-named throne. Therefore does He say, "And his throne as the sun before me, and as the moon perfect forever." He says, then, that the seed, that is, the disseminated word of Christ, or His people, and the Church, shall never be corrupted, nor fail: and that the throne would endure for evermore, or, according to Symmachus, as the moon remain firm forever. Thus also shall be the ecclesiastical throne of Christ. Does the preceding phrase, "once have I sworn by my holy one", and what is subjoined, "his seed endureth forever", prophesy that the seed of His holy one shall be victorious for ever ... so as that the seed of the holy one of God, to wit of the only-begotten of God, is the doctrine which He sowed upon earth, He himself being the sower of it, according to that parable, spoken by Him, in which He says: "The sower went out to sow his seed". . . ? (Luke 8:5) . . . The event by facts confirming the truth of the word. For we see with our own eyes, the "horn of David", that is the seed, and the succession of our Saviour, Jesus Christ, yea, also the heavenly seed of the evangelic doctrine of the holy one of God, His only-begotten word, that was cast upon the earth, enduring through ages; and, indeed, we also be hold His throne established in the Church throughout the whole universe, in all nations, cities, villages, and places, filling the universal world." Ps. 87. T. 1, Nov. Collect. (Montfaucon) pp. 572-574.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 266-267

St. Zeno of Verona, (unknown- A.D. c.383), Italian; African by birth, on coming to Italy was appointed bishop of Verona, in the year 362. He died about the year 383. His works were collected after his death, at the beginning of the fifth, or at the close of the fourth century. The brothers Ballerini gave an excellent edition, in 1739, Veronae.

"If the Church is therefore the spouse of Christ because it is chaste, and therefore honored with the yoke of a heavenly marriage, because even after the nuptials she thenceforward continues forever a virgin; we who are born of so excellent a union."

Lib. 1, Tract, iv. de Pudicit. n. 1, Galland. t.v.p. 115.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 218

St. Optatus of Milevis, (unknown - A.D. 384), bishop of Milevis, Numidia, in Africa; from Augustine's writings we can assume Optatus was a convert; he is best known for his opposition to the heresy of Donatism.

"One faith, most illustrious brethren, commends all of us who are Christians to Almighty God. . . . Before the Son of God ascended into Heaven, whence He had descended, He left behind Him, through the Apostles, to all Christians, triumphant peace, a peace which, for fear lest He might seem to have left it to the Apostles only, therefore does He say: "What I say to one of you, I say to all." (Mark 13:27)

2. "Had this peace continued whole and inviolate as it was given, and not been disturbed by the authors of schism, there would not now be any dissension between us and our brethren. . . . Neither should we be lamenting the overthrown, or slaughtered souls of the innocent.". . .

De Schism. Donat. l. 1, n. 1, 2
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 155

St. Pacian of Barcelona, (A.D. c.310-375), bishop of Barcelona, Jerome praises his eloquence, learning, chastity, and holiness of life. He is also remembered from a phrase from one of his letters: "My name is Christian, my surname is Catholic.".

"Grant that Novatian suffered somewhat, yet he was not put to death; and had he been put to death, he would not therefore have been crowned. Why? Because he was out of the peace of the Church, out of concord, out of that mother of whom he ought to be a part, who is a martyr. Hearken to the Apostle: "And if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:2)

Galland t. vii. Ep. ii. n. 7, p. 261.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 165-166

"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 colors; 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."

Ep. iii. Galland, t. vii.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 220

"Come, you say, and let us contend with facts and argument." I, for my part, have been free from all anxiety; have been content with the continued existence itself of the Church, and with the peacefulness of the ancient congregation. The arts of discord are unknown to me; I have been no searcher after arguments for disputation. You, after being separated from the rest of the body, and divided from your mother, that you may give a reason for what you have done, have become an assiduous searcher and inquirer into all the hidden recesses of books: what is hidden you explore; what is at rest you disturb. Our fathers, unrequired, entered into no dispute; our very security sought no arms. . . . You state, and rightly indeed, that the Church is a people renewed of water and the Holy Ghost; free from denying the name of Christ; is the temple and the house of God, the pillar and ground of truth; a holy virgin with chastest feelings, the spouse of Christ, of His flesh and of His bones, not having spot or wrinkle; and preserving entire the laws of the Gospels. Who amongst us denies this? None, but let state further, that the Church is the queen "in gilded clothing, surrounded with variety (Psalms 44); the fruitful vine on the sides of the house of the Lord (Psalms 127); the mother of young maidens without number; the one fair and perfect dove of her mother (Canticles, 6); the very mother of all, built upon the foundation of the Apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone; a great house enriched with every variety of vessels." But this of ours hereafter: and meanwhile let us consider your words. "The Church is a people born again of water and of the Holy Ghost." Well! who has closed up the fountain of God? Who has carried away the Spirit (from me)? Yea, rather, with us is "the living water", which springs from Christ: while you, separated from the everlasting fountain, where did you receive your birth? The Holy Spirit, in like manner, has not departed from the chief mother: whence then came He to thee? Unless it be that He has forsooth followed a dissenter, and having abandoned so many priests, content with an unconsecrated throne (chair), He has preferred the broken cistern of an adulterated fountain. . . . The Church is a people free from denying the name of Christ. Are there then no confessors amongst us, proved by chains and fire and sword? There were, you say, but they perished by receiving sinners. . . .But whom can you persuade that the whole Church, by receiving the lapsed, hath fallen away? That, by the admission of penitents, the people of those who admit them has been made a denier (of the faith)? Nay, supposing that a part of the people was too yielding, did the rest also who approved not of what was done, but followed custom and peace, forfeit the Christian name? Hear the voice of Jeremias: "In those days they shall say no more, The fathers have eaten a sour grape, and the teeth of the children are set on edge. But every one shall die for his own iniquity," (Jeremias 31:29, 30.). . . You bind the whole world with the chains of a few; you condemn the whole Church for the weakness of a small portion. Say, are all, in your eyes, saints, whom Novatus instructed, whom Evaristus chose, whom Nicostratus taught, whom Novatian trained? Hast thou escaped the thorns and briars? In thy "corn" are there no "tares?" Is thy "wheat" already purged? Is the purifier to come to thee without his fan? Wilt thou alone be found without "chaff?" But come, proceed with the rest. "The Church is the body of Christ." The body, mind, not a member; the body framed into one out of many parts and members, according to that of the Apostle, For the body is not one member, but many. Wherefore the Church is the full body; both a body, and a compact body, and a body now spread over the whole world: like a city, I mean, whose parts form one whole; not as you Novatians, an unnatural kind of accumulated excrescence and part, separated from the rest of the body. The Church is the temple of God. Truly, a roomy temple; a great house, having vessels of gold and of silver, and also of wood and of earth, some unto honor, and many magnificent set apart for the manifold uses of various works. The Church is a holy virgin, of chastest feelings, the spouse of Christ. A virgin, no doubt, but a mother too; a spouse, undeniably, but also a wife, taken out of her husband, and therefore bone of his bones, and flesh of his flesh. For of her David said, "Thy wife as a fruitful vine, on the sides of thy house. Thy children, as olive plants, round about thy table." This virgin has given birth to many; her offspring is countless; with it the whole world is filled; with it the thronging swarms hum busily within the ever-teeming hives. Great is the mother's care for her children, and tender her affection: the good honored, the haughty punished, the sick healed; not one perishes, not one is despised; the confiding children are governed by the parent's kindness."

"The Church has neither spot nor wrinkle; that is, with out heresies, without Valentinians, without Cataphrygians, without Novatians. In these are certain spotted and wrinkled folds, as if in envy of the ornaments of the precious garments. For the rest, the sinner and the penitent are not a spot on the Church; because, as long as he sins and repents not, he is placed without the Church; when he ceases to sin he is already whole. But the garment of the Lord, that is, the Church of Christ, is by the heretic rent, cut, injured, and crumpled. For whereas, says the Apostle, "there are schisms and contentions among you, are you not carnal, and walk according to man?" (1 Corinthians 3) And "their speech spreadeth like a canker" (2 Timothy 2) This is the "spot" on unity; this the "wrinkle".

Finally, when the Apostle is speaking of these things, he sets before us Christ's love and affection; as Christ loved the Church and delivered Himself up for it, thereby to set aside heretics who know not how to love. But why apply this to the unhappy penitent? Because he wisheth both to love and be loved."

Epist. i. n. 2-6, pp. 262, 263, Galland. t. vii.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 58-61

St. Epiphanius of Salamis, (A.D. 332-403), Palestinian; bishop, abbot, scholar.

At the close of Epiphanius' great work Against the Heresies, he gives, after alluding to the sects and their churches, a brief exposition of faith and practice, which he prefaces as follows, by turning to the Church:

"And now, as we behold the city, let us hasten unto it, the holy Jerusalem, the virgin of Christ and His spouse; the safe foundation and rock; both our venerable mother, and Christ's bride; we too using these most suitable words: "Come and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob, and He will teach us His ways, and the rest." (Isaiah 2:3) Come, then, ye sons of Christ children of the holy Church of God ... let us also cry aloud. As the hart panteth after the fountains of waters, so my soul panteth after Thee, God; and again, When shall I come, and appear before the face of God?" Wherefore let us also speedily call upon the spouse, not as He calls her, He who is her bridegroom and master, king, God, and protector; but let us, as His servants, call unto her, using the same language as He, "Come from Libanus, my spouse, for thou art all fair, and there is not a spot in thee:" the paradise of the great workman; the city of the holy king; spouse of the spotless Christ; the most pure virgin betrothed in faith to one only husband; resplendent and "as the morning rising, fair as the moon, chosen as the sun, terrible as an army set in array; whom queens have declared blessed," and concubines have hymned, and the daughters praised; she that cometh up from the desert, shining all in white, leaning on her beloved, breathing perfumes ... of whom it was said, "Thy name is oil poured out; therefore have young maidens loved thee: she has stood on the king's right hand, in gilded clothing; she has nothing darksome about her; once indeed black, but now beautiful and fair; that, being placed in thee, we may rest from the hateful heresies which we have passed through, and may find repose from their swelling waves, and may rest in thee our holy mother the Church, and in the holy doctrine within thee, and in the holy and alone-true faith of God. Now will I begin to narrate the things that are wonderful in this holy city of God, for glorious things are said of her, as the prophet declares . . . and first of all (we have to state), that the God that is over all, is their God who have been born of this holy Church; for this is the first demonstration as regards truth, and the foundation of the faith of this our virgin, and holy and guiltless dove, concerning the Lord in Spirit revealed to Solomon, in the Canticle of Canticles, saying, "There are threescore queens, and fourscore concubines, and young maidens without number: one is my dove, my perfect one." The "my" is twice set down, because His is that dove, that perfect one; whilst the rest are so called, but are not so, whereas she is twice so designated. . . . For the Church is begotten of one faith, and brought forth by means of the Holy Ghost; one to one, and one to her mother. And as many as have come after, or have been before her, are called concubines."

Adv. Hæres. (Expos. Fid.) pp. 1078-1080, 1083.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 64-65

"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" (Genesis 6:14) that he might thereby point out the semblance of the holy Church of God, which has that efficacy of pitch, which repels pernicious and destructive and serpent-like doctrines. For where is the smell of pitch, there the snake is unable to remain."

T. i. Adv. Hæres. (51), p. 423.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 221

St. Ambrose of Milan, (A.D. 340-396), German; reluctantly made bishop in the A.D. 374., Doctor of the Church. He closed a great and glorious career in A.D. 396. We have his life by Paulinus.

"The Church also has her walls, and, being now more perfect, she says, "I am a fortified city." This is the wall which has the twelve apostolic gates, through which the entrance into the Church lies open to the nations. . . . And because Christ is the door, Christ who says, "By me if any man enter in, he shall be saved," the Church is also called a door; because through her the entrance unto salvation is open to the nations: and lest it might be corrupted by the moth or the worm of heretics, the daughters of Jerusalem, that is the angels, or the souls of the just, say, "Let us build upon it boards of cedar," (Canticle 8:9), to wit, the excellent odor of sublime faith, for such is the sweet odor of this substance, that neither worm, nor moth, can taint it.... Error had led astray one sheep; but the grace of the Lord gathered together a multitude of nations. Man erred; but the Church is now a wall, yea a strong wall."

T. i. (Lit. Tau] n. 37, 38, 40, pp. 1256, 1257.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, page 70-71

St. Jerome, (A.D. 342-420), Dalmatian; born in Strido; priest, hermit, abbot, biblical scholar, translator and Doctor of the Church. In an age distinguished by men of the greatest eloquence and learning, St. Jerome, especially in all matters connected with the Sacred Scriptures, was then preeminent, and has probably never since been equalled.

"She, that with a firm root is planted upon the rock Christ,— the Catholic Church, the one dove, she stands, the perfect one, and nighest to Him on His right hand; for she has nothing sinister in her; she stands in "gilded robes", passing from the words to the meaning of the Scripture; and she is filled with every virtue, or, as we have translated it, with a diadem of gold. For she is a queen, and reigns together with the king; whose daughters we may understand to be the souls of believers in general, and of the choirs of virgins in particular."

Ib. Ep. Ixv. ad Principiam, n. 15, col. 384.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 169-170



The sanctity of the Church is deduced as a necessary consequence from the other marks by which that Church is distinguished.


For, if there be but one Church, — the Catholic, or universal Church, — which has received authority from Christ to teach all nations; with an authority which, through His promises, is to endure "all days, even to the consummation of the world", it is manifest that the doctrines and precepts of that Church must be holy all days.


That is, unless the Church ceased to be the pillar and ground of truth, (1 Timothy 3:15) which would cause the gates of Hell to prevail against that universal Christendom, which, according to the premises, we are commanded to hear, and follow her faithfully. (Luke 10:16)


The Catechism tells us the Church . . . is held, as a matter of faith, to be unfailingly holy because Christ, the Son of God, who with the Father and the Spirit is hailed as 'alone holy,' and loved the Church as his Bride, giving himself up for her so as to sanctify her; he joined her to himself as his body and endowed her with the gift of the Holy Spirit for the glory of God." (Ephesians 5:25-26) The Church, then, is "the holy People of God," and her members are called "saints".


The Church's Scriptures that support the Sanctity of the Church:


Jesus delivered Himself up on the Cross to sanctify the Church so it would be holy and without blemish.

25 "Christ also loved the Church, and delivered Himself up for it; 26 that He might sanctify it, cleansing it by the laver of water in the word of life. 27 That He might present it to Himself a glorious Church not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish."


Ephesians 5:25-27

The faithful consist of a universal kingly priesthood and a holy nation.

9 "But you are a chosen generation, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a purchased people: that you may declare His virtues, who has called you out of darkness into His marvellous light."


1 Peter 2:9

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