Tracts for the Times/Record XIV
TRACTS FOR THE TIMES.
RECORDS OF THE CHURCH.
THE HOLY CHURCH THROUGHOUT ALL THE WORLD DOTH ACKNOWLEDGE THEE.
Irenæus was Bishop of Lyons in France. He is supposed to have been a native of Asia; he was born, at latest, about forty years after St. John's death, and died A.D. 202. The following is his account of the faith of Christians, and of the Church as the pillar and ground, the appointed witness of that faith.
The Church, although extended through the whole world, even unto the ends of the earth, has received from the Apostles and their Disciples the belief in One God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven, and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;—and in one Christ Jesus, the Son of God, who was made flesh for our salvation; and in the Holy Ghost, who by the Prophets proclaimed the merciful dispensation, and the coming, and the birth from a virgin, and the passion, and the resurrection, and the ascension into heaven, in our flesh, of the Beloved, Christ Jesus our Lord, and His appearing from heaven in the glory of the Father, to gather together all things in one, and to raise from the dead all flesh of human kind; that to Christ Jesus our Lord and God, and Saviour, and King, according to the good pleasure of the Invisible Father, every knee may bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth, and every tongue may confess Him, and that He may recompense just judgment upon all, sending into everlasting fire wicked spirits and angels that transgressed and became apostates, and irreligious, unjust, lawless, and profane men, but upon the just and holy, who have kept His commandments, and persevere in His love, whether serving Him from the first, or turning by repentance, may bestow immortality by the free gift of life, and secure for them everlasting glory.
This is the message, and this the faith, which the Church has received (as was said above); and which, though dispersed throughout the whole world, she sedulously guards, as though she dwelt but in one place; believes as uniformly as though she had but one soul and the same heart; and preaches, teaches, hands down to posterity, as harmoniously as though she had but one mouth. True it is, the world's languages are various, but the power of the Tradition is one and the same. There is no difference of Faith or Tradition, whether in the Churches of Germany, or in Spain, or in Gaul, or in the East, or in Egypt, or in Africa, or in the more central parts of the world; but as the sun, God's creature, is one and the same in all the world, so also the preaching of the Truth shineth every where, and lighteth every one who will come to the knowledge of the Truth. Among the rulers of the Church, neither he who is powerful in word speaks other doctrine, (for no one can be above his Master,) nor does the weak in the word diminish the Tradition. For, whereas the Faith is one and the same, neither he who has much to say concerning it, hath any thing over, nor he who speaketh little any lack.
What a lesson does this passage furnish to the inquiring Christian of this day! Irenæus was the disciple of Polycarp, the friend of St. John. Here then is a witness, only one remove from the Apostles, for the Catholic Faith, such as we hold it, such as we declare it in Church unto this day. Wanderers and disputers, perplexed inquirers, and weak brethren! come home to this true doctrine of Christ, clearly conveyed to us from Christ Himself and His Apostles.
And observe this holy Bishop tells us, that it was received as such, preached as such, delivered as such, all over the world. There is no room for disputing, it is one and the same Truth, as Christ is One, and as the Holy Spirit in the Church is One. Yes! and as the Church itself is one. The one faith is held in the one Church. Wanderers come home to it! come home to the Church Catholic, of which Irenæus spoke, which is still upon earth; of which the English Church, with its Bishops, Priests, and Deacons, is a true and living branch. And, at all events, even if you are not persuaded to this suitable religious deed, yet at least you cannot refuse to take up a humbler judgment of the Christianity of this day than is generally taken. For is not unity the chief blessing which Christ prayed His Church might possess? Was it not, as the above extract shows, marvellously instanced in the state of the Primitive Church? Is it not lost now? Surely this is undeniable. Whatever our knowledge, our exertions, our various gifts, Christians have lost their peculiar privilege, have transgressed their peculiar duty, "that they all should be one, as Christ and the Father are One."
ANECDOTE OF THE GREAT ST. BASIL, ARCHBISHOP OF CÆSAREA IN CAPPADOCIA.
The Holy Basil visited one day a sacred brotherhood; and, after such discourse as was fitting, said to the Head of it, "Hast thou a brother here who has the grace of obedience?" and he answered him, "My Lord, we be all thy servants, and are endeavouring after salvation." Basil said a second time, "Yea hast thou one so gifted?" And he brought unto him a brother. Then the Holy Basil employed him to minister to him as he dined. After he had eaten, the other brought him water to wash; but Basil said, "Come hither, and I too will give thee water to wash." And the other suffered the Bishop to pour out the water upon his hands. Then said Basil, "When I enter into the chancel, come before me, and I will make thee a Deacon." And afterwards he made him Priest, and took him with him to his own house on account of his obedience.
The Feast of St. Mark.
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