SELECTIONS FROM EARLY CHRISTIAN WRITERS: ILLUSTRATIVE OF CHURCH HISTORY TO THE TIME OF CONSTANTINE by Henry Melvill Gwatkin, M.A. First Edition, Macmillan & Co., Ltd., 1893. Reprinted with additions and corrections, 1897, 1902, 1905. Prepared for katapi by Paul Ingram, 2013.
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XL. TERTULLIAN, de Praescr. 16-21.


The Argument from Tradition


(Apostolus prohibet) haereticum post unam correp-tionem convenire, non post disputationem. Adeo interdixit disputationem ... quoniam nihil proficiat congressio scripturarum, nisi plane aut stomachi quis ineat eversionem aut cerebri ...

Ergo non ad scripturas provocandum est. ... Nunc solum disputandum est, quibus competat fides ipsa cujus sint scripturae, a quo, per quos et quando, et quibus sit tradita disciplina, qua fiunt Christiani. ...

Christus Jesus ... undecim ... jussit ire et docere nationes ... statim igitur apostoli ... ecclesias apud unamquamque civitatem condiderunt, a quibus traducem fidei et semina doctrinae ceterae exinde ecclesiae mutuatae sunt et quotidie mutuantur, ut ecclesiae fiant. Ac per hoc et ipsae apostolicae deputabuntur ut soboles apostolicarum ecclesiarum. Omne genus ad originem suam censeatur necesse est. Itaque tot ac tantae ecclesiae una est ilia ab apostolis prima, ex qua omnes. Sic omnes primae et omnes apostolicae, dum una omnes probant unitate communicatio pacis et appellatio fraternitatis et contesseratio hospitalitatis, quae iura non alia ratio regit, quam eiusdem sacramenti una traditio.

Hinc igitur dirigimus praescriptionem, si dominus Iesus Christus apostolos misit ad praedicandum, alios non esse recipiendos praedicatores, quam quos Christus instituit. ... Si haec ita sunt, constat proinde omnem doctrinam, quae cum illis ecclesiis apostolicis, matricibus et originalibus fidei, conspiret, veritati deputandam, id sine dubio tenentem, quod ecclesiae ab apostolis, apostoli a Christo, Christus a deo accepit; reliquam vero omnem doctrinam de mendacio praeiudicandam, quae sapiat contra veritatem ecclesiarum et apostolorum et Christi et dei.

It is after a single rebuke, not after a discussion, that the Apostle forbids us to converse with a heretic. Discussion then he has forbidden ... for (amongst other reasons) a debate over Scripture plainly does no good, unless it be to disturb either temper or brains. ... Therefore we must not appeal to Scripture. ... The only question we just now have to discuss is, With whom is that very faith to which Scripture belongs? From whom, through whom, when and to whom was the rule delivered by which men become Christians?

Christ Jesus ... commanded the Eleven to go and teach the nations . . . straightway therefore the Apostles ... founded in the several cities Churches from which the rest have thenceforth borrowed and daily borrow the shoot of faith and seeds of teaching, in order that they may become Churches; and it is from this fact that they too will be counted ¬postolic, as the offspring of Apostolic Churches. Every kind of thing must be estimated by reference back to its origin. Therefore the Churches, whatever their size or number, form but the single primitive Church which cornes from the Apostles, and its offspring are they all. Thus they are all primitive and all Apostolic, since they are ail approved together by their union in the communion of peace, the title of brotherhood, and the interchange of hospitality – rights which are governed by no other rule than the single tradition of the same mystery in ail. Here then we enter our demurrer, that if the Lord Christ Jesus sent Apostles to preach, other than those whom Christ appointed ought not to be received as preachers. ... If these things be so, it is in the same way plain that all teaching which agrees with those Apostolic Churches which are the wombs and origins of the faith must be ascribed to the truth, such teaching doubtless containing that which the Churches received from the Apostles, the Apostles from Christ, and Christ from God, whereas all other teaching must be summarily set down as false, since its tenor is opposed to the truth of the Churches and Apostles, and Christ and God.


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