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APPENDIX - S. VINCENT OF LERINS

"But some one will perhaps say: Is there then no progress of religion in Christ's Church? Surely there is: yea, let us have progress even the greatest. For who would be so envious to men, so hateful to God, as to seek to hinder it? But yet of such sort it should be, as to be in good truth a progress of the faith, not a change thereof. It is of the nature of progress that the particular thing should itself be amplified, but of change that somethign should be turned from one thing into another. Therefor the understanding, the science, the wisdom ought to increase, and make much and strenuous progress, as well of every man in particular as of all in common, as well in the successive stages of a man's life, as in the various ages and times of the whole Church; but yet, for all that, only in its own kind and nature, that is to say, in the same doctrines, in the same sense, in the same judgment. Here let the religion of our souls imitate the way of our bodies, which although as years go by they develop and unfold their proportions, yet remain the same that they were. There is a great difference between the flower of youth and the ripeness of age, yet the self-same men become old who once were young, so that although the state and condition of one and the self-same man be altered, yet one and the self-same nature, one and the self-same person still remain. Small are the limbs of infants, great of young men, yet they are the same. So many joints as young children have, so many have they when they are men: and if there are any parts that put forth in coming of more mature age, these were already planted after the manner of see, so that nothing in old men afterwards comes forth new, which did not already lie hid in them before, when they were children.

"In like manner also it befits the doctrine of the Christian religion to follow these rules of progress, so that it may thus be consolidated in course of years, developed by time, ennobled (sublimatur) by age, and still persevering incorrupt and pure; and in all the proportions of its several parts, and, so to say, in all its particular limbs and senses become full and perfect; and that without admitting aught of alteration, or sustaining any loss of what essentially belongs to it (nulla proprietatis dispendia), or any variation of definition.

"For example: our fathers sowed of old in the Church's field the seed of wheaten faith; very unjust and improper would it be, that we, their descendants, instead of the genuine truth of wheat, should gather the counterfeit error of cockle. This rather is right and reasonable, that, without discrepancy from the first to the last, from the successive growths of the original wheat, we also should reap a harvest of wheaten doctrine; so that whilst there is some evolution in course of time from those first seminal principles (cum aliquid ex illis seminum primordiis accessu temporis evolvatur) and it is now fertilized and improved, yet nothing be changed from the nature of the germ: though there be added outward shape and appearance (species), form, distinction, yet the nature of each kind remain still the same. For God forbid that the rose-gardens of Catholic sense should be turned to thistles and thorns. God forbid, I say, that in this spiritual paradise, from shoots of cinnamon and balsam, should suddenly sprout forth darnel and wolf's-bane. Whatever then has been sown in the Church, the husbandry of God, by the faith of our fathers, let this same flourish and ripen, let that same make progress and be brought to perfection. For right it is that these pristine doctrines of heavenly philosophy should in process of time be worked up, finished, and polished; but it is most wrong that they should be changed about, most wrong that they should be maimed and mutilated. Let them, by all means, receive evidence, light, distinction, but they must keep their fulness, integrity, and what naturally belongs to them....


 

 

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