ITS PROCESS EXAMINED.
The great primary truths of Christian revelation delivered by the Apostles would at first, we conceive, hold their place in the Church, and be impressed on the minds and hearts of the faithful, as simple whole ideas in broad outline, and thus, too, would be set forth by the earliest teachers. In this shape they were, with the aid of supernatural faith, adequately apprehended, and were expressed very much in the general terms used by the Apostles. As, however, each mystery came in turn to be meditated and reflected upon, new thoughts began to open out, fresh aspects of the truth to present themselves, so that what before was conceived as a whole and simple, now appeared manifold. Then, the various emerging doctrinal views were discussed and put to the proof of scientific analysis by theologians; their mutual coherence, their bearing one upon another, and their orthodoxy were tested; whilst, to meet difficulties and discrepancies that arose, differing opinions and judgments were hazarded, together with divers methods for combination and agreement. Thus, it is easy to understand how individual Fathers, whilst still retaining their implicit hold of a revealed truth in its orthodox sense as a whole, might be led to form wrong judgments and make erroneous statements on this or that particular point of it which had not yet been formally settled by the Church.
In the case of the early Fathers we have, moreover, to take account of circumstances of time and country, and the bias they might have received, whether from some influential school of philosophy, or from their opposition to certain prevalent errors.
This, too, will explain how Fathers, in whose writings are found erroneous or imperfect statements on certain doctrines which have since been defined to be dogmas of faith, were not on that account ranked as unorthodox or heretical; and have not lost the otherwise high repute in which they were held by the Church. But here we should remark that when any particular Father thus erred, his doctrinal view was opposed to the general current of Catholic tradition, to the more common religious sense of the faithful, and especially to the uniform teaching of the Roman Church.