Vincent of Lérins (d. c. 450), monk
"Do you not yet understand or comprehend?"
But some one will say, perhaps, Shall there, then, be no progress in
Christ's Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is there,
so envious of men, so full of hatred to God, who would seek to forbid it?
Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith… The
intelligence, then, the knowledge, the wisdom, as well of individuals as of
all, as well of one man as of the whole Church, ought, in the course of
ages and centuries, to increase and make much and vigorous progress; but
yet only in its own kind; that is to say, in the same doctrine, in the same
sense, and in the same meaning.The growth of religion in the soul must be
analogous to the growth of the body, which, though in process of years it
is developed and attains its full size, yet remains still the same. There
is a wide difference between the flower of youth and the maturity of age;
yet they who were once young are still the same now that they have become
old, insomuch that though the stature and outward form of the individual
are changed, yet his nature is one and the same, his person is one and the
same. An infant's limbs are small, a young man's large, yet the infant and
the young man are the same…, there were already present in embryo… In like
manner, it behoves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress,
so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age… Our
forefathers in the old time sowed wheat in the Church's field. It would be
most unmeet and iniquitous if we, their descendants, instead of the genuine
truth of corn, should reap the counterfeit error of tares (Mt 13:24 sq).
This rather should be the result,—there should be no discrepancy between
the first and the last. From doctrine which was sown as wheat, we should
reap, in the increase, doctrine of the same kind—wheat also; so that when
in process of time any of the original seed is developed, and now
flourishes under cultivation, no change may ensue in the character of the
plant… Therefore,… the same ought to be cultivated and taken care of by the
industry of their children, the same ought to flourish and ripen, the same
ought to advance and go forward to perfection.