Saturday, December 22, 2012

Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Controversies (John Daillé) - Dedicatory Epistle

The following is the dedicator epistle for Daillé's excellent work on the right use of the fathers. (see the contents post for more background)

Madam: — It is now nearly four years since your son, the late Baron of St. Hermine, acquainted me with what kind of discourse he was usually entertained at court by those who labored to advance the Romish religion, rather to excite his disgust against the Reformed; and told me that the chief argument which they urged against him was Antiquity, and the General Consent of all the Fathers of the first ages of Christianity. Although he himself understood well enough the vanity of this argument of theirs, yet, notwithstanding, for his own fuller satisfaction, he requested that I would discover to him the very depth of this matter. This therefore I did, as minutely as I possibly could, and gave him my judgment at large in this particular. This treatise of mine he was pleased so much to approve, that he conceived some hopes from thence, that it might also haply be of use to others.

Shortly afterwards I put pen to paper, and digested it into the treatise you now see. It having therefore been composed at first for his service, I had resolved also with myself to have dedicated it to his name; purporting, by this small piece of service, to testify to the world the continuation of the affection I bare to his progress in piety. But that deadly blow which snatched him from us in the flower of his age, about two years since, at the famous siege of Boisleduc, having left us nothing of him now, save only the spoils of his mortality, and the memory of his virtue, together with our great sorrow for having enjoyed him here so short a time, I am constrained, Madam, to change my former resolution. I shall therefore content myself with cherishing and preserving, whilst I live, the precious memory of his worth, the excellency of his wit, the soundness of his judgment, the sweetness of his nature, the fairness of his carriage, and those other choice parts, wherewith he was accomplished; but, above all, his singular piety, which clearly shone forth in his words and actions, till the hour of his death.

As for this small treatise, Madam, which was at first conceived and composed for him, I thought I could not, without being guilty of a piece of injustice, present it to any other but yourself: seeing it has pleased God, notwithstanding the common order of nature, to make you heir to him to whom it belonged. This consideration only has emboldened me to present it to your hands; knowing that the nature of this discourse is not so suitable to that sorrow which has of late cast a cloud over your house; it having pleased God, after the death of the son, to deprive you of the father; and to the loss of your children, to add that also of your noble husband. But my desire to avoid being unjust has forced me to be thus uncivilly troublesome: seeing I accounted it a kind of theft, should I have any longer withheld from you that which was your right, by this sad title of inheritance. Be pleased therefore, Madam, to receive this book as a part of the goods of your deceased son; which I now honestly restore, in the view of the whole world, after concealment of it for some time in my study. This name, I know, will oblige you to afford it some place in your closet, which is all that I can at present desire. For as for the reading of it, besides that your exquisite piety (which is built upon infinitely much firmer grounds than these disputes,) has no need at all of it; I know also that your present condition is such, that it would be very troublesome to you. And if you shall chance to desire to spend some hours in the perusal of it, it must be hereafter, when the Lord, by the efficacy of his Spirit, shall have comforted yours, and shall have allayed the violence of your grief; to whom I pour out my most earnest prayers, that he would vouchsafe powerfully to effect the same, and to shed forth his most holy grace upon you and yours; and that he would by his great mercy preserve, long and happily, that which remains of that goodly and blessed family, which he has bestowed upon you.

This, Madam, is one of the most hearty prayers of

Your most humble

And obedient servant,


Paris, August 15, 1631.


TFan notes: As you can see, this letter dedicating the book explains the background of how the book came to be composed. In particular, it shows that the book is the distilling of various conversations that Daillé had with the Baron of St. Hermine, before his untimely death in war. The link to the discussion of the fort he identified and its colorful history is, of course, added by me.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Controversies (John Daillé) - Author's Preface

The following is the author's preface to Daillé's excellent work on the right use of the fathers. (see the contents post for more background)


All the difference in religion, which is at this day between the Church of Rome and the Protestants, lies in some certain points which the Church of Rome maintains as important and necessary articles of the Christian faith: whereas the Protestants, on the contrary, neither believe nor will receive them for such. For as for those matters which the Protestants believe, which they conceive to be the fundamentals of religion, they are evidently and undeniably such, that even their enemies admit and receive them as well as they: inasmuch as they are both clearly delivered in the Scriptures, and expressly admitted by the ancient councils and Fathers; and are indeed unanimously received by the greatest part of Christians in all ages, and in different parts of the world. Such, for example, are the maxims,

  • That there is a God who is supreme over all, and who created the heavens and the earth: 
  • that he created man after his own image; and that this man, revolting from his obedience, is fallen, together with his whole posterity, into most extreme and eternal misery, and become infected with sin, as with a mortal leprosy, and is therefore obnoxious to the wrath of God, and liable to his curse: 
  • that the merciful Creator, pitying man's estate, graciously sent his Son Jesus Christ into the world: 
  • that his Son is God eternal with him; and that having taken flesh upon himself in the womb of the Virgin Mary, and become man, he has done and suffered in this flesh all things necessary for our salvation, having by this means sufficiently expiated for our sins by his blood; and that having finished all this, he ascended again into heaven, and sitteth at the right hand of the Father; from whence he shall one day come to judge all mankind, rendering to every one according to their works; 
  • that to enable us to communicate of this salvation by his merits, he sends us down his Holy Spirit, proceeding both from the Father and the Son, and who is also one and the same God with them; so that these three persons are notwithstanding but one God, who is blessed forever; 
  • that this Spirit enlightens our understanding, and generates faith in us, whereby we are justified: 
  • that after all this, the Lord sent his Apostles to preach this doctrine of salvation throughout the whole world: 
  • that these have planted churches, and placed in each of them pastors and teachers, whom we are to hear with all reverence, and to receive from them Baptism, the sacrament of our regeneration, and the holy Eucharist, or Lord's Supper, which is the sacrament of our communion with Jesus Christ: 
  • that we are likewise all of us bound fervently to love God and our neighbor; observing diligently that holy doctrine which is laid down for us in the books of the New Testament, which have been inspired by his Spirit of truth; as also those other of the Old; there being nothing, either in the one or in the other, but what is most true.

These articles, and there may be some few others of a similar nature, are the substance of the Protestant's whole belief: and if all other Christians would but content themselves with these, there would never be any schism in the Church. But now their adversaries add to these many other points, which they press and command men to believe as necessary; and such as, without believing in, there is no possible hope of salvation. As for example:

  • that the Pope of Rome is the head and supreme monarch of the whole Christian Church throughout the world: 
  • that he, or at least the church which he acknowledges a true one, cannot possibly err in matters of faith: 
  • that the sacrament of the Eucharist is to be adored, as being really Jesus Christ, and not a piece of bread: 
  • that the mass is a sacrifice, that really expiates the sins of the faithful: 
  • that Christians may and ought to have in their churches the images of God and of saints, to which, bowing down before them, they are to use religious worship: 
  • that it is lawful, and also very useful, to pray to saints departed and to angels: 
  • that our souls after death, before they enter into heaven, are to pass through a certain fire, and there to endure grievous torments; thus making atonement for their sins: 
  • that we neither may nor ought to receive the holy Eucharist, without having first confessed in private to a priest: 
  • that none but the priest himself that consecrated the Eucharist is bound by right to receive it in both kinds: 
  • with a great number of other opinions, which their adversaries plainly protest that they cannot with a safe conscience believe.

These points are the ground of the whole difference between them; the one party pretending that they have been believed and received by the Church of Christ in all ages as revealed by him; and the other maintaining the contrary.

Now, seeing that none of these tenets have any ground from any passage in the New Testament, (which is the most ancient and authentic rule of Christianity) the maintainers are glad to fly to the writings of the doctors of the Church, who lived within the first four or five centuries after the Apostles, who are commonly called the Fathers: my purpose in this treatise is to examine whether or not this be good and sufficient means for the decision of these differences. For this purpose I must first presuppose two things, which any reasonable person will easily grant me.

The first is, that the question being here about laying a foundation for certain articles of faith, upon the testimonies or opinions of the Fathers, it is very necessary that the passages which are produced out of them be clear, and not to be doubted; that is to say, such as we cannot reasonably scruple at, either as regards the author, out of whom they are alleged; or the sense of the place, whether it signify what is pretended. For a deposition of a witness, and the sentence of a judge, being of no value at all, save only for the reputation of the witness or judge, it is most evident, that if either proceed from persons unknown, or suspected, they are invalid, and prove nothing. In like manner, if the deposition of a witness or sentence of a judge be obscure, and in doubtful terms, it is clear, that in this case the business must rest undecided; there being another doubt first to be cleared, namely, what the meaning of either of them was.

The second point that I shall here lay down for a foundation to the ensuing discourse, is no less evident than the former: namely, that to allow a sufficiency to the writings of the Fathers for the deciding of those controversies, we must necessarily attribute to their persons very great authority; and such as may oblige us to follow their judgment in matters of religion. For if this authority be wanting, however clear and express their opinions be, in the articles now controverted, it will do nothing towards their decision.

We have therefore here two things to examine in this business. The first is, whether or not we may be able to know, with certainty and clearness, what the opinion of the Fathers has been on the differences now in hand. The second, whether their authority be such, that every faithful person who shall clearly and certainly know what their opinion has been in any one article of Christian religion, is thereby bound to receive that article for true. For if the Church of Rome be but able to prove both these points, it is then without all dispute that their proceeding is good, and agreeable to the end proposed; there being so many writings of the ancient Fathers at this day adduced by them. But if, on the contrary, either of these two things, or both of them, be indeed found to be doubtful, I should think that any man, of a very mean judgment, should be able to conclude of himself, that this way of proof, which they have hitherto made use of, is very insufficient; and that therefore they of necessity ought to have recourse to some other more proper and solid way of proving the truth of the said opinions, which the Protestants will not by any means receive.


TFan's Notes:  It seems particularly interesting to note what Daillé views as the central doctrines of Christianity as well as those that he particularly objects to in Rome's theology.  One particularly notable omission from his list of Rome's objectionable doctrines are the Marian dogmas.  Part of that is based on the fact that dogmatizing of those views of Mary was still in the works when Daillé wrote (he wrote in the 1600's).  But certainly, if a Reformed author were writing today, we would add the Marian dogmas to the second bulleted list above.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Controversies (John Daillé) - Contents

John Daillé wrote a wonderful book titled, "A Treatise on the Right Use of the Fathers in Decision of Controversies Existing at this Day in Religion." He was a Reformed minister in Paris. He wrote the treatise in French, but an English translation is available. Even if all you read (because of laziness or apathy) is the table of contents, you may at least get some sense of the general issues that confront one who seeks to be a scholar of the fathers.

Thus, here we present the table of contents based on the first American edition (1842)(available in full at

(author's preface)
(dedicatory epistle)


  1. On the Difficulty of ascertaining the Opinions of the Fathers in reference to the present Controversies in Religion, deduced from the fact that there is very little of their Writings extant of the first three Centuries. (link)
  2. Those Writings which we have of the Fathers of the first Centuries, treat of matters far different from the present Controversies in Religion. (link)
  3. Those Writings which bear the names of the ancient Fathers, are not all really such; but a great portion of them supposititious and forged, either long since or at later periods. (link)
  4. The Writings of the Fathers, which are considered legitimate, have been in many places corrupted by time, ignorance and fraud, pious and malicious, both in the early and later Ages. (link)
  5. The Writings of the Fathers are difficult to be understood, on account of the Languages and Idioms in which they wrote, and the manner of their Writing, which is encumbered with rhetorical flourishes, and logical subtleties, and with terms used in a sense far different from what they now bear.
  6. The Fathers frequently conceal their own private Opinions, and say what they did not believe; either in reporting the Opinion of others, without naming them, as in their Commentaries; or disputing against an Adversary, where they make use of whatever they are able; or accommodating themselves to their Auditory, as may be observed in their Homilies.
  7. The Fathers have not always held the same Doctrine; but have changed some of their Opinions, according as their judgment has become matured by study or age.
  8. It is necessary, but nevertheless difficult, to discover how the Fathers held all their several Opinions; whether as necessary, or as probable only; and in what degree of necessity or probability.
  9. We ought to know what were the Opinions, not of one or more of the Fathers, but of the whole ancient Church: which is a very difficult matter to discover.
  10. It is very difficult to ascertain whether the Opinions of the Fathers, as to the Controversies of the present day, were received by the Church Universal, or only by some portion of it; this being necessary to be known, before their sentiments can be adopted.
  11. It is impossible to know exactly what was the belief of the ancient Church, either Universal or Particular, as to any of those points which are at this day controverted amongst us.


  1. The Testimonies given by the Fathers, on the Doctrines of the Church, are not always true and certain.
  2. The Fathers testify themselves, that they are not to be believed absolutely, and upon their own bare Assertion, in what they declare in matters of Religion.
  3. The Fathers have written in such a manner, as to make it clear that when they wrote they had no intention of being our authorities in matters of Religion; as evinced by examples of their mistakes and oversights.
  4. The Fathers have erred in divers points of Religion; not only singly, but also many of them together.
  5. The Fathers have strongly Contradicted one another, and have maintained different Opinions in matters of very great importance.
  6. Neither the Church of Rome nor the Protestants acknowledge the Fathers for their Judges in points of Religion; both of them rejecting such of their Opinions and Practices as are not suited to their taste; being an answer to two Objections that may be made against what is delivered in this Discourse.

I hope that if you at least read the above, you will have some idea of what it is you don't know about the fathers, to avoid falling into the pitfalls associated with many (particularly Roman Catholic) appeals to the fathers.


Monday, December 17, 2012

Some New (Old) Patristic Quotations

For the last two years, the Ancient Voices blog has fallen into disuse, with very few quotations being posted.  I have plenty of quotations to post, though.  So, I will try to transcribe them and post them on a once-per-day basis.  For at least the next month or so, I expect to be posting a number of quotations, mainly from Theophylact (an early second millenium eastern father) and Chrysostom (who everyone knows).  Some are from my own reading, most of the rest are from comments posted elsewhere by David T. King.

The URL is: