The Scriptures are a complete rule of faith and practice; and they are clear in all necessary points. And yet their clearness does not prove that they need not be explained, nor their completeness that they need not be enforced. The esteeming of the writings of the first three centuries, not equally with, but next to, the Scriptures, never carried any more yet into dangerous errors, nor probably ever will. But it has brought many out of dangerous errors, and particularly out of the errors of popery. I exceedingly reverence them, (Clemens Romanus, Ignatius, Polycarp, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Clemens Alexandrinus, Cyprian, Macarius and Ephraim Syrus,) as well as their writings, and esteem them very highly in love.

Can any who spend several years in those seats of learning (the universities) be excused if they do not add, to that of the languages and sciences, the knowledge of the Fathers? – the most authentic commentators on scriptures, as being both nearest the fountain, and eminently endued with that spirit by whom all scripture was given. It will be easily perceived I speak chiefly of those who wrote before the Council of Nice. But who would not likewise desire some acquaintance with those who followed them. With St Chrysostom, Basil, Jerome, Austin, and, above all, that man of a broken heart, Ephraim Syrus.

Let us each seriously examine himself, Am I acquainted with the Fathers? As least with those venerable men who lived in the earliest ages of the church? Have I read over and over the golden remains of Clemens Romanus, of Ignatius, and Polycarp? and have I given one reading at least to the works of Justin Martyr, Tertullian, Origen, Clemens Alexandrinus, and Cyprian?

How much shall I suffer in my usefulness if I have wasted the opportunity I once had of acquainting myself with the great lights of antiquity, the Anti-Nicene Fathers?

John Wesley

Quoted in The British Magazine and Monthly Register of Religious and Ecclesiastical Information, Parochial History, and Documents Respecting the State of the Poor, Progress of Education, Volume 22 1842

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