contend for the faith – quotable (2)

“Again: Hippolytus refers to the action of the suburbicarian bishops in provincial council. And here is the place to express dissatisfaction with the apologetic tone of some writers, who seem to think Hippolytus too severe, etc. As if, in dealing with such ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing,’ this faithful leader could show himself a true shepherd without emphasis and words of abhorrence. Hippolytus has left to the Church the impress of his character as ‘superlatively sweet and amiable.’ Such was St. John, the beloved disciple; but he was not less a ‘son of thunder.’ Our Divine Master was ‘the Lamb,’ and ‘the Lion;’ the author of the Beatitudes, and the author of those terrific woes; the ‘meek and gentle friend of publicans and sinners,’ and the ‘lash of small cords’ upon the backs of those who made His Father’s house a ‘den of thieves.’ Such was Chrysostom, such was Athanasius, such was St. Paul, and such have ever been the noblest of mankind; tender and considerate, gentle and full of compassion; but not less resolute, in the crises of history, in withstanding iniquity in the persons of arch-enemies of truth, and setting the brand upon their foreheads. Good men, who hate strife, and love study and quiet, and to be friendly with others; men who never permit themselves to indulge a personal enmity, or to resent a personal affront; men who forgive injuries to the last farthing when they only are concerned, – may yet crucify their natures in withstanding evil when they are protecting Christ’s flock, or fulfilling the command to ‘contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints.’ What the Christian Church owes to the loving spirit of Hippolytus in the awful emergencies of his times, protecting the poor sheep, and grappling with wolves for their sake, the Last Day will fully declare. But let us who know nothing of such warfare concede nothing, in judging of his spirit, to the spirit of our unbelieving age, which has no censures except for the defenders of truth: –

“‘Eternal smiles its emptiness betray,
As shallow streams run dimpling all the way.’”

A. Cleveland Coxe, “Elucidations on ‘The Refutation of All Heresies’ by Hippolytus,” in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, ed. Philip Schaff, vol. 5, electronic ed. (Garland, TX: Galaxie Software, 2000), 12.