On the Ears of the Laity

St. Hilary of Poitiers ca. 300-368

Specious indeed is the name of Peace, and beautiful is the idea of Unity; but who can doubt that the only Unity of the Church and of the Gospel is the Peace of Christ? This is the Peace which He left us when He was going to the Father (John 20:19); this is the Peace, most dearly beloved brethren, which we ought to seek when lost, and which, when disturbed, we ought to compose, and which, when found, we ought to hold fast. But now we have an Antichristian Unity forced upon us. Strenuous endeavours are made by some that Christ may be denied when He is supposed to be preached. Men labour to maintain the cause of Christ by courting the powers of the World. O ye Bishops, I ask you to consider what were the suffrages which the Apostles asked for the preaching of the Gospel? By what powers of the World were they enabled to preach Christ, and to win the Nations from idols to God? When they sang hymns to God in prison and in bonds, and after scourgings (Acts 16:25), did they invoke the aid of an officer from the Palace? Did Paul, who was a spectacle in the theatre, ever gather together a Church by means of an Imperial Edict? Did he ask for the patronage of a Nero, a Vespasian, or a Decius? And yet those holy men, who laboured with their hands, and met in secret chambers and upper rooms, and traversed towns, villages, and countries in spite of decrees of Senates, and edicts of Kings, had they not the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven? And did not God stretch forth His Hand to help them by ordering the things of this world in such wise that Christ was more fully preached in proportion as the preaching of Christ was more strictly forbidden? But now, alas! earthly suffrages impose divine faith, and Christ is convicted of weakness by the canvassing of earthly patronage in behalf of His Name. Now the Church scares men by exile and imprisonment, and forces them to believe her by dint of banishment and bonds. She who was consecrated by the menaces of her persecutors, now hangs a suppliant on the condescension of those who communicate with her. She who was propagated by the banishment of her priests, now banishes priests. She who cannot be Christ’s, except the World hate her, now boasts that the World loves her. Such is now the condition of the Church in comparison with the Church which was entrusted to our keeping, and which we are now in danger of losing by reason of the treachery of Bishops. But thank God the people in our Churches believe what they hear. They hear there that Christ is God, and they therefore deem Him to be God. They hear there that He is the Son of God, and they believe His Sonship to be real. They hear that He existed ‘before all worlds,’ and they think this to mean that He existed always. And so the ears of our people are holier than the hearts of our Priests. (St. Hilary Contra Auxentius)

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