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The Early Church Fathers on the Church's Visibility.


  • Early Church Fathers
  • From the Scriptures



    St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428)
    St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444)

St. Augustine of Hippo, (A.D. 354-428), North African; born in Tagaste in A.D. 354, baptized in Milan in A.D. 387, ordained a priest in A.D. 391 and appointed bishop of Hippo in A.D. 395, Augustine is one of our greatest theologians. His numerous works display genius of the highest order, and have ever had great weight in the Christian churches. He is also a Doctor of the Church.

"He, therefore, that has no wish to sit in the council of vanity",(Psalm 25:4), let him not be borne away by the whirlwind of pride, seeking for conventicles of the just, conventicles which he cannot find separated from the unity of the whole world. But there are just men through out the whole of that city which cannot be hid, because it is placed upon a mountain: that mountain, I mean, of Daniel, where that "stone, cut without hands, increased, and filled the whole earth". (Daniel 2) Throughout, therefore, the whole of this city, which is spread over the whole world, the just groan and mourn on account of the iniquities which are committed in the midst of them. Therefore, let no one seek for the just in a state of separation, but rather let him mourn together with them over the commixture of evil men which is found in this life. . . . There is, therefore, no safeguard of unity, save from the Church made known by the promises of Christ,— a Church which, being seated on a hill, as has been said, cannot be hid; and for this cause it must needs be known to all parts of the earth. Let us, then, hold it as a thing immovable and firm, that no good men can separate themselves from her; that is, that no good men— wherever those men may dwell, even though they may have to bear with evil men well known to them— will, on account of those evil men, separate themselves, by the fool-hardy sacrilege of schism, from the good that are at a distance from and unknown to them."

T. ix. l. iii. Contr. Ep. Parmeniani, n. 27, 28, col. 146, 147.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 195-196

"You know, and indeed you remark, that the Holy Ghost came down in this manner, in order that they whom He then filled might speak in every tongue. What meant that sign and prodigy? Why is the Holy Ghost given so that an obscure individual, to whom He is given, is able to speak in every tongue; but that the miracle then performed portended that all nations would believe, and so the Gospel be in every tongue? This had been also foretold in the psalm long before: "There is no speech nor language where their voice is not heard." (Psalm 18) This was said in regard of those who, after having received the Holy Ghost, were to speak in every tongue. But because that same miracle signified that, in all nations and tongues, the Gospel would be, and Christ's body speak aloud in every tongue, throughout the whole world, there is added, "Their sound has gone forth into all the earth, and their words unto the ends of the earth." Hence is it that the true Church is hidden from no one. For this cause is that which Himself says in the Gospel, "A city seated on a hill cannot be hid." For this, too, there is appended, in the above psalm, "He hath set His tabernacle in the sun", that is, in open view, as we find said in the Books of Kings, "What thou hast done secretly, thou shalt suffer in the sight of the sun." (2 Kings 12:12)

T. ix. l. iii. Contr. Lit. Petil. n. 74, col. 390.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 196

"May God withdraw thee from the party of Donatus, and recall thee to the Catholic Church, whence they snatched thee when a catechumen, and bound thee with the chain of a deadly honor. Then shall the "dew of Hermon" upon the mountains of Sion be partaken in by thee; ye are not in the mountains of Sion, because you are not in "the city seated on a hill", which has this sure mark, that "it cannot be hidden". It is, therefore, known to all nations: now the party of Donatus is unknown to many nations: it is not, therefore, that city."

T. ix. l. c. n. 239 (al. 104), col. 466.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 197

St. Cyril of Alexandria, (A.D. 376-444), Egyptian; bishop, theologian and Doctor of the Church. He succeeded Theophilus in the patriarchal see of Alexandria, in A.D. 412, and was the great champion of orthodoxy against Nestorius, against whom the general council of Ephesus was called, in A.D. 431 and in which St. Cyril presided.

Explaining Isaiah 2:2:

"Of the Church the prophet says, that "in the latter days the mountain of the Lord shall be conspicuous, and the house of the God of Jacob upon the tops of the mountains", and we indeed read that the Sion of the Jews was placed and built upon a mountain. But we may here understand, not in a visible but in a spiritual manner, the Church, which also is compared to a mountain. For the Church is in truth lofty and conspicuous, and well known to all men in every place. It is also lofty in another sense; for her thoughts have nothing earthly, but she is above all that is earthly, and with the eyes of the understanding, looks upon, as far as it is possible, the glory of God, and glories in doctrines truly exalted, concerning God. Wherefore, with justice may the house of God be called a mountain (known) by the understanding, and it is perfectly visible, as being raised upon the hills; and one may say of it, and with great cause, what as a notable illustration was uttered by the mouth of the Saviour: "A city placed upon a hill can not be hidden."

T. ii. Comm. in Esai. l. 1, or. 2, pp. 35, 36.
The Faith of Catholics, Volume 1, Page 199



The Visibility of the Church follows so evidently from:

      • the promises of Christ
      • from the commission of the Apostles "to teach all nations,"
      • from the nature of church-government, and of the sacraments, and
      • from the essential character of the divine institution, which all are bound to embrace, that there can be no need of any lengthened testimony on this issue.

An invisible Church are words devoid of meaning.



The Church's Scriptures that support the Visibility of the Church:

Isaiah prophesies that the House of the Lord will be prepared on the top of the mountain and all nations shall flow unto it.

2 "And in the last days. the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills, and all nations shall flow unto it."


Isaiah 2:2

Daniel prophesies that God will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, shall be faithful to His people, and stand for ever.

35 "The stone that struck the statue became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth. 44 But in the days of those kingdoms the God of Heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed, and His kingdom shall not be delivered up to another people: and it shall break in pieces, and shall consume all these kingdoms, and itself shall stand for ever."


Daniel 2:35, 44

Micah prophesies that the House of the Lord will be prepared on the top of the mountain and many people will join His House, learn his ways, and walk accordingly.

1 "And it shall come to pass in the last days that the mountain of the house of the Lord shall be prepared on the top of mountains, and high above the hills, and people shall flow to it. 2 And many nations shall come in haste, and say: Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, and to the house of the God of Jacob: and He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths: for the law shall go forth out of Sion, and the Word of the Lord out of Jerusalem."


Micah 4:1, 2

Jesus, Himself tells his Apostles that they are the light of the world and encourages them to let the light of the Catholic Gospel shine before men to give glory to God, their Father.

"14 You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid. 15 Nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven."


Matthew 5:14-16

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