Early Church Fathers Quotes on the Church
Wherefore, brethren, if we do the will of God our Father, we shall be of the first Church, which is spiritual, which was created before the sun and moon; but if we do not the will of the Lord, we shall be of the scripture that said, My house was made a den of robbers. So therefore let us choose rather to be of the Church of life, that we may be saved. And I do not suppose you are ignorant that the living Church is the body of Christ: for the scripture said, God made man, male and female. The male is Christ and the female is the Church. And the Books and the Apostles plainly declare that the Church exists not now for the first time, but has been from the beginning: for she was spiritual, as our Jesus also was spiritual, but was manifested in the last days that He might save us. Now the Church, being spiritual, was manifested in the flesh of Christ, thereby showing us that, if any of us guard her in the flesh and defile her not, he shall receive her again in the Holy Spirit.
Shepherd of Hermas
“Who then is she?” I say. “The Church,” said he. I said unto him, “Wherefore then is she aged?” “Because,” said he, “she was created before all things; therefore is she aged; and for her sake the world was framed.”
For it was not lawful for Jacob to marry two sisters at once. And he serves Laban for [one of] the daughters; and being deceived in [the obtaining of] the younger, he again served seven years. Now Leah is your people and synagogue; but Rachel is our Church. And for these, and for the servants in both, Christ even now serves…Jacob served Laban for speckled and many-spotted sheep; and Christ served, even to the slavery of the cross, for the various and many-formed races of mankind, acquiring them by the blood and mystery of the cross. Leah was weak-eyed; for the eyes of your souls are excessively weak. Rachel stole the gods of Laban, and has hid them to this day; and we have lost our paternal and material gods. Jacob was hated for all time by his brother; and we now, and our Lord Himself, are hated by you and by all men, though we are brothers by nature. Jacob was called Israel; and Israel has been demonstrated to be the Christ, who is, and is called, Jesus.
For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same. For the Churches which have been planted in Germany do not believe or hand down anything different, nor do those in Spain, nor those in Gaul, nor those in the East, nor those in Egypt, nor those in Libya, nor those which have been established in the central regions of the world. But as the sun, that creature of God, is one and the same throughout the whole world, so also the preaching of the truth shines everywhere, and enlightens all men that are willing to come to a knowledge of the truth.
For as a serpent cannot mark its track upon a rock, so the devil could not find sin in the body of Christ. For the Lord says, “Behold, the prince of this world comes, and will find nothing in me.” For as a ship, sailing in the sea, leaves no traces of her way behind her, so neither does the Church, which is situate in the world as in a sea, leave her hope upon the earth, because she has her life reserved in heaven; and as she holds her way here only for a short time, it is not possible to trace out her course.
Whatsoever is appointed by human madness, so that the divine disposition is violated, is adulterous, is impious, is sacrilegious. Depart far from the contagion of men of this kind. And flee from their words, avoiding them as a cancer and a plague, as the Lord warns you and says, “They are blind leaders of the blind. But if the blind lead the blind, they shall both fall into the ditch.”