445, Lérins, France
Out of humility, he disguises himself under the name of Peregrinus, to express the quality of being a pilgrim or stranger on earth, and one by his monastic state, in a more particular manner, estranged from the world. He styles himself The least of all the servants of God, and less than the least of all the saints, unworthy to bear the holy name of a Christian. He lays down this rule, or fundamental principle, in which he found, by a diligent inquiry, all Catholic pastors and the ancient fathers to agree, that such doctrine is truly Catholic as hath been believed in all places, at all times, and by all the faithful. By this test of universality, antiquity, and consent, he saith, all controverted points in belief must be tried. He showeth, that while Novatian, Photinus, Sabellius, Donatus, Arius, Eunomius, Jovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, and Nestorius expounded the divine oracles different ways, to avoid the perplexity of errors, we must interpret the Holy Scriptures by the tradition of the Catholic church, as the clew to conduct us in the truth. For this tradition, derived from the apostles, manifesteth the true meaning of the Holy Scriptures, and all novelty in faith is a certain mark of heresy; and, in religion, nothing is more to be dreaded than itching ears after new teachers. He saith: "They who have made bold with one article of faith will proceed on to others; and what will be the consequence of this reforming of religion, but only that these refiners will never have done till they have reformed it quite away." He elegantly expatiates on the divine charge given to the church, to maintain inviolable the sacred depositum of faith. He takes notice that heretics quote the sacred writings at every word, and that in the works of Paulus Samosatenus, Priscillian, Eunomius, Jovinian, and other like pests of Christendom, almost every page is painted and laid on thick with scripture texts, which Tertullian also remarks. But in this, saith, St. Vincent, heretics are like those poisoners or quacks who put off their destructive potions under inscriptions of good drugs, and under the title of infallible cures. They imitate the father of lies, who quoted scripture against the Son of God when he tempted him. The saint adds, that if a doubt arise in interpreting the meaning or the scriptures in any point of faith we must summon in the holy fathers, who nave lived and died in the faith and communion of the Catholic church, and by this test we shall prove the false doctrine to be novel. For that only we must look upon as indubitably certain and unalterable, which all, or the major part of these fathers have delivered, like the harmonious consent of a general council. But if any one among them, be he ever so holy, ever so learned, holds any thing besides, or in opposition to the rest, that is to be placed in the rank of singular and private opinions, and never to be looked upon as the public, general, authoritative doctrine of the church. After a point has been decided in a general council, the definition is irrefragable. These general principles, by which all heresies are easily confounded, St. Vincent explains with equal eloquence and perspicuity." His diction is pure and agreeable, his reasoning close and solid; and no controversial book ever expressed so much, and such deep sense, in so few words. The same rules are laid down by Tertullian in his book of Prescriptions, by St. Irenaeus and other fathers. St. Vincent died in the reigns of Theodosius II. and Valentinian III., consequently before the close of the year 456. His relics are preserved with respect at Lerins, and his name occurs in the Roman Martyrology.
St. Vincent observes that souls which have lost the anchorage of the Catholic faith, "are tossed and shattered with inward storms of clashing thoughts, that by this restless posture of mind they may be made sensible of their danger; and taking down the sails of pride and vanity which they have unhappily spread before every gust of heresy, they may make all the sail they can into the safe and peaceful harbor of their holy mother the Catholic church; and being sick from a surfeit of errors, may there discharge those foul and bitter waters to make room for the pure waters of life. There they may unlearn well what they have learned ill; may get a right notion of all those doctrines of the church they are capable of understanding, and believe those that surpass all understanding."
Lives of the Saints by Butler