This little treatise begins with giving an application of the Rule of St. Vincent to some theological questions concerning faith and practice. St. Vincent’s name is a household one in our Communion, especially since the Reformation. He was often quoted by the Reformers and Anglican divines in their controversy with Rome. In his disputation at Oxford, Ridley said, when doubts arose in the Church, “I use the wise counsel of Vincentius Lirinensis, whom I am sure you will allow; who, giving precepts how the Catholic Church may be, in all schisms and heresies, known, writeth on this manner: ‘When,’ saith he, ‘one part is corrupted with heresies then prefer the whole world before the one part: but if the greatest part be infected then prefer antiquity.”‘
On the southern coast of France, there is an island called St. Honorat. It had in Vincent’s time the name of Lerins. A quite famous monastery flourished there. Under the discipline of its holy religious rule and the Church’s sacramental system, St. Vincent’s mind and character were developed.
It was about the year 434 that his short treatise appeared. The controversies which had been raging in the Church led him to put forth his little book as a practical guide for a Churchman in times of trouble. He must, through Divine assistance, fortify his faith in a two-fold manner: by authority of the Divine Law, and by the tradition of the Church. “Catholics,” he said, “and true sons of the Church will make it their special care to interpret the Divine Canon by the tradition of the universal Church and according to the rules of Catholic theology. Wherein it is also necessary to follow the universality, antiquity, and consent of the Catholic and Apostolic Church.”