(Second essay in "Sola Scriptura!", edited by Don Kistler; this essay, "Sola Scriptura and the Early Church" is by James White. This essay is NOT on line.)
"In regard to the divine and holy mysteries of the faith, not the least part may be handed on without the Holy Scriptures. Do not be led astray by winning words and clever arguments. Even to me, who tell you these things, do not give ready believe, unless you receive from the Holy Scriptures the proof of the things which I announce. The salvation in which we believe is not proved from clever reasoning, but from the Holy Scripture" (Old English Text is at the bottom of the post)
This essay is "dense" with history and makes the point that where "tradition" is used as the rule of faith, tradition is rarely defined, other than that the Council of Trent tells us that it is unwritten.
So we look to history to see if the early church defined "tradition". Was it unwritten, or is there an infallible source of "tradition"?
In this essay we are shown that the tradition that the early church fathers cited were NOT unwritten beliefs (although some were practices). From the beginning, the church fathers cited Scripture alone as the rule for faith.
Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon (c.130-c.200) writes in his work, "Against Heresies",
"On this account are we bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth...For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us the writings? Would it not be necessary [in that case] to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to whom they did commit the church?"
He also wrote,
"As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, yet, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it...for, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the tradition is one and the same."
If Irenaeus had failed to define "tradition", we would be left to believe that "tradition" is extra-biblical teaching. But Irenaeus DID define what he was writing about: