I never cease to be amazed by the many treasures I find as I study the writings of the ancient Church Fathers. These were not men who ignored the scriptures or who tore them down in the name of "church tradition". Instead, over and again you see in their writings an authentic desire to be faithful to the scriptures and wrestle with its meaning while defending the church from heretics as well as helping the faithful properly understand its correct meaning.
One thing that is very apparent in the writings of the Church Fathers is that neither Tridentine Roman Catholicism nor American Evangelicalism are represented as the mainstream of the ancient church's theological thinking (far from it). In fact, I am convinced that members of both camps would equally struggle with the reality that the ancient Church didn't teach many of their doctrines and oftentimes taught doctrines that contradict core tenets of both systems.
Case and point is the wonderful little letter written by the late 4th century bishop of Milan, Ambrose. In this letter, he is answering a question posed to him by a young man named Irenaeus regarding the purpose of the Mosaic Law. Irenaeus, having been taught from Paul's Epistle to the Romans that the law brings knowledge of sin and wrath and that the Law does not profit for salvation asked Bishop Ambrose the logical question, "Why was the law then given (promulgated)". Ambrose's answer is the equivalent of a 4th Century primer on the proper distinction of Law and Gospel with a clear affirmation of salvation by grace through faith and not by works of the law. This poses a significant challenge to Tridentine Roman Catholicism which anathematized the very doctrine that Ambrose affirms in this letter. Yet, particular details of his answer also challenge a few closely held beliefs of American Evangelicalism. The letter is reproduced below.
χάρις ἔλεος εἰρήνη σοι,