Apostolic Constitutions, Book Two
88 min read
88 min read
I. But concerning bishops, we have heard from our Lord, that a pastor who is to be ordained a bishop for the churches in every parish, must be unblameable, unreprovable, free from all kinds of wickedness common among men, not under fifty years of age; for such a one is in good part past youthful disorders, and the slanders of the heathen, as well as the reproaches which are sometimes cast upon many persons by some false brethren, who do not consider the word of God in the Gospel: Whosoever speaks an idle word shall give an account thereof to the Lord in the day of judgment. Matthew 12:36 And again: By your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned. Matthew 12:37 Let him therefore, if it is possible, be well educated; but if he be unlettered, let him at any rate be skilful in the word, and of competent age. But if in a small parish one advanced in years is not to be found, let some younger person, who has a good report among his neighbours, and is esteemed by them worthy of the office of a bishop — who has carried himself from his youth with meekness and regularity, like a much elder person, — after examination, and a general good report, be ordained in peace. For Solomon at twelve years of age was king of Israel, and Josiah at eight years of age reigned righteously, 2 Kings 22:1 and in like manner Joash governed the people at seven years of age. 2 Chronicles 24:1; 2 Kings 11:3-4 Wherefore, although the person be young, let him be meek, gentle, and quiet. For the Lord God says by Esaias: Upon whom will I look, but upon him who is humble and quiet, and always trembles at my words? Isaiah 66:2 In like manner it is in the Gospel also: Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Matthew 5:5 Let him also be merciful; for again it is said: Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Matthew 5:7 Let him also be a peacemaker; for again it is said: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the sons of God. Let him also be one of a good conscience, purified from all evil, and wickedness, and unrighteousness; for it is said again: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Matthew 5:8
II. Let him therefore be sober, prudent, decent, firm, stable, not given to wine; no striker, but gentle; not a brawler, not covetous; not a novice, lest, being puffed up with pride, he fall into condemnation, and the snare of the devil: for every one that exalts himself shall be abased. 1 Timothy 3:6; Luke 14:11 Such a one a bishop ought to be, who has been the husband of one wife, 1 Timothy 3:2 who also has herself had no other husband, ruling well his own house. 1 Timothy 3:4 In this manner let examination be made when he is to receive ordination, and to be placed in his bishopric, whether he be grave, faithful, decent; whether he has a grave and faithful wife, or has formerly had such a one; whether he has educated his children piously, and has brought them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord; Ephesians 6:4 whether his domestics do fear and reverence him, and are all obedient to him: for if those who are immediately about him for worldly concerns are seditious and disobedient, how will others not of his family, when they are under his management, become obedient to him?
III. Let examination also be made whether he be unblameable as to the concerns of this life; for it is written: Search diligently for all the faults of him who is to be ordained for the priesthood.
On which account let him also be void of anger; for Wisdom says: Anger destroys even the prudent. Let him also be merciful, of a generous and loving temper; for our Lord says: By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. John 13:35 Let him be also ready to give, a lover of the widow and the stranger; ready to serve, and minister, and attend; resolute in his duty; and let him know who is the most worthy of his assistance.
IV. For if there be a widow who is able to support herself, and another woman who is not a widow, but is needy by reason of sickness, or the bringing up many children, or infirmity of her hands, let him stretch out his hand in charity rather to this latter. But if any one be in want by gluttony, drunkenness, or idleness, he does not deserve any assistance, or to be esteemed a member of the Church of God. For the Scripture, speaking of such persons, says: The slothful hides his hand in his bosom, and is not able to bring it to his mouth again. Proverbs 19:24 And again: The sluggard folds up his hands, and eats his own flesh. Ecclesiastes 4:5 For every drunkard and whoremonger shall come to poverty, and every drowsy person shall be clothed with tatters and rags . And in another passage: If you give your eyes to drinking and cups, you shall afterwards walk more naked than a pestle. For certainly idleness is the mother of famine.
V. A bishop must be no accepter of persons; neither revering nor flattering a rich man contrary to what is right, nor overlooking nor domineering over a poor man. For, says God to Moses, You shall not accept the person of the rich, nor shall you pity a poor man in his cause: for the judgment is the Lord’s. Leviticus 19:15; Exodus 23:3 And again: You shall with exact justice follow that which is right. Let a bishop be frugal, and contented with a little in his meat and drink, that he may be ever in a sober frame, and disposed to instruct and admonish the ignorant; and let him not be costly in his diet, a pamperer of himself, given to pleasure, or fond of delicacies. Let him he patient and gentle in his admonitions, well instructed himself, meditating in and diligently studying the Lord’s books, and reading them frequently, that so he may be able carefully to interpret the Scriptures, expounding the Gospel in correspondence with the prophets and with the law; and let the expositions from the law and the prophets correspond to the Gospel. For the Lord Jesus says: Search the Scriptures; for they are those which testify of me. John 5:39 And again: For Moses wrote of me. John 5:46 But, above all, let him carefully distinguish between the original law and the additional precepts, and show which are the laws for believers, and which the bonds for the unbelievers, lest any should fall under those bonds. Be careful, therefore, O bishop, to study the word, that you may be able to explain everything exactly, and that you may copiously nourish your people with much doctrine, and enlighten them with the light of the law; for God says: Enlighten yourselves with the light of knowledge, while we have yet opportunity. Hosea 10:12
VI. Let not a bishop be given to filthy lucre, especially before the Gentiles, rather suffering than offering injuries; not covetous, nor rapacious; no purloiner; no admirer of the rich, nor hater of the poor; no evil-speaker, nor false witness; not given to anger; no brawler; not entangled with the affairs of this life; not a surety for any one, nor an accuser in suits about money; not ambitious; not double-minded, nor double-tongued; not ready to hearken to calumny or evil-speaking; not a dissembler; not addicted to the heathen festivals; not given to vain deceits; not eager after worldly things, nor a lover of money. For all these things are opposite to God, and pleasing to demons. Let the bishop earnestly give all these precepts in charge to the laity also, persuading them to imitate his conduct. For, says He, Make the children of Israel pious. Leviticus 15:31 Let him be prudent, humble, apt to admonish with the instructions of the Lord, well-disposed, one who has renounced all the wicked projects of this world, and all heathenish lusts; let hint be orderly, sharp in observing the wicked, and taking heed of them, but yet a friend to all; just, discerning; and whatsoever qualities are commendable among men, let the bishop possess them in himself. For if the pastor be unblameable as to any wickedness, he will compel his own disciples, and by his very mode of life press them to become worthy imitators of his own actions. As the prophet somewhere says, And it will be, as is the priest, so is the people; Hosea 4:9 for our Lord and Teacher Jesus Christ, the Son of God, began first to do, and then to teach, as Luke somewhere says: Acts 1:1 which Jesus began to do and to teach . Wherefore he says: Whosoever shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of God. Matthew 5:19 For you bishops are to be guides and watchmen to the people, as you yourselves have Christ for your guide and watchman. You should therefore become good guides and watchmen to the people of God. For the Lord says by Ezekiel, speaking to every one of you: Son of man, I have given you for a watchman to the house of Israel; and you shall hear the word from my mouth, and shall observe, and shall declare it from me. When I say unto the wicked, You shall surely die; if you do not speak to warn the wicked from his wickedness, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, and his blood will I require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked from his way, that he may turn from it, and he does not turn from it, he shall die in his iniquity, and you have delivered your soul. In the same manner, if the sword of war be approaching, and the people set a watchman to watch, and he see the same approach, and does not forewarn them, and the sword come and take one of them, he is taken away in his iniquity; but his blood shall be required at the watchman’s hand, because he did not blow the trumpet. But if he blew the trumpet, and he who heard it would not take warning, and the sword come and take him away, his blood shall be upon him, because he heard the trumpet and took not warning. But he who took warning has delivered his soul; and the watchman, because he gave warning, shall surely live. The sword here is the judgment; the trumpet is the holy Gospel; the watchman is the bishop, who is set in the Church, who is obliged by his preaching to testify and vehemently to forewarn concerning that judgment. If you do not declare and testify this to the people, the sins of those who are ignorant of it will be found upon you. Wherefore do you warn and reprove the uninstructed with boldness, teach the ignorant, confirm those that understand, bring back those that go astray. If we repeat the very same things on the same occasions, brethren, we shall not do amiss. For by frequent hearing it is to be hoped that some will be made ashamed, and at least do some good action, and avoid some wicked one. For says God by the prophet: Testify those things to them; perhaps they will hear your voice. And again: If perhaps they will hear, if perhaps they will submit. Moses also says to the people: If hearing you will hear the Lord God, and do that which is good and right in His eyes . Exodus 15:26 And again: Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord. Deuteronomy 6:4; Mark 12:29 And our Lord is often recorded in the Gospel to have said: He that has ears to hear, let him hear. And wise Solomon says: My son, hear the instruction of your father, and reject not the laws of your mother. Proverbs 1:8 And, indeed, to this day men have not heard; for while they seem to have heard, they have not heard aright, as appears by their having left the one and only true God, and their being drawn into destructive and dangerous heresies, concerning which we shall speak again afterwards.
VII. Beloved, be it known to you that those who are baptized into the death of our Lord Jesus are obliged to go on no longer in sin; for as those who are dead cannot work wickedness any longer, so those who are dead with Christ cannot practice wickedness. We do not therefore believe, brethren, that any one who has received the washing of life continues in the practice of the licentious acts of transgressors. Now he who sins after his baptism, unless he repent and forsake his sins, shall be condemned to hell-fire.
Concerning a Person Falsely Accused, or a Person Convicted.
VIII. But if any one be maliciously prosecuted by the heathen, because he will not still go along with them to the same excess of riot, let him know that such a one is blessed of God, according as our Lord says in the Gospel: Blessed are you when men shall reproach you, or persecute you, or say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for your reward is great in heaven. Matthew 5:11-12 If, therefore, any one be slandered and falsely accused, such a one is blessed; for the Scripture says, A man that is a reprobate is not tried by God. But if any one be convicted as having done a wicked action, such a one not only hurts himself, but occasions the whole body of the Church and its doctrine to be blasphemed; as if we Christians did not practice those things that we declare to be good and honest, and we ourselves shall be reproached by the Lord, that they say and do not. Matthew 23:3 Wherefore the bishop must boldly reject such as these upon full conviction, unless they change their course of life.
IX . For the bishop must not only himself give no offense, but must be no respecter of persons; in meekness instructing those that offend. But if he himself has not a good conscience, and is a respecter of persons for the sake of filthy lucre, and receiving of bribes, and spares the open offender, and permits him to continue in the Church, he disregards the voice of God and of our Lord, which says, You shall exactly execute right judgment. You shall not accept persons in judgment: you shall not justify the ungodly. You shall not receive gifts against any one’s life; for gifts do blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. Exodus 23:8 And elsewhere He says: Take away from among yourselves that wicked person. And Solomon says in his Proverbs: Cast out a pestilent fellow from the congregation, and strife will go out along with him. Proverbs 22:10
X . But he who does not consider these things, will, contrary to justice, spare him who deserves punishment; as Saul spared Agag, and Eli his sons, who knew not the Lord. Such a one profanes his own dignity, and that Church of God which is in his parish. Such a one is esteemed unjust before God and holy men, as affording occasion of scandal to many of the newly baptized, and to the catechumens; as also to the youth of both sexes, to whom a woe belongs, add a mill-stone about his neck, Matthew 18:6-7 and drowning, on account of his guilt. For, observing what a person their governor is, through his wickedness and neglect of justice they will grow sceptical, and, indulging the same disease, will be compelled to perish with him; as was the case of the people joining with Jeroboam, and those which were in the conspiracy with Corah. But if the offender sees that the bishop and deacons are innocent and unblameable, and the flock pure, he will either not venture to despise their authority, and to enter into the Church of God at all, as one smitten by his own conscience: or if he values nothing, and ventures to enter in, either he will be convicted immediately, as Uzza at the ark, when he touched it to support it; and as Achan, when he stole the accursed thing; and as Gehazi, when he coveted the money of Naaman, and so will be immediately punished: or else he will be admonished by the pastor, and drawn to repentance. For when he looks round the whole Church one by one, and can spy no blemish, neither in the bishop nor in the people who are under his care, he will be put to confusion, and pricked at the heart, and in a peaceable manner will go his way with shame and many tears, and the flock will remain pure. He will apply himself to God with tears, and will repent of his sins, and have hope. Nay, the whole flock, at the sight of his tears, will be instructed, because a sinner avoids destruction by repentance.
XI. Upon this account, therefore, O bishop, endeavour to be pure in your actions, and to adorn your place and dignity, which is that of one sustaining the character of God among men, as being set over all men, over priests, kings, rulers, fathers, children, teachers, and in general over all those who are subject to you: and so sit in the Church when you speak, as having authority to judge offenders. For to you, O bishops, it is said: Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Matthew 18:18
XII. Therefore, O bishop, judge with authority like God, yet receive the penitent; for God is a God of mercy. Rebuke those that sin, admonish those that are not converted, exhort those that stand to persevere in their goodness, receive the penitent; for the Lord God has promised with an oath to afford remission to the penitent for what things they have done amiss. For He says by Ezekiel: Speak unto them, As I live, says the Lord, I would not the death of a sinner, but that the wicked turn from his evil way, and live. Turn therefore from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel? Ezekiel 33:11 Here the word affords hope to sinners, that if they will repent they shall have hope of salvation, lest otherwise out of despair they yield themselves up to their transgressions; but that, having hope of salvation, they may he converted, and may address to God with tears, on account of their sins, and may repent from their hearts, and so appease His displeasure towards them; so shall they receive a pardon from Him, as from a merciful Father.
XIII. Yet it is very necessary that those who are yet innocent should continue so, and not make an experiment what sin is, that they may not have occasion for trouble, sorrow, and those lamentations which are in order to forgiveness. For how do you know, O man, when you sin, whether you shall live any number of days in this present state, that you may have time to repent? For the time of your departure out of this world is uncertain; and if you die in sin, there will remain no repentance for you; as God says by David, In the grave who will confess to You? It behooves us, therefore, to be ready in the doing of our duty, that so we may await our passage into another world without sorrow. Wherefore also the Divine Word exhorts, speaking to you by the wise Solomon, Prepare your works against your exit, and provide all beforehand in the field, Proverbs 24:27 lest some of the things necessary to your journey be wanting; as the oil of piety was deficient in the five foolish virgins mentioned in the Gospel, when they, on account of their having extinguished their lamps of divine knowledge, were shut out of the bride-chamber. Wherefore he who values the security of his soul will take care to be out of danger, by keeping free from sin, that so he may preserve the advantage of his former good works to himself. Therefore, so judge as executing judgment for God. For, as the Scripture says, the judgment is the Lord’s. Deuteronomy 1:17 In the first place, therefore, condemn the guilty person with authority; afterwards try to bring him home with mercy and compassion, and readiness to receive him, promising him salvation if he will change his course of life, and become a penitent; and when he does repent, and has submitted to his chastisement, receive him: remembering that our Lord has said, There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repents. Luke 15:7
XIV. But if you refuse to receive him that repents, you expose him to those who lie in wait to destroy, forgetting what David says: Deliver not my soul, which confesses to You, unto destroying beasts. Wherefore Jeremiah, when he is exhorting men to repentance, says thus: Shall not he that falls arise? Or he that turns away, cannot he return? Wherefore have my people gone back by a shameless backsliding? And they are hardened in their purpose. Jeremiah 8:4-5 Turn, you backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings. Jeremiah 3:22 Receive, therefore, without any doubting, him that repents. Be not hindered by such unmerciful men, who say that we must not be defiled with such as those, nor so much as speak to them: for such advice is from men that are unacquainted with God and His providence, and are unreasonable judges, and unmerciful brutes. These men are ignorant that we ought to avoid society with offenders, not in discourse, but in actions: for the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. Ezekiel 18:20 And again: If a land sins against me by trespassing grievously, and I stretch out my hand upon it, and break the staff of bread upon it, and send famine upon it, and destroy man and beast therein: though these three men, Noah, Job, and Daniel, were in the midst of it, they shall only save their own souls by their righteousness, says the Lord God. Ezekiel 14:13-14 The Scripture most clearly shows that a righteous man that converses with a wicked man does not perish with him. For in the present world the righteous and the wicked are mingled together in the common affairs of life, but not in holy communion: and in this the friends and favourites of God are guilty of no sin. For they do but imitate their Farther which is in heaven, who makes His sun to rise on the righteous and unrighteous, and sends His rain on the evil and on the good; Matthew 5:45 and the righteous man undergoes no peril on this account. For those who conquer and those who are conquered are in the same place of running, but only those who have bravely undergone the race are where the garland is bestowed; and no one is crowned, unless he strive lawfully. 2 Timothy 2:5 For every one shall give account of himself, and God will not destroy the righteous with the wicked; for with Him it is a constant rule, that innocence is never punished. For neither did He drown Noah, nor burn up Lot, nor destroy Rahab for company. And if you desire to know how this matter was among us, Judas was one of us, and took the like part of the ministry which we had; and Simon the Magician received the seal of the Lord. Yet both the one and the other proving wicked, the former hanged himself, and the latter, as he flew in the air in a manner unnatural, was dashed against the earth. Moreover, Noah and his sons with him were in the ark; but Ham, who alone was found wicked, received punishment in his son. But if fathers are not punished for their children, nor children for their fathers, it is thence clear that neither will wives be punished for their husbands, nor servants for their masters, nor one relation for another, nor one friend for another, nor the righteous for the wicked. But every one will be required an account of his own doing. For neither was punishment inflicted on Noah for the world, nor was Lot destroyed by fire for the Sodomites, nor was Rahab slain for the inhabitants of Jericho, nor Israel for the Egyptians. For not the dwelling together, but the agreement in their sentiments, alone could condemn the righteous with the wicked. We ought not therefore to hearken to such persons who call for death, and hate mankind, and love accusations, and under fair pretences bring men to death. For one man shall not die for another, but every one is held with the chains of his own sins. Proverbs 5:22 And, behold, the man and his work is before his face. Isaiah 62:11 Now we ought to assist those who are with us, and are in danger, and fall, and, as far as lies in our power, to reduce them to sobriety by our exhortations, and so save them from death. For the whole have no need of the physician, but the sick; Matthew 9:12 since it is not pleasing in the sight of your Father that one of these little ones should perish. Matthew 18:14 For we ought not to establish the will of hard-hearted men, but the will of the God and Father of the universe, which is revealed to us by Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
For it is not equitable that you, O bishop, who art the head, should submit to the tail, that is, to some seditious person among the laity, to the destruction of another, but to God alone. For it is your privilege to govern those under you, but not to be governed by them. For neither does a son, who is subject by the course of generation, govern his father; nor a slave, who is subject by law, govern his master; nor does a scholar govern his teacher, nor a soldier his king, nor any of the laity his bishop. For that there is no reason to suppose that such as converse with the wicked, in order to their instruction in the word, are defiled by or partake of their sins, Ezekiel, as it were on purpose preventing the suspicions of ill-disposed persons, says thus: Why do you speak this proverb concerning the land of Israel? The fathers have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge. As I live, says the Lord God, you shall not henceforth have occasion to use this proverb in Israel. For all souls are mine, in like manner as the soul of the father, so also the soul of the son is mine: the soul that sins, it shall die. But the man who is righteous, and does judgment and justice (and so the prophet reckons up the rest of the virtues, and then adds for a conclusion, Such a one is just), he shall surely live, says the Lord God. And if he beget a son who is a robber, a shedder of blood, and walks not in the way of his righteous father (and when the prophet had added what follows, he adds in the conclusion), he shall certainly not live: he has done all this wickedness; he shall surely die; his blood shall be upon him. Yet they will ask you, Why? Does not the son bear the iniquity of the father; or his righteousness, having exercised righteousness and mercy himself? And you shall say unto them, The soul that sins, it shall die. The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, and the father shall not bear the iniquity of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon him, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon him. And a little after he says: When the righteous turns away from his righteousness, and commits iniquity, all his righteousness, by reason of all his wickedness which he has committed, shall not be mentioned to him: in his iniquity which he has committed, and in his sin which he has sinned, in them shall he die. And a little after he adds: When the wicked turns away from his wickedness which he has committed, and does judgment and justice, he has preserved his soul, he has turned away from all his ungodliness which he has done; he shall surely live, he shall not die. And afterwards: I will judge every one of you according to his ways, O house of Israel, says the Lord God.
XV. Observe, you who are our beloved sons, how merciful yet righteous the Lord our God is; how gracious and kind to men; and yet most certainly He will not acquit the guilty: Nahum 1:3 though He welcomes the returning sinner, and revives him, leaving no room for suspicion to such as wish to judge sternly and to reject offenders entirely, and to refuse to vouchsafe to them exhortations which might bring them to repentance. In contradiction to such, God by Isaiah says to the bishops: Comfort, comfort my people, you priests: speak comfortably to Jerusalem. It therefore behooves you, upon hearing those words of His, to encourage those who have offended, and lead them to repentance, and afford them hope, and not vainly to suppose that you shall be partakers of their offenses on account of such your love to them. Receive the penitent with alacrity, and rejoice over them, and with mercy and bowels of compassion judge the sinners. For if a person was walking by the side of a river, and ready to stumble, and you should push him and thrust him into the river, instead of offering him your hand for his assistance, you would be guilty of the murder of your brother; whereas you ought rather to lend your helping hand as he was ready to fall, lest he perish without remedy, that both the people may take warning, and the offender may not utterly perish. It is your duty, O bishop, neither to overlook the sins of the people, nor to reject those who are penitent, that you may not unskilfully destroy the Lord’s flock, or dishonour His new name, which is imposed on His people, and you yourself beest reproached as those ancient pastors were, of whom God speaks thus to Jeremiah: Many shepherds have destroyed my vineyard; they have polluted my heritage. Jeremiah 12:10 And in another passage: My anger is growing hot against the shepherds, and against the lambs shall I have indignation. Zechariah 10:3 And elsewhere: You are the priests that dishonour my name. Malachi 1:6
XVI. When you see the offender, with severity command him to be cast out; and as he is going out, let the deacons also treat him with severity, and then let them go and seek for him, and detain him out of the Church; and when they come in, let them entreat you for him. For our Saviour Himself entreated His Father for those who had sinned, as it is written in the Gospel: Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do. Luke 23:34 Then order the offender to come in; and if upon examination you find that he is penitent, and fit to be received at all into the Church when you have afflicted him his days of fasting, according to the degree of his offense — as two, three, five, or seven weeks — so set him at liberty, and speak such things to him as are fit to be said in way of reproof, instruction, and exhortation to a sinner for his reformation, that so he may continue privately in his humility, and pray to God to be merciful to him, saying: If You, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who should stand? For with You there is propitiation. Of this sort of declaration is that which is said in the book of Genesis to Cain: You have sinned; be quiet; that is, do not go on in sin. For that a sinner ought to be ashamed for his own sin, that oracle of God delivered to Moses concerning Miriam is a sufficient proof, when he prayed that she might be forgiven. For says God to him: If her father had spit in her face, should she not be ashamed? Let her be shut out of the camp seven days, and afterwards let her come in again. We therefore ought to do so with offenders, when they profess their repentance, — namely, to separate them some determinate time, according to the proportion of their offense, and afterwards, like fathers to children, receive them again upon their repentance.
XVII. But if the bishop himself be an offender, how will he be able any longer to prosecute the offense of another? Or how will he be able to reprove another, either he or his deacons, if by accepting of persons, or receiving of bribes, they have not all a clear conscience? For when the ruler asks, and the judge receives, judgment is not brought to perfection; but when both are companions of thieves, and regardless of doing justice to the widows, Isaiah 1:23 those who are under the bishop will not be able to support and vindicate him: for they will say to him what is written in the Gospel, Why do you behold the mote that is in your brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in your own eye? Luke 6:41 Let the bishop, therefore, with his deacons, dread to bear any such thing; that is, let him give no occasion for it. For an offender, when he sees any other doing as bad as himself, will be encouraged to do the very same things; and then the wicked one, taking occasion from a single instance, works in others, which God forbid: and by that means the flock will be destroyed. For the greater number of offenders there are, the greater is the mischief that is done by them: for sin which passes without correction grows worse and worse, and spreads to others; since a little leaven infects the whole lump, Galatians 5:9 and one thief spreads the abomination over a whole nation and dead flies spoil the whole pot of sweet ointment; Ecclesiastes 10:1 and when a king hearkens to unrighteous counsel, all the servants under him are wicked. Proverbs 29:12 So one scabbed sheep, if not separated from those that are whole, infects the rest with the same distemper; and a man infected with the plague is to be avoided by all men; and a mad dog is dangerous to every one that he touches. If, therefore, we neglect to separate the transgressor from the Church of God, we shall make the Lord’s house a den of thieves. Matthew 21:13 For it is the bishop’s duty not to be silent in the case of offenders, but to rebuke them, to exhort them, to beat them down, to afflict them with fastings, that so he may strike a pious dread into the rest: for, as He says, make the children of Israel pious. Leviticus 15:31 For the bishop must be one who discourages sin by his exhortations, and sets a pattern of righteousness, and proclaims those good things which are prepared by God, and declares that wrath which will come at the day of judgment, lest he contemn and neglect the plantation of God; and, on account of his carelessness, hear that which is said in Hosea: Why have you held your peace at impiety, and have reaped the fruit thereof?
XVIII. Let the bishop, therefore, extend his concern to all sorts of people: to those who have not offended, that they may continue innocent; to those who offend, that they may repent. For to you does the Lord speak thus: Take heed that you offend not one of these little ones. Matthew 18:10 It is your duty also to give remission to the penitent. For as soon as ever one who has offended says, in the sincerity of his soul, I have sinned against the Lord, the Holy Spirit answers, The Lord also has forgiven your sin; be of good cheer, you shall not die. Be sensible, therefore, O bishop, of the dignity of your place, that as you have received the power of binding, so have you also that of loosing. Having therefore the power of loosing, know yourself, and behave yourself in this world as becomes your place, being aware that you have a great account to give. For to whom, as the Scripture says, men have entrusted much, of him they will require the more. Luke 12:48 For no one man is free from sin, excepting Him that was made man for us; since it is written: No man is pure from filthiness; no, not though he be but one day old. Upon which account the lives and conduct of the ancient holy men and patriarchs are described; not that we may reproach them from our reading, but that we ourselves may repent, and have hope that we also shall obtain forgiveness. For their blemishes are to us both security and admonition, because we hence learn, when we have offended, that if we repent we shall have pardon. For it is written: Who can boast that he has a clean heart? And who dare affirm that he is pure from sin? Proverbs 20:9 No man, therefore, is without sin. Therefore labour to the utmost of your power to be unblameable; and be solicitous of all the parts of your flock, lest any one be scandalized on your account, and thereby perish. For the layman is solicitous only for himself, but you for all, as having a greater burden, and carrying a heavier load. For it is written: And the Lord said to Moses, You and Aaron shall bear the sins of the priesthood. Numbers 18:1 Since, therefore, you are to give an account of all, take care of all. Preserve those that are sound, admonish those that sin; and when you have afflicted them with fasting, give them ease by remission; and when with tears the offender begs readmission, receive him, and let the whole Church pray for him; and when by imposition of your hand you have admitted him, give him leave to abide afterwards in the flock. But for the drowsy and the careless, endeavour to convert and confirm, and warn and cure them, as sensible how great a reward you shall have for doing so, and how great danger you will incur if you are negligent therein. For Ezekiel speaks thus to those overseers who take no care of the people: Woe unto the shepherds of Israel, for they have fed themselves; the shepherds feed not the sheep, but themselves. You eat the milk, and are clothed with the wool; you slay the strong, you do not feed the sheep. The weak you have not strengthened, neither have you healed that which was sick, neither have you bound up that which was broken, neither have you brought again that which was driven away, neither have you sought that which was lost; but, violently you chastised them with insult: and they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became meat to all the beasts of the forest. And again: The shepherds did not search for my sheep; and the shepherds fed themselves, but they fed not my sheep. And a little after: Behold, I am against the shepherds, and I will require my sheep at their hands, and cause them to cease from feeding my sheep, neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; and I will deliver my sheep out of their hands, and they shall not be meat for them. And he also adds, speaking to the people: Behold, I will judge between sheep and sheep, and between rams and rams. Seemed it a small thing unto you to have eaten up the good pasture, and to have trodden down with your feet the residue of your pasture, and that the sheep have eaten what was trodden down with your feet? And a little after He adds: And you shall know that I am the Lord, and you the sheep of my pasture; you are my men, and I am your God, says the Lord God.
XIX . Hear, O you bishops; and hear, O you of the laity, how God speaks: I will judge between ram and ram, and between sheep and sheep. And He says to the shepherds: You shall be judged for your unskilfulness, and for destroying the sheep. That is, I will judge between one bishop and another, and between one lay person and another, and between one ruler and another (for these sheep and these rams are not irrational, but rational creatures): lest at any time a lay person should say, I am a sheep and not a shepherd, and I am not concerned for myself; let the shepherd look to that, for he alone will be required to give an account for me. For as that sheep that will not follow its good shepherd is exposed to the wolves, to its destruction; so that which follows a bad shepherd is also exposed to unavoidable death, since his shepherd will devour him. Wherefore care must be had to avoid destructive shepherds.
XX . As to a good shepherd, let the lay person honour him, love him, reverence him as his lord, as his master, as the high priest of God, as a teacher of piety. For he that hears him, hears Christ; and he that rejects him, rejects Christ; and he who does not receive Christ, does not receive His God and Father: for, says He, He that hears you, hears me; and he that rejects you, rejects me; and he that rejects me, rejects Him that sent me. Luke 10:16 In like manner, let the bishop love the laity as his children, fostering and cherishing them with affectionate diligence; as eggs, in order to the hatching of young ones; or as young ones, taking them in his arms, to the rearing them into birds: admonishing all men; reproving all who stand in need of reproof; reproving, that is, but not striking; beating them down to make them ashamed, but not overthrowing them; warning them in order to their conversion: chiding them in order to their reformation and better course of life; watching the strong, that is, keeping him firm in the faith who is already strong; feeding the people peaceably; strengthening the weak, that is, confirming with exhortation that which is tempted; healing that which is sick, that is, curing by instruction that which is weak in the faith through doubtfulness of mind; binding up that which is broken, that is, binding up by comfortable admonitions that which is gone astray, or wounded, bruised, or broken by their sins, and put out of the way; leasing it of its offenses, and giving hope: by this means restore it in strength to the Church, bringing it back into the flock. Bring again that which is driven away, that is, do not permit that which is in its sins, and is cast out by way of punishment, to continue excluded; but receiving it, and bringing it back, restore it to the flock, that is, to the people of the undefiled Church. Seek for that which is lost, that is, do not suffer that which desponds of its salvation, by reason of the multitude of its offenses, utterly to perish. Search for that which is grown sleepy, drowsy, and sluggish, and that which is unmindful of its own life, through the depth of its sleep, and which is at a great distance from its own flock, so as to be in danger of falling among the wolves, and being devoured by them. Bring it back by admonition, exhort it to be watchful; and insinuate hope, not permitting it to say that which was said by some: Our impieties are upon us, and we pine away in them; how shall we then live? As far as possible, therefore, let the bishop make the offense his own, and say to the sinner, Do thou but return, and I will undertake to suffer death for you, as our Lord suffered death for me, and for all men. For the good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep; but he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, sees the wolf coming, that is, the devil, and he leaves the sheep, and flees, and the wolf seizes upon them. John 10:11-12 We must know, therefore, that God is very merciful to those who have offended, and has promised repentance with an oath. But he who has offended, and is unacquainted with this promise of God concerning repentance, and does not understand His long-suffering and forbearance, and besides is ignorant of the Holy Scriptures, which proclaim repentance, inasmuch as he has never learned them from you, perishes through his folly. But — like a compassionate shepherd, and a diligent feeder of the flock — search out, and keep an account of your flock. Seek that which is wanting; Matthew 18:12 as the Lord God our gracious Father has sent His own Son, the good Shepherd and Saviour, our Master Jesus, and has commanded Him to leave the ninety-nine upon the mountains, and to go in search after that which was lost, and when He had found it, to take it upon His shoulders, and to carry it into the flock, rejoicing that He had found that which was lost. In like manner, be obedient, O bishop, and seek that which was lost, guide that which has wandered out of the right way, bring back that which is gone astray: for you have authority to bring them back, and to deliver those that are broken-hearted by remission. For by you does our Saviour say to him who is discouraged under the sense of his sins, Your sins are forgiven you: your faith has saved you; go in peace. But this peace and haven of tranquillity is the Church of Christ, into which do you, when you have loosed them from their sins, restore them, as being now sound and unblameable, of good hope, diligent, laborious in good works. As a skilful and compassionate physician, heal all such as have wandered in the ways of sin; for they that are whole have no need of a physician, but they that are sick. For the Son of man came to save and to seek that which was lost. Matthew 9:12; Luke 19:10 Since you are therefore a physician of the Lord’s Church, provide remedies suitable to every patient’s case. Cure them, heal them by all means possible; restore them sound to the Church. Feed the flock, not with insolence and contempt, as lording it over them, Ezekiel 34:4 but as a gentle shepherd, gathering the lambs into your bosom, and gently leading those which are with young. Matthew 20:25; Isaiah 40:11
XXI. Be gentle, gracious, mild, without guile, without falsehood; not rigid, not insolent, not severe, not arrogant, not unmerciful, not puffed up, not a man-pleaser, not timorous, not double-minded, not one that insults over the people that are under you, not one that conceals the divine laws and the promises to repentance, not hasty in thrusting out and expelling, but steady, not one that delights in severity, not heady. Do not admit less evidence to convict any one than that of three witnesses, and those of known and established reputation; inquire whether they do not accuse out of ill-will or envy: for there are many that delight in mischief, forward in discourse, slanderous, haters of the brethren, making it their business to scatter the sheep of Christ; whose affirmation if you admit without nice scanning the same, you will disperse your flock, and betray it to be devoured by wolves, that is, by demons and wicked men, or rather not men, but wild beasts in the shape of men — by the heathen, by the Jews, and by the atheistic heretics. For those destroying wolves soon address themselves to any one that is cast out of the Church, and esteem him as a lamb delivered for them to devour, reckoning his destruction their own gain. For he that is their father, the devil, is a murderer. John 8:44 He also who is separated unjustly by your want of care in judging will be overwhelmed with sorrow, and be disconsolate, and so will either wander over to the heathen, or be entangled in heresies, and so will be altogether estranged from the Church and from hope in God, and will be entangled in impiety, whereby you will be guilty of his perdition: for it is not fair to be too hasty in casting out an offender, but slow in receiving him when he returns; to be forward in cutting off, but unmerciful when he is sorrowful, and ought to be healed. For of such as these speaks the divine Scripture: Their feet run to mischief; they are hasty to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways, and the way of peace have they not known. The fear of God is not before their eyes. Now the way of peace is our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has taught us, saying: Forgive, and you shall be forgiven. Give, and it shall be given to you; Luke 6:37-38 that is, give remission of sins, and your offenses shall be forgiven you. As also He instructed us by His prayer to say unto God: Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. Matthew 6:12 If, therefore, you do not forgive offenders, how can you expect the remission of your own sins? Do not you rather bind yourselves faster, by pretending in your prayers to forgive, when you really do not forgive? Will you not be confronted with your own words, when you say you forgive and do not forgive? For know that he who casts out one who has not behaved himself wickedly, or who will not receive him that returns, is a murderer of his brother, and sheds his blood, as Cain did that of his brother Abel, and his blood cries to God, Genesis 4:10 and will be required. For a righteous man unjustly slain by any one will be in rest with God forever. The same is the case of him who without cause is separated by his bishop. He who has cast him out as a pestilent fellow when he was innocent, is more furious than a murderer. Such a one has no regard to the mercy of God, nor is mindful of His goodness to those that are penitent, nor keeping in his eye the examples of those who, having been once great offenders, received forgiveness upon their repentance. Upon which account, he who casts off an innocent person is more cruel than he that murders the body. In like manner, he who does not receive the penitent, scatters the flock of Christ, being really against Him. For as God is just in judging of sinners, so is He merciful in receiving them when they return. For David, the man after God’s own heart, in his hymns ascribes both mercy and judgment to Him.
XXII. It is also your duty, O bishop, to have before your eyes the examples of those that have gone before, and to apply them skilfully to the cases of those who want words of severity or of consolation. Besides, it is reasonable that in your administration of justice you should follow the will of God; and as God deals with sinners, and with those who return, that you should act accordingly in your judging. Now, did not God by Nathan reproach David for his offense? And yet as soon as he said he repented, He delivered him from death, saying, Be of good cheer; you shall not die. 2 Samuel 12:13 So also, when God had caused Jonah to be swallowed up by the sea and the whale, upon his refusal to preach to the Ninevites, when yet he prayed to Him out of the belly of the whale, He retrieved his life from corruption. And when Hezekiah had been puffed up for a while, yet, as soon as he prayed with lamentation, He remitted his offense. But, O you bishops, hearken to an instance useful upon this occasion. For it is written thus in the fourth book of Kings and the second book of Chronicles: And Hezekiah died; and Manasseh his son reigned. He was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Hephzibah. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord: he did not abstain from the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord destroyed from the face of the children of Israel. And Manasseh returned and built the high places which Hezekiah his father had overthrown; and he reared pillars for Baal, and set up an altar for Baal, and made groves, as did Ahab king of Israel. And he made altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord spoke to David and to Solomon his son, saying, Therein will I put my name. And Manasseh set up altars, and by them served Baal, and said, My name shall continue forever. And he built altars to the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord; and he made his children pass through the fire in a place named Ge Benennom; and he consulted enchanters, and dealt with wizards and familiar spirits, and with conjurers and observers of times, and with teraphim. And he sinned exceedingly in the eyes of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. And he set a molten and a graven image, the image of his grove, which he made in the house of the Lord, wherein the Lord had chosen to put His name in Jerusalem, the holy city, for ever, and had said, I will no more remove my foot from the land of Israel, which I gave to their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the precepts that my servant Moses commanded them. And they hearkened not. And Manasseh seduced them to do more evil before the Lord than did the nations whom the Lord cast out from the face of the children of Israel. And the Lord spoke concerning Manasseh and concerning His people by the hand of His servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh king of Judah has done all these wicked abominations in a higher degree than the Amorite did which was before him, and has made Judah to sin with his idols, thus says the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I bring evils upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever hears of them, both his ears shall tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will blot out Jerusalem as a table-book is blotted out by wiping it. And I will turn it upside down; and I will give up the remnant of my inheritance, and will deliver them into the hands of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, because of all the evils which they have done in my eyes, and have provoked me to anger from the day that I brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt even until this day. Moreover, Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, beside his sins wherewith he made Judah to sin in doing evil in the sight of the Lord. And the Lord brought upon him the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, and they caught Manasseh in bonds, and they bound him in fetters of brass, and brought him to Babylon; and he was bound and shackled with iron all over in the house of the prison. And bread made of bran was given unto him scantily, and by weight, and water mixed with vinegar but a little and by measure, so much as would keep him alive; and he was in straits and sore affliction. And when he was violently afflicted, he besought the face of the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the face of the Lord God of his fathers. And he prayed unto the Lord, saying, O Lord, almighty God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed, who has made heaven and earth, with all the ornament thereof, who has bound the sea by the word of Your commandment, who has shut up the deep, and sealed it by Your terrible and glorious name, whom all men fear and tremble before Your power; for the majesty of Your glory cannot be borne, and Your angry threatening towards sinners is insupportable. But Your merciful promise is unmeasurable and unsearchable; for You are the most high Lord, of great compassion, long-suffering, very merciful, and repentest of the evils of men. You, O Lord, according to Your great goodness, have promised repentance and forgiveness to those who have sinned against You, and of Your infinite mercy have appointed repentance unto sinners, that they may be saved. You therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just, has not appointed repentance to the just as to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, which have not sinned against You; but You have appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner: for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea. My transgressions, O Lord, are multiplied; my transgressions are multiplied, and I am not worthy to behold and see the height of heaven for the multitude of mine iniquity. I am bowed down with many iron bands; for I have provoked Your wrath, and done evil before You, setting up abominations, and multiplying offenses. Now, therefore, I bow the knee of mine heart, beseeching You of grace. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities; wherefore I humbly beseech You, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me, and destroy me not with mine iniquities. Be not angry with me for ever, by reserving evil for me; neither condemn me into the lower part of the earth. For You are the God, even the God of those who repent, and in me You will show Your goodness; for You will save me that am unworthy, according to Your great mercy. Therefore I will praise You for ever all the days of my life; for all the powers of the heavens do praise You, and Yours is the glory for ever and ever. Amen. And the Lord heard his voice, and had compassion upon him. And there appeared a flame of fire about him, and all the iron shackles and chains which were about him fell off; and the Lord healed Manasseh from his affliction, and brought him back to Jerusalem unto his kingdom: and Manasseh knew that the Lord He is God alone. And he worshipped the Lord God alone with all his heart, and with all his soul, all the days of his life; and he was esteemed righteous. And he took away the strange gods and the graven image out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars which he had built in the house of the Lord, and all the altars in Jerusalem, and he cast them out of the city. And he repaired the altar of the Lord, and sacrificed thereon peace-offerings and thank-offerings. And Manasseh spoke to Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel. And he slept in peace with his fathers; and Amon his son reigned in his stead. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord according to all things that Manasseh his father had done in the former part of his reign. And he provoked the Lord his God to anger.
You have heard, our beloved children, how the Lord God for a while punished him that was addicted to idols, and had slain many innocent persons; and yet that He received him when he repented, and forgave him his offenses, and restored him to his kingdom. For He not only forgives the penitent, but reinstates them in their former dignity.
XXIII. There is no sin more grievous than idolatry, for it is an impiety against God: and yet even this sin has been forgiven, upon sincere repentance. But if any one sin in direct opposition, and on purpose to try whether God will punish the wicked or not, such a one shall have no remission, although he say with himself, All is well, and I will walk according to the conversation of my evil heart. Such a one was Amon the son of Manasseh. For the Scripture says: And Amon reasoned an evil reasoning of transgression, and said, My father from his childhood was a great transgressor, and repented in his old age; and now I will walk as my soul lusts, and afterwards I will return unto the Lord. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And the Lord God soon destroyed him utterly from His good land. And his servants conspired against him, and slew him in his own house, and he reigned two years only.
XXIV. Take heed, therefore, you of the laity, lest any one of you fix the reasoning of Amon in his heart, and be suddenly cut off, and perish. In the same manner, let the bishop take all the care he can that those which are yet innocent may not fall into sin; and let him heal and receive those which turn from their sins. But if he is pitiless, and will not receive the repenting sinner, he will sin against the Lord his God, pretending to be more just than God’s justice, and not receiving him whom He has received, through Christ; for whose sake He sent His Son upon earth to men, as a man; for whose sake God was pleased that He, who was the Maker of man and woman, should be born of a woman; for whose sake He did not spare Him from the cross, from death, and burial, but permitted Him to die, who by nature could not suffer, His beloved Son, God the Word, the Angel of His great council, that he might deliver those from death who were obnoxious to death. Him do those provoke to anger who do not receive the penitent. For He was not ashamed of me, Matthew, who had been formerly a publican; and admitted of Peter, when he had through fear denied Him three times, but had appeased Him by repentance, and had wept bitterly; nay, He made him a shepherd to His own lambs. Moreover, He ordained Paul, our fellow-apostle, to be of a persecutor an apostle, and declared him a chosen vessel, even when he had heaped many mischiefs upon us before, and had blasphemed His sacred name. He says also to another, a woman that was a sinner: Your sins, which are many, are forgiven, for you love much. Luke 7:47 And when the elders had set another woman which had sinned before Him, and had left the sentence to Him, and had gone out, our Lord, the Searcher of the hearts, inquiring of her whether the elders had condemned her, and being answered No, He said to her: Go your way therefore, for neither do I condemn you. John 8:11 This Jesus, O you bishops, our Saviour, our King, and our God, ought to be set before you as your pattern; and Him you ought to imitate, in being meek, quiet, compassionate, merciful, peaceable, without passion, apt to teach, and diligent to convert, willing to receive and to comfort; no strikers, not soon angry, not injurious, not arrogant, not supercilious, not wine-bibbers, not drunkards, not vainly expensive, not lovers of delicacies, not extravagant, using the gifts of God not as another’s, but as their own, as good stewards appointed over them, as those who will be required by God to give an account of the same.
Let the bishop esteem such food and raiment sufficient as suits necessity and decency. Let him not make use of the Lord’s goods as another’s, but moderately; for the labourer is worthy of his reward. Luke 10:7 Let him not be luxurious in diet, or fond of idle furniture, but contented with so much alone as is necessary for his sustenance.
XXV. Let him use those tenths and first-fruits, which are given according to the command of God, as a man of God; as also let him dispense in a right manner the free-will offerings which are brought in on account of the poor, to the orphans, the widows, the afflicted, and strangers in distress, as having that God for the examiner of his accounts who has committed the disposition to him. Distribute to all those in want with righteousness, and yourselves use the things which belong to the Lord, but do not abuse them; eating of them, but not eating them all up by yourselves: communicate with those that are in want, and thereby show yourselves unblameable before God. For if you shall consume them by yourselves, you will be reproached by God, who says to such unsatiable people, who alone devour all, You eat up the milk, and clothe yourselves with the wool; Ezekiel 34:3 and in another passage, Must you alone live upon the earth? Isaiah 5:8 Upon which account you are commanded in the law, You shall love your neighbour as yourself. Leviticus 19:18 Now we say these things, not as if you might not partake of the fruits of your labours; for it is written, You shall not muzzle the mouth of the ox which treads out the grain; Deuteronomy 25:4; 1 Corinthians 9:9 but that you should do it with moderation and righteousness. As, therefore, the ox that labours in the threshing-floor without a muzzle eats indeed, but does not eat all up; so do you who labour in the threshing-floor, that is, in the Church of God, eat of the Church: which was also the case of the Levites, who served in the tabernacle of the testimony, which was in all things a type of the Church. Nay, further, its very name implied that that tabernacle was fore-appointed for a testimony of the Church. Here, therefore, the Levites also, who attended upon the tabernacle partook of those things that were offered to God by all the people — namely, gifts, offerings, and first-fruits, and tithes, and sacrifices, and oblations, without disturbance, they and their wives, and their sons and their daughters. Since their employment was the ministration to the tabernacle, therefore they had not any lot or inheritance in the land among the children of Israel, because the oblations of the people were the lot of Levi, and the inheritance of their tribe. You, therefore, O bishops, are to your people priests and Levites, ministering to the holy tabernacle, the holy Catholic Church; who stand at the altar of the Lord your God, and offer to Him reasonable and unbloody sacrifices through Jesus the great High Priest. You are to the laity prophets, rulers, governors, and kings; the mediators between God and His faithful people, who receive and declare His word, well acquainted with the Scriptures. You are the voice of God, and witnesses of His will, who bear the sins of all, and intercede for all; whom, as you have heard, the word severely threatens if you hide the key of knowledge from men, who are liable to perdition if you do not declare His will to the people that are under you; who shall have a certain reward from God, and unspeakable honour and glory, if you duly minister to the holy tabernacle. For as yours is the burden, so you receive as your fruit the supply of food and other necessaries. For you imitate Christ the Lord; and as He bare the sins of us all upon the tree at His crucifixion, the innocent for those who deserved punishment, so also you ought to make the sins of the people your own. For concerning our Saviour it is said in Isaiah, He bears our sins, and is afflicted for us. Isaiah 53:4 And again: He bare the sins of many, and was delivered for our offenses. Isaiah 53:12 As, therefore, you are patterns for others, so have you Christ for your pattern. As, therefore, He is concerned for all, so be you for the laity under you. For do you not imagine that the office of a bishop is an easy or light burden. As, therefore, you bear the weight, so have you a right to partake of the fruits before others, and to impart to those that are in want, as being to give an account to Him, who without bias will examine your accounts. For those who attend upon the Church ought to be maintained by the Church, as being priests, Levites, presidents, and ministers of God; as it is written in the book of Numbers concerning the priests: And the Lord said to Aaron, You, and your sons, and the house of your family, shall bear the iniquities of the holy things of priesthood. Numbers 18:1 Behold, I have given unto you the charge of the first-fruits, from all that are sanctified to me by the children of Israel; I have given them for a reward to you, and to your sons after you, by an ordinance forever. This shall be yours out of the holy things, out of the oblations, and out of the gifts, and out of all the sacrifices, and out of every trespass-offering, and sin-offerings; and all that they render unto me out of all their holy things, they shall belong to you, and to your sons: in the sanctuary shall they eat them. And a little after: All the first-fruits of the oil, and of the wine, and of the wheat, all which they shall give unto the Lord, to you have I given them; and all that is first ripe, to you have I given it, and every devoted thing. Every first-born of man and of beast, clean and unclean, and of sacrifice, with the breast, and the right shoulder, all these appertain to the priests, and to the rest of those belonging to them, even to the Levites.
Hear this, you of the laity also, the elect Church of God. For the people were formerly called the people of God, Exodus 19:5-6 and an holy nation. Hebrews 12:23 You, therefore, are the holy and sacred Church of God, enrolled in heaven, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, a bride adorned for the Lord God, a great Church, a faithful Church. Hear attentively now what was said formerly: oblations and tithes belong to Christ our High Priest, and to those who minister to Him. Tenths of salvation are the first letter of the name of Jesus. Hear, O Holy Catholic Church, who has escaped the ten plagues, and has received the ten commandments, and has learned the law, and has kept the faith, and has believed in Jesus, and has known the decad, and has believed in the iota which is the first letter of the name of Jesus, and art named after His name, and art established, and shinest in the consummation of His glory. Those which were then the sacrifices now are prayers, and intercessions, and thanksgivings. Those which were then first-fruits, and tithes, and offerings, and gifts, now are oblations, which are presented by holy bishops to the Lord God, through Jesus Christ, who has died for them. For these are your high priests, as the presbyters are your priests, and your present deacons instead of your Levites; as are also your readers, your singers, your porters, your deaconesses, your widows, your virgins, and your orphans: but He who is above all these is the High Priest.
XXVI. The bishop, he is the minister of the word, the keeper of knowledge, the mediator between God and you in the several parts of your divine worship. He is the teacher of piety; and, next after God, he is your father, who has begotten you again to the adoption of sons by water and the Spirit. He is your ruler and governor; he is your king and potentate; he is, next after God, your earthly god, who has a right to be honoured by you. For concerning him, and such as he, it is that God pronounces, I have said, You are gods; and you are all children of the Most High. And, You shall not speak evil of the gods. Exodus 22:28 For let the bishop preside over you as one honoured with the authority of God, which he is to exercise over the clergy, and by which he is to govern all the people. But let the deacon minister to him, as Christ does to His Father; and let him serve him unblameably in all things, as Christ does nothing of Himself, but does always those things that please His Father. Let also the deaconess be honoured by you in the place of the Holy Ghost, and not do or say anything without the deacon; as neither does the Comforter say or do anything of Himself, but gives glory to Christ by waiting for His pleasure. And as we cannot believe in Christ without the teaching of the Spirit, so let not any woman address herself to the deacon or bishop without the deaconess. Let the presbyters be esteemed by you to represent us the apostles, and let them be the teachers of divine knowledge; since our Lord, when He sent us, said, Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. Matthew 28:19 Let the widows and orphans be esteemed as representing the altar of burnt-offering; and let the virgins be honoured as representing the altar of incense, and the incense itself.
XXVII. As, therefore, it was not lawful for one of another tribe, that was not a Levite, to offer anything, or to approach the altar without the priest, so also do you do nothing without the bishop; for if any one does anything without the bishop, he does it to no purpose. For it will not be esteemed as of any avail to him. For as Saul, when he had offered without Samuel, was told, It will not avail for you; 1 Samuel 13:13 so every person among the laity, doing anything without the priest, labours in vain. And as Uzziah the king, who was not a priest, and yet would exercise the functions of the priests, was smitten with leprosy for his transgression; so every lay person shall not be unpunished who despises God, and is so mad as to affront His priests, and unjustly to snatch that honour to himself: not imitating Christ, who glorified not Himself to be made an high priest; Hebrews 5:5 but waited till He heard from His Father, The Lord swore, and will not repent, You are a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek. If, therefore, Christ did not glorify Himself without the Father, how dare any man thrust himself into the priesthood who has not received that dignity from his superior, and do such things which it is lawful only for the priests to do? Were not the followers of Corah, even though they were of the tribe of Levi, consumed with fire, because they rose up against Moses and Aaron, and meddled with such things as did not belong to them? And Dathan and Abiram went down quick into hell; and the rod that budded put a stop to the readiness of the multitude, and demonstrated who was the high priest ordained by God. You ought therefore, brethren, to bring your sacrifices and your oblations to the bishop, as to your high priest, either by yourselves or by the deacons; and do you bring not those only, but also your first-fruits, and your tithes, and your free-will offerings to him. For he knows who they are that are in affliction, and gives to every one as is convenient, that so one may not receive alms twice or oftener the same day, or the same week, while another has nothing at all. For it is reasonable rather to supply the wants of those who really are in distress, than of those who only appear to be so.
XXVIII. If any determine to invite elder women to an entertainment of love, or a feast, as our Saviour calls it, Luke 14:13 let them most frequently send to such a one whom the deacons know to be in distress. But let what is the pastor’s due, I mean the first-fruits, be set apart in the feast for him, even though he be not at the entertainment, as being your priest, and in honour of that God who has entrusted him with the priesthood. But as much as is given to every one of the elder women, let double so much be given to the deacons, in honour of Christ. Let also a double portion be set apart for the presbyters, as for such who labour continually about the word and doctrine, upon the account of the apostles of our Lord, whose place they sustain, as the counsellors of the bishop and the crown of the Church. For they are the Sanhedrin and senate of the Church. If there be a reader there, let him receive a single portion, in honour of the prophets, and let the singer and the porter have as much. Let the laity, therefore, pay proper honours in their presents, and utmost marks of respect to each distinct order. But let them not on all occasions trouble their governor, but let them signify their desires by those who minister to him, that is, by the deacons, with whom they may be more free. For neither may we address ourselves to Almighty God, but only by Christ. In the same manner, therefore, let the laity make known all their desires to the bishop by the deacon, and accordingly let them act as he shall direct them. For there was no holy thing offered or done in the temple formerly without the priest. For the priest’s lips shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth, as the prophet somewhere says, for he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty. Malachi 2:7 For if the worshippers of demons, in their hateful, abominable, and impure performances, imitate the sacred rules till this very day (it is a wide comparison indeed, and there is a vast distance between their abominations and God’s sacred worship), in their mockeries of worship they neither offer nor do anything without their pretended priest, but esteem him as the very mouth of their idols of stone, waiting to see what commands he will lay upon them. And whatsoever he commands them, that they do, and without him they do nothing; and they honour him, their pretended priest, and esteem his name as venerable in honour of lifeless statues, and in order to the worship of wicked spirits. If these heathens, therefore, who give glory to lying vanities, and place their hope upon nothing that is firm, endeavour to imitate the sacred rules, how much more reasonable is it that you, who have a most certain faith and undoubted hope, and who expect glorious, and eternal, and never-failing promises, should honour the Lord God in those set over you, and esteem your bishop to be the mouth of God!
XXIX . For if Aaron, because he declared to Pharaoh the words of God from Moses, is called a prophet; and Moses himself is called a god to Pharaoh, on account of his being at once a king and a high priest, as God says to him, I have made you a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron your brother shall be your prophet; Exodus 7:1 why do you not also esteem the mediators of the word to be prophets, and reverence them as gods?
XXX . For now the deacon is to you Aaron, and the bishop Moses. If, therefore, Moses was called a god by the Lord, let the bishop be honoured among you as a god, and the deacon as his prophet. For as Christ does nothing without His Father, so neither does the deacon do anything without his bishop; and as the Son without His Father is nothing, so is the deacon nothing without his bishop; and as the Son is subject to His Father, so is every deacon subject to his bishop; and as the Son is the messenger and prophet of the Father, so is the deacon the messenger and prophet of his bishop. Wherefore let all things that he is to do with any one be made known to the bishop, and be finally ordered by him.
XXXI. Let him not do anything at all without his bishop, nor give anything without his consent. For if he gives to anyone as to a person in distress without the bishop’s knowledge, he gives it so that it must tend to the reproach of the bishop, and he accuses him as careless of the distressed. But he that casts reproach on his bishop, either by word or deed, opposes God, not hearkening to what He says: You shall not speak evil of the gods. Exodus 22:28 For He did not make that law concerning deities of wood and of stone, which are abominable, because they are falsely called gods, but concerning the priests and the judges, to whom He also said, You are gods, and children of the Most High.
XXXII. If therefore, O deacon, you know any one to be in distress, put the bishop in mind of him, and so give to him; but do nothing in a clandestine way, so as may tend to his reproach, lest you raise a murmur against him; for the murmur will not be against him, but against the Lord God: and the deacon, with the rest, will hear what Aaron and Miriam heard, when they spoke against Moses: How is it that you were not afraid to speak against my servant Moses? Numbers 12:8 And again, Moses says to those who rose up against him: Your murmuring is not against us, but against the Lord our God. Exodus 16:8 For if he that calls one of the laity Raka, Matthew 5:22 or fool, shall not be unpunished, as doing injury to the name of Christ, how dare any man speak against his bishop, by whom the Lord gave the Holy Spirit among you upon the laying on of his hands, by whom you have learned the sacred doctrines, and have known God, and have believed in Christ, by whom you were known of God, by whom you were sealed with the oil of gladness and the ointment of understanding, by whom you were declared to be the children of light, by whom the Lord in your illumination testified by the imposition of the bishop’s hands, and sent out His sacred voice upon every one of you, saying, You are my son, this day have I begotten you? By your bishop, O man, God adopts you for His child. Acknowledge, O son, that right hand which was a mother to you. Love him who, after God, has become a father to you, and honour him.
XXXIII. For if the divine oracle says, concerning our parents according to the flesh, Honour your father and your mother, that it may be well with you; Exodus 20:12 and, He that curses his father or his mother, let him die the death; Exodus 21:17 how much more should the word exhort you to honour your spiritual parents, and to love them as your benefactors and ambassadors with God, who have regenerated you by water, and endued you with the fullness of the Holy Spirit, who have fed you with the word as with milk, who have nourished you with doctrine, who have confirmed you by their admonitions, who have imparted to you the saving body and precious blood of Christ, who have loosed you from your sins, who have made you partakers of the holy and sacred eucharist, who have admitted you to be partakers and fellow-heirs of the promise of God! Reverence these, and honour them with all kinds of honour; for they have obtained from God the power of life and death, in their judging of sinners, and condemning them to the death of eternal fire, as also of loosing returning sinners from their sins, and of restoring them to a new life.
That Priests are to Be Preferred Before Rulers and Kings.
XXXIV. Account these worthy to be esteemed your rulers and your kings, and bring them tribute as to kings; for by you they and their families ought to be maintained. As Samuel made constitutions for the people concerning a king, in the first book of Kings, and Moses did so concerning priests in Leviticus, so do we also make constitutions for you concerning bishops. For if there the multitude distributed the inferior services in proportion to so great a king, ought not therefore the bishop much more now to receive of you those things which are determined by God for the sustenance of himself and of the rest of the clergy belonging to him? But if we may add somewhat further, let the bishop receive more than the other received of old: for he only managed the affairs of the soldiery, being entrusted with war and peace for the preservation of men’s bodies; but the other is entrusted with the exercise of the priestly office in relation to God, in order to preserve both body and soul from dangers. By how much, therefore, the soul is more valuable than the body, so much the priestly office is beyond the kingly. For it binds and looses those that are worthy of punishment or of remission. Wherefore you ought to love the bishop as your father, and fear him as your king, and honour him as your lord, bringing to him your fruits and the works of your hands, for a blessing upon you, giving to him your first-fruits, and your tithes, and your oblations, and your gifts, as to the priest of God; the first-fruits of your wheat, and wine, and oil, and autumnal fruits, and wool, and all things which the Lord God gives you. And your offering shall be accepted as a savour of a sweet smell to the Lord your God; and the Lord will bless the works of your hands, and will multiply the good things of the land. For a blessing is upon the head of him that gives. Proverbs 11:26
XXXV. Now you ought to know, that although the Lord has delivered you from the additional bonds, and has brought you out of them to your refreshment, and does not permit you to sacrifice irrational creatures for sin-offerings, and purifications, and scapegoats, and continual washings and sprinklings, yet has He nowhere freed you from those oblations which you owe to the priests, nor from doing good to the poor. For the Lord says to you in the Gospel: Unless your righteousness abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:20 Now herein will your righteousness exceed theirs, if you take greater care of the priests, the orphans, and the widows; as it is written: He has scattered abroad; he has given to the poor; his righteousness remains forever. And again: By acts of righteousness and faith iniquities are purged. Proverbs 16:6 And again: Every bountiful soul is blessed. Proverbs 11:25 So therefore shall you do as the Lord has appointed, and shall give to the priest what things are due to him, the first-fruits of your floor, and of your wine-press, and sin-offerings, as to the mediator between God and such as stand in need of purgation and forgiveness. For it is your duty to give, and his to administer, as being the administrator and disposer of ecclesiastical affairs. Yet shall you not call your bishop to account, nor watch his administration, how he does it, when, or to whom, or where, or whether he do it well or ill, or indifferently; for he has One who will call him to an account, the Lord God, who put this administration into his hands, and thought him worthy of the priesthood of so great dignity.
XXXVI. Have before your eyes the fear of God, and always remember the ten commandments of God — to love the one and only Lord God with all your strength; to give no heed to idols, or any other beings, as being lifeless gods, or irrational beings or dæmons. Consider the manifold workmanship of God, which received its beginning through Christ. You shall observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from His work of creation, but ceased not from His work of providence: it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for idleness of the hands. Reject every unlawful lust, everything destructive to men, and all anger. Honour your parents, as the authors of your being. Love your neighbour as yourself. Communicate the necessaries of life to the needy. Avoid swearing falsely, and swearing often, and in vain; for you shall not be held guiltless. Do not appear before the priests empty, and offer your free-will offerings continually. Moreover, do not leave the church of Christ; but go there in the morning before all your work, and again meet there in the evening, to return thanks to God that He has preserved your life. Be diligent, and constant, and laborious in your calling. Offer to the Lord your free-will offerings; for says He, Honour the Lord with the fruit of your honest labours. Proverbs 3:9 If you are not able to cast anything considerable into the Corban, yet at least bestow upon the strangers one, or two, or five mites. Lay up to yourself heavenly treasure, which neither the moth nor thieves can destroy. Matthew 6:20 And in doing this, do not judge your bishop, or any of your neighbours among the laity; for if you judge your brother, you become a judge, without being constituted such by anybody, for the priests are only entrusted with the power of judging. For to them it is said, Judge righteous judgment; and again Approve yourselves to be exact money-changers. Zechariah 7:9 For to you this is not entrusted; for, on the contrary, it is said to those who are not of the dignity of magistrates or ministers: Judge not, and you shall not be judged.
XXXVII. But it is the duty of the bishop to judge rightly, as it is written, Judge righteous judgment; John 7:24 and elsewhere, Why do you not even of yourselves judge what is right? Luke 12:57 Be therefore as skilful dealers in money: for as these reject bad money, but take to themselves what is current, in the same manner it is the bishops’s duty to retain the unblameable, but either to heal, or, if they be past cure, to cast off those that are blameworthy, so as not to be hasty in cutting off, nor to believe all accusations; for it sometimes happens that some, either through passion or envy, do insist on a false accusation against a brother, as did the two elders in the case of Susanna in Babylon, and the Egyptian woman in the case of Joseph. Therefore, as a man of God, do not rashly receive such accusations, lest you take away the innocent and slay the righteous; for he that will receive such accusations is the author of anger rather than of peace. But where there is anger, there the Lord is not; for that anger, which is the friend of Satan— I mean that which is excited unjustly by the means of false brethren — never suffers unanimity to be in the Church. Wherefore, when you know such persons to be foolish, quarrelsome, passionate, and such as delight in mischief, do not give credit to them; but observe such as they are, when you hear anything from them against their brother: for murder is nothing in their eyes, and they cast a man down in such a way as one would not suspect. Therefore consider diligently the accuser, wisely observing his mode of life, what, and of what sort it is; and in case you find him a man of veracity, do according to the doctrine of our Lord, Matthew 18:15 and taking him who is accused, rebuke him, that he may repent, when nobody is by. But if he be not persuaded, take with you out or two more, and so show him his fault, and admonish him with mildness and instruction; for wisdom will rest upon an heart that is good, but is not understood in the heart of the foolish. Proverbs 14:32
XXXVIII. If, therefore, he be persuaded by the mouth of you three, it is well. But if any one hardens himself, tell it to the Church: but if he neglects to hear the Church, let him be to you as an heathen man and a publican; Matthew 18:17 and receive him no longer into the Church as a Christian, but reject him as an heathen. But if he be willing to repent, receive him. For the Church does not receive an heathen or a publican to communion, before they every one repent of their former impieties; for our Lord Jesus, the Christ of God, has appointed place for the acceptance of men upon their repentance.
XXXIX . For I Matthew, one of those twelve which speak to you in this doctrine, am an apostle, having myself been formerly a publican, but now have obtained mercy through believing, and have repented of my former practices, and have been vouchsafed the honour to be an apostle and preacher of the word. And Zacchæus, whom the Lord received upon his repentance and prayers to Him, was also himself in the same manner a publican at first. And, besides, even the soldiers and multitude of publicans, who came to hear the word of the Lord about repentance, heard this from the prophet John, after he had baptized them: Do nothing more than that which is appointed you. Luke 3:13 In like manner, life is not refused to the heathen, if they repent and cast away their unbelief. Esteem, therefore, every one that is convicted of any wicked action, and has not repented, as a publican or an heathen. But if he afterward repents, and turns from his error, then, as we receive the heathen, when they wish to repent, into the Church indeed to hear the word, but do not receive them to communion until they have received the seal of baptism, and are made complete Christians; so do we also permit such as these to enter only to hear, until they show the fruit of repentance, that by hearing the word they may not utterly and irrecoverably perish. But let them not be admitted to communion in prayer; and let them depart after the reading of the law, and the prophets, and the Gospel, that by such departure they may be made better in their course of life, by endeavouring to meet every day about the public assemblies, and to be frequent in prayer, that they also may be at length admitted, and that those who behold them may be affected, and be more secured by fearing to fall into the same condition.
XL . But yet do not you, O bishop, presently abhor any person who has fallen into one or two offenses, nor shall you exclude him from the word of the Lord, nor reject him from common intercourse, since neither did the Lord refuse to eat with publicans and sinners; and when He was accused by the Pharisees on this account, He said: They that are well have no need of the physician, but they that are sick. Matthew 9:12 Do you, therefore, live and dwell with those who are separated from you for their sins; and take care of them, comforting them, and confirming them, and saying to them: Be strengthened, you weak hands and feeble knees. Isaiah 35:3 For we ought to comfort those that mourn, and afford encouragement to the fainthearted, lest by immoderate sorrow they degenerate into distraction, since he that is fainthearted is exceedingly distracted.
XLI. But if any one returns, and shows forth the fruit of repentance, then do you receive him to prayer, as the lost son, the prodigal, who had consumed his father’s substance with harlots, who fed swine, and desired to be fed with husks, and could not obtain it. This son, when he repented, and returned to his father, and said, I have sinned against Heaven, and before you, and am no more worthy to be called your son; Luke 15:21 the father, full of affection to his child, received him with music, and restored him his old robe, and ring, and shoes, and slew the fatted calf, and made merry with his friends. Therefore, O bishop, act in the same manner. And as you receive an heathen after you have instructed and baptized him, so do you let all join in prayers for this man, and restore him by imposition of hands to his ancient place among the flock, as one purified by repentance; and that imposition of hands shall be to him instead of baptism: for by the laying on of our hands the Holy Ghost was given to believers. And in case some one of those brethren who had stood immoveable accuse you, because you are reconciled to him, say to him: You are always with me, and all that I have is yours. It was meet to make merry and be glad: for this your brother was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. For that God does not only receive the penitent, but restores them to their former dignity, holy David is a sufficient witness, who, after his sin in the matter of Uriah, prayed to God, and said: Restore unto me the joy of Your salvation, and uphold me with Your free Spirit. And again: Turn Your face from my sins, and blot out all mine offenses. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit in my inward parts. Cast me not away from Your presence, and take not Your Holy Spirit from me. Therefore, as a compassionate physician, heal all that have sinned, making use of saving methods of cure; not only cutting and searing, or using corrosives, but binding up, and putting in tents, and using gentle healing medicines, and sprinkling comfortable words. If it be an hollow wound, or great gash, nourish it with a suitable plaister, that it may be filled up, and become even with the rest of the whole flesh. If it be foul, cleanse it with corrosive powder, that is, with the words of reproof. If it have proud flesh, eat it down with a sharp plaister — the threats of judgment. If it spreads further, sear it, and cut off the putrid flesh, mortifying him with fastings. But if, after all that you have done, you perceive that from the feet to the head there is no room for a fomentation, or oil, or bandage, but that the malady spreads and prevents all cure, as a gangrene which corrupts the entire member; then, with a great deal of consideration, and the advice of other skilful physicians, cut off the putrefied member, that the whole body of the Church be not corrupted. Be not therefore ready and hasty to cut off, nor do you easily have recourse to the saw, with its many teeth; but first use a lancet to lay open the wound, that the inward cause whence the pain is derived being drawn out, may keep the body free from pain. But if you see any one past repentance, and he has become insensible, then cut off the incurable from the Church with sorrow and lamentation. For: Take out from among yourselves that wicked person. Deuteronomy 17:7 And: You shall make the children of Israel to fear. Leviticus 15:31 And again: You shall not accept the persons of the rich in judgment. Deuteronomy 1:17; Leviticus 19:15 And: You shall not pity a poor man in his cause: for the judgment is the Lord’s. Exodus 23:3
XLII. But if the slanderous accusation be false, and you that are the pastors, with the deacons, admit of that falsehood for truth, either by acceptance of persons or receiving of bribes, as willing to do that which will he pleasing to the devil, and so you thrust out from the Church him that is accused, but is clear of the crime, you shall give an account in the day of the Lord. For it is written: The innocent and the righteous you shall not slay. Exodus 23:7-8 You shall not take gifts to smite the soul: for gifts blind the eyes of the wise, and destroy the words of the righteous. And again: They that justify the wicked for gifts, and take away the righteousness of the righteous from him. Isaiah 5:23 Be careful, therefore, not to condemn any persons unjustly, and so to assist the wicked. For woe to him that calls evil good, and good evil; bitter sweet, and sweet bitter; that puts light for darkness, and darkness for light. Isaiah 5:20 Take care, therefore, lest by any means you become acceptors of persons, and thereby fall under this voice of the Lord . For if you condemn others unjustly, you pass sentence against yourselves. For the Lord says: With what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and as you condemn, you shall be condemned. Matthew 7:2; Luke 6:37 If, therefore, you judge without respect of persons, you will discover that accuser who bears false witness against his neighbour, and will prove him to be a sycophant, a spiteful person, and a murderer, causing perplexity by accusing the man as if he were wicked, inconstant in his words, contradicting himself in what he affirms, and entangled with the words of his own mouth; for his own lips are a dangerous snare to him: whom, when you have convicted him of speaking falsely, you shall judge severely, and shall deliver him to the fiery sword, and you shall do to him as he wickedly proposed to do to his brother; for as much as in him lay he slew his brother, by forestalling the ears of the judge. Deuteronomy 19:19 Now it is written, that he that sheds man’s blood, for that his own blood shall be shed. Genesis 9:6 And: You shall take away that innocent blood, which was shed without cause, from you. Deuteronomy 19:13
XLIII. You shall therefore cast him out of the congregation as a murderer of his brother. Some time afterwards, if he says that he repents, mortify him with fastings, and afterwards you shall lay your hands upon him and receive him, but still securing him, that he does not disturb anybody a second time. But if, when he is admitted again, he be alike troublesome, and will not cease to disturb and to quarrel with his brother, spying faults out of a contentious spirit, cast him out as a pernicious person, that he may not lay waste the Church of God. For such a one is the raiser of disturbances in cities; for he, though he be within, does not become the Church, but is a superfluous and vain member, casting a blot, as far as in him lies, on the body of Christ. For if such men as are born with superfluous members of their body, which hang to them as fingers, or excrescences of flesh, cut them away from themselves on account of their indecency, whereby the unseemliness vanishes, and the man recovers his natural good shape by the means of the surgeon; how much more ought you, the pastors of the Church (for the Church is a perfect body, and sound members; of such as believe in God, in the fear of the Lord, and in love), to do the like when there is found in it a superfluous member with wicked designs, and rendering the rest of the body unseemly, and disturbing it with sedition, and war, and evil-speaking; causing fears, disturbances, blots, evil-speaking, accusations, disorders, and doing the like works of the devil, as if he were ordained by the devil to cast a reproach on the Church by calumnies, and mighty disorders, and strife, and division! Such a one, therefore, when he is a second time cast out of the Church, is justly cut off entirely from the congregation of the Lord. And now the Church of the Lord will be more beautiful than it was before, when it had a superfluous, and to itself a disagreeable member. Wherefore henceforward it will be free from blame and reproach, and become clear of such wicked, deceitful, abusive, unmerciful, traitorous persons; of such as are haters of those that are good, lovers of pleasure, 2 Timothy 3:3-4 affecters of vainglory, deceivers, and pretenders to wisdom; of such as make it their business to scatter, or rather utterly to disperse, the lambs of the Lord.
Therefore, O bishop, together with your subordinate clergy, endeavour rightly to divide the word of truth. For the Lord says: If you walk cross-grained to me, I will walk cross-grained to you. Leviticus 26:27-28 And elsewhere: With the holy You will be holy, and with the perfect man You will be perfect, and with the froward You will be froward. Walk therefore holily, that you may rather appear worthy of praise from the Lord than of complaint from the adversary.
XLIV. Be of one mind, O you bishops, one with another, and be at peace with one another; sympathize with one another, love the brethren, and feed the people with care; with one consent teach those that are under you to be of the same sentiments and to be of the same opinions about the same matters, that there may be no schisms among you; that you may be one body and one spirit, perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment, 1 Corinthians 1:10; Ephesians 4:4 according to the appointment of the Lord. And let the deacon refer all things to the bishop, as Christ does to His Father. But let him order such things as he is able by himself, receiving power from the bishop, as the Lord did from His Father the power of creation and of providence. But the weighty matters let the bishop judge; but let the deacon be the bishop’s ear, and eye, and mouth, and heart, and soul, that the bishop may not be distracted with many cares, but with such only as are more considerable, as Jethro did appoint for Moses, and his counsel was received.
XLV. It is therefore a noble encomium for a Christian to have no contest with any one; but if by any management or temptation a contest arises with any one, let him endeavour that it may be composed, though thereby he be obliged to lose somewhat; and let it not come before an heathen tribunal. Nay, indeed, you are not to permit that the rulers of this world should pass sentence against your people; for by them the devil contrives mischief to the servants of God, and occasions a reproach to be cast upon us, as though we had not one wise man that is able to judge between his brethren, or to decide their controversies.
XLVI. Let not the heathen therefore know of your differences among one another, nor do you receive unbelievers as witnesses against yourselves, nor be judged by them, nor owe them anything on account of tribute or fear; but render to Cæsar the things that are Cæsar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s, Matthew 22:21 as tribute, taxes, or poll-money, as our Lord by giving a piece of money was freed from disturbance. Choose therefore rather to suffer harm, and to endeavour after those things that make for peace, not only among the brethren, but also among the unbelievers. For by suffering loss in the affairs of this life, you will be sure not to suffer in the concerns of piety, and will live religiously, and according to the command of Christ. But if brethren have lawsuits one with another, which God forbid, you who are the rulers ought thence to learn that such as these do not do the work of brethren in the Lord, but rather of public enemies; and one of the parties will be found to be mild, gentle, and the child of light; but the other unmerciful, insolent, and covetous. Let him, therefore, who is condemned be rebuked, let him be separated, let him undergo the punishment of his hatred to his brother. Afterwards, when he repents, let him be received; and so, when they have learned prudence, they will ease your judicatures. It is also a duty to forgive each other’s trespasses — not the duty of those that judge, but of those that have quarrels; as the Lord determined when I Peter asked Him, How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Till seven times? He replied, I say not unto you, Until seven times, but until seventy times seven. Matthew 18:21-22 For so would our Lord have us to be truly His disciples, and never to have anything against anybody; as, for instance, anger without measure, passion without mercy, covetousness without justice, hatred without reconciliation. Draw by your instruction those who are angry to friendship, and those who are at variance to agreement. For the Lord says: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God. Matthew 5:9
XLVII. Let your judicatures be held on the second day of the week, that if any controversy arise about your sentence, having an interval till the Sabbath, you may be able to set the controversy right, and to reduce those to peace who have the contests one with another against the Lord’s day. Let also the deacons and presbyters be present at your judicatures, to judge without acceptance of persons, as men of God, with righteousness. When, therefore, both the parties have come, according as the law says, Deuteronomy 19:17 those that have the controversy shall stand severally in the middle of the court; and when you have heard them, give your votes holily, endeavouring to make them both friends before the sentence of the bishop, that judgment against the offender may not go abroad into the world; knowing that he has in the court the Christ of God as conscious of and confirming his judgment. But if any persons are accused by any one, and their fame suffers as if they did not walk uprightly in the Lord, in like manner you shall hear both parties — the accuser and accused; but not with prejudice, nor with hearkening to one part only, but with righteousness, as passing a sentence concerning eternal life or death. For says God: He shall prosecute that which is right justly. Deuteronomy 16:20 For he that is justly punished and separated by you is rejected from eternal life and glory; he becomes dishonourable among holy men, and one condemned of God.
XLVIII. Do not pass the same sentence for every sin, but one suitable to each crime, distinguishing all the several sorts of offenses with much prudence, the great from the little. Treat a wicked action after one manner, and a wicked word after another; a bare intention still otherwise. So also in the case of a contumely or suspicion. And some you shall curb by threatenings alone; some you shall punish with fines to the poor; some you shall mortify with fastings; and others you shall separate according to the greatness of their several crimes. For the law did not allot the same punishment to every offense, but had a different regard to a sin against God, against the priest, against the temple, or against the sacrifice; from a sin against the king, or ruler, or a soldier, or a fellow-subject; and so were the offenses different which were against a servant, a possession, or a brute creature. And again, sins were differently rated according as they were against parents and kinsmen, and those differently which were done on purpose from those that happened involuntarily. Accordingly the punishments were different: as death either by crucifixion or by stoning, fines, scourgings, or the suffering the same mischiefs they had done to others. Wherefore do you also allot different penalties to different offenses, lest any injustice should happen, and provoke God to indignation. For of what unjust judgment soever you are the instruments, of the same you shall receive the reward from God. For with what judgment you judge you shall be judged. Matthew 7:2
XLIX . When, therefore, you are set down at your tribunal, and the parties are both of them present (for we will not call them brethren until they receive each other in peace), examine diligently concerning those who appear before you; and first concerning the accuser, whether this be the first person he has accused, or whether he has advanced accusations against some others before, and whether this contest and accusation of theirs does not arise from some quarrel, and what sort of life the accuser leads. Yet, though he be of a good conscience, do not give credit to him alone, for that is contrary to the law; but let him have others to join in his testimony, and those of the same course of life. As the law says: At the mouth of two or three witnesses everything shall be established. Deuteronomy 19:15 But why did we say that the character of the witnesses was to be inquired after, of what sort it is? Because it frequently happens that two and more testify for mischief, and with joint consent prefer a lie; as did the two elders against Susanna in Babylon, and the sons of transgressors against Naboth in Samaria, and the multitude of the Jews against our Lord at Jerusalem, and against Stephen His first martyr. Let the witnesses therefore be meek, free from anger, full of equity, kind, prudent, continent, free from wickedness, faithful, religious; for the testimony of such persons is firm on account of their character, and true on account of their mode of life. But as to those of a different character, do not receive their testimony, although they seem to agree together in their evidence against the accused; for it is ordained in the law: You shall not be with a multitude for wickedness; you shall not receive a vain report; you shall not consent with a multitude to pervert judgment. Exodus 23:2 You ought also particularly to know him that is accused; what he is in his course and mode of life; whether he have a good report as to his life; whether he has been unblameable; whether he has been zealous in holiness; whether he be a lover of the widows, a lover of the strangers, a lover of the poor, and a lover of the brethren; whether he be not given to filthy lucre; whether he be not an extravagant person, or a spendthrift; whether he be sober, and free from luxury, or a drunkard, or a glutton; whether he be compassionate and charitable.
L . For if he has been before addicted to wicked works, the accusations which are now brought against him will thence in some measure appear to be true, unless justice do plainly plead for him. For it may be, that though he had formerly been an offender, yet that he may not be guilty of this crime of which he is accused. Wherefore be exactly cautious about such circumstances, and so render your sentences, when pronounced against the offender convicted, safe and firm. And if, after his separation, he begs pardon, and falls down before the bishop, and acknowledges his fault, receive him. But neither do you suffer a false accuser to go unpunished, that he may not calumniate another who lives well, or encourage some other person to do like him. Nor, to be sure, do you allow a person convicted to go off clear, lest another be ensnared in the same crimes. For neither shall a witness of mischiefs be unpunished, nor shall he that offends be without censure.
LI. We said before that judgment ought not to be given upon hearing only one of the parties; for if you hear one of them when the other is not there, and so cannot make his defense to the accusation brought against him, and rashly give your votes for condemnation, you will be found guilty of that man’s destruction, and partaker with the false accuser before God, the just Judge. For as he that holds the tail of a dog, so is he that presides at unjust judgment. Proverbs 26:17 But if you become imitators of the elders in Babylon, who, when they had borne witness against Susanna, unjustly condemned her to death, you will become obnoxious to their judgment and condemnation. For the Lord by Daniel delivered Susanna from the hand of the ungodly, but condemned to the fire those elders who were guilty of her blood, and reproaches you by him, saying: Are you so foolish, you children of Israel? Without examination, and without knowing the truth, have you condemned a daughter of Israel? Return again to the place of judgment, for these men have borne false witness against her.
LII. Consider even the judicatures of this world, by whose power we see murderers, adulterers, wizards, robbers of sepulchres, and thieves brought to trial; and those that preside, when they have received their accusations from those that brought them, ask the malefactor whether those things be so. And though he does not deny the crimes, they do not presently send him out to punishment; but for several days they make inquiry about him with a full council, and with the veil interposed. And he that is to pass the final decree and suffrage of death against him, lifts up his hands to the sun, and solemnly affirms that he is innocent of the blood of the man. Though they be heathens, and know not the Deity, nor the vengeance which will fall upon men from God on account of those that are justly condemned, they avoid such unjust judgments.
LIII. But you who know who our God is, and what are His judgments, how can you bear to pass an unjust judgment, since your sentence will be immediately known to God? And if you have judged righteously, you will be deemed worthy of the recompenses of righteousness, both now and hereafter; but if unrighteously, you will partake of the like. We therefore advise you, brethren, rather to deserve commendation from God than rebukes; for the commendation of God is eternal life to men, as is His rebuke everlasting death. Be therefore righteous judges, peacemakers, and without anger. For he that is angry with his brother without a cause is obnoxious to the judgment. Matthew 5:22 But if it happens that by any one’s contrivance you are angry at anybody, let not the sun go down upon your wrath; Ephesians 4:26 for says David, Be angry and sin not; that is, be soon reconciled, lest your wrath continue so long that it turn to a settled hatred, and work sin. For the souls of those that bear a settled hatred are to death, says Solomon. But our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ says in the Gospels: If you bring your gift to the altar, and there rememberest that your brother has anything against you, leave there your gift before the altar, and go your way; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift to God. Matthew 5:23-24 Now the gift to God is every one’s prayer and thanksgiving. If, therefore, you have anything against your brother, or he has anything against you, neither will your prayers be heard, nor will your thanksgivings be accepted, by reason of that hidden anger. But it is your duty, brethren, to pray continually. Yet, because God hears not those which are at enmity with their brethren by unjust quarrels, even though they should pray three times an hour, it is our duty to compose all our enmity and littleness of soul, that we may be able to pray with a pure and unpolluted heart. For the Lord commanded us to love even our enemies, and by no means to hate our friends. And the lawgiver says: You shall not hate any man; you shall not hate your brother in your mind. You shall certainly reprove your brother, and not incur sin on his account. Leviticus 19:17 You shall not hate an Egyptian, for you were a sojourner with him. You shall not hate an Idumæan, for he is your brother. Deuteronomy 23:7 And David says: If I have repaid those that requited me evil. Wherefore, if you will be a Christian, follow the law of the Lord: Loose every band of wickedness; Isaiah 58:6 for the Lord has given you authority to remit those sins to your brother which he has committed against you as far as seventy times seven, Matthew 18:22 that is, four hundred and ninety times. How oft, therefore, have you remitted to your brother, that you are unwilling to do it now, when you also have heard Jeremiah saying, Do not any of you impute the wickedness of his neighbour in your hearts? Zechariah 8:17 But you remember injuries, and keepest enmity, and comest into judgment, and art suspicious of His anger, and your prayer is hindered. Nay, if you have remitted to your brother four hundred and ninety times, multiply your acts of gentleness still more, to do good for your own sake. Although he does not do so, yet, however, endeavour to forgive your brother for God’s sake, that you may be the son of your Father which is in heaven, Matthew 5:45 and when you pray, may be heard as a friend of God.
LIV. Wherefore, O bishop, when you are to go to prayer after the lessons, and the psalmody, and the instruction out of the Scriptures, let the deacon stand near you, and with a loud voice say: Let none have any quarrel with another; let none come in hypocrisy; that if there be any controversy found among any of you, they may be affected in conscience, and may pray to God, and be reconciled to their brethren. For if, upon coming into any one’s house, we are to say, Peace be to this house, Matthew 10:12 like sons of peace bestowing peace on those who are worthy, as it is written, He came and preached peace to you that are near, and those who are far off, whom the Lord knows to be His, much more is it incumbent on those that enter into the Church of God before all things to pray for the peace of God. But if he prays for it upon others, much more let himself be within the same, as a child of light; for he that has it not within himself is not fit to bestow it upon others. Wherefore, before all things, it is our duty to be at peace in our own minds; for he that does not find any disorder in himself will not quarrel with another, but will be peaceable, friendly, gathering the Lord’s people, and a fellow-worker with him, in order to the increasing the number of those that shall be saved in unanimity. For those who contrive enmities, and strifes, and contests, and lawsuits, are wicked, and aliens from God.
LV. For God, being a God of mercy from the beginning, called every generation to repentance by righteous men and prophets. He instructed those before the flood by Abel and Sem, and Seth, also by Enos, and by Enoch that was translated; those at the flood by Noah; the inhabitants of Sodom by hospitable Lot; those after the flood by Melchizedek, and the patriarchs, and Job the beloved of God; the Egyptians by Moses; the Israelites by him, and Joshua, and Caleb, and Phineas, and the rest; those after the law by angels and prophets, and the same by His own incarnation of the Virgin; those a little before His bodily appearance by John His forerunner, and the same by the same person after Christ’s birth, saying, Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand; Matthew 3:2 those after His passion by us, the twelve apostles, and Paul the chosen vessel. We therefore, who have been vouchsafed the favour of being the witnesses of His appearance, together with James the brother of our Lord, and the other seventy-two disciples, and his seven deacons, have heard from the mouth of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by exact knowledge declare what is the will of God, that good, and acceptable, and perfect will Romans 12:2 which is made known to us by Jesus; that none should perish, but that all men with one accord should believe in Him, and send unanimously praise to Him, and thereby live forever.
LVI. For this is that which our Lord taught us when we pray to say to His Father, Your will be done, as in heaven, so upon earth; Matthew 6:10 that as the heavenly natures of the incorporeal powers do all glorify God with one consent, so also upon earth all men with one mouth and one purpose may glorify the only, the one, and the true God, by Christ His only-begotten. It is therefore His will that men should praise Him with unanimity, and adore Him with one consent. For this is His will in Christ, that those who are saved by Him may be many; but that you do not occasion any loss or diminution to Him, nor to the Church, or lessen the number by one soul of man, as destroyed by you, which might have been saved by repentance; and which therefore perishes not only by its own sin, but also by your treachery besides, whereby you fulfil that which is written, He that gathers not with me, scatters. Matthew 12:30 Such a one is a disperser of the sheep, an adversary, an enemy of God, a destroyer of those lambs whose Shepherd was the Lord, and we were the collectors out of various nations and tongues, by much pains and danger, and perpetual labour, by watchings, by fastings, by lyings on the ground, by persecutions, by stripes, by imprisonments, that we might do the will of God, and fill the feast-chamber with guests to sit down at His table, that is, the holy and Catholic Church, with joyful and chosen people, singing hymns and praises to God that has called them by us to life. And you, as much as in you lies, have dispersed them. Do you also of the laity be at peace with one another, endeavouring like wise men to increase the Church, and to turn back, and tame, and restore those which seem wild. For this is the greatest reward by His promise from God, If you fetch out the worthy and precious from the unworthy, you shall be as my mouth. Jeremiah 15:19
LVII. But be, O bishop, holy, unblameable, no striker, not soon angry, not cruel; but a builder up, a converter, apt to teach, forbearing of evil, of a gentle mind, meek, long-suffering, ready to exhort, ready to comfort, as a man of God.
When you call an assembly of the Church as one that is the commander of a great ship, appoint the assemblies to be made with all possible skill, charging the deacons as mariners to prepare places for the brethren as for passengers, with all due care and decency. And first, let the building be long, with its head to the east, with its vestries on both sides at the east end, and so it will be like a ship. In the middle let the bishop’s throne be placed, and on each side of him let the presbytery sit down; and let the deacons stand near at hand, in close and small girt garments, for they are like the mariners and managers of the ship: with regard to these, let the laity sit on the other side, with all quietness and good order. And let the women sit by themselves, they also keeping silence. In the middle, let the reader stand upon some high place: let him read the books of Moses, of Joshua the Son of Nun, of the Judges, and of the Kings and of the Chronicles, and those written after the return from the captivity; and besides these, the books of Job and of Solomon, and of the sixteen prophets. But when there have been two lessons severally read, let some other person sing the hymns of David, and let the people join at the conclusions of the verses. Afterwards let our Acts be read, and the Epistles of Paul our fellow-worker, which he sent to the churches under the conduct of the Holy Spirit; and afterwards let a deacon or a presbyter read the Gospels, both those which I Matthew and John have delivered to you, and those which the fellow-workers of Paul received and left to you, Luke and Mark. And while the Gospel is read, let all the presbyters and deacons, and all the people, stand up in great silence; for it is written: Be silent, and hear, O Israel. Deuteronomy 27:9 And again: But stand there, and hear. Deuteronomy 5:31 In the next place, let the presbyters one by one, not all together, exhort the people, and the bishop in the last place, as being the commander. Let the porters stand at the entries of the men, and observe them. Let the deaconesses also stand at those of the women, like shipmen. For the same description and pattern was both in the tabernacle of the testimony and in the temple of God. But if any one be found sitting out of his place, let him be rebuked by the deacon, as a manager of the foreship, and be removed into the place proper for him; for the Church is not only like a ship, but also like a sheepfold. For as the shepherds place all the brute creatures distinctly, I mean goats and sheep, according to their kind and age, and still every one runs together, like to his like; so is it to be in the Church. Let the young persons sit by themselves, if there be a place for them; if not, let them stand upright. But let those that are already stricken in years sit in order. For the children which stand, let their fathers and mothers take them to them. Let the younger women also sit by themselves, if there be a place for them; but if there be not, let them stand behind the women. Let those women which are married, and have children, be placed by themselves; but let the virgins, and the widows, and the elder women, stand or sit before all the rest; and let the deacon be the disposer of the places, that every one of those that comes in may go to his proper place, and may not sit at the entrance. In like manner, let the deacon oversee the people, that nobody may whisper, nor slumber, nor laugh, nor nod; for all ought in the church to stand wisely, and soberly, and attentively, having their attention fixed upon the word of the Lord. After this, let all rise up with one consent, and looking towards the east, after the catechumens and penitents are gone out, pray to God eastward, who ascended up to the heaven of heavens to the east; remembering also the ancient situation of paradise in the east, from whence the first man, when he had yielded to the persuasion of the serpent, and disobeyed the command of God, was expelled. As to the deacons, after the prayer is over, let some of them attend upon the oblation of the Eucharist, ministering to the Lord’s body with fear. Let others of them watch the multitude, and keep them silent. But let that deacon who is at the high priest’s hand say to the people, Let no one have any quarrel against another; let no one come in hypocrisy. Then let the men give the men, and the women give the women, the Lord’s kiss. But let no one do it with deceit, as Judas betrayed the Lord with a kiss. After this let the deacon pray for the whole Church, for the whole world, and the several parts of it, and the fruits of it; for the priests and the rulers, for the high priest and the king, and the peace of the universe. After this let the high priest pray for peace upon the people, and bless them, as Moses commanded the priests to bless the people, in these words: The Lord bless you, and keep you: the Lord make His face to shine upon you, and give you peace. Let the bishop pray for the people, and say: Save Your people, O Lord, and bless Your inheritance, which You have obtained with the precious blood of Your Christ, and hast called a royal priesthood, and an holy nation. After this let the sacrifice follow, the people standing, and praying silently; and when the oblation has been made, let every rank by itself partake of the Lord’s body and precious blood in order, and approach with reverence and holy fear, as to the body of their king. Let the women approach with their heads covered, as is becoming the order of women; but let the door be watched, lest any unbeliever, or one not yet initiated, come in.
LVIII. If any brother, man or woman, come in from another parish, bringing recommendatory letters, let the deacon be the judge of that affair, inquiring whether they be of the faithful, and of the Church? Whether they be not defiled by heresy? And besides, whether the party be a married woman or a widow? And when he is satisfied in these questions, that they are really of the faithful, and of the same sentiments in the things of the Lord, let him conduct every one to the place proper for him. And if a presbyter comes from another parish, let him be received to communion by the presbyters; if a deacon, by the deacons; if a bishop, let him sit with the bishop, and be allowed the same honour with himself; and you, O bishop, shall desire him to speak to the people words of instruction: for the exhortation and admonition of strangers is very acceptable, and exceeding profitable. For, as the Scripture says, no prophet is accepted in his own country. You shall also permit him to offer the Eucharist; but if, out of reverence to you, and as a wise man, to preserve the honour belonging to you, he will not offer, at least you shall compel him to give the blessing to the people. But if, after the congregation is sat down, any other person comes upon you of good fashion and character in the world, whether he be a stranger, or one of your own country, neither do you, O bishop, if you are speaking the word of God, or hearing him that sings or reads, accept persons so far as to leave the ministry of the word, that you may appoint an upper place for him; but continue quiet, not interrupting your discourse, nor your attention. But let the brethren receive him by the deacons; and if there be not a place, let the deacon by speaking, but not in anger, raise the junior, and place the stranger there. And it is but reasonable that one that loves the brethren should do so of his own accord; but if he refuse, let him raise him up by force, and set him behind all, that the rest may be taught to give place to those that are more honourable. Nay, if a poor man, or one of a mean family, or a stranger, comes upon you, whether he be old or young, and there be no place, the deacon shall find a place for even these, and that with all his heart; that, instead of accepting persons before men, his ministration towards God may be well-pleasing. The very same thing let the deaconess do to those women, whether poor or rich, that come unto them.
LIX . When you instruct the people, O bishop, command and exhort them to come constantly to church morning and evening every day, and by no means to forsake it on any account, but to assemble together continually; neither to diminish the Church by withdrawing themselves, and causing the body of Christ to be without its member. For it is not only spoken concerning the priests, but let every one of the laity hearken to it as concerning himself, considering that it is said by the Lord: He that is not with me is against me, and he that gathers not with me scatters abroad. Matthew 12:30 Do not you therefore scatter yourselves abroad, who are the members of Christ, by not assembling together, since you have Christ your head, according to His promise, present, and communicating to you. Be not careless of yourselves, neither deprive your Saviour of His own members, neither divide His body nor disperse His members, neither prefer the occasions of this life to the word of God; but assemble yourselves together every day, morning and evening, singing psalms and praying in the Lord’s house: in the morning saying the sixty-second Psalm, and in the evening the hundred and fortieth, but principally on the Sabbath day. And on the day of our Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent Him to us, and condescended to let Him suffer, and raised Him from the dead. Otherwise what apology will he make to God who does not assemble on that day to hear the saving word concerning the resurrection, on which we pray thrice standing in memory of Him who arose in three days, in which is performed the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the Gospel, the oblation of the sacrifice, the gift of the holy food?
LX . And how can he be other than an adversary to God, who takes pains about temporary things night and day, but takes no care of things eternal? Who takes care of washings and temporary food every day, but does not take care of those that endure for ever? How can such a one even now avoid hearing that word of the Lord, The Gentiles are justified more than you? Ezekiel 16:52 as He says, by way of reproach, to Jerusalem, Sodom is justified rather than you. For if the Gentiles every day, when they arise from sleep, run to their idols to worship them, and before all their work and all their labours do first of all pray to them, and in their feasts and in their solemnities do not keep away, but attend upon them; and not only those upon the place, but those living far distant do the same; and in their public shows all come together, as into a synagogue: in the same manner those which are vainly called Jews, when they have worked six days, on the seventh day rest, and come together into their synagogue, never leaving nor neglecting either rest from labour or assembling together, while yet they are deprived of the efficacy of the word in their unbelief, nay, and of the force of that name Judah, by which they call themselves — for Judah is interpreted Confession, — but these do not confess to God (having unjustly occasioned the suffering on the cross), so as to be saved on their repentance;— if, therefore, those who are not saved frequently assemble together for such purposes as do not profit them, what apology will you make to the Lord God who forsakest His Church, not imitating so much as the heathen, but by such your absence growest slothful, or turnest apostate, or actest wickedness? To whom the Lord says by Jeremiah: You have not kept my ordinances; nay, you have not walked according to the ordinances of the heathen, and you have in a manner exceeded them. And again: Israel has justified his soul more than treacherous Judah. Jeremiah 3:11 And afterwards: Will the Gentiles change their gods which are not gods? Wherefore pass over to the isles of Chittim, and behold, and send to Kedar, and observe diligently whether such things have been done. For those nations have not changed their ordinances; but, says He, my people has changed its glory for that which will not profit. How, therefore, will any one make his apology who has despised or absented himself from the church of God?
LXI. But if any one allege the pretence of his own work, and so is a despiser, offering pretences for his sins, let such a one know that the trades of the faithful are works by the by, but the worship of God is their great work. Follow therefore your trades as by the by, for your maintenance, but make the worship of God your main business; as also our Lord said: Labour not for the meat which perishes, but for that which endures unto everlasting life. John 6:27 And again: This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent. John 6:29 Endeavour therefore never to leave the Church of God; but if any one overlooks it, and goes either into a polluted temple of the heathens, or into a synagogue of the Jews or heretics, what apology will such a one make to God in the day of judgment, who has forsaken the oracles of the living God, and the living and quickening oracles, such as are able to deliver from eternal punishment, and has gone into a house of demons, or into a synagogue of the murderers of Christ, or the congregation of the wicked?— not hearkening unto him that says: I have hated the congregation of the wicked, and I will not enter with the ungodly. I have not sat with the assembly of vanity, neither will I sit with the ungodly. And again: Blessed is the man that has not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, and has not sat in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law will he meditate day and night. But you, forsaking the gathering together of the faithful, the Church of God, and His laws, hast respect to those dens of thieves, calling those things holy which He has called profane, and making such things unclean which He has sanctified. And not only so, but you already run after the pomps of the Gentiles, and hasten to their theatres, being desirous to be reckoned one of those that enter into them, and to partake of unseemly, not to say abominable words; not hearkening to Jeremiah, who says, O Lord, I have not sat in their assemblies, for they are scorners; but I was afraid because of Your hand; Jeremiah 15:17 nor to Job, who speaks in like manner, If I have gone at any time with the scornful; for I shall be weighed in a just balance. Job 31:5-6 But why will you be a partaker of the heathen oracles, which are nothing but dead men declaring by the inspiration of the devil deadly things, and such as tend to subvert the faith, and to draw those that attend to them to polytheism? Therefore, you who attend to the laws of God should esteem those laws more honourable than the necessities of this life, and pay a greater respect to them, and run together to the Church of the Lord, which He has purchased with the blood of Christ, the beloved, the first-born of every creature. For this Church is the daughter of the Highest, which has been in travail of you by the word of grace, and has formed Christ in you, of whom you are made partakers, and thereby become His holy and chosen members, not having spot or wrinkle, or any such thing; but as being holy and unspotted in the faith, you are complete in Him, after the image of God that created you. Ephesians 5:27
LXII. Take heed, therefore, not to join yourselves in your worship with those that perish, which is the assembly of the Gentiles, to your deceit and destruction. For there is no fellowship between God and the devil; for he that assembles himself with those that favour the things of the devil, will be esteemed one of them, and will inherit a woe. Avoid also indecent spectacles: I mean the theatres and the pomps of the heathens; their enchantments, observations of omens, soothsayings, purgations, divinations, observations of birds; their necromancies and invocations. For it is written: There is no divination in Jacob, nor soothsaying in Israel. Numbers 23:23 And again: Divination is iniquity. And elsewhere: You shall not be soothsayers, and follow observers of omens, nor diviners, nor dealers with familiar spirits. You shall not preserve alive wizards. Leviticus 19:26; Deuteronomy 18:10 Wherefore Jeremiah exhorts, saying: Walk not according to the ways of the heathen, and be not afraid of the signs of heaven. So that it is the duty of a believer to avoid the assemblies of the ungodly, of the heathen, and of the Jews, and of the rest of the heretics, lest by uniting ourselves to them we bring snares upon our own souls; that we may not by joining in their feasts, which are celebrated in honour of demons, be partakers with them in their impiety. You are also to avoid their public meetings, and those sports which are celebrated in them. For a believer ought not to go to any of those public meetings, unless to purchase a slave, and save a soul, and at the same time to buy such other things as suit their necessities. Abstain, therefore, from all idolatrous pomp and state, all their public meetings, banquets, duels, and all shows belonging to demons.
LXIII. Let the young persons of the Church endeavour to minister diligently in all necessaries: mind your business with all becoming seriousness, that so you may always have sufficient to support yourselves and those that are needy, and not burden the Church of God. For we ourselves, besides our attention to the word of the Gospel, do not neglect our inferior employments. For some of us are fishermen, some tentmakers, some husbandmen, that so we may never be idle. So says Solomon somewhere: Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider her ways diligently, and become wiser than she. For she, having neither field, overseer, nor ruler, prepares her food in the summer, and lays up a great store in the harvest. Or else go to the bee, and learn how laborious she is, and her work how valuable it is, whose labours both kings and mean men make use of for their health. She is desirable and glorious, though she be weak in strength, yet by honouring wisdom she is improved, etc. How long will you lie on your bed, O sluggard? When will you wake out of your sleep? You sleep awhile, you lie down awhile, you slumber awhile, you fold your hands on your breast to sleep awhile. Then poverty comes on you like an evil traveller, and want as a swift racer. But if you are diligent, your harvest shall come as a fountain, and want shall fly from you as an evil renegade. And again: He that manages his own land shall be filled with bread. Proverbs 12:11 And elsewhere he says: The slothful has folded his own hands together, and has eaten his own flesh. Ecclesiastes 4:5 And afterwards: The sluggard hides his hand; he will not be able to bring it to his mouth. Proverbs 19:24 And again: By slothfulness of the hands a floor will be brought low. Ecclesiastes 10:18 Labour therefore continually; for the blot of the slothful is not to be healed. But if any one does not work, let not such a one eat 2 Thessalonians 3:10 among you. For the Lord our God hates the slothful. For no one of those who are dedicated to God ought to be idle.