Sec. VI. – The Disputes of the Faithful to Be Settled by the Decisions of the Bishop, and the Faithful to be Reconciled.
Do thou therefore, O bishop, together with thy 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.” (Lev_26:27, Lev_26:28) And elsewhere: “With the holy Thou wilt be holy, and with the perfect man Thou wilt be perfect, and with the froward Thou wilt be froward.” (Psa_18:26) Walk therefore holily, that you may rather appear worthy of praise from the Lord than of complaint from the adversary.
XLIV. That the Deacon Is to Ease the Burthen of the Bishops, and to Order the Smaller Matters Himself.
Be ye of one mind, O ye 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 ye may be one body and one spirit, perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment,” (1Co_1:10; Eph_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. (Exo_18:1-27)
XLV. That Contentions and Quarrels Are Unbecoming Christians.
It is therefore a noble encomium for a Christian to have no contest with any one; (1Co_6:1, etc.) 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. That Believers Ought Not to Go to Law Before Unbelievers; Nor Ought Any Unbeliever to Be Called for a Witness Against Believers.
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,” (Mat_22:21) as tribute, taxes, or poll-money, as our Lord by giving a piece of money was freed from disturbance. (Mat_17:24, etc.) 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, thou wilt be sure not to suffer in the concerns of piety, and wilt live religiously, and according to the command of Christ.23 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 thee, Until seven times, but until seventy times seven.” (Mat_18:21, Mat_18:22) 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.” (Mat_5:9)
XLVII. That the Judicatures of Christians Ought to Be Held on the Second Day of the Week.
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,24 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 are come, according as the law says, (Deu_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.” (Deu_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. That the Same Punishment Is Not to Be Inflicted for Every Offence, but Different Punishments for Different Offenders.
Do not pass the same sentence for every sin, but one suitable to each crime, distinguishing all the several sorts of offences 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 thou shalt curb by threatenings alone; some thou shalt punish with fines to the poor; some thou shalt mortify with fastings; and others thou shalt separate according to the greatness of their several crimes. For the law did not allot the same punishment to every offence, 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 offences 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 offences, 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 ye judge ye shall be judged.” (Mat_7:2)
XLIX. What Are to Be the Characters of Accusers and Witnesses.
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.” (Deu_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, (Susanna 28) and the sons of transgressors against Naboth in Samaria, (1Ki_21:1-29) and the multitude of the Jews against our Lord at Jerusalem, (Mat_26:1-75) and against Stephen His first martyr. (Act_6:1-15 and Act_7:1-60) 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 ye receive their testimony, although they seem to agree together in their evidence against the accused; for it is ordained in the law: “Thou shalt not be with a multitude for wickedness; thou shalt not receive a vain report; thou shalt not consent with a multitude to pervert judgment.” (Exo_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. That Former Offences Do Sometimes Render After Accusations Credible.
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 hint. 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 ye suffer 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. Against Judging Without Hearing Both Sides.
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 defence 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 holdeth the tail of a dog, so is he that presides at unjust judgment.” (Pro_26:17) But if ye 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 ye so foolish, ye children of Israel? Without examination, and without knowing the truth, have ye condemned a daughter of Israel? Return again to the place of judgment, for these men have borne false witness against her.” (Susanna 48)
LII. The Caution Observed at Heathen Tribunals Before the Condemnation of Criminals Affords Christians a Good Example.
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. That Christians Ought Not to Be Contentious One With Another.
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 ye therefore righteous judges, peacemakers, and without anger. For “he that is angry with his brother without a cause is obnoxious to the judgment.” (Mat_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;” (Eph_4:26) for says David, “Be angry and sin not;” (Psa_4:4) 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,” (Pro_12:28, LXX) says Solomon. But our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ says in the Gospels: “If thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift to God.” (Mat_5:23, Mat_5:24) Now the gift to God is every one’s prayer and thanksgiving. If, therefore, thou hast anything against thy brother, or he has anything against thee, neither will thy prayers be heard, nor will thy 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: “Thou shalt not hate any man; thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy mind. Thou shalt certainly reprove thy brother, and not incur sin on his account.” (Lev_19:17) “Thou shalt not hate an Egyptian, for thou wast a sojourner with him. Thou shalt not hate an Idumæan, for he is thy brother.” (Deu_23:7) And David says: “If I have repaid those that requited me evil.” (Psa_7:4) Wherefore, if thou wilt be a Christian, follow the law of the Lord: “Loose every band of wickedness;” (Isa_58:6) for the Lord has given thee authority to remit those sins to thy brother which he has committed against thee as far as “seventy times seven,” (Mat_18:22) that is, four hundred and ninety times. How oft, therefore, hast thou remitted to thy brother, that thou art unwilling to do it now, when thou also hast heard Jeremiah saying, “Do not any of you impute the wickedness of his neighbour in your hearts?” (Zec_8:17) But thou rememberest injuries, and keepest enmity, and comest into judgment, and art suspicious of His anger, and thy prayer is hindered. Nay, if thou hast remitted to thy brother four hundred and ninety times, do thou still multiply thy acts of gentleness more, to do good for thy own sake. Although he does not do so, yet, however, do thou endeavour to forgive thy brother for God’s sake, “that thou mayest be the son of thy Father which is in heaven,” (Mat_5:45) and when thou prayest, mayest be heard as a friend of God.
LIV. That the Bishops Must by Their Deacon Put the People in Mind of the Obligation They Are Under to Live Peaceably Together.
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 nigh 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,” (Mat_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 nigh, and them that are far off, whom the Lord knows to be His,” (Isa_57:19; Eph_2:17; 2Ti_2:19) 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. An Enumeration of the Several Instances of Divine Providence, and How in Every Age from the Beginning of the World God Has Invited All Men to Repentance.
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 incarnation25 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 ye, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand;” (Mat_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” (Rom_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 for ever.
LVI. That It Is The Will of God that Men Should Be of One Mind in Matters of Religion, in Accord with the Heavenly Powers.
For this is that which our Lord taught us when we pray to say to His Father, “Thy will be done, as in heaven, so upon earth;” (Mat_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.26 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 gathereth not with me, scattereth.” (Mat_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 thou fetch out the worthy and precious from the unworthy, thou shalt be as my mouth.” (Jer_15:19)
Sec. VII. – On Assembling in the Church.
LVII. An Exact Description of a Church and the Clergy, and What Things in Particular Every One Is to Do in the Solemn Assemblies of the Clergy and Laity for Religious Worship.
But be thou, 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 thou callest 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.” (Deu_27:9) And again: “But do thou stand there, and hear.” (Deu_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.27 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 thee, and keep thee: the Lord make His face to shine upon thee,28 and give thee peace.” (Num_6:24, etc.) Let the bishop pray for the people, and say: “Save Thy people, O Lord, and bless Thine inheritance, which Thou hast obtained with the precious blood of Thy Christ, and hast called a royal priesthood, and an holy nation.” (Psa_28:9; Act_20:28; 1Pe_1:19, 1Pe_2:9) 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.29
LVIII. Of Commendatory Letters in Favour of Strangers, Lay Persons, Clergymen, and Bishops; And that Those Who Come into the Church Assemblies Are to Be Received Without Regard to Their Quality.
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 thou, O bishop, shalt 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.” (Luk_4:24; Joh_4:44) Thou shalt also permit him to offer the Eucharist; but if, out of reverence to thee, and as a wise man, to preserve the honour belonging to thee, he will not offer, at least thou shalt 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 thou, O bishop, if thou art 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 thou mayest appoint an upper place for him; but continue quiet, not interrupting thy discourse, nor thy 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. That Every Christian Ought to Frequent the Church Diligently Both Morning and Evening.
When thou instructest 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 gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.” (Mat_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.30 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. The Vain Zeal Which the Heathens and Jews Show in Frequenting Their Temples and Synagogues Is a Proper Example and Motive to Excite Christians to Frequent the Church.
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?” (Eze_16:52) as He says, by way of reproach, to Jerusalem, “Sodom is justified rather than thou.” 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 wilt thou make to the Lord God who forsakest His Church, not imitating so much as the heathen, but by such thy absence growest slothful, or turnest apostate, or actest wickedness? To whom the Lord says by Jeremiah: “Ye have not kept my ordinances; nay, ye have not walked according to the ordinances of the heathen, and you have in a manner exceeded them.” (Eze_5:7, Eze_16:47) And again: “Israel has justified his soul more than treacherous Judah.” (Jer_3:11) And afterwards: “Will the Gentiles change their gods which are not gods?31 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.” (Jer_2:11, Jer_2:10) How, therefore, will any one make his apology who has despised or absented himself from the church of God?
LXI. That We Must Not Prefer the Affairs of This Life to Those Which Concern the Worship of God.
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 endureth unto everlasting life.” (Joh_6:27) And again: “This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent.” (Joh_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 an 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.” (Psa_26:5, Psa_26:4) And again: “Blessed is the man that hath not walked in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stood in the way of sinners, and hath 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.” (Psa_1:1, Psa_1:2) But thou, 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 thou already runnest after the pomps of the Gentiles, and hastenest 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 Thy hand;” (Jer_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, Job_31:6) But why wilt thou 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? Do you therefore, who attend to the laws. of God, 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.” (Vid. Act_20:28; Col_1:15) 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, ye are complete in Him, after the image of God that created you.” (Eph_5:27)
LXII. That Christians Must Abstain from All the Impious Practices of the Heathens.
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.” (Num_23:23) And again: “Divination is iniquity.” (1Sa_15:23, LXX) And elsewhere: “Ye shall not be soothsayers, and follow observers of omens, nor diviners, nor dealers with familiar spirits. Ye shall not preserve alive wizards.” (Lev_19:26; Deu_18:10) Wherefore Jeremiah exhorts, saying: “Walk ye not according to the ways of the heathen, and be not afraid of the signs of heaven.”32 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,32 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.
Sec. VIII. – On the Duty of Working for a Livelihood.
LXIII. That a Christian Who Will Not Work Must Not Eat, as Peter and the Rest of the Apostles Were Fishermen, but Paul and Aquila Tentmakers, Jude the Son of James an Husbandman.
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, thou sluggard; consider her ways diligently, and become wiser than she. For she, having neither field, overseer, nor ruler, prepareth her food in the summer, and layeth 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 wilt thou lie on thy bed, O sluggard? When wilt thou awake out of thy sleep? Thou sleepest awhile thou liest down awhile, thou slumberest awhile, thou foldest thy hands on thy breast to sleep awhile. Then poverty comes on thee like an evil traveller, and want as a swift racer. But if thou beest diligent, thy harvest shall come as a fountain, and want shall fly from thee as an evil runagate.” (Pro_6:6, etc., LXX) And again: “He that manageth his own land shall be filled with bread.” (Pro_12:11) And elsewhere he says: “The slothful has folded his own hands together, and has eaten his own flesh.” (Ecc_4:5) And afterwards: “The sluggard hides his hand; he will not be able to bring it to his mouth.” (Pro_19:24) And again: “By slothfulness of the hands a floor will be brought low.” (Ecc_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” (2Th_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.
(To purchase a slave, and save a soul)
The calm and patient course of the Church in gradually obliterating slavery has been well defended by the pious Spanish Ultramontane writer Jacques Balmès.33 Of course, he imagines that “the Catholic Church,” which wrought the change, was his own Tridentine Communion.34 Lecky’s remarks on the gladiators and slavery as the product of famines and distress are worthy of note, and even he is forced to recognise the ameliorating influences of Christianity from the beginning.35 He says: –
“Christianity for the first time made charity a rudimentary virtue, giving it a foremost place in the moral type and in the exhortations of its teachers. Besides its general influence in stimulating the affections, it effected a complete revolution in this sphere, by representing the poor as the special representatives of the Christian founder, and thus making the love of Christ rather than the love of man the principle of charity. Even in the days of persecution, collections for the relief of the poor were made at the Sunday meetings. The agapae, or feasts of love, were intended mainly for the poor; and food that was saved by the fasts was devoted to their benefit. A vast organization of charity, presided over by the bishops, and actively directed by the deacons, soon ramified over Christendom, till the bond of charity became the bond of unity, and the most distant sections of the Christian Church corresponded by the interchange of mercy.36 Long before the era of Constantine it was observed that the charities of the Christians were so extensive – it may perhaps be said so excessive – that they drew very many impostors to the Church; and, when the victory of Christianity was achieved, the enthusiasm for charity displayed itself in the erection of numerous institutions that were altogether unknown to the pagan world.”
CONSTITUTIONS OF THE HOLY APOSTLES
23 One V. ms. reads “God” instead of “Christ.”
24 [i.e., Saturday.]
25 One V. mss. inserts, “of the Holy Spirit and.”
26 “And adore him with one consent” is omitted in one V. ms.
27 Deu_23:1. “And in the temple of God” is omitted in one V. mss.
28 One V. ms. inserts, “and pity thee: the Lord lift His countenance upon thee.”
29 [Note all this as bearing upon the ceremonial of the Latin Mass, which reverses these primitive precepts in divers points.]
30 Mat_28:1-20:30. [Compare vol. 1. pp. 185, 186, this series.]
31 One V. ms. inserts here, “and elsewhere through another.”
32 Jer_10:2. [Slaves were bought to be baptized. Elucid., p. 425.]
33 See his chapter (xvii.) Moyens employès par l’èglise pour affrachir les esclaves, Civilisation Europèene, vol. i. p. 222, Paris, 1851.
34 The countrymen of Balmès, on the contrary, were the authors of the negro slavery of modern times.
35 History of European Morals, vol. ii. p. 84.
36 See also Elucidation XII. vol. 5. p. 563.