Of Bishops, Presbyters, and Deacons.
Sec. I. — On Examining Candidates for the Episcopal Office.
I. That a Bishop Must Be Well Instructed and Experienced in the Word.
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 speaketh an idle word shall give an account thereof to the Lord in the day of judgment.” (Mat_12:36) And again: “By thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned.” (Mat_12:37) Let him therefore, if it is possible, be well educated; but if he be unlettered, let him at any rate be1 skilful in the word, and of competent age. But if in a small parish one advanced in years is not to be found,2 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, (1Ki_12:1-33, LXX) and Josiah at eight years of age reigned righteously, (2Ki_22:1) and in like manner Joash governed the people at seven years of age. (2Ch_24:1; 2Ki_11:3, 2Ki_11:4) 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?” (Isa_66:2) In like manner it is in the Gospel also: “Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.” (Mat_5:5) Let him also be merciful; for again it is said: “Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.” (Mat_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.”3 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.” (Mat_5:8)
II. What Ought to Be the Characters of a Bishop and of the Rest of the Clergy.
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, test, being puffed up with pride, he fall into condemnation, and the snare of the devil: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased.” (1Ti_3:6; Luk_14:11) Such a one a bishop ought to be, who has been the “husband of one wife,” (1Ti_3:2) who also has herself had no other husband, “ruling well his own house.” (1Ti_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 hath a grave and faithful-wife, or has formerly had such a one; whether he hath educated his children piously, and has “brought them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord;” (Eph_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. In What Things a Bishop Is to Be Examined Before He Is Ordained.
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.” (Lev_21:17, etc.)
Sec. II. — On the Character and Teaching of the Bishop.
On which account let him also be void of anger; for Wisdom says: “Anger destroys even the prudent.” (Pro_15:1, LXX) Let him also be merciful, of a generous and loving temper; for our Lord says: “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye love one another.” (Joh_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. That Charitable Distributions Are Not to Be Made to Every Widow, but that Sometimes a Woman Who Has a Husband Is to Be Preferred: And that No Distributions Are to Be Made to Any One Who Is Given to Gluttony, Drunkenness, and Idleness.
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 hideth his hand in his bosom, and is not able to bring it to his mouth again.” (Pro_19:24) And again: “The sluggard folds up his hands, and eats his own flesh.” (Ecc_4:5) “For every drunkard and whoremonger shall come to poverty, and every drowsy person shall be clothed with tatters and rags.”4 And in another passage: “If thou give thine eyes to drinking and cups, thou shalt afterwards walk more naked than a pestle.”5 For certainly idleness is the mother of famine.
V. That a Bishop Must Be No Accepter of Persons in Judgment; That He Must Possess a Gentle Disposition, and Be Temperate in His Mode of Life.
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, “Thou shalt not accept the person of the rich, nor shalt thou pity a poor man in his cause: for the judgment is the Lord’s.” (Lev_19:15; Exo_23:3) And again: “Thou shalt with exact justice follow that which is right” (Deu_1:17, Deu_16:20) 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 be 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.” (Joh_5:39) And again: “For Moses wrote of me.” (Joh_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 thou mayest be able to explain everything exactly, and that thou mayest copiously nourish thy 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.” (Hos_10:12)
VI. That a Bishop Must Not Be Given to Filthy Lucre, nor Be a Surety nor an Advocate.
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, “Do ye make the children of Israel pious.” (Lev_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 him 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;” (Hos_4:9) for our Lord and Teacher Jesus Christ, the Son6 of God, began first to do, and then to teach, as Luke somewhere says: (Act_1:1) “which Jesus began to do and to teach.”6 Wherefore he says: “Whosoever shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of God.” (Matt.Mat_5:19) For you bishops are to be guides and watchmen to the people, as you yourselves have Christ for your guide and watchman. Do you 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 thee for a watchman to the house of Israel; and thou shalt hear the word from my mouth, and shalt observe, and shalt declare it from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his wickedness, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, and his blood will I require at thine hand. But if thou 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 thou hast delivered thy soul.” (Eze_33:7, etc.) “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.” (Eze_33:2, etc.) 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 forewarn6 concerning that judgment. If ye 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 thy voice.” (Jer_26:1-24) And again: “If perhaps they will hear, if perhaps they will submit.” (Eze_2:7, Eze_3:11) Moses also says to the people: “If hearing thou wilt hear the Lord God, and do that which is good and right in His eyes.” (Exo_15:26) And again:6 “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.” (Deu_6:4; Mar_12:29) And our Lord is often recorded in the Gospel to have said: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” (Mat_11:1-30, Mat_13:1-58) And wise Solomon says: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and reject not the laws of thy mother.” (Pro_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.
Sec. III. — How the Bishop Is to Treat the Innocent, the Guilty, and the Penitent.
VII. What Ought to Be the Character of the Initiated.
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 practise 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.
VIII. Concerning a Person Falsely Accused, or a Person Convicted.
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 ye 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.” (Mat_5:11, Mat_5:12) 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.”7 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 practise 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.” (Mat_23:3) Wherefore the bishop must boldly reject such as these upon full conviction, unless they change their course of life.
IX. That a Bishop Ought Not to Receive Bribes.
For the bishop must not only himself give no offence, 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, “Thou shalt exactly execute right judgment.” (Deu_16:20, Deu_1:17) “Thou shalt not accept persons in judgment: thou shalt not justify the ungodly.” (Exo_23:7, LXX) “Thou shalt not receive gifts against any one’s life; for gifts do blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.” (Exo_23:8) And elsewhere He says: “Take away from among yourselves that wicked person.” (Deu_27:25, Deu_16:19, Deu_17:7) And Solomon says in his Proverbs: “Cast out a pestilent fellow from the congregation, and strife will go out along with him.” (Pro_22:10)
X. That a Bishop Who by Wrong Judgment Spares an Offender Is Himself Guilty.
But he who does not consider these things, will, contrary to justice, spare him who deserves punishment; as Saul spared Agag, (1Sa_15:1-35) and Eli (1Sa_2:1-36) 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,” (Mat_18:6, Mat_18:7) 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, (1Ki_12:1-33) and those which were in the conspiracy with Corah. (Num_16:1-50) 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 (2Sa_6:1-23) at the ark, when he touched it to support it; and as Achan, (Jos_7:1-26) when he stole the accursed thing; and as Gehazi, (2Ki_5:1-27) 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. How a Bishop Ought to Judge Offenders.
Upon this account, therefore, O bishop, endeavour to be pure in thy actions, and to adorn thy 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 thee: and so sit in the Church when thou speakest, as having authority to judge offenders. For to you, O bishops, it is said: “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mat_18:18)
XII. Instruction as to How a Bishop Ought to Behave Himself to the Penitent.
Do thou 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, saith the Lord, I would not the death of a sinner, but that the wicked turn from his evil way, and live. Turn ye therefore from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Eze_33:11) Here the word8 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 be 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. That We Ought to Beware How We Make Trial of Any Sinful Course.
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 dost thou know, O man, when thou sinnest, whether thou shalt live any number of days in this present state, that thou mayest have time to repent? For the time of thy departure out of this world is uncertain; and if thou diest in sin, there will remain no repentance for thee; as God says by David, “In the grave who will confess to Thee?” (Psa_6:5) It behoves 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 thee by the wise Solomon,8 “Prepare thy works against thy exit, and provide all beforehand in the field,” (Pro_24:27) lest some of the things necessary to thy journey be wanting; as the oil of piety was deficient in the five foolish virgins (Mat_25:1-46) 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. Do thou, therefore, so judge as executing judgment for God. For, as the Scripture says, “the judgment is the Lord’s.” (Deu_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 repenteth.” (Luk_15:7)
XIV. Concerning Those Who Affirm that Penitents Are Not to Be Received into the Church. That a Righteous Person, Although He Converse with a Sinner, Will Not Perish with Him. That No Person Is Punished for Another, but Every One Must Give an Account of Himself. That We Must Assist Those Who Are Weak in the Faith; And that a Bishop Must Not Be Governed by Any Turbulent Person Among the Laity.
But if thou refusest to receive him that repents, thou exposest him to those who lie in wait to destroy, forgetting what David says: “Deliver not my soul, which confesses to Thee, unto destroying beasts.” (Psa_74:19) Wherefore Jeremiah, when he is exhorting men to repentance, says thus: “Shall not he that falleth arise? or he that turneth away, cannot he return? Wherefore have my people gone back by a shameless backsliding? and they are hardened in their purpose. (Jer_8:4, Jer_8:5) Turn, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” (Jer_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.” (Eze_18:20) And again: “If a land sinneth 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, saith the Lord God.” (Eze_14:13, Eze_14:14) 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 maketh His sun to rise on the righteous and unrighteous, and sendeth His rain on the evil and on the good;” (Mat_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.” (2Ti_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.9 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.” (Pro_5:22) And, “behold, the man and his work is before his face.” (Isa_62:11) Now we ought to assist those who are with us,10 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;” (Mat_9:12) since “it is not pleasing in the sight of your Father that one of these little ones should perish.” (Mat_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 for ever. Amen.
For it is not equitable that thou, O bishop, who art the head, shouldst 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 thy privilege to govern those under thee, 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, saith the Lord God, ye 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 sinneth, 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, saith 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 thee, Why? Does not the son bear the iniquity of the father; or his righteousness, having exercised righteousness and mercy himself? And thou shalt say unto them, The soul that sinneth, 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.” (Eze_18:2, etc.) And a little after he says: “When the righteous turneth away from his righteousness, and committeth 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 hath committed, and in his sin which he hath sinned, in them shall he die.” And a little after he adds: “When the wicked turneth away from his wickedness which he hath committed, and doth judgment and justice, he hath preserved his soul, he hath turned away from all his ungodliness which he hath 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, saith the Lord God.”
XV. That a Priest Must Neither Overlook Offences, nor Be Rash in Punishing Them.
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:” (Nah_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 ye, comfort ye my people, ye priests: speak comfortably to Jerusalem.” It therefore behoves 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 offences 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 thou shouldest push him and thrust him into the river, instead of offering him thy hand for his assistance, thou wouldst be guilty of the murder of thy brother; whereas thou oughtest rather to lend thy 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 thy duty, O bishop, neither to overlook the sins of the people, nor to reject those who are penitent, that thou mayst not unskilfully destroy the Lord’s flock, or dishonour His new name, which is imposed on His people, and thou thyself 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.” (Jer_12:10) And in another passage: “My anger is waxed hot against the shepherds, and against the lambs shall I have indignation.” (Zec_10:3) And elsewhere: “Ye are the priests that dishonour my name.” (Mal_1:6)
XVI. Of Repentance, the Manner of It, and Rules About It.
When thou seest 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 thee 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.” (Luk_23:34) Then order the offender to come in; and if upon examination thou findest that he is penitent, and fit to be received at all into the Church when thou hast afflicted him his days of fasting, according to the degree of his offence — 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 Thou, O Lord, shouldest mark iniquities, O Lord, who should stand? For with Thee there is propitiation.” (Psa_130:3) Of this sort of declaration is that which is said in the book of Genesis to Cain: “Thou hast sinned; be quiet;” (Gen_4:7, LXX) 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.” (Num_12:14. — R.) 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 offence, and afterwards, like fathers to children, receive them again upon their repentance.
XVII. That a Bishop Must Be Unblameable, and a Pattern for Those Who Are Under His Charge.
But if the bishop himself be an offender, how will he be able any longer to prosecute the offence 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,” (Isa_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 beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” (Luk_6:41) Let the bishop, therefore, with his deacons, dread to hear 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,” (Gal_5:9) and one thief spreads the abomination over a whole nation, and “dead flies spoil the whole pot of sweet ointment;” (Ecc_10:1) and “when a king hearkens to unrighteous counsel, all the servants under him are wicked.” (Pro_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.” (Mat_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 ye the children of Israel pious.” (Lev_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 ye held your peace at impiety, and have reaped the fruit thereof?” (Hos_10:13, LXX)
XVIII. That a Bishop Must Take Care that His People Do Not Sin, Considering that He Is Set for a Watchman Among Them.
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 ye offend not one of these little ones.” (Mat_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 hath forgiven thy sin; be of good cheer, thou shalt not die.” (2Sa_12:13) Be sensible, therefore, O bishop, of the dignity of thy place, that as thou hast received the power of binding, so hast thou also that of loosing. Having therefore the power of loosing, know thyself, and behave thyself in this world as becomes thy place, being aware that thou hast a great account to give. “For to whom,” as the Scripture says, “men have entrusted much, of him they will require the more.” (Luk_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.” (Job_14:4, LXX) 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?” (Pro_20:9) No man, therefore, is without sin. Do thou therefore labour to the utmost of thy power to be unblameable; and be solicitous of all the parts of thy flock, lest any one be scandalized on thy account, and thereby perish. For the layman is solicitous only for himself, but thou for all, as having a greater burden, and carrying a heavier load. For it is written: “And the Lord said unto Moses, Thou and Aaron shall bear the sins of the priesthood.” (Num_18:1) Since, therefore, thou art to give an account of all, take care of all. Preserve those that are sound, admonish those that sin; and when thou hast 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 thy hand thou hast admitted him, give him leave to abide afterwards in the flock. But for the drowsy and the careless, do thou endeavour to convert and confirm, and warn and cure them, as sensible how great a reward thou shalt have for doing so, and how great danger thou wilt incur if thou beest 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. Ye eat the milk, and are clothed with the wool; ye slay the strong, ye do not feed the sheep. The weak have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but, violently ye 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 ye shall know that I am the Lord, and you the sheep of my pasture; ye are my men, and I am your God, saith the Lord God.” (Eze_34:2, etc.)
XIX. That a Shepherd Who Is Careless of His Sheep Will Be Condemned, and that a Sheep Which Will Not Be Led by the Shepherd Is to Be Punished.
Hear, O ye bishops; and hear, O ye of the laity, how God speaks: “I will judge between ram and ram, and between sheep and sheep.” And He says to the shepherds: “Ye 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. How the Governed Are to Obey the Bishops Who Are Set Over Them.
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 heareth him, heareth Christ; and he that rejecteth him, rejecteth Christ; and he who does not receive Christ, does not receive His God and Father: for, says He, “He that heareth you, heareth me; and he that rejecteth you, rejecteth me; and he that rejecteth me, rejecteth Him that sent me.” (Luk_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; easing it of its offences, 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 offences, utterly to perish. Do thou 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?” (Eze_33:10) As far as possible, therefore, let the bishop make the offence his own, and say to the sinner, Do thou but return, and I will undertake to suffer death for thee, 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, seeth the wolf coming, that is, the devil, and he leaveth the sheep, and fleeth, and the wolf seizes upon them.” (Joh_10:11, Joh_10:12) We must know, therefore, that God is very merciful to those who have offended, and hath 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 do thou, like a compassionate shepherd, and a diligent feeder of the flock, search out, and keep an account of thy flock. Seek that which is wanting; (Mat_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.” (Luk_15:4, etc.) In like manner, be obedient, O bishop, and do thou seek that which was lost, guide that which has wandered out of the right way, bring back that which is gone astray: for thou hast authority to bring them back, and to deliver those that are broken-hearted by remission. For by thee does our Saviour say to him who is discouraged under the sense of his sins, “Thy sins are forgiven thee: thy faith hath saved thee; go in peace.” (Luk_5:20; Mat_9:2; Mar_5:34) But this peace and haven of tranquillity is the Church of Christ, into which do thou, when thou hast 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.” (Mat_9:12; Luk_19:10) Since thou art 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,” (Eze_34:4) but as a gentle shepherd, “gathering the lambs into thy bosom, and gently leading those which are with young.” (Mat_20:25; Isa_40:11)
XXI. That It Is a Dangerous Thing to Judge Without Hearing Both Sides, or to Determine of Punishment Against a Person Before He Is Convicted.
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 thee, 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 thou admittest without nice scanning the same, thou wilt disperse thy 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.” (Joh_8:44) He also who is separated unjustly by thy 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 thou wilt 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.” (Pro_1:16; Isa_59:7, Isa_59:8; Psa_36:1; Rom_3:15) Now the way of peace is our Saviour Jesus Christ, who has taught us, saying: “Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Give, and it shall be given to you;” (Luk_6:37, Luk_6:38) that is, give remission of sins, and your offences 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.” (Mat_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 ye, 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,” (Gen_4:10) and will be required. For a righteous man unjustly slain by any one will be in rest with God for ever. 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.
1 The words in italics occur only in the V. mss.
2 The V. mss. read: “But if in a small parish one advanced in years is not to be found whom his neighbors testify to be worthy of the office of bishop, and wise enough to be appointed to it, and if there be a young man who has carried,” etc.
3 From the V. mss.; Mat_5:9.
4 Not in V. mss. Pro_23:21.
5 Pro_23:31 (LXX). The word translated “pestle” has also been rendered “upper room,” and some suppose it corrupt.
6 Not in V. mss.
7 This passage is not found in Scripture. Some compare Jam_1:12 and Heb_12:8.
8 Not in V. mss.
9 A various reading gives: “Ham, one of his sons, who alone was found wicked, received punishment.”
10 One V. mss. reads: “those who are sick.”