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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 27

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 27.—The Man Whose Life is in Harmony with His Teaching Will Teach with Greater Effect.

59.  But whatever may be the majesty of the style, the life of the speaker will count for more in securing the hearer’s compliance.  The man who speaks wisely and eloquently, but lives wickedly, may, it is true, instruct many who are anxious to learn; though, as it is written, he “is unprofitable to himself.” 2009   Wherefore, also, the apostle says:  “Whether in pretence or in truth Christ is preached.” 2010   Now Christ is the truth; yet we see that the truth can be preached, though not in truth,—that is, what is right and true in itself may be preached by a man of perverse and deceitful mind.  And thus it is that Jesus Christ is preached by those that seek their own, and not the things that are Jesus Christ’s.  But since true believers obey the voice, not of any man, but of the Lord Himself, who says, “All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do:  but do not ye after their works; for they say and do not;” 2011 therefore it is that men who themselves lead unprofitable lives are heard with profit by others.  For though they seek their own objects, they do not dare to teach their own doctrines, sitting as they do in the high places of ecclesiastical authority, which is established on sound doctrine.  Wherefore our Lord Himself, before saying what I have just quoted about men of this stamp, made this observation:  “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat.” 2012   The seat they occupied, then, which was not theirs but Moses’, compelled them to say what was good, though they did what was evil.  And so they followed their own course in their lives, but were prevented by the seat they occupied, which belonged to another, from preaching their own doctrines.

60.  Now these men do good to many by preaching what they themselves do not perform; but they would do good to very many p. 596 more if they lived as they preach.  For there are numbers who seek an excuse for their own evil lives in comparing the teaching with the conduct of their instructors, and who say in their hearts, or even go a little further, and say with their lips:  Why do you not do yourself what you bid me do?  And thus they cease to listen with submission to a man who does not listen to himself, and in despising the preacher they learn to despise the word that is preached.  Wherefore the apostle, writing to Timothy, after telling him, “Let no man despise thy youth,” adds immediately the course by which he would avoid contempt:  “but be thou an example of the believers, in word, in conversation, in charity, in spirit, in faith, in purity.” 2013



Ecclus. 37.19.


Phil. 1.18.


Matt. 23.3.


Matt. 23.2.


1 Tim. 4.12.

Next: Chapter 28

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