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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:
Constitutions of the Holy Apostles: Sec. II.—On the Character and Teaching of the Bishop

Early Church Fathers  Index     

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.” 2599 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.” 2600 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.  

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.

IV. For if there be a widow who is able to support herself, and another woman who is not a widow, but is needy by reason of sickness, or the bringing up many children, or infirmity of her hands, let him stretch out his hand in charity rather to this latter. But if any one be in want by gluttony, drunkenness, or idleness, he does not deserve any assistance, or to be esteemed a member of the Church of God. For the Scripture, speaking of such persons, says: “The slothful hideth his hand in his bosom, and is not able to bring it to his mouth again.” 2601 And again: “The sluggard folds up his hands, and eats his own flesh.” 2602 “For every drunkard and whoremonger shall come to poverty, and every drowsy person shall be clothed with tatters and rags.” 2603 And in another passage: “If thou give thine eyes to drinking and cups, thou shalt afterwards walk more naked than a pestle.” 2604 For certainly idleness is the mother of famine.  

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.

V. A bishop must be no accepter of persons; neither revering nor flattering a rich man contrary to what is right, nor overlooking nor domineering over a poor man. For, says God to Moses, “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.” 2605 And again: “Thou shalt with exact justice follow that which is right.” 2606 Let a bishop be frugal, and contented with a little in his meat and drink, that he may be ever in a sober frame, and disposed to instruct and admonish the ignorant; and let him not be costly in his diet, a pamperer of himself, given to pleasure, or fond of delicacies. Let him he patient and gentle in his admonitions, well instructed himself, meditating in and diligently studying the Lord’s books, and reading them frequently, that so he may be able carefully to interpret the Scriptures, expounding the Gospel in correspondence with the prophets and with the law; and let the expositions from the law and the prophets correspond to the Gospel. For the Lord Jesus says: “Search the Scriptures; for they are those which testify of me.” 2607 And again: “For Moses wrote of me.” 2608 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.” 2609  

That a Bishop Must Not Be Given to Filthy Lucre, Nor Be a Surety Nor an Advocate.

VI. Let not a bishop be given to filthy lucre, especially before the Gentiles, rather suffering than offering injuries; not covetous, nor rapacious; no purloiner; no admirer of the rich, nor hater of the poor; no evil-speaker, nor false witness; not given to anger; no brawler; not entangled with the affairs of this life; not a surety for any one, nor an accuser in suits about money; not ambitious; not double-minded, nor double-tongued; not ready to hearken to calumny or evil-speaking; not a dissembler; not addicted to the heathen festivals; not given to vain p. 398 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.” 2610 Let him be prudent, humble, apt to admonish with the instructions of the Lord, well-disposed, one who has renounced all the wicked projects of this world, and all heathenish lusts; let hint be orderly, sharp in observing the wicked, and taking heed of them, but yet a friend to all; just, discerning; and whatsoever qualities are commendable among men, let the bishop possess them in himself. For if the pastor be unblameable as to any wickedness, he will compel his own disciples, and by his very mode of life press them to become worthy imitators of his own actions. As the prophet somewhere says, “And it will be, as is the priest, so is the people;” 2611 for our Lord and Teacher Jesus Christ, the Son 2612 of God, began first to do, and then to teach, as Luke somewhere says: 2613which Jesus began to do and to teach.” 2614 Wherefore he says: “Whosoever shall do and teach, he shall be called great in the kingdom of God.” 2615 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.” 2616 “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.” 2617 The sword here is the judgment; the trumpet is the holy Gospel; the watchman is the bishop, who is set in the Church, who is obliged by his preaching to testify and vehemently to forewarn 2618 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.” 2619 And again: “If perhaps they will hear, if perhaps they will submit.” 2620 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.” 2621 And again: 2622 “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord.” 2623 And our Lord is often recorded in the Gospel to have said: “He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.” 2624 And wise Solomon says: “My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and reject not the laws of thy mother.” 2625 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.  



Prov. xv. 1 (LXX.).  


John xiii. 35.  


Prov. xix. 24.  


Eccles. iv. 5.  


Not in V. mss. Prov. xxiii. 21.  


Prov. xxiii. 31 (LXX.). The word translated “pestle” has also been rendered “upper room,” and some suppose it corrupt.  


Lev. xix. 15; Ex. xxiii. 3.  


Deut. i. 17, xvi. 20.  


John v. 39.  


John v. 46.  


Hos. x. 12.  


Lev. xv. 31.  


Hos. iv. 9.  


Not in V. mss.  


Acts i. 1.  


Not in V. mss.  


Matt. v. 19.  


Ezek. xxxiii. 7, etc.  


Ezek. xxxiii. 2, etc.  


Not in V. mss.  


Jer. xxvi.  


Ezek. ii. 7, iii. 11.  


Ex. xv. 26.  


Not in V. mss.  


Deut. vi. 4; Mark xii. 29.  


Matt. xi., xiii.  


Prov. i. 8.  

Next: Sec. III.—How the Bishop is to Treat the Innocent, the Guilty, and the Penitent

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