Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Constitutions of the Holy Apostles: Sec. III.—How the Bishop is to Treat the Innocent, the Guilty, and the Penitent
Sec. III.—How the Bishop is to Treat the Innocent, the Guilty, and the Penitent.
What Ought to Be the Character of the Initiated.
VII. Beloved, be it known to you that those who are baptized into the death of our Lord Jesus are obliged to go on no longer in sin; for as those who are dead cannot work wickedness any longer, so those who are dead with Christ cannot practice wickedness. We do not therefore believe, brethren, that any one who has received the washing of life continues in the practice of the licentious acts of transgressors. Now he who sins after his baptism, unless he repent and forsake his sins, shall be condemned to hell-fire. p. 399
Concerning a Person Falsely Accused, or a Person Convicted.
VIII. But if any one be maliciously prosecuted by the heathen, because he will not still go along with them to the same excess of riot, let him know that such a one is blessed of God, according as our Lord says in the Gospel: “Blessed are 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.” 2626 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.” 2627 But if any one be convicted as having done a wicked action, such a one not only hurts himself, but occasions the whole body of the Church and its doctrine to be blasphemed; as if we Christians did not practice those things that we declare to be good and honest, and we ourselves shall be reproached by the Lord, that “they say and do not.” 2628 Wherefore the bishop must boldly reject such as these upon full conviction, unless they change their course of life.
That a Bishop Ought Not to Receive Bribes.
IX. 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.” 2629 “Thou shalt not accept persons in judgment: thou shalt not justify the ungodly.” 2630 “Thou shalt not receive gifts against any ones life; for gifts do blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous.” 2631 And elsewhere He says: “Take away from among yourselves that wicked person.” 2632 And Solomon says in his Proverbs: “Cast out a pestilent fellow from the congregation, and strife will go out along with him.” 2633
That a Bishop Who by Wrong Judgment Spares an Offender is Himself Guilty.
X. But he who does not consider these things, will, contrary to justice, spare him who deserves punishment; as Saul spared Agag, 2634 and Eli 2635 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,” 2636 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, 2637 and those which were in the conspiracy with Corah. 2638 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 2639 at the ark, when he touched it to support it; and as Achan, 2640 when he stole the accursed thing; and as Gehazi, 2641 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.
How a Bishop Ought to Judge Offenders.
XI. 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.” 2642 p. 400
Instruction as to How a Bishop Ought to Behave Himself to the Penitent.
XII. 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 front your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” 2643 Here the word 2644 affords hope to sinners, that if they will repent they shall have hope of salvation, lest otherwise out of despair they yield themselves up to their transgressions; but that, having hope of salvation, they may he converted, and may address to God with tears, on account of their sins, and may repent from their hearts, and so appease His displeasure towards them; so shall they receive a pardon from Him, as from a merciful Father.
That We Ought to Beware How We Make Trial of Any Sinful Course.
XIII. Yet it is very necessary that those who are yet innocent should continue so, and not make an experiment what sin is, that they may not have occasion for trouble, sorrow, and those lamentations which are in order to forgiveness. For how 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?” 2645 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, 2646 “Prepare thy works against thy exit, and provide all beforehand in the field,” 2647 lest some of the things necessary to thy journey be wanting; as the oil of piety was deficient in the five foolish virgins 2648 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 Lords.” 2649 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.” 2650
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.
XIV. 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.” 2651 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. 2652 Turn, ye backsliding children, and I will heal your backslidings.” 2653 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.” 2654 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 p. 401 by their righteousness, saith the Lord God.” 2655 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;” 2656 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.” 2657 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. 2658 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.” 2659 And, “behold, the man and his work is before his face.” 2660 Now we ought to assist those who are with us, 2661 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;” 2662 since “it is not pleasing in the sight of your Father that one of these little ones should perish.” 2663 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 childrens 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 p. 402 him.” 2664 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.”
That a Priest Must Neither Overlook Offences, Nor Be Rash in Punishing Them.
XV. Observe, you who are our beloved sons, how merciful yet righteous the Lord our God is; how gracious and kind to men; and yet most certainly “He will not acquit the guilty:” 2665 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 Lords 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.” 2666 And in another passage: “My anger is waxed hot against the shepherds, and against the lambs shall I have indignation.” 2667 And elsewhere: “Ye are the priests that dishonour my name.” 2668
Of Repentance, the Manner of It, and Rules About It.
XVI. 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.” 2669 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.” 2670 Of this sort of declaration is that which is said in the book of Genesis to Cain: “Thou hast sinned; be quiet;” 2671 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.” 2672 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.
That a Bishop Must Be Unblameable, and a Pattern for Those Who are Under His Charge.
XVII. But if the bishop himself be an offender, how will he be able any longer to prosecute the p. 403 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,” 2673 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 brothers eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?” 2674 Let the bishop, therefore, with his deacons, dread to bear any such thing; that is, let him give no occasion for it. For an offender, when he sees any other doing as bad as himself, will be encouraged to do the very same things; and then the wicked one, taking occasion from a single instance, works in others, which God forbid: and by that means the flock will be destroyed. For the greater number of offenders there are, the greater is the mischief that is done by them: for sin which passes without correction grows worse and worse, and spreads to others; since “a little leaven infects the whole lump,” 2675 and one thief spreads the abomination over a whole nation and “dead flies spoil the whole pot of sweet ointment;” 2676 and “when a king hearkens to unrighteous counsel, all the servants under him are wicked.” 2677 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 “Lords house a den of thieves.” 2678 For it is the bishops 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.” 2679 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?” 2680
That a Bishop Must Take Care that His People Do Not Sin, Considering that He is Set for a Watchman Among Them.
XVIII. Let the bishop, therefore, extend his concern to all sorts of people: to those who have not offended, that they may continue innocent; to those who offend, that they may repent. For to you does the Lord speak thus: “Take heed that ye offend not one of these little ones.” 2681 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.” 2682 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.” 2683 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.” 2684 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?” 2685 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.” 2686 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 p. 404 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.” 2687
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.
XIX. 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.
How the Governed are to Obey the Bishops Who are Set Over Them.
XX. As to a good shepherd, let the lay person honour him, love him, reverence him as his lord, as his master, as the high priest of God, as a teacher of piety. For he that 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.” 2688 In like manner, let the bishop love the laity as his children, fostering and cherishing them with affectionate diligence; as eggs, in order to the hatching of young ones; or as young ones, taking them in his arms, to the rearing them into birds: admonishing all men; reproving all who stand in need of reproof; reproving, that is, but not striking; beating them down to make them ashamed, but not overthrowing them; warning them in order to their conversion: chiding them in order to their reformation and better course of life; watching the strong, that is, keeping him firm in the faith who is already strong; feeding the people peaceably; strengthening the weak, that is, confirming with exhortation that which is tempted; healing that which is sick, that is, curing by instruction that which is weak in the faith through doubtfulness of mind; binding up that which is broken, that is, binding up by comfortable admonitions that which is gone astray, or wounded, bruised, or broken by their sins, and put out of the way; leasing it of its 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 p. 405 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?” 2689 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.” 2690 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; 2691 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.” 2692 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.” 2693 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.” 2694 Since thou art therefore a physician of the Lords Church, provide remedies suitable to every patients 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,” 2695 but as a gentle shepherd, “gathering the lambs into thy bosom, and gently leading those which are with young.” 2696
That It is a Dangerous Thing to Judge Without Hearing Both Sides, or to Determine of Punishment Against a Person Before He is Convicted.
XXI. Be gentle, gracious, mild, without guile, without falsehood; not rigid, not insolent, not severe, not arrogant, not unmerciful, not puffed up, not a man-pleaser, not timorous, not double-minded, not one that insults over the people that are under 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.” 2697 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 p. 406 ways, and the way of peace have they not known. The fear of God is not before their eyes.” 2698 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;” 2699 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.” 2700 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,” 2701 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 Gods own heart, in his hymns ascribes both mercy and judgment to Him.
That David, the Ninevites, Hezekiah, and His Son Manasseh, are Eminent Examples of Repentance, the Prayer of Manasseh King of Judah.
XXII. It is also thy duty, O bishop, to have before thine eyes the examples of those that have gone before, and to apply them skilfully to the cases of those who want words of severity or of consolation. Besides, it is reasonable that in thy administration of justice thou shouldest follow the will of God; and as God deals with sinners, and with those who return, that thou shouldest act accordingly in thy judging. Now, did not God by Nathan reproach David for his offence? And yet as soon as he said he repented, He delivered him from death, saying, “Be of good cheer; thou shalt not die.” 2702 So also, when God had caused Jonah 2703 to be swallowed up by the sea and the whale, upon his refusal to preach to the Ninevites, when yet he prayed to Him out of the belly of the whale, He retrieved his life from corruption. And when Hezekiah had been puffed up for a while, yet, as soon as he prayed with lamentation, He remitted his offence. But, O ye bishops, hearken to an instance useful upon this occasion. For it is written thus in the fourth book of Kings and the second book of Chronicles: “And Hezekiah died; and Manasseh his son reigned. He was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty and five years in Jerusalem; and his mothers name was Hephzibah. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord: he did not abstain from the abominations of the heathen, whom the Lord destroyed from the face of the children of Israel. And Manasseh returned and built the high places which Hezekiah his father had overthrown; and he reared pillars for Baal, and set up an altar for Baal, and made groves, as did Ahab king of Israel. And he made altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord spake to David and to Solomon his son, saying, Therein will I put my name. And Manasseh set up altars, and by them served Baal, and said, My name shall continue for ever. 2704 And he built altars to the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord; and he made his children pass through the fire in a place named Ge Benennom; 2705 and he consulted enchanters, and dealt with wizards and familiar spirits, and with conjurers and observers of times, and with teraphim. And he sinned exceedingly in the eyes of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger. And he set a molten and a graven image, the image of his grove, which he made in the house of the Lord, wherein the Lord had chosen to put His name in Jerusalem, the holy city, for ever, and had said, I will no more remove my foot from the land of Israel, which I gave to their fathers; only if they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the precepts that my servant Moses commanded them. And they hearkened not. And Manasseh seduced them to do more evil before the Lord than did the nations whom the Lord cast out from the face of the children of Israel. And the Lord spake concerning Manasseh and concerning His people by the hand of His servants the prophets, saying, Because Manasseh king of Judah p. 407 has done all these wicked abominations in a higher degree than the Amorite did which was before him, and hath made Judah to sin with his idols, thus saith the Lord God of Israel, Behold, I bring evils upon Jerusalem and Judah, that whosoever heareth of them, both his ears shall tingle. And I will stretch over Jerusalem the line of Samaria, and the plummet of the house of Ahab; and I will blot out Jerusalem as a table-book is blotted out by wiping it. And I will turn it upside down; and I will give up the remnant of my inheritance, and will deliver them into the hands of their enemies, and they shall become a prey and a spoil to all their enemies, because of all the evils which they have done in mine eyes, and have provoked me to anger from the day that I brought their fathers out of the land of Egypt even until this day. Moreover, Manasseh shed innocent blood very much, till he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another, beside his sins wherewith he made Judah to sin in doing evil in the sight of the Lord. And the Lord brought upon him the captains of the host of the king of Assyria, and they caught Manasseh in bonds, and they bound him in fetters of brass, and brought him to Babylon; and he was bound and shackled with iron all over in the house of the prison. And bread made of bran was given unto him scantily, and by weight, and water mixed with vinegar but a little and by measure, so much as would keep him alive; and he was in straits and sore affliction. And when he was violently afflicted, he besought the face of the Lord his God, and humbled himself greatly before the face of the Lord God of his fathers. And he prayed unto the Lord, saying, O Lord, almighty God of our fathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and of their righteous seed, who hast made heaven and earth, with all the ornament thereof, who hast bound the sea by the word of Thy commandment, who hast shut up the deep, and sealed it by Thy terrible and glorious name, whom all men fear and tremble before Thy power; for the majesty of Thy glory cannot be borne, and Thine angry threatening towards sinners is insupportable. But Thy merciful promise is unmeasurable and unsearchable; for Thou art the most high Lord, 2706 of great compassion, long-suffering, very merciful, and repentest of the evils of men. Thou, O Lord, according to Thy great goodness, hast promised repentance and forgiveness to them that have sinned against Thee, and of Thine infinite mercy hast appointed repentance unto sinners, that they may be saved. Thou therefore, O Lord, that art the God of the just, has not appointed repentance to the just as to Abraham and Isaac and Jacob, which have not sinned against Thee; but Thou hast appointed repentance unto me that am a sinner: for I have sinned above the number of the sands of the sea. My transgressions, O Lord, are multiplied; my transgressions are multiplied, and I am not worthy to behold and see the height of heaven for the multitude of mine iniquity. I am bowed down with many iron bands; for I have provoked Thy wrath, and done evil before Thee, setting up abominations, and multiplying offences. Now, therefore, I bow the knee of mine heart, beseeching Thee of grace. I have sinned, O Lord, I have sinned, and I acknowledge mine iniquities; wherefore I humbly beseech Thee, forgive me, O Lord, forgive me, and destroy me not with mine iniquities. Be not angry with me for ever, by reserving evil for me; neither condemn me into the lower part of the earth. For Thou art the God, even the God of them that repent, and in me Thou wilt show Thy goodness; for Thou wilt save me that am unworthy, according to Thy great mercy. Therefore I will praise Thee for ever all the days of my life; for all the powers of the heavens do praise Thee, and Thine is the glory for ever and ever. Amen. And the Lord heard his voice, and had compassion upon him. And there appeared a flame of fire about him, and all the iron shackles and chains which were about him fell off; and the Lord healed Manasseh from his affliction, and brought him back to Jerusalem unto his kingdom: and Manasseh knew that the Lord He is God alone. And he worshipped the Lord God alone with all his heart, and with all his soul, all the days of his life; and he was esteemed righteous. And he took away the strange gods and the graven image out of the house of the Lord, and all the altars which he had built in the house of the Lord, and all the altars in Jerusalem, and he cast them out of the city. And he repaired the altar of the Lord, and sacrificed thereon peace-offerings and thank-offerings. And Manasseh spake to Judah to serve the Lord God of Israel. And he slept in peace with his fathers; and Amon his son reigned in his stead. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord according to all things that Manasseh his father had done in the former part of his reign. And he provoked the Lord his God to anger.” 2707
Ye have heard, our beloved children, how the Lord God for a while punished him that was addicted to idols, and had slain many innocent persons; and yet that He received him when he repented, and forgave him his offences, and restored him to his kingdom. For He not only forgives the penitent, but reinstates them in their former dignity. p. 408
Amon May be an Example to Such as Sin with an High Hand.
XXIII. There is no sin more grievous than idolatry, for it is an impiety against God: and yet even this sin has been forgiven, upon sincere repentance. But if any one sin in direct opposition, and on purpose to try whether God will punish the wicked or not, such a one shall have no remission, although he say with himself, “All is well, and I will walk according to the conversation of my evil heart.” Such a one was Amon the son of Manasseh. For the Scripture says: “And Amon reasoned an evil reasoning of transgression, and said, My father from his childhood was a great transgressor, and repented in his old age; and now I will walk as my soul lusteth, and afterwards I will return unto the Lord. And he did evil in the sight of the Lord above all that were before him. And the Lord God soon destroyed him utterly from His good land. And his servants conspired against him, and slew him in his own house, and he reigned two years only.”
That Christ Jesus Our Lord Came to Save Sinners by Repentance.
XXIV. Take heed, therefore, ye of the laity, lest any one of you fix the reasoning of Amon in his heart, and be suddenly cut off, and perish. In the same manner, let the bishop take all the care he can that those which are yet innocent may not fall into sin; and let him heal and receive those which turn from their sins. But if he is pitiless, and will not receive the repenting sinner, he will sin against the Lord his God, pretending to be more just than Gods justice, and not receiving him whom He has received, through Christ; for whose sake He sent His Son upon earth to men, as a man; for whose sake God was pleased that He, who was the Maker of man and woman, should be born of a woman; for whose sake He did not spare Him from the cross, from death, and burial, but permitted Him to die, who by nature could not suffer, His beloved Son, God the Word, the Angel of His great council, that he might deliver those from death who were obnoxious to death. Him do those provoke to anger who do not receive the penitent. For He was not ashamed of me, Matthew, who had been formerly a publican; and admitted of Peter, when he had through fear denied Him three times, but had appeased Him by repentance, and had wept bitterly; nay, He made him a shepherd to His own lambs. Moreover, He ordained Paul, our fellow-apostle, to be of a persecutor an apostle, and declared him a chosen vessel, even when he had heaped many mischiefs upon us before, and had blasphemed His sacred name. He says also to another, a woman that was a sinner: “Thy sins, which are many, are forgiven, for thou lovest much.” 2708 And when the elders had set another woman which had sinned before Him, and had left the sentence to Him, and were gone out, our Lord, the Searcher of the hearts, inquiring of her whether the elders had condemned her, and being answered No, He said unto her: “Go thy way therefore, for neither do I condemn thee.” 2709 This Jesus, O ye bishops, our Saviour, our King, and our God, ought to be set before you as your pattern; and Him you ought to imitate, in being meek, quiet, compassionate, merciful, peaceable, without passion, apt to teach, and diligent to convert, willing to receive and to comfort; no strikers, not soon angry, not injurious, not arrogant, not supercilious, not wine-bibbers, not drunkards, not vainly expensive, not lovers of delicacies, not extravagant, using the gifts of God not as anothers, but as their own, as good stewards appointed over them, as those who will be required by God to give an account of the same.
Matt. 5:11, 12.399:2627
This passage is not found in Scripture. Some compare Jas. i. 12 and Heb. xii. 8.399:2628
Matt. xxiii. 3.399:2629
Deut. xvi. 20, i. 17.399:2630
Ex. xxiii. 7, LXX.399:2631
Ex. xxiii. 8.399:2632
Deut. xxvii. 25, xvi. 19, xvii. 7.399:2633
Prov. xxii. 10.399:2634
1 Sam. xv.399:2635
1 Sam. ii.399:2636
Matt. 18:6, 7.399:2637
1 Kings xii.399:2638
2 Sam. vi.399:2640
2 Kings v.399:2642
Matt. xviii. 18.400:2643
Ezek. xxxiii. 11.400:2644
Not in V. mss.400:2645
Ps. vi. 5.400:2646
Not in V. mss.400:2647
Prov. xxiv. 27.400:2648
Deut. i. 17.400:2650
Luke xv. 7.400:2651
Ps. lxxiv. 19.400:2652
Jer. 8:4, 5.400:2653
Jer. iii. 22.400:2654
Ezek. xviii. 20.401:2655
Ezek. 14:13, 14.401:2656
Matt. v. 45.401:2657
2 Tim. ii. 5.401:2658
A various reading gives: “Ham, one of his sons, who alone was found wicked, received punishment.”401:2659
Prov. v. 22.401:2660
Isa. lxii. 11.401:2661
One V. ms. reads: “those who are sick. ”401:2662
Matt. ix. 12.401:2663
Matt. xviii. 14.402:2664
Ezek. xviii. 2, etc.402:2665
Nah. i. 3.402:2666
Jer. xii. 10.402:2667
Zech. x. 3.402:2668
Mal. i. 6.402:2669
Luke xxiii. 34.402:2670
Ps. cxxx. 3.402:2671
Gen. iv. 7, LXX.402:2672
[Num. xii. 14.—R.]403:2673
Isa. i. 23.403:2674
Luke vi. 41.403:2675
Gal. v. 9.403:2676
Eccles. x. 1.403:2677
Prov. xxix. 12.403:2678
Matt. xxi. 13.403:2679
Lev. xv. 31.403:2680
Hos. x. 13, LXX.403:2681
Matt. xviii. 10.403:2682
Sam. xii. 13.403:2683
Luke xii. 48.403:2684
Job xiv. 4, LXX.403:2685
Prov. xx. 9.403:2686
Num. xviii. 1.404:2687
Ezek. xxxiv. 2, etc.404:2688
Luke x. 16.405:2689
Ezek. xxxiii . 10.405:2690
John 10:11, 12.405:2691
Matt. xviii. 12.405:2692
Luke xv. 4, etc.405:2693
Luke v. 20; Matt. ix. 2; Mark v. 34.405:2694
Matt. ix. 12; Luke xix. 10.405:2695
Ezek. xxxiv. 4.405:2696
Matt. xx. 25; Isa. xl. 11.405:2697
John viii. 44.406:2698
Prov. i. 16; Isa. 59:7, 8; Ps. xxxvi. 1; Rom. iii. 15.406:2699
Luke 6:37, 38.406:2700
Matt. vi. 12.406:2701
Gen. iv. 10.406:2702
2 Sam. xii. 13.406:2703
Jonah i. 17, and ii.406:2704
From “said” to “ever” is not in Scripture.406:2705
Taken from 2 Chron. xxiii. 3, LXX., instead of the reading of the mss. “Gebanai.”407:2706
Not in mss.407:2707
Kings xx., xxi.; 2 Chron. xxxii., xxxiii.408:2708
Luke vii. 47.408:2709
John viii. 11.
Next: Sec. IV.—On the Management of the Resources Collected for the Support of the Clergy, and the Relief of the Poor
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