Ante-nicene fathers



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5. Now, that the law did beforehand teach mankind the necessity of following Christ, He does Himself make manifest, when He replied as follows to him who asked Him what he should do that he might inherit eternal life: “If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.”148 But upon the other asking “Which? ”” again the Lord replies: “Do not commit adultery, do not kill, do not steal, do not bear false witness, hon-our father and mother, and thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,”—setting as an ascending series (velut gradus) before those who wished to follow Him, the precepts of the law, as the entrance into life; and What He then said to one He said to all. But when the former said, “All these have I done” (and most likely he had not kept them, for in that case the Lord would not have said to him, “Keep the commandments”), the Lord, exposing his covetousness, said to him, “If thou wilt be perfect, go, sell all that thou hast, and distribute to the poor; and come, follow me; ”promising to those who would act thus, the portion belonging to the apostles (apostolorum partem). And He did not preach to His followers another God the Father, besides Him who was proclaimed by the law from the beginning; nor another Son; nor the Mother, the enthymesis of the Aeon, who existed in suffering and apostasy; nor the Pleroma of the thirty Aeons, which has been proved vain, and incapable of being believed in; nor that fable invented by the other heretics. But He taught that they should obey the commandments which God enjoined from the beginning, and do away with their former covetousness by good works,149 and follow after Christ. But that possessions distributed to the poor do annul former covetousness, Zaccheus made evident, when he said, “Behold, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one, I restore fourfold.”150

Chapter XIII.—Christ Did Not Abrogate the Natural Precepts of the Law, But Rather Fulfilled and Extended Them. He Removed the Yoke and Bondage of the Old Law, So that Mankind, Being Now Set Free, Might Serve God with that Trustful Piety Which Becometh Sons.

1. And that the Lord did not abrogate the natural [precepts] of the law, by which man151 is justified, which also those who were justified by faith, and who pleased God, did observe previous to the giving of the law, but that He extended and fulfilled them, is shown from His words. “For,” He remarks, “it has been said to them of old time, Do not commit adultery. But I say unto you, That every one who hath looked upon a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”152 And again: “It has been said, Thou shalt not kill. But I say unto you, Every one who is angry with his brother without a cause, shall be in danger of the judgment.”153 And, “It hath been said, Thou shalt not forswear thyself. But I say unto you, Swear not at all; but let your conversation be, Yea, yea, and Nay, nay.”154 And other statements of a like nature. For all these do not contain or imply an opposition to and an overturning of the [precepts] of the past, as Marcion’s followers do strenuously maintain; but [they exhibit] a fulfilling and an extension of them, as He does Himself declare: “Unless your righteousness shall exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.”155 For what meant the excess referred to? In the first place, [we must] believe not only in the Father, but also in His Son now revealed; for He it is who leads man into fellowship and unity with God. In the next place, [we must] not only say, but we must do; for they said, but did not. And [we must] not only abstain from evil deeds, but even from the desires after them. Now He did not teach us these things as being opposed to the law, but as fulfilling the law, and implanting in us the varied righteousness of the law. That would have been contrary to the law, if He had commanded His disciples to do anything which the law had prohibited. But this which He did command—namely, not only to abstain from things forbidden by the law, but even from longing after them—is not contrary to [the law], as I have remarked, neither is it the utterance of one destroying the law, but of one fulfilling, extending, and affording greater scope to it.

2. For the law, since it was laid down for those in bondage, used to instruct the soul by means of those corporeal objects which were of an external nature, drawing it, as by a bond, to obey its commandments, that man might learn to serve God. But the Word set free the soul, and taught that through it the body should be willingly purified. Which having been accomplished, it followed as of course, that the bonds of slavery should be removed, to which man had now become accustomed, and that he should follow God without fetters: moreover, that the laws of liberty should be extended, and subjection to the king increased, so that no one who is convened should appear unworthy to Him who set him free, but that the piety and obedience due to the Master of the household should be equally rendered both by servants and children; while the children possess greater confidence [than the servants], inasmuch as the working of liberty is greater and more glorious than that obedience which is rendered in [a state of] slavery.

3. And for this reason did the Lord, instead of that [commandment], “Thou shalt not commit adultery,” forbid even concupiscence; and instead of that which runs thus, “Thou shalt not kill,” He prohibited anger; and instead of the law enjoining the giving of tithes, [He told us] to share156 all our possessions with the poor; and not to love our neighbours only, but even our enemies; and not merely to be liberal givers and bestowers, but even that we should present a gratuitous gift to those who take away our goods. For “to him that taketh away thy coat,” He says, “give to him thy cloak also; and from him that taketh away thy goods, ask them not again; and as ye would that men should do unto you, do ye unto them: ”157 so that we may not grieve as those who are unwilling to be defrauded, but may rejoice as those who have given willingly, and as rather conferring a favour upon our neighbours than yielding to necessity. “And if any one,” He says, “shall compel thee [to go] a mile, go with him twain; ”158 so that thou mayest not follow him as a slave, but may as a free man go before him, showing thyself in all things kindly disposed and useful to thy neighbour, not regarding their evil intentions, but performing thy kind offices, assimilating thyself to the Father, “who maketh His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sendeth rain upon the just and unjust.”159 Now all these [precepts], as I have already observed, were not the injunctions] of one doing away with the law, but of one fulfilling, extending, and widening it among us; just as if one should say, that the more extensive operation of liberty implies that a more complete subjection and affection towards our Liberator had been implanted within us. For He did not set us free for this purpose, that we should depart from Him (no one, indeed, while placed out of reach of the Lord’s benefits, has power to procure for himself the means of salvation), but that the more we receive His grace, the more we should love Him. Now the more we have loved Him, the more glory shall we receive from Him, when we are continually in the presence of the Father.

4. Inasmuch, then, as all natural precepts are common to us and to them (the Jews), they had in them indeed the beginning and origin; but in us they have received growth and completion. For to yield assent to God, and to follow His Word, and to love Him above all, and one’s neighbour as one’s self (now man is neighbour to man), and to abstain from every evil deed, and all other things of a like nature which are common to both [covenants], do reveal one and the same God. But this is our Lord, the Word of God, who in the first instance certainly drew slaves to God, but afterwards He set those free who were subject to Him, as He does Himself declare to His disciples: “I will not now call you servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth; but I have called you friends, for all things which I have heard from My Father I have made known.”160 For in that which He says, “I will not now call you servants,” He indicates in the most marked manner that it was Himself who did originally appoint for men that bondage with respect to God through the law, and then afterwards conferred upon them freedom. And in that He says, “For the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth,” He points out, by means of His own advent, the ignorance of a people in a servile condition. But when He terms His disciples “the friends of God,” He plainly declares Himself to be the Word of God, whom Abraham also followed voluntarily and under no compulsion (sine vinculis), because of the noble nature of his faith, and so became “the friend of God.”161 But the Word of God did not accept of the friendship of Abraham, as though He stood in need of it, for He was perfect from the beginning (“Before Abraham was,” He says, “I am”162 ), but that He in His goodness might bestow eternal life upon Abraham himself, inasmuch as the friendship of God imparts immortality to those who embrace it.

Chapter XIV.—If God Demands Obedience from Man, If He Formed Man, Called Him and Placed Him Under Laws, It Was Merely for Man’s Welfare; Not that God Stood in Need of Man, But that He Graciously Conferred Upon Man His Favours in Every Possible Manner.

1. In the beginning, therefore, did God form Adam, not as if He stood in need of man, but that He might have [some one] upon whom to confer His benefits. For not alone antecedently to Adam, but also before all creation, the Word glorified His Father, remaining in Him; and was Himself glorified by the Father, as He did Himself declare, “Father, glorify Thou Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was.”163 Nor did He stand in need of our service when He ordered us to follow Him; but He thus bestowed salvation upon ourselves. For to follow the Saviour is to be a partaker of salvation, and to follow light is to receive light. But those who are in light do not themselves illumine the light, but are illumined and revealed by it: they do certainly contribute nothing to it, but, receiving the benefit, they are illumined by the light. Thus, also, service [rendered] to God does indeed profit God nothing, nor has God need of human obedience; but He grants to those who follow and serve Him life and in-corruption and eternal glory, bestowing benefit upon those who serve [Him], because they do serve Him, and on His followers, because they do follow Him; but does not receive any benefit from them: for He is rich, perfect, and in need of nothing. But for this reason does God demand service from men, in order that, since He is good and merciful, He may benefit those who continue in His service. For, as much as God is in want of nothing, so much does man stand in need of fellowship with God. For this is the glory of man, to continue and remain permanently in God’s service. Wherefore also did the Lord say to His disciples, “Ye have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you; ”164 indicating that they did not glorify Him when they followed Him; but that, in following the Son of God, they were glorified by Him. And again, “I will, that where I am, there they also may be, that they may behold My glory; ”165 not vainly boasting because of this, but desiring that His disciples should share in His glory: of whom Esaias also says, “I will bring thy seed from the east, and will gather thee from the west; and I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth; all, as many as have been called in My name: for in My glory I have prepared, and formed, and made him.”166 Inasmuch as then, “wheresoever the carcase is, there shall also the eagles be gathered together,”167 we do participate in the glory of the Lord, who has both formed us, and prepared us for this, that, when we are with Him, we may partake of His glory.

2. Thus it was, too, that God formed man at the first, because of His munificence; but chose the patriarchs for the sake of their salvation; and prepared a people beforehand, teaching the headstrong to follow God; and raised up prophets upon earth, accustoming man to bear His Spirit [within him], and to hold communion with God: He Himself, indeed, having need of nothing, but granting communion with Himself to those who stood in need of it, and sketching out, like an architect, the plan of salvation to those that pleased Him. And He did Himself furnish guidance to those who beheld Him not in Egypt, while to those who became unruly in the desert He promulgated a law very suitable [to their condition]. Then, on the people who entered into the good land He bestowed a noble inheritance; and He killed the fatted calf for those converted to the Father, and presented them with the finest robe.168 Thus, in a variety of ways, He adjusted the human race to an agreement with salvation. On this account also does John declare in the Apocalypse, “And His voice as the sound of many waters.”169 For the Spirit [of God] is truly [like] many waters, since the Father is both rich and great. And the Word, passing through all those [men], did liberally confer benefits upon His subjects, by drawing up in writing a law adapted and applicable to every class [among them].

3. Thus, too, He imposed upon the [Jewish] people the construction of the tabernacle, the building of the temple, the election of the Levites, sacrifices also, and oblations, legal monitions, and all the other service of the law. He does Himself truly want none of these things, for He is always full of all good, and had in Himself all the odour of kindness, and every perfume of sweet-smelling savours, even before Moses existed. Moreover, He instructed the people, who were prone to turn to idols, instructing them by repeated appeals to persevere and to serve God, calling them to the things of primary importance by means of those which were secondary; that is, to things that are real, by means of those that are typical; and by things temporal, to eternal; and by the carnal to the spiritual; and by the earthly to the heavenly; as was also said to Moses, “Thou shalt make all things after the pattern of those things which thou sawest in the mount.”170 For during forty days He was learning to keep [in his memory] the words of God, and the celestial patterns, and the spiritual images, and the types of things to come; as also Paul says: “For they drank of the rock which followed them: and the rock was Christ.”171 And again, having first mentioned what are contained in the law, he goes on to say: “Now all these things happened to them in a figure; but they were written for our admonition, upon whom the end of the ages is come.” For by means of types they learned to fear God, and to continue devoted to His service.

Chapter XV.—At First God Deemed It Sufficient to Inscribe the Natural Law, or the Decalogue, Upon the Hearts of Men; But Afterwards He Found It Necessary to Bridle, with the Yoke of the Mosaic Law, the Desires of the Jews, Who Were Abusing Their Liberty; And Even to Add Some Special Commands, Because of the Hardness of Their Hearts.

1. They (the Jews) had therefore a law, a course of discipline, and a prophecy of future things. For God at the first, indeed, warning them by means of natural precepts, which from the beginning He had implanted in mankind, that is, by means of the Decalogue (which, if any one does not observe, he has no salvation), did then demand nothing more of them. As Moses says in Deuteronomy, “These are all the words which the Lord spake to the whole assembly of the sons of Israel on the mount, and He added no more; and He wrote them on two tables of stone, and gave them to me.”172 For this reason [He did so], that they who are willing to follow Him might keep these commandments. But when they turned themselves to make a calf, and had gone back in their minds to Egypt, desiring to be slaves instead of free-men, they were placed for the future in a state of servitude suited to their wish,—[a slavery] which did not indeed cut them off from God, but subjected them to the yoke of bondage; as Ezekiel the prophet, when stating the reasons for the giving of such a law, declares: “And their eyes were after the desire of their heart; and I gave them statutes that were not good, and judgments in which they shall not live.”173 Luke also has recorded that Stephen, who was the first elected into the diaconate by the apostles,174 and who was the first slain for the testimony of Christ, spoke regarding Moses as follows: “This man did indeed receive the commandments of the living God to give to us, whom your fathers would not obey, but thrust [Him from them], and in their hearts turned back again into Egypt, saying unto Aaron, Make us gods to go before us; for we do not know what has happened to [this] Moses, who led us from the land of Egypt. And they made a calf in those days, and offered sacrifices to the idol, and were rejoicing in the works of their own hands. But God turned, and gave them up to worship the hosts of heaven; as it is written in the book of the prophets:175 O ye house of Israel, have ye offered to Me sacrifices and oblations for forty years in the wilderness? And ye took up the tabernacle of Moloch, and the star of the god Remphan,176 figures which ye made to worship them; ”177 pointing out plainly, that the law being such, was not given to them by another God, but that, adapted to their condition of servitude, [it originated] from the very same [God as we worship]. Wherefore also He says to Moses in Exodus: “I will send forth My angel before thee; for I will not go up with thee, because thou art a stiff-necked people.”178

2. And not only so, but the Lord also showed that certain precepts were enacted for them by Moses, on account of their hardness [of heart], and because of their unwillingness to be obedient, when, on their saying to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a writing of divorcement, and to send away a wife? ”He said to them, “Because of the hardness of your hearts he permitted these things to you; but from the beginning it was not so; ”179 thus exculpating Moses as a faithful servant, but acknowledging one God, who from the beginning made male and female, and reproving them as hard-hearted and disobedient. And therefore it was that they received from Moses this law of divorcement, adapted to their hard nature. But why say I these things concerning the Old Testament? For in the New also are the apostles found doing this very thing, on the ground which has been mentioned, Paul plainly declaring, But these things I say, not the Lord.”180 And again: “But this I speak by permission, not by commandment.”181 And again: “Now, as concerning virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord; yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful.”182 But further, in another place he says: “That Satan tempt you not for your incontinence.”183 If, therefore, even in the New Testament, the apostles are found granting certain precepts in consideration of human infirmity, because of the incontinence of some, lest such persons, having grown obdurate, and despairing altogether of their salvation, should become apostates from God,—it ought not to be wondered at, if also in the Old Testament the same God permitted similar indulgences for the benefit of His people, drawing them on by means of the ordinances already mentioned, so that they might obtain the gift of salvation through them, while they obeyed the Decalogue, and being restrained by Him, should not revert to idolatry, nor apostatize from God, but learn to love Him with the whole heart. And if certain persons, because of the disobedient and ruined Israelites, do assert that the giver (doctor) of the law was limited in power, they will find in our dispensation, that “many are called, but few chosen; ”184 and that there are those who inwardly are wolves, yet wear sheep’s clothing in the eyes of the world (foris); and that God has always preserved freedom, and the power of self-government in man,185 while at the same time He issued His own exhortations, in order that those who do not obey Him should be righteously judged (condemned) because they have not obeyed Him; and that those who have obeyed and believed on Him should be honoured with immortality.

Chapter XVI.—Perfect Righteousness Was Conferred Neither by Circumcision Nor by Any Other Legal Ceremonies. The Decalogue, However, Was Not Cancelled by Christ, But is Always in Force: Men Were Never Released from Its Commandments.

1. Moreover, we learn from the Scripture itself, that God gave circumcision, not as the completer of righteousness, but as a sign, that the race of Abraham might continue recognisable. For it declares: “God said unto Abraham, Every male among you shall be circumcised; and ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskins, as a token of the covenant between Me and you.”186 This same does Ezekiel the prophet say with regard to the Sabbaths: “Also I gave them My Sabbaths, to be a sign between Me and them, that they might know that I am the Lord, that sanctify them.”187 And in Exodus, God says to Moses: “And ye shall observe My Sabbaths; for it shall be a sign between Me and you for your generations.”188 These things, then, were given for a sign; but the signs were not unsymbolical, that is, neither unmeaning nor to no purpose, inasmuch as they were given by a wise Artist; but the circumcision after the flesh typified that after the Spirit. For “we,” says the apostle, “have been circumcised with the circumcision made without hands.”189 And the prophet declares, “Circumcise the hardness of your heart.”190 But the Sabbaths taught that we should continue day by day in God’s service.191 “For we have been counted,” says the Apostle Paul, “all the day long as sheep for the slaughter; ”192 that is, consecrated [to God], and ministering continually to our faith, and persevering in it, and abstaining from all avarice, and not acquiring or possessing treasures upon earth.193 Moreover, the Sabbath of God (requietio Dei), that is, the kingdom, was, as it were, indicated by created things; in which [kingdom], the man who shall have persevered in serving God (Deo assistere) shall, in a state of rest, partake of God’s table.

2. And that man was not justified by these things, but that they were given as a sign to the people, this fact shows,—that Abraham himself, without circumcision and without observance of Sabbaths, “believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness; and he was called the friend of God.”194 Then, again, Lot, without circumcision, was brought out from Sodom, receiving salvation from God. So also did Noah, pleasing God, although he was uncircumcised, receive the dimensions [of the ark], of the world of the second race [of men]. Enoch, too, pleasing God, without circumcision, discharged the office of God’s legate to the angels although he was a man, and was translated, and is preserved until now as a witness of the just judgment of God, because the angels when they had transgressed fell to the earth for judgment, but the man who pleased [God] was translated for salvation.195 Moreover, all the rest of the multitude of those righteous men who lived before Abraham, and of those patriarchs who preceded Moses, were justified independently of the things above mentioned, and without the law of Moses. As also Moses himself says to the people in Deuteronomy: “The Lord thy God formed a covenant in Horeb. The Lord formed not this covenant with your fathers, but for you.”196




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