Ante-nicene fathers



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As to any one’s attempting to take from the Church the fight of holding property.

By the increase, therefore, and the mode of life which have been mentioned, the churches over which the bishops preside have grown so greatly with the help of the Lord, and the greater part of them are now in possession of so much property, that among them there is not a man who, selecting the life in common, is kept in poverty; but such an one receives all necessaries from the bishop and his ministers. Therefore, if any one in modern or in future time shall rise up and attempt to divert that property, let him be smitten with the judgment which has been already mentioned.

IV.

Of the seats of the bishops.

Furthermore, as to the fact that in the churches of the bishops there are found elevated seats set up and prepared like a throne, they show by these that the power of inspection and of judging, and the authority to loose and bind, are given to them by the Lord. Whence the Saviour Himself says in the Gospel, “Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”9 And elsewhere: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose soever sins ye remit, are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”10

V.

That no one should have intercourse with those with whom the bishop has no intercourse, or receive those whom he rejects.

These things, then, we have set before you, most dearly beloved, in order that ye may understand the power of your bishops, and give reverence to God in them, and love them as your own souls; and in order that ye may have no communication with those with whom they have none, and that ye may not receive those whom they have cast out. For the judgment of a bishop is greatly to be feared, although he may bind one unjustly, which, however, he ought to guard against with the utmost care.

VI.

Of the engagement made in baptism, and of those who have given themselves to the life in common.

And in exhorting you, we also admonish all who have embraced the faith of Christ, and who have taken from Christ the name of Christian, that ye make your Christianity vain in no respect, but keep stedfastly the engagement which ye took upon yourselves in baptism, so that ye may be found not reprobate, but worthy in His presence. And if any one of you has entered the life which has all things common, and has taken the vow to hold no private property, let him see to it that he make not his promise vain, but let him keep with all faithfulness this engagement which he has made to the Lord, so that he may acquire for himself not damnation, but a reward; for it is better for a man not to take a vow at all than not to discharge to the best of his ability the vow that he has made. For they who have made a vow, or taken on them the faith, and have not kept their vow, or have carried out their life in things evil, are punished more severely than those who have carried out their life without a vow, or have died without faith, but not without doing good works. For to this end have we received a reasonable mind by the gift of nature, and the renewal also of the second birth, that, according to the apostle, we may discern (sapiamus) rather things above, and not things on the earth;11 for the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.12 For to what, most dearly beloved, does the wisdom of this world urge us, but to seek things that are hurtful, and to love things that are to perish, and to neglect things that are healthful, and to esteem as of no value things that are lasting? It commends the love of money, of which it is said, The love of money is the root of all evil;13 and which has this evil in especial, that while it obtrudes the transitory, it hides from view the eternal; and while it looks on things that are outside, it does not look in upon things that lurk within; and while it seeks after strange things, it is an evil that makes itself strange to him who does it.14 Behold, to what does the wisdom of this world urge a man? To live in pleasures. Whence it is said: A widow that liveth in pleasure, is dead while she liveth.15 It urges a man to feed the flesh with the softest delights, with sins, and vices, and flames, to press the soul with intemperance in food and wine, and to check the life of the spirit, and to put into his enemy’s hand the sword to be used against himself. Behold, what is the counsel which the wisdom of this world gives? That those who are good should choose rather to be evil, and that in error of mind they should be zealous to be sinners, and should not bethink themselves of that terrible voice of God, when the wicked shall be burned up like grass.16

VII.



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