Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Early Christian Quotes on Christian Character


The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Vision 3, Chapter 8:

For from Faith arises Self-restraint; from Self-restraint, Simplicity; from Simplicity, Guilelessness; from Guilelessness, Chastity; from Chastity, Intelligence; and from Intelligence, Love.


The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Commandment 2:

First, then, speak evil of no one, nor listen with pleasure to any one who speaks evil of another. But if you listen, you will partake of the sin of him who speaks evil, if you believe the slander which you hear;1for believing it, you will also have something to say against your brother. Thus, then, will you be guilty of the sin of him who slanders. For slander is evil and an unsteady demon. It never abides in peace, but always remains in discord. Keep yourself from it, and you will always be at peace with all.


The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Commandment 3:

Again [the angel] said to me, “Love the truth, and let nothing but truth proceed from your mouth, that the spirit which God has placed in your flesh may be found truthful before all men; and the Lord, who dwelleth in you, will be glorified, because the Lord is truthful in every word, and in Him is no falsehood. They therefore who lie deny the Lord, and rob Him, not giving back to Him the deposit which they have received. For they received from Him a spirit free from falsehood. If they give him back this spirit untruthful, they pollute the commandment of the Lord, and become robbers.”


The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Commandment 8:

“Listen,” says he, “to the good deeds which you ought to do, and in regard to which there is no self-restraint requisite. First of all there is faith, then fear of the Lord, love, concord, words of righteousness, truth, patience. Than these, nothing is better in the life of men. If any one attend to these, and restrain himself not from them, blessed is he in his life. Then there are the following attendant on these: helping widows, looking after orphans and the needy, rescuing the servants of God from necessities, the being hospitable—for in hospitality good-doing finds a field—never opposing any one, the being quiet, having fewer needs than all men, reverencing the aged, practising righteousness, watching the brotherhood, bearing insolence, being long-suffering, encouraging those who are sick in soul, not casting those who have fallen into sin from the faith, but turning them back and restoring them to peace of mind, admonishing sinners, not oppressing debtors and the needy, and if there are any other actions like these.


The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Commandment 12, Chapter 2:

[The angel said,] “Foremost of all is the desire after another’s wife or husband, and after extravagance, and many useless dainties and drinks, and many other foolish luxuries; for all luxury is foolish and empty in the servants of God. These, then, are the evil desires which slay the servants of God. For this evil desire is the daughter of the devil. You must refrain from evil desires, that by refraining ye may live to God.


The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Commandment 12, Chapter 3:

“Sir, these commandments are great, and good, and glorious, and fitted to gladden the heart of the man who can perform them. But I do not know if these commandments can be kept by man, because they are exceeding hard.” He [the angel] answered and said to me, “If you lay it down as certain that they can be kept, then you will easily keep them, and they will not be hard. But if you come to imagine that they cannot be kept by man, then you will not keep them. Now I say to you, If you do not keep them, but neglect them, you will not be saved, nor your children, nor your house, since you have already determined for yourself that these commandments cannot be kept by man.”


The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Commandment 12, Chapter 4:

These things he said to me in tones of the deepest anger, so that I was confounded and exceedingly afraid of him, for his figure was altered so that a man could not endure his anger. But seeing me altogether agitated and confused, he began to speak to me in more gentle tones; and he said: “O fool, senseless and doubting, do you not perceive how great is the glory of God, and how strong and marvellous, in that He created the world for the sake of man, and subjected all creation to him, and gave him power to rule over everything under heaven? If, then, man is lord of the creatures of God, and rules over all, is he not able to be lord also of these commandments? For,” says he, “the man who has the Lord in his heart can also be lord of all, and of every one of these commandments. But to those who have the Lord only on their lips, but their hearts hardened, and who are far from the Lord, the commandments are hard and difficult. Put, therefore, ye who are empty and fickle in your faith, the Lord in your heart, and ye will know that there is nothing easier or sweeter, or more manageable, than these commandments. Return, ye who walk in the commandments of the devil, in hard, and bitter, and wild licentiousness, and fear not the devil; for there is no power in him against you, for I will be with you, the angel of repentance, who am lord over him. The devil has fear only, but his fear has no strength. Fear him not, then, and he will flee from you.”


The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Similitude 9, Chapter 6:

And, behold, after a little I see an array of many men coming, and in the midst of them one man [Jesus] of so remarkable a size as to overtop the tower. And the six men who had worked upon the building were with him, and many other honourable men were around him. And the virgins who kept the tower ran forward and kissed him, and began to walk near him around the tower. And that man examined the building carefully, feeling every stone separately; and holding a rod in his hand, he struck every stone in the building three times. And when he struck them, some of them became black as soot, and some appeared as if covered with scabs, and some cracked, and some mutilated, and some neither white nor black, and some rough and not in keeping with the other stones, and some having [very many] stains: such were the varieties of decayed stones that were found in the building. He ordered all these to be taken out of the tower, and to be laid down beside it, and other stones to be brought and put in their stead.


The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Similitude 9, Chapter 13:

“And the tower,” I asked, “what does it mean?” “This tower,” he replied, “is the Church.” “And these virgins, who are they?” “They are holy spirits, and men cannot otherwise be found in the kingdom of God unless these have put their clothing upon them: for if you receive the name only, and do not receive from them the clothing, they are of no advantage to you. For these virgins are the powers of the Son of God. If you bear His name but possess not His power, it will be in vain that you bear His name. Those stones,” he continued, “which you saw rejected bore His name, but did not put on the clothing of the virgins.” “Of what nature is their clothing, sir?” I asked. “Their very names,” he said, “are their clothing. Every one who bears the name of the Son of God, ought to bear the names also of these; for the Son Himself bears the names of these virgins.


The Shepherd of Hermas (1st or 2nd Century), Similitude 9, Chapter 15:

“Hear,” he said, “the names of the stronger virgins who stood at the corners. The first is Faith, the second Continence, the third Power, the fourth Patience. And the others standing in the midst of these have the following names: Simplicity, Innocence, Purity, Cheerfulness, Truth, Understanding, Harmony, Love. He who bears these names and that of the Son of God will be able to enter into the kingdom of God.


The Acts of Paul (Mid-2nd Century), Chapter 2:

And when Paul entered into the house of Onesiphorus, there was great joy, and bowing of knees and breaking of bread, and the word of God concerning abstinence (or continence) and the resurrection; for Paul said: 
 Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. 
 Blessed are they that keep the flesh chaste, for they shall become the temple of God. 
 Blessed are they that abstain (or the continent), for unto them shall God speak. 
 Blessed are they that have renounced this world, for they shall be well-pleasing unto God. 
 Blessed are they that possess their wives as though they had them not, for they shall inherit God. 
 Blessed are they that have the fear of God, for they shall become angels of God. 
 Blessed are they that tremble at the oracles of God, for they shall be comforted. 
 Blessed are they that receive the wisdom of Jesus Christ, for they shall be called sons of the Most High. 
 Blessed are they that have kept their baptism pure, for they shall rest with the Father and with the Son. 
 Blessed are they that have compassed the understanding of Jesus Christ, for they shall be in light. 
 Blessed are they that for love of God have departed from the fashion of this world, for they shall judge angels, and shall be blessed at the right hand of the Father. 
 Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy and shall not see the bitter day of judgement. 
 Blessed are the bodies of the virgins, for they shall be well- pleasing unto God and shall not lose the reward of their continence (chastity), for the word of the Father shall be unto them a work of salvation in the day of his Son, and they shall have rest from the world without end.


Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (1st or 2nd Century), Testament 5, Paragraph 4:

And now hearken to me, my children, and walk in simplicity of heart, for I have seen in it all that is well-pleasing to the Lord. The simple coveteth not gold, defraudeth not his neighbour, longeth not after manifold dainties, delighteth not in varied apparel, doth not picture to himself to live a long life, but only waiteth for the will of God, and the spirits of error have no power against him. For he cannot allow within his mind a thought of female beauty, that he should not pollute his mind in corruption. No envy can enter into his thoughts, no jealousy melteth away his soul, nor doth he brood over gain with insatiate desire; for he walketh in uprightness of life, and beholdeth all things in simplicity, not admitting in his eyes malice from the error of the world, lest he should see the perversion of any of the commandments of the Lord.


Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (1st or 2nd Century), Testament 10, Paragraph 1:

Therefore if the soul take pleasure in good, all its actions are in righteousness; and though it sin, it straightway repenteth. For, having his mind set upon righteousness, and casting away maliciousness, he straightway overthroweth the evil, and uprooteth the sin. But if his mind turn aside in evil, all his doings are in maliciousness, and he driveth away the good, and taketh unto him the evil, and is ruled by Beliar; and even though he work what is good, he perverteth it in evil. For whenever he beginneth as though to do good, he bringeth the end of his doing to work evil, seeing that the treasure of the devil is filled with the poison of an evil spirit.


Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs (1st or 2nd Century), Testament 12, Paragraph 6:

The mind of the good man is not in the power of the deceit of the spirit of Beliar, for the angel of peace guideth his soul. He gazeth not passionately on corruptible things, nor gathereth together riches unto desire of pleasure; he delighteth not in pleasure, he hurteth not his neighbour, be pampereth not himself with food, he erreth not in the pride of his eyes, for the Lord is his portion. The good mind admitted not the glory and dishonour of men, neither knoweth it any guile or lie, fighting or reviling; for the Lord dwelleth in him and lighteth up his soul, and he rejoiceth towards all men at every time. The good mind hath not two tongues, of blessing and of cursing, of insult and of honour, of sorrow and of joy, of quietness and of trouble, of hypocrisy and of truth, of poverty and of wealth; but it hath one disposition, pure and un-corrupt, concerning all men. It hath no double sight, nor double hearing; for in everything which he doeth, or speaketh, or seeth, he knoweth that the Lord watcheth his soul, and he cleanseth his mind that he be not condemned by God and men. But of Beliar every work is twofold, and hath no singleness.


Ignatius’ Letter to the Ephesians (Late 1st Century or Early 2nd Century) Chapter 14:

For the beginning is faith, and the end is love. Now these two. being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them. No man [truly] making a profession of faith sinneth; nor does he that possesses love hate any one.


The Christian Sibylline Oracles (2nd Century), Book 2:62-188:

For every human soul is God's free gift, 
And 'tis not right men stain it with vile deeds. 
Do not be rich unrighteously, but lead 
A life of probity. Be satisfied 
With what thou hast and keep thyself from that 
Which is another's. Speak not what is false, 
But have a care for all things that are true. 
Revere not idols vainly; but the God 
Imperishable honor always first, 
And next thy parents. Render all things due, 
And into unjust judgment come thou not. 
Do not cast out the poor unrighteously, 
Nor judge by outward show; if wickedly 
Thou judgest, God hereafter will judge thee. 
Avoid false testimony; tell the truth. 
Maintain thy virgin purity, and guard 
Love among all. Deal measures that are just; 
For beautiful is measure full to all. 
Strike not the scales oneside, but draw them equal. 
Forswear not ignorantly nor willingly; 
God hates the perjured man in that he swore. 
A gift proceeding out of unjust deeds 
Never receive in hand. Do not steal seed; 
Accursed through many generations he 
Who took it unto scattering of life. 
Indulge not vile lusts, slander not, nor kill. 
Give the toilworn his hire; do not afflict 
The poor man. Unto orphans help afford 
And to widows and the needy. Talk with sense; 
Hold fast in heart a secret. Be unwilling 
To act unjustly nor yet tolerate 
Unrighteous men. Give to the poor at once 
And say not, "Come to-morrow." Of thy grain 
Give to the needy with perspiring hand. 
He who gives alms knows how to lend to God. 
Mercy redeems from death when judgment comes. 
Not sacrifice, but mercy God desires 
Rather than sacrifice. The naked clothe, 
Share thy bread with the hungry, in thy house 
Receive the shelterless and lead the blind. 
Pity the shipwrecked; for the voyage is 
Uncertain. To the fallen give a hand; 
And save the man that stands without defense. 
Common to all is suffering, life's a wheel, 
Riches unstable. Having wealth, reach out 
To the poor thy hand. Of what God gave to thee 
Bestow thou also on the needy one. 
Common is the whole life of mortal men; 
But it comes out unequal. When thou seest 
A poor man never banter him with words, 
Nor harshly accost a man who may be blamed. 
One's life in death is proven; if one did 
The unlawful or just, it shall be decided 
When he to judgment comes. Disable not 
Thy mind with wine nor drink excessively. 
Eat not blood, and abstain from things 
Offered to idols. Gird not on the sword 
For slaughter, but defense; and would thou might 
It neither lawlessly nor justly use: 
For if thou kill an enemy thy hand 
Thou dost defile. Keep from thy neighbor's field, 
Nor trespass on it; just is every landmark, 
And trespass painful. Useful is possession 
Of lawful wealth, but of unrighteous gains 
'Tis worthless. Harm not any growing fruit 
Of the field. And let strangers be esteemed 
In equal honor with the citizens; 
For much-enduring hospitality 
Shall all experience as each other's guests; 
But let there not be anyone a stranger 
Among you, since, ye mortals, all of you 
Are of one 'blood, and no land has for men 
Any sure place. Wish not nor pray for wealth; 
But pray to live from few things and possess 
Nothing at all unjust. The love of gain 
Is mother of all evil. Do not long 
For gold or silver; in them there will be 
A double-edged and soul-destroying iron. 
A snare to men continually are gold 
And silver. Gold, of evils source, of life 
Destructive, troubling all things, would that thou 
Wert, not to mortals such a longed-for bane! 
For wars, because of thee, and pillaging 
And murders come, and children hate their sires, 
And brothers and sisters those of their own blood. 
Plot no deceit, and do not arm thy heart 
Against a friend. Keep not concealed within 
A different thought from what thou speakest forth; 
Nor, like rock-clinging polyp, change with place. 
But with all be frank, and things from the soul 
Speak thou forth. Whosoever willfully 
Commits a wrong, an evil man is he; 
But he that does it under force, the end 
I tell not; but let each man's will be right. 
Pride not thyself in wisdom, power, or wealth; 
God only is the wise and mighty one 
And full of riches. Do not vex thy heart 
With evils that are past; for what is done 
Can never be undone. Let not thy hand 
Be hasty, but ferocious passion curb; 
For many times has one in striking done 
Murder without design. Let suffering 
Be common, neither great nor overmuch. 
Excessive good has not brought forth to men 
That which is helpful. And much luxury 
Leads to immoderate lusts. Much wealth is prowl, 
And makes one grow to wanton violence. 
Passionate feeling, creeping in, effects 
Destructive madness. Anger is a lust, 
And when it is excessive it is wrath. 
The zeal of good men is a noble thing, 
But of the base is base. Of wicked men 
The boldness is destructive, but renown 
Follows that of the good. To be revered 
Is virtuous love, but that of Cypris works 
Increase of shame. A silly man is called 
Very agreeable among his fellows. 
With moderation eat, drink, and converse; 
Of all things moderation is the best; 
But trespass of its limit brings to grief. 
Be not thou envious, faithless, or abusive, 
Or evil-minded, or a false deceiver. 
Be prudent and abstain from shameless deeds. 
Imitate not what's evil, but leave thou 
Vengeance to justice; for persuasion is 
A useful thing, but strife engenders strife. 
Trust not too quickly ere thou see the end.


Apology of Aristides (Early 2nd Century) Chapter 15:

But the Christians, O King, while they went about and made search, have found the truth; and as we learned from their writings, they have come nearer to truth and genuine knowledge than the rest of the nations. For they know and trust in God, the Creator of heaven and of earth, in whom and from whom are all things, to whom there is no other god as companion, from whom they received commandments which they engraved upon their minds and observe in hope and expectation of the world which is to come. Wherefore they do not commit adultery nor fornication, nor bear false witness, nor embezzle what is held in pledge, nor covet what is not theirs. They honour father and mother, and show kindness to those near to them; and whenever they are judges, they judge uprightly. They do not worship idols (made) in the image of man; and whatsoever they would not that others should do unto them, they do not to others; and of the food which is consecrated to idols they do not eat, for they are pure. And their oppressors they appease (lit: comfort) and make them their friends; they do good to their enemies; and their women, O King, are pure as virgins, and their daughters are modest; and their men keep themselves from every unlawful union and from all uncleanness, in the hope of a recompense to come in the other world. Further, if one or other of them have bondmen and bondwomen or children, through love towards them they persuade them to become Christians, and when they have done so, they call them brethren without distinction. They do not worship strange gods, and they go their way in all modesty and cheerfulness. Falsehood is not found among them; and they love one another, and from widows they do not turn away their esteem; and they deliver the orphan from him who treats him harshly. And he, who has, gives to him who has not, without boasting. And when they see a stranger, they take him in to their homes and rejoice over him as a very brother; for they do not call them brethren after the flesh, but brethren after the spirit and in God. And whenever one of their poor passes from the world, each one of them according to his ability gives heed to him and carefully sees to his burial. And if they hear that one of their number is imprisoned or afflicted on account of the name of their Messiah, all of them anxiously minister to his necessity, and if it is possible to redeem him they set him free. And if there is among them any that is poor and needy, and if they have no spare food, they fast two or three days in order to supply to the needy their lack of food. They observe the precepts of their Messiah with much care, living justly and soberly as the Lord their God commanded them. Every morning and every hour they give thanks and praise to God for His loving-kindnesses toward them; and for their food and their drink they offer thanksgiving to Him. And if any righteous man among them passes from the world, they rejoice and offer thanks to God; and they escort his body as if he were setting out from one place to another near. And when a child has been born to one of them, they give thanks to God; and if moreover it happen to die in childhood, they give thanks to God the more, as for one who has passed through the world without sins. And further if they see that any one of them dies in his ungodliness or in his sins, for him they grieve bitterly, and sorrow as for one who goes to meet his doom.


Mathetes’ Letter to Diognetus (Mid-2nd Century) Chapter 5:

For the Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language, nor the customs which they observe. For they neither inhabit cities of their own, nor employ a peculiar form of speech, nor lead a life which is marked out by any singularity. The course of conduct which they follow has not been devised by any speculation or deliberation of inquisitive men; nor do they, like some, proclaim themselves the advocates of any merely human doctrines. But, inhabiting Greek as well as barbarian cities, according as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers. They marry, as do all [others]; they beget children; but they do not destroy their offspring. They have a common table, but not a common bed. They are in the flesh, but they do not live after the flesh. They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives. They love all men, and are persecuted by all. They are unknown and condemned; they are put to death, and restored to life. They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonoured, and yet in their very ishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honour; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life; they are assailed by the Jews as foreigners, and are persecuted by the Greeks; yet those who hate them are unable to assign any reason for their hatred.


The Epistle of the Apostles (Mid-2nd Century) Chapters 43-44:

And ye shall be like the wise virgins which watched and slept not, but went forth unto the lord into the bridechamber: but the foolish virgins were not able to watch, but slumbered. And we said unto him: Lord, who are the wise and who are the foolish? He said unto us: Five wise and five foolish; for these are they of whom the prophet hath spoken: Sons of God are they. Hear now their names. 
 But we wept and were troubled for them that slumbered. He said unto us: The five wise are Faith and Love and Grace and Peace and Hope. Now they of the faithful which possess this (these) shall be guides unto them that have believed on me and on him that sent me. For I am the Lord and I am the bridegroom whom they have received, and they have entered in to the house of the bridegroom and are laid down with me in the bridal chamber rejoicing. But the five foolish, when they had slept and had awaked, came unto the door of the bridal chamber and knocked, for the doors were shut. Then did they weep and lament that no man opened unto them. 
 We said unto him: Lord, and their wise sisters that were within in the bridegroom's house, did they continue without opening unto them, and did they not sorrow for their sakes nor entreat the bridegroom to open unto them? He answered us, saying: They were not yet able to obtain favour for them. We said unto him: Lord, on what day shall they enter in for their sisters' sake? Then said he unto us: He that is shut out, is shut out. And we said unto him: Lord, is this word (determined?). Who then are the foolish? He said unto us: Hear their names. They are Knowledge, Understanding (Perception), Obedience, Patience, and Compassion. These are they that slumbered in them that have believed and confessed me but have not fulfilled my commandments. On account of them that have slumbered, they shall remain outside the kingdom and the fold of the shepherd and his sheep. But whoso shall abide outside the sheepfold, him will the wolves devour, and he shall be (condemned?) and die in much affliction: in him shall be no rest nor endurance, and (Eth.) although he be hardly punished, and rent in pieces and devoured in long and evil torment, yet shall he not be able to obtain death quickly.


Justin Martyr’s Discourse to the Greeks (Mid-2nd Century) Chapter 5:

For our own Ruler, the Divine Word, who even now constantly aids us, does not desire strength of body and beauty of feature, nor yet the high spirit of earth's nobility, but a pure soul, fortified by holiness, and the watchwords of our King, holy actions, for through the Word power passes into the soul. O trumpet of peace to the soul that is at war! O weapon that puttest to flight terrible passions! O instruction that quenches the innate fire of the soul! The Word exercises an influence which does not make poets: it does not equip philosophers nor skilled orators, but by its instruction it makes mortals immortal, mortals gods; and from the earth transports them to the realms above Olympus. 


Justin Martyr’s First Apology (Mid-2nd Century) Chapter14:

we who formerly delighted in fornication, but now embrace chastity alone; we who formerly used magical arts, dedicate ourselves to the good and unbegotten God; we who valued above all things the acquisition of wealth and possessions, now bring what we have into a common stock, and communicate to every one in need; we who hated and destroyed one another, and on account of their different manners would not live with men of a different tribe, now, since the coming of Christ, live familiarly with them, and pray for our enemies, and endeavour to persuade those who hate us unjustly to live comformably to the good precepts of Christ, to the end that they may become par-takers with us of the same joyful hope of a reward from God the ruler of all.


Justin Martyr’s First Apology (Mid-2nd Century) Chapter29:

But whether we marry, it is only that we may bring up children; or whether we decline marriage, we live continently.


The Acts of John (Mid to Late 2nd Century) Paragraph 69:

So is it right that a body should be praised as comely when it is wholly stripped, and a general as great when he hath accomplished every promise of the war, and a physician as excellent when he hath succeeded in every cure, and a soul as full of faith and worthy (or receptive) of God when it hath paid its promise in full: not that soul which began well and was dissolved into all the things of this life and fell away, nor that which is numb, having made an effort to attain to better things, and then is borne down to temporal things, nor that which hath longed after the things of time more than those of eternity, nor that which exchangeth those that endure not, nor that which hath honoured the works of dishonour that deserve shame, nor that which taketh pledges of Satan, nor that which hath received the serpent into its own house, nor that which suffereth reproach for God's sake and then is ashamed, nor that which with the mouth saith yea, but indeed approveth not itself: but that which hath prevailed not to be made weak by foul pleasure, not to be overcome by light-mindedness, not to be caught by the bait of love of money, not to be betrayed by vigour of body or wrath.



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Find more of what the early Christians thought on my Christian History page!





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