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.
Fragments of Irenaeus (Late 2nd Century) Paragraph 9:
Ever, indeed, speaking well of the deserving, but never ill of the undeserving, we also shall attain to the glory and kingdom of God.
Fragments of Irenaeus (Late 2nd Century) Paragraph 11:
The business of the Christian is nothing else than to be ever preparing for death.
Theophilus of Antioch’s Book 3 (Late 2nd Century) Paragraph 15:
…we are forbidden so much as to witness shows of gladiators, lest we become partakers and abettors of murders. But neither may we see the other spectacles, lest our eyes and ears be defiled, participating in the utterances there sung. For if one should speak of cannibalism, in these spectacles the children of Thyestes and Tereus are eaten; and as for adultery, both in the case of men and of gods, whom they celebrate in elegant language for honours and prizes, this is made the subject of their dramas. But far be it from Christians to conceive any such deeds; for with them temperance dwells, self-restraint is practised, monogamy is observed, chastity is guarded, iniquity exterminated, sin extirpated, righteousness exercised, law administered, worship performed, God acknowledged: truth governs, grace guards, peace screens them; the holy word guides, wisdom teaches, life directs, God reigns.
Tertullian’s Apology (Late 2nd Century) Chapter 39, Paragraph 1:
We are a body knit together as such by a common religious profession, by unity of discipline, and by the bond of a common hope. We meet together as an assembly and congregation, that, offering up prayer to God as with united force, we may wrestle with Him in our supplications. This violence God delights in. We pray, too, for the emperors, for their ministers and for all in authority, for the welfare of the world, for the prevalence of peace, for the delay of the final consummation. We assemble to read our sacred writings, if any peculiarity of the times makes either forewarning or reminiscence needful. However it be in that respect, with the sacred words we nourish our faith, we animate our hope, we make our confidence more stedfast; and no less by inculcations of God's precepts we confirm good habits. In the same place also exhortations are made, rebukes and sacred censures are administered. For with a great gravity is the work of judging carried on among us, as befits those who feel assured that they are in the sight of God; and you have the most notable example of judgment to come when any one has sinned so grievously as to require his severance from us in prayer, in the congregation and in all sacred intercourse. The tried men of our elders preside over us, obtaining that honour not by purchase, but by established character. There is no buying and selling of any sort in the things of God. Though we have our treasure-chest, it is not made up of purchase-money, as of a religion that has its price. On the monthly day, if he likes, each puts in a small donation; but only if it be his pleasure, and only if he be able: for there is no compulsion; all is voluntary. These gifts are, as it were, piety's deposit fund. For they are not taken thence and spent on feasts, and drinking-bouts, and eating-houses, but to support and bury poor people, to supply the wants of boys and girls destitute of means and parents, and of old persons confined now to the house; such, too, as have suffered shipwreck; and if there happen to be any in the mines, or banished to the islands, or shut up in the prisons, for nothing but their fidelity to the cause of God's Church, they become the nurslings of their confession…One in mind and soul, we do not hesitate to share our earthly goods with one another. All things are common among us but our wives….Our feast explains itself by its name The Greeks call it agape, i.e., affection. Whatever it costs, our outlay in the name of piety is gain, since with the good things of the feast we benefit the needy; not as it is with you, do parasites aspire to the glory of satisfying their licentious propensities, selling themselves for a belly-feast to all disgraceful treatment,--but as it is with God himself, a peculiar respect is shown to the lowly. If the object of our feast be good, in the light of that consider its further regulations. As it is an act of religious service, it permits no vileness or immodesty. The participants, before reclining, taste first of prayer to God. As much is eaten as satisfies the cravings of hunger; as much is drunk as befits the chaste. They say it is enough, as those who remember that even during the night they have to worship God; they talk as those who know that the Lord is one of their auditors. After manual ablution, and the bringing in of lights, each is asked to stand forth and sing, as he can, a hymn to God, either one from the holy Scriptures or one of his own composing,--a proof of the measure of our drinking. As the feast commenced with prayer, so with prayer it is closed.
Sentences of Sextus (Early 3rd Century), Selections:
(321) Do not become guilty of your own death. Do not be angry at him who will take you out of (the) body and kill you.(322) If someone brings the wise man out of the body wickedly, he rather does what is good for him, for he has been released from bonds.(345) It is better to die than to darken the soul because of the immoderation of the belly.(364) If a tyrant threatens you, then, especially, remember God.(346) Say with your mind that the body is the garment of your soul: keep it, therefore, pure since it is innocent.(347) Whatever the soul will do while it is in (the) body, it has as witnesses when it goes into judgment.
(389b) Promise everything rather than to say "I am wise".
(390) What you do well, say with your mind that it is God who does it.
(394/395) Know who God is, and know who is the one who thinks in you; a good man is the good work of God.
Life and Works
(175) Those on account of whom the name of God is blasphemed are dead before God.
(177) May your life confirm your words before those who hear.
(178) What it is not right to do, do not even consider doing it.
(310) Everything God possesses, the wise man has also.
(319) After God, honor a wise man, since he is the servant of God.
(383) The faithful do not speak many words, but their works are numerous.
(388) What is right to do, do it willingly.
(389a) What is not right to do, do not do it in any way.
(158/159) Love the truth, and the lie use like poison.
(161/162) Speak when it is not proper to be silent, but speak concerning the things you know (only) when it is fitting.
(163b) When it is proper to act, do not use a word.
(164a) Do not wish to speak first in the midst of a crowd.
(165a) It is better for you to be defeated while speaking the truth, than to be victorious through deceit.
(165c) Untrue words are a characteristic of evil persons.
(165d) There has to be a great crisis before the lie is necessary.
(169) It is not possible for a believing nature to become fond of lying.
(171b) When you are with believing persons, desire to listen rather than to speak.
(354/356) Do not speak with a godless person about God; if you are polluted on account of impure works, do not speak about God.
(355) Speak concerning the word about God as if you were saying it in the presence of God.
(359) May your pious works precede every word about God.
(360) Do not wish to speak with a crowd about God.
(365) He who speaks the word of God to those for whom it is not lawful, he is the betrayer of God.
(366) It is better for you to be silent about the word of God, than to speak recklessly.
Clement of Alexandria’s Exhortation to Endurance (Early 3rd Century) Paragraph 4:
Relax not the tension of your soul with feasting and indulgence in drink, but consider what is needful to be enough for the body. And do not hasten early to meals before the time for dinner comes; but let your dinner be bread, and let earth's grasses and the ripe fruits of trees be set before you; and go to your meal with composure, showing no sign of raging gluttony. Be not a flesh-eater nor a lover of wine, when no sickness leads you to this as a cure. But in place of the pleasures that are in these, choose the joys that are in divine words and hymns, joys supplied to you by wisdom from God; and let heavenly meditation ever lead you upward to heaven.
Clement of Alexandria’s Exhortation to the Heathen (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 10, Paragraph 11:
Practise husbandry, we say, if you are a husbandman; but while you till your fields, know God. Sail the sea, you who are devoted to navigation, yet call the whilst on the heavenly Pilot. Has knowledge taken hold of you while engaged in military service? Listen to the Commander, who orders what is right.
Clement of Alexandria’s The Instructor, Book 2 (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 1, Paragraphs 2-3:
Some men, in truth, live that they may eat, as the irrational creatures, "whose life is their belly, and nothing else." But the Instructor enjoins us to eat that we may live. For neither is food our business, nor is pleasure our aim; but both are on account of our life here, which the Word is training up to immortality. Wherefore also there is discrimination to be employed in reference to food. And it is to be simple, truly plain, suiting precisely simple and artless children--as ministering to life, not to luxury. And the life to which it conduces consists of two things--health and strength; to which plainness of fare is most suitable, being conducive both to digestion and lightness of body, from which come growth, and health, and right strength, not strength that is wrong or dangerous and wretched, as is that of athletes produced by compulsory feeding.We must therefore reject different varieties, which engender various mischiefs, such as a depraved habit of body and disorders of the stomach, the taste being vitiated by an unhappy art--that of cookery, and the useless art of making pastry.
Clement of Alexandria’s Instructor, Book 2 (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 2, Paragraphs 7-8:
I therefore admire those who have adopted an austere life, and who are fond of water, the medicine of temperance, and flee as far as possible from wine, shunning it as they would the danger of fire. It is proper, therefore, that boys and girls should keep as much as possible away from this medicine. For it is not right to pour into the burning season of life the hottest of all liquids--wine--adding, as it were, fire to fire. For hence wild impulses and burning lusts and fiery habits are kindled; and young men inflamed from within become prone to the indulgence of vicious propensities; so that signs of injury appear in their body, the members of lust coming to maturity sooner than they ought. The breasts and organs of generation, inflamed with wine, expand and swell in a shameful way, already exhibiting beforehand the image of fornication; and the body compels the wound of the soul to inflame, and shameless pulsations follow abundance, inciting the man of correct behaviour to transgression; and hence the voluptuousness of youth overpasses the bounds of modesty. And we must, as far as possible, try to quench the impulses of youth by removing the Bacchic fuel of the threatened danger; and by pouring the antidote to the inflammation, so keep down the burning soul, and keep in the swelling members, and allay the agitation of lust when it is already in commotion. And in the case of grown-up people, let those with whom it agrees sometimes partake of dinner, tasting bread only, and let them abstain wholly from drink; in order that their superfluous moisture may be absorbed and drunk up by the eating of dry food. For constant spitting and wiping off perspiration, and hastening to evacuations, is the sign of excess, from the immoderate use of liquids supplied in excessive quantity to the body. And if thirst come on, let the appetite be satisfied with a little water. For it is not proper that water should be supplied in too great profusion; in order that the food may not be drowned, but ground down in order to digestion; and this takes place when the victuals are collected into a mass, and only a small portion is evacuated.And, besides, it suits divine studies not to be heavy with wine. "For unmixed wine is far from compelling a man to be wise, much less temperate," according to the comic poet. But towards evening, about supper-time, wine may be used, when we are no longer engaged in more serious readings. Then also the air becomes colder than it is during the day; so that the failing natural warmth requires to be nourished by the introduction of heat. But even then it must only be a little wine that is to be used; for we must not go on to intemperate potations. Those who are already advanced in life may partake more cheerfully of the draught, to warm by the harmless medicine of the vine the chill of age, which the decay of time has produced. For old men's passions are not, for the most part, stirred to such agitation as to drive them to the shipwreck of drunkenness. For being moored by reason and time, as by anchors, they stand with greater ease the storm of passions which rushes down from intemperance. They also may be permitted to indulge in pleasantry at feasts. But to them also let the limit of their potations be the point up to which they keep their reason unwavering, their memory active, and their body unmoved and unshaken by wine.
Clement of Alexandria’s Instructor, Book 2 (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 11, Paragraph 4:
[After referring to Jesus’ words about God clothing the grass of the field and feeding the sparrows] If, then, He takes away anxious care for clothes and food, and superfluities in general, as unnecessary; what are we to imagine ought to be said of love of ornament, and dyeing of wool, and variety of colours, and fastidiousness about gems, and exquisite working of gold, and still more, of artificial hair and wreathed curls; and furthermore, of staining the eyes, and plucking out hairs, and painting with rouge and white lead, and dyeing of the hair, and the wicked arts that are employed in such deceptions?
Clement of Alexandria’s Instructor, Book 2 (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 12, Paragraph 19:
And let not their ears be pierced, contrary to nature, in order to attach to them ear-rings and ear-drops. For it is not right to force nature against her wishes. Nor could there be any better ornament for the ears than true instruction, which finds its way naturally into the passages of hearing. And eyes anointed by the Word, and ears pierced for perception, make a man a hearer and contemplator of divine and sacred things, the Word truly exhibiting the true beauty "which eye hath not seen nor ear heard before."
Clement of Alexandria’s Instructor, Book 3 (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 10, Paragraphs 1-2:
Nor are women to be deprived of bodily exercise. But they are not to be encouraged to engage in wrestling or running, but are to exercise themselves in spinning, and weaving, and superintending the cooking if necessary. And they are, with their own hand, to fetch from the store what we require. And it is no disgrace for them to apply themselves to the mill. Nor is it a reproach to a wife--housekeeper and helpmeet--to occupy herself in cooking, so that it may be palatable to her husband. And if she shake up the couch, reach drink to her husband when thirsty, set food on the table as neatly as possible, and so give herself exercise tending to sound health, the Instructor will approve of a woman like this, who "stretches forth her arms to useful tasks, rests her hands on the distaff, opens her hand to the pool, and extends her wrist to the beggar."She who emulates Sarah is not ashamed of that highest of ministries, helping wayfarers. For Abraham said to her, "Haste, and knead three measures of meal, and make cakes." "And Rachel, the daughter of Laban, came," it is said, "with her father's sheep." Nor was this enough; but to teach humility it is added, "for she fed her father's sheep." And innumerable such examples of frugality and self-help, and also of exercises, are furnished by the Scriptures, In the case of men, let some strip and engage in wrestling; let some play at the small ball, especially the game they call Pheninda, in the sun. To others who walk into the country, or go down into the town, the walk is sufficient exercise. And were they to handle the hoe, this stroke of economy in agricultural labour would not be ungentleman like.
Clement of Alexandria’s Instructor, Book 3 (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 11 – Amusements and Associates:
And let not men, therefore, spend their time in barbers' shops and taverns, babbling nonsense; and let them give up hunting for the women who sit near, and ceaselessly talking slander against many to raise a laugh.The game of dice is to be prohibited, and the pursuit of gain, especially by dicing, which many keenly follow.
- Public Spectacles:
Let spectacles, therefore, and plays that are full of scurrility and of abundant gossip, be forbidden. For what base action is it that is not exhibited in the theatres? And what shameless saying is it that is not brought forward by the buffoons? And those who enjoy the evil that is in them, stamp the clear images of it at home.
- Going to Church:
Woman and man are to go to church decently attired, with natural step, embracing silence, possessing unfeigned love, pure in body, pure in heart, fit to pray to God. Let the woman observe this, further. Let her be entirely covered, unless she happen to be at home. For that style of dress is grave, and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty, and her shawl; nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled.
Clement of Alexandria’s Miscellanies, Book 3 (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 1, Paragraph 4:
Continence is an ignoring of the body in accordance with the confession of faith in God. For continence is not merely a matter of sexual abstinence, but applies also to the other things for which the soul has an evil desire because it is not satisfied with the necessities of life. There is also a continence of the tongue, of money, of use, and of desire. It does not only teach us to exercise self-control; it is rather that self-control is granted to us, since it is a divine power and grace.
Clement of Alexandria’s Miscellanies, Book 3 (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 7, Paragraphs 1-3:
The human ideal of continence, I mean that which is set forth by Greek philosophers, teaches that one should fight desire and not be subservient to it so as to bring it to practical effect. But our ideal is not to experience desire at all. Our aim is not that while a man feels desire he should get the better of it, but that he should be continent even respecting desire itself. This chastity cannot be attained in any other way except by God's grace. That was why he said "Ask and it shall be given you."Our general argument concerning marriage, food, and other matters, may proceed to show that we should do nothing '- from desire. Our will is to be directed only towards that which is necessary. For we are children not of desire but of will. A man who marries for the sake of begetting children must practise continence so that it is not desire he feels for his wife, whom he ought to love, and that he may beget children with a chaste and controlled will. For we have learnt not to "have thought for the flesh to fulfil its desires." We are to "walk honourably as in the way", that is in Christ and in the enlightened conduct of the Lord's way, "not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and lasciviousness, not in strife and envy."However, one ought to consider continence not merely in relation to one form of it, that is, sexual relations, but in relation to all the other indulgences for which the soul craves when it is ill content with what is necessary and seeks for luxury. It is continence to despise money, softness, property, to hold in small esteem outward appearance, to control one's tongue, to master evil thoughts.
Tertullian’s On Idolatry (Early 3rd Century) Chapter 19:
But now inquiry is made about this point, whether a believer may turn himself unto military service...There is no agreement between the divine and the human sacrament, the standard of Christ and the standard of the devil, the camp of light and the camp of darkness. One soul cannot be due to two masters--God and Caesar. And yet Moses carried a rod, and Aaron wore a buckle, and John (Baptist) is girt with leather and Joshua the son of Nun leads a line of march; and the People warred: if it pleases you to sport with the subject. But how will a Christian man war, nay, how will he serve even in peace, without a sword, which the Lord has taken away? For albeit soldiers had come unto John, and had received the formula of their rule; albeit, likewise, a centurion had believed; still the Lord afterward, in disarming Peter, unbelted every soldier. No dress is lawful among us, if assigned to any unlawful action.
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Find more of what the early Christians thought on my Christian History page!