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ANF07. Fathers of the Third and Fourth Centuries: Lactantius, Venantius, Asterius, Victorinus, Dionysius, Apostolic Teaching and Constitutions, Homily
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Sec. IV.—On the Management of the Resources Collected for the Support of the Clergy, and the Relief of the Poor.

Let the bishop esteem such food and raiment sufficient as suits necessity and decency. Let him not make use of the Lord’s goods as another’s, but moderately; “for the labourer is worthy of his reward.”27102710     Luke x. 7.   Let him not be luxurious in diet, or fond of idle furniture, but contented with so much alone as is necessary for his sustenance.  

Of First-Fruits and Tithes, and After What Manner the Bishop is Himself to Partake of Them, or to Distribute Them to Others.

XXV. Let him use those tenths and first-fruits, which are given according to the command of God, as a man of God; as also let him dispense in a right manner the free-will offerings which are brought in on account of the poor, to the orphans, the widows, the afflicted, and strangers in distress, as having that God for the examiner of his accounts who has committed the disposition to him. Distribute to all those in want with righteousness, and yourselves use the things which belong to the Lord, but do not abuse them; eating of them, but not eating them all up by yourselves: communicate with those that are in want, and thereby show yourselves unblameable before God. For if you shall consume them by yourselves, you will be reproached by God, who says to such unsatiable people, who alone devour all, “Ye eat up the milk, and clothe yourselves with the wool;”27112711     Ezek. xxxiv. 3.   and in another passage, “Must you alone live upon the earth”?27122712     Isa. v. 8.   Upon which account you are commanded in the law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”27132713     Lev. xix. 18.   Now we say these things, not as if you might not partake of the fruits of your labours; for it is written, “Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox which treadeth out the corn;”27142714     Deut. xxv. 4; 1 Cor. ix. 9.   but that you should do it with moderation and righteousness. As, therefore, the ox that labours in the threshing-floor without a muzzle eats indeed, but does not eat all up; so do you who labour in the threshing-floor, that is, in the Church of God, eat of the Church: which was also the case of the Levites, who served in the tabernacle of the testimony, which was in all things a type of the Church. Nay, further, its very name implied that that tabernacle was fore-appointed for a testimony of the Church. Here, therefore, the Levites also, who attended upon the tabernacle partook of those things that were offered to God by all the people,—namely, gifts, offerings, and first-fruits, and tithes, and sacrifices, and oblations, without disturbance, they and their wives, and their sons and their daughters. Since their employment was the ministration to the tabernacle, therefore they had not any lot or inheritance in the land among the children of Israel, because the oblations of the people were the lot of Levi, and the inheritance of their tribe. You, therefore, O bishops, are to your people priests and Levites, ministering to the holy tabernacle, the holy Catholic Church; who stand at the altar of the Lord your God, and offer to Him reasonable and unbloody sacrifices through Jesus the great High Priest. You are to the laity prophets, rulers, governors, and kings; the mediators between God and His faithful people, who receive and declare His word, well acquainted with the Scriptures. Ye are the voice of God, and witnesses of His will, who bear the sins of all, and intercede for all; whom, as you have heard, the word severely threatens if you hide the key of knowledge from men, who are liable to perdition if you do not declare His will to the people that are under you; who shall have a certain reward from God, and unspeakable honour and glory, if you duly minister to the holy tabernacle. For as yours is the burden, so you receive as your fruit the supply of food and other necessaries. For you imitate Christ the Lord; and as He “bare the sins of us all upon the tree” at His crucifixion, the innocent for those who deserved punishment, so also you ought to make the sins of the people your own. For concerning our Saviour it is said in Isaiah, “He bears our sins, and is afflicted for us.”27152715     Isa. liii. 4.   And again: “He bare the sins of many, and was delivered for our offences.”27162716     Isa. liii. 12.   As, therefore, you are patterns for others, so have you Christ for your pattern. As, therefore, He is concerned for all, so be you for the laity under you. For do not thou imagine that the office of a bishop is an easy or light burden. As, therefore, you bear the weight, so have you a right to partake of the fruits before others, and to impart to those that are in want, as being to give an account to Him, who without bias will examine your accounts. For those who attend upon the Church ought to be maintained by the Church, as being priests, Levites, presidents, and ministers of God; as it is written in the book of Numbers concerning the priests: “And the Lord said unto Aaron, Thou, and thy sons, and the house of thy family, shall bear the iniquities of the holy things of priesthood.”27172717     Num. xviii. 1.   “Behold, I have given unto you the charge of the first-fruits, from all that are sanctified to me by the children of Israel; I have given them for a reward to thee, and to thy sons after thee, by an ordinance for ever. This shall be yours out of the holy things, out of the oblations, and out of the gifts, and out of all the sacrifices, and out of every trespass-offering, and sin-offerings; and all that they render unto me out of all their holy things, they shall belong to thee, and to thy sons: in the sanctuary shall they eat them.”27182718     Num. xviii. 8, etc.   And a little after: “All the first-fruits of the oil, and of the wine, and of the wheat, all which they shall give unto the Lord, to thee have I given them; and all that is first ripe, to thee have I given it, and every devoted thing. Every first-born of man and of beast, clean and unclean, and of sacrifice, with the breast, and the right shoulder, all these appertain to the priests, and to the rest of those belonging to them, even to the Levites.”27192719     Num. xviii. 12, etc.    

Hear this, you of the laity also, the elect Church of God. For the people were formerly called “the people of God,”27202720     Ex. xix. 5, 6.   and “an holy nation.”27212721     Heb. xii. 23.   You, therefore, are the holy and sacred “Church of God, enrolled in heaven, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,”27222722     Pet. ii. 9.   a bride adorned for the Lord God, a great Church, a faithful Church. Hear attentively now what was said formerly: oblations and tithes belong to Christ our High Priest, and to those who minister to Him. Tenths of salvation are the first letter of the name of Jesus. Hear, O thou Holy Catholic Church, who hast escaped the ten plagues, and hast received the ten commandments, and hast learned the law, and hast kept the faith, and hast believed in Jesus, and hast known the decad, and hast believed in the iota which is the first letter of the name of Jesus,27232723     Inserted from V. mss.   and art named after His name, and art established, and shinest in the consummation of His glory. Those which were then the sacrifices now are prayers, and intercessions, and thanksgivings. Those which were then first-fruits, and tithes, and offerings, and gifts, now are oblations, which are presented by holy bishops to the Lord God, through Jesus Christ, who has died for them. For these are your high priests, as the presbyters are your priests, and your present deacons instead of your Levites; as are also your readers, your singers, your porters, your deaconesses, your widows, your virgins, and your orphans: but He who is above all these is the High Priest.  

According to What Patterns and Dignity Every Order of the Clergy is Appointed by God.

XXVI. The bishop, he is the minister of the word, the keeper of knowledge, the mediator between God and you in the several parts of your divine worship. He is the teacher of piety; and, next after God, he is your father, who has begotten you again to the adoption of sons by water and the Spirit. He is your ruler and governor; he is your king and potentate; he is, next after God, your earthly god, who has a right to be honoured by you. For concerning him, and such as he, it is that God pronounces, “I have said, Ye are gods; and ye are all children of the Most High.”27242724     Ps. lxxxii. 6.   And, “Ye shall not speak evil of the gods.”27252725     Ex. xxii. 28.   For let the bishop preside over you as one honoured with the authority of God, which he is to exercise over the clergy, and by which he is to govern all the people. But let the deacon minister to him, as Christ does to His Father;27262726     The V. mss. read, “as the powers do to God,” which, Ültzen remarks, is an orthodox correction of an Arian opinion.   and let him serve him unblameably in all things, as Christ does nothing of Himself, but does always those things that please His Father. Let also the deaconess be honoured by you in the place of the Holy Ghost, and not do or say anything without the deacon; as neither does the Comforter say or do anything of Himself, but gives glory to Christ by waiting for His pleasure. And as we cannot believe on Christ without the teaching of the Spirit, so let not any woman address herself to the deacon or bishop without the deaconess. Let the presbyters be esteemed by you to represent us the apostles, and let them be the teachers of divine knowledge; since our Lord, when He sent us, said, “Go ye, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.”27272727     Matt. xxviii. 19.   Let the widows and orphans be esteemed as representing the altar of burnt-offering; and let the virgins be honoured as representing the altar of incense, and the incense itself.  

That It is a Horrible Thing for a Man to Thrust Himself into Any Sacerdotal Office, as Did Corah and His Company, Saul and Uzziah.

XXVII. As, therefore, it was not lawful for one of another tribe, that was not a Levite, to offer anything, or to approach the altar without the priest, so also do you do nothing without the bishop;27282728     One V. ms. reads “priest.”   for if any one does anything without the bishop, he does it to no purpose. For it will not be esteemed as of any avail to him. For as Saul, when he had offered without Samuel, was told, “It will not avail for thee;”27292729     1 Sam. xiii. 13.   so every person among the laity, doing anything without the priest, labours in vain. And as Uzziah the king,27302730     2 Chron. xxvi.   who was not a priest, and yet would exercise the functions of the priests, was smitten with leprosy for his transgression; so every lay person shall not be unpunished who despises God, and is so mad as to affront His priests, and unjustly to snatch that honour to himself: not imitating Christ, “who glorified not Himself to be made an high priest;”27312731     Heb. v. 5.   but waited till He heard from His Father, “The Lord sware, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever, after the order of Melchizedek.”27322732     Ps. cx. 4.   If, therefore, Christ did not glorify Himself without the Father, how dare any man thrust himself into the priesthood who has not received that dignity from his superior, and do such things which it is lawful only for the priests to do? Were not the followers of Corah, even though they were of the tribe of Levi, consumed with fire, because they rose up against Moses and Aaron, and meddled with such things as did not belong to them? And Dathan and Abiram went down quick into hell; and the rod that budded put a stop to the readiness of the multitude, and demonstrated who was the high priest ordained by God.27332733     Num. xvi.   You ought therefore, brethren, to bring your sacrifices and your oblations to the bishop, as to your high priest, either by yourselves or by the deacons; and do you bring not those only, but also your first-fruits, and your tithes, and your free-will offerings to him. For he knows who they are that are in affliction, and gives to every one as is convenient, that so one may not receive alms twice or oftener the same day, or the same week, while another has nothing at all. For it is reasonable rather to supply the wants of those who really are in distress, than of those who only appear to be so.  

Of an Entertainment, and After What Manner Each Distinct Order of the Clergy is to Be Treated by Those Who Invite Them to It.

XXVIII. If any determine to invite elder women to an entertainment of love, or a feast, as our Saviour calls it,27342734     Luke xiv. 13.   let them most frequently send to such a one whom the deacons know to be in distress. But let what is the pastor’s due, I mean the first-fruits,27352735     [Compare Teaching, chap. xiii. p. 381.—R.]   be set apart in the feast for him, even though he be not at the entertainment, as being your priest, and in honour of that God who has entrusted him with the priesthood. But as much as is given to every one of the elder women, let double so much be given to the deacons, in honour of Christ. Let also a double portion be set apart for the presbyters, as for such who labour continually about the word and doctrine, upon the account of the apostles of our Lord, whose place they sustain, as the counsellors of the bishop and the crown of the Church. For they are the Sanhedrim and senate of the Church. If there be a reader there, let him receive a single portion, in honour of the prophets, and let the singer and the porter have as much. Let the laity, therefore, pay proper honours in their presents, and utmost marks of respect to each distinct order. But let them not on all occasions trouble their governor, but let them signify their desires by those who minister to him, that is, by the deacons, with whom they may be more free. For neither may we address ourselves to Almighty God, but only by Christ. In the same manner, therefore, let the laity make known all their desires to the bishop by the deacon, and accordingly let them act as he shall direct them. For there was no holy thing offered or done in the temple formerly without the priest. “For the priest’s lips shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth,” as the prophet somewhere says, “for he is the messenger of the Lord Almighty.”27362736     Mal. ii. 7.   For if the worshippers of demons, in their hateful, abominable, and impure performances, imitate the sacred rules till this very day (it is a wide comparison indeed, and there is a vast distance between their abominations and God’s sacred worship), in their mockeries of worship they neither offer nor do anything without their pretended priest, but esteem him as the very mouth of their idols of stone, waiting to see what commands he will lay upon them. And whatsoever he commands them, that they do, and without him they do nothing; and they honour him, their pretended priest, and esteem his name as venerable in honour of lifeless statues, and in order to the worship of wicked spirits. If these heathens, therefore, who give glory to lying vanities, and place their hope upon nothing that is firm, endeavour to imitate the sacred rules, how much more reasonable is it that you, who have a most certain faith and undoubted hope, and who expect glorious, and eternal, and never-failing promises, should honour the Lord God in those set over you, and esteem your bishop to be the mouth of God!  

What is the Dignity of a Bishop and of a Deacon.

XXIX. For if Aaron, because he declared to Pharaoh the words of God from Moses, is called a prophet; and Moses himself is called a god to Pharaoh, on account of his being at once a king and a high priest, as God says to him, “I have made thee a god to Pharaoh, and Aaron thy brother shall be thy prophet;”27372737     Ex. vii. 1.   why do not ye also esteem the mediators of the word to be prophets, and reverence them as gods?  

After What Manner the Laity are to Be Obedient to the Deacon.

XXX. For now the deacon is to you Aaron, and the bishop Moses. If, therefore, Moses was called a god by the Lord, let the bishop be honoured among you as a god, and the deacon as his prophet. For as Christ does nothing without His Father, so neither does the deacon do anything without his bishop; and as the Son without His Father is nothing, so is the deacon nothing without his bishop; and as the Son is subject to His Father, so is every deacon subject to his bishop; and as the Son is the messenger and prophet of the Father, so is the deacon the messenger and prophet of his bishop. Wherefore let all things that he is to do with any one be made known to the bishop, and be finally ordered by him.  

That the Deacon Must Not Do Anything Without the Bishop.

XXXI. Let him not do anything at all without his bishop, nor give anything without his consent. For if he gives to any one as to a person in distress without the bishop’s knowledge, he gives it so that it must tend to the reproach of the bishop, and he accuses him as careless of the distressed. But he that casts reproach on his bishop, either by word or deed, opposes God, not hearkening to what He says: “Thou shalt not speak evil of the gods.”27382738     Ex. xxii. 28.   For He did not make that law concerning deities of wood and of stone, which are abominable, because they are falsely called gods, but concerning the priests and the judges, to whom He also said, “Ye are gods, and children of the Most High.”27392739     Ps. lxxxii. 6.    

That the Deacon Must Not Make Any Distributions Without the Consent of the Bishop, Because that Will Turn to the Reproach of the Bishop.

XXXII. If therefore, O deacon, thou knowest any one to be in distress, put the bishop in mind of him, and so give to him; but do nothing in a clandestine way, so as may tend to his reproach, lest thou raise a murmur against him; for the murmur will not be against him, but against the Lord God: and the deacon, with the rest, will hear what Aaron and Miriam heard, when they spake against Moses: “How is it that ye were not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?”27402740     Num. xii. 8.   And again, Moses says to those who rose up against him: “Your murmuring is not against us, but against the Lord our God.”27412741     Ex. xvi. 8.   For if he that calls one of the laity Raka,27422742     Matt. v. 22.   or fool, shall not be unpunished, as doing injury to the name27432743     Capellius reads, “the law of Christ.”   of Christ, how dare any man speak against his bishop, by whom the Lord gave the Holy Spirit among you upon the laying on of his hands, by whom ye have learned the sacred doctrines, and have known God, and have believed in Christ, by whom ye were known of God, by whom ye were sealed with the oil of gladness and the ointment of understanding, by whom ye were declared to be the children of light, by whom the Lord in your illumination testified by the imposition of the bishop’s hands, and sent out His sacred voice upon every one of you, saying, “Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee?”27442744     Ps. ii. 7.   By thy bishop, O man, God adopts thee for His child. Acknowledge, O son, that right hand which was a mother to thee. Love him who, after God, is become a father to thee, and honour him.  

After What Manner the Bishops are to Be Honoured, and to Be Reverenced as Our Spiritual Parents.

XXXIII. For if the divine oracle says, concerning our parents according to the flesh, “Honour thy father and thy mother, that it may be well with thee;”27452745     Ex. xx. 12.   and, “He that curseth his father or his mother, let him die the death;”27462746     Ex. xxi. 17.   how much more should the word exhort you to honour your spiritual parents, and to love them as your benefactors and ambassadors with God, who have regenerated you by water, and endued you with the fulness of the Holy Spirit, who have fed you with the word as with milk, who have nourished you with doctrine, who have confirmed you by their admonitions, who have imparted to you the saving body and precious blood of Christ, who have loosed you from your sins, who have made you partakers of the holy and sacred eucharist, who have admitted you to be partakers and fellow-heirs of the promise of God! Reverence these, and honour them with all kinds of honour; for they have obtained from God the power of life and death, in their judging of sinners, and condemning them to the death of eternal fire, as also of loosing returning sinners from their sins, and of restoring them to a new life.  

That Priests are to Be Preferred Before Rulers and Kings.

XXXIV. Account these worthy to be esteemed your rulers and your kings, and bring them tribute as to kings; for by you they and their families ought to be maintained. As Samuel made constitutions for the people concerning a king,27472747     1 Sam. viii.   in the first book of Kings, and Moses did so concerning priests in Leviticus, so do we also make constitutions for you concerning bishops. For if there the multitude distributed the inferior services in proportion to so great a king, ought not therefore the bishop much more now to receive of you those things which are determined by God for the sustenance of himself and of the rest of the clergy belonging to him? But if we may add somewhat further, let the bishop receive more than the other received of old: for he only managed the affairs of the soldiery, being entrusted with war and peace for the preservation of men’s bodies; but the other is entrusted with the exercise of the priestly office in relation to God, in order to preserve both body and soul from dangers. By how much, therefore, the soul is more valuable than the body, so much the priestly office is beyond the kingly. For it binds and looses those that are worthy of punishment or of remission. Wherefore you ought to love the bishop as your father, and fear him as your king, and honour him as your lord, bringing to him your fruits and the works of your hands, for a blessing upon you, giving to him your first-fruits, and your tithes, and your oblations, and your gifts, as to the priest of God; the first-fruits of your wheat, and wine, and oil, and autumnal fruits, and wool,27482748     One V. ms. reads “olives” instead of “wool.”   and all things which the Lord God gives thee. And thy offering shall be accepted as a savour of a sweet smell to the Lord thy God; and the Lord will bless the works of thy hands, and will multiply the good things of the land. “For a blessing is upon the head of him that giveth.”27492749     Prov. xi. 26.    

That Both the Law and the Gospel Prescribe Offerings.

XXXV. Now you ought to know, that although the Lord has delivered you from the additional bonds, and has brought you out of them to your refreshment, and does not permit you to sacrifice irrational creatures for sin-offerings, and purifications, and scapegoats, and continual washings and sprinklings, yet has He nowhere freed you from those oblations which you owe to the priests, nor from doing good to the poor. For the Lord says to you in the Gospel: “Unless your righteousness abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.”27502750     Matt. v. 20.   Now herein will your righteousness exceed theirs, if you take greater care of the priests, the orphans, and the widows; as it is written: “He hath scattered abroad; he hath given to the poor; his righteousness remaineth for ever.”27512751     Ps. cxii. 9.   And again: “By acts of righteousness and faith iniquities are purged.”27522752     Prov. xvi. 6.   And again: “Every bountiful soul is blessed.”27532753     Prov. xi. 25.   So therefore shalt thou do as the Lord has appointed, and shalt give to the priest what things are due to him, the first-fruits of thy floor, and of thy wine-press, and sin-offerings, as to the mediator between God and such as stand in need of purgation and forgiveness. For it is thy duty to give, and his to administer, as being the administrator and disposer of ecclesiastical affairs. Yet shalt thou not call thy bishop to account, nor watch his administration, how he does it, when, or to whom, or where, or whether he do it well or ill, or indifferently; for he has One who will call him to an account, the Lord God, who put this administration into his hands, and thought him worthy of the priesthood of so great dignity.  

The Recital of the Ten Commandments, and After What Manner They Do Here Prescribe to Us.

XXXVI. Have before thine eyes the fear of God, and always remember the ten commandments of God,—to love the one and only Lord God with all thy strength; to give no heed to idols, or any other beings, as being lifeless gods, or irrational beings or dæmons. Consider the manifold workmanship of God, which received its beginning through Christ. Thou shalt observe the Sabbath, on account of Him who ceased from His work of creation, but ceased not from His work of providence: it is a rest for meditation of the law, not for idleness of the hands. Reject every unlawful lust, everything destructive to men, and all anger. Honour thy parents, as the authors of thy being. Love thy neighbour as thyself. Communicate the necessaries of life to the needy. Avoid swearing falsely, and swearing often, and in vain; for thou shalt not be held guiltless. Do not appear before the priests empty, and offer thy free-will offerings continually. Moreover, do not leave the church of Christ; but go thither in the morning before all thy work, and again meet there in the evening, to return thanks to God that He has preserved thy life. Be diligent, and constant, and laborious in thy calling. Offer to the Lord thy free-will offerings; for says He, “Honour the Lord with the fruit of thy honest labours.”27542754     Prov. iii. 9.   If thou art not able to cast anything considerable into the Corban,27552755     The V. mss. read: “Casting into the treasury whatever you can bestow.”   yet at least bestow upon the strangers one, or two, or five mites. “Lay up to thyself heavenly treasure, which neither the moth nor thieves can destroy.”27562756     Matt. vi. 20.   And in doing this, do not judge thy bishop, or any of thy neighbours among the laity; for if thou judge thy brother, thou becomest a judge, without being constituted such by anybody, for the priests are only entrusted with the power of judging. For to them it is said, “Judge righteous judgment;”27572757     Deut. i. 16, xvi. 18.   and again “Approve yourselves to be exact money-changers.”27582758     Zech. vii. 9.   For to you this is not entrusted; for, on the contrary, it is said to those who are not of the dignity of magistrates or ministers: “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged.”27592759     Luke vi. 37 .    


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