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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. III.—The Heresies Attacked by the Apostles.

An Exposition of the Preaching of the Apostles.

XI. But we, who are the children of God and the sons of peace, do preach the holy and right word of piety, and declare one only God, the Lord of the law and of the prophets, the Maker of the world, the Father of Christ; not a being that caused Himself, or begat Himself, as they suppose, but eternal, and without original, and inhabiting light inaccessible; not two or three, or manifold, but eternally one only; not a being that cannot be known or spoken of, but who was preached by the law and the prophets; the Almighty, the Supreme Governor of all things, the All-powerful Being; the God and Father of the Only-begotten, and of the First-born of the whole creation; one God, the Father of one Son, not of many; the Maker of one Comforter by Christ, the Maker of the other orders, the one Creator of the several creatures by Christ, the same their Preserver and Legislator by Him; the cause of the resurrection, and of the judgment, and of the retribution which shall be made by Him: that this same Christ was pleased to become man, and went through life without sin, and suffered, and rose from the dead, and returned to Him that sent Him. We also say that every creature of God is good, and nothing abominable; that everything for the support of life, when it is partaken of righteously, is very good: for, according to the Scripture, “all things were very good.”32073207     Gen. i. 31.   We believe that lawful marriage, and the begetting of children, is honourable and undefiled; for difference of sexes was formed in Adam and Eve for the increase of mankind. We acknowledge with us a soul that is incorporeal and immortal,—not corruptible as bodies are, but immortal, as being rational and free. We abhor all unlawful mixtures, and that which is practised by some against nature as wicked and impious. We profess there will be a resurrection both of the just and unjust, and a retribution. We profess that Christ is not a mere man, but God the Word, and man the Mediator between God and men, the High Priest of the Father; nor are we circumcised with the Jews, as knowing that He is come “to whom the inheritance was reserved,”32083208     Gen xlix. 10.   and on whose account the families were kept distinct—“the expectation of the Gentiles,” Jesus Christ, who sprang out of Judah,32093209     Gen. xlix. 9   the Son from the branch, the flower from Jesse, whose government is upon His shoulder.32103210     Isa. xi. 1, ix. 6    

For Those that Confess Christ, But are Desirous to Judaize.

XII. But because this heresy did then seem the more powerful to seduce men, and the whole Church was in danger,32113211     Acts xv   we the twelve assembled together at Jerusalem (for Matthias was chosen to be an apostle in the room of the betrayer, and took the lot of Judas; as it is said, “His bishopric32123212     Ps. cix. 8; Acts i. 20. [The name common to apostles and elders.]   let another take”). We deliberated, together with James the Lord’s brother, what was to be done; and it seemed good to him and to the elders to speak to the people words of doctrine. For certain men likewise went down from Judea to Antioch, and taught the brethren who were there, saying: “Unless ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, and walk according to the other customs which he ordained, ye cannot be saved.”32133213     Acts xv. 1.   When, therefore, there had been no small dissension and disputation, the brethren which were at Antioch, when they knew that we were all met together about this question, sent out unto us men who were faithful and understanding in the Scriptures to learn concerning this question. And they, when they were come to Jerusalem, declared to us what questions were arisen in the church of Antioch,—namely, that some said men ought to be circumcised, and to observe the other purifications. And when some said one thing, and some another, I Peter stood up, and said unto them: “Men and brethren, ye know how that from ancient days God made choice among you that the Gentiles should hear the word of the Gospel by my mouth, and believe; and God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness.32143214     Acts. xv. 7, 8.   For an angel of the Lord appeared on a certain time to Cornelius,32153215     Acts x.   who was a centurion of the Roman government, and spake to him concerning me, that he should send for me, and hear the word of life from my mouth. He therefore sent for me from Joppa to Cæsarea Stratonis; and when I was ready to go to him, I would have eaten. And while they made ready I was in the upper room praying; and I saw heaven opened, and a vessel, knit at the four corners like a splendid sheet, let down to the earth, wherein were all manner of four-footed beasts, and creeping things of the earth, and fowls of the heaven. And there came a voice out of heaven to me, saying, Arise, Peter; kill, and eat. And I said, By no means, Lord: for I have never eaten anything common or unclean. And there came a voice a second time, saying, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done thrice, and the vessel was received up again into heaven. But as I doubted what this vision should mean, the Spirit said to me, Behold, men seek thee; but rise up, and go thy way with them, nothing doubting, for I have sent them.32163216     Acts x. 13, etc.   These men were those which came from the centurion, and so by reasoning I understood the word of the Lord which is written: ‘Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be saved.’32173217     Joel ii. 32   And again: ‘All the ends of the earth shall remember, and turn unto the Lord, and all the families of the heathen shall worship before Him: for the kingdom is in the Lord’s, and He is the governor of the nations.’32183218     Ps. xxii. 27, 28   And observing that there were expressions everywhere concerning the calling of the Gentiles, I rose up, and went with them, and entered into the man’s house. And while I was preaching the word, the Holy Spirit fell upon him, and upon those that were with him, as it did upon us at the beginning; and He put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. And I perceived that God is no respecter of persons; but that in every nation he that feareth Him, and worketh righteousness, will be accepted with Him. But even the believers which were of the circumcision were astonished at this. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to lay an heavy yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither we nor our fathers were able to bear? But by the grace of the Lord, we believe we shall be saved, even as they.32193219     Acts xi. 15, x. 34, 35, 45, xv. 9, 10   For the Lord has loosed us from our bonds, and has made our burden light, and has loosed the heavy yoke from us by His clemency.” While I spake these things, the whole multitude kept silence. But James the Lord’s brother answered and said: “Men and brethren, hearken unto me; Simeon hath declared how God at first visited to take out a people from the Gentiles for His name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written: ‘Afterwards I will return, and will raise again and rebuild the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will rebuild its ruins, and will again set it up, that the residue of men may seek after the Lord, and all the nations upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doth these things.’32203220     Amos ix. 11   Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world. Wherefore my sentence is, that we do not trouble those who from among the Gentiles turn unto God: but to charge them that they abstain from the pollutions of the Gentiles, and from what is sacrificed to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication; which laws were given to the ancients who lived before the law, under the law of nature, Enos, Enoch, Noah, Melchizedek, Job, and if there be any other of the same sort.”32213221     Acts xv. 13, etc.   Then it seemed good to us the apostles, and to James the bishop, and to the elders, with the whole Church, to send men chosen from among our own selves, with Barnabas, and Paul of Tarsus, the apostle of the Gentiles, and Judas who was called Barsabbas, and Silas, chief men among the brethren, and wrote by their hand, as follows: “The apostles, and elders, and brethren,32223222     [Compare Elucidation III. vol. v. p. 411, this series.]   to the brethren of Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia of the Gentiles, send greeting: Since we have heard that some from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, to whom we gave no such commandment, it has seemed good to us, when we were met together with one accord, to send chosen men to you, with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men that have hazarded their lives for our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom ye sent unto us. We have sent also with them Judas and Silas, who shall themselves declare the same things by mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay no other burden upon you than these necessary things; that ye abstain from things offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which things if ye keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”32233223     Acts xv. 23, etc.   We accordingly sent this epistle; but we ourselves remained in Jerusalem many days, consulting together for the public benefit, for the well ordering of all things.  

That We Must Separate from Heretics.

XIII. But after a long time we visited the brethren, and confirmed them with the word of piety, and charged them to avoid those who, under the name of Christ and Moses, war against Christ and Moses, and in the clothing of sheep hide the wolf. For these are false Christs, and false prophets, and false apostles, deceivers and corrupters, portions of foxes, the destroyers of the herbs of the vineyards: “for whose sake the love of many will wax cold. But he that endureth stedfast to the end, the same shall be saved.”32243224     Matt. xxiv. 12, 13.   Concerning whom, that He might secure us, the Lord declared, saying: “There will come to you men in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits; take care of them. For false Christs and false prophets shall arise and shall deceive many.”32253225     Matt. vii. 15, xxiv. 24.    

Who Were the Preachers of the Catholic Doctrine, and Which are the Commandments Given by Them.

XIV. On whose account also we, who are now assembled in one place,—Peter and Andrew; James and John, sons of Zebedee; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew; James the son of Alphæus, and Lebbæus who is surnamed Thaddæus; and Simon the Canaanite,32263226     Matt. x. 2.   and Matthias, who instead of Judas was numbered with us; and James the brother of the Lord and bishop of Jerusalem, and Paul the teacher of the Gentiles, the chosen vessel, having all met together, have written to you this Catholic doctrine for the confirmation of you, to whom the oversight of the universal Church is committed: wherein we declare unto you, that there is only one God Almighty, besides whom there is no other, and that you must worship and adore Him alone, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in the most holy Spirit;32273227     One V. ms. reads as follows: “And our Lord Jesus Christ, and the most holy Spirit.”   that you are to make use of the sacred Scriptures, the law, and the prophets; to honour your parents; to avoid all unlawful actions; to believe the resurrection and the judgment, and to expect the retribution; and to use all His creatures with thankfulness, as the works of God, and having no evil in them; to marry after a lawful manner, for such marriage is unblameable. For “the woman is suited to the man by the Lord;”32283228     Prov. xix. 14.   and the Lord says: “He that made them from the beginning, made them male and female; and said, For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they two shall be one flesh.”32293229     Matt. xix. 4, 5.   Nor let it be esteemed lawful after marriage to put her away who is without blame. For says He: “Thou shalt take care to thy spirit, and shalt not forsake the wife of thy youth; for she is the partner32303230     The words from “for she is the partner” to “made her” are omitted in one V. ms.   of thy life, and the remains of thy spirit. I and no other have made her.”32313231     Mal. ii. 15, 14   For the Lord says: “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.”32323232     Matt. xix. 6   For the wife is the partner of life, united by God unto one body from two. But he that divides that again into two which is become one, is the enemy of the creation of God, and the adversary of His providence. In like manner, he that retains her that is corrupted is a transgressor of the law of nature; since “he that retains an adulteress is foolish and impious.”32333233     Prov. xviii. 22   For says He, “Cut her off from thy flesh;”32343234     Ecclus. xxv. 26   for she is not an help, but a snare, bending her mind from thee to another. Nor be ye circumcised in your flesh, but let the circumcision which is of the heart by the Spirit suffice for the faithful; for He says, “Be ye circumcised to your God, and be circumcised in the foreskin of your heart.”32353235     Jer. iv. 4    

That We Ought Not to Rebaptize, Nor to Receive that Baptism Which is Given by the Ungodly, Which is Not Baptism, But a Pollution.

XV. Be ye likewise contented with one baptism alone, that which is into the death of the Lord; not that which is conferred by wicked heretics, but that which is conferred by unblameable priests, “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:”32363236     Matt. xxviii. 19.   and let not that which comes from the ungodly be received by you, nor let that which is done by the godly be disannulled by a second. For as there is one God, one Christ, and one Comforter, and one death of the Lord in the body, so let that baptism which is unto Him be but one. But those that receive polluted baptism from the ungodly will become partners in their opinions. For they are not priests. For God says to them: “Because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee from the office of a priest to me.”32373237     Hos. iv. 6. [Compare vol. v. p. 565, this series.]   Nor indeed are those that are baptized by them initiated, but are polluted, not receiving the remission of sins, but the bond of impiety. And, besides, they that attempt to baptize those already initiated crucify the Lord afresh, slay Him a second time, laugh at divine and ridicule holy things, affront the Spirit, dishonour the sacred blood of Christ as common blood, are impious against Him that sent, Him that suffered, and Him that witnessed. Nay, he that, out of contempt, will not be baptized, shall be condemned as an unbeliever, and shall be reproached as ungrateful and foolish. For the Lord says: “Except a man be baptized of water and of the Spirit, he shall by no means enter into the kingdom of heaven.”32383238     John iii. 5.   And again: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”32393239     Mark xvi. 16.   But he that says, When I am dying I will be baptized, lest I should sin and defile my baptism, is ignorant of God, and forgetful of his own nature. For “do not thou delay to turn unto the Lord, for thou knowest not what the next day will bring forth.”32403240     Ecclus. v. 7; Prov. xxvii. 1, iii. 28.   Do you also baptize your infants, and bring them up in the nurture and admonition of God. For says He: “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not.”32413241     Matt. xix. 14.    

Concerning Books with False Inscriptions.

XVI. We have sent all these things to you, that ye may know our opinion, what it is; and that ye may not receive those books which obtain in our name, but are written by the ungodly. For you are not to attend to the names of the apostles, but to the nature of the things, and their settled opinions. For we know that Simon and Cleobius, and their followers, have compiled poisonous books under the name of Christ and of His disciples, and do carry them about in order to deceive you who love Christ, and us His servants. And among the ancients also some have written apocryphal books of Moses, and Enoch, and Adam, and Isaiah, and David, and Elijah, and of the three patriarchs, pernicious and repugnant to the truth. The same things even now have the wicked heretics done, reproaching the creation, marriage, providence, the begetting of children, the law, and the prophets; inscribing certain barbarous names, and, as they think, of angels, but, to speak the truth, of demons, which suggest things to them: whose doctrine eschew, that ye may not be partakers of the punishment due to those that write such things for the seduction and perdition of the faithful and unblameable disciples of the Lord Jesus.  

Matrimonial Precepts Concerning Clergymen.

XVII. We have already said, that a bishop, a presbyter, and a deacon, when they are constituted, must be but once married, whether their wives be alive or whether they be dead; and that it is not lawful for them, if they are unmarried when they are ordained, to be married afterwards; or if they be then married, to marry a second time, but to be content with that wife which they had when they came to ordination.32423242     1 Tim. iii. 2, 12; Tit. i. 6.   We also appoint that the ministers, and singers, and readers, and porters, shall be only once married. But if they entered into the clergy before they were married, we permit them to marry, if they have an inclination thereto, lest they sin and incur punishment.32433243     [See Elucidation XIII. vol. v. p. 160, this series.]   But we do not permit any one of the clergy to take to wife either a courtesan, or a servant, or a widow, or one that is divorced, as also the law says. Let the deaconess be a pure virgin; or, at the least, a widow who has been but once married, faithful, and well esteemed.32443244     Lev. xxi. 7, 14; 1 Tim. v. 9.    

An Exhortation Commanding to Avoid the Communion of the Impious Heretics.

XVIII. Receive ye the penitent, for this is the will of God in Christ. Instruct the catechumens in the elements of religion, and then baptize them. Eschew the antheistical heretics, who are past repentance, and separate them from the faithful, and excommunicate them from the Church of God, and charge the faithful to abstain entirely from them, and not to partake with them either in sermons or prayers: for these are those that are enemies to the Church, and lay snares for it; who corrupt the flock, and defile the heritage of Christ, pretenders only to wisdom, and the vilest of men; concerning whom Solomon the wise said: “The wicked doers pretend to act piously.” For, says he, “there is a way which seemeth right to some, but the ends thereof look to the bottom of hell.”32453245     Prov. xiv. 12.   These are they concerning whom the Lord declared His mind with bitterness and severity, saying that “they are false Christs and false teachers;”32463246     Matt. xxiv. 24.   who have blasphemed the Spirit of grace, and done despite to the gift they had from Him after the grace of baptism, “to whom forgiveness shall not be granted, neither in this world nor in that which is to come;”32473247     Matt. xii. 32.   who are both more wicked than the Jews and more atheistical than the Gentiles; who blaspheme the God over all, and tread under foot His Son, and do despite to the doctrine of the Spirit; who deny the words of God, or pretend hypocritically to receive them, to the affronting of God, and the deceiving of those that come among them; who abuse the Holy Scriptures, and as for righteousness, they do not so much as know what it is; who spoil the Church of God, as the “little foxes do the vineyard;”32483248     Vid. Cant. ii. 15.   whom we exhort you to avoid, lest you lay traps for your own souls. “For he that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but he that walketh with the foolish shall be known.”32493249     Prov. xiii. 20   For we ought neither to run along with a thief, nor put in our lot with an adulterer; since holy David says: “O Lord, I have hated them that hate Thee, and I am withered away on account of Thy enemies. I hated them with a perfect hatred: they were to me as enemies.”32503250     Ps. cxxxix. 21, 22   And God reproaches Jehoshaphat with his friendship towards Ahab, and his league with him and with Ahaziah, by Jonah the prophet: “Art thou in friendship with a sinner? Or dost thou aid him that is hated by the Lord?”32513251     2 Chron. xix. 2   “For this cause the wrath of the Lord would be upon thee suddenly, but that thy heart is found perfect with the Lord. For this cause the Lord hath spared thee; yet are thy works shattered, and thy ships broken to pieces.”32523252     2 Chron. xx. 37   Eschew therefore their fellowship, and estrange yourselves from their friendship. For concerning them did the prophet declare, and say: “It is not lawful to rejoice with the ungodly,”32533253     Vid Isa. lvii. 21   says the Lord. For these are hidden wolves, dumb dogs, that cannot bark, who at present are but few, but in process of time, when the end of the world draws nigh, will be more in number and more troublesome, of whom said the Lord, “Will the Son of man, when He comes, find faith on the earth?”32543254     Luke xviii. 8.   and, “Because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold;” and, “There shall come false Christs and false prophets, and shall show signs in the heaven, so as, if it were possible, to deceive the elect:”32553255     Matt. xxiv. 12, 24.   from whose deceit God, through Jesus Christ, who is our hope, will deliver us. For we ourselves, as we passed through the nations, and confirmed the churches, curing some with much exhortation and healing words, restored them again when they were in the certain way to death. But those that were incurable we cast out from the flock, that they might not infect the lambs, which were found with their scabby disease, but might continue before the Lord God pure and undefiled, sound and unspotted. And this we did in every city, everywhere through the whole world, and have left to you the bishops and to the rest of the priests this very Catholic doctrine worthily and righteously, as a memorial or confirmation to those who have believed in God; and we have sent it by our fellow-minister Clement, our most faithful and intimate son in the Lord, together with Barnabas, and Timothy our most dearly beloved son, and the genuine Mark, together with whom we recommend to you also Titus and Luke, and Jason and Lucius, and Sosipater.32563256     Rom. xvi. 21.    


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