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Lightfoot's Apostolic Fathers In English - J. B. Lightfoot, D. D., D.C. L., LL. D.

As I have heard from a certain Elder, who had heard from those who had seen the Apostles, and from their scholars:—that it is enough for the ancients to be reproved, as they are by the Scriptures, for what they did without counsel from the Spirit. For God, being no respecter of persons, upon things not done to His pleasure brings such reproof as is suitable. [Thus in the case of David, when on the one hand he was suffering persecution from Saul for righteousness’ sake, and flying from king Saul, and avenged not himself on his enemy, and was singing of Christ’s Advent, and teaching the nations wisdom, and doing all by the suggestion of the Spirit, he pleased God. But when for lust he took to his own self Bathsheba Uriah’s wife, the scripture hath said of him, But the thing etc. (2 Sam. 11:27): and Nathan the prophet is sent unto him, to shew him his sin, that he, passing sentence on himself, and judging himself, may find mercy and forgiveness from Christ.

And he said unto him etc. (2 Sam. 7:1–7); and goes over the rest in order, upbraiding him, and reckoning up God’s favours towards him, and how he had provoked the Lord in having done this. For that such conduct pleases not God, rather great anger is hanging over his house.

And hereupon David was pricked to the heart, and said, I have sinned against the Lord (2 Sam. 12:13), and afterwards he chanted the psalm of confession, waiting for the coming of the Lord, Who washes and cleanses the man who had been bound in sin.

And so it is also concerning Solomon; as long as he went on to judge rightly, and to declare wisdom, and was building the figure of the true Temple, and setting forth the glories of God, and announcing the peace which should come to the Gentiles, and prefiguring the Kingdom of Christ, and was speaking his three thousand parables on the coming of the Lord, and his five thousand songs, by way of hymn to God, and gathering accounts of God’s wisdom in the Creation, after the manner of a natural philosopher, from every tree, and from every herb, and from all fowls and quadrupeds and fishes, and saying, Will God indeed etc. (1 Kings 8:27), he both pleased God, and was admired by all, and all the kings of the Earth sought his face, to hear his wisdom which God had given him, and the Queen of the South came to him from the ends of the earth, to know the wisdom which was in him; who also, as the Lord saith, will rise again in the judgment with the generation of those who hear His words and believe not in Him, and will pass sentence upon them: because, while she submitted herself to the wisdom declared by the servant of God, they despised that wisdom which was given by the Son of God. For Solomon was a servant; but Christ the Son of God, and the Lord of Solomon. Well then, as long as he served God without offence, and ministered to His purposes, so long he was glorified: but when he took wives of all nations, and permitted them to set up idols in Israel, the Scripture hath said of him, And King Solomon was a lover etc. (1 Kings 11:1, 4, 6, 9).] The rebuke laid on him by Scripture was sufficient, as that Elder affirmed, that no flesh might glory before the Lord.

And therefore, he said, the Lord descended to the parts under the earth, announcing to them also the good news of His coming; there being remission of sins for such as believe on Him. [And those all believed on Him, who were hoping for Him: i.e., who foretold His coming and ministered to His purposes, righteous men and prophets and patriarchs: whose sins He forgave, even as He forgave ours, neither ought we to impute the same unto them, unless we despise the grace of God. For as they did not charge us with our irregularities, which we wrought before Christ was manifested in us; so neither is it just for us to charge the like, before the coming of Christ, on such as sinned. For all men need the glory of God (Rom. 3:23), and are justified not of themselves, but by the coming of the Lord—those I mean who look steadily on His Light.

And their deeds, he said, were written for our admonition: to teach us, first of all, that our God and theirs is one and the same; a God, Whom sins please not, though wrought by renowned persons: and next that we should abstain from evils. [For if those of old time who went before us in God’s special graces, for whom the Son of God had not yet suffered, were visited with such disgrace, if they transgressed in some one thing, and became slaves to fleshly concupiscence; what shall this generation suffer, as many as have despised the coming of the Lord, and turned utter slaves to their own pleasures?

And they indeed had our Lord’s death for the healing and remission of their sins: but for those who now sin Christ shall no more die, for death shall no more have dominion over Him; but the Son shall come in the glory of the Father, exacting from His agents and stewards the money which He lent them, with usury: and to whom He gave most, of them will He require most.]

We ought not therefore, said that Elder, to be proud, nor to reproach the ancients, but ourselves to fear, lest haply, after the knowledge of Christ, if we do anything which pleases not God, we no longer have remission of our sins, but find ourselves shut out of His Kingdom. And to this he referred Paul’s saying, For if He spared not etc. (Rom. 11:17, 21).

In like manner again the transgressions of the people, you see, are written down, not for their sake who did then transgress, but for our rebuke, and that we might know that it is one and the same God, against Whom they sinned, and against Whom sin even now certain of those who are said to have believed. And this again, he said, the Apostle did most clearly point out, saying in the Epistle to the Corinthians, For I would not have etc. (1 Cor. 10:1–12).

[Whereas therefore the Apostle declares, in a way which admits not of doubt or gainsaying, that it is one and the same God, Who both judged the things which then were, and searches out those which now are, and since he tells us the purpose of their being set down: unlearned and daring and senseless withal are all those proved to be, who take occasion from the sin of them of old time, and the disobedience of the greater part of them, to affirm that their God (Who is also the Maker of the world) is a different Being from the Father taught by Christ, and is in decay, and that it is this latter who is mentally received by every one of them. Because they consider not, that as in that case God was not well pleased with the greater part of them, being sinners, so also in this case many are called but few chosen (S. Matt. 10:16): as among them the unjust and idolaters and fornicators lost their life, so also among us. For both the Lord proclaims that such are sent into the eternal fire, and the Apostle saith, Know ye not etc. (1 Cor. 6:9, 10).

And in proof that he said this not to those who are without, but to us, lest we be cast out of the Kingdom of God, for doing some such thing, he hath subjoined, And these things etc. (1 Cor. 6:11).

And as in that case those were condemned and cast out, who did evil, and led the rest astray, so in this case also the very eye is dug out which gives offence, and the foot, and the hand, that the rest of the body perish not alike. And we have it ordained, If any is named etc. (1 Cor. 5:11). And again the Apostle saith, Let no man deceive you etc. (Eph. 5:6, 7).

And as then the condemnation of them that sinned imparted itself also to the rest, in that they were pleased with them, and they held converse together: so here also a little leaven corrupteth the whole mass (1 Cor. 5:6). And as there God’s anger came down against the unrighteous, here also saith the Apostle in like manner, For the wrath of God etc. (Rom. 1:18). And as there upon the Egyptians, who were punishing Israel unjustly, vengeance from God took place, so here also; since both the Lord saith, And shall not God etc. (S. Luke 18:7, 8), and the Apostle in the Epistle to the Thessalonians declares as follows, Since it is a righteous thing etc. (2 Thess. 1:6–10).]

Both here therefore and there is the same righteousness of God in maintaining God’s cause. There indeed it is done typically, and for a certain time, and with comparative moderation; but here truly, and for ever, and more severely. For the fire is eternal; and the anger of God which shall be revealed from heaven from the countenance of our Lord brings a greater penalty on those who incur it: as David also saith, But the countenance etc. (Ps. 34:16). This being so, the Elders used to declare those persons to be very senseless, who from what befel God’s disobedient people of old try to bring in another Father: objecting the great things which the Lord when He came had done to save those who received Him, in His pity for them; but saying nothing of His judgment and of all that is to happen to such as have heard His words and fulfilled them not; and how it were good for them if they had not been born: and how it shall be more tolerable for Sodom and Gomorrah in the judgment than for that city which received not the words of His disciples.

IRENÆUS iv. 27. 1–28. 1.








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