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

Those again who upbraid and charge us with the circumstance, that the people by command of God, on point of departure, received of the Egyptians vessels of all sorts and apparel, and so went away, from which stores the Tabernacle also was made in the wilderness, prove themselves ignorant of God’s ways of justification, and of His providences; as that Elder likewise used to say. [Since, had not God permitted this in the typical journey, no man could at this day be saved in our real journey, i.e., in the faith wherein we are established, whereby we have been taken out of the number of the Gentiles. For we are all accompanied by some property, moderate or large, which we have gotten out of the Mammon of iniquity. For whence are the houses in which we dwell, and the garments which we put on, and the furniture which we use, and all the rest of what serves us for our daily life, but out of what in our Gentile state we gained by avarice, or what we have received from Gentile parents, or kinsmen, or friends, who acquired it by injustice? Not to say that even now, while we are in the faith, we gain. For who sells, and desires not to gain from the buyer? And who buys, and would not fain be dealt with by the seller to his profit? Again, what person in business does not carry on his business, that so he may get his bread thereby? And how is it with those believers who are in the royal court? Have they not goods from among the things which are Caesar’s, and doth not each one of them according to his ability impart unto such as have not? The Egyptians were debtors to the people not only for their goods but for their life also, through the former kindness of the Patriarch Joseph: but in what respect are the Gentiles debtors to us, from whom we receive both profit and the commodities of life? Whatsoever they gain with toil, that we, being in the faith, use without toil.

Besides, the people were serving the Egyptians in the worst of servitude, as saith the Scripture, And the Egyptians violently etc. (Exod. 1:13, 14); and with much toil they built them fortified cities, adding to their stores for many years, and in every kind of servitude; whereas the others, over and above their ingratitude toward them, were fain even to destroy them utterly.

What then was unrighteously done, if they took a little out of much, and if those who might have had much property, and gone away rich, had they not served them, went away poor, receiving for their heavy servitude very scanty wages? So, if any free person, carricd away violently by some one, and serving him many years and increasing his goods, should afterwards, upon gaining some little support, be suspected of having some small portion of his master’s property (whereas in fact he goes off with a very little, out of his own many toils and of the other’s great gain) and if this were charged on him by any one as a wrong; the judge himself will rather appear unjust towards him who had been reduced to slavery by force. Now of like sort are the aforesaid, who blame the people for taking to themselves a little out of much, yet blame not themselves, who have made no due return according to the merit of their parents, but rather, reducing them into most heavy servitude, have obtained from them very great advantage. And while they charge the Jews with unjust dealings, for receiving, as we said before, in a few little vessels uncoined gold and silver; of themselves (for the truth shall be spoken, ridiculous as it may appear to some) they say that they do justly in bearing about in their girdles stamped gold and silver and copper from others’ toils, with the inscription and image of Caesar upon it.

But if we and they are compared, which will seem to have received more honestly? The people from the Egyptians, who were in all their debtors, or we from the Romans and other Gentiles, those even who owe us no such debt? Rather by them the world hath peace, and we walk on the highways and sail whithersoever we will without fear. Against this sort of objector then, our Lord’s saying will be applicable, Thou hypocrite etc. (S. Matt. 7:5).

For, if he who lays this to thy charge, and glories in his knowledge, is cut off from the assembly of the Gentiles, and there is nothing of others’ property with him; if he be simply naked and barefoot, and haunt the mountains without a home, like some of those animals which eat grass: he will obtain pardon, as not knowing what is needed in our manner of life. But if he take from men his share in the property of others, as it is called, while he finds fault with the type of the same, he proves himself to be most unjust, and turns back on himself the aforesaid accusation.] For he will be convicted of carrying about what is another’s, and of desiring what is not his own: and with a view to this, they report, the Lord said, Judge not that ye etc. (S. Matt. 7:1, 2). [Not of course that we rebuke not sinners, or consent to things done amiss, but that we judge not unfairly God’s ways of ordering things, whereas He hath provided in righteousness whatsoever shall be profitable. Thus, because He knew that we would make a good use of our substance, which we should have, receiving it from another, He that hath two coats, saith He, let him impart etc. (S. Luke 3:11). Again, For I was an hungred etc. (S. Matt. 25:35, 36). Again, When thou doest alms etc. (S. Matt. 6:3): and all other acts of bounty upon which we are justified, redeeming our own as it were by what was another’s. And when I say, Another’s, I do not mean that the world is alien from God, but that we receive from others and possess the aforesaid gifts, even as they from the Egyptians who knew not God; and by these same we build up for ourselves the tabernacle of God. For with doers of good God dwelleth: as saith the Lord, Make to yourselves friends etc. (S. Luke 16:9). For whatsoever things we had acquired, when we were heathens, by unrighteousness, those same, now we have believed, we turn to the Lord’s service, and so are justified.

These things were then of necessity practised in type beforehand, and out of those materials the tabernacle of God is wrought; in which matter, as we have explained, both they received justly, and we were prophetically indicated, how that we should begin to wait on God with things not our own. For all that journey of the people, whereby God brought them out of Egypt, was the type and image of the Church’s journey, which was to take place from among the Gentiles; which journey accordingly ends also with leading her hence into her inheritance, which not indeed Moses the servant of God, but Jesus the Son of God, will give her to inherit. And if any one will look more carefully at what the Prophets say of the end, and at all that John the Lord’s disciple saw in the Apocalypse, he will find the Gentiles generally enduring the same plagues, which at that time Egypt in particular endured.]

By statements of this kind touching the ancients did that Elder console us, and say that concerning those faults, which the Scriptures themselves have laid to the charge of Patriarchs and Prophets, we must not reproach them, nor be like Ham, who scoffed at the disgrace of his father, and fell into the curse; but we must give thanks to God for them, inasmuch as their sins were forgiven them in the coming of our Lord. For that (his word it is) they give thanks and exult in our salvation.

But in respect of those things, for which the Scriptures reprove them not, but simply state the facts, we must not, he said, become accusers (for we are not more exact than God, nor can we be above our master), but lookout for the typical meaning. For none of all the things, which are set down in the Scriptures without definite censure, is without its force.

IRENÆUS iv. 30. 1–31. 1.








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