Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume VII/Constitutions of the Holy Apostles/Book VI/Sec. IV

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Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. VII, Constitutions of the Holy Apostles, Book VI by Clement of Rome, translated by Philip Schaff et al.
Sec. IV

Sec. IV.—Of the Law.

By whom also we exhort you in the Lord to abstain from your old conversation, vain bonds, separations, observances, distinction of meats, and daily washings: for “old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.”[1]  

To Those that Speak Evil of the Law.

XIX. For since ye have known God through Jesus Christ, and all His dispensation, as it has been from the beginning, that He gave a plain law to assist the law of nature,[2] such a one as is pure, saving, and holy, in which His own name was inscribed,[3] perfect, which is never to fail, being complete in ten commands, unspotted, converting souls;[4] which, when the Hebrews forgot, He put them in mind of it by the prophet Malachi, saying, “Remember ye the law of Moses, the man of God, who gave you in charge commandments and ordinances.”[5] Which law is so very holy and righteous, that even our Saviour, when on a certain time He healed one leper, and afterwards nine, said to the first, “Go, show thyself to the high priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony unto them;”[6] and afterwards to the nine, “Go, show yourselves to the priests.”[7] For He nowhere has dissolved the law, as Simon pretends, but fulfilled it; for He says: “One iota, or one tittle, shall not pass from the law until all be fulfilled.” For says He, “I come not to dissolve the law, but to fulfil it.”[8] For Moses himself, who was at once the lawgiver, and the high priest, and the prophet, and the king, and Elijah, the zealous follower of the prophets, were present at our Lord’s transfiguration in the mountain,[9] and witnesses of His incarnation and of His sufferings, as the intimate friends of Christ, but not as enemies and strangers. Whence it is demonstrated that the law is good and holy, as also the prophets.  

Which is the Law of Nature, and Which is that Afterwards Introduced, and Why It Was Introduced.

XX. Now the law is the decalogue, which the Lord promulgated to them with an audible voice,[10] before the people made that calf which represented the Egyptian Apis.[11] And the law is righteous, and therefore is it called the law, because judgments are thence made according to the law of nature, which the followers of Simon abuse, supposing they shall not be judged thereby, and so shall escape punishment. This law is good, holy, and such as lays no compulsion in things positive. For He says: “If thou wilt make me an altar, thou shalt make it of earth.”[12] It does not say, “Make one,” but, “If thou wilt make.” It does not impose a necessity, but gives leave to their own free liberty. For God does not stand in need of sacrifices, being by nature above all want. But knowing that, as of old, Abel, beloved of God, and Noah and Abraham, and those that succeeded, without being required, but only moved of themselves by the law of nature, did offer sacrifice to God out of a grateful mind; so He did now permit the Hebrews, not commanding, but, if they had a mind, permitting them; and if they offered from a right intention, showing Himself pleased with their sacrifices. Therefore He says: “If thou desirest to offer, do not offer to me as to one that stands in need of it, for I stand in need of nothing; for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof.”[13] But when this people became forgetful of that, and called upon a calf as God, instead of the true God, and to him did ascribe the cause of their coming out of Egypt, saying, “These are thy gods, O Israel, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt;”[14] and when these men had committed wickedness with the “similitude of a calf that eateth hay;” and denied God who had visited them by Moses[15] in their afflictions, and had done signs with his hand and rod, and had smitten the Egyptians with ten plagues; who had divided the waters of the Red Sea into two parts; who had led them in the midst of the water, as a horse upon the ground; who had drowned their enemies, and those that laid wait for them; who at Marah had made sweet the bitter fountain; who had brought water out of the sharp rock till they were satisfied; who had overshadowed them with a pillar of a cloud on account of the immoderate heat, and with a pillar of fire which enlightened and guided them when they knew not which way they were to go; who gave them manna from heaven, and gave them quails for flesh from the sea;[16] who gave them the law in the mountain; whose voice He had vouchsafed to let them hear; Him did they deny, and said to Aaron, “Make us gods who shall go before us;”[17] and they made a molten calf, and sacrificed to an idol;—then was God angry, as being ungratefully treated by them, and bound them with bonds which could not be loosed, with a mortifying burden and a hard collar, and no longer said, “If thou makest,” but, “Make an altar,” and sacrifice perpetually; for thou art forgetful and ungrateful. Offer burnt-offerings therefore continually, that thou mayest be mindful of me. For since thou hast wickedly abused thy power, I lay a necessity upon thee for the time to come, and I command thee to abstain from certain meats; and I ordain thee the distinction of clean and unclean creatures, although every creature is good, as being made by me; and I appoint thee several separations, purgations, frequent washings and sprinklings, several purifications, and several times of rest; and if thou neglectest any of them, I determine that punishment which is proper to the disobedient, that being pressed and galled by thy collar, thou mayest depart from the error of polytheism, and laying aside that, “These are thy gods, O Israel,”[18] mayest be mindful of that, “Hear, O Israel, the Lord thy God is one Lord;”[19] and mayest run back again to that law which is inserted by me in the nature of all men, “that there is only one God in heaven and on earth, and to love Him with all thy heart, and all thy might, and all thy mind,” and to fear none but Him, nor to admit the names of other gods into thy mind, nor to let thy tongue utter them out of thy mouth. He bound them for the hardness of their hearts, that by sacrificing, and resting, and purifying themselves, and by similar observances, they might come to the knowledge of God, who ordained these things for them.  

That We Who Believe in Christ are Under Grace, and Not Under the Servitude of that Additional Law.

XXI. “But blessed are your eyes, for they see; and your ears, for they hear.”[20] Yours, I say, who have believed in the one God, not by necessity, but by a sound understanding, in obedience to Him that called you. For you are released from the bonds, and freed from the servitude. For says He:[21] “I call you no longer servants, but friends; for all things that I have heard of my Father have I made known unto you.”[22] For to them that would not see nor hear, not for the want of those senses, but for the excess of their wickedness, “I gave statutes that were not good, and judgments whereby they would not live;”[23] they are looked upon as not good, as burnings and a sword, and medicines are esteemed enemies by the sick, and impossible to be observed on account of their obstinacy: whence also they brought death upon them being not obeyed.  

That the Law for Sacrifices is Additional, Which Christ When He Came Took Away.

XXII. You therefore are blessed who are delivered from the curse, For Christ, the Son of God, by His coming has confirmed and completed the law, but has taken away the additional precepts, although not all of them, yet at least the more grievous ones; having confirmed the former, and abolished the latter, and has again set the free-will of man at liberty, not subjecting him to the penalty of a temporal death, but giving laws to him according to another constitution. Wherefore He says: “If any man will come after me, let him come.”[24] And again: “Will ye also go away?”[25] And besides, before His coming He refused the sacrifices of the people, while they frequently offered them, when they sinned against Him, and thought He was to be appeased by sacrifices, but not by repentance. For thus He speaks: “Why dost thou bring to me frankincense from Saba, and cinnamon from a remote land? Your burnt-offerings are not acceptable, and your sacrifices are not sweet to me.”[26] And afterwards: “Gather your burnt-offerings, together with your sacrifices, and eat flesh. For I did not command you, when I brought you out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt-offerings and sacrifices.”[27] And He says by Isaiah: “To what purpose do ye bring me a multitude of sacrifices? saith the Lord. I am full of the burnt-offerings of rams, and I will not accept the fat of lambs, and the blood of bulls and of goats. Nor do you come and appear before me; for who hath required these things at your hands? Do not go on to tread my courts any more. If you bring me fine flour, it is vain: incense is an abomination unto me: your new moons, and your Sabbaths, and your great day, I cannot bear them: your fasts, and your rests, and your feasts, my soul hateth them; I am over-full of them.”[28] And He says by another: “Depart from me; the sound of thine hymns, and the psalms of thy musical instruments, I will not hear.”[29] And Samuel says to Saul, when he thought to sacrifice: “Obedience is better than sacrifice, and hearkening than the fat of rams. For, behold, the Lord does not so much delight in sacrifice, as in obeying Him.”[30] And He says by David: “I will take no calves out of thine house, nor he-goats out of thy flock. If I should be hungry, I would not tell thee; for the whole world is mine, and the fulness thereof. Shall I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Sacrifice to God the sacrifice of praise, and pay thy vows to the Most High.”[31] And in all the Scriptures in like manner He refuses their sacrifices on account of their sinning against Him. For “the sacrifices of the impious are an abomination with the Lord, since they offer them in an unlawful manner.”[32] And again: “Their sacrifices are to them as bread of lamentation; all that eat of them shall be defiled.”[33] If, therefore, before His coining He sought for “a clean heart and a contrite spirit”[34] more than sacrifices, much rather would He abrogate those sacrifices, I mean those by blood, when He came. Yet He so abrogated them as that He first fulfilled them. For He was both circumcised, and sprinkled, and offered sacrifices and whole burnt-offerings, and made use of the rest of their customs. And He that was the Lawgiver became Himself the fulfilling of the law; not taking away the law of nature, but abrogating those additional laws that were afterwards introduced, although not all of them neither.  

How Christ Became a Fulfiller of the Law, and What Parts of It He Put a Period To, or Changed, or Transferred.

XXIII. For He did not take away the law of nature, but confirmed it. For He that said in the law, “The Lord thy God is one Lord;”[35] the same says in the Gospel, “That they might know Thee, the only true God.”[36] And He that said, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,”[37] says in the Gospel, renewing the same precept, “A new commandment I give unto you, that ye love one another.”[38] He who then forbade murder, does now forbid causeless anger.[39] He that forbade adultery, does now forbid all unlawful lust. He that forbade stealing, now pronounces him most happy who supplies those that are in want out of his own labours.[40] He that forbade hatred, now pronounces him blessed that loves his enemies.[41] He that forbade revenge, now commands long-suffering;[42] not as if just revenge were an unrighteous thing, but because long-suffering is more excellent. Nor did He make laws to root out our natural passions, but only to forbid the excess of them.[43] He who had commanded to honour our parents, was Himself subject to them.[44] He who had commanded to keep the Sabbath, by resting thereon for the sake of meditating on the laws, has now commanded us to consider of the law of creation, and of providence every day, and to return thanks to God. He abrogated circumcision when He had Himself fulfilled it. For He it was “to whom the inheritance was reserved, who was the expectation of the nations.”[45] He who made a law for swearing rightly, and forbade perjury, has now charged us not to swear at all.[46] He has in several ways changed baptism, sacrifice, the priesthood, and the divine service, which was confined to one place: for instead of daily baptisms, He has given only one, which is that into His death. Instead of one tribe, He has appointed that out of every nation the best should be ordained for the priesthood; and that not their bodies should be examined for blemishes, but their religion and their lives. Instead of a bloody sacrifice, He has appointed that reasonable and unbloody mystical one of His body and blood, which is performed to represent the death of the Lord by symbols. Instead of the divine service confined to one place, He has commanded and appointed that He should be glorified from sunrising to sunsetting in every place of His dominion.[47] He did not therefore take away the law from us, but the bonds. For concerning the law Moses says: “Thou shalt meditate on the word which I command thee, sitting in thine house, and rising up, and walking in the way.”[48] And David says: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law will he meditate day and night.”[49] For everywhere would he have us subject to His laws, but not transgressors of them. For says He: “Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord. Blessed are they that search out His testimonies; with their whole heart shall they seek Him.”[50] And again: “Blessed are we, O Israel, because those things that are pleasing to God are known to us.”[51] And the Lord says: “If ye know these things, happy are ye if ye do them.”[52]  

That It Pleased the Lord that the Law of Righteousness Should Be Demonstrated by the Romans.

XXIV. Nor does He desire that the law of righteousness should only be demonstrated by us; but He is pleased that it should appear and shine by means of the Romans. For these Romans, believing in the Lord, left off their polytheism and injustice, and entertain the good, and punish the bad. But they hold the Jews under tribute, and do not suffer them to make use of their own ordinances.  

How God, on Account of Their Impiety Towards Christ, Made the Jews Captives, and Placed Them Under Tribute.

XXV. Because, indeed, they drew servitude upon themselves voluntarily, when they said, “We have no king but Cæsar;”[53] and, “If we do not slay Christ, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and will take away both our place and nation.”[54] And so they prophesied unwittingly. For accordingly the nations believed on Him, and they themselves were deprived by the Romans of their power, and of their legal worship; and they have been forbidden to slay whom they please, and to sacrifice when they will. Wherefore they are accursed, as not able to perform the things they are commanded to do. For says He: “Cursed be he that does not continue in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them.”[55] Now it is impossible in their dispersion, while they are among the heathen, for them to perform all things in their law. For the divine Moses forbids both to rear an altar out of Jerusalem, and to read the law out of the bounds of Judea.[56] Let us therefore follow Christ, that we may inherit His blessings. Let us walk after the law and the prophets by the Gospel. Let us eschew the worshippers of many gods, and the murderers of Christ, and the murderers of the prophets, and the wicked and atheistical heretics. Let us be obedient to Christ as to our King, as having authority to change several constitutions, and having, as a legislator, wisdom to make new constitutions in different circumstances; yet so that everywhere the laws of nature be immutably preserved.  


Footnotes[edit]

  1. 2 Cor. v. 17.  
  2. Isa. viii. 20, LXX.  
  3. Deut. xii. 5  
  4. Ps. xix. 7  
  5. Mal. iv. 4  
  6. Matt. viii. 4; Mark i. 44.  
  7. Luke xvii. 14.  
  8. Matt. v. 18, 17.  
  9. Luke ix. 30  
  10. Ex. xx  
  11. Ex. xxxii.  
  12. Ex. xx. 24  
  13. Ps. l. 12  
  14. Ex. xxxii. 4  
  15. Ex. iv., etc.  
  16. Num. xi. 31  
  17. Ex. xxxii. 1  
  18. Ex. xxxii. 4  
  19. Deut. vi. 4  
  20. Matt. xiii. 16.  
  21. One V. ms. reads: “Thus also said the Lord to us His disciples.”  
  22. John xv. 15.  
  23. Ezek. xx. 25.  
  24. Matt. xvi. 24.  
  25. John vi. 67.  
  26. Jer. vi. 20.  
  27. Jer. vii. 21, 22.  
  28. Isa. i. 11, etc.  
  29. Amos v. 23  
  30. 1 Sam. xv. 22  
  31. Ps. l. 9, 12, etc.  
  32. Prov. xxi. 27  
  33. Hos. ix. 4  
  34. Ps. li. 10, 17  
  35. Deut. vi. 4  
  36. John xvii. 3.  
  37. Lev. xix. 18.  
  38. John xiii. 34.  
  39. Matt. v. 22.  
  40. Acts xx. 35.  
  41. Matt. v. 7.  
  42. Matt. v. 43.  
  43. Matt. v. 38.  
  44. Luke ii. 51.  
  45. Gen. xlix. 10.  
  46. Matt. v. 33.  
  47. Ps. cxiii. 3; Mal. i. 11  
  48. Deut. vi. 6  
  49. Ps. i. 2  
  50. Ps. cxix. 1, 2.  
  51. Bar. iv. 4.  
  52. John xiii. 17.  
  53. John xix. 15.  
  54. John xi. 48.  
  55. Deut. xxvii. 26; Gal. iii. 10  
  56. Deut. xii. [See on Liturgies, infra.]