Tracts for the Times/Record I
RECORDS OF THE CHURCH.
THE HOLY CHURCH THROUGHOUT ALL THE WORLD DOTH
St. Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, and Martyr, is reported to have been the child whom Christ took into His arms, in order to give His disciples a pattern of Christian humbleness. But, however this was, he certainly was a disciple and friend of the Apostles, particularly St. Peter and St. John.
St. Peter and St. Paul are said to have laid on him their hands, and made him Bishop of Antioch. In A. D. 106, when he had been Bishop nearly 40 years, the persecuting Emperor Trajan came to Antioch; and on finding Ignatius resolute in confessing the faith of Christ, he ordered him to be carried prisoner to Rome, and there thrown to the beasts in the idolatrous heathen shows, a command which was strictly obeyed. During his journey, he wrote letters to various Churches, by way of taking leave of them, and to confirm them in Christian zeal, love, and unity; and these by God's good providence are preserved to us. They are especially valuable to us at the present day, as shewing us how important it is, in the judgment of this blessed Martyr, to honor and obey our Bishops. They are as follows.—
Epistle of Ignatius, the friend of St. Peter, on the way to Martyrdom, to the Ephesians.
Ignatius, also called Theophorus, to her who is blessed in the greatness and fulness of God the Father; to the predestinate before all worlds to be ever in marvellous glory unchangeable, united, and elect through the true Passion, through the will of the Father and Jesus Christ our God; to the truly beatified Church, which is in Ephesus of Asia, all health in Jesus Christ and in unspotted grace.
I. I Welcome in God's behalf that well-beloved name, which ye have attained in all righteousness, according to the Faith and Love which is in Jesus Christ our Saviour, for that being followers of God, and kindling the inward flame by the blood of God, ye have perfectly accomplished the work that belonged to you, when ye heard that I came bound from Syria, for the common name and hope; trusting through your prayers to fight with beasts at Rome, that so by suffering I may become indeed the Disciple of Him "who gave himself to God, an Offering and Sacrifice for us". How many ye be, that be called by the name of God, I have heard from Onesimus, whose love is beyond all words, your Bishop according to the flesh; whom I beseech you, by Jesus Christ, to love, and that ye would all be like unto him. And blessed be God, who has granted unto you, who are so worthy of him, to enjoy such a Bishop.
II. As to my fellow-servant Burrhus, who is your most blessed Deacon, in things pertaining to God, I pray that he may abide with you to the honour both of you and of your Bishop. And Crocus, also, worthy both of God and you, whom I have received as the sample of your love, has in all things refreshed me, as the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ shall also refresh him; together with Onesimus, and Burrhus, and Euplus, and Fronto, in seeing whom I have seen the love of you all. And may I always have joy of you, if I be worthy of it! It is therefore fitting that you should by all means glorify Jesus Christ, who hath glorified you: that by a uniform obedience, "Ye may be perfectly joined together in the same mind, and in the same judgment; and may all speak the same thing:" and that being subject to your Bishop, and his Presbytery, ye may be sanctified in all things.
III. These things I prescribe to you, not as if I were somebody; for though I am bound for His name, I am not yet perfect in Christ Jesus. But now I begin to learn, and I speak to you as Fellow-Disciples together with me. For I ought to have been stirred up by you in Faith, in Admonition, in Patience, in Long-suffering. But forasmuch as Charity suffers me not to be silent towards you, I have first taken upon me to exhort you, that ye would all concur in the mind of God. For Jesus Christ, our inseparable Life, is the Mind of the Father; like as the Bishops, appointed even unto the utmost bounds of the earth, are after the mind of Jesus Christ.
IV. Wherefore it will become you to concur in the mind of your Bishops, as also ye do. For your famous Presbytery, worthy of God, is knit as closely to its Bishop, as the strings to a harp. Therefore by your unanimity and harmonious love Jesus Christ is sung; and each of you taketh part in the chorus: that so being attuned together in one mind, and taking up the song of God, ye may with one voice, and in a perfect unity, sing to the Father by Jesus Christ; to the end that by this means He may both hear you, and perceive by your works, that ye are indeed the members of His Son. Wherefore it is profitable for you to live in blameless unity, that so ye may always have fellowship with God.
V. For if I in this little time have held such communion with your Bishop, I mean not earthly, but spiritual; how much more must I think you blessed, who are so joined to him, as the Church is to Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ to the Father; that so all things may agree in the same unity? Let no man deceive himself; if a man be not within the altar, he faileth of the bread of God. For if the prayer of one or two be of such force, as we are told, how much more that of the Bishop and the whole Church? He, therefore, that does not come together into the same place with it, is proud, and has already condemned himself. For it is written, "God resisteth the proud." Let us take heed therefore, that we do not set ourselves against the Bishop, that we may be set under God.
VI. And the more any seeth his Bishop keep silence, the more let him reverence him. For whomsoever the master of the house sendeth to his own household, we ought so to receive, as we would him that sent him. It is plain then that we ought to look to the Bishop, even as to the Lord himself. And truly Onesimus himself doth greatly commend your good order in God: in that ye all live according to the truth, and that no heresy dwelleth among you, but ye hearken to no man above Jesus Christ, speaking to you in truth.
VII. For some there are who carry about the name of Christ in deceitfulness, and do many things unworthy of God; whom ye must flee, as ye would wild beasts. For they are ravening dogs, which bite secretly; against whom ye must guard yourselves, as hardly to be cured. There is one Physician, both Fleshly and Spiritual; Begotten, not Made; God incarnate; true Life in Death; both of Mary and of God; first made subject to suffering, then liable to suffer no more.
VIII. Wherefore let no man deceive you; as indeed neither are ye deceived, being wholly the servants of God. For inasmuch as there is no contention nor strife among you, to trouble you, surely ye live according to God's Will. My soul be for yours; and I myself the expiatory offering for your church of Ephesus, so famous to all ages. They that are of the flesh cannot do the works of the spirit; neither they that are of the spirit the works of the flesh; as also faith cannot do the works of unfaithfulness; neither unfaithfulness the works of faith. But even those things which ye do according to the flesh are spiritual; forasmuch as ye do all things in Jesus Christ.
IX. Nevertheless I have heard of some who have gone to you, having perverse doctrine; whom ye did not suffer to sow among you; but stopped your ears, that ye might not receive those things that were sown by them: as being the stones of the temple of the Father, prepared for His building; and drawn up on high by the cross of Christ, as by an engine; using the Holy Ghost as the line by which to ascend: your faith being your support, and your charity the way that leads you up unto God. Ye therefore, with all the companious of your way, are full of God, of His spiritual temple, of Christ, of the Holy One: adorned in all things with the commands of Christ; through whom also I triumph, in that I have been thought worthy by this present Epistle to hold converse with you; and to joy together, that having regard to the other life, ye love nothing but God only.
X. Pray also without ceasing for all men; for there is hope of repentance in them, that they may attain unto God. Suffer them therefore to learn from you, if only from your works. Against their raging, be ye mild; against their boasting, be ye lowly-minded; against their blasphemies, oppose your prayers; against their errors, be ye "stedfast in the faith;" against their cruelty, be ye gentle: not striving to imitate them again, let us be found their brethren in all kindness, but imitators of the Lord; if any one be more than other either injured, or defrauded, or despised; that so no plant of the devil be found in you, but ye may remain in all holiness and sobriety both of body and spirit, in Christ Jesus.
XI. The last times are come upon us: let us therefore be very reverent, and fear the long-suflfering of God, that it be not to us unto condemnation. For let us either fear the wrath that is to come, or be thankful for present grace; one of the two; only to be found in Christ Jesus, unto true life. Besides Him, let nothing be worthy of you; for whom also I bear about these bonds, those spiritual jewels in which I would to God, that through your prayers, I might rise again; of which may I ever partake, that I may be found in the lot of the Christians of Ephesus, who have always agreed with the Apostles, through the power of Jesus Christ.
XII. I know both who I am, and to whom I write; I, a man condemned; ye, such as have obtained mercy: I, exposed to danger; ye, confirmed against danger. Ye are the passage of those that are killed for God; the companions of Paul in the mysteries of the Gospel; the holy martyr, the truly blessed Paul; in whose footsteps may I be found, when I shall have attained unto God; who, throughout all his Epistle, makes mention of you in Christ Jesus.
XIII. Let it be your care therefore to come oftener together, to give thanks and glory to God. For when ye meet often together in the same place, the powers of the devil are destroyed, and his mischief is dissolved by the unity of your faith. And indeed, nothing is better than peace; by which all war, both spiritual and earthly, is abolished.
XIV. Of all which nothing is hid from you, if ye have perfect faith and charity in Jesus Christ, which are the beginning and end of life: the beginning, faith; the end, charity. And these two joined together, are of God; and on them followeth all other goodness. No man, professing a true faith, goes wrong; neither does he who has charity, hate any. "The tree is made manifest by its fruit;" so they who profess themselves to be Christians, shall be known by what they do. For it is not now the time for profession, but for the power of faith, if a man be found faithful unto the end.
XV. It is better for a man to hold his peace, and be; than to say he is a Christian, and not to be. It is good to teach, if what he says, he does likewise. There is therefore one master "who spake, and it was done;" and even those things which he did without speaking, are worthy of the Father. He that hath the word of Jesus, is truly able to hear his very silence, that he may be perfect; and both do according to what he speaks, and be known by those things in which he is silent. There is nothing hid from God, but even our secrets are nigh unto Him. Let us therefore do all things, as becomes those who have God dwelling in them; that we may be His temples, and He may be our God within us, as also He is, and will show Himself, before our faces, by those things for which we justly love Him.
XVI. Be not deceived, brethren; those that corrupt other, shall not inherit the kingdom of God. If therefore they who do this according to the flesh, have suffered death; how much more shall he die, who by his wicked doctrine corrupts the faith of God, for which Christ was crucified? He that is thus defiled, shall depart into unquenchable fire, and so also shall he that hearkens unto him.
XVII. For this cause did the Lord suffer the ointment to be poured on His head; that He might breathe the breath of immortality unto His church. Be not ye therefore anointed with the evil savour of the doctrine of the prince of this world; lest he lead you away captive from the life that is set before you. And why are we not all wise; seeing we have received the knowledge of God, which is Jesus Christ? Why do we suffer ourselves foolishly to perish; not considering the gift which the Lord has truly sent to us?
XVIII. My life be an offering for the doctrine of the Cross; which is indeed a stumbling-block to the unbelievers, but to us salvation and life eternal. "Where is the wise man? Where is the disputer?" Where is the boasting of those who are called wise? For Jesus Christ, our God, was according to the dispensation of God, conceived in the womb of Mary, of the seed of David, by the Holy Ghost: was born, and baptized, that through his Passion he might purify water.
XIX. Now the virginity of Mary, and her delivery, was kept in secret from the prince of this world; as was also the death of our Lord; three most notable mysteries, yet done in secret by God. How then was our Saviour manifested to the world? There shone a star in heaven above all other stars, and its light was unspeakable, and its strangeness wrought amazement. All the other stars, yea, the sun and moon also, were but its train; and it sent forth its light beyond them all. And there was trouble to think whence this unwonted strangeness might be. Hence all the power of magic was dissolved; and every bond of wickedness was destroyed; ignorance was taken away; the old kingdom was abolished; God himself appearing in the form of a man, for the renewal of eternal life. Moreover the full dispensation of God then took its beginning. From thenceforth all things were disturbed; forasmuch as he designed to abolish death.
XX. But if Jesus Christ shall give me grace through your prayers, and it be His will, I purpose in a second Epistle which I will shortly write unto you, to manifest to you more fully the dispensation, (of which I have now begun to speak,) unto the new man, which is Jesus Christ; both in his faith, and in his love, in his suffering and in his resurrection, especially if the Lord shall make it known unto me: that ye may all and each of you, by grace, concur in professing the name of one faith, and one Jesus Christ, who was of the race of David according to the flesh; the Son of man, and Son of God; that ye may obey your Bishop and the Presbytery with an entire affection; breaking one and the same bread, which is the medicine of immortality; our antidote that we should not die, but live for ever in Christ Jesus.
XXI. My soul be for yours, and for theirs whom ye have sent to Smyrna, to the glory of God; from whence also I write to you; giving thanks unto the Lord, and loving Polycarp even as I do you. Remember me, as Jesus Christ doth remember you. Pray for the church which is in Syria, from whence I am carried bound to Rome, being the least of all the faithful which are there; amongst whom I have been thought worthy to be found to the glory of God. Fare ye well in God the Father, and in Jesus Christ, our common hope. Amen.
king, printers, st. clements's, oxford.