Tracts for the Times/Record V
RECORDS OF THE CHURCH.
THE HOLY CHURCH THROUGHOUT ALL THE WORLD DOTH ACKNOWLEDGE THEE.
Epistle of Ignatius, the friend of St. Peter, on his way to Martyrdom, to the Trallians.
Ignatius, which is also Theophorus, to the Holy Church that is in Tralles in Asia, beloved of God, the Father of Jesus Christ, chosen, godlike, having peace through the flesh and blood and passion of Jesus Christ, (who is our hope in the following of His resurrection,) which I salute in the plenitude of my Apostolic character, and pray that it may have all joy.
I. I know the reproachless spirit, and unfailing unanimity, that not by occasion, but habitually belong to you; which also were set forth to me by Polybius your Bishop, who, by God's will and the will of Jesus Christ, was present in Smyrna, and so rejoiced with me in my bonds for Jesus Christ, that in his person you were all before my eyes. So that meeting with this godly kindness in him, I reckon on finding you, (as I have also known you,) the followers of God.
II. For in that you are subject to your Bishop as to Jesus Christ, you seem to me to be living not after the way of men, but according to Jesus Christ; who died for your sakes, that by believing in His death ye may from death escape. It is therefore your bounden duty, as it also is your practice, to do nothing apart from the Bishop. Be subject moreover to the Presbytery, as to the Apostles of Jesus Christ our hope: may we be found to have had our conversation in Him! It is requisite too, that they who are Deacons [ministers] of the mysteries of Jesus Christ, should be obliging to all men in every manner; for they are not ministers [deacons] of meat and drink, but servants of God's Church: they must therefore guard against reproach as against fire.
III. Likewise let all men give heed to the Deacons, as to an institution of Jesus Christ; and to the Bishop, as to the image of God; and to the Presbyters as to the Council of God and the Company of Apostles. Without these the name of Church is not. On which points I am persuaded that you hold with me; for I found and retain with me a specimen of your love in the person of your Bishop; whose whole constitution of mind is an instructive lesson, and his meekness full of power. I suppose that even Atheists respect him. Though able to write on this point, thus far only I mean to do so, lest a convict such as I should be giving laws to you like an Apostle.
IV. God has granted to me the knowledge of many things; but I controul myself, lest I perish in my boasting: for now I must be especially fearful, and hold off from them that puff me up. For they who make me their talk, inflict a persecution upon me. I am well contented to suffer, yet I know not that I am worthy to do so. My zeal, known but to few, is the more excited in myself. I have need therefore of that moderation, whereby the Prince of this world is brought to nought.
V. Am I unable to write to you of spiritual things? I am not unable, but fear lest I should bring an injury on infants such as you. Excuse therefore my doing so; lest from inability to receive my words, you be choked of them. For even I, prisoner as I am, am not enabled to behold the things that are in Heaven, the marshalling of the Angels, the stations of the celestial Powers, visible things and things invisible, but herein I am but a learner. For many things are placed beyond our capacity, lest we cease to have dependence on God.
VI. I exhort you, therefore, (yet not I, but the love of Jesus Christ,) to use only the Christian nourishment, and to abstain from the strange herb, which is heresy. For the heretics receiving credit on the score of worldly reputation, invest Christianity with poison; offering as it were their fatal drug in a sop; and he who knows it not, accepteth death with a ready and fatal welcome.
VII. From such men keep yourselves guarded. And guarded ye will be, if ye are not puffed up, nor separated from Jesus Christ our Lord, and from the Bishop, and from the rules laid down by the Apostles. He that is within the altar is pure: he that is without, whoever, namely, acts independently of the Bishop, the Presbytery, and the Deacons, is a man of unclean conscience.
VIII. I am not aware that there is aught of this kind in you, but, for the love I bear you, I put you on your guard, foreseeing as I do the snares of the Devil. Do you therefore, gathering a spirit of meekness, stablish yourselves in Faith, which is the flesh of the Lord, and in Love, which is the blood of Jesus Christ. Let none of you find a fault in his neighbour. Give no occasion to the heathen; lest, on the score of a foolish, the godly many be evil spoken of; for "woe unto him, because of whose levity My name is evil spoken of by any."
IX. Turn then a deaf ear to any man who departs in what he says from Jesus Christ, who was of the seed of David, and born of Mary; who verily was born, did eat and did drink; verily was persecuted, under Pontius Pilate; verily was crucified and died, being seen of them that are in Heaven, of them that are on earth, and of them that are under the earth; who verily also was raised from the dead, His Father raising Him; in the likeness whereto, us also who believe in Him shall His Father raise up through Jesus Christ, without whom the real life belongs not to us.
X. But if, (as some godless men, which are unbelievers, assert,) it was only His shade that suffered, (whereas they are but a shade,) how came I to be in bonds? and why do I rejoice in the prospect of "fighting with beasts?" In such case I perish to no purpose, and belie my Lord.
XI. Avoid then those mischievous offshoots, fruitful of death, the which if a man taste he shall die thereby; for these were not planted of the Father. For if they were, we should see them growing from the Cross, and their fruit would be unto eternal life; in accordance whereto He in His passion inviteth you under the title of His own Members. The Head and the limbs cannot therefore have a separate existence, for God hath promised their union, and Himself existeth therein.
XII. I send you my salutation from Smyrna, together with the: salutation of the Churches that are here with me, which have "every way refreshed me, both in body and spirit. My bonds supply you with a lesson; for I bear them for Jesus Christ's sake, praying that I may go to God. Continue in one mind, and assemble together for prayer; for it is right for every one of you, and for the Presbyters particularly, to refresh your Bishop's spirit, that so you may show honour to the Father, to Jesus Christ, and to the Apostles. I pray that you may hear me in love; and that I may not, by writing this, be made a testimony against you. Likewise do you for my sake pray, (for I desire your love in the mercy of God,) that I may be held worthy of that destiny which I press on to gain, and may not become a castaway.
XIII. The love of the Smyrneans and Ephesians saluteth you. Remember in your prayers the Church that is in Syria, whereby I am not worthy to be called, being last among them. Be strong in Jesus Christ; subject to your Bishop as to the commandment, and to the Presbytery likewise. Love one another, every one of you, with an undivided heart. My spirit saluteth you; not now only, but when I shall have gone to God. I have yet to fear for myself; but the Father is faithful in Jesus Christ, to fulfil my prayer and yours. In Him may you be found blameless!
KING, PRINTER, ST. CLEMEMT'S, OXFORD.