Matt. 5:43-48 (Part 6)

MATHETES: If you also desire to possess this faith, you likewise shall receive first of all the knowledge of the Father. For God has loved mankind, on whose account He made the world, to whom He rendered subject all the things that are in it, to whom He gave reason and understanding, to whom alone He imparted the privilege of looking upwards to Himself, whom He formed after His own image, to whom He sent His only-begotten Son, to whom He has promised a kingdom in heaven, and will give it to those who have loved Him. And when you have attained this knowledge, with what joy do you think you will be filled? Or, how will you love Him who has first so loved you?

And if you love Him, you will be an imitator of His kindness. And do not wonder that a man may become an imitator of God. He can, if he is willing. For it is not by ruling over his neighbors, or by seeking to hold the supremacy over those that are weaker, or by being rich, and showing violence towards those that are inferior, that happiness is found; nor can any one by these things become an imitator of God. But these things do not at all constitute His majesty. On the contrary he who takes upon himself the burden of his neighbor; he who, in whatsoever respect he may be superior, is ready to benefit another who is deficient; he who, whatsoever things he has received from God, by distributing these to the needy, becomes a god to those who receive his benefits: he is an imitator of God.

Then you will see, while still on earth, that God in the heavens rules over the universe; then you shall begin to speak the mysteries of God; then you shall both love and admire those that suffer punishment because they will not deny God; then you shall condemn the deceit and error of the world when you shall know what it is to live truly in heaven, when you shall despise that which is here esteemed to be death, when you shall fear what is truly death, which is reserved for those who shall be condemned to the eternal fire, which shall afflict those even to the end that are committed to it. Then you shall admire those who for righteousness’ sake endure the fire that is but for a moment, and shall count them happy when you shall know the nature of that fire. Epistle to Diognetus, 1.29.

IRENAEUS: That, then, was called the day of retribution on which the Lord will render to every one according to his works—that is, the judgment.  The acceptable year of the Lord, again, is this present time, in which those who believe Him are called by Him, and become acceptable to God—that is, the whole time from His advent onwards to the consummation of all things, during which He acquires to Himself as fruits of the scheme of mercy those who are saved. . . . The day of retribution has not yet come; but He still “makes His sun to rise upon the good and upon the evil, and sends rain upon the just and unjust.” Against Heresies, 1.390.

IRENAEUS: The God, therefore, who does benevolently cause His sun to rise upon all, and sends rain upon the just and unjust, shall judge those who, enjoying His equally distributed kindness, have led lives not corresponding to the dignity of His bounty; but who have spent their days in wantonness and luxury, in opposition to His benevolence, and have, moreover, even blasphemed Him who has conferred so great benefits upon them. Against Heresies, 1.459.

IRENAEUS: He also makes it manifest, that we ought, after our calling, to be also adorned with works of righteousness, so that the Spirit of God may rest upon us; for this is the wedding garment, of which also the apostle speaks, “Not for that we would be unclothed, but clothed upon, that mortality might be swallowed up by immortality.”  But those who have indeed been called to God’s supper, yet have not received the Holy Spirit, because of their wicked conduct “shall be,” He declares, “cast into outer darkness.”  He thus clearly shows that the very same King who gathered from all quarters the faithful to the marriage of His Son, and who grants them the incorruptible banquet, also orders that man to be cast into outer darkness who has not on a wedding garment, that is, one who despises it. For as in the former covenant, “with many of them was He not well pleased;”  so also is it the case here, that “many are called, but few chosen.”  . . .

For he who is good, and righteous, and pure, and spotless, will endure nothing evil, nor unjust, nor detestable in His wedding chamber. This is the Father of our Lord, by whose providence all things consist, and all are administered by His command; and He confers His free gifts upon those who should receive them; but the most righteous Retributor metes out punishment according to their works, most deservedly, to the ungrateful and to those that are insensible of His kindness; and therefore does He say, “He sent His armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.”  He says here, “His armies,” because all men are the property of God. For “the earth is the Lord’s, and the fulness thereof; the world, and all that dwell therein.” 

Therefore the Apostle Paul also says in the Epistle to the Romans, “For there is no power but of God; the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever resists the power, resists the ordinance of God; and they that resist shall receive to themselves condemnation. For rulers are not for a terror to a good work, but to an evil. Will you then not be afraid of the power? Do that which is good, and you shall have praise of the same; for he is the minister of God to you for good. But if you do that which is evil, be afraid; for he does not bear the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, the avenger for wrath upon him that does evil. Therefore you must be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For this cause you pay tribute also; for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing.”  Both the Lord, then, and the apostles announce as the one only God the Father, Him who gave the law, who sent the prophets, who made all things; and therefore does He say, “He sent His armies,” because every man, inasmuch as he is a man, is His workmanship, although he may be ignorant of his God. For He gives existence to all; He, “who makes His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sends rain upon the just and unjust.” Against Heresies, 1.517

IRENAEUS: He Himself grants the creation to us, for He causes His sun to rise, and sends rain when He wills. Against Heresies, 1.528.

IRENAEUS: If the Father, then, does not exercise judgment, it follows that judgment does not belong to Him, or that He consents to all those actions which take place; and if He does not judge, all persons will be equal, and accounted in the same condition. The advent of Christ will therefore be without an object, yes, absurd, inasmuch as (in that case) He exercises no judicial power. For “He came to divide a man against his father, and the daughter against the mother, and the daughter-in-law against the mother-in-law;”  and when two are in one bed, to take the one, and to leave the other; and of two women grinding at the mill, to take one and leave the other: also at the time of the end, to order the reapers to collect first the tares together, and bind them in bundles, and burn them with unquenchable fire, but to gather up the wheat into the barn;  and to call the lambs into the kingdom prepared for them, but to send the goats into everlasting fire, which has been prepared by His Father for the devil and his angels.  And why is this? Has the Word come for the ruin and for the resurrection of many? For the ruin, certainly, of those who do not believe Him, to whom also He has threatened a greater damnation in the judgment-day than that of Sodom and Gomorrah;  but for the resurrection of believers, and those who do the will of His Father in heaven. If then the advent of the Son comes indeed alike to all, but is for the purpose of judging, and separating the believing from the unbelieving, since, as those who believe do His will agreeably to their own choice, and as, also agreeably to their own choice, the disobedient do not consent to His doctrine; it is manifest that His Father has made all in a like condition, each person having a choice of his own, and a free understanding; and that He has regard to all things, and exercises a providence over all, “making His sun to rise upon the evil and on the good, and sending rain upon the just and unjust.”Against Heresies, 1.556.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Now, that the God and Father of our Lord Jesus is good, the Word Himself will again affirm: “For He is kind to the unthankful and the evil;”  and further, when He says, “Be merciful, as your Father is merciful.”  Still further also He plainly says, “None is good, but My Father, who is in heaven.”  In addition to these, again He says, “My Father makes His sun to shine on all.” Here it is to be noted that He proclaims His Father to be good, and to be the Creator. And that the Creator is just, is not disputed. And again he says, “My Father sends rain on the just, and on the unjust.” In respect of His sending rain, He is the Creator of the waters, and of the clouds. And in respect of His doing so on all, He holds an even balance justly and rightly. And as being good, He does so on just and unjust alike. The Instructor, 2.227.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: “For God makes His sun to shine on the just and on the unjust,” and sent the Lord Himself to the just and the unjust. The Stromata, 2.548.

TERTULLIAN: Who is this good God? There is, He says, “none but one.”  It is not as if He had shown us that one of two gods was the supremely good; but He expressly asserts that there is one only good God, who is the only good, because He is the only God. Now, undoubtedly, He is the good God who “sends rain on the just and on the unjust, and makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good;” sustaining and nourishing and assisting even Marcionites [heretics] themselves! Against Marcion, 3.410.

TERTULLIAN: In Isaiah, “You shall eat the good of the land,”  the expression means the blessings which await the flesh when in the kingdom of God it shall be renewed, and made like the angels,  and waiting to obtain the things “which neither eye has seen, nor ear heard, and which have not entered into the heart of man.”  Otherwise, how vain that God should invite men to obedience by the fruits of the field and the elements of this life, when He dispenses these to even irreligious men and blasphemers; on a general condition once for all made to man, “sending rain on the good and on the evil, and making His sun to shine on the just and on the unjust!” On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 3.564.

ORIGEN: The injunction also of the Savior, when exhorting His disciples to the exercise of kindness, “Be perfect, even as your Father who is in heaven is perfect; for He commands His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust,” most evidently suggests even to a person of feeble understanding, that He is proposing to the imitation of His disciples no other God than the maker of heaven and the bestower of the rain. De Principiis, 4.275.

ORIGEN: How can we assert that “God, leaving the regions of heaven, and the whole world, and despising this great earth, takes up His abode amongst us only,” when we have found that all thoughtful persons must say in their prayers, that “the earth is full of the mercy of the LORD,” and that “the mercy of the Lord is upon all flesh”;  and that God, being good, “makes His sun to arise upon the evil and the good, and sends His rain upon the just and the unjust;” and that He encourages us to a similar course of action, in order that we may become His sons, and teaches us to extend the benefits which we enjoy, so far as in our power, to all men? For He Himself is said to be the Savior of all men, especially of them that believe;  and His Christ to be the “propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world.”  . . . “God commends His love towards us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us;”  and although “scarcely for a righteous man will one die, yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die.”  But now is Jesus declared to have come for the sake of sinners in all parts of the world (that they may forsake their sin, and entrust themselves to God), being called also, agreeably to an ancient custom of these Scriptures, the “Christ of God.” Against Celsus, 4.508-509.

CYPRIAN: Let us consider, beloved brethren, what the congregation of believers did in the time of the apostles, when at the first beginnings the mind flourished with greater virtues, when the faith of believers burned with a warmth of faith as yet new. Then they sold houses and farms, and gladly and liberally presented to the apostles the proceeds to be dispensed to the poor;  selling and alienating their earthly estate, they transferred their lands toward where they might receive the fruits of an eternal possession, and there prepared homes where they might begin an eternal habitation.  Such, then, was the abundance in labors, as was the agreement in love, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles: “And the multitude of them that believed acted with one heart and one soul; neither was there any distinction among them, nor did they esteem anything their own of the goods which belonged to them, but they had all things common.”  This is truly to become sons of God by spiritual birth;  this is to imitate by the heavenly law the equity of God the Father. For whatever is of God is common in our use; nor is any one excluded from His benefits and His gifts, so as to prevent the whole human race from enjoying equally the divine goodness and liberality. Thus the day equally enlightens, the sun gives radiance, the rain moistens, the wind blows, and the sleep is one to those that sleep, and the splendor of the stars and of the moon is common. In which example of equality, he who, as a possessor in the earth, shares his returns and his fruits with the fraternity, while he is common and just in his gratuitous bounties, is an imitator of God the Father. The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.483.

ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA: The only begotten Son of the Father, indeed, possesses an indefectible Sonship; but the adoption of rational sons belongs to them not by nature, but is prepared for them by the integrity of their life, and by the free gift of God. Epistle on the Arian Heresy and the Disposition of Arius, 6.294

5:46 ATHENAGORAS: The life for which we look is far better than can be described in words, provided we arrive at it pure from all wrong-doing; who, moreover, carry our benevolence to such an extent, that we not only love our friends (“for if you love them,” He says, “that love you, and lend to them that lend to you, what reward will you have?”), —shall we, I say, when such is our character, and when we live such a life as this, that we may escape condemnation at last, not be accounted pious? A Plea for the Christians, 2.136.

5:48 CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Only let us preserve free-will and love: “troubled on every side, yet not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed.”  For those who strive after perfection, according to the same apostle, must “give no offense in anything, but in everything approve themselves not to men, but to God.”  The Stromata, 2.433.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: For sanctity, as I conceive it, is perfect pureness of mind, and deeds, and thoughts, and words too, and in its last degree sinlessness in dreams. The Stromata, 2.435.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: But him, who from this has trained himself to the summit of knowledge and the elevated height of the perfect man, all things relating to time and place help on, now that he has made it his choice to live infallibly, and subjects himself to training in order to the attainment of the stability of knowledge on each side. . . . Not without, but through the exercise of will, and by the force of reason, and knowledge, and Providence, is it brought to become incapable of being lost. Through care it becomes incapable of being lost. He will employ caution so as to avoid sinning, and consideration to prevent the loss of virtue. The Stromata, 2.436.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Abstinence from sins, are not sufficient for perfection, unless he assume in addition the work of righteousness—activity in doing good.

Then our dexterous man and Christian is revealed in righteousness already even here, as Moses, glorified in the face of the soul,  as we have formerly said, the body bears the stamp of the righteous soul. For as the mordant of the dyeing process, remaining in the wool, produces in it a certain quality and diversity from other wool; so also in the soul the pain is gone, but the good remains; and the sweet is left, but the base is wiped away. For these are two qualities characteristic of each soul, by which is known that which is glorified, and that which is condemned.

And as in the case of Moses, from his righteous conduct, and from his uninterrupted intercourse with God, who spoke to him, a kind of glorified hue settled on his face; so also a divine power of goodness clinging to the righteous soul in contemplation and in prophecy, and in the exercise of the function of governing, impresses on it something, as it were, of intellectual radiance, like the solar ray, as a visible sign of righteousness, uniting the soul with light, through unbroken love, which is God-bearing and God-borne. Consequently, assimilation to God the Savior arises to the Christian, as far as permitted to human nature, he being made perfect “as the Father who is in heaven.” The Stromata, 2.504.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: He who holds converse with God must have his soul immaculate and stainlessly pure, it being essential to have made himself perfectly good. The Stromata, 2.537.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: “Be perfect as your father, perfectly,” by forgiving sins, and forgetting injuries, and living in the habit of passionlessness. For as we call a physician perfect, and a philosopher perfect, so also, in my view, do we call a Christian perfect. But not one of those points, although of the greatest importance, is assumed in order to the likeness of God. For we do not say, as the Stoics do most impiously, that virtue in man and God is the same. Ought we not then to be perfect, as the Father wills? For it is utterly impossible for any one to become perfect as God is. Now the Father wishes us to be perfect by living blamelessly, according to the obedience of the Gospel. The Stromata, 2.549.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: For it is thus that one truly follows the Savior, by aiming at sinlessness and at His perfection. The Stromata, 2.597.

TERTULLIAN: But as God is eternal and rational, so, I think, He is perfect in all things. “Be perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” Against Marcion, 3.289.

TERTULLIAN: Handmaids of the living God, my fellow-servants and sisters, the right which I enjoy with you—I, the most meanest in that right of fellow- servantship and brotherhood—emboldens me to address to you a discourse, not, of course, of affection, but paving the way for affection in the cause of your salvation. That salvation—and not the salvation of women only, but likewise of men—consists in the exhibition of modesty. . . . If any modesty can be believed to exist in Gentiles, it is plain that it must be imperfect and undisciplined to such a degree that, although it be actively tenacious of itself in the mind up to a certain point, it yet allows itself to relax into licentious extravagances of attire; just in accordance with Gentile perversity, in craving after that of which it carefully shuns the effect. How many a one, in short, is there who does not earnestly desire even to look pleasing to strangers? Who does not on that very account take care to have herself painted out, and denies that she has ever been an object of carnal appetite? And yet, granting that even this is a practice familiar to Gentile modesty—namely, not actually to commit the sin, but still to be willing to do so; or even not to be willing, yet still not quite to refuse—what wonder? For all things which are not God’s are perverse. Let those women therefore look to it, who, by not holding fast the whole good, easily mingle with evil even what they do hold fast. Necessary it is that you turn aside from them, as in all other things, so also in your manner of walking; since you ought to be “perfect, as is your Father who is in the heavens.” On the Apparel of Women, 4.18-19.

ORIGEN: If any one, indeed, venture to ascribe essential corruption to Him who was made after the image and likeness of God, then, in my opinion, this impious charge extends even to the Son of God Himself, for He is called in Scripture the image of God.  Or he who holds this opinion would certainly impugn the authority of Scripture, which says that man was made in the image of God; and in him are manifestly to be discovered traces of the divine image, not by any appearance of the bodily frame, which is corruptible, but by mental wisdom, by justice, moderation, virtue, wisdom, discipline; in conclusion, by the whole band of virtues, which are innate in the essence of God, and which may enter into man by diligence and imitation of God; as the Lord also intimates in the Gospel, when He says, “Be therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful;”148 and, “Be perfect, even as your Father also is perfect.” From which it is clearly shown that all these virtues are perpetually in God, and that they can never approach to or depart from Him, whereas by men they are acquired only slowly, and one by one. De Principiis, 4.381.

ORIGEN: Apart from the help of the word, and that too the word of perfection, it is impossible for a man to become free from sin.
Against Celsus, 4.492.

ORIGEN: And we know that in this way the angels are superior to men; so that men, when made perfect, become like the angels. “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but the righteous are as the angels in heaven,”  and also become “equal to the angels.”  We know, too, that in the arrangement of the universe there are certain beings termed “thrones,” and others “dominions,” and others “powers,” and others “principalities;” and we see that we men, who are far inferior to these, may entertain the hope that by a virtuous life, and by acting in all things agreeably to reason, we may rise to a likeness with all these. And, lastly, because “it does not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like God, and shall see Him as He is.”  And if any one were to maintain what is asserted by some (either by those who possess intelligence or who do not, but have misconceived sound reason), that “God exists, and we are next to Him,” I would interpret the word “we,” by using in its stead, “We who act according to reason,” or rather, “We virtuous, who act according to reason.” For, in our opinion, the same virtue belongs to all the blessed, so that the virtue of man and of God is identical. And therefore we are taught to become “perfect,” as our Father in heaven is perfect. No good and virtuous man, then, is a “worm rolling in filth,” nor is a pious man an “ant,” nor a righteous man a “frog;” nor could one whose soul is enlightened with the bright light of truth be reasonably likened to a “bird of the night.” Against Celsus, 4.509.

ORIGEN: A man becomes “perfect,” as “our Father in heaven is perfect,” and hears the command, “Be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy,”  and learning the precept, “Be followers of God,”  receives into his virtuous soul the traits of God’s image. The body, moreover, of him who possesses such a soul is a temple of God; and in the soul God dwells, because it has been made after His image. Against Celsus, 4.602.

ORIGEN: Christ led them up along with Himself to the divine citizenship which is above the law, which contains, as for the imperfect and such as are still sinners, sacrifices for the remission of sins. He then who is without sin, and stands no longer in need of legal sacrifices, perhaps when he has become perfect has passed beyond even the spiritual law, and comes to the Word beyond it, who became flesh to those who live in the flesh, but to those who no longer at all war after the flesh, He is perceived as being the Word, as He was God in the beginning with God, and reveals the Father. Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 9.452.

ORIGEN: I am persuaded that every action of the perfect man is a testimony to Christ Jesus, and that abstinence from every sin is a denial of self, leading him after Christ. And such an one is crucified with Christ, taking up his own cross and follows Him who for our sakes bears His own cross.  Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 9.464.

ARNOBIUS: For since we are prone to err, and to yield to various lusts and appetites through the fault of our innate weakness, He allows Himself at all times to be comprehended in our thoughts, that while we entreat Him and strive to merit His bounties, we may receive a desire for purity, and may free ourselves from every stain by the removal of all our shortcomings. Against the Heathen, 6.419.

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