Matt. 7:15-20 (Part 3)

7:15ff THE DIDACHE: Whosoever, therefore, comes and teaches you all these things that have been said before, receive him. But if the teacher himself turn and teach another doctrine to the destruction of this, do not hear him; but if he teaches so as to increase righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord. But concerning the apostles and prophets, according to the decree of the Gospel, thus do. Let every apostle that comes to you be received as the Lord.  But he shall not remain except one day; but if there be need, also the next; but if he remains three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle goes away, let him take nothing but bread until he lodges; but if he ask money, he is a false prophet. And every prophet that speaks in the Spirit you shall neither try nor judge; for every sin shall be forgiven, but this sin shall not be forgiven.  But not every one that speaks in the Spirit is a prophet; but only if he hold the ways of the Lord. Therefore from their ways shall the false prophet and the prophet be known. And every prophet who orders a meal in the Spirit does not eat from it, except indeed he be a false prophet; and every prophet who teaches the truth, if he does not do what he teaches, is a false prophet. And every prophet, proved true, working unto the mystery of the Church in the world, yet not teaching others to do what he himself does, shall not be judged among you, for with God he has his judgment; for so did also the ancient prophets. But whoever says in the Spirit, “Give me money,” or something else, you shall not listen to him; but if he says to you to give for others’ sake who are in need, let no one judge him.

But let every one that comes in the name of the Lord be received, and afterward you shall prove and know him; for you shall have understanding right and left. If he who comes is a wayfarer, assist him as far as you are able; but he shall not remain with you, except for two or three days, if need be. But if he wills to abide with you, being an artisan, let him work and eat;  but if he has no trade, according to your understanding see to it that, as a Christian, he shall not live with you idle. But if he wills not to do, he is a shame. Watch that you keep your distance from such.

But every true prophet that wills to abide among you is worthy of his support. So also a true teacher is himself worthy, as the workman, of his support.  Every first-fruit, therefore, of the products of wine-press and threshing-floor, of oxen and of sheep, you shall take and give to the prophets, for they are your high priests. But if you do not have a prophet, give it to the poor. If you make a batch of dough, take the first-fruit and give according to the commandment. So also when you open a jar of wine or of oil, take the first-fruit and give it to the prophets; and of money (silver) and clothing and every possession, take the first-fruit, as it may seem good to you, and give according to the commandment. . . .

Watch for your life’s sake. Do not let your lamps be quenched, nor your loins unloosed;  but be ready, for you do not know the hour in which our Lord comes.  But often you shall come together, seeking the things which are befitting to your souls: for the whole time of your faith will not profit you, if you are not made perfect in the last time. For in the last days false prophets and corrupters shall be multiplied, and the sheep shall be turned into wolves, and love shall be turned into hate;  for when lawlessness increases, they shall hate and persecute and betray one another,  and then shall appear the world-deceiver as the Son of God, and shall do signs and wonders,  and the earth shall be delivered into his hands, and he shall do iniquitous things which have never yet come to pass since the beginning. Then shall the creation of men come into the fire of trial,  and many shall be made to stumble and shall perish; but they that endure in their faith shall be saved from under the curse itself. And then shall appear the signs of the truth; first, the sign of an out-spreading in heaven; then the sign of the sound of the trumpet; and the third, the resurrection of the dead; yet not of all, but as it is said: “The Lord shall come and all His saints with Him.”  Then shall the world see the Lord coming upon the clouds of heaven.  7.380-382.

DIONYSIUS OF ALEXANDRIA: For as the wisdom which is according to the Gentiles, by changing them into holy persons, constitutes them friends of God and prophets; so, conversely, the wickedness by converting into unholy persons, manifests them to be enemies of God and false prophets. Letter to Stephen, Bishop of Rome.

LACTANTIUS: But since many heresies have existed, and the people of God have been rent into divisions at the instigation of demons, the truth must be briefly marked out by us, and placed in its own peculiar dwelling-place, that if any one shall desire to draw the water of life, he may not be borne to broken cisterns which hold no water, but may know the abundant fountain of God, watered by which he may enjoy perpetual light. Before all things, it is befitting that we should know both that He Himself and His ambassadors foretold that there must be numerous sects and heresies,  which would break the unity of the sacred body; and that they admonished us to be on our guard with the greatest prudence, lest we should at any time fall into the snares and deceits of that adversary of ours, with whom God has willed that we should contend. Then that He gave us sure commands, which we ought always to treasure in our minds; for many, forgetting them, and abandoning the heavenly road, have made for themselves devious paths amidst windings and precipices, by which they might lead away the incautious and simple part of the people to the darkness of death: I will explain how this happened. There were some of our religion whose faith was less established, or who were less learned or less cautious, who rent the unity and divided the Church. But they whose faith was unsettled, when they pretended that they knew and worshipped God, aiming at the increase of their wealth and honor, aspired to the highest sacerdotal power; and when overcome by others more powerful, preferred to secede with their supporters, than to endure those set over them, over whom they themselves before desired to be set.

But some, not sufficiently instructed in heavenly learning, when they were unable to reply to the accusers of the truth, who objected that it was either impossible or inconsistent that God should be shut up in the womb of a woman, and that the Majesty of heaven could not be reduced to such weakness as to become an object of contempt and derision, a reproach and mockery to men; lastly, that He should even endure tortures, and be affixed to the accursed cross; and when they could defend and refute all these things neither by talent nor learning, for they did not thoroughly perceive their force and meaning, they were perverted from the right path, and corrupted the sacred writings, so that they composed for themselves a new doctrine without any root and stability. But some, enticed by the prediction of false prophets, concerning whom both the true prophets and he himself had foretold, fell away from the knowledge of God, and left the true tradition. But all of these, ensnared by frauds of demons, which they ought to have foreseen and guarded against, by their carelessness lost the name and worship of God. For when they are called Phrygians, or Novatians, or Valentinians, or Marcionites, or Anthropians, or Arians, or by any other name, they have ceased to be Christians, who have lost the name of Christ, and assumed human and external names. 

Therefore it is the catholic Church alone which retains true worship. This is the fountain of truth, this is the abode of the faith, this is the temple of God; into which if any one shall not enter, or from which if any shall go out, he is estranged from the hope of life and eternal salvation. No one ought to flatter himself with persevering strife. For the contest is respecting life and salvation, which, unless it is carefully and diligently kept in view, will be lost and extinguished. But, however, because all the separate assemblies of heretics call themselves Christians in preference to others, and think that theirs is the catholic Church, it must be known that the true catholic Church is that in which there is confession and repentance, which treats in a wholesome manner the sins and wounds to which the weakness of the flesh is liable. I have related these things in the meanwhile for the sake of admonition, that no one who desires to avoid error may be entangled in a greater error, while he is ignorant of the secret of the truth. Afterwards, in a particular and separate work, we will more fully and copiously contend against all divisions of falsehoods.
The Divine Institutes, 7.133-134.

7:16 IGNATIUS: None of these things are hid from you, if you perfectly possess that faith and love towards Christ Jesus45 which are the beginning and the end of life. For the beginning is faith, and the end is love.  Now these two, being inseparably connected together, are of God, while all other things which are requisite for a holy life follow after them. No man truly making a profession of faith will continue in sin;  nor does he that possesses love hate any one. The tree is made manifest by its fruit; so those that profess themselves to be Christians shall be recognized by their conduct. For there is not now a demand for mere profession, but that a man be found continuing in the power of faith to the end. . . . Those that profess themselves to be Christ’s are known not only by what they say, but by what they practice. “For the tree is known by its fruit.”  It is better for a man to be silent and be a Christian, than to talk and not to be one. Epistle to the Ephesians, 1.55-56.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: It is the manner of life which shows up those who know the commandments; for as a man's word is, so is his life. The tree is known by its fruit, not by its blossom and leaves. Knowledge, then, comes from the fruit and from behavior not from talk and from blossom. We say that knowledge is not mere talk, but a certain divine knowledge, that light which is kindled in the soul as a result of obedience to the commandments, and which reveals all that is in a state of becoming, enables man to know himself and teaches him to become possessed of God. On Marriage. 

7:17 APOLLONIUS: But who is this new teacher [Montanus, a heretic]? His works and teaching inform us. This is he who taught the dissolution of marriage; who instilled fasting; . . . who craftily contrives the taking of gifts under the name of voluntary offerings; who grants stipends to those who publish abroad his doctrine, that by means of gluttony the teaching of the doctrine may prevail.

We declare to you, then, that these first prophetesses, as soon as they were filled with the spirit, left their husbands. . . . Do you not think that all Scripture forbids a prophet to receive gifts and money? Therefore, when I see that the prophetess has received gold and silver and expensive articles of dress, how can I avoid treating her with disapproval? . . .

For whereas the Lord has said, “Provide neither gold, nor silver, nor two coats a piece,”  these men have, on the flat contrary, transgressed the command by the acquisition of these forbidden things. For we shall show that those who are called among them prophets and martyrs obtain money not only from the rich, but also from the poor, from orphans and widows. And if they are confident that they are right in so doing, let them stand forward and discuss the point, in order that, if they be refuted, they may cease for the future so to transgress. For the fruits of the prophet must needs be brought to the test: for “from its fruit is the tree known.". . .

If they deny that their prophets have taken gifts, let them confess thus much, that if they be convicted of having taken them, they are not prophets; and we will cite ten thousand proofs that they have. It is proper, too, that all the fruits of a prophet should be examined. Tell me: does a prophet dye his hair? Does a prophet pencil his eyelids? Is a prophet fond of dress? Does a prophet play at gaming-tables and dice? Does a prophet lend money on interest? Let them confess whether these things are allowable or not. For my part, I will prove that these practices have occurred among them. Concerning Montanism, 8.775-776.

ORIGEN: It may be called a good tree if, through its power of choice, it appoints good things; or it may be called evil if it should choose evil things. And in this way, each person, according to the impulses of his own purpose, will be designated [either] a good olive tree, if he travels down the road of virtue, or a wild olive tree, if he follows the opposite [path]. This, after all, is why even the Lord was saying in the Gospel, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good; or make the tree evil and its fruit evil,”in order to show that a tree, good or evil, is made, not born. Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.

7:18 CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: [On laughter:]People who are imitators of ludicrous sensations, or rather of such as deserve derision, are to be driven from our polity.

For since all forms of speech flow from mind and manners, ludicrous expressions could not be uttered, did they not proceed from ludicrous practices. For the saying, “It is not a good tree which produces corrupt fruit, nor a corrupt tree which produces good fruit,”56 is to be applied in this case. For speech is the fruit of the mind. If, then, facetious jokers are to be ejected from our society, we ourselves must by no manner of means be allowed to stir up laughter. For it were absurd to be found imitators of things of which we are prohibited to be listeners; and still more absurd for a man to set about making himself a laughing-stock, that is, the butt of insult and derision. For if we could not endure to make a ridiculous figure, such as we see some do in processions, how could we with any propriety bear to have the inner man made a ridiculous figure of, and that to one’s face? Therefore we ought never of our own accord to assume a ludicrous character. And how, then, can we devote ourselves to being and appearing ridiculous in our conversation, thereby perverting speech, which is the most precious of all human endowments? It is therefore disgraceful to set one’s self to do this; since the conversation of facetious jokers of this description is not fit for our ears, inasmuch as by the very expressions used it familiarizes us with shameful actions.

Pleasantry is allowable, not facetious joking. Besides, even laughter must be kept in check; for when given vent to in the right manner it indicates orderliness, but when it issues differently it shows a lack of restraint. The Instructor, 2.249-250.

TERTULLIAN: “The good tree does not bring forth corrupt fruit, neither the corrupt tree good fruit.” Which means, that an honest mind and good faith cannot produce evil deeds, any more than an evil disposition can produce good deeds. Against Marcion, 3.272.

7:19ff IRENAEUS: Since the Son of God is always one and the same, He gives to those who believe on Him a well of water springing up to eternal life,  but He causes the unfruitful fig tree immediately to dry up; and in the days of Noah He justly brought on the deluge for the purpose of extinguishing that most infamous race of men then existent, who could not bring forth fruit to God, since the angels that sinned had commingled with them, and acted as He did in order that He might put a check upon the sins of these men, but that at the same time He might preserve the model,  the formation of Adam. And it was He who rained fire and brimstone from heaven, in the days of Lot, upon Sodom and Gomorrah, “an example of the righteous judgment of God,”  that all may know, “that every tree that does not bring forth good fruit shall be cut down, and cast into the fire.”  And it is He who uses the words, that it will be more tolerable for Sodom in the general judgment than for those who beheld His wonders, and did not believe on Him, nor receive His doctrine.  For as He gave by His advent a greater privilege to those who believed on Him, and who do His will, so also did He point out that those who did not believe on Him should have a more severe punishment in the judgment; thus extending equal justice to all, and being to exact more from those to whom He gives the more; the more, . . . because He has, by means of His advent, poured upon the human race the greater gift of paternal grace. Against Heresies, 1.516.

HIPPOLYTUS: For he is unfruitful when he is carnal, and causes the desire of the flesh. This, he says, is what is spoken: “Every tree not producing good fruit, is cut down and cast into the fire.”  The Refutation of All Heresies, 5.54-55.

HIPPOLYTUS: There will not be chaff and wood begotten for fire, but mature fruit, fully formed, equal and similar to the unbegotten and indefinite power. If, however, a tree continues alone, not producing fruit fully formed, it is utterly destroyed. For somewhere near, he says, is the axe which is laid at the roots of the tree. Every tree, he says, which does not produce good fruit, is hewn down and cast into fire.  The Refutation of All Heresies, 5.78.

CYPRIAN: It is of small account to be baptized and to receive the Eucharist, unless one profit by it both in deeds and works. In the first Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians: “Do you not know that they which run in a race all run indeed, although one receives the prize? So run, that you may obtain. And those indeed that they may receive a corruptible crown, but we an incorruptible.”  In the Gospel according to Matthew: “Every tree that does not bring forth good fruit shall be cut down, and cast into the fire.” Also in the same place: “Many shall say to me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and in Your name have cast out devils, and in Your name have done great works?' And then shall I say to them, I never knew you; depart from me, you who work iniquity.” The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.542.

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