Short life and excerpts of Epistles.
Our holy father Clement was a contemporary of the Apostles, and was mentioned by St Paul:
“And I intreat thee also, true yokefellow, help those women which laboured with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and with other my fellow labourers, whose names are in the book of life.” (Philippians 4:3 KJV) .
He was one of the early Popes of Rome (92-101), probably succeeding Saint Linus (67-79), and Saint Anacletus (79-91). He was drowned on the orders of Emperor Trajan in 101. his life may be found in the recommended “Menologion” program, which has the scripture readings, troparia and kontakia and lives of the Saints (Synaxarion) for every day of the year, no matter what year it is.
We have two of his Epistles, both to the Corinthians. They are an exhortation to holiness, and a response to the disorderly state of the church in Corinth, much like the Epistles of St Paul to this church. They are very important, because they give us the mind of the church just after the ministry of the Apostles. St Clement is one of the so called “Apostolic Fathers”, those who knew the Apostles.
A few excerpts for St Clement’s writings follow. All of the Epistles are very good, but in the interest of brevity, I have only selected a “few” passages, sometimes with short commentary following.
Chap. VII. — An Exhortation to Repentance.
These things, beloved, we write unto you, not merely to admonish you of your duty, but also to remind ourselves. For we are struggling on the same arena, and the same conflict is assigned to both of us.
Wherefore let us give up vain and fruitless cares, and approach to the glorious and venerable rule of our holy calling.
Let us attend to what is good, pleasing, and acceptable in the sight of Him who formed us.
Let us look steadfastly to the blood of Christ, and see how precious that blood is to God, which, having been shed for our salvation, has set the grace of repentance before the whole world.
Let us turn to every age that has passed, and learn that, from generation to generation, the Lord has granted a place of repentance to all such as would be converted unto Him. Noah preached repentance, and as many as listened to him were saved. (Gen_7:1-24; 1Pe_3:20; 2Pe_2:5) Jonah proclaimed destruction to the Ninevites; (Jon_3:1-10) but they, repenting of their sins, propitiated God by prayer, and obtained salvation, although they were aliens [to the covenant] of God.
It is always my fervent desire that when my flock hears me preaching, they understand that I am speaking as one of them, with the same weaknesses and needs, as St Clement takes pains to point out here.
It is a terrible thing if the preacher is regarded in either of two extremes: 1. as one who is somehow holier than those he speaks to, and therefore his message is not applicable to ordinary men, or 2. as one who, because of his manifold sins, is a hypocrite, and dissembler. Neither extreme applies to me, your pastor. I am a sinner, but no dissembler. I believe that a priest is someone who is a sinner helping others to not sin, and by God’s grace improving in his own life all the while.
It has been said that the best sermons are those that a man preaches to himself. A pastor must feel the human condition deeply in his soul, and whether or not he shares in the weaknesses or sins he speaks about, realize that at one time he did share in these things, and in only a moment of inattention would fall right back into sinful habits.
Chap. VIII. — Continuation Respecting Repentance.
The ministers of the grace of God have, by the Holy Spirit, spoken of repentance; and the Lord of all things has himself declared with an oath regarding it, “As I live, saith the Lord, I desire not the death of the sinner, but rather his repentance;” (Eze_33:11) adding, moreover, this gracious declaration, “Repent O house of Israel, of your iniquity. (Eze_18:11) Say to the children of My people, Though your sins reach from earth to heaven, I and though they be redder (Comp. Isa_1:18) than scarlet, and blacker than sackcloth, yet if ye turn to Me with your whole heart, and say, Father! I will listen to you, as to a holy people.”
And in another place He speaks thus: “Wash you, and become clean; put away the wickedness of your souls from before mine eyes; cease from your evil ways, and learn to do well; seek out judgment, deliver the oppressed, judge the fatherless, and see that justice is done to the widow; and come, and let us reason together.
He declares, Though your sins be like crimson, I will make them white as snow; though they be like scarlet, I will whiten them like wool.
And if ye be willing and obey Me, ye shall eat the good of the land; but if ye refuse, and will not hearken unto Me, the sword shall devour you, for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken these things.” (Isa_1:16-20)
Desiring, therefore, that all His beloved should be partakers of repentance, He has, by His almighty will, established [these declarations].
Chap. IX. — Examples of the Saints.
Wherefore, let us yield obedience to His excellent and glorious will; and imploring His mercy and loving-kindness, while we forsake all fruitless labours, and strife, and envy, which leads to death, let us turn and have recourse to His compassions.
Let us steadfastly contemplate those who have perfectly ministered to His excellent glory.
Let us take (for instance) Enoch, who, being found righteous in obedience, was translated, and death was never known to happen to him. Noah, being found faithful, preached regeneration to the world through his ministry; and the Lord saved by him the animals which, with one accord, entered into the ark.
Chap. XVI. — Christ as an Example of Humility.
For Christ is of those who are humble-minded, and not of those who exalt themselves over His flock.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Sceptre of the majesty of God, did not come in the pomp of pride or arrogance, although He might have done so, but in a lowly condition, as the Holy Spirit had declared regarding Him. For He says,
“Lord, who hath believed our report, and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? We have declared [our message] in His presence: He is, as it were, a child, and like a root in thirsty ground; He has no form nor glory, yea, we saw Him, and He had no form nor comeliness; but His form was without eminence, yea, deficient in comparison with the [ordinary] form of men. He is a man exposed to stripes and suffering, anti acquainted with the endurance of grief: for His countenance was turned away; He was despised, and not esteemed. He bears our iniquities, and is in sorrow for our sakes; yet we supposed that [on His own account] He was exposed to labor, and stripes, and affliction. But He was wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our iniquities. The chastisement of our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we were healed. All we, like sheep, have gone astray; [every] man has wandered in his own way; and the Lord has delivered Him up for our sins, while He in the midst of His sufferings openeth not His mouth. He was brought as a sheep to the slaughter, and as a lamb before her shearer is dumb, so He openeth not His mouth. In His humiliation His judgment was taken away; who shall declare His generation? for His life is taken from the earth. For the transgressions of my people was He brought down to death. And I will give the wicked for His sepulchre, and the rich for His death, because He did no iniquity, neither was guile found in His mouth. And the Lord is pleased to purify Him by stripes. If ye make an offering for sin, your soul shall see a long-lived seed. And the Lord is pleased to relieve Him of the affliction of His soul, to show Him light, and to form Him with understanding, to justify the Just One who ministereth well to many; and the Himself shall carry their sins. On this account He shall inherit many, and shall divide the spoil of the strong; because His soul was delivered to death, and He was reckoned among the transgressors, and He bare the sins of many, and for their sins was He delivered.”
And again He saith,
“I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. All that see Me have derided Me; they have spoken with their lips; they have wagged their head, [saying] He hoped in God, let Him deliver Him, let Him save Him, since He delighteth in Him.” (Psa_22:6-8)
Ye see, beloved, what is the example which has been given us; for if the Lord thus humbled Himself, what shall we do who have through Him come under the yoke of His grace?
Chap. XXX. — Let Us Do Those Things That Please God, and Flee from Those He Hates, That We May Be Blessed.
Seeing, therefore, that we are the portion of the Holy One, let us do all those things which pertain to holiness, avoiding all evil-speaking, all abominable and impure embraces, together with all drunkenness, seeking after change, all abominable lusts, detestable adultery, and execrable pride. “For God,” saith [the Scripture], “resisteth the proud, but giveth grace to the humble.” (Pro_3:34; Jam_4:6; 1Pe_5:5)
Let us cleave, then, to those to whom grace has been given by God. Let us clothe ourselves with concord and humility, ever exercising self-control, standing far off from all whispering and evil-speaking, being justified by our works, and not our words. For [the Scripture] saith,
“He that speaketh much, shall also hear much in answer. And does he that is ready in speech deem himself righteous? Blessed is he that is born of woman, who liveth but a short time: be not given to much speaking.” (Job 11:1-2)
Let our praise be in God, and not of ourselves; for God hateth those that commend themselves. Let testimony to our good deeds be borne by others, as it was in the case of our righteous forefathers. Boldness, and arrogance, and audacity belong to those that are accursed of God; but moderation, humility, and meekness to such as are blessed by Him.
Here is a fuller treatment of the text cited by St Clement from Job:
Job 11:1-5 Brenton Then Sophar the Minaean answered and said, (2) He that speaks much, should also hear on the other side: or does the fluent speaker think himself to be righteous? blessed is the short lived offspring of woman. (3) Be not a speaker of many words; for is there none to answer thee? (4) For say not, I am pure in my works, and blameless before him. (5) But oh that the Lord would speak to thee, and open his lips to thee!
Terrifying words for us! How simple and direct the scriptures are. Certainly these words give us ample reason to take pause before speaking.
Chap. XLII. — The Order of Ministers in the Church.
The apostles have preached the Gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments, then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first-fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit, to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons in faith.”
Selections from the Letter of Clement to the Corinthians were taken from the program “eSword”. This FREE program allows one to read the bible in multiple languages and English translations, with many dictionaries and other helps available The Ante-Nicene Fathers (see: http://www.e-sword.net/extras.html ) and Apostolic Fathers are also available, as well as many other useful things. I use this program daily to read, take notes, and copy scripture passages. Get eSword and all modules here: http://www.e-sword.net.