Thursday, September 30, 2010

'The Pilgrim Church': The Epistle to Diognetus

Here's another excerpt from 'The Pilgrim Church' by E.H. Broadbent, from chapter one, starting on page 16 of the online book:
Amidst the confusion of conflicting parties there were true teachers, able and eloquent in directing souls in the way of salvation. One, whose name is unknown, writing in the second century to an inquirer named Diognetus,[14] sets himself to answer the questions asked as to the mode of worshipping God among the Christians, the reason of their faith and devotion towards God and love to one another, why they neither worshipped the gods of the Greeks nor followed the Jewish religion, and
why this new practice of piety had only so late entered into the world.

He writes "Christians are distinguished from other men neither by country, nor language", living in such places "as the lot of each of them has determined, and following the customs of the natives in respect to clothing, food, and the rest of their ordinary conduct, they display to us their wonderful and confessedly striking method of life. They dwell in their own countries, but simply as sojourners. As citizens, they share in all things with others, and yet endure all things as if
foreigners. Every foreign land is to them as their native country, and every land of their birth as a land of strangers.... They pass their days on earth, but they are citizens of heaven. They obey the prescribed laws, and at the same time surpass the laws by their lives ... they are reviled and bless".
Then, speaking of God, he says, He, "who is almighty, the Creator of all things, ... has sent from heaven, and placed among men, Him who is the truth, and the holy and
incomprehensible Word, and has firmly established Him in their hearts. He did not, as one might have imagined, send to men any ... angel, or ruler, ... but the very Creator and Fashioner of all things--by whom He made the heavens--by whom He enclosed the sea within its proper bounds"--whom the stars obey. "This messenger He sent to them.... As a king sends his son, who is also a king, so sent He Him; as God He sent Him; as to men He sent Him; as a Saviour He sent Him." Not as judging us
He sent Him, though "He will yet send Him to judge us, and who shall endure His appearing?" As to the delay in sending the Saviour, God has always been the same, but waited in His long-suffering. He had "formed in His mind a great and unspeakable conception, which He communicated to His Son alone." As long as He concealed His own wise counsel He appeared to neglect us, but this was to make it manifest that of ourselves we cannot enter into the kingdom of God. But when the appointed time had
come, "He Himself took on Him the burden of our iniquities, He gave His own Son as a ransom for us, the Holy One for transgressors, the blameless One for the wicked, the righteous One for the unrighteous, the incorruptible One for the corruptible, the immortal One for them that are mortal. For what other thing was capable of covering our sins than His righteousness? By what other one was it possible that we, the wicked and ungodly, could be justified, than by the only Son of God? O sweet
exchange! O unsearchable operation! O benefits surpassing all expectation! that the wickedness of many should be hid in a single righteous One, and that the righteousness of One should justify many transgressors!"

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