The Early Church Fathers, Vol. 1 - Preface and Introduction
Preface to Volume 1
This volume, containing the equivalent of three volumes of the Edinburgh series of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, will be found a library somewhat complete in itself. The Apostolic Fathers and those associated with them in the third generation, are here placed together in a handbook, which, with the inestimable Scriptures, supplies a succinct autobiography of the Spouse of Christ for the first two centuries. No Christian scholar has ever before possessed, in faithful versions of such compact form, a supplement so essential to the right understanding of the New Testament itself. It is a volume indispensable to all scholars, and to every library, private or public, in this country.
The American Editor has performed the humble task of ushering these works into American use, with scanty contributions of his own. Such was the understanding with the public: they were to be presented with the Edinburgh series, free from appreciable colour or alloy. His duty was (1) to give historic arrangement to the confused mass of the original series; (2) to supply, in continuity, such brief introductory notices as might slightly popularize what was apparently meant for scholars only, in the introductions of the translators; (3) to supply a few deficiencies by short notes and references; (4) to add such references to Scripture, or to authors of general repute, as might lend additional aid to students, without clogging or overlaying the comments of the translators; and (5) to note such corruptions or distortions of Patristic testimony as have been circulated, in the spirit of the forged Decretals, by those who carry on the old imposture by means essentially equivalent. Too long have they been allowed to speak to the popular mind as if the Fathers were their own; while, to every candid reader, it must be evident that, alike, the testimony, the arguments, and the silence of the Ante-Nicene writers confound all attempts to identify the ecclesiastical establishment of "the Holy Roman Empire," with "the Holy Catholic Church" of the ancient creeds.
In performing this task, under the pressure of a virtual obligation to issue the first volume in the first month of the new year, the Editor has relied upon the kindly aid of an able friend, as typographical corrector of the Edinburgh sheets. It is only necessary to add, that he has bracketed all his own notes, so as to assume the responsibility for them; but his introductions are so separated from those of the translators, that, after the first instance, he has not thought it requisite to suffix his initials to these brief contributions. He regrets that the most important volume of the series is necessarily the experimental one, and comes out under disadvantages from which it may be expected that succeeding issues will be free. May the Lord God of our Fathers bless the undertaking to all my fellow-Christians, and make good to them the promise which was once felicitously chosen for the motto of a similar series of publications: "Yet shall not thy teachers be removed into a corner any more, but thine eyes shall see thy teachers."
A. C. C.
January, 6, 1885.
N.B.--The following advertisement of the original editors will be useful here:--
The Ante-Nicene Christian Library is meant to comprise translations into English of all the extant works of the Fathers down to the date of the first General Council held at Nice in a.d. 325. The sole provisional exception is that of the more bulky writings of Origen. It is intended at present only to embrace in the scheme the Contra Celsum and the De Principiis of that voluminous author; but the whole of his works will be included should the undertaking prove successful.
The present volume has been translated by the Editors.  Their object has been to place the English reader as nearly as possible on a footing of equality with those who are able to read the original. With this view they have for the most part leaned towards literal exactness; and wherever any considerable departure from this has been made, a verbatim rendering has been given at the foot of the page. Brief introductory notices have been prefixed, and short notes inserted, to indicate varieties of reading, specify references, or elucidate any obscurity which seemed to exist in the text.
 This refers to the first volume only of the original series.
Introductory Notice to Volume 1
[a.d. 100-200.] The Apostolic Fathers are here understood as filling up the second century of our era. Irenæus, it is true, is rather of the sub-apostolic period; but, as the disciple of Polycarp, he ought not to be dissociated from that Father's company. We thus find ourselves conducted, by this goodly fellowship of witnesses, from the times of the apostles to those of Tertullian, from the martyrs of the second persecution to those of the sixth. Those were times of heroism, not of words; an age, not of writers, but of soldiers; not of talkers, but of sufferers. Curiosity is baffled, but faith and love are fed by these scanty relics of primitive antiquity. Yet may we well be grateful for what we have. These writings come down to us as the earliest response of converted nations to the testimony of Jesus. They are primary evidences of the Canon and the credibility of the New Testament. Disappointment may be the first emotion of the student who comes down from the mount where he has dwelt in the tabernacles of evangelists and apostles: for these disciples are confessedly inferior to the masters; they speak with the voices of infirm and fallible men, and not like the New Testament writers, with the fiery tongues of the Holy Ghost. Yet the thoughtful and loving spirit soon learns their exceeding value. For who does not close the records of St. Luke with longing; to get at least a glimpse of the further history of the progress of the Gospel? What of the Church when its founders were fallen asleep? Was the Good Shepherd "always" with His little flock, according to His promise? Was the Blessed Comforter felt in His presence amid the fires of persecution? Was the Spirit of Truth really able to guide the faithful into all truth, and to keep them in the truth?
And what had become of the disciples who were the first-fruits of the apostolic ministry? St. Paul had said, "The same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also." How was this injunction realized? St. Peter's touching words come to mind, "I will endeavour that ye may be able after my decease to have these things always in remembrance." Was this endeavour successfully carried out? To these natural and pious inquiries, the Apostolic Fathers, though we have a few specimens only of their fidelity, give an emphatic reply. If the cold-hearted and critical find no charm in the simple, childlike faith which they exhibit, ennobled though it be by heroic devotion to the Master, we need not marvel. Such would probably object: "They teach me nothing; I do not relish their multiplied citations from Scripture." The answer is, "If you are familiar with Scripture, you owe it largely to these primitive witnesses to its Canon and its spirit. By their testimony we detect what is spurious, and we identify what is real. Is it nothing to find that your Bible is their Bible, your faith their faith, your Saviour their Saviour, your God their God?" Let us reflect also, that, when copies of the entire Scriptures were rare and costly, these citations were "words fitly spoken,--apples of gold in pictures of silver." We are taught by them also that they obeyed the apostle's precept, "Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing," etc. Thus they reflect the apostolic care that men should be raised up able to teach others also.
Their very mistakes enable us to attach a higher value to the superiority of inspired writers. They were not wiser than the naturalists of their day who taught them the history of the Phoenix and other fables; but nothing of this sort is found in Scripture. The Fathers are inferior in kind as well as in degree; yet their words are lingering echoes of those whose words were spoken "as the Spirit gave them utterance." They are monuments of the power of the Gospel. They were made out of such material as St. Paul describes when he says, "Such were some of you." But for Christ, they would have been worshippers of personified Lust and Hate, and of every crime. They would have lived for "bread and circus-shows." Yet to the contemporaries of a Juvenal they taught the Decalogue and the Sermon on the Mount. Among such beasts in human form they reared the sacred home; they created the Christian family; they gave new and holy meanings to the names of wife and mother; they imparted ideas unknown before of the dignity of man as man; they infused an atmosphere of benevolence and love; they bestowed the elements of liberty chastened by law; they sanctified human society by proclaiming the universal brotherhood of redeemed man. As we read the Apostolic Fathers, we comprehend, in short, the meaning of St. Paul when he said prophetically, what men were slow to believe, "The foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men ... But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are."
A. C. C.
The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians
The Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus
The Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians
The Epistle Concerning the Martyrdom of Polycarp
The Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch - Introduction
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Magnesians
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Trallions
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Romans
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philadelphians
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans
The Ignatian Epistles - Syriac Version
The Epistle of Ignatius to Polycarp (Syriac)
The Second Epistle of Ignatius to the Ephesians (Syriac)
The Third Epistle of the Same St. Ignatius (Syriac)
Introduction to the Spurious Epistles of Ignatius
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Tarsians
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Antiochians
The Epistle of Ignatius to Hero, a Deacon of Antioch
The Epistle of Ignatius to the Philippians
The Epistle of Maria the Proselyte to Ignatius
The Epistle of Ignatius to Mary at Nepalis, Near Zarbus
The Epistle of Ignatius to St. John the Apostle
The Second Epistle of Ignatius to St. John
The Epistle of Ignatius the Virgin Mary
Introductory Note to Martyrdom of Ignatius
The Martyrdom of Ignatius
The Epistle of Barnabas
The Fragments of Papias
Introduction to the Writings of Justin Martyr
First Apology of Justin Martyr
The Epistle of Adrian in behalf of Christians
The Epistle of Antonius to the Common Assembly of Asia
The Epistle of Marcus Aurelius to the Senate, in which he testifies that the Christians were the cause of his victory
The Second Apology of Justin for the Christians, Addressed to the Roman Senate
The Dialogue of Justin, Philosopher and Martyr, with Trypho, a Jew
The Discourse to the Greeks
Justin's Hortatory Address to the Greeks
Justin on the Sole Government of God
Fragments of the Lost Work of Justin on the Resurrection
Other Fragments fro the Lost Writings of Justin
The Martyrdom of the Holy Martyrs Justin, Chariton, Charites, Paeon, and Liberianus
Introduction to Irenaeus Against Heresies
Irenaeus Against Heresies: Book One
Irenaeus Against Heresies: Book Two
Irenaeus Against Heresies: Book Three
Irenaeus Against Heresies: Book Four
Irenaeus Against Heresies: Book Five
Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus
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