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Nor does this author any where charge those to whom he writes with any acts of uncleanness; but he advises them. to keep more out of the way of temptation, and also to show a greater regard for the opinion of men, and avoid whatever might be an occasion of offence and scandal.
This being the case, we now see the reason of some things, which otherwise would not be easily accounted for. First, we see the reason of the address of these epistles, which at first seems odd and whimsical. They are addressed to 'virgins, and virgins.' So in the first chapter, and twice in the second, and frequently throughout the epistles. Which Mr. Wetstein, and rightly, as I suppose, renders virgins,' brethren, and virgins,' sisters. Chrysostom pronounced two orations for the sake of these people: one against those who had with them subintroduced virgins:' the other, that canonical women ought not to dwell with 'men.' But this writer applies to both together, and calls them virgins. Secondly, we now also see the reason why the good conduct of the preachers of the gospel is so much insisted upon in these epistles. They were clergymen who offended in this point, and therefore needed to be admonished to take more care both of their virtue, and their reputation, and not to give offence to other people. Thirdly, that expression, relating to this matter, which we saw just now,
men, who dwell with virgins under a pretence of piety,' appears remarkable, and leads to the following observation. The ecclesiastics, now complained of, were generally, or for the most part, men of religion and virtue. Being desirous to have the attendance and assistance of a woman in their domestic affairs, they pitched upon such as were virgins by profession, whom they judged to be the most unexceptionable of any, and least liable to suspicion. Determined to keep themselves pure, they supposed, that if notwithstanding all their care an evil thought or desire should arise in
det exinanitus est ab omni conversatione mundi hujus, et ex laqueis et retibus et impedimentis ejus. Ep. i. cap. 3. f.
---et conjiciunt animam suam in periculum; et eunt cum illis in semitâ et in deserto soli viam plenam periculis, et plenam offendiculis et laqueis et foveis. Ib. c. 10.
――ut simus sine reprehensione in omnibus, ne quis in nobis offendatur, &c. Ep. 2. c. 3.
-et ne demus occasionem illis, qui volunt, ut teneant occasionem post nos, et loquantur de nobis mala, et ut nemini simus offendiculo, &c. Ib. cap. 5.
f Virginibus (fratribus') beatis, qui constituerunt servare virginitatem propter regnum cœlorum, et virginibus ( ́ sororibus') sanctis in Deo, salutem. cap. 1. Unicuique virginum (fratrum ') et virginum ( sororum ')- -Qui autem vere sunt vigines (fratres) et virgines (sorores') audiunt eum qui dixit. -cap. 2. Vid. ep. i. c. 11, 12. et ep. ii. passim.
them, such persons would not encourage, but check and control it. So they dwelled with virgins under a pre'tence of piety,' as this writer says. It has often seemed strange to me, that these subintroduced women,' mentioned by ancient writers, were continually spoken of as virgins, and devoted to Christ, and the like. We here see the reason, why such were chosen and preferred to others. This observation first came into my mind upon reading these epistles; and it is referred to the consideration of the learned.
The time therefore of these epistles is to be collected from that of this practice. When it was first introduced, and when it ceased, may not be easily decided. It was taken notice of and censured by Cyprian about the middle of the third century. And not long after that time Paul of Samosata, bishop of Antioch, and divers of the clergy of that diocese were charged with it. And if Chrysostom's orations upon occasion of it were not composed till after the commencement of his episcopate, as the Benedictine editors think, it subsisted to the end of the fourth century. And doubtless there were instances of it in the following century. Chrysostom speaks of it as a new thing, that had arisen in that age; but the expressions of orators may be understood with latitude. However, it is very probable, that it did not appear in the early days of christianity, nor till after the death of all the apostles, and their disciples, called apostolical men; consequently, not in the time of Clement bishop of Rome. And if the writer of these epistles refers to it, as I think he plainly does, he is not Clement disciple of the apostle Paul.
4. I observe, in the fourth place, that this writer exceeds in his praises of virginity, and in his recommendations of it. Mr. Wetstein is sensible, that what he says is not agreeable to the Protestant doctrine. Nevertheless he thinks it is not unreasonable, nor unscriptural. If I am not mistaken, I could easily show, that a great deal said upon this head by the writer of these epistles is destitute of support and countenance from the doctrine of the New Testament. But instead of doing that at present, I would observe, that he differs from Clement, who in the first chapter of his epistle
h Vide Monitum. T. i. p. 227. -Επι δε της γενεας ήμετέρας και τρίτος επενοήθη τρόπος καινος τις και παραδοξος. Τ. i. p. 228. * Erunt fortasse, quibus, harum epistolarum scriptor videbitur et matrimonio esse iniquior, cœlibatum vero nimium extollere- -Aliterque, fateor, de cœlibatu et matrimonio sensit Clemens, quam M. Lutherus. At nondum probatum est, illum male sensisse. Wetst. Prolegom. p. vii.
to the Corinthians says: You were subject to your rulers, 'giving becoming respect to elders. Young men you taught to be modest. The women you exhorted to do all things 'unblamably--loving their husbands, as is fit,-and managing the affairs of the house with propriety and modesty.' And in the 21st chapter: Let us respect our rulers, and honour the elders; young men let us instruct in the discipline and fear of God; our wives let us direct to that which is good, that they may show forth the agreeable behaviour of chastity-And let our children be bred up in the discipline of Christ.' So Clement. Whether he was married, or single, I know not. But this apostolical man, to render his exhortations more forcible, joins himself with men in the marriage-state. Nothing of this kind is to be found in the writer of these two epistles. He scorns to touch upon these points. The virtues of the marriage-state are below his regard.
He differs likewise from St. Cyprian, who' in treating on this subject, adviseth rather that these virgins should marry, if they are not able to persevere in the purpose of purity.
He differs also from St. Chrysostom, who in the second of his orations before mentioned, says to those virgins: 'Ifm
you desire to have men to cohabit with you, you should 'not have chosen virginity, but should have married; for it 'would be better to marry, than to act thus in a state of
virginity. God does not condemn marriage, nor do men disparage it. For it is honourable, offending none, injuring " none. But virginity, in the company of men, is worse and 'more offensive to all, than fornication itself.' Afterwards in the same oration he says, it would be better for these
virgins to marry twice, than to act as they did, and be the 'occasion of so much scandal.' I refer to some other like places in these homilies of Chrysostom. But nothing of this kind appears in these epistles.
He who should read what this? writer says in praise of virginity; how glorious, and how arduous it is, the great
1 Quodsi ex fide se Christo dicaverunt, pudicæ et casta sine ullâ fabulâ perseverent, et ita fortes et stabiles præmium. virginitatis exspectent. Si autem perseverare nolunt, vel non possunt, melius est ut nubant, quam in ignem delictis suis cadant. Certe nullum fratribus et sororibus scandalum faciant. Cypr. ad Pompon. ep. 4. al. 62.
m Ει γαρ ανδρας επιθυμεις εχειν συνοικέντας, εκ εδει παρθενιαν έλεσθαι, αλλ' επι τον γαμον ελθειν πολλῳ γαρ βελτιον γαμειν εκείνως, η παρθενευειν ετως. K. λ. Ubi supra. p. 253. E. 254. A.
Πολλῳ γαρ βελτιον ένι, και δευτερῳ συνάπτεσθαι γαμῳ, η τοιαύτα ασχημονειν. κ. λ. Ib. p. 265. D. Vid. p. 234. D. 236. D. E.
P Vid. ep. i. cap. 3-8
examples by which it is encouraged, and what peculiar rewards it is entitled to; must, I apprehend, think it strange, that for preventing ill consequences, and that men might not be led into a snare, he did not reckon himself obliged to add something concerning the lawfulness and purity of marriage, and the expediency of it for most men; which are so often intimated, and expressly asserted in the New Testament, and may be easily discerned by the reason, and observation, and experience of mankind.
It is very likely, that before this practice obtained, the marriage of the clergy lay under some restraints. They who doubt of it, may read the notes of Gothofred upon a law of Honorius and Theodosius the younger, relating to this very matter. I transcribe from him a few lines only a below. The marriage of the clergy was not forbidden by any canon of the church, or law of the state. But it lay under discouragements, and was restrained by the prevailing opinion of men. Celibacy was more reputable; and many clergymen coveted the honour of it, who found it burdensome. And virginity likewise being much applauded, many women were induced to make a profession of it; who afterwards knew not how to perform their engagements, nor to get rid of them. Gradually the celibacy of the clergy, and virginity of women, grew more and more in vogue. And the high notions which the writer of these epistles has of virginity, without saying any thing in favour of marriage, make me think, that he did not write soon, but rather not till a good while after the rise of the practice of which we have been speaking.
IV. THE AUTHOR ANONYMOUS. Who the author was, cannot be determined. Probably he was a bishop. It was most becoming a man in that high station, to write letters with exhortations to christian people, especially to such as made profession of celibacy and virginity. Moreover it may be argued from the authoritative manner in which the second epistle concludes.
I do by no means charge the writer with imposture; I do not believe he had the least thought of such a thing. It should be observed, that there is not at the beginnings or endings of these epistles any distinguishing inscription.
Extraneas, inquam, mulieres vetantur clerici sibi adsciscere. Nempe ex quo cœlibatûs clericalis mos paulatim inolescere cœpit, atque hac etiam ratione clerici probabilem seculo disciplinam agere, seque seculo de cœlibatûs seu continentiæ voto commendare instituerunt, clam tamnen atque alià ratione voluptates suas explere alicubi rerum experimentis visi sunt, kpvdy πopvevovteg, &C. In Cod. Theod. lib. 16. cap. 2. 1. 44.
There is no name of the writer, nor any hint of his character and station. Nor is there any intimation of the city or country where they lived, to whom the epistles are addressed. There is only a title prefixed to these epistles, to this purpose: the first, or the second, epistle of the blessed Clement, disciple of the apostle Peter. And at the end is that common phrase- Heres ends the first, or the second, epistle of Clement disciple of Peter.' These titles, or inscriptions, as I imagine, were placed there by some late editor, who did not know who was the writer of the epistles. It might be done by him ignorantly, or designedly; which of the two, we cannot determine. He might, I say, herein act honestly. Possibly he really supposed them to be the epistles of Clement; though, if he did, he was much mistaken. Or he might do it designedly, with a view to procure the more regard for the epistles, which he was publishing.
As there is nothing in the epistles to distinguish the author, or the people, to whom he wrote, I have suspected, that he was anonymous, and that he designed to be so. When he formed the intention to write upon this subject, he determined to conceal himself. He hoped, that his exhortations might in that way have the greater effect. Having thus fixed his resolution, he wrote in the form of epistles upon the subject, which at that time was much discoursed of, and addressed himself to those who were chiefly concerned, sending them admonitions and directions according to the best of his judgment. However, this is only conjecture. For when these epistles were first published, the writer might be well known, though afterwards his name and character were forgotten.
V. IMPORTANCE OF THESE EPISTLES. From the extracts, placed at the beginning of this Dissertation, we learn, that the epistle to the Hebrews was received by the writer of these epistles. And from the numerous quotations out of the Old and the New Testament, we perceive the great regard which christians had for the sacred scriptures. Of which we have seen many proofs in the collections that have been made from the ancient writers of the church.
We likewise discern, that at the time of writing these epistles virginity was in great esteem.
But if a true account has been now given of the time and occasion of these epistles, we cannot from them learn the date of any of the books of the New Testament. Mr. Wet
Porro epistola prior beati Clementis, discipuli Petri apostoli.
Explicit epistola secunda Clementis, discipuli Petri.