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Good Works

Early Church Fathers Quotes on Good Works

Barnabus

The way of light, then, is as follows. If any one desires to travel to the appointed place, he must be zealous in his works. – The Epistle of Barnabas

Ireaneus

Now concerning the martyrs, we say to you that they are to be had in all honour with you, as we honour the blessed James the bishop, and the holy Stephen our fellow-servant. For these are reckoned blessed by God, and are honoured by holy men, who were pure from all transgressions, immoveable when tempted to sin, or persuaded from good works, without dispute deserving encomiums: of whom also David speaks, “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His holy ones;” and Solomon says, “The memory of the just is with encomiums:” of whom also the prophet speaks, “Righteous men are taken away. – Against Heresies, Book V

But the true widows are those which have had only one husband, having a good report among the generality for good works; widows indeed, sober, chaste, faithful, pious, who have brought up their children well, and have entertained strangers unblameably, which are to be supported as devoted to God. – Against Heresies, Book III

Clement of Rome 

Thus a profound and abundant peace was given to you all, and you had an insatiable desire for doing good, while a full outpouring of the Holy Spirit was upon you all. Full of holy designs, and with true earnestness of mind and a godly confidence, you stretched forth your hands to God Almighty, beseeching Him to be merciful to you, if you had been guilty of any involuntary transgression. Day and night you were anxious for the whole brotherhood, that the number of God’s elect might be saved with mercy and a good conscience. You were sincere and uncorrupted, and forgetful of injuries between one another. Every kind of faction and schism was abominable in your sight. You mourned over the transgressions of your neighhours: their deficiencies you deemed your own. You never grudged any act of kindness, being “ready to every good work.” Adorned by a thoroughly virtuous and religious life, you did all things in the fear of God. The commandments and ordinances of the Lord were written upon the tablets of your hearts. – To the Corinthians

It is requisite, therefore, that we be prompt in the practice of well-doing; for of Him are all things. And thus He forewarns us: “Behold, the Lord [cometh], and His reward is before His face, to render to every man according to his work.” He exhorts us, therefore, with our whole heart to attend to this, that we be not lazy or slothful in any good work. – To the Corinthians

He has given him one by whom his need may be supplied. Let the wise man display his wisdom, not by [mere] words, but through good deeds. –To the Corinthians

Having thus finished all these things, He approved them, and blessed them, and said, “Increase and multiply.” We see, then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength. – To the Corinthians

What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! But rather let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work. For the Creator and Lord of all Himself rejoices in His works. – To the Corinthians

So God made man; male and female He created them.” Having thus finished all these things, He approved them, and blessed them, and said, “Increase and multiply.” We see, then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength.- To the Corinthians

Second Clement 

For thus also saith the Scripture in Ezekiel, “If Noah, Job, and Daniel should rise up, they should not deliver their children in captivity.” Now, if men so eminently righteous are not able by their righteousness to deliver their children, how can we hope to enter into the royal residence of God unless we keep our baptism holy and undefiled? Or who shall be our advocate, unless we be found possessed of works of holiness and righteousness? – Second Clement

Recognitions of Clement

For he who is regenerated by water, having filled up the measure of good works, is made heir of Him by whom he has been regenerated in incorruption. Wherefore, with prepared minds, approach as sons to a father, that your sins may be washed away, and it may be proved before God that ignorance was their sole cause. For if, after the learning of these things, you remain in unbelief, the cause of your destruction will be imputed to yourselves, and not to ignorance. And do you suppose that you can have hope towards God, even if you cultivate all piety and all righteousness, but do not receive baptism. Yea rather, he will be worthy of greater punishment, who does good works not well; for merit accrues to men from good works, but only if they be done as God commands. Now God has ordered every one who worships Him to be sealed by baptism; but if you refuse, and obey your own will rather than God’s, you are doubtless contrary and hostile to His will. – Book VI

Wherefore we must, above all things, hasten to the knowledge of the truth, that, as with a light kindled thereat, we may be able to dispel the darkness of errors: for ignorance, as we have said, is a great evil; but because it has no substance, it is easily dispelled by those who are: in earnest. For ignorance is nothing else than not knowing what is good for us; once know this, and ignorance perishes. Therefore the knowledge of truth ought to be eagerly sought after; and no one can confer it except the true Prophet. For this is the gate of life to those who will enter, and the road of good works to those going to the city of salvation. – Book V

But those who, when they hear, are unwilling to betake themselves to good works, are prevented by the desire of doing evil from acquiescing in those things which they judge to be right. Hence it is manifest that it is in the power of the hearers to choose which of the two they prefer. But if all who hear were to obey, it would be rather a necessity of nature, leading all in one way. For as no one can be persuaded to become shorter or taller, because the force of nature does not permit it; so also, if either all were converted to the truth by a word, or all were not converted, it would be the force of nature which compelled all in the one case, and none at all in the other, to be converted.” – Book III

“For if we occupy the short thee of this life with vain and useless questions, we shall without doubt go into the presence of God empty and void of good works, when, as I have said, our works shall be brought into judgment. For everything has its own thee and place. This is the place, this the thee of works; the world to come, that of recompenses. That we may not therefore be entangled, by changing the order of places and times, let us inquire, in the first place, what is the righteousness of God; so that, like persons going to set out on a journey, we may be filled with good works as with abundant provision, so that we may be able to come to the kingdom of God, as to a very great city. For to those who think aright, God is manifest even by the operations of the world which He hat made, using the evidence of His creation; and therefore, since there ought to be no doubt! about God, we have now to inquire only about His righteousness and His kingdom. But if our mind suggest to us to make any inquiry concerning secret and hidden things before we inquire into the works of righteousness, we ought to render to ourselves a reason, because if acting well we shall merit to obtain salvation: then, going to God chaste and clean, we shall be filled with the Holy Spirit, and shall know all things that are secret and hidden, without any cavilling of questions; whereas now, even if any one should spend the whole of his life in inquiring into these things, he not only shall not be able to find them, but shall involve himself in greater errors, because he did not first enter through the way of righteousness, and strive to reach the haven of life. – Book II

After this, when you had explained about the creation of the world, you intimated the decree of God, “which He, of His own good pleasure, announced in the presence of all the first angels,” and which He ordained as an eternal law to all; and how He established two kingdoms,–I mean that of the present time and that of the future,–and appointed times to each, and decreed that a day of judgment should be expected, which He determined, in which a severance is to be made of things and of souls: so that the wicked indeed shall be consigned to eternal fire for their sins; but those who have lived according to the will of God the Creator, having received a blessing for their good works, effulgent with brightest light, introduced into an eternal abode, and abiding in incorruption, shall receive eternal gifts of ineffable blessings.” – Book I

Lactantius

Some one will ask what this substance is. First of all, when evils befall them, men in their dejected state for the most part have recourse to God: they appease and entreat Him, believing that He is able to repel injuries from them. He has therefore an occasion of exercising pity; for He is not so unmerciful and a despiser of men as to refuse aid to those who are in distress. Very many, also, who are persuaded that justice is pleasing to God, both worship Him who is Lord and Parent of all, and with continual prayers and repeated vows offer gifts and sacrifices, follow up His name with praises, striving to gain His favour by just and good works. There is therefore a reason, on account of which God may and ought to favour them. For if there is nothing so befitting God as beneficence, and nothing so unsuited to His character as to be ungrateful, it is necessary that He should make some return for the services of those who are excellent, and who lead a holy life, that He may not be liable to the charge of ingratitude which is worthy of blame even in the case of a man. But, on the contrary, others are daring and wicked, who pollute all things with their lusts, harass with slaughters, practise fraud, plunder, commit perjury, neither spare relatives nor parents, neglect the laws, and even God Himself. Anger, therefore, has a befitting occasion in God. – A TREATISE ON THE ANGER OF GOD

Therefore frail things must be despised, that we may gain those which are substantial; earthly things must be scorned, that we may be honoured with heavenly things; temporal things must be shunned, that we may reach those which are eternal. Let every one train himself to justice, mould himself to self-restraint, prepare himself for the contest, equip himself for virtue, that if by any chance an adversary shall wage war, he may be driven from that which is upright and good by no force, no terror, and no tortures, may give, himself up to no senseless fictions, but in his uprightness acknowledge the true and only God, may cast away pleasures, by the attractions of which the lofty soul is depressed to the earth, may hold fast innocency, may be of service to as many as possible, may gain for himself incorruptible treasures by good works, that he may be able, with God for his judge, to gain for the merits of his virtue either the crown of faith, or the reward of immortality. – THE EPITOME OF THE DIVINE INSTITUTES

But the just man will omit no opportunity of doing anything mercifully: nor will he pollute himself with gain of this kind; but he will so act that without any loss to himself, that which he lends may be reckoned among his good works. – THE DIVINE INSTITUTES. BOOK VI

But to serve God is nothing else than to maintain and preserve justice by good works. – THE DIVINE INSTITUTES. BOOK III

Riches also do not render men illustrious, except that they are able to make them more conspicuous by good works. For men are rich, not because they possess riches, but because they employ them on works of justice; and they who seem to be poor, on this account are rich, because they are not in want, and desire nothing.
Though, therefore, in lowliness of mind we are on an equality, the free with slaves, and the rich with the poor, nevertheless in the sight of God we are distinguished by virtue – THE DIVINE INSTITUTES. BOOK V

Justin Martyr 

And we have been taught that He in the beginning did of His goodness, for man’s sake, create all things out of unformed matter; and if men by their works show themselves worthy of this His design, they are deemed worthy, and so we have received–of reigning in company with Him, being delivered from corruption and suffering. For as in the beginning He created us when we were not, so do we consider that, in like manner, those who choose what is pleasing to Him are, on account of their choice, deemed worthy of incorruption and of fellowship with Him. – First Apology

and those who look upon a woman to lust after her. For not only he who in act commits adultery is rejected by Him, but also he who desires to commit adultery: since not only our works, but also our thoughts, are open before God. -ibid

(for the matters of our religion lie in works, not in words), and learn from them what will give you life everlasting. –Hortatory Address to the Greeks

Hippolytus

“There be four things which are least upon the earth, and these are wiser than the wise: The ants have no strength, yet they prepare their meat in the summer.” And in like manner, the Gentiles by faith in Christ prepare for themselves eternal life through good works. “And the conies, a feeble folk, have made their houses in the rocks.” The Gentiles, that is to say, are built upon Christ, the spiritual rock, which is become the head of the corner. “The spider, that supports itself upon its hands, and is easily caught, dwells in the strongholds of kings.” That is, the thief with his hands extended (on the cross), rests on the cross of Christ and dwells n Paradise, the stronghold of the three Kings–Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. – The Extant Works and Fragments of Hippolytus: Exegetical

THE DIVINE LITURGY OF JAMES

That they may be to all that partake of them for remission of sins, and for life everlasting, for the sanctification of souls and of bodies, for bearing the fruit of good works, for the stablishing of Thy Holy Catholic Church, which Thou hast founded on the Rock of Faith, that the gates of hell may not prevail against it; delivering it from all heresy and scandals, and from those who work iniquity, keeping it till the fulness of the time. – THE DIVINE LITURGY OF JAMES

Constitutions of the Holy Apostles

Wherefore he who values the security of his soul will take care to be out of danger, by keeping free from sin, that so he may preserve the advantage of his former good works to himself. Do thou, therefore, so judge as executing judgment for God. For, as the Scripture says, “the judgment is the Lord’s.” In the first place, therefore, condemn the guilty person with authority; afterwards try to bring him home with mercy and compassion, and readiness to receive him, promising him salvation if he will change his course of life, and become a penitent; and when he does repent, and has submitted to his chastisement, receive him: remembering that our Lord has said, “There is joy in heaven over one sinner that repenteth.” – BOOK II. OF BISHOPS, PRESBYTERS, AND DEACONS

THE TESTAMENTS OF THE TWELVE PATRIARCHS

Do not ye therefore, my children, wear two faces like unto them, of goodness and of wickedness; but cleave unto goodness only, for in goodness doth God rest, and men desire it. From wickedness flee away, destroying the devil by your good works; for they that are double-faced serve not God, but their own lusts, so that they may please Beliar and men like unto themselves. – THE TESTAMENTS OF THE TWELVE PATRIARCHS

THEONAS OF ALEXANDRIA

For in old times some former princes thought us malevolent and filled with all manner of crime; but now, seeing your good works, they should not be able to avoid glorifying Christ Himself. – THEONAS OF ALEXANDRIA

 

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