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The most correct lists of the Bishops of Rome, forcing a little the signification of the word bishop, for times so remote place after Anenclet a certain Clement, who from the similarity of his name and the nearness of his time has frequently been confounded with 162Flavius Clemens. The name is not rare in the Judeo-Christian world. We may in strictness suppose a relationship of patron and client between our Clement and Flavius Clemens. But we must absolutely set aside both the theory of certain modern critics who insist on seeing in Bishop Clement only a fictitious personage, a double of Flavius Clemens, and the error which at various times comes to light in the ecclesiastical tradition, according to which Bishop Clement was a member of the Flavian family. Clemens Romanus was not merely a real personage, he was a personage of the first rank, a true chief of the Church, a bishop before the Episcopate was definitely constituted; I would almost dare to say a pope, if the word were not too great an anachronism in this place. His authority was recognised as the greatest in all Italy, in Greece, in Macedonia, during the last decade of the first century. At the expiration of the apostolic age he was like an apostle, an epigon in the great generation of the disciples of Jesus, one of the pillars of that Church of Rome, which, after the destruction of the Church of Jerusalem, became more and more the centre of Christianity.

Everything leads to the belief that Clement was of Jewish origin. His familiarity with the Bible, the turn of style in certain passages of his Epistle, the use which he makes of the Book of Judith and of apocryphal writings such as the assumption of Moses, do not agree with the idea of a converted Pagan. On the other hand, he appears to be little of a Hebraiser. It appears then that he was born in Rome of one of those Jewish families which had inhabited the capital of the world for many generations. His knowledge of cosmography and of profane history presuppose a careful education. It is admitted that he had been in relation with the Apostles, especially with Peter, though on this point the proof is perhaps hardly decisive. What is indubitable is the 163high rank which he held in the spiritual hierarchy of the Church of his time, and the unequalled credit which he enjoyed. His approval made law. All parties claimed him, and wished to shelter themselves under his authority. A thick veil hides his private opinions from us; his Epistle is a fine neutral fragment with which the disciples of Paul and the disciples of Peter might equally content themselves. It is probable that he was one of the most energetic agents in the great work which was about to be accomplished, I mean the posthumous reconciliation of Peter and Paul, and the fusion of the two parties, without the union of which the work of Christ must have perished.

The extreme importance at which Clement had arrived results, above all things, from the vast apocryphal literature which is attributed to him. When, towards the year 140, an attempt was made to gather together into one body of writing, clothed with an ecclesiastical character, the Judeo-Christian traditions concerning Peter and his apostolate, Clement was chosen as the supposed author of the work. When it was desired to codify the ancient ecclesiastical customs, and to make the collection thus formed a Corpus of “Apostolic Constitutions,” it was Clement who guaranteed that apocryphal work. Other writings, all having more or less connection with the establishment of a canon law, were equally attributed to him. The fabricator of apocryphas endeavours to give weight to his forgeries. The name which he puts at the head of his compositions is always that of a celebrity. The sanction of Clement thus appears to us as the highest which can be imagined in the second century to recommend a book. Thus in the Pastor of the psuedo-Hermas, Clement’s special function is assigned as being that of sending the books newly issued in Rome to the other Churches, and of causing them to be accepted. His supposed 164literature, whether he must be taken as assuming personal responsibility for it or not, is a literature of authority, inculcating on every page the hierarchy, obedience to the priests, to the bishops. Every phrase which is attributed to him is a law, a decretal. The right of speaking to the Universal Church is freely accorded to him. He is the first typical “Pope” whom ecclesiastical history presents. His lofty personality, increased yet more by legend, was, after that of Peter, the holiest image of Christian Rome. His venerable face was for succeeding ages that of a grave and gentle legislator, a perpetual preacher of submission and respect.

Clement passed through the persecution of Domitian without suffering from it. When the severities abated, the Church of Rome renewed its relations with the outer world. Already the idea of a certain primacy of that Church began to make itself felt. The right of advising the Churches and of adjusting their differences was accorded to it. Such privileges; it may at least be believed, were accorded to Peter and to his immediate disciples. Now, a closer and closer bond was established between St Peter and Rome. Grave dissensions had torn the Church of Corinth. That Church had scarcely changed since the days of St Paul. There was the same spirit of pride, of disputatiousness, of frivolity. We feel that the principal opposition to the hierarchy dwelt in this Greek spirit, always mobile, frivolous, undisciplined, not knowing how to reduce a crowd to the condition of a flock. The women, the children, were in full rebellion. The transcendental doctors imagined that they possessed concerning everything deep significations, mystical secrets, analogous to the gift of tongues and the discerning of spirits. Those who were honoured with these supernatural gifts despised the elders and aspired to replace them. Corinth had a respectable presbyteriate, but one which never aimed at an exalted 165mysticism. The illuminati pretended to throw it into the shade, and to put themselves into its place; some of the elders were even deprived. The struggle of the established hierarchy and of personal relations began, and the conflict filled all the history of the Church, the privileged soul finding it wrong that, in spite of the favours with which he had been honoured, a homely clergy, strangers to the spiritual life, should govern it officially. Not without a certain likeness to Protestantism, the rebels of Corinth formed themselves into a separate Church, or at least distributed the Eucharist in other than consecrated places. The Eucharist had always been a stumbling block to the Church of Corinth. That Church had its rich and its poor; it accommodated itself with especial difficulty to the mystery of equality. At last the innovators, proud to excess of their exalted virtue, raised chastity to the point of depreciating marriage. This was, as will be seen, the heresy of individual mysticism maintaining the rights of the spirit against authority, pretending to raise itself above the level of the faithful, and of the ordinary clergy, in the name of its direct relations with the Divinity.

The Roman Church, consulted on these internal troubles, answered with admirable good sense. The Roman Church was then above all things the Church of order, of subordination, of rule. Its fundamental principle was that humility and submission were of more value than the most sublime of gifts. The Epistle addressed to the Church of Corinth was anonymous, but one of the most ancient traditions has it that Clement’s was the pen which wrote it. Three of the most considerable of the elders—Claudius Ephebus, Valerius Biton, and Fortunatus—were charged to carry the letter, and received full powers from the Church at Rome to bring about a reconciliation.


The Church of God Abiding in Rome to the Church of God in Corinth, to the Elect sanctified by the will of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ, grace and peace be upon you in abundance from God Almighty by Jesus Christ.

The misfortunes, the unforeseen catastrophes which have fallen upon us, blow upon blow, have, brethren, been the reason that we occupied ourselves but slowly with the questions which you have addressed to us, dear brethren, touching the impious and detestable revolt, cursed of the elect of God, which a small number of insolent and daring persons have raised up and carried to such a point of extravagance, that your name so famous, so venerable, and so beloved of all, has suffered great injury. Who was he who having lived among you did not esteem your virtue and the firmness of your faith? Who did not admire the wisdom and the Christian moderation of your piety? Who did not publish the largeness of your hospitality? Who did not esteem you happy in the perfection and soundness of your knowledge? You did all things without acceptation of persons, and you walked according to the laws of God, obedient to your leaders. You rendered due honour to the elders, you warned the young men to be grave and sober, and the women to act in all things with a pure and chaste conscience, loving their husbands as they ought to do, dwelling in the rule of submission, applying themselves to the government of their houses with great modesty.

You were all humble-minded, free from boastings, disposed rather to submit yourselves than to cause others to submit to you, to give than to receive. Content with the sacraments of Christ, and applying yourselves carefully to his word, you kept it in your hearts, and had always his sufferings before your eyes. Thus you rejoiced in the sweetness of a profound peace; you had an insatiable desire to do good, and the Holy Ghost was fully poured out upon you. Fitted with good-will, with zeal, and with an holy confidence, you stretched forth your hands towards Almighty God, praying for pardon for your involuntary sins. You strove day and night for all the community, so that the number of the elect of God was saved by the force of piety and of conscience. You were sincere and innocent, without resentment of injuries. All rebellion, all divisions you held in horror. You wept over the fall of your neighbours; you esteemed their faults as your own. A virtuous and respectable life was your adornment, and you did all things in the fear of God; his commandments were written upon the tables of your hearts, you were in glory and abundance, and in you was accomplished that which was written:—“The well-beloved bath eaten and drunk; he has been in abundance; he has waxed fat and kicked.” 167(Deut. xxxii. 15.) Hence have come jealousies and hatred disputes and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. Thus the vilest persons have been raised above the most worthy; the foolish against the wise; the young against the old. Thus justice and peace have been driven away; since the fear of God has fallen off, since the faith is darkened, since all will not follow the laws, nor govern themselves according to the maxims of Jesus Christ, but follow their own evil desires, abandoning themselves to unjust and impious jealousies, by which death first came into the world.

After having quoted many sad examples of jealousy, taken from the Old Testament, he adds:—

But let us leave here these ancient examples and come to the strong men who have lately fought. Let us take the illustrious examples of our own generation. It was through jealousies and discord that the great men who were the pillars of the Church have been persecuted, and have fought to the death. Let us place before our eyes the holy Apostles, Peter, for example, who, through an unjust jealousy suffered not once or twice but many times, and who, having thus accomplished his martyrdom, has gone to the place of glory which was due to him. It was through jealousy and discord that Paul has shown how far patience can be carried; seven times in chains, banished, stoned, and after having been the herald of the Truth in the east and in the west, he has received the noble reward of his faith, after having taught justice to the whole world and being come to the very extremity of west. Having thus accomplished his martyrdom before the earthly power, he was delivered from this world, and has gone to that holy place, giving to all of us a great example of patience. To those men whose life has been holy has been joined a great company of the elect, who, always through jealousy, have endured many insults and torments, leaving amongst us an illustrious example. It was finally pursued by jealousy that the poor women, the Danaides and the Dirces, after having suffered terrible and monstrous indignities, have reached the goal in the sacred course of faith, and have received a noble recompense, feeble in body though they were.

Order and obedience are the supreme law of the Church.

It is better to displease imprudent and senseless men who raise themselves up and who glorify themselves through pride in their discourses, than to displease God. Let us respect our 168superiors, honour the elders, instruct the young in the fear of God, chasten our wives for their good. Let the amiable habit of chastity display itself in their conduct let them show a simple and true gentleness; let them show by their silence that they know how to rule their tongues,—that, instead of allowing their hearts to be carried away by their inclinations, they testify with holiness to an equal friendship for all who fear God. . . . Let us consider the soldiers who serve under our sovereigns; with what order, what punctuality, what submission do they obey. All are not prefects, nor tribunes, nor centurions, but each in his rank obeys the orders of the Emperor and of the chiefs. The great cannot exist without the small, nor the small without the great. In everything there is a mixture of diverse elements, and it is because of that mixture that things go on. Let us take our bodies for an example. The head without the feet is nothing; the feet are nothing without the head. The smallest of our organs are necessary, and serve the whole body; all work together and obey one same principle of subordination for the preservation of all. Let each then submit to his neighbour according to the order in which he has been placed by the grace of Christ Jesus. Let not the strong neglect the weak, let the weak respect the strong; let the rich be generous to the poor, and the poor thank God for having given him one to supply his needs. Let the wise man show his wisdom not by discourses, but by good works; let not the humble bear witness to himself, let him leave that care to others. Let him who preserves the purity of the flesh not exalt himself therefore, seeing that he has from another the gift of continence.

The Divine Service ought to be celebrated in the places and at the hours fixed by the ordained ministers, as in the Temple of Jerusalem. All power, all ecclesiastical rule, comes from God.

The Apostles have evangelised us on the part of our Lord Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ had received his mission from God. Christ has been sent by God, and the Apostles have been sent by Christ. The two things have then been regularly done by the will of God. Provided with instruction from the Master, persuaded by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, strengthened in the faith in the Word of God by the confirmation of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles went out preaching the approach of the Kingdom of God. Preaching thus alike in the country and in the cities, they chose those who had been the first-fruits of their apostolate, and after having proved them by 169the Spirit, established them Episcopi and Diaconi of those who believe. And this was no novelty, for the Scripture had long spoken of Episcopi and Diaconi, since it saith in one place, “I will establish their Episcopi on the foundations of justice and their Diaconi on the bases of faith” (Isa. lx. 17). Our Apostles, enlightened by our Lord Jesus Christ, knew perfectly that there would be competition for the title of Episcopos. This is why they conferred that title in their perfect prescience on those whom we have named and prescribed, that after their death other approved men should assume their functions. These then who have been established by the Apostles or afterwards by other excellent men with the consent of all the Church, and who have served the flock of Jesus Christ without reproach, humbly, peaceably, honourably, to whom all have borne good testimony during a long time, we do not think it just to cast out of the ministry, for we could not without grave fault eject from the Episcopate those who worthily present the sacred offerings. Happy are the elders who have finished their career before us and are dead in holiness, and with fruit I They at least have no fear lest any should come and drive them from the place to which they have been called. We see, in a word, that you have deprived some who lived well in the ministry, of which office they acquitted themselves without reproach and with honour.

Have we not the same God, the same Christ, the same Spirit of Grace poured out upon us? Why shall we tear away, why shall we cut off, the members of Christ? Why should we make war upon our own body, and come to such a point of madness as to forget that we are all members one of another? Your schism has driven away many persons, it has discouraged others, it has cast certain into doubt, and afflicted all of us; nevertheless, your rebellion continues. Take the Epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle. What is the first thing of which he writes to you at the beginning of his Gospel? Certainly the Spirit of Truth dictated to him what he commanded you touching Cephas, Apollos, and himself. Then there were divisions amongst you, but those divisions were less guilty than the divisions of to-day. Your choice was divided amongst authorised Apostles and a man whom they had approved. Now consider who are those who have led you astray, and have injured that reputation for fraternal love for which you were venerated. It is shameful, my beloved, it is very shameful and unworthy of Christian piety to hear it said that that Church of Corinth, so firm, so ancient, is in revolt against its elders because of one or two persons. And this report has come not only to us, but to those who hold us in but little goodwill, so that the name of the Lord is blasphemed through your imprudence, and you create perils for yourselves. . . Such a faithful one is specially gifted to explain the secrets 170of the gnose (tongues); he has the wisdom to discern the discourse; he is pure in his actions, let him humiliate himself so that he may be greater, let him seek the common good before his own.

The best thing the authors of these troubles can do is to go away.

Is there amongst you anyone who is generous, tender, and charitable, let him say, “If I am the cause of the rebellion, the quarrel, the schisms, I will retire, I will go where you will, I will do what the majority order, I ask only one thing, which is, that the flock of Christ may be at peace with the elders who have been established.” He who will thus use himself will acquire a great glory in the Lord, and will be made welcome wherever he may go. “The earth is the Lord’s and all that therein is.” See what they have done, and what they yet will do, who do the will of God, which never leads to repentance.

Kings and pagan chiefs have braved death in time of pestilence, to save their fellow-citizens; others have exiled themselves to put an end to civil war. “We know that many amongst us have delivered themselves to chains, that they might deliver others.” If those who have caused the revolt recognise their errors, it is not to us, it is to God, to whom they will yield. All ought to receive with joy the correction of the Church.

You then who have begun the rebellion, submit yourselves to the elders, and receive the correction in the spirit of penitence, bending the knees of your hearth. Learn to submit yourselves, renouncing the vain and insolent boldness of your tongues; for it is better that you should be small but esteemed in the flock of Christ, than that you should keep up the appearance of superiority, and be deprived of your hopes in Christ.

The submission which is due to the bishops and elders, the Christian owes to the powers of the earth. At the moment of the most diabolical atrocities of Nero, we heard Paul and Peter declare that the power of this monster came from God. Clement, in the very days when Domitian was guilty of the greatest cruelties against the Church, and against the human race, held him equally as being the lieutenant 171of God. In a prayer which he addresses to God, he thus expresses himself:—

It is thou, supreme Master, who by thy great and unspeakable power hast given to our sovereigns and to those who govern us upon earth the power of royalty. Knowing the glory and the honour which thou hast distributed to them, we submit ourselves to them, thus avoiding placing ourselves in contradiction with thy will. Give to them, O Lord, health, peace, concord, stability, that they may exercise without hindrance the sovereignty which thou has confided to them. For it is thou, Heavenly Master, King of the Worlds, who hast given to the children of men the glory, and the honour, and the power over all that there is on the surface of the earth. Direct, O Lord! their wills for good, and according to that which is pleasing to thee, so that exercising in peace, with gentleness and piety, the power which thou has given, they may find thee propitious.

Such is this document, a remarkable monument of the practical wisdom of the Church of Rome, of its profound policy, of its spirit of government. Peter and Paul are there more and more reconciled; both are right; the dispute about Law and works is pacified; the vague expressions “our apostles,” “our pillars,” mask the memory of past struggles. Although a warm admirer of Paul, the author is profoundly a Jew. Jesus for him is simply “the child beloved of God;” “the great High Priest,” “the chief of Christians.” Far from breaking with Judaism, he preserves in its integrity the privilege of Israel; only a new chosen people amongst the Gentiles is joined with Israel. All the antique prescriptions preserve their force, even though they have ceased to bear their original meaning. Whilst Paul abrogates, Clement preserves and transforms. What he desires above all things is concord, uniformity, rule, order in the Church as in nature, and in the Roman Empire. Let everyone obey in his rank: this is the order of the world. The small cannot exist without the great, nor the great without the small; the life of the body is the result of the common action of all the members. Obedience is then the summing-up, the synonym of the word 172duty. The inequality of men, the subordination of one to the other, is the law of God.

The history of the ecclesiastical hierarchy is the history of a triple abdication, the community of the faithful remitting first all its powers to the hands of the elders or presbyteri; the presbyteral body joining in a single personage, who is the episcopos; then the episcopi effacing themselves in the presence of one of them, who is pope. This last process, if we may so describe it, was effected only in our own days. The creation of the Episcopate is the work of the second century. The absorption of the Church by the presbyteri was accomplished before the end of the first. In the Epistle of Clement of Rome it is not yet the episcopate, it is the presbytery, which is in question. Not a trace of a presbyteros superior to his fellows is to be found. But the author proclaims aloud that the presbyteriate, the clergy, are before the people. The Apostles, in establishing Churches, have chosen, by the inspiration of the Spirit, “the bishops and deacons of future believers.” The powers emanating from the Apostles have been transmitted by a regular succession. No Church has a right to deprive its elders. The privilege of riches counts for nothing in the Church. In the same way, those who are favoured with mystical gifts ought to be the most submissive.

The great problem is approached: who form the Church? Is it the people? or the clergy? or the inspired? The question had already been asked in the time of St Paul, who solved it in the right way by mutual charity. Our Epistle defines the question in a purely Catholic sense. The apostolic title is everything; the right of the people is reduced to nothing. It may then be said that Catholicism had its origin in Rome, since the Church of Rome traced out its first rule. Precedence does not belong to spiritual gifts, to science, to distinction; it belongs to the hierarchy, to the powers transmitted by the channel of canonical 173ordination, which stretches back to the apostolate in an unbroken chain. We feel that a free Church such as Jesus had conceived, and as St Paul still admitted, was an anarchical utopia, which could not be looked for in the future. With gospel liberty there would have been disorder: it was not seen that with the hierarchy would come uniformity and death.

From the literary point of view the Epistle of Clement is somewhat weak and soft. It is the first monument of that prolix style, charged with superlatives, smelling of the preacher, which to this day remains that of the Papal Bulls. The imitation of St Paul is palpable; the author is governed by his memories of the sacred Scriptures. Almost every line contains an allusion to the writings of the Old Testament. Clement shows himself singularly pre-occupied with the new Bible, which is in course of formation. The Epistle to the Hebrews, which was a sort of inheritance of the Church of Rome, evidently formed his habitual reading; we may say the same of the other great Epistles of St Paul. His allusions to the Gospel texts appear to be divided between Matthew, Mark, and Luke; we might almost say that he had the same Gospel matter as we, but distributed without doubt otherwise than as we have it. The allusions to the Epistles of James and Peter are doubtful. But the allusions to the Jewish apocryphas, to which Clement accords the same authority as to the writings of the Old Testament, are striking: Judith an apocrypha of Ezekiel, the assumption of Moses, perhaps also the prayer of Manasseh. Like the Apostle Jude, Clement admitted into the Bible all those recent products of Jewish imagination or passion, inferior though they are to the old Hebrew literature, but more fitted than this last of pleasing at the time, by their tone of pathetic eloquence and of lively piety.

The Epistle of Clement attained besides the object 174for which it had been written. Order was re-established in the Church of Corinth. The lofty pretensions of the spiritual doctors were abated. Such was the ardent faith of these little conventicles, that they submitted to the greatest humiliations rather than quit the Church. But the work had a success which extended far beyond the limits of the Church of Corinth. There has been no writing more imitated, more quoted. Polycarpus, or the author of the Epistle attributed to him, the author of the apocryphal Epistles of Ignatius, the author of the fragment falsely called the Second Epistle of Clement, borrow from it as from a document known almost by heart. The treatise was read in the Churches like inspired Scripture. It took its place amongst the additions to the Canon of the New Testament. In one of the most ancient manuscripts of the Bible (the Codex Alexandrinus), it is found at the end of the books of the new alliance, and as one of them.

The trace left at Rome by Bishop Clement was profound from the most ancient times; a Church consecrated his memory in the valley between the Cœlius and the Esquiline, in the district where, according to tradition, the paternal house was placed, and where others, through a feeling of secular hesitation, wished to recall the memory of Flavius Clemens. We shall see him later become the hero of a surprising romance, very popular in Rome, and entitled “the Recognitions,” because his father, his mother, and his brothers, bewailed as dead, are found again, and recognise each other. With him was associated a certain Grapte, charged together with him with the government and teaching of widows and orphans. In the half light in which he remains enveloped, and, as it were, lost in the luminous haze of a fine historic distance, Clement is one of the great figures of nascent Christianity. Some vague rays come only out of the mystery which surrounds him; one might call him a 175saint’s head in an old half-effaced fresco of Giotto, still recognisable by its golden aureole and by some vague tints of a pure and gentle light.

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