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 The Sad State of the Corinthian Church And the Sin of Envy by Clement

Written just after 100 A.D. To the Corinthian Church that the Apostle Paul wrote 2 letters.

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Every kind of honour and happiness13 was bestowed upon you, and then was fulfilled that which is written, “My beloved did eat and drink, and was enlarged and became fat, and kicked.”14 Hence flowed emulation and envy, strife and sedition, persecution and disorder, war and captivity. So the worthless rose up against the honoured, those of no reputation against such as were renowned, the foolish against the wise, the young against those advanced in years.

For this reason righteousness and peace are now far departed from you, inasmuch as every one abandons the fear of God, and is become blind in His faith,15 neither walks in the ordinances of His appointment, nor acts a part becoming a Christian,16 but walks after his own wicked lusts, resuming the practice of an unrighteous and ungodly envy, by which death itself entered into the world.17


For thus it is written: “And it came to pass after certain days, that Cain brought of the fruits of the earth a sacrifice unto God; and Abel also brought of the firstlings of his sheep, and of the fat thereof. And God had respect to Abel and to his offerings, but Cain and his sacrifices He did not regard. And Cain was deeply grieved, and his countenance fell. And God said to Cain, Why art thou grieved, and why is thy countenance fallen? If thou offerest rightly, but dost not divide rightly, hast thou not sinned? Be at peace: thine offering returns to thyself, and thou shalt again possess it. And Cain said to Abel his brother, Let us go into the field. And it came to pass, while they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother, and slew him.”18 Ye see, brethren, how envy and jealousy led to the murder of a brother. Through envy, also, our father Jacob fled from the face of Esau his brother.19

Envy made Joseph be persecuted unto death, and to come into bondage.20 Envy compelled Moses to flee from the face of Pharaoh king of Egypt, when he heard these words from his fellow-countryman, “Who made thee a judge or a ruler over us? wilt thou kill me, as thou didst kill the Egyptian yesterday?”21 On account of envy, Aaron and Miriam had to make their abode without the camp.22 Envy brought down Dathan and Abiram alive to Hades, through the sedition which they excited against God’s servant Moses.23 Through envy, David underwent the hatred not only of foreigners, but was also persecuted by Saul king of Israel.24

But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes.25 Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death.26 Let us set before our eyes the illustrious27 apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him.

Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity,28 compelled29 to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west,30 and suffered martyrdom under the prefects.31 Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.

To these men who spent their lives in the practice of holiness, there is to be added a great multitude of the elect, who, having through envy endured many indignities and tortures, furnished us with a most excellent example. Through envy, those women, the Danaids32 and Dircæ, being persecuted, after they had suffered terrible and unspeakable torments, finished the course of their faith with stedfastness,33 and though weak in body, received a noble reward. Envy has alienated wives from their husbands, and changed that saying of our father Adam, “This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh.”34 Envy and strife have overthrown great cities and rooted up mighty nations.


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