Today is the feast day of Saint Polycarp of Smyrna, Bishop and Martyr.
“Stand fast, therefore, in this conduct and follow the example of the Lord, ‘firm and unchangeable in faith, lovers of the brotherhood, loving each other, united in truth,’ helping each other with the mildness of the Lord, despising no man”
THE EPISTLE OF POLYCARP
Translated by J.B. Lightfoot.
Polycarp and the presbyters that are with him unto the Church of God
which sojourneth at Philippi; mercy unto you and peace from God
Almighty and Jesus Christ our Savior be multiplied.
I rejoiced with you greatly in our Lord Jesus Christ, for that ye
received the followers of the true Love and escorted them on their
way, as befitted you–those men encircled in saintly bonds which are
the diadems of them that be truly chosen of God and our Lord;
and that the steadfast root of your faith which was famed from
primitive times abideth until now and beareth fruit unto our Lord
Jesus Christ, who endured to face even death for our sins, whom God
raised, having loosed the pangs of Hades; on whom,
though ye saw Him not, ye believe with joy unutterable and full of
glory; unto which joy many desire to enter in; forasmuch as ye know
that it is by grace ye are saved, not of works, but by the will of
God through Jesus Christ.
Wherefore gird up your loins and serve God in fear and truth,
forsaking the vain and empty talking and the error of the many, for
that ye have believed on Him that raised our Lord Jesus Christ from
the dead and gave unto him glory and a throne on His right hand;
unto whom all things were made subject that are in heaven and that
are on the earth; to whom every creature that hath breath doeth
service; who cometh as judge of quick and dead; whose blood God
will require of them that are disobedient unto Him.
Now He that raised Him from the dead will raise us also; if we
do His will and walk in His commandments and love the things which He
loved, abstaining from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of
money, evil speaking, false witness; not rendering evil for evil or
railing for railing or blow for blow or cursing for cursing;
but remembering the words which the Lord spake, as He taught; Judge
not that ye be not judged. Forgive, and it shall be forgiven to
you. Have mercy that ye may receive mercy. With what measure ye
mete, it shall be measured to you again; and again Blessed are
the poor and they that are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for
theirs is the kingdom of God.
These things, brethren, I write unto you concerning righteousness,
not because I laid this charge upon myself, but because ye invited
For neither am I, nor is any other like unto me, able to follow the
wisdom of the blessed and glorious Paul, who when he came among you
taught face to face with the men of that day the word which
concerneth truth carefully and surely; who also, when he was absent,
wrote a letter unto you, into the which if ye look diligently, ye
shall be able to be builded up unto the faith given to you,
which is the mother of us all, while hope followeth after and love
goeth before–love toward God and Christ and toward our neighbor. For
if any man be occupied with these, he hath fulfilled the commandment
of righteousness; for he that hath love is far from all sin.
But the love of money is the beginning of all troubles. Knowing
therefore that we brought nothing into the world neither can we
carry anything out, let us arm ourselves with the armor of
righteousness, and let us teach ourselves first to walk in the
commandment of the Lord;
and then our wives also, to walk in the faith that hath been given
unto them and in love and purity, cherishing their own husbands in
all truth and loving all men equally in all chastity, and to train
their children in the training of the fear of God.
Our widows must be sober-minded as touching the faith of the Lord,
making intercession without ceasing for all men, abstaining from all
calumny, evil speaking, false witness, love of money, and every evil
thing, knowing that they are God’s altar, and that all sacrifices are
carefully inspected, and nothing escapeth Him either of their
thoughts or intents or any of the secret things of the heart.
Knowing then that God is not mocked, we ought to walk worthily of
His commandment and His glory.
In like manner deacons should be blameless in the presence of His
righteousness, as deacons of God and Christ and not of men; not
calumniators, not double-tongued, not lovers of money, temperate in
all things, compassionate, diligent, walking according to the truth
of the Lord who became a minister (deacon) of all. For if we be
well pleasing unto Him in this present world, we shall receive the
future world also, according as He promised us to raise us from the
dead, and that if we conduct ourselves worthily of Him we shall
also reign with Him, if indeed we have faith.
In like manner also the younger men must be blameless in all things,
caring for purity before everything and curbing themselves from every
evil. For it is a good thing to refrain from lusts in the world, for
every lust warreth against the Spirit, and neither whoremongers
nor effeminate persons nor defilers of themselves with men shall
inherit the kingdom of God, neither they that do untoward things.
Wherefore it is right to abstain from all these things, submitting
yourselves to the presbyters and deacons as to God and Christ. The
virgins must walk in a blameless and pure conscience.
And the presbyters also must be compassionate, merciful towards all
men, turning back the sheep that are gone astray, visiting all the
infirm, not neglecting a widow or an orphan or a poor man: but
providing always for that which is honorable in the sight of God
and of men, abstaining from all anger, respect of persons,
unrighteous judgment, being far from all love of money, not quick to
believe anything against any man, not hasty in judgment, knowing that
we all are debtors of sin.
If then we entreat the Lord that He would forgive us, we also ought
to forgive: for we are before the eyes of our Lord and God, and we
must all stand at the judgment-seat of Christ, and each man must
give an account of himself.
Let us therefore so serve Him with fear and all reverence, as He
himself gave commandment and the Apostles who preached the Gospel to
us and the prophets who proclaimed beforehand the coming of our Lord;
being zealous as touching that which is good, abstaining from
offenses and from the false brethren and from them that bear the name
of the Lord in hypocrisy, who lead foolish men astray.
For every one who shall not confess that Jesus Christ is come in
the flesh, is antichrist: and whosoever shall not confess the
testimony of the Cross, is of the devil; and whosoever shall pervert
the oracles of the Lord to his own lusts and say that there is
neither resurrection nor judgment, that man is the firstborn of
Wherefore let us forsake the vain doing of the many and their false
teachings, and turn unto the word which was delivered unto us from
the beginning, being sober unto prayer and constant in fastings,
entreating the all-seeing God with supplications that He bring us
not into temptation, according as the Lord said, The Spirit is
indeed willing, but the flesh is weak.
Let us therefore without ceasing hold fast by our hope and by the
earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ who took up our
sins in His own body upon the tree, who did no sin, neither was
guile found in His mouth, but for our sakes He endured all things,
that we might live in Him.
Let us therefore become imitators of His endurance; and if we should
suffer for His name’s sake, let us glorify Him. For He gave this
example to us in His own person, and we believed this.
I exhort you all therefore to be obedient unto the word of
righteousness and to practice all endurance, which also ye saw with
your own eyes in the blessed Ignatius and Zosimus and Rufus, yea and
in others also who came from among yourselves, as well as in Paul
himself and the rest of the Apostles;
being persuaded that all these ran not in vain but in faith and
righteousness, and that they are in their due place in the presence
of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not the
present world, but Him that died for our sakes and was raised by
God for us.
Stand fast therefore in these things and follow the example of the
Lord, being firm in the faith and immovable, in love of the
brotherhood kindly affectioned one to another, partners with the
truth, forestalling one another in the gentleness of the Lord,
despising no man.
When ye are able to do good, defer it not, for Pitifulness
delivereth from death. Be ye all subject one to another, having
your conversation unblamable among the gentiles, that your good
works both ye may receive praise and the Lord may not be
blasphemed in you.
But woe to him through whom the name of the Lord be blasphemed.
Therefore teach all men soberness, in which ye yourselves also walk.
I was exceedingly grieved for Valens, who aforetime was a presbyter
among you, because he is so ignorant of the office which was given
unto him. I warn you therefore that ye refrain from covetousness, and
that ye be pure and truthful. Refrain from all evil.
But he who cannot govern himself in these things, how doth he enjoin
this upon another? If a man refrain not from covetousness, he shall
be defiled by idolatry, and shall be judged as one of the Gentiles
who know not the judgment of the Lord, Nay, know we not, that the
saints shall judge the world, as Paul teacheth?
But I have not found any such thing in you, neither have heard
thereof, among whom the blessed Paul labored, who were his
letters in the beginning. For he boasteth of you in all those
churches which alone at that time knew God; for we knew Him not as
Therefore I am exceedingly grieved for him and for his wife, unto
whom may the Lord grant true repentance. Be ye therefore yourselves
also sober herein, and hold not such as enemies but restore them
as frail and erring members, that ye may save the whole body of you.
For so doing, ye do edify one another.
For I am persuaded that ye are well trained in the sacred writings,
and nothing is hidden from you. But to myself this is not granted.
Only, as it is said in these scriptures, Be ye angry and sin not,
and Let not the sun set on your wrath. Blessed is he that
remembereth this; and I trust that this is in you.
Now may the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the eternal
High-priest Himself the [Son of God Jesus Christ, build you up in
faith and truth, and in all gentleness and in all avoidance of wrath
and in forbearance and long suffering and in patient endurance and in
purity; and may He grant unto you a lot and portion among His saints,
and to us with you, and to all that are under heaven, who shall
believe on our Lord and God Jesus Christ and on His Father that
raised him from the dead.
Pray for all the saints. Pray also for kings and powers and
princes and for them that persecute and hate you and for the
enemies of the cross, that your fruit may be manifest among all
men, that ye may be perfect in Him.
Ye wrote to me, both ye yourselves and Ignatius, asking that if any
one should go to Syria he might carry thither the letters from you.
And this I will do, if I get a fit opportunity, either I myself, or
he whom I shall send to be ambassador on your behalf also.
The letters of Ignatius which were sent to us by him, and others as
many as we had by us, we send unto you, according as ye gave charge;
the which are subjoined to this letter; from which ye will be able to
gain great advantage. For they comprise faith and endurance and every
kind of edification, which pertaineth unto our Lord. Moreover
concerning Ignatius himself and those that were with him, if ye have
any sure tidings, certify us.
I write these things to you by Crescens, whom I commended to you
recently and now commend unto you: for he hath walked blamelessly
with us; and I believe also with you in like manner. But ye shall
have his sister commended, when she shall come to you. Fare ye well
in the Lord Jesus Christ in grace, ye and all yours. Amen.