423) Defending the Early Christians Before the Emperor

By Aristides in APOLOGY, 137 A. D.; from The Early Christians: In Their Own Words (ch. 3, #24); Selected and Edited by Eberhard Arnold (1883-1935).  Reprinted from http://www.bruderhof.com.

     It is the Christians, O Emperor, who have sought and found the truth.  We have realized it from their writings; they are closer to the truth and to a right understanding than all the other peoples…  They believe in God, the creator and builder of the universe, in whom all things are and from whom everything comes.  They worship no other God.  They have his commandments imprinted on their hearts.  They observe them because they live in the hope and expectation of the coming age.  They do not commit adultery.  They do not live in fornication.  They speak no untruth…  They do not covet what belongs to others.  They honor father and mother.  They show love to their neighbors.  They pronounce judgments which are just.  They do not worship idols in human form.  They do not do to another what they would not wish to have done to themselves…  They speak gently to those who oppress them, and in this way they make them their friends.  It has become their passion to do good to their enemies…  Their daughters are chaste, kind, and gentle.  Their men refrain from all unlawful intimate relationships.  They keep free from all impurity, for they live in the expectation of the recompense to come in the other world.  Any male or female slaves or dependents whom individuals among them may have, they persuade to become Christians because of the love they feel towards them.  If they do become Christians, they are brothers to them without discrimination.

     They live in the awareness of their smallness.  Kindliness is their nature.  There is no falsehood among them.  They love one another.  They do not neglect widows.  They rescue orphans from those who are cruel to them.  Every one of them who has anything gives ungrudgingly to the one who has nothing…  They rejoice over him as over a real brother, for they do not call one another brothers after the flesh, but they know they are brothers in the Spirit and in God.  If they hear that one of them is imprisoned or oppressed by their opponents for the sake of their Christ’s name, all of them take care of all his needs.  If possible they set him free.  If anyone among them is poor or comes into want while they themselves have nothing to spare, they fast two or three days for him.  In this way they can supply any poor man with the food he needs.

     They are ready to give up their lives for Christ, for they observe the words of their Christ with much care…  Every morning they give praise and honor to their God for all the good things he gives to them.  They thank him for their food and drink.  If any one of them who is righteous passes from this world, they rejoice and give thanks to God.  They escort his body as though he were simply moving from one place to another.  When a baby is born to one of them, they honor God, and if it should happen that the little child dies, they honor God even more, for it has passed through the world without sin.  But if they have to experience that one of them dies in godlessness or sin, they weep bitterly over him.  They sigh for him because he must go to meet his punishment.

     Thus they run the course of their lives.  They acknowledge the good deeds of God towards them.  And because of them, good flows on in the world!  Truly it is they who have sought and have found the truth.  Yet they do not cry out in the ears of the masses the good deeds they do.  Rather, they take care that no one should notice them.  They hide their giving like someone who conceals a treasure he has found.  They strive for righteousness because they live in the expectation of seeing Christ and receiving from him the fulfillment of the promises he made to them.

     Take their writings and read in them, and you will see that I have not invented anything here.  Rather, through reading their writings I came to these firm convictions, also regarding the future things to which they bear witness.  It is for this reason that I felt urged to declare the truth to those who are ready for the truth and ready to seek the world of the future.


Matthew 5:14-16  —  (Jesus said), “You are the light of the world.  A city on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl.  Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven.”

I Peter 2:12  —  Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.

IPeter 3:15-16  —  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord.  Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.  But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.


Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things:  Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

–Book of Common Prayer