On Repentance and Righteousness

Theophilus of Antioch (b.115 – d.181)

repentance“And when the people transgressed the law which had been given to them by God, God being good and pitiful, unwilling to destroy them, in addition to His giving them the law, afterwards sent forth also prophets to them from among their brethren, to teach and remind them of the contents of the law, and to turn them to repentance, that they might sin no more. But if they persisted in their wicked deeds, He forewarned them that they should be delivered into subjection to all the kingdoms of the earth; and that this has already happened them is manifest. Concerning repentance, then, Isaiah the prophet, generally indeed to all, but expressly to the people, says: “Seek ye the Lord while He may be found, call ye upon Him while He is near: let the wicked forsake his ways, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord his God, and he will find mercy, for He will abundantly pardon.” (Isaiah 55:6) And another prophet, Ezekiel, says: “If the wicked will turn from all his sins that he hath committed, and keep all My statutes, and do that which is right in My sight, he shall surely live, he shall not die. All his transgressions that he hath committed, they shall not be mentioned unto him; but in his righteousness that he hath done he shall live: for I desire not the death of the sinner, saith the Lord, but that he turn from his wicked way, and live.” (Ezek 18:21) Again Isaiah: “Ye who take deep and wicked counsel, turn ye, that ye may be saved.” And another prophet, Jeremiah: “Turn to the Lord your God, as a grape-gatherer to his basket, and ye shall find mercy.” (Jeremiah 6:9) Many therefore, yea rather, countless are the sayings in the Holy Scriptures regarding repentance, God being always desirous that the race of men turn from all their sins.

Moreover, concerning the righteousness which the law enjoined, confirmatory utterances are found both with the prophets and in the Gospels, because they all spoke inspired by one Spirit of God. Isaiah accordingly spoke thus: “Put away the evil of your doings from your souls; learn to do well, seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow.” (Isaiah 1:16-18) And again the same prophet said: “Loose every band of wickedness, dissolve every oppressive contract, let the oppressed go free, and tear up every unrighteous bond. Deal out thy bread to the hungry, and bring the houseless poor to thy home. When thou seest the naked, cover him, and hide not thyself from thine own flesh. Then shall thy light break forth as the morning, and thine health shall spring forth speedily, and thy righteousness shall go before thee.” (Isaiah 58:6) In like manner also Jeremiah says: “Stand in the ways, and see, and ask which is the good way of the Lord your God, and walk in it and ye shall find rest for your souls. Judge just judgment, for in this is the will of the Lord your God.” (Jer 6:16) So also says Hosea: “Keep judgment, and draw near to your God, who established the heavens and created the earth.” (Hosea 12:6) And another, Joel, spoke in agreement with these: “Gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children that are in arms; let the bridegroom go forth of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet, and pray to the Lord thy God urgently that he may have mercy upon you, and blot out your sins.” (Joel 2:16) In like manner also another, Zachariah: “Thus saith the Lord Almighty, Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassion every man to his brother; and oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, nor the stranger; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart, saith the Lord Almighty.” (Zech 7:9) (Theophilus to Autolycus, Book III, 10-11)

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