Upon this account, therefore, O Bishop, endeavor to be pure in thy actions, and to adorn thy place and dignity, which is that of one sustaining the character of God among men, as being set over all men, over priests, kings, rulers, fathers, children, teachers and in general over all those who are subject to thee; and so sit in the Church when thou speakest as having authority to judge offenders. For to you, O Bishops, it is said:” Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

That It Is a Dangerous Thing To Judge Without Hearing Both Sides, or To Determine of Punishment Against A Person before He is Convicted.

Be gentle, gracious, mild, without guile, without falsehood; not rigid, not insolent, not severe, not arrogant, not unmerciful, not puffed up, not a man-pleaser, not timorous, not double-minded, not one that insults over the people that are under thee, not one that conceals the divine laws and the promises to repentance, not hasty in thrusting out and expelling, but steady, not one that delights in severity, not heady. Do not admit less evidence to convict any one than that of three witnesses, and those of known and established reputation; inquire whether they do not accuse out of ill-will or envy: for there are many that delight in mischief, forward in discourse, slanderous, haters of the brethren, making it their business to scatter the sheep of Christ; whose affirmation if thou admittest without nice scanning the same, thou wilt disperse thy flock, and betray it to be devoured by wolves, that is by demons and wicked men, rather not men, but wild beasts in the shape of men – by the heathen, by the Jews, and by atheistic heretics. For those destroying wolves soon address themselves to any one that is cast out of the Church and esteem him as a lamb delivered for them to devour, reckoning his destruction their own gain. For he that is “their father, the devil, is a murderer.” He also who is separated unjustly by thy want of care in judging will be overwhelmed with sorrow, and be disconsolate, and so will either wander over to the heathen, or be entangled in heresies and so will be altogether estranged from the Church and from hope in God, and will be entangled in impiety, whereby thou wilt be guilty of his perdition : for it is not fair to be too hasty in casting out an offender, but slow in receiving him when he returns; to be forward in cutting off, but unmerciful when he is sorrowful and ought to be healed. For of such as these speaks the divine scripture: “Their feet run to mischief; they are hasty to shed blood. Destruction and misery are in their ways and the way of peace they have not known. The fear of God is not before their eyes.” Now the way of peace is our Savior Jesus Christ, who has taught us saying: “Forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. Give, and it shall be given to you; ” that is, give remission of sins and your offenses shall be forgiven you. As also He instructed us by His prayer to say unto God : ” Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors.” If therefore, you do not forgive offenders, how can you expect the remission of your own sins? Do not you rather bind yourselves faster, when you do not really forgive? Will you not be confronted with your own words when you say you forgive and do not forgive? For know ye, that he who casts out one who has not behaved wickedly, or who will not receive him that returns, is a murderer of his brother , and sheds his blood, as Cain did that of his brother and his “blood cries to God,” and will be required. For a righteous man unjustly slain by anyone will be in rest with God forever. The same is the case of him who without cause is separated by his bishop. He who has cast him out as a pestilent fellow when he was innocent, is more furious than a murderer. Such a one has no regard to the mercy of God, nor is mindful of His mercy to those who are penitent, nor keeping in his eye the examples of those who, having once been great offenders, received forgiveness upon their repentance. Upon which account, he who casts off an innocent person is more cruel than he that murders the body. In like manner, he who does not receive the penitent, scatters the flock of Christ, being really against Him. For as God is just in judging of sinners, so is He merciful in receiving them when they return. For David, the man after God’s own heart, in his hymns ascribes both mercy and judgment to Him.

On Accusations, and the Treatment of Accusers

Concerning Accusers and False Accusers, and How a Judge Is Not Rashly Either To Believe Them or Disbelieve Them, But After an Accurate Examination.

It is the duty of the bishop to judge rightly, as it is written, “judge righteous judgment;” and elsewhere, “why do ye not even of yourselves judge what is right?” Be ye therefore as skillful dealers in money: for as these reject bad money, but take to themselves what is current, in the same manner it is the bishop’s duty to retain the unblameable, but either to heal or, if they be past cure, to cast off those that are blameworthy, so as not to be hasty in cutting off, nor to believe all accusations; for it sometimes happens that some, either through passion or envy, do insist on a false accusation against a brother, as did the two elders in the case of Susanna of Babylon, and the Egyptian woman in the case of Joseph. Do thou therefore, as a man of God, not rashly receive such accusations, lest thou take away the innocent and slay the righteous; for he that will receive such accusations is the author of anger rather than of peace. But where there is anger, there the Lord is not; for that anger, which is the friend of Satan – I mean that which is excited unjustly by the means of false brethren – never suffers unanimity to be in the Church. Wherefore, when you know such persons to be foolish, quarrelsome, passionate and such as delight in mischief, do not give credit to them; but observe such as they are, when you hear anything from them against their brother; for murder is nothing in their own eyes, and they cast a man down in such a way as one would not suspect. Do thou therefore consider diligently the accuser, wisely observing his mode of life, what, and of what sort it is; and in case thou findest him a man of veracity, do according to the doctrine of our Lord, and taking him who is accused, rebuke him, that he may repent, when nobody is by. But if he be not persuaded, take with thee one or two more, and show him his fault, and admonish him with mildness and instruction; for wisdom will rest upon an heart that is good, but is not understood in the heart of the foolish.

-St. John Chrysostom

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