His Holiness Saint Clement of Rome, also known as Sanctus Clemens I, is a martyr and the third pope of the Church founded by Christ. The Epistle to the Corinthians was written during his pontificate which lasted from around A.D. 88 to A.D. 97. This means that Saint John Apostle was alive during Saint Clement’s reigns. This is an important document, as it is the teaching of a pope while an apostle was alive.
First Clement as it is commonly known, was written to the church of Corinth, and it was almost placed in the Bible, with several advocating for it’s divine inspiration. Pope Clement I writes to the Corinthians, who had a dispute, while resolving this problem, Clement I speaks of other facts. He speaks of Saint Paul and his journey to Spain, and of the martyrdom of Saint Peter. The primacy of the Church of Rome is also spoken through his letter, as well as the apostolic succession, and he mentions deacons and priests, and the hierarchy of the Church.
In all, if one wants to know the early church’s thoughts, it is a good idea to read Saint Clement’s Epistle to the Corinthians. His Epistle is one of the first writings of the Early Church Fathers, and starts by Clement I saying that he could not write before because they had to endure “calamitous events” which sent them into hidings. Those “calamitous events” are persecutions which the Church and its members had to live through. His letter comes from the centre of the Roman Empire, and demonstrate the thoughts of Rome during this time period.
EWTN, having a very good library, has it on their website, Click Here for Clement’s Epistle
Chap. XXXI. Let us see by what means we may obtain the divine blessing.
Let us cleave then to His blessing, and consider what are the means of possessing it. Let us think over the things which have taken place from the beginning. For what reason was our father Abraham blessed? was it not because he wrought righteousness and truth through faith? Isaac, with perfect confidence, as if knowing what was to happen, cheerfully yielded himself as a sacrifice. Jacob, through reason of his brother, went forth with humility from his own land, and came to Laban and served him; and there was given to him the sceptre of the twelve tribes of Israel.
Chap. XXXII. We are justified not by our own works, but by faith.
Whosoever will candidly consider each particular, will recognise the greatness of the gifts which were given by him. For from him have sprung the priests and all the Levites who minister at the altar of God. From him also [was descended] our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh. From him [arose] kings, princes, and rulers of the race of Judah. Nor are his other tribes in small glory, inasmuch as God had promised, “Thy seed shall be as the stars of heaven.” All these, therefore, were highly honoured, and made great, not for their own sake, or for their own works, or for the righteousness which they wrought, but through the operation of His will. And we, too, being called by His will in Christ Jesus, are not justified by ourselves, nor by our own wisdom, or understanding, or godliness, or works which we have wrought in holiness of heart; but by that faith through which, from the beginning, Almighty God has justified all men; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen.
Chap. XXXIII. But let us not give up the practice of good works and love. God Himself is an example to us of good works.
What shall we do, then, brethren? Shall we become slothful in well-doing, and cease from the practice of love? God forbid that any such course should be followed by us! But rather let us hasten with all energy and readiness of mind to perform every good work. For the Creator and Lord of all Himself rejoices in His works. For by His infinitely great power He established the heavens, and by His incomprehensible wisdom He adorned them. He also divided the earth from the water which surrounds it, and fixed it upon the immoveable foundation of His own will. The animals also which are upon it He commanded by His own word into existence. So likewise, when He had formed the sea, and the living creatures which are in it, He enclosed them [within their proper bounds] by His own power. Above all, with His holy and undefiled hands He formed man, the most excellent [of His creatures], and truly great through the understanding given him the express likeness of His own image. For thus says God: “Let us make man in Our image, and after Our likeness. So God made man; male and female He created them.” Having thus finished all these things, He approved them, and blessed them, and said, “Increase and multiply.” We see, then, how all righteous men have been adorned with good works, and how the Lord Himself, adorning Himself with His works, rejoiced. Having therefore such an example, let us without delay accede to His will, and let us work the work of righteousness with our whole strength.