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We Don't Speak Great Things, We Live Them is an abridged, modern-English version of two second-century writings: Justin Martyr's "First Apology" and The Octavius by Minucius (Mark) Felix.
John Wesley once wrote, "How much shall I suffer in my usefulness if I have wasted the opportunity I once had of acquainting myself with the great lights of antiquity, the Anti-Nicene [sic] Fathers?"1
John Wesley was one of the most powerful evangelists of history. He believed that the reading of the fathers "has brought many out of dangerous errors" (ibid.).
Of course, Wesley was also Oxford-educated. He had both the time and the training to read and understand the early church fathers.
The average Christian today is not near as prepared to toil his or her way through the earliest Christian writings after the apostles. We are not without tools, however. David Bercot has put two of the most interesting early Christian writings into one book. He both took out the tedious parts (though they are included in the appendix) and put them in modern English.
What makes these books so interesting? To me, the most interesting thing is found in the title. Listen to the quote that produced it:
We despise the bent brows of the philosophers, whom we know to be corrupters, adulterers, tyrants, and ever eloquent against their own vices. We who bear wisdom not in our dress, but in our mind ... do not speak great things, but we live them. We boast that we have attained what they have sought for with the utmost eagerness and have not been able to find.2
Justin Martyr's "First Apology" is a defense of Christianity written to the Roman emperor Antoninus Pius and his sons around A.D. 150. It contains the earliest known description of a Christian service (except 1 Cor. 14). At the beginning he describes the teachings of Jesus and the way Christians live. Towards the end, he describes not only a Sunday service, but also Christian baptism.
The Octavius is a debate between a Roman pagan and a Christian. No one knows if the story is true and written from memory, or if Minucius (also called Mark) Felix wrote the debate for evangelism purposes. It has powerful answers not just to the philosophers (as in the quote above), but also explanations of the "holier than thou" attitudes and the poverty of Christians that will blow the socks off most modern Christians. The explanation of why we should not just follow our parent's religion is powerful too.
You can buy We Don't Speak Great Things, We Live Them at Amazon. If you use that link, you will not pay more, but I will get a commission. If you don't want me to get a commission for telling you about this great book, use this link. Either way, it is inexpensive, and John Wesley would want you to read it!
Almost all the early church fathers from the late first century until the fourth century can be read on the World-Wide Web for free at EarlyChristianWritings.com. CCEL.org has many of the fathers through the fifth century as well. Those writings are usually from century-old, scholarly translations, but I have some early Christian writings in modern English here.
Here is a link back to the home page.