To those, therefore, that have made progress in the Word, He has proclaimed this utterance, bidding them dismiss anxious care of the things of this world, and exhorting them to adhere to the Father alone, in imitation of children.… Then it is right to notice, with respect to the appellation of “little one” is not used in the sense of lacking intelligence. The notion of childishness has that pejorative meaning, but the term “little one” really means “one newly become gentle,” just as the word gentle means being mild-mannered. So, a “little one” means one just recently become gentle and meek in disposition. This the blessed Paul most clearly pointed out when he said, “When we might have been burdensome as the apostles of Christ, we were gentle among you, as a nurse cherishes her children.” The little one is therefore gentle, and therefore more tender, delicate, and simple, guileless, and destitute of hypocrisy, straightforward and upright in mind, which is the basis of simplicity and truth.
Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor 1.5
But since we were torn away from you, brothers, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face, because we wanted to come to you—I, Paul, again and again—but Satan hindered us. For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? For you are our glory and joy. (1 Thess 2:17-20)
For we ought to walk by the standard of the saints and the fathers, and imitate them, and to be sure that if we depart from them we put ourselves also out of their fellowship. Whom then do they wish you to imitate? The one who hesitated, and while wishing to follow, delayed it and took counsel because of his family, or blessed Paul, who, the moment the stewardship was entrusted to him, “straightway conferred not with flesh and blood?” For although he said, “I am not worthy to be called an Apostle,” yet, knowing what he had received, and being not ignorant of the giver, he wrote, “For woe is me if I preach not the gospel.” But, as it was “woe to me” if he did not preach, so, in teaching and preaching the gospel, he had his converts as his joy and crown. This explains why the saint was zealous to preach as far as Illyricum, and not to shrink from proceeding to Rome, or even going as far as the Spains, in order that the more he labored, he might receive so much the greater reward for his labor. He boasted then that he had fought the good fight, and was confident that he should receive the great crown.
Athanasius, Letters to Dracontius 49.4