The Religion Of The West Its Mo
In the writings of Tertullian a conception of Christianity is quite fully
developed according to which the Gospel was a new law of life, with its
prescribed holy seasons and hours for prayer; its sacrifices, though as
yet only sacrifices of prayer; its fasts and almsgiving, which had
propitiatory effect, atoning for sins committed and winning merit with
God; its sacred rites, solemnly administered by an established hierarchy;
and all observed for the sake of a reward which God in justice owed those
who kept His commandments. It is noticeable that already there is the same
divided opinion as to marriage, whereby, on the one hand, it was regarded
as a concession to weakness, a necessary evil, and, on the other, a high
and holy relation, strictly monogamous, and of abiding worth. The
propitiatory and meritorious character of fasts and almsgiving as laid
down by Tertullian was developed even further by Cyprian and became a
permanent element in the penitential system of the Church, ultimately
affecting its conception of redemption.
(a) Tertullian, De Oratione, 23, 25, 28. (MSL, 1:1298.)
Ch. 23. As to kneeling, also, prayer is subject to diversity of observance
on account of a few who abstain from kneeling on the Sabbath. Since this
dissension is particularly on its trial before the churches, the Lord will
give His grace that the dissentients may either yield or else follow their
own opinion without offence to the others. We, however, as we have
received, only on the Sunday of the resurrection ought to guard not only
against this kneeling, but every posture and office of anxiety; deferring
even our businesses, lest we give any place to the devil. Similarly, too,
the period of Pentecost, is a time which we distinguish by the same
solemnity of exultation. But who would hesitate every day to prostrate
himself before God, at least in the first prayer with which we enter on
the daylight? At fasts, moreover, and stations, no prayer should be made
without kneeling and the remaining customary marks of humility. For then
we are not only praying, but making supplication, and making satisfaction
to our Lord God.
Ch. 25. Touching the time, however, the extrinsic observance of certain
hours will not be unprofitable; those common hours, I mean, which mark the
intervals of the day--the third, the sixth, the ninth--which we may find in
Scripture to have been more solemn than the rest.
Ch. 28. This is the spiritual victim which has abolished the pristine
sacrifices. We are the true adorers and true priests, who, praying in the
spirit, in the spirit sacrifice prayer, proper and acceptable to God,
which, assuredly, He has required, which He has looked forward to for
Himself. This victim, devoted from the whole heart, fed on faith, tended
by truth, entire in innocence, pure in chastity, garlanded with love
[agape], we ought to escort with the pomp of good works, amid psalms and
hymns, unto God's altar, to obtain all things from God for us.
(b) Tertullian, De Jejun., 3. (MSL, 2:100.)
The following is a characteristic statement of the meritorious and
propitiatory character of fasting. See below, h, Cyprian.
Since He himself both commands fasting and calls a soul wholly
shattered--properly, of course, by straits of diet--a sacrifice (Psalm
51:18), who will any longer doubt that of all macerations as to food the
rationale has been this: that by a renewed interdiction of food and
observance of the precept the primordial sin might now be expiated, so
that man may make God satisfaction through the same causative material by
which he offended, that is, by interdiction of food; and so, by way of
emulation, hunger might rekindle, just as satiety had extinguished,
salvation, contemning for the sake of one thing unlawful many things that
(c) Tertullian, De Baptismo, 17. (MSL, 1:1326.)
It remains to put you in mind, also, of the due observance of giving and
receiving baptism. The chief priest (summus sacerdos), who is the
bishop, has the right of giving it; in the second place, the presbyters
and deacons, yet not without the bishop's authority, on account of the
honor of the Church. When this has been preserved, peace is preserved.
Besides these, even laymen have the right; for what is equally received
can be equally given. If there are no bishops, priests, or deacons, other
disciples are called. The word of the Lord ought not to be hidden away by
any. In like manner, also, baptism, which is equally God's property, can
be administered by all; but how much more is the rule of reverence and
modesty incumbent on laymen, since these things belong to their superiors,
lest they assume to themselves the specific functions of the episcopate!
Emulation of the episcopal office is the mother of schism.
(d) Tertullian, De Poenitentia, 2. (MSL, 1:1340.)
How small is the gain if you do good to a grateful man, or the loss if to
an ungrateful man! A good deed has God as its debtor, just as an evil deed
has Him also; for the judge is a rewarder of every cause. Now, since God
as judge presides over the exacting and maintaining of justice, which is
most dear to Him, and since it is for the sake of justice that He appoints
the whole sum of His discipline, ought one to doubt that, as in all our
acts universally, so, also, in the case of repentance, justice must be
rendered to God?
(e) Tertullian, Scorpiace, 6. (MSL, 2:157.)
If he had put forth faith to suffer martyrdoms, not for the contest's
sake, but for its own benefit, ought it not to have had some store of
hope, for which it might restrain its own desire and suspend its wish,
that it might strive to mount up, seeing that they, also, who strive to
discharge earthly functions are eager for promotion? Or how will there be
many mansions in the Father's house, if not for a diversity of deserts?
How, also, will one star differ from another star in glory, unless in
virtue of a disparity of their rays?
(f) Tertullian, Ad Uxorem, I, 3; II, 8-10. (MSL, 1:1390, 1415.) Cf.
Kirch, n. 181.
I, 3. There is no place at all where we read that marriages are
prohibited; of course as a "good thing." What, however, is better than
this "good," we learn from the Apostle in that he permits marriage,
indeed, but prefers abstinence; the former on account of the insidiousness
of temptations, the latter on account of the straits of the times (I Cor.
7:26). Now by examining the reason for each statement it is easily seen
that the permission to marry is conceded us as a necessity; but whatever
necessity grants, she herself deprecates. In fact, inasmuch as it is
written, "It is better to marry than to burn" (I Cor. 7:9), what sort of
"good" is this which is only commended by comparison with "evil," so that
the reason why "marrying" is better is merely that "burning" is worse?
Nay; but how much better is it neither to marry nor to burn?
II, 8. Whence are we to find adequate words to tell fully of the happiness
of that marriage which the Church cements and the oblation(59) confirms,
and the benediction seals; which the angels announce, and the Father holds
for ratified? For even on earth children do not rightly and lawfully wed
without their father's consent. What kind of yoke is that of two believers
of one hope, one discipline, and the same service? The two are brethren,
the two are fellow-servants; no difference of spirit or flesh; nay, truly,
two in one flesh; where there is one flesh the spirit is one.
(g) Tertullian, De Monogamia, 9, 10. (MSL, 2:991 f.)
This work was written after Tertullian became a Montanist, and
with other Montanists repudiated second marriage, to which
reference is made in both passages. But the teaching of the Church
regarding remarriage after divorce was as Tertullian here speaks.
The reference to offering at the end of ch. 10 does not refer to
the eucharist, but to prayers. See above, Ad Uxorem, ch. II, 8.
Ch. 9. So far is it true that divorce "was not from the beginning" [cf.
Matt. 19:8] that among the Romans it is not till after the six hundredth
year after the foundation of the city that this kind of hardness of heart
is recorded to have been committed. But they not only repudiate, but
commit promiscuous adultery; to us, even if we do divorce, it will not be
lawful to marry.
Ch. 10. I ask the woman herself, "Tell me, sister, have you sent your
husband before in peace?" What will she answer? In discord? In that case
she is bound the more to him with whom she has a cause to plead at the bar
of God. She is bound to another, she who has not departed from him. But if
she say, "In peace," then she must necessarily persevere in that peace
with him whom she will be no longer able to divorce; not that she would
marry, even if she had been able to divorce him. Indeed, she prays for his
soul, and requests refreshment for him meanwhile, and fellowship in the
first resurrection; and she offers on the anniversary of his falling
(h) Cyprian, De Opere et Eleemosynis, 1, 2, 5. (MSL, 4:625.)
Cyprian, Bishop of Carthage (249-258), was the most important
theologian and ecclesiastic between Tertullian and Augustine. He
developed the theology of the former especially in its
ecclesiastical lines, and his idea of the Church was accepted by
the latter as a matter beyond dispute. His most important
contributions to the development of the Church were his
hierarchical conceptions, which became generally accepted as the
basis of the episcopal organization of the Church (see below, §§
46, 50, 51). His writings, which are of great importance in the
history of the Church, consist only of epistles and brief tracts.
His influence did much to determine the lines of development of
the Western Church, and especially the church of North Africa.
With the following cf. supra, § 16.
Ch. 1. Many and great, beloved brethren, are the divine benefits wherewith
the large and abundant mercy of God the Father and of Christ both has
labored and is always laboring for our salvation: because the Father sent
the Son to preserve us and give us life, that He might restore us; and the
Son was willing to be sent and to become the son of man, that He might
make us the sons of God. He humbled Himself that He might raise up the
people who before were prostrate; He was wounded that He might heal our
wounds; He served that He might draw to liberty those who were in bondage;
He underwent death, that He might set forth immortality to mortals. These
are many and great boons of compassion. But, moreover, what a providence,
and how great the clemency, that by a plan of salvation it is provided for
us that more abundant care should be taken for preserving man who has been
redeemed! For when the Lord, coming to us, had cured those wounds which
Adam had borne, and had healed the old poisons of the serpent, He gave a
law to the sound man, and bade him sin no more lest a worse thing should
befall the sinner. We had been limited and shut up in a narrow space by
the commandment of innocence. Nor should the infirmity and weakness of
human frailty have anything it might do, unless the divine mercy, coming
again in aid, should open some way of securing salvation by pointing out
works of justice and mercy, so that by almsgiving we may wash away
whatever foulness we subsequently contract.
Ch. 2. The Holy Spirit speaks in the sacred Scriptures saying, "By
almsgiving and faith sins are purged" [Prov. 16:6]. Not, of course, those
sins which had been previously contracted, for these are purged by the
blood and sanctification of Christ. Moreover, He says again, "As water
extinguishes fire, so almsgiving quencheth sin" [Eccles. 3:30]. Here,
also, is shown and proved that as by the laver of the saving water the
fire of Gehenna is extinguished, so, also, by almsgiving and works of
righteousness the flame of sin is subdued. And because in baptism
remission of sins is granted once and for all, constant and ceaseless
labor, following the likeness of baptism, once again bestows the mercy of
God. The Lord also teaches this in the Gospel. The Merciful One teaches
and warns that works of mercy be performed; because He seeks to save those
who at great cost He has redeemed, it is proper that those who after the
grace of baptism have become foul can once more be cleansed.
Ch. 5. The remedies for propitiating God are given in the words of God
himself. The divine instructions have taught sinners what they ought to
do; that by works of righteousness God is satisfied, and with the merits
of mercy sins are cleansed. He [the angel Raphael, cf. Tobit. 12:8, 9]
shows that our prayers and fastings are of little avail unless they are
aided by almsgiving; that entreaties alone are of little force to obtain
what they seek, unless they be made sufficient by the addition of deeds
and good works. The angel reveals and manifests and certifies that our
petitions become efficacious by almsgiving, that life is redeemed from
dangers by almsgiving, that souls are delivered from death by almsgiving.
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