Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part I: Truth and Reality Pertain to Christians Alone. The Heathen Counselled to Examine and Embrace It.
Chapter XX.—Truth and Reality Pertain to Christians Alone. The Heathen Counselled to Examine and Embrace It.
How long therefore, O most unjust heathen, will you refuse to acknowledge us, and (what is more) to execrate your own (worthies), since between us no distinction has place, because we are one and the same? Since you do not (of course) hate what you yourselves are, give us rather your right hands in fellowship, unite your salutations, 759 mingle your embraces, sanguinary with the sanguinary, incestuous with the incestuous, conspirators with conspirators, obstinate and vain with those of the selfsame qualities. In company with each other, we have been traitors to the majesty of the gods; and together do we provoke their indignation. You too have your “third race;” 760 not indeed third in the way of religious rite, 761 but a third race in sex, and, made up as it is of male and female in one, it is more fitted to men and women (for offices of lust). 762 Well, then, do we offend you by the very fact of our approximation and agreement? Being on a par is apt to furnish unconsciously the materials for rivalry. Thus “a potter envies a potter, and a smith a smith.” 763 But we must now discontinue this imaginary confession. 764 Our conscience has returned to the truth, and to the consistency of truth. For all those points which you allege 765 (against us) will be really found in ourselves alone; and we alone can rebut them, against whom they are adduced, by getting you to listen 766 to the other side of the question, whence that full knowledge is learnt which both inspires counsel and directs the judgment. Now it is in fact your own maxim, that no one should determine a cause without hearing both sides of it; and it is only in our own case that you neglect (the equitable principle). You indulge to the full 767 that fault of human nature, that those things which you do not disallow in yourselves you condemn in others, or you boldly charge 768 against others those things the guilt of which 769 you retain a lasting consciousness of 770 in yourselves. The course of life in which you will choose to occupy yourselves is different from ours: whilst chaste in the eyes of others, you are p. 128 unchaste towards your own selves; whilst vigorous against vice out of doors, you succumb to it at home. This is the injustice (which we have to suffer), that, knowing truth, we are condemned by those who know it not; free from guilt, we are judged by those who are implicated in it. Remove the mote, or rather the beam, out of your own eye, that you may be able to extract the mote from the eyes of others. Amend your own lives first, that you may be able to punish the Christians. Only so far as you shall have effected your own reformation, will you refuse to inflict punishment on them—nay, so far will you have become Christians yourselves; and as you shall have become Christians, so far will you have compassed your own amendment of life. Learn what that is which you accuse in us, and you will accuse no longer; search out what that is which you do not accuse in yourselves, and you will become self-accusers. From these very few and humble remarks, so far as we have been able to open out the subject to you, you will plainly get some insight into (your own) error, and some discovery of our truth. Condemn that truth if you have the heart, 771 but only after you have examined it; and approve the error still, if you are so minded, 772 only first explore it. But if your prescribed rule is to love error and hate truth, why, (let me ask,) do you not probe to a full discovery the objects both of your love and your hatred?
As the Christians were held to be; coming after (1) the heathen, (2) the Jews. See above, c. viii., and Scorpiace, c. x.127:762
An oft-quoted proverb in ancient writers. It occurs in Hesiod (Opp. et Dies) 25.127:764
Literally, “cease henceforth, O, simulated confession.”127:765
This seems to be the force of the “agnitione,” which Oehler renders “auditione.”127:767
Next: Book II
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