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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: Sleep, the Mirror of Death, as Introductory to the Consideration of Death.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XLII.—Sleep, the Mirror of Death, as Introductory to the Consideration of Death.

It now remains (that we discuss the subject) of death, in order that our subject-matter may terminate where the soul itself completes it; although Epicurus, indeed, in his pretty widely known doctrine, has asserted that death does not appertain to us. That, says he, which is dissolved lacks sensation; and that which is without sensation is nothing to us. Well, but it is not actually death which suffers dissolution and lacks sensation, but the human person who experiences death. Yet even he has admitted suffering to be incidental to the being to whom action belongs. Now, if it is in man to suffer death, which dissolves the body and destroys the senses, how absurd to say that so great a susceptibility belongs not to man! With much greater precision does Seneca say: “After death all comes to an end, even (death) itself.” From which position of his it must needs follow that death will appertain to its own self, since itself comes to an end; and much more to man, in the ending of whom amongst the “all,” itself also ends. Death, (says Epicurus) belongs not to us; then at that rate, life belongs not to us.  For certainly, if that which causes our dissolution have no relation to us, that also which compacts and composes us must be unconnected with us. If the deprivation of our sensation be nothing to us, neither can the acquisition of sensation have anything to do with us. The fact, however, is, he who destroys the very soul, (as Epicurus does), cannot help destroying death also. As for ourselves, indeed, (Christians as we are), we must treat of death just as we should of the posthumous life and of some other province of the soul, (assuming) that we at all events belong to death, if it does not pertain to us. And on the same principle, even sleep, which is the very mirror of death, is not alien from our subject-matter.

Next: Sleep a Natural Function as Shown by Other Considerations, and by the Testimony of Scripture.

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