Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: The Next Stage Occurs in the Creation of Man by the Eternal Word. Spiritual as Well as Physical Gifts to Man. The Blessings of Man's Free-Will.
Chapter IV.—The Next Stage Occurs in the Creation of Man by the Eternal Word. Spiritual as Well as Physical Gifts to Man. The Blessings of Mans Free-Will.
The goodness of God having, therefore, provided man for the pursuit of the knowledge of Himself, added this to its original notification, 2739 that it first prepared a habitation for him, the vast fabric (of the world) to begin with, and then afterwards 2740 the vaster one (of a higher world, 2741 ) that he might on a great as well as on a smaller stage practise and advance in his probation, and so be promoted from the good which God had given him, that is, from his high position, to Gods best; that is, to some higher abode. 2742 In this good work God employs a most excellent minister, even His own Word. “My heart,” He says, “hath emitted my most excellent Word.” 2743 Let Marcion take hence his first lesson on the noble fruit of this truly most excellent tree. But, like a most clumsy clown, he has grafted a good branch on a bad stock. The sapling, however, of his blasphemy shall be never strong: it shall wither with its planter, and thus shall be manifested the nature of the good tree. Look at the total result: how fruitful was the Word! God issued His fiat, and it was done: God also saw that it was p. 300 good; 2744 not as if He were ignorant of the good until He saw it; but because it was good, He therefore saw it, and honoured it, and set His seal upon it; and consummated 2745 the goodness of His works by His vouchsafing to them that contemplation. Thus God blessed what He made good, in order that He might commend Himself to you as whole and perfect, good both in word and act. 2746 As yet the Word knew no malediction, because He was a stranger to malefaction. 2747 We shall see what reasons required this also of God. Meanwhile the world consisted of all things good, plainly foreshowing how much good was preparing for him for whom all this was provided. Who indeed was so worthy of dwelling amongst the works of God, as he who was His own image and likeness? That image was wrought out by a goodness even more operative than its wont, 2748 with no imperious word, but with friendly hand preceded by an almost affable 2749 utterance: “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” 2750 Goodness spake the word; Goodness formed man of the dust of the ground into so great a substance of the flesh, built up out of one material with so many qualities; Goodness breathed into him a soul, not dead but living. Goodness gave him dominion 2751 over all things, which he was to enjoy and rule over, and even give names to. In addition to this, Goodness annexed pleasures 2752 to man so that, while master of the whole world, 2753 he might tarry among higher delights, being translated into paradise, out of the world into the Church. 2754 The self-same Goodness provided also a help meet for him, that there might be nothing in his lot that was not good. For, said He, that the man be alone is not good. 2755 He knew full well what a blessing to him would be the sex of Mary, 2756 and also of the Church. The law, however, which you find fault with, 2757 and wrest into a subject of contention, was imposed on man by Goodness, aiming at his happiness, that he might cleave to God, and so not show himself an abject creature rather than a free one, nor reduce himself to the level of the other animals, his subjects, which were free from God, and exempt from all tedious subjection; 2758 but might, as the sole human being, boast that he alone was worthy of receiving laws from God; and as a rational being, capable of intelligence and knowledge, be restrained within the bounds of rational liberty, subject to Him who had subjected all things unto him. To secure the observance of this law, Goodness likewise took counsel by help of this sanction: “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” 2759 For it was a most benignant act of His thus to point out the issues of transgression, lest ignorance of the danger should encourage a neglect of obedience. Now, since 2760 it was given as a reason previous to the imposition of the law, it also amounted to a motive for subsequently observing it, that a penalty was annexed to its transgression; a penalty, indeed, which He who proposed it was still unwilling that it should be incurred. Learn then the goodness of our God amidst these things and up to this point; learn it from His excellent works, from His kindly blessings, from His indulgent bounties, from His gracious providences, from His laws and warnings, so good and merciful.
See Bp. Bull on The State of Man before the Fall, Works, ii. 73–81.299:2742
“Eructavit cor. meum Sermonem optimum” is Tertullians reading of Ps. xlv. 1, “My heart is inditing a good matter,” A.V., which the Vulgate, Ps. xliv. 1, renders by “Eructavit cor meum verbum bonum,” and the Septuagint by ᾽Εξηρεύξατο ἡ καρδία μου λόγον ἀγαθόν. This is a tolerably literal rendering of the original words, בוֹט רבָרָ יבִּלִ שׁהַרָ. In these words the Fathers used to descry an adumbration of the mystery of the Sons eternal generation from the Father, and His coming forth in time to create the world. See Bellarmine, On the Psalms (Paris ed. 1861), vol. i. 292. The Psalm is no doubt eminently Messianic, as both Jewish and Christian writers have ever held. See Perowne, The Psalms, vol. i. p. 216. Bishop Bull reviews at length the theological opinions of Tertullian, and shows that he held the eternity of the Son of God, whom he calls “Sermo” or “Verbum Dei.” See Defensio Fidei Nicænæ (translation in the “Oxford Library of the Fathers,” by the translator of this work) vol. ii. 509–545. In the same volume, p. 482, the passage from the Psalm before us is similarly applied by Novatian: “Sic Dei Verbum processit, de quo dictum est, Eructavit cor meum Verbum bonum.” [See vol. ii. p. 98, this series: and Kaye, p. 515.]300:2744
Dispungens, i.e., examinans et probans et ita quasi consummans (Oehler).300:2746
This twofold virtue is very tersely expressed: “Sic et benedicebat quæ benefaciebat.”300:2747
This, the translator fears, is only a clumsy way of representing the terseness of our authors “maledicere” and “malefacere.”300:2748
Bonitas et quidem operantior.300:2749
Gen. i. 26.300:2751
Totius orbis possidens.300:2754
There is a profound thought here; in his tract, De Pœnit. 10, he says, “Where one or two are, is the church, and the church is Christ.” Hence what he here calls Adams “higher delights,” even spiritual blessings in Christ with Eve. [Important note in Kaye, p. 304.]300:2755
See Gen. ii. 18.300:2756
Sexum Mariæ. For the Virgin Mary gave birth to Christ, the Saviour of men; and the virgin mother the Church, the spouse of Christ, gives birth to Christians (Rigalt.).300:2757
Ex fastidio liberis.300:2759
Gen. ii. 17.300:2760
Next: Marcion's Cavils Considered. His Objection Refuted, I.e., Man's Fall Showed Failure in God. The Perfection of Man's Being Lay in His Liberty, Which God Purposely Bestowed on Him. The Fall Imputable to Man's Own Choice.
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