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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: If God Had Anyhow Checked Man's Liberty, Marcion Would Have Been Ready with Another and Opposite Cavil. Man's Fall Foreseen by God. Provision Made for It Remedially and Consistently with His Truth and Goodness.

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Chapter VII.—If God Had Anyhow Checked Man’s Liberty, Marcion Would Have Been Ready with Another and Opposite Cavil. Man’s Fall Foreseen by God. Provision Made for It Remedially and Consistently with His Truth and Goodness.

By such a conclusion all is reserved 2801 unimpaired to God; both His natural goodness, and the purposes of His governance and foreknowledge, and the abundance of His power. You ought, however, to deduct from God’s attributes both His supreme earnestness of purpose 2802 and most excellent truth in His whole creation, if you would cease to inquire whether anything could have happened against the will of God. For, while holding this earnestness and truth of the good God, which are indeed 2803 capable of proof from the rational creation, you will not wonder at the fact that God did not interfere to prevent the occurrence of what He wished not to happen, in order that He might keep from harm what He wished. For, since He had once for all allowed (and, as we have shown, worthily allowed) to man freedom of will and mastery of himself, surely He from His very authority in creation permitted these gifts to be enjoyed: to be enjoyed, too, so far as lay in Himself, according to His own character as God, that is, for good (for who would permit anything hostile to himself?); and, so far as lay in man, according to the impulses of his liberty (for who does not, when giving anything to any one to enjoy, accompany the gift with a permission to enjoy it with all his heart and will?). The necessary consequence, 2804 therefore, was, that God must separate from the liberty which He had once for all bestowed upon man (in other words, keep within Himself), both His foreknowledge and power, through which He might have prevented man’s falling into danger when attempting wrongly to enjoy his liberty. Now, if He had interposed, He would have rescinded the liberty of man’s will, which He had permitted with set purpose, and in goodness. But, suppose God had interposed; suppose Him to have abrogated man’s liberty, by warning him from the tree, and keeping off the subtle serpent from his interview with the woman; would not Marcion then exclaim, What a frivolous, unstable, and faithless Lord, cancelling the gifts He had bestowed!  Why did He allow any liberty of will, if He afterwards withdrew it? Why withdraw it after allowing it? Let Him choose where to brand Himself with error, either in His original constitution of man, or in His subsequent abrogation thereof! If He had checked (man’s freedom), would He not then seem to have been rather deceived, through want of foresight into the future? But in giving it full scope, who would not say that He did so in ignorance of the issue of things? God, however, did foreknow that man would make a bad use of his created constitution; and yet what can be so worthy of God as His earnestness of purpose, and the truth of His created works, be they what they may?  Man must see, if he failed to make the most of 2805 the good gift he had received, how that he was himself guilty in respect of the law which he did not choose to keep, and not that the Lawgiver was committing a fraud against His own law, by not permitting its injunctions to be fulfilled. Whenever you are inclined to indulge in such censure 2806 (and it is the most becoming for you) against the Creator, recall gently to your mind in His behalf 2807 His earnestness, and endurance, and truth, in having given completeness 2808 to His creatures both as rational and good.


Footnotes

303:2801

Salva.

303:2802

Gravitatem.

303:2803

Sed, for scilicet, not unfrequent with our author.

303:2804

That is, from the Marcionite position referred to in the second sentence of this chapter, in opposition to that of Tertullian which follows.

303:2805

Si non bene dispunxisset.

303:2806

Peroraturus.

303:2807

Tibi insusurra pro Creatore.

303:2808

Functo.


Next: Man, Endued with Liberty, Superior to the Angels, Overcomes Even the Angel Which Lured Him to His Fall, When Repentant and Resuming Obedience to God.

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