Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Further Description of the Divine Justice; Since the Fall of Man It Has Regulated the Divine Goodness. God's Claims on Our Love and Our Fear Reconciled.
Chapter XIII.—Further Description of the Divine Justice; Since the Fall of Man It Has Regulated the Divine Goodness. Gods Claims on Our Love and Our Fear Reconciled.
But yet, when evil afterwards broke out, and the goodness of God began now to have an adversary to contend against, Gods justice also acquired another function, even that of directing His goodness according to mens application for it. 2857 And this is the result: the divine goodness, being interrupted in that free course whereby God was spontaneously good, is now dispensed according to the deserts of every man; it is offered to the worthy, denied to the unworthy, taken away from the unthankful, and also avenged on all its enemies. Thus the entire office of justice in this respect becomes an agency 2858 for goodness: whatever it condemns by its judgment, whatever it chastises by its condemnation, whatever (to use your phrase) it ruthlessly pursues, 2859 it, in fact, benefits with good instead of injuring. Indeed, the fear of judgment contributes to good, not to evil. For good, now contending with an enemy, was not strong enough to recommend itself 2860 by itself alone. At all events, if it could do so much, it could not keep its ground; for it had lost its impregnability through the foe, unless some power of fear supervened, such as might compel the very unwilling to seek after good, and take care of it. But who, when so many incentives to evil were assailing him, would desire that good, which he could despise with impunity? Who, again, would take care of what he could lose without danger? You read how broad is the road to evil, 2861 how thronged in comparison with the opposite: would not all glide down that road were there nothing in it to fear? We dread the Creators tremendous threats, and yet scarcely turn away from p. 308 evil. What, if He threatened not? Will you call this justice an evil, when it is all unfavourable to evil? Will you deny it to be a good, when it has its eye towards 2862 good? What sort of being ought you to wish God to be? Would it be right to prefer that He should be such, that sins might flourish under Him, and the devil make mock at Him? Would you suppose Him to be a good God, who should be able to make a man worse by security in sin? Who is the author of good, but He who also requires it? In like manner who is a stranger to evil, except Him who is its enemy? Who its enemy, besides Him who is its conqueror? Who else its conqueror, than He who is its punisher? Thus God is wholly good, because in all things He is on the side of good. In fact, He is omnipotent, because able both to help and to hurt. Merely to profit is a comparatively small matter, because it can do nothing else than a good turn. From such a conduct 2863 with what confidence can I hope for good, if this is its only ability? How can I follow after the reward of innocence, if I have no regard to the requital of wrong-doing? I must needs have my doubts whether he might not fail in recompensing one or other alternative, who was unequal in his resources to meet both. Thus far, then, justice is the very fulness of the Deity Himself, manifesting God as both a perfect father and a perfect master: a father in His mercy, a master in His discipline; a father in the mildness of His power, a master in its severity; a father who must be loved with dutiful affection, a master who must needs be feared; be loved, because He prefers mercy to sacrifice; 2864 be feared because He dislikes sin; be loved, because He prefers the sinners repentance to his death; 2865 be feared, because He dislikes the sinners who do not repent. Accordingly, the divine law enjoins duties in respect of both these attributes: Thou shalt love God, and, Thou shalt fear God. It proposed one for the obedient man, the other for the transgressor. 2866
Matt. vii. 13.308:2862
Hos. vi. 6.308:2865
Ezek. xxxiii. 11.308:2866
Matt. xxii. 37 f.
Next: Evil of Two Kinds, Penal and Criminal. It is Not of the Latter Sort that God is the Author, But Only of the Former, Which are Penal, and Included in His Justice.
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