Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Elucidations.
(Soul and Spirit, cap. xv. and notes 1 and 2, p. 463.)
Dr. Holmes, in the learned note which follows, affords me a valuable addition to my scanty remarks on this subject in former volumes. See (Vol. I. pp. 387, 532,) references to the great work of Professor Delitzsch, in notes on Irenæus. In Vol. II. p. 102, I have also mentioned M. Heards work, on the Tripartite Nature of Man. With reference to the disagreement of the learned on this great matter, let me ask is it not less real than apparent? The dichotomy to which Tertullian objected, and the trichotomy which Dr. Holmes makes a name of “the triple nature,” are terms which rather suggest a process of “dividing asunder of soul and spirit,” and which involve an ambiguity that confuses the inquiry. Now, while the gravest objections may be imagined, or even demonstrated, against a process which seems to destroy the unity and individuality of a Man, does not every theologian accept the analytical formula of the apostle and recognize the bodily, the animal and the spiritual in the life of man? If so is there not fundamental agreement as to 1 Thess. v. 23, and difference only, relatively, as to functions and processes, or as to the way in which truth on these three points ought to be stated? On this subject there are good remarks in the Speakers Commentary on the text aforesaid, but the exhaustive work of Delitzsch deserves study.
Mans whole nature in Christ, seems to be sanctified by the Holy Spirits suffusion of mans spirit; this rules and governs the psychic nature and through it the body.
(The entire work, cap. xxi. p. 474.)
He who has followed Tertullian through the mazes in which Marcion, in spite of shifts and turnings innumerable, has been hunted down, and defeated, must recognize the great work performed by this author in behalf of Christian Orthodoxy. It seems to have been the plan of Christs watchful care over His Church, that, in the earliest stages of its existence the enemy should be allowed to display his utmost malice and to bring out all his forces against Truth. Thus, before the meeting of Church-councils the language of faith had grown up, and clear views and precise statements of doctrine had been committed to the idioms of human thought. But, the labours of Tertullian are not confined to these diverse purposes. With all the faults of his acute and forensic mind, how powerfully he illuminates the Scriptures and glorifies them as containing the whole system of the Faith. How rich are his quotations, and how penetrating his conceptions of their uses. Besides all this, what an introduction he gives us to the modes of thought which were becoming familiar in the West, p. 475 and which were convening the Latin tongue to new uses, and making it capable of expressing Augustines mind and so of creating new domains of Learning among the nations of Europe.
If I have treated tenderly the reputation of this great Master, in my notes upon his Marcion, it is with a twofold purpose. (1.) It seems to me due to truth that his name should be less associated with his deplorable lapse than with his long and faithful services to the Church, and (2.) that the student should thus follow his career with a pleasure and with a confidence the lack of which perpetually annoys us when we give the first place to the Montanist and not to the Catholic. Let this be our spirit in accompanying him into his fresh campaigns against “the grievous wolves” foreseen by St. Paul with tears. Acts 20:29, 30.
But as our Author invokes a careful examination of his “entire work,” let the student recur to Irenæus (Vol. I. p. 352, etc.) and observe how formidable, from the beginning, was the irreligion of Marcion. His doctrines did truly “eat like a canker,” assailing the Scriptures by mutilations and corruptions of the text itself. No marvel that Tertullian shows him no quarter, though we must often regret the forensic violence of his retort. As to the Dualism which, through Marcion, thus threatened the first article of the Creed, consult the valuable remarks of the Encyc. Britannica, (“Mithras”). Mithras became known to the Romans circa b.c. 70, and his worship flourished under Trajan and his successors. An able writer remarks that it was natural “Dualism should develop itself out of primitive Zoroastrianism. The human mind has ever been struck with a certain antagonism of which it has sought to discover the cause. Evil seems most easily accounted for by the supposition of an evil Person; and the continuance of an equal struggle, without advantage to either side, seems to imply the equality of that evil Person with the author of all good. Thus Dualism had its birth. Many came to believe in the existence of two co-eternal and co-equal Persons, one good and the other evil, between whom there has been from all eternity a perpetual conflict, and between whom the same conflict must continue to rage through all coming time.”
Next: Against Hermogenes.
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