Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part III: Sin Never to Be Returned to After Repentance.
Chapter V.—Sin Never to Be Returned to After Repentance. 8457
For what I say is this, that the repentance which, being shown us and commanded us through Gods grace, recalls us to grace 8458 with the Lord, when once learned and undertaken by us ought never afterward to be cancelled by repetition of sin. No pretext of ignorance now remains to plead on your behalf; in that, after acknowledging the Lord, and accepting His precepts 8459 —in short, after engaging in repentance of (past) sins—you again betake yourself to sins. Thus, in as far as you are removed from ignorance, in so far are you cemented 8460 to contumacy. For if the ground on which you had repented of having sinned was that you had begun to fear the Lord, why have you preferred to rescind what you did for fears sake, except because you have ceased to fear? For there is no other thing but contumacy which subverts fear. Since there is no exception which defends from liability to penalty even such as are ignorant of the Lord—because ignorance of God, openly as He is set before men, and comprehensible as He is even on the score of His heavenly benefits, is not possible 8461 —how perilous is it for Him to be despised when known? Now, that man does despise Him, who, after attaining by His help to an understanding of things good and evil, often an affront to his own understanding—that is, to Gods gift—by resuming what he understands ought to be shunned, and what he has already shunned: he rejects the Giver in abandoning the gift; he denies the Benefactor in not honouring the benefit. How can he be pleasing to Him, whose gift is displeasing to himself? Thus he is shown to be not only contumacious toward the Lord, but likewise ungrateful. Besides, that man commits no light sin against the Lord, who, after he had by repentance renounced His rival the devil, and had under this appellation subjected him to the Lord, again upraises him by his own return (to the enemy), and makes himself a ground of exultation to him; so that the Evil One, with his prey recovered, rejoices anew against the Lord. Does he not—what is perilous even to say, but must be put forward with a view to edification—place the devil before the Lord? For he seems to have made the comparison who has known each; and to have judicially pronounced him to be the better whose (servant) he has preferred again to be. Thus he who, through repentance for sins, had begun to make satisfaction to the Lord, will, through another repentance of his repentance, make satisfaction to the devil, and will be the more hateful to God in proportion as he will be the more acceptable to His rival. But some say that “God is satisfied if He be looked up to with the heart and the mind, even if this be not done in outward act, and that thus they sin without damage to their fear and their faith:” that is, that they violate wedlock without damage to their chastity; they mingle poison for their parent without damage to their filial duty! Thus, then, they will themselves withal be thrust down into hell without damage to their pardon, while they sin without damage to their fear! Here is a primary example of perversity: they sin, because they fear! 8462 I suppose, if they feared p. 661 not, they would not sin! Let him, therefore, who would not have God offended not revere Him at all, if fear 8463 is the plea for offending. But these dispositions have been wont to sprout from the seed of hypocrites, whose friendship with the devil is indivisible, whose repentance never faithful.
[The formidable doctrine of 1 John 3:9, 1 John 5:18, etc. must excuse our author for his severe adherence to this principle of purifying the heart from habitual sin. But, the church refused to press it against St. Matt. xviii. 22. In our own self-indulgent day, we are more prone, I fear, to presumption than to over strictness. The Roman casuists make attrition suffice, and so turn absolution into a mere sponge, and an encouragement to perpetual sinning and formal confession.]660:8458
Which is solemnly done in baptism.660:8460
Acts xiv. 15-17: “licet” here may ="lawful,” “permissible,” “excusable.”660:8462
“Timent,” not “metuunt.” “Metus” is the word Tertullian has been using above for religious, reverential fear.661:8463
Next: Baptism Not to Be Presumptously Received. It Requires Preceding Repentance, Manifested by Amendment of Life.
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