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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part III: Chapter I

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 681

III.

On Prayer.

[Translated by the Rev. S. Thelwall.]

————————————

Chapter I.—General Introduction. 8760

The Spirit of God, and the Word of God, and the Reason of God—Word of Reason, and Reason and Spirit of Word—Jesus Christ our Lord, namely, who is both the one and the other, 8761 —has determined for us, the disciples of the New Testament, a new form of prayer; for in this particular also it was needful that new wine should be laid up in new skins, and a new breadth be sewn to a new garment. 8762 Besides, whatever had been in bygone days, has either been quite changed, as circumcision; or else supplemented, as the rest of the Law; or else fulfilled, as Prophecy; or else perfected, as faith itself. For the new grace of God has renewed all things from carnal unto spiritual, by superinducing the Gospel, the obliterator of the whole ancient bygone system; in which our Lord Jesus Christ has been approved as the Spirit of God, and the Word of God, and the Reason of God: the Spirit, by which He was mighty; the Word, by which He taught; the Reason, by which He came. 8763 So the prayer composed by Christ has been composed of three parts. In speech, 8764 by which prayer is enunciated, in spirit, by which alone it prevails, even John had taught his disciples to pray, 8765 but all John’s doings were laid as groundwork for Christ, until, when “He had increased”—just as the same John used to fore-announce “that it was needful” that “He should increase and himself decrease” 8766 —the whole work of the forerunner passed over, together with his spirit itself, unto the Lord. Therefore, after what form of words John taught to pray is not extant, because earthly things have given place to heavenly. “He who is from the earth,” says John, “speaketh earthly things; and He who is here from the heavens speaketh those things which He hath seen.” 8767 And what is the Lord Christ’s—as this method of praying is—that is not heavenly? And so, blessed brethren, let us consider His heavenly wisdom: first, touching the precept of praying secretly, whereby He exacted man’s faith, that he should be confident that the sight and hearing of Almighty God are present beneath roofs, and extend even into the secret place; and required modesty in faith, that it should offer its religious homage to Him alone, whom it believed to see and to hear everywhere. Further, since wisdom succeeded in the following precept, let it in like manner appertain unto faith, and the modesty of faith, that we think not that the Lord must be approached with a train of words, who, we are certain, takes unsolicited foresight for His own. And yet that very brevity—and let this make for the third grade of wisdom—is supported on the substance of a great and blessed interpretation, and is as diffuse in meaning as it is compressed in words. For it has embraced not only the special duties of prayer, be it veneration of God or petition for man, but almost every discourse of the Lord, every record of His Discipline; so that, in fact, in the Prayer is comprised an epitome of the whole Gospel.


Footnotes

681:8760

[After the discipline of Repentance and of Baptism the Laws of Christian Living come into view. Hence this is the logical place for this treatise. See the Prolegomena of Muratori and learned annotations, in Routh, Opuscula I. p. 173, et sqq. We may date it circa a.d. 192. For much of the Primitive Discipline, concerning Prayer, see Bunsen, Hippol. III. pp. 88–91, etc.]

681:8761

Oehler’s punctuation is followed here. The sentence is difficult, and has perplexed editors and commentators considerably.

681:8762

Matt. 9:16, 17, Mark 2:21, 22, Luke 5:36, 37.

681:8763

Routh suggests, “fortase quâ sensit,” referring to the Adv. Praxeam, c. 5.

681:8764

Sermone.

681:8765

This is Oehler’s punctuation. The edition of Pamelius reads: “So the prayer composed by Christ was composed of three parts: of the speech, by which it is enunciated; of the spirit, by which alone it prevails; of the reason, by which it is taught.”  Rigaltius and subsequent editors read, “of the reason, by which it is conceived;” but this last clause is lacking in the mss., and Oehler’s reading appears, as he says, to “have healed the words.” [Oehler’s punctuation must stand; but, the preceding sentence justifies the interpolation of Rigaltius and heals more effectually.]

681:8766

John iii. 30.

681:8767

John 3:31, 32.


Next: The First Clause.

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