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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part III: Of Patience Under Personal Violence and Malediction.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter VIII.—Of Patience Under Personal Violence and Malediction.

We who carry about our very soul, our very body, exposed in this world 9094 to injury from all, and exhibit patience under that injury; shall we be hurt at the loss 9095 of less important things? 9096 Far from a servant of Christ be such a defilement as that the patience which has been prepared for greater temptations should forsake him in frivolous ones. If one attempt to provoke you by manual violence, the monition of the Lord is at hand: “To him,” He saith, “who smiteth thee on the face, turn the other cheek likewise.” 9097 Let outrageousness 9098 be wearied out by your patience.  Whatever that blow may be, conjoined 9099 with pain and contumely, it 9100 shall receive a heavier one from the Lord.  You wound that outrageous 9101 one more by enduring: for he will be beaten by Him for whose sake you endure.  If the tongue’s bitterness break out in malediction or reproach, look back at the saying, “When they curse you, rejoice.” 9102 The Lord Himself was “cursed” in the eye of the law; 9103 and yet is He the only Blessed One. Let us servants, therefore, follow our Lord closely; and be cursed patiently, that we may be able to be blessed. If I hear with too little equanimity some wanton or wicked word uttered against me, I must of necessity either myself retaliate the bitterness, or else I shall be racked with mute impatience. When, then, on being cursed, I smite (with my tongue,) how shall I be found to have followed the doctrine of the Lord, in which it has been delivered that “a man is defiled, 9104 not by the defilements of vessels, but of the things which are sent forth out of his mouth.” Again, it is said that “impeachment 9105 awaits us for every vain and needless word.” 9106 It follows that, from whatever the Lord keeps us, the same He admonishes us to bear patiently from another. I will add (somewhat) touching the pleasure of patience. For every injury, whether inflicted by tongue or hand, when it has lighted upon patience, will be dismissed 9107 with the same fate as, some weapon launched against and blunted on a rock of most stedfast hardness. For it will wholly fall then and there with bootless and fruitless labour; and sometimes will recoil and spend its rage on him who sent it out, with retorted impetus. No doubt the reason why any one hurts you is that you may be pained; because the hurter’s enjoyment consists in the pain of the hurt. When, then, you have upset his enjoyment by not being pained, he must needs he pained by the loss of his enjoyment. Then you not only go p. 713 unhurt away, which even alone is enough for you; but gratified, into the bargain, by your adversary’s disappointment, and revenged by his pain.  This is the utility and the pleasure of patience.


Footnotes

712:9094

Sæculo.

712:9095

Delibatione.

712:9096

i.e. money and the like. Compare Matt. 6:25, Luke 12:23.

712:9097

Matt. v. 39.

712:9098

Improbitas.

712:9099

Constrictus. I have rendered after Oehler: but may not the meaning be “clenched,” like the hand which deals the blow?

712:9100

As Oehler says “the blow” is said to “receive” that which, strictly, the dealer of it receives.

712:9101

Improbum.

712:9102

Matt. 5:11, 12, Luke 6:22, 23.

712:9103

Deut. 21:23, Gal. 3:13. Tertullian’s quotations here are somewhat loose. He renders words which are distinct in the Greek by the same in his Latin.

712:9104

Communicari—κοινοῦσθαι. See Mark vii. 15, “made common,” i.e. profane, unclean. Compare Acts 10:14, 15 in the Greek.

712:9105

Reatum. See de Idol. i. ad init., “the highest impeachment of the age.”

712:9106

Matt. xii. 36. Tertullian has rendered ἀργόν by “vani et supervacui.”

712:9107

Dispungetur: a word which, in the active, means technically “to balance accounts,” hence “to discharge,” etc.


Next: Of Patience Under Bereavement.

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