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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part III: Of Bodily Patience.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XIII.—Of Bodily Patience.

Thus far, finally, of patience simple and uniform, and as it exists merely in the mind:  though in many forms likewise I labour after it in body, for the purpose of “winning the Lord;” 9150 inasmuch as it is a quality which has been exhibited by the Lord Himself in bodily virtue as well; if it is true that the ruling mind easily communicates the gifts 9151 of the Spirit with its bodily habitation. What, therefore, is the business of Patience in the body? In the first place, it is the affliction 9152 of the flesh—a victim 9153 able to appease the Lord by means of the sacrifice of humiliation—in making a libation to the Lord of sordid 9154 raiment, together with scantiness of food, content with simple diet and the pure drink of water 9155 in conjoining fasts to all this; in inuring herself to sackcloth and ashes.  This bodily patience adds a grace to our prayers for good, a strength to our prayers against evil; this opens the ears of Christ our God, 9156 dissipates severity, elicits clemency.  Thus that Babylonish king, 9157 after being exiled from human form in his seven years’ squalor and neglect, because he had offended the Lord; by the bodily immolation of patience not only recovered his kingdom, but—what is more to be desired by a man—made satisfaction to God. Further, if we set down in order the higher and happier grades of bodily patience, (we find that) it is she who is entrusted by holiness with the care of continence of the flesh: she keeps the widow, 9158 and sets on the virgin the seal 9159 and raises the self-made eunuch to the realms of heaven. 9160 That which springs from a virtue of the mind is perfected in the flesh; and, finally, by the patience of the flesh, does battle under persecution.  If flight press hard, the flesh wars with 9161 the inconvenience of flight; if imprisonment overp. 716 take 9162 us, the flesh (still was) in bonds, the flesh in the gyve, the flesh in solitude, 9163 and in that want of light, and in that patience of the world’s misusage. 9164 When, however, it is led forth unto the final proof of happiness, 9165 unto the occasion of the second baptism, 9166 unto the act of ascending the divine seat, no patience is more needed there than bodily patience. If the “spirit is willing, but the flesh,” without patience, “weak,” 9167 where, save in patience, is the safety of the spirit, and of the flesh itself?  But when the Lord says this about the flesh, pronouncing it “weak,” He shows what need there is of strengthening, it—that is by patience—to meet 9168 every preparation for subverting or punishing faith; that it may bear with all constancy stripes, fire, cross, beasts, sword; all which prophets and apostles, by enduring, conquered!


Footnotes

715:9150

Phil. iii. 8.

715:9151

“Invecta,” generally = "movables", household furniture.

715:9152

Or, mortification, “adflictatio.”

715:9153

i.e. fleshly mortification is a “victim,” etc.

715:9154

Or, “mourning.” Comp. de Pæn. c. 9.

715:9155

[The “water vs. wine” movement is not a discovery of our own times. “Drink a little wine,” said St. Paul medicinally; but (as a great and good divine once remarked) “we must not lay stress on the noun, but the adjective; let it be very little.”]

715:9156

Christi dei.

715:9157

Dan. iv. 33-37. Comp. de Pæn. c. 12. [I have removed an ambiguity by slightly touching the text here.]

715:9158

1 Tim. 5:3, 9, 10, 1 Cor. 7:39, 40.

715:9159

1 Cor. 7:34, 35.

715:9160

Matt. xix. 12.

715:9161

Ad. It seems to mean flesh has strength given it, by patience, to meet the hardships of the flight. Compare the πρὸς πλησμονὴν τῆς σαρκὸς, of St. Paul in Col. ii. 23. [Kaye compares this with the De Fuga, as proof of the author’s freedom from Montanism, when this was written.]

716:9162

Præveniat: “prevent” us, before we have time to flee.

716:9163

Solo.

716:9164

[Elucidation III.]

716:9165

i.e. martyrdom.

716:9166

Comp. Luke xii. 50.

716:9167

Matt. xxvi. 41.

716:9168

“Adversus,” like the “ad” above, note 21, p. 713.


Next: The Power of This Twofold Patience, the Spiritual and the Bodily. Exemplified in the Saints of Old.

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