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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol VII:
Lactantius: Chap. IV.—Why this work was published, and again of Tertullian and Cyprian

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chap. IV.—Why This Work Was Published, and Again of Tertullian and Cyprian.

Since, therefore, they of whom I have spoken had set forth their sacrilegious writings in my presence, and to my grief, being incited both by the arrogant impiety of these, and by the consciousness of truth itself, and (as I think) by God, I have undertaken this office, that with all the strength of my mind I might refute the accusers of righteousness; not that I should write against these, who might be crushed with a few words, but that I might once for all by one attack overthrow all who everywhere effect, or have effected, the same work. For I do not doubt that very many others, and in many places, and that not only in Greek, but also in Latin writings, have raised a monument of their own unrighteousness. And since I was not able to reply to these separately, I thought that this cause was to be so p. 140 pleaded by me that I might overthrow former writers, together with all their writings, and cut off from future writers the whole power of writing and of replying. 952 Only let them attend, and I will assuredly effect that whosoever shall know these things, must either embrace that which he before condemned, or, which is next to it, cease at length to deride it. Although Tertullian fully pleaded the same cause in that treatise which is entitled the Apology, 953 yet, inasmuch as it is one thing to answer accusers, which consists in defence or denial only, and another thing to instruct, which we do, in which the substance of the whole system must be contained, I have not shrunk from this labour, that I might complete the subject, which Cyprian did not fully carry out in that discourse in which he endeavours to refute Demetrianus (as he himself says) railing at and clamouring 954 against the truth. Which subject he did not handle as he ought to have done; for he ought to have been refuted not by the testimonies of Scripture, which he plainly considered vain, fictitious, and false, but by arguments and reason. For, since he was contending against a man who was ignorant of the truth, he ought for a while to have laid aside divine readings, and to have formed from the beginning this man as one who was altogether ignorant, 955 and to have shown to him by degrees the beginnings of light, that he might not be dazzled, 956 the whole of its brightness being presented to him. 957  

For as an infant is unable, on account of the tenderness of its stomach, to receive the nourishment of solid and strong food, but is supported by liquid and soft milk, until, its strength being confirmed, it can feed on stronger nourishment; so also it was befitting that this man, because he was not yet capable of receiving divine things, should be presented with human testimonies—that is, of philosophers and historians—in order that he might especially be refuted by his own authorities. And since he did not do this, being carried away by his distinguished knowledge of the sacred writings, so that he was content with those things alone in which faith consists, I have undertaken, with the favour of God, to do this, and at the same time to prepare the way for the imitation of others. And if, through my exhortation, learned and eloquent men shall begin to betake themselves to this subject, and shall choose to display their talents and power of speaking in this field of truth, no one can doubt that false religions will quickly disappear, and philosophy altogether fall, if all shall be persuaded that this alone is religion and the only true wisdom. But I have wandered from the subject further than I wished.  


Footnotes

140:952

[Future Writers. This laying of an anchor to windward is characteristic of Lactantius.]  

140:953

[See elucidations, vol. iii. pp. 56–60, this series.]  

140:954

Oblatrantem atque obstrepentem veritati. These words are taken from Cyprian, vol. v. p. 457, this series.  

140:955

Rudem.  

140:956

Caligaret.  

140:957

[This censure of Cyprian fully exculpates Minucius, Arnobius, and others, superficially blamed for their few quotations from Holy Writ. Also, it explains our author’s quotations from the Sibyl, etc.]  


Next: Chap. V.—there was true justice under Saturnus, but it was banished by Jupiter

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