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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 19

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 19.—The Christian Teacher Must Use Different Styles on Different Occasions.

38.  And yet, while our teacher ought to speak of great matters, he ought not always to be speaking of them in a majestic tone, but in a subdued tone when he is teaching, temperately when he is giving praise or blame.  When, however, something is to be done, and we are speaking to those who ought, but are not willing, to do it, then great matters must be spoken of with power, and in a manner calculated to sway the mind.  And sometimes the same important matter is treated in all these ways at different times, quietly when it is being taught, temperately when its importance is being urged, and powerfully when we are forcing a mind that is averse to the truth to turn and embrace it.  For is there anything greater than God Himself?  Is nothing, then, to be learnt about Him?  Or ought he who is teaching the Trinity in unity to speak of it otherwise than in the method of calm discussion, so that in regard to a subject which it is not easy to comprehend, we may understand as much as it is given us to understand?  Are we in this case to seek out ornaments instead of proofs?  Or is the hearer to be moved to do something instead of being instructed so that he may learn something?  But when we come to praise God, either in Himself, or in His works, what a field for beauty and splendor of language opens up before man, who can task his powers to the utmost in praising Him whom no one can adequately praise, though there is no one who does not praise Him in some measure!  But if He be not worshipped, or if idols, whether they be demons or any created being whatever, be worshipped with Him or in preference to Him, then we ought to speak out with power and impressiveness, show how great a wickedness this is, and urge men to flee from it.


Next: Chapter 20

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