Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
ATHENAGORAS: Chapter XXXV.—The Christians Condemn and Detest All Cruelty.
Chapter XXXV.—The Christians Condemn and Detest All Cruelty.
What man of sound mind, therefore, will affirm, while such is our character, that we are murderers? For we cannot eat human flesh till we have killed some one. The former charge, therefore, being false, if any one should ask them in regard to the second, whether they have seen what they assert, not one of them would be so barefaced as to say that he had. And yet we have slaves, some more and some fewer, by whom we could not help being seen; but even of these, not one has been found to invent even such things against us. For when they know that we cannot endure even to see a man put to death, though justly; who of them can accuse us of murder or cannibalism? Who does not reckon among the things of greatest interest the contests of gladiators and wild beasts, especially those which are given by you? But we, deeming that to see a man put to death is much the same as killing him, have abjured such spectacles. 830 How, then, when we do not even look on, lest we should contract guilt and pollution, can we put people to death? And when we say that those women who use drugs to bring on abortion commit murder, and will have to give an account to God 831 for the abortion, on what principle should we commit murder? For it does not belong to the same person to regard the very fœtus in the womb as a created being, and therefore an object of Gods care, and when it has passed into life, to kill it; and not to expose an infant, because those who expose them are chargeable with child-murder, and on the other hand, when it has been reared to destroy it. But we are in all things always alike and the same, submitting ourselves to reason, and not ruling over it.
[See Tatian, cap xxiii., supra, p. 75. But here the language of Gibbon is worthy to be quoted: though the icy-hearted infidel failed to understand that just such philosophers as he enjoyed these spectacles, till Christianity taught even such to profess a refined abhorrence of what the Gospel abolished, with no help from them. He says, “the first Christian emperor may claim the honour of the first edict which condemned the art and amusement of shedding human blood; but this benevolent law expressed the wishes of the prince, without reforming an inveterate abuse which degraded a civilized (?) nation below the condition of savage cannibals. Several hundred, perhaps several thousand, victims were annually slaughtered in the great cities of the empire.” He tells the story of the heroic Telemachus, without eulogy; how his death, while struggling to separate the combatants abolished forever the inhuman sports and sacrifices of the amphitheatre. This happened under Honorius. Milmans Gibbon, iii. 210.]
[Let Americans read this, and ask whether a relapse into heathenism is not threatening our civilization, in this respect. May I venture to refer to Moral Reforms (ed. 1869, Lippincotts, Philadelphia), a little book of my own, rebuking this inquity, and tracing the earliest violation of this law of Christian morals, and of nature itself, to an unhappy Bishop of Rome, rebuked by Hippolytus. See vol. vi. p. 345, Edinburgh Series of Ante-Nicene Fathers.]
Next: Chapter XXXVI.—Bearing of the Doctrine of the Resurrection on the Practices of the Christians.
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