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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: Chapter I

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 79


The Shows, or De Spectaculis.  347

[Translated by the Rev. S. Thelwall.]


Chapter I.

Ye Servants of God, about to draw near to God, that you may make solemn consecration of yourselves to Him, 348 seek well to understand the condition of faith, the reasons of the Truth, the laws of Christian Discipline, which forbid among other sins of the world, the pleasures of the public shows. Ye who have testified and confessed 349 that you have done so already, review the subject, that there may be no sinning whether through real or wilful ignorance.  For such is the power of earthly pleasures, that, to retain the opportunity of still partaking of them, it contrives to prolong a willing ignorance, and bribes knowledge into playing a dishonest part. To both things, perhaps, some among you are allured by the views of the heathens who in this matter are wont to press us with arguments, such as these: (1) That the exquisite enjoyments of ear and eye we have in things external are not in the least opposed to religion in the mind and conscience; and (2) That surely no offence is offered to God, in any human enjoyment, by any of our pleasures, which it is not sinful to partake of in its own time and place, with all due honour and reverence secured to Him. But this is precisely what we are ready to prove:  That these things are not consistent with true religion and true obedience to the true God. There are some who imagine that Christians, a sort of people ever ready to die, are trained into the abstinence they practise, with no other object than that of making it less difficult to despise life, the fastenings to it being severed as it were. They regard it as an art of quenching all desire for that which, so far as they are concerned, they have emptied of all that is desirable; and so it is thought to be rather a thing of human planning and foresight, than clearly laid down by divine command. It were a grievous thing, forsooth, for Christians, while continuing in the enjoyment of pleasures so great, to die for God! It is not as they say; though, if it were, even Christian obstinacy might well give all submission to a plan so suitable, to a rule so excellent.



[It is the opinion of Dr. Neander that this treatise proceeded from our author before his lapse: but Bp. Kaye (p. xvi.) finds some exaggerated expressions in it, concerning the military life, which savour of Montanism. Probably they do, but had he written the tract as a professed Montanist, they would have been much less ambiguous, in all probability. At all events, a work so colourless that doctors can disagree about even its shading, must be regarded as practically orthodox.  Exaggerated expressions are but the characteristics of the author’s genius. We find the like in all writers of strongly marked individuality.  Neander dates this treatise circa a.d. 197. That it was written at Carthage is the conviction of Kaye and Dr. Allix; see Kaye, p. 55.]


[He speaks of Catechumens, called elsewhere Novitioli. See Bunsen, Hippol. III. Church and House-book, p. 5.]


[Here he addresses the Fideles or Communicants, as we call them.]

Next: Chapter II.

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