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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: The Mode of Controversy Changed. The Premisses of Hermogenes Accepted, in Order to Show into What Confusion They Lead Him.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XII.—The Mode of Controversy Changed. The Premisses of Hermogenes Accepted, in Order to Show into What Confusion They Lead Him.

Come now, let us suppose Matter to be evil, nay, very evil, by nature of course, just as p. 484 we believe God to be good, even very good, in like manner by nature. Now nature must be regarded as sure and fixed, just as persistently fixed in evil in the case of Matter, as immoveable and unchangeable in good in the case of God.  Because, as is evident, 6247 if nature admits of change from evil to good in Matter, it can be changed from good to evil in God. Here some man will say, Then will “children not be raised up to Abraham from the stones?” 6248 Will “generations of vipers not bring forth the fruit of repentance?” 6249 And “children of wrath” fail to become sons of peace, if nature be unchangeable?  Your reference to such examples as these, my friend, 6250 is a thoughtless 6251 one. For things which owe their existence to birth such as stones and vipers and human beings—are not apposite to the case of Matter, which is unborn; since their nature, by possessing a beginning, may have also a termination.  But bear in mind 6252 that Matter has once for all been determined to be eternal, as being unmade, unborn, and therefore supposably of an unchangeable and incorruptible nature; and this from the very opinion of Hermogenes himself, which he alleges against us when he denies that God was able to make (anything) of Himself, on the ground that what is eternal is incapable of change, because it would lose—so the opinion runs 6253 —what it once was, in becoming by the change that which it was not, if it were not eternal. But as for the Lord, who is also eternal, (he maintained) that He could not be anything else than what He always is. Well, then, I will adopt this definite opinion of his, and by means thereof refute him. I blame Matter with a like censure, because out of it, evil though it be—nay, very evil—good things have been created, nay, “very good” ones: “And God saw that they were good, and God blessed them” 6254 —because, of course, of their very great goodness; certainly not because they were evil, or very evil. Change is therefore admissible in Matter; and this being the case, it has lost its condition of eternity; in short, 6255 its beauty is decayed in death. 6256 Eternity, however, cannot be lost, because it cannot be eternity, except by reason of its immunity from loss. For the same reason also it is incapable of change, inasmuch as, since it is eternity, it can by no means be changed.





Matt. iii. 9.


Matt. 3:7, 8.


O homo.








Gen. 1:21, 22.




That is, of course, by its own natural law.

Next: Another Ground of Hermogenes that Matter Has Some Good in It. Its Absurdity.

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