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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: The Three Natures Again Adverted to. They are All Exemplified Amongst Men. For Instance, by Cain, and Abel, and Seth.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXIX.—The Three Natures Again Adverted to. They are All Exemplified Amongst Men. For Instance, by Cain, and Abel, and Seth.

I will now collect from different sources, by way of conclusion, what they affirm concerning the dispensation 6866 of the whole human race. Having at first stated their views as to man’s threefold nature—which was, however, united in one 6867 in the case of Adam—they then proceed after him to divide it (into three) with their especial characteristics, finding opportunity for such distinction in the posterity of Adam himself, in which occurs a threefold division as to moral differences. Cain and Abel, and Seth, who were in a certain sense the sources of the human race, become the fountain-heads of just as many qualities 6868 of nature and essential character. 6869 The material nature, 6870 which had become reprobate for salvation, they assign to Cain; the animal nature, which was poised between divergent hopes, they find 6871 in Abel; the spiritual, preordained for certain salvation, they store up 6872 in Seth. In this way also they make a twofold distinction among souls, as to their property of good and evil—according to the material condition derived from Cain, or the animal from Abel. Men’s spiritual state they derive over and above the other conditions, 6873 from Seth adventitiously, 6874 not in the way of nature, but of grace, 6875 in such wise that Achamoth infuses it 6876 among superior beings like rain 6877 into good souls, that is, those who are enrolled in the animal class. Whereas the material class—in other words, those which are bad souls—they say, never receive the blessings of salvation; 6878 for that nature they have pronounced to be incapable of any change or reform in its natural condition. 6879 This grain, then, of spiritual seed is modest and very small when cast from her hand, but under her instruction 6880 increases and advances into full conviction, as we have already said; 6881 and the souls, on this very account, so much excelled all others, that the Demiurge, even then in his ignorance, held them in great esteem. For it was from their list that he had been accustomed to select men for kings and for priests; and these even now, if they have once attained to a full and complete knowledge of these foolish conceits of theirs, 6882 since they are already naturalized in the fraternal bond of the spiritual state, will obtain a sure salvation, nay, one which is on all accounts their due.



De dispositione.








Choicum: “the clayey.”  Having the doubtful issues, which arise from freedom of the will (Oehler).


Recondunt: or, “discover.”


Recondunt: or, “discover.”




De obvenientia.




The “quos” here relates to “spiritalem statum,” but expressing the sense rather than the grammatical propriety, refers to the plural idea of “good souls” (Oehler).






We have tried to retain the emphatic repetition, “inreformabilem naturæ naturam.”


Eruditu hujus.


Above, in ch. xxv. p. 515.


Istarum næniarum.

Next: The Lax and Dangerous Views of This Sect Respecting Good Works. That These are Unnecessary to the Spiritual Man.

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