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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Chapter IX.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IX.

It remains for us, lest ancient times may perhaps have had the sacrament 8270 (exclusively) their own, to review the modern Christian system, as though, being also from God, it might be different from what preceded, and besides, therefore, opposed thereto in its code of rules likewise, so that its Wisdom knows not to murder her own sons! Evidently, in the case of Christ both the divine nature and the will and the sect are different from any previously known!  He will have commanded either no martyrdoms at all, or those which must be understood in a sense different from the ordinary, being such a person as to urge no one to a risk of this kind as to promise no reward to them who suffer for Him, because He does not wish them to suffer; and therefore does He say, when setting forth His chief commands, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” 8271 The following statement, indeed, applies first to all without restriction, then specially to the apostles themselves:  “Blessed shall ye be when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceeding glad, since very great is your reward in heaven; for so used their fathers to do even to the prophets.” So that He likewise foretold their having to be themselves also slain, after the example of the prophets. Though, even if He had appointed all this persecution in case He were obeyed for those only who were then apostles, assuredly through them along with the entire sacrament, with the shoot of the name, with the layer of the Holy Spirit, the rule about enduring persecution also would have had respect to us too, as to disciples by inheritance, and, (as it were,) bushes from the apostolic seed. For even thus again does He address words of guidance to the apostles: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves;” and, “Beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and ye shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles,” etc. 8272 Now when He adds, “But the brother will deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death,” He has clearly announced with reference to the others, (that they would be subjected to) this form of unrighteous conduct, which we do not find exemplified in the case of the apostles. For none of them had experience of a father or a brother as a betrayer, which very many of us have. Then He returns to the apostles: “And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” How much more shall we, for whom there exists the necessity of being delivered up by parents too! Thus, by allotting this very betrayal, now to the apostles, now to all, He pours out the same destruction upon all the possessors of the name, on whom the name, along with the condition that it be an object of hatred, will rest. But he who will endure on to the end—this man will be saved. By enduring what but persecution,—betrayal,—death? For to endure to the end is nought else than to suffer the end. And therefore there immediately follow, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his own lord;” because, seeing the Master and Lord Himself was stedfast in suffering persecution, betrayal and death, much more will it be the duty of His servants and disciples to bear the same, that they may not seem as if superior to Him, or to have got an immunity from the assaults of unrighteousness, since this itself should be glory enough for them, to be conformed to the sufferings of their Lord and Master; and, preparing them for the endurance of these, He reminds them that they must not fear such persons as kill the body only, but are not able to destroy the soul, but that they must dedicate fear to Him rather p. 642 who has such power that He can kill both body and soul, and destroy them in hell. Who, pray, are these slayers of the body only, but the governors and kings aforesaid—men, I ween? Who is the ruler of the soul also, but God only? Who is this but the threatener of fires hereafter, He without whose will not even one of two sparrows falls to the ground; that is, not even one of the two substances of man, flesh or spirit, because the number of our hairs also has been recorded before Him? Fear ye not, therefore. When He adds, “Ye are of more value than many sparrows,” He makes promise that we shall not in vain—that is, not without profit—fall to the ground if we choose to be killed by men rather than by God. “Whosoever therefore will confess in me before men, in him will I confess also before my Father who is in heaven; 8273 and whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I deny also before my Father who is in heaven.” Clear, as I think, are the terms used in announcing, and the way to explain, the confession as well as the denial, although the mode of putting them is different. He who confesses himself a Christian, beareth witness that he is Christ’s; he who is Christ’s must be in Christ. If he is in Christ, he certainly confesses in Christ, when he confesses himself a Christian.  For he cannot be this without being in Christ. Besides, by confessing in Christ he confesses Christ too: since, by virtue of being a Christian, he is in Christ, while Christ Himself also is in him. For if you have made mention of day, you have also held out to view the element of light which gives us day, although you may not have made mention of light. Thus, albeit He has not expressly said, “He who will confess me,” (yet) the conduct involved in daily confession is not different from what is meant in our Lord’s declaration. For he who confesses himself to be what he is, that is, a Christian, confesses that likewise by which he is it, that is, Christ. Therefore he who has denied that he is a Christian, has denied in Christ, by denying that he is in Christ while he denies that he is a Christian; and, on the other hand, by denying that Christ is in him, while He denies that he is in Christ, he will deny Christ too. Thus both he who will deny in Christ, will deny Christ, and he who will confess in Christ will confess Christ. It would have been enough, therefore, though our Lord had made an announcement about confessing merely. For, from His mode of presenting confession, it might be decided beforehand with reference to its opposite too—denial, that is—that denial is repaid by the Lord with denial, just as confession is with confession. And therefore, since in the mould in which the confession has been cast the state of (the case with reference to) denial also may be perceived, it is evident that to another manner of denial belongs what the Lord has announced concerning it, in terms different from those in which He speaks of confession, when He says, “Who will deny me,” not “Who will deny in me.” For He had foreseen that this form of violence also would, for the most part, immediately follow when any one had been forced to renounce the Christian name,—that he who had denied that he was a Christian would be compelled to deny Christ Himself too by blaspheming Him.  As not long ago, alas, we shuddered at the struggle waged in this way by some with their entire faith, which had had favourable omens. Therefore it will be to no purpose to say, “Though I shall deny that I am a Christian, I shall not be denied by Christ, for I have not denied Himself.” For even so much will be inferred from that denial, by which, seeing he denies Christ in him by denying that he is a Christian, he has denied Christ Himself also. But there is more, because He threatens likewise shame with shame (in return): “Whosoever shall be ashamed of me before men, of him will I also be ashamed before my Father who is in heaven.” For He was aware that denial is produced even most of all by shame, that the state of the mind appears in the forehead, and that the wound of shame precedes that in the body.



Tertullian means martyrdom.—Tr.


Matt. 5:10, Luke 6:23.


Matt. x. 16.


The words in the Greek, though correctly rendered in our authorized version, are, when translated literally, what Tertullian represents them to be.—Tr.

Next: Chapter X.

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