Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part II: Chapter X.
But as to those who think that not here, that is, not within this environment of earth, nor during this period of existence, nor before men possessing this nature shared by us all, has confession been appointed to be made, what a supposition is theirs, being at variance with the whole order of things of which we have experience in these lands, and in this life, and under human authorities! Doubtless, when the souls have departed from their bodies, and begun to be put upon trial in the several stories of the heavens, with reference to the engagement (under which they have come to Jesus), and to be questioned about those hidden mysteries of the heretics, they must then confess before the real powers and the real men,—the Teleti, 8274 to wit, and the Abascanti, 8275 and the Acineti 8276 of Valentinus! p. 643 For, say they, even the Demiurge himself did not uniformly approve of the men of our world, whom he counted as a drop of a bucket, 8277 and the dust of the threshing-floor, and spittle and locusts, and put on a level even with brute beasts. Clearly, it is so written. Yet not therefore must we understand that there is, besides us, another kind of man, which—for it is evidently thus (in the case proposed)—has been able to assume without invalidating a comparison between the two kinds, both the characteristics of the race and a unique property. For even if the life was tainted, so that condemned to contempt it might be likened to objects held in contempt, the nature was not forthwith taken away, so that there might be supposed to be another under its name. Rather is the nature preserved, though the life blushes; nor does Christ know other men than those with reference to whom He says, “Whom do men say that I am?” 8278 And, “As ye would that men should do to you, do ye likewise so to, them.” 8279 Consider whether He may not have preserved a race such that He is looking for a testimony to Himself from them, as well as consisting of those on whom He enjoins the interchange of righteous dealing. But if I should urgently demand that those heavenly men be described to me, Aratus will sketch more easily Perseus and Cepheus, and Erigone, and Ariadne, among the constellations. But who prevented the Lord from clearly prescribing that confession by men likewise has to be made where He plainly announced that His own would be; so that the statement might have run thus: ”Whosoever shall confess in me before men in heaven, I also will confess in him before my Father who is in heaven?” He ought to have saved me from this mistake about confession on earth, which He would not have wished me to take part in, if He had commanded one in heaven; for I knew no other men but the inhabitants of the earth, man himself even not having up to that time been observed in heaven. Besides, what is the credibility of the things (alleged), that, being after death raised to heavenly places, I should be put to the test there, whither I would not be translated without being already tested, that I should there be tried in reference to a command where I could not come, but to find admittance? Heaven lies open to the Christian before the way to it does; because there is no way to heaven, but to him to whom heaven lies open; and he who reaches it will enter. What powers, keeping guard at the gate, do I hear you affirm to exist in accordance with Roman superstition, with a certain Carnus, Forculus, and Limentinus? What powers do you set in order at the railings? If you have ever read in David, “Lift up your gates, ye princes, and let the everlasting gates be lifted up; and the King of glory shall enter in;” 8280 if you have also heard from Amos, “Who buildeth up to the heavens his way of ascent, and is such as to pour forth his abundance (of waters) over the earth;” 8281 know that both that way of ascent was thereafter levelled with the ground, by the footsteps of the Lord, and an entrance thereafter opened up by the might of Christ, and that no delay or inquest will meet Christians on the threshold, since they have there to be not discriminated from one another, but owned, and not put to the question, but received in. For though you think heaven still shut, remember that the Lord left here to Peter and through him to the Church, the keys of it, which every one who has been here put to the question, and also made confession, will carry with him. But the devil stoutly affirms that we must confess there, to persuade us that we must deny here. I shall send before me fine documents, to be sure, 8282 I shall carry with me excellent keys, the fear of them who kill the body only, but do nought against the soul: I shall be graced by the neglect of this command: I shall stand with credit in heavenly places, who could not stand in earthly: I shall hold out against the greater powers, who yielded to the lesser: I shall deserve to be at length let in, though now shut out. It readily occurs to one to remark further, “If it is in heaven that men must confess, it is here too that they must deny.” For where the one is, there both are. For contraries always go together. There will need to be carried on in heaven persecution even, which is the occasion of confession or denial. Why, then, do you refrain, O most presumptuous heretic, from transporting to the world above the whole series of means proper to the intimidation of Christians, and especially to put there the very hatred for the name, where Christ rules at the right hand of the Father? Will you plant there both synagogues of the Jews—fountains of persecution—before which the apostles endured the scourge, and heathen assemblages with their own circus, forsooth, where they readily join in the cry, Death to the third race? 8283 But ye are bound to prop. 644 duce in the same place both our brothers, fathers, children, mothers-in-law, daughters-in-law and those of our household, through whose agency the betrayal has been appointed; likewise kings, governors, and armed authorities, before whom the matter at issue must be contested. Assuredly there will be in heaven a prison also, destitute of the suns rays or full of light unthankfully, and fetters of the zones perhaps, and, for a rack-horse, the axis itself which whirls the heavens round. Then, if a Christian is to be stoned, hail-storms will be near; if burned, thunderbolts are at hand; if butchered, the armed Orion will exercise his function; if put an end to by beasts, the north will send forth the bears, the Zodiac the bulls and the lions. He who will endure these assaults to the end, the same shall be saved. Will there be then, in heaven, both an end, and suffering, a killing, and the first confession? And where will be the flesh requisite for all this? Where the body which alone has to be killed by men? Unerring reason has commanded us to set forth these things in even a playful manner; nor will any one thrust out the bar consisting in this objection (we have offered), so as not to be compelled to transfer the whole array of means proper to persecution, all the powerful instrumentality which has been provided for dealing with this matter, to the place where he has put the court before which confession should be made. Since confession is elicited by persecution, and persecution ended in confession, there cannot but be at the same time, in attendance upon these, the instrumentality which determines both the entrance and the exit, that is, the beginning and the end. But both hatred for the name will be here, persecution breaks out here, betrayal brings men forth here, examination uses force here, torture rages here, and confession or denial completes this whole course of procedure on the earth. Therefore, if the other things are here, confession also is not elsewhere; if confession is elsewhere, the other things also are not here. Certainly the other things are not elsewhere; therefore neither is confession in heaven. Or, if they will have it that the manner in which the heavenly examination and confession take place is different, it will certainly be also incumbent on them to devise a mode of procedure of their own of a very different kind, and opposed to that method which is indicated in the Scriptures. And we may be able to say, Let them consider (whether what they imagine to exist does so), if so be that this course of procedure, proper to examination and confession on earth—a course which has persecution as the source in which it originates, and which pleads dissension in the state—is preserved to its own faith, if so be that we must believe just as is also written, and understand just as is spoken. Here I endure the entire course (in question), the Lord Himself not appointing a different quarter of the world for my doing so. For what does He add after finishing with confession and denial? “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth, but a sword,”—undoubtedly on the earth. “For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law. And a mans foes shall be they of his own household.” 8284 For so is it brought to pass, that the brother delivers up the brother to death, and the father the son: and the children rise up against the parents, and cause them to die. And he who endureth to the end let that man be saved. 8285 So that this whole course of procedure characteristic of the Lords sword, which has been sent not to heaven, but to earth, makes confession also to be there, which by enduring to the end is to issue in the suffering of death.
Isa. xl. 15.643:8278
Matt. xvi. 13.643:8279
Matt. 7:12, Luke 6:31.643:8280
Ps. xxiv. 7.643:8281
Amos ix. 6.643:8282
In support of my cause.643:8283
More literally, “How long shall we suffer the third race!” The Christians are meant; the first race being the heathen, and the second the Jews.—Tr.644:8284
Matt. x. 34.644:8285
Matt. x. 21.
Next: Chapter XI.
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