Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part III: Chapter I
On Repentance. 8420
[Translated by the Rev. S. Thelwall.]
Chapter I.—Of Heathen Repentance.
Repentance, men understand, so far as nature is able, to be an emotion of the mind arising from disgust 8421 at some previously cherished worse sentiment: that kind of men I mean which even we ourselves were in days gone by—blind, without the Lords light. From the reason of repentance, however, they are just as far as they are from the Author of reason Himself. Reason, in fact, is a thing of God, inasmuch as there is nothing which God the Maker of all has not provided, disposed, ordained by reason—nothing which He has not willed should be handled and understood by reason. All, therefore, who are ignorant of God, must necessarily be ignorant also of a thing which is His, because no treasure-house 8422 at all is accessible to strangers. And thus, voyaging all the universal course of life without the rudder of reason, they know not how to shun the hurricane which is impending over the world. 8423 Moreover, how irrationally they behave in the practice of repentance, it will be enough briefly to show just by this one fact, that they exercise it even in the case of their good deeds. They repent of good faith, of love, of simple-heartedness, of patience, of mercy, just in proportion as any deed prompted by these feelings has fallen on thankless soil. They execrate their own selves for having done good; and that species chiefly of repentance which is applied to the best works they fix in their heart, making it their care to remember never again to do a good turn. On repentance for evil deeds, on the contrary, they lay lighter stress. In short, they make this same (virtue) a means of sinning more readily than a means of right-doing.
[We pass from the polemical class of our authors writings to those of a practical and ethical character. This treatise on Penitence is the product of our authors best days, and may be dated a.d. 192.]657:8421
“Offensa sententiæ pejoris;” or possibly, “the miscarriage of some,” etc.657:8422
Sæculo. [Erasmus doubted the genuineness of this treatise, partly because of the comparative purity of its style. See Kaye, p. 42.]
Next: True Repentance a Thing Divine, Originated by God, and Subject to His Laws.
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