Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:Early Church Fathers Index Previous Next
Tertullian: Part III: Preface.
The Passion of the Holy Martyrs Perpetua and Felicitas.
If ancient illustrations of faith which both testify to Gods grace and tend to mans edification are collected in writing, so that by the perusal of them, as if by the reproduction of the facts, as well God may be honoured, as man may be strengthened; why should not new instances be also collected, that shall be equally suitable for both purposes,—if only on the ground that these modern examples will one day become ancient and available for posterity, although in their present time they are esteemed of less authority, by reason of the presumed veneration for antiquity? But let men look to it, if they judge the power of the Holy Spirit to be one, according to the times and seasons; since some things of later date must be esteemed of more account as being nearer to the very last times, in accordance with the exuberance of grace manifested to the final periods determined for the world. For “in the last days, saith the Lord, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh; and their sons and their daughters shall prophesy. And upon my servants and my handmaidens will I pour out of my Spirit; and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams.” 8975 And thus we—who both acknowledge and reverence, even as we do the prophecies, modern visions as equally promised to us, and consider the other powers of the Holy Spirit as an agency of the Church for which also He was sent, administering all gifts in all, even as the Lord distributed to every one 8976 as well needfully collect them in writing, as commemorate them in reading to Gods glory; that so no weakness or despondency of faith may suppose that the divine grace abode only among the ancients, whether in respect of the condescension that raised up martyrs, or that gave revelations; since God always carries into effect what He has promised, for a testimony to unbelievers, to believers for a benefit. And we therefore, what we have heard and handled, declare also to you, brethren and little children, that as well you who were concerned in these matters may be reminded of them again to the glory of the Lord, as that you who know them by report may have communion with the blessed martyrs, and through them with the Lord Jesus Christ, to whom be glory and honour, for ever and ever. 8977 Amen.
[Both Perpetua and Felicitas were evidently Montanistic in character and impressions, but, the fact that they have never been reputed other than Catholic, goes far to explain Tertullians position for years after he had withdrawn from communion with the vacillating Victor.]699:8975
Joel 2:28, 29. [The quotation here is a note of Montanistic prepossessions in the writer.]699:8976
[Routh notes this as undoubted evidence of a Montanistic author. Reliquiæ, Vol. I. p. 455.]699:8977
[St. Augustine takes pains to remind us that these Acta are not canonical. De Anima, cap. 2, opp. Tom. x. p. 481.]
Next: Chapter I
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