« VorigeDoorgaan »
told in the Peregrinus Proteus of Lucian serves to confirm this view; for though this history is a fiction, yet it must be founded on an image drawn from the life. By the manner of designating Pristinus, Tertullian evidently makes a contrast between the vester and the christianus martyr. Hence it appears, that although by the opposite party he was regarded as a martyr, Tertullian believed that he ought not to be acknowledged as a Christian martyr. Not that we are to understand by this, that this person merely pretended to be a Christian in order that he might be maintained and cherished by the Christians-for he would hardly have endured from this motive to expose himself to torture; but Tertullian so designated him, because he could not discover the Christian disposition in him, and supposed that he had not faithfully confessed Christianity, but had appeared in a state of intoxication before the tribunal, and enervated by previous excesses, would soon be put to the torture. When Tertullian makes it so heavy an accusation that they had tried to fortify this man against the torture by merum conditum tanquam antidotum, his ill-will is very apparent, and can only serve to throw suspicion on the credibility of his whole statement. Such medicated wine was usually given to condemned malefactors in order to deaden the feeling of the torture to which they were subjected. Yet, a person, as a genuine Christian, might feel himself compelled, after the example of his Saviour, to refuse such a means of producing insensibility, in order that, confiding in God's strength, he might drink the cup of suffering in full consciousness, and with undisturbed presence of mind.'
Tertullian, who certainly was aware that the essence of genuine Christianity consists in all-pervading love, objected to the opposite party that they made the appeal to love only as a pretence, in order to avoid the privations required of them. He says, "And we know what are the recommendations for carnal conveniences, how easy it is to say, 'I must believe with all my heart, love God and my neighbour as myself; for on these two commands hang all the law and the
1 Such medicated wine was offered to Bishop Fructuosus of Tarragon in the Valerian persecution, and he took no offence at it, though he believed that he did not require this assistance, and would not break his fast on a Wednesday for it before the appointed time. "Cumque multi ex fraterna caritate iis offerrent, ut condite permixti poculum sumerent, ait; Nondum est hora solvendi jejunii. Agebatur enim hora diei quarta siquidem in carcere (Fructuosus and his two deacons) quart feria stationes sollenniter celebraverant."
prophets, not in the emptiness of the lungs and intestines."" Certainly, the appeal that everything depends on love is often made by those by whom its importance is least felt, in order to dispense with the means of grace and virtue, which they erroneously believe they can do without, and strive against the imposition of many a duty that is troublesome to them. But we have no reason to follow here the charges brought by Tertullian, and we may well recognise in these words the reaction of a free Christian spirit against the ascetic materializing of religion.
It is remarkable that Tertullian, who, as we have seen in many instances, was not deficient in correct hermeneutical principles, and a sound exegetical tact, when he was not hampered by a particular party bias, could here, where such a bias overruled his judgment, explain the passages of the New Tes tament which were brought against him in so forced a manner, in order to find what he wished in them. This is shown, for example, in his interpretation of Rom. xiv. 17, 20, which appeared to have been used by his opponents, not without reason, in favour of their views. He quotes the words of Paul in Rom. xiv. 20: "For meat destroy not the work of God." "What work of God?" he asks; and replies: "It is that of which he says, It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine." Thus, in defiance of the connexion, he could find exactly in these words a confirmation of the notion that such abstinence was a work of God. When, further, it was objected to him, that the kingdom of God was not meat and drink, nor in all those outward things, according to Rom. xiv. 17, and 1 Cor. viii. 8, he thus replies, "The kingdom of God is indeed not meat and drink, and meat commendeth us not to God, (thou canst not believe that this is said of meagre diet, but rather of rich and choice viands,) for when he adds, For neither if we eat are we the better, neither if we eat not are we the worse,' so this rather touches thee, who thinkest that thou hast some advantage if thou eatest, and that something is wanting to thee if thou eatest not, and on that account blamest these regulations." Tertullian would therefore find in these passages only this sentiment, that no worth should be attached to eating, as was done by his opponents, and so he would make use of them in recommendation of fasting. But this argument could only affect his opponents if they had made the mere non-observance of fasts a principal thing in religion. But, according to the sense and spirit of that passage, they only
combated the tendency which attributed to certain modes of abstinence such importance in relation to the kingdom of God. In the same way, he appealed erroneously to the passage in the sermon on the mount, in which Christ pronounces blessed those who hunger and thirst.'
When his opponents discovered in the introduction of new fast-days a Jewish observance of days and times,2 Tertullian makes a reply from which we may learn how little he entered into the full meaning of those words, and of the contrast made by the apostle between the Jewish and Christian standpoints. It was his opinion that these words referred only to the observance of Jewish feasts, and not to such as were substituted for them, and in correspondence with the Christian stand-point. His view of the celebration of Sunday, which we have already noticed, is founded on a notion of this kind. He charged his opponents with inconsistency, when they still celebrated Christian festivals confined to certain times, as he says, "For if in Christ there is a new creation, there must also be new festivals; or if the apostle has abolished all religious celebration of times, of days, and months, and years, why should we celebrate the Paschal feast yearly in the first month? Why do we spend fifty days from that time in all joyfulness?" On this occasion, also, Tertullian objects to his opponents, that they felt no scruple in turning the Sabbath into a fast-day, which he, as a Montanist, considered lawful only for the Easter Sabbath. The importance which he
attached to this difference forms one of the distinctive marks between the spirit of this book and that which we have noticed in the treatise De Oratione.
His opponents might have easily answered this objection by adverting to the distinction of the different sense in which the festivals were celebrated from the stand-point of Judaism and from that of Christianity; in reference to the celebration of the feasts, as well as in reference to the new Montanist fasts, they might have adhered to the stand-point of Christian freedom, which was confined to no particular times. Yet, otherwise, there was a correct conception of the relation of festivals to the Christian consciousness, when Tertullian in another passage says, in reference to the commemoration of the sufferings of Christ, "Although we should always commemorate the sufferings of Christ, without distinction of hours, yet we do so more impressively when the act is asso2 Gal. iv. 10
1 Cap. xv.
ciated with the name of statio. For even soldiers, who are never unmindful of their military oath, still obey it more strictly when they mount guard." The leading thought here is, that the consciousness of the redeeming sufferings of Christ must animate the whole of the Christian life, but that the dies stationum were instituted in order to give special prominence to an event that ought always to be present to the Christian consciousness. The error only lay in supposing that the exercises of devotion on the dies stationum were better suited to represent the consequences of the sufferings of Christ than what might take place in the whole course of Christian life.
Tertullian, in vindicating himself from the charge of arbi trary innovation, appeals to similar new institutions on the part of his opponents' solemn assemblies connected with fasts Thus he says,"But it is well that the bishops should be in the habit of enjoining fasts on all the people; I do not mean for the purpose of collecting alms,' according to your capacity of apprehension, but for some object of anxiety relating to the church." We here perceive the objection which Tertullian brings against his opponents, as if they could submit to those deprivations only for charitable purposes, but were unable to comprehend the spiritual meaning and importance of fasting He concludes thus,- 66 Why, then, if you at the command of one man all join in such an act of humiliation (ταπεινοφρόνησιν before God, do you blame us for a similar union in feasts and xerophagia and stationes? unless, perhaps, we offend against the decrees of the senate, and the imperial edicts which are opposed to private meetings." We notice here a sarcastic tone, in Tertullian's insinuation, that his opponents were too accommodating to the civil law, too timorous in their obedience. Further, then, he appeals to the holding of representative synods, which were opened with united prayer and fasting in Achaia, where the ancient spirit of league had influenced the mode of managing ecclesiastical affairs. He himself had attended such assemblies, and had come forward to vindicate them when they were attacked, probably as innovations.
When the opponents of Montanist acts of abstinence com pared them to those of the heathen, Tertullian was not care. ful to repel the charge; he admitted the analogy, and made
The bishops were accustomed, when the necessities of the church were urgent, to appoint fast-days, on which what was saved by absti nence was to be employed for the relief of the poorer Christians.
use of it for his object. He even appealed to the heathen fasts and penitentiary processions, especially as they were practised in that part of Africa. He gives a striking description of them. "Even the heathen know every kind of selfhumiliation; (omnem raжEuropрóvnou.) When the heavens are torpid and the year is dried up, bare-footed processions are announced, the magistrates lay aside their purple, the fasces are reversed, they invoke, they prepare a victim. Moreover, in some colonies, according to an annual custom, they are veiled in sackcloth, and, sprinkled with ashes, importune their idois. The baths and taverns are closed to the ninth hour; one fire burns publicly on the altars, nor is water kept in the dishes." 1 While his opponents availed themselves of such comparisons, in order to charge the Montanists with addiction to heathen practices, Tertullian, on the contrary, sees in these very practices a caricature of the truth, which attains its right position in Christianity. This is the leading idea which we have already found in Tertullian, and which we have seen applied by him to the relation between the heretics and the catholics. Everywhere the original precedes the falsification. Error is a false imitation of truth; the misunderstood, falsely applied religious element is the groundwork of superstition; as he says in his own style, "The devil is a zealous imitator of divine things." There is, indeed, in what Tertullian says, a great truth, according to which, in all earlier religious stand-points there is a foreboding of Christianity, a consciousness of truth at the basis which leads to Christianity. But the question is, what is the truth that everywhere lies at the basis, and what is its caricature ? forms the point of connexion with Christianity, and what the point of opposition to it? In order to be fully competent to resolve these questions, a clear consciousness of the peculiar nature of Christianity is absolutely necessary. But that clear, and consequentially developed consciousness on the peculiar relation of Christianity to Judaism and heathenism was wanting to Tertullian, and hence he failed in the right application of that truth. Certainly in the usages of heathenism to which he appealed, there was a religious truth at the casis, a consciousness of disunion with God, the need of re
2 Cap. xvi, "Hinc divina constabat, quam diabolus divinorum semulator imitatur. Ex veritate mendacium struitur, ex religious superstitio compingitur."