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    CHAPTER XII. TERTULLIAN

    If I were asked which of the so-called Christian Fathers is, in my judgment, the best, I should say, Tertullian. He seems to have clearer ideas of things, and he is certainly the most intelligible. Although he is as unorthodox as any of the Fathers, one can understand his heresy, and that is more than can be said of the others. Yet notwithstanding his clearness as compared with most of the other Fathers, Killen could truthfully say of him:—
    “The extant productions of this writer are numerous; and, if rendered into our language, would form a very portly volume. But though several parts of them have found translators, the whole have never yet appeared in English; and, of some pieces, the most accomplished scholar would scarcely undertake to furnish at once a literal and an intelligible version. His style is harsh, his transitions are abrupt, and his innuendoes and allusions most perplexing. He must have been a man of very bilious temperament, who could scarcely distinguish a theological opponent from a personal enemy; for he pours forth upon those who differ from him whole torrents of sarcasm and invective. His strong passion, acting upon a fervid imagination, completely overpowered his judgment; and hence he deals so largely in exaggeration, that, as to many matters of fact, we cannot safely depend upon his testimony. His tone is dictatorial and dogmatic; and, though we cannot doubt his piety, we must feel that his spirit is somewhat repulsive and ungenial. Whilst he was sadly deficient in sagacity, he was very much the creature of impulse; and thus it was that he was so superstitious, so bigoted, and so choleric.”—Ancient Church, period 2, sec. 2, chap. 1, paragraph 11.
    FACC 184.1

    Tertullian exhibits also the most knowledge of Scripture, although, as Farrar says, he “practically makes Scripture say exactly what he himself chooses.” So that after all that may be said in his favor, he cannot be depended upon to any extent whatever as an expositor of Scripture. Indeed, it is a truth that the “best” of the Fathers are the worst. Whoever reads them dispassionately, without his judgment warped by prejudice or a determination to find support for some pet theory, will, as a general thing, conclude that each one is the worst of all.FACC 185.1

    Tertullian was born at Carthage, about A. D. 160. He is supposed to have been converted from heathenism about the year 200 A. D., and he was afterward ordained a presbyter of the church in Carthage. He was a very prolific writer, and although there are many good things in his writings, they are the greatest stronghold of Roman Catholicism. The “Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia” says that his writings form the “foundation of Latin theology.” That means that they form the foundation of Roman Catholic theology. This statement alone should make Protestants resolve to have nothing to do with him. For it is certain that no pure Christianity can be found in writings which form the foundation of Roman Catholicism. We propose to give our readers a chance to judge for themselves of the truth of the statement that Tertullian’s writings were largely instrumental in developing the growth of that “mystery of iniquity” which had begun to work in the days of Paul, and which resulted in “that man of sin, the son of perdition,”—the antichristian papacy. But first we shall see how he is regarded even by those who are willing to quote from him in support of pet theories which cannot be sustained by the Bible.FACC 185.2

    Archdeacon Farrar says of him:—
    “The eloquent, fiery, uncompromising African practically makes Scripture say exactly what he himself chooses.” “Insisting on the verse, ‘God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the strong,’ he adopted the paradox, Credo quia absurdum est [I believe that which is absurd], and the wild conclusion that the more repugnant to sound reason a statement was, it ought so much the more to be deemed worthy of God.”—History of Interpretation, pp. 178, 179, 180.
    FACC 186.1

    Following is the brief biography of Tertullian given by Mosheim in his “Ecclesiastical History:”—FACC 186.2

    “In the Latin language, scarcely any writer of this century elucidated or defended the Christian religion, except Tertullian. He was at first a jurisconsult, then a presbyter at Carthage, and at last a follower of Montanus. We have various short works of his, which aim either to explain and defend the truth, or to excite piety. Which were the greatest, his excellencies or his defects, it is difficult to say. He possessed great genius; but it was wild and unchastened. His piety was active and fervent; but likewise gloomy and austere. He had much learning and knowledge; but lacked discretion and judgment; he was more acute than solid.”—Book 1, cent. 2, part 2, chap. 2, sec. 5.FACC 186.3

    Those who read much about Tertullian will find frequent reference to his Montanism, and therefore it may not be amiss in this introduction to learn something of the teachings of Montanus, whose follower Tertullian became. The following is from Killen’s “Ancient Church:”—FACC 186.4

    “Shortly after the middle of the second century the church began to be troubled by a heresy in some respects very different from gnosticism. At that time the persecuting spirit displayed by Marcus Aurelius filled the Christians throughout the empire with alarm, and those of them who were given to despondency began to entertain the most gloomy anticipations. An individual, named Montanus, who laid claim to prophetic endowments now appeared in a village on the borders of Phrygia; and though he seems to have possessed a rather mean capacity, his discipline was so suited to the taste of many, and the predictions which he uttered so accorded with prevailing apprehensions, that he soon created a deep impression. When he first came forward in the character of a divine instructor, he had been recently converted to Christianity; and he seems to have strangely misapprehended the nature of the gospel. When he delivered his pretended communications from Heaven, he is said to have wrought himself up into a state of frenzied excitement. His countrymen, who had been accustomed to witness the ecstasies of the priests of Bacchus and Cybele, saw proofs of a divine impulse in his bodily contortions; and some of them at once acknowledged his extraordinary mission. By means of two wealthy female associates, named Priscilla and Maximilla, who also professed to utter prophecies, Montanus was enabled rapidly to extend his influence. His fame spread abroad on all sides; and, in a few years, he had followers in Europe and in Africa, as well as in Asia.FACC 187.1

    “It cannot be said that this heresiarch attempted to overturn the creed of the church. He was neither a profound thinker nor a logical reasoner; and he certainly had not maturely studied the science of theology. But he possessed an ardent temperament, and he seems to have mistaken the suggestions of his own fanaticism for the dictates of inspiration. The doctrine of the personal reign of Christ during the millennium appears to have formed a prominent topic in his ministrations. He maintained that the discipline of the church had been left incomplete by the apostles, and that he was empowered to supply a better code of regulations. According to some he proclaimed himself the Paraclete; but, if so, he most grievously belied his assumed name, for his system was far better fitted to induce despondency than to inspire comfort. All his precepts were conceived in the sour and contracted spirit of mere ritualism. He insisted upon long fasts; he condemned second marriages; he inveighed against all who endeavored to save themselves by flight in times of persecution; and he asserted that such as had once been guilty of any heinous transgression should never again be admitted to ecclesiastical fellowship. Whilst he promulgated this stern discipline, he at the same time delivered the most dismal predictions, announcing, among other things, the speedy catastrophe of the Roman Empire. He also gave out that the Phrygian village where he ministered was to become the New Jerusalem of renovated Christianity.”—Period 2, sec. 2, chap. 4, paragraphs 8, 9.FACC 187.2

    When we come to examine the writings of Tertullian, we shall find that he was a worthy disciple of such a master, and although his apologists claim that his writings were mostly completed before he became a Montanist, there is very little if any difference in the spirit of his earlier and his later productions; so that we are forced to conclude that he became a Montanist simply because he was such in reality from the beginning of his career. The theology of Montanus found in Tertullian congenial soil.FACC 188.1

    There can be no one who holds the Fathers in higher esteem than does Bishop Coxe, yet in his introduction to the “Pastor of Hermas,” he speaks of Tertullian as,—FACC 188.2

    “The great founder of ‘Latin Christianity,’ whose very ashes breathed contagion into the life of such as handled his relics with affection, save only those, who, like Cyprian, were gifted with a character as strong as his own. The genius of Tertullian inspired his very insanity with power, and, to the discipline of the Latin churches, he communicated something of the rigor of Montanism, with the natural reactionary relaxation of morals in actual life. Of this, we shall learn enough when we come to read the fascinating pages of that splendid but infatuated author.”FACC 188.3

    Surely such an author ought to be put into perpetual quarantine. If it had been done centuries ago, it would have saved Protestantism to a great extent from becoming tainted with his Roman Catholic contagion; for no Father has done more than he to establish the Roman Catholic Church. Indeed, as in the case of Clement of Alexandria, Bishop Coxe seems exceedingly anxious to vindicate Tertullian from the charge of being recreant to the Catholic faith. In his introduction to Tertullian’s writings he says:—
    “Let us reflect that St. Bernard and after him the schoolmen, whom we so deservedly honor, separated themselves far more absolutely than ever Tertullian did from the orthodoxy of primitive Christendom. The schism which withdrew the West from communion with the original seats of Christendom and from Nicene Catholicity, was formidable beyond all expression, in comparison with Tertullian’s entanglements with a delusion which the see of Rome itself had momentarily patronized.... . To Dollinger, with the ‘Old Catholic’ remnant only, is left the right to name the Montanists heretics, or to upbraid Tertullian as a lapser from Catholicity.”
    FACC 189.1

    That is to say that Tertullian did not backslide from Catholicism nearly so far as some other eminent Catholics did. Let the reader bear in mind that the highest recommendation that Tertullian’s champion can give him is that he never strayed very far from the Roman Catholic faith. There are still many Protestants with whom such a recommendation would have little weight, except in turning them against him.FACC 189.2

    In keeping with the quotation, which charges Tertullian with insanity, is the statement of the Western Churchman (Denver, Col.), which, in an article entitled, “The Right to Administer the Sacraments” (vol. 1, No. 23), called Tertullian “this zealous, brilliant, illogical, unstable Father.” Not a very good foundation to build on, is it?FACC 190.1

    We have already read that Tertullian was the founder of Latin (Roman Catholic) theology; the following quotations name some of the peculiar features of Catholicism which were derived from him. Killen says:—
    “Tertullian flourished at a period when ecclesiastical usurpation was beginning to produce some of its bitter fruits, and when religion was rapidly degenerating from its primitive purity. His works, which treat of a great variety of topics interesting to the Christian student, throw immense light on the state of the church in his generation.... But the way of salvation by faith seems to have been very indistinctly apprehended by him, so that he cannot be safely trusted as a theologian. He had evidently no clear conception of the place which works ought to occupy according to the scheme of the gospel; and hence he sometimes speaks as if pardon could be purchased by penance, by fasting, or by martyrdom.”—Period 2, sec. 2, chap. 1, paragraph 13.
    FACC 190.2

    Here is the cloven foot of antichrist. Salvation by works is the doctrine which puts man on a level with Jesus Christ, and so crowds Christ out altogether. Without this idea, Roman Catholicism could not exist. It is the sand bank upon which that church is built. Notice that while Tertullian’s writings are said to throw great light on the state of the church in his generation, it is declared to be a generation when religion was rapidly degenerating from its primitive purity. So while his writings may be interesting as showing the degree of degeneration which the church had reached within less than two hundred years after the days of the apostles, they are worth nothing for any other purpose. And, indeed, we cannot always depend upon them for a knowledge of the customs of the church in his days, for, as we have already quoted from Dr. Killen, “he deals so largely in exaggeration that, as to many matters of fact, we cannot safely depend upon his testimony.”FACC 190.3

    The following from Neander, as to Tertullian’s “warm, ungoverned imagination,” corroborates the above:—
    “Tertullian is a writer of peculiar importance, both as the first representative of the theological character of the North African Church, and as the representative of the Montanistic opinions. He was a man of ardent mind, warm disposition, and deeply serious character, accustomed to give himself up with all his soul and strength to the object of his love, and haughtily to reject all which was uncongenial to that object. He had a fund of great and multifarious knowledge, but it was confusedly heaped up in his mind, without scientific arrangement. His depth of thought was not united with logical clearness and judgment; a warm, ungoverned imagination, that dwelt in sensuous images, was his ruling power. His impetuous and haughty disposition, and his early education as an advocate or a rhetorician, were prone to carry him, especially in controversy, to rhetorical exaggerations.”—Rose’s Neander, sec. 5, edition of 1843, pp. 424, 425.
    FACC 191.1

    It is very evident, therefore, that Tertullian’s testimony will have to be regarded with suspicion.FACC 191.2

    The following from Dr. Schaff sets Tertullian forth as a father of monkery and the Roman Catholic distinction between mortal and venial sins:—
    “The heathen gnostic principle of separation from the world and from the body as a means of self-redemption, after being theoretically exterminated, stole into the church by a back door of practice, directly in face of the Christian doctrine of the high destiny of the body, and perfect redemption through Christ.
    FACC 192.1

    “The Alexandrian Fathers first furnished a theoretical basis for this asceticism, in the distinction, suggested even by the pastor Hermae, of a lower and a higher morality; a distinction, which, like that introduced at the same period by Tertullian, of mortal and venial sins, gave rise to many practical errors, and favored both mortal laxity and ascetic extravagance.”—Church History, vol. 1, sec. 94.FACC 192.2

    Tertullian also stands as sponsor, or one of the sponsors, for the Roman Catholic doctrine of prayers to the dead. This, as the reader doubtless well knows, was simply the baptized form of the pagan custom of making gods of departed heroes. Bingham (Antiquities of the Christian Church, book 1, chap. 4) says:—
    “Tertullian adds to these [i. e., the martyrs] the name of chari Dei, the favorites of Heaven; because their prayers and intercessions were powerful with God, to obtain pardon for others, that should address Heaven by them. Therefore, in his instructions to the penitents, he bids them, charis Dei adgeniculari, fall down at the feet of these favorites, and commend their suit to all the brethren, desiring them to intercede with God for them.”
    FACC 192.3

    And Killen, speaking of the exposition of Matthew 16:16-18, which makes Peter the head of the church, says:—
    “Tertullian and Cyprian, in the third century the two most eminent Fathers of the West, countenanced the exposition; and though both these writers were lamentably deficient in critical sagacity, men of inferior standing were slow to impugn the verdict of such champions of the faith.”—Ancient Church, period 2, sec. 1, chap. 5, paragraph 19.
    FACC 192.4

    That was the way that the papacy established itself; certain men came to be looked upon as authorities, and the people, leaving the plain declarations of the Bible, blindly accepted their dictum. The bishops, many of whom were pagan philosophers when chosen to preside over the churches, came very naturally to occupy this position, and the way was thus paved for the most powerful bishop to become pope, exercising lordship over men’s consciences.FACC 193.1

    But the reader is doubtless anxious to be entertained with some of Tertullian’s peculiarities, fresh from the original source, and so he shall now be allowed to speak for himself. As a good example of his fiery impetuosity, which could lead him to rejoice in anticipation of witnessing the sufferings of the lost, we quote from his treatise, “The Shows.” After having spoken of the wickedness of the shows, which many professed Christians were very fond of attending, he likens (chap. 30) the Judgment-day to a vast show in which the actors will be the illustrious men of earth, and he a delighted spectator:—
    “How vast a spectacle then bursts upon the eye! What there excites my admiration? what my derision? Which sight gives me joy? which rouses me to exultation?—as I see so many illustrious monarchs, whose reception into the heavens was publicly announced, groaning now in the lowest darkness with great Jove himself, and those, too, who bore witness of their exultation; governors of provinces, too, who persecuted the Christian name, in fires more fierce than those with which in the days of their pride they raged against the followers of Christ. What world’s wise men besides, the very philosophers, in fact, who taught their followers that God had no concern in aught that is sublunary, and were wont to assure them that either they had no souls, or that they would never return to the bodies which at death they had left, now covered with shame before the poor deluded ones, as one fire consumes them! Poets also, trembling not before the judgment-seat of Rhadamanthus or Minos, but of the unexpected Christ! I shall have a better opportunity then of hearing the tragedians, louder-voiced in their own calamity; of viewing the play-actors, much more ‘dissolute’ in the dissolving flame, of looking upon the charioteer, all glowing in his chariot of fire; of beholding the wrestlers, not in their gymnasia, but tossing in the fiery billows.”
    FACC 193.2

    This certainly does not reveal Tertullian in a very amiable aspect.FACC 194.1

    Since Turtullian is the Father who, perhaps to a greater extent than any other, is depended on for authority to uphold Sunday observance, we will at the outset examine what he has to say on that subject. It may not be amiss, however, again to remind the reader that Tertullian is the great champion of Roman Catholicism, and to recall the statements already quoted, that his “warm, ungoverned imagination,” acted upon by “strong passion,” “completely overpowered his judgment,” and that “he deals so largely in exaggeration that, as to many matters of fact, we cannot safely depend upon his testimony.” This being the case, we are perfectly willing that Sunday advocates should have the full benefit of Tertullian’s testimony, always remembering that even though it could be proved that Sunday was observed in Tertullian’s time, that would not connect the day with the Bible, but only with the custom of a people only half Christian at best.FACC 194.2

    In his “Apology” (chap. 16), an address written to the rulers and magistrates of the empire, he says:—
    “Others, again, certainly with more information and greater verisimilitude, believe that the sun is our god. We shall be counted Persians perhaps, though we do not worship the orb of day painted on a piece of linen cloth, having himself everywhere in his own disk. The idea no doubt has originated from our being known to turn to the east in prayer. But you, many of you, also under pretense sometimes of worshiping the heavenly bodies, move your lips in the direction of the sunrise. In the same way, if we devote Sun-day to rejoicing, from a far different reason than Sun-worship, we have some resemblance to those of you who devote the day of Saturn to ease and luxury, though they too go far away from Jewish ways, of which indeed they are ignorant.”
    FACC 195.1

    Here he admits that there was considerable reason in the charge that he, and Christians of his sort, worshiped the sun. The Bible student who reads Tertullian’s declaration that they worshiped toward the east, and devoted the Sunday to rejoicing, will doubtless be reminded of the passage in Ezekiel, where the prophet, after being shown the women “weeping for Tammuz”—the Babylonian Adonis—is told that he shall see greater abominations, which he describes thus: “And he brought me into the inner court of the Lord’s house, and, behold, at the door of the temple of the Lord, between the porch and the altar, were about five and twenty men, with their backs toward the temple of the Lord, and their faces toward the east; and they worshiped the sun toward the east.” Ezekiel 8:16. Yet Tertullian’s best excuse for this custom is that it is no worse than what the heathen themselves did.FACC 195.2

    Very similar to the last quotation is the following from his address, “Ad Nationes,” that is to the general public, the heathen. He says:—
    “Others, with greater regard to good manners, it must be confessed, suppose that the sun is the god of the Christians, because it is a well-known fact that we pray towards the east, or because we make Sunday a day of festivity. What then? Do you do less than this? Do not many among you, with an affectation of sometimes worshiping the heavenly bodies likewise, move your lips in the direction of the sunrise? It is you, at all events, who have even admitted the sun into the calendar of the week; and you have selected its day, in preference to the preceding day as the most suitable in the week for either an entire abstinence from the bath, or for its postponement until the evening, or for taking rest and for banqueting.”—Book 1, chap. 13.
    FACC 196.1

    Here again he attempts to excuse himself by a retort, but his defense is childish in its simplicity. To the charge that the Christians worshiped the sun, a charge made because they prayed toward the east and observed the Sunday holiday, he replies that the heathen do the same thing. It is as though a Christian, when charged by a worldling with being a frequenter of the circus, should say, “Well, you attend circuses too.” We have here, also, Tertullian’s testimony as to the heathen origin of Sunday celebration. He says to them: “It is you, at all events, who have even admitted the sun into the calendar of the week; and you have selected its day, in preference to the preceding day as the most suitable in the week .... for taking rest and for banqueting.” We do not depend upon Tertullian for proof that the Sunday festival was borrowed by the professed Christian Church from the heathen; but a careful perusal of this testimony may well be recommended to those who are fond of quoting Tertullian in behalf of Sunday observance. He declares that in devoting Sunday to festivity (they did not rest upon it), the Christians were simply following the example set them by the heathen.FACC 196.2

    In the following answer to the Jews we have Tertullian’s belief in regard to the keeping of the Sabbath:—
    “It follows, accordingly, that, in so far as the abolition of carnal circumcision and of the old law is demonstrated as having been consummated at its specific times, so also the observance of the Sabbath is demonstrated to have been temporary.
    FACC 197.1

    “For the Jews say, that from the beginning God sanctified the seventh day, by resting on it from all his works which he made; and that thence it was, likewise, that Moses said to the people: ‘Remember the day of the Sabbaths, to sanctify it; every servile work ye shall not do therein, except what pertaineth unto life.’ Whence we (Christians) understand that we still more ought to observe a Sabbath from all ‘servile work’ always, and not only every seventh day, but through all time. And through this arises the question for us, what Sabbath God willed us to keep. For the Scriptures point to a Sabbath eternal and a Sabbath temporal. For Isaiah the prophet says, ‘Your sabbaths my soul hateth;’ and in another place he says, ‘My Sabbaths ye have profaned.’ Whence we discern that the temporal Sabbath is human, and the eternal Sabbath is accounted divine, concerning which he predicts through Isaiah: ‘And there shall be,’ he says, ‘month after month, and day after day, and Sabbath after Sabbath; and all flesh shall come to adore in Jerusalem, saith the Lord;’ which we understand to have been fulfilled in the times of Christ, when ‘all flesh’—that is, every nation—’came to adore in Jerusalem’ God the Father, through Jesus Christ his Son, as was predicted through the prophet: ‘Behold, proselytes through me shall go unto thee.’ Thus, therefore, before his temporal Sabbath, there was withal an eternal Sabbath foreshown and foretold; just as before the carnal circumcision there was withal a spiritual circumcision foreshown. In short, let them teach us, as we have already premised, that Adam observed the Sabbath; or that Abel, when offering to God a holy victim, pleased him by a religious reverence for the Sabbath; or that Enoch, when translated, had been a keeper of the Sabbath; or that Noah the ark-builder observed, on account of the deluge, an immense Sabbath; or that Abraham, in observance of the Sabbath, offered Isaac his son; or that Melchizedek in his priesthood received the law of the Sabbath.”—Answer to the Jews, chap. 4.FACC 197.2

    This, together with the quotation just preceding it, shows that Tertullian did not believe in keeping any Sabbath. He did not believe in a literal Sabbath-day, but held that Sabbath-keeping consisted in doing any act that is pleasing to God. As to Sunday, neither he nor any other Christians of his day observed it as a Sabbath, nor with the idea that Sunday observance was in harmony with the Sabbath law; but they observed it as a festival day which, as has already been shown, they knew had its origin with the heathen.FACC 198.1

    The following quotation is very much to the same effect as the preceding, but it is given in order that nothing that Tertullian said of the Sabbath may be lacking:—
    “Thus Christ did not at all rescind the Sabbath: He kept the law thereof, and both in the former case did a work which was beneficial to the life of his disciples, for he indulged them with the relief of food when they were hungry, and in the present instance cured the withered hand; in each case intimating by facts, ‘I came not to destroy, the law, but to fulfill it,’ although Marcion has gagged his mouth by this word. For even in the case before us he fulfilled the law, while interpreting its condition; moreover, he exhibits in a clear light the different kinds of work, while doing what the law excepts from the sacredness of the Sabbath and while imparting to the Sabbath-day itself, which from the beginning had been consecrated by the benediction of the Father, an additional sanctity by his own beneficent action. For he furnished to this day divine safeguards,—a course which his adversary would have pursued for some other days, to avoid honoring the Creator’s Sabbath, and restoring to the Sabbath the works which were proper for it. Since, in like manner, the prophet Elisha on this day restored to life the dead son of the Shunamite woman, you see, O Pharisee, and you too, O Marcion, how that it was proper employment for the Creator’s Sabbaths of old to do good, to save life, not to destroy it; how that Christ introduced nothing new, which was not after the example, the gentleness, the mercy, and the prediction also of the Creator.”—Tertullian against Marcion, book 4, chap. 12.
    FACC 198.2

    Tertullian’s testimony on any point is of so little value that it is not worth while to do more than refer to his statement that “Christ did not at all rescind the law of the Sabbath.” That statement is true; but it is only what the Scriptures tell us, and the Scripture statement gains nothing from Tertullian’s indorsement. We believe the Fathers when they agree with the Bible, but we do not form or modify our opinions of the Bible from their statements. This very quotation affords an illustration of how we should be deceived if we did form our opinions of Scripture from the Fathers, for Tertullian says that Elisha restored the Shunamite’s son to life on the Sabbath-day, whereas in the Bible narrative it is plainly stated that it was “neither new moon, nor Sabbath.” 2 Kings 4:23. As a general thing the Fathers were either ignorant of the Scriptures, or else they deliberately falsified to suit their own purposes.FACC 199.1

    There is only one more passage in Tertullian’s writings that could by any possibility be considered as giving aid and comfort to the advocates of Sunday observance, and they are certainly welcome to all that they can get out of it. In his treatise, “De Corona,” chapter 3, he speaks as follows concerning certain customs of the church:—
    “To deal with this matter briefly, I shall begin with baptism. When we are going to enter the water, but a little before, in the presence of the congregation and under the hand of the president, we solemnly profess that we disown the devil, and his pomp, and his angels. Hereupon we are thrice immersed, making a somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed in the gospel. [That is to say, three times as large.] Then, when we are taken up (as new-born children), we taste first of all a mixture of milk and honey, and from that day we refrain from the daily bath for a whole week. We take also, in congregations before daybreak, and from the hand of none but the presidents, the sacrament of the Eucharist, which the Lord both commanded to be eaten at meal-times, and enjoined to be taken by all alike. As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honors. We count fasting or kneeling in worship on the Lord’s day to be unlawful. We rejoice in the same privilege also from Easter to Whitsunday. We feel pained should any wine or bread, even though our own, be cast upon the ground. At every forward step and movement, at every going in and out, when we put on our clothes and shoes, when we bathe, when we sit at table, when we light the lamps, on couch, on seat, in all the ordinary actions of daily life, we trace upon the forehead the sign,” namely, of the cross.
    FACC 200.1

    It is quite possible that some zealous Sunday advocate may seize upon the above as authority for keeping Sunday, or at least as proof that Sunday was observed in the church in the third century. But let that person stop to consider that the Sunday “Lord’s day” is not the only thing mentioned by Tertullian. Whoever keeps Sunday on the strength of Tertullian’s testimony, must also practice trine immersion, and receive some milk and honey after baptism, to keep the devil away; he must also celebrate the sacrifice of the mass, making “offerings for the dead;” and he must not under any circumstances omit making the sign of the cross. In short, he must be a “good (Greek) Catholic.” Whoever quotes Tertullian as authority for Sunday-keeping, and rejects trine immersion, prayers for the dead, and the sign of the cross, shows that he is either utterly inconsistent, or else that he has never read Tertullian for himself.FACC 201.1

    But Tertullian was well enough versed in the Scriptures to know that they do not warrant any such practices. He says that in trine immersion they made a “somewhat ampler pledge than the Lord has appointed;” and immediately following the chapter in which he speaks of this, of offerings for the dead, of Sunday observance, and the sign of the cross, he adds:—
    “If, for these and other such rules, you insist upon having positive Scripture injunction, you will find none.”
    FACC 201.2

    Then what was Tertullian doing but setting himself and the church above the Bible? In other words, what was he doing but helping to develop the Catholic Church?FACC 201.3

    And now that the “sign of the cross” has been introduced, it will be well to trace it further, that we may note the progress of superstition, and see by what means the Catholic custom of substituting meaningless forms for realities, found a place in the church. In his address, “Ad Nationes” (book 1, chap. 12), we find the following:—“As for him who affirms that we are ‘the priesthood of a cross,’ we shall claim him as our co-religionist. A cross is, in its material, a sign of wood. Amongst yourselves also the object of worship is a wooden figure. Only, whilst with you the figure is a human one, with us the wood is its own figure. Never mind for the present what is the shape, provided the material is the same; the form, too, is of no importance, if so be it be the actual body of a god. If, however, there arises a question of difference on this point, what (let me ask) is the difference between the Athenian Pallas, or the Pharian Ceres, and wood formed into a cross, when each is represented by a rough stock, without form, and by the merest rudiment of a statue of unformed wood? Every piece of timber which is fixed in the ground in an erect position is a part of a cross, and indeed the greater portion of its mass. But an entire cross is attributed to us, with its transverse beam, of course, and its projecting seat. Now you have the less to excuse you, for you dedicate to religion only a mutilated, imperfect piece of wood, while others consecrate to the sacred purpose a complete structure. The truth, however, after all is, that your religion is all cross, as I shall show. You are indeed unaware that your gods in their origin have proceeded from this hated cross. Now, every image, whether carved out of wood or stone, or molten in metal, or produced out of any other richer material, must needs have had plastic hands engaged in its formation. Well, then, this modeler, before he did anything else, hit upon the form of a wooden cross, because even our own body assumes as its natural position the latent and concealed outline of a cross. Since the head rises upwards, and the back takes a straight direction, and the shoulders project laterally, if you simply place a man with his arms and hands outstretched, you will make the general outline of a cross. Starting, then, from this rudimental form and prop, as it were, he applies a covering of clay, and so gradually completes the limbs, and forms the body, and covers the cross within with the shape which he meant to impress upon the clay; then from this design, with the help of compasses and leaden moulds, he has got all ready for his image which is to be brought out into marble, or clay, or whatever the material be of which he has determined to make his god. (This, then, is the process:) after the cross-shaped frame, the clay; after the clay, the god. In a well-understood routine, the cross passes into a god through the clayey medium. The cross then you consecrate, and from it the consecrated (deity) begins to derive its origin. By way of example, let us take the case of a tree which grows up into a system of branches and foliage, and is a reproduction of its own kind, whether it springs from the kernel of an olive, or the stone of a peach, or a grain of pepper which has been duly tempered under-ground. Now, if you transplant it, or take a cutting off its branches for another plant, to what will you attribute what is produced by the propagation? Will it not be to the grain, or the stone, or the kernel? Because, as the third stage is attributable to the second, and the second in like manner to the first, so the third will have to be referred to the first, through the second as the mean. We need not stay any longer in the discussion of this point, since by a natural law every kind of produce throughout nature refers back its growth to its original source; and just as the product is comprised in its primal cause, so does that cause agree in character with the thing produced. Since, then, in the production of your gods, you worship the cross which originates them, here will be the original kernel and grain, from which are propagated the wooden materials of your idolatrous images. Examples are not far to seek. Your victories you celebrate with religious ceremony as deities; and they are the more august in proportion to the joy they bring you. The frames on which you hang up your trophies must be crosses: these are, as it were, the very core of your pageants. Thus, in your victories, the religion of your camp makes even crosses objects of worship; your standards it adores, your standards are the sanction of its oaths; your standards it prefers before Jupiter himself. But all that parade of images, and that display of pure gold, are (as so many) necklaces of the crosses. In like manner also, in the banners and ensigns, which your soldiers guard with no less sacred care, you have the streamers (and) vestments of your crosses. You are ashamed, I suppose, to worship unadorned and simple crosses.”FACC 201.4

    In this, Tertullian’s chief object seems to be to convince the heathen that they all had the cross, and that they made use of it both in religious and every-day affairs. Now when we consider that entire tribes of heathen, as in Africa and China, have been “converted” to Catholicism, simply by accepting the sign of the cross, and bowing before an image of the Virgin, it is very easy to see how the Catholic Church made such wonderful growth in the early centuries. It had only to convince the heathen that they were already almost Christian, and that was the most that there was to it. With Clement to teach them that their philosophy was simply the preparation for the gospel, with Tertullian to show them that they were already in possession of the “sign” of Christianity, and with “the church” ready to adopt the heathen Sunday festival and the custom of making libations for the dead, it could not have been a difficult task for the “mystery of iniquity” to develop into the “man of sin.”FACC 204.1

    The following not only shows Tertullian’s superstition concerning the sign of the cross, but is also a good sample of patristic Scripture “exposition:”—FACC 204.2

    “Joseph, again, himself was made a figure of Christ in this point alone (to name no more, not to delay my own course), that he suffered persecution at the hands of his brethren, and was sold into Egypt, on account of the favor of God; just as Christ was sold by Israel—(and therefore), ‘according to the flesh,’ by his ‘brethren’—when he is betrayed by Judas. For Joseph is withal blessed by his father after this form: ‘His glory (is that) of a bull; his horns, the horns of an unicorn; on them shall he toss nations alike unto the very extremity of the earth.’ Of course no one-horned rhinoceros was there pointed to, nor any two-horned minotaur. But Christ was therein signified: ‘bull,’ by reason of each of his two characters,—to some fierce, as Judge; to others gentle, as Saviour; whose ‘horns’ were to be the extremities of the cross. For even in a ship’s yard—which is part of a cross—this is the name by which the extremities are called; while the central pole of the mast is a ‘unicorn.’ By this power, in fact, of the cross, and in this manner horned, he does now, on the one hand, ‘toss’ universal nations through faith, wafting them away from earth to heaven; and will one day on the other ‘toss’ them through judgment, casting them down from heaven to earth.”—Answer to the Jews, chap. 10.FACC 204.3

    In the same chapter we have some more of the same:—
    “But, to come now to Moses, why, I wonder, did he merely at the time when Joshua was battling against Amalek, pray sitting with hands expanded, when, in circumstances so critical, he ought rather, surely, to have commended his prayer by knees bended, and hands beating his breast, and a face prostrate on the ground; except it was that there, where the name of the Lord Jesus was the theme of speech—destined as he was to enter the lists one day singly against the devil—the figure of the cross was also necessary (that figure), through which Jesus was to win the victory?”
    FACC 205.1

    If anyone is still inclined to think that living near the time of the apostles necessarily made one a better expositor of Scripture, let him read the following:— “Again, the mystery of this ‘tree’ we read as being celebrated even in the Books of the Reigns. For when the sons of the prophets were cutting ‘wood’ with axes on the bank of the river Jordan, the iron flew off and sank in the stream; and so, on Elisha the prophet’s coming up, the sons of the prophets beg of him to extract from the stream the iron which had sunk. And accordingly Elisha, having taken ‘wood,’ and cast it into that place where the iron had been submerged, forthwith it rose and swam on the surface, and the ‘wood’ sank, which the sons of the prophets recovered. Whence they understood that Elijah’s spirit was presently conferred upon him. What is more manifest than the mystery of this ‘wood,’—that the obduracy of this world had been sunk in the profundity of error, and is freed in baptism by the ‘wood’ of Christ, that is, of his passion; in order that what had formerly perished through the ‘tree’ in Adam, should be restored through the ‘tree’ in Christ? while we, of course, who have succeeded to, and occupy, the room of the prophets, at the present day sustain in the world that treatment which the prophets always suffered on account of divine religion: for some they stoned, some they banished; more, however, they delivered to mortal slaughter,—a fact which they cannot deny.FACC 205.2

    “This ‘wood,’ again, Isaac the son of Abraham personally carried for his own sacrifice, when God had enjoined that he should be made a victim to himself. But, because these had been mysteries which were being kept for perfect fulfillment in the times of Christ, Isaac, on the one hand, with his ‘wood’ was reserved, the ram being offered which was caught by the horns in the bramble; Christ, on the other hand, in his times, carried his ‘wood’ on his own shoulders, adhering to the horns of the cross, with a thorny crown encircling his head.”—Id., chap. 13.FACC 206.1

    Surely “insanity” could not produce any more driveling nonsense than this. Yet Protestant ministers take precious time to translate and circulate such stuff, and the writers of it are reverenced as Fathers of the Christian church. It seems as though people would surely rate the Fathers as they deserve, if they would only read their puerile writings; nevertheless, most of those who study them are so eager to find something which will give them a show of excuse for continuing some custom for which they can find no authority in the Bible, that they are willfully blind to the gross errors which they contain. The great majority of people, however, have no chance ever even to see the writings of the Fathers, and no time or patience to read them if they should see them; and so when they hear doctors of divinity gravely quoting from the Fathers, they have a sort of vague idea that those “venerable staggers” are the salt of the earth.FACC 206.2

    Following is Bishop Coxe’s prefatory note to Tertullian’s “Treatise on the Soul:”—FACC 207.1

    “In this treatise we have Tertullian’s speculations on the origin, the nature, and the destiny of the human soul. There are, no doubt, paradoxes startling to a modern reader to be found in it, such as that of the soul’s corporeity; and there are weak and inconclusive arguments. But after all such drawbacks (and they are not more than what constantly occur in the most renowned speculative writers of antiquity), the reader will discover many interesting proofs of our author’s character for originality of thought, width of information, firm grasp of his subject, and vivacious treatment of it, such as we have discovered in other parts of his writings. If his subject permits Tertullian less than usual of an appeal to his favorite Holy Scripture, he still makes room for occasional illustration from it, and with his characteristic ability; if, however, there is less of this sacred learning in it, the treatise teems with curious information drawn from the secular literature of that early age.”FACC 207.2

    And in this all that we can expect in the writings of a Father of the church? Must we be content if he doesn’t present any more weak, inconclusive, and nonsensical arguments than “constantly occur in the most renowned speculative writers of antiquity”? Is it enough if he shows his originality of thought, his “warm, ungoverned imagination,” and his acquaintance with secular literature? If so, then why make any pretense of clinging to so prosy a book as the Bible? Why not take Plato’s writings direct? But read the following, and strengthen your growing conviction that Tertullian as a professed Christian writer and teacher, deserves all that has been said of him, and much more:—“I must also say something about the period of the soul’s birth, that I may omit nothing incidental in the whole process. A mature and regular birth takes place, as a general rule, at the commencement of the tenth month. They who theorize respecting numbers, honor the number ten as the parent of all the others and as imparting perfection to the human nativity. For my own part, I prefer viewing this measure of time in reference to God, as if implying that the ten months rather initiated man into the ten commandments; so that the numerical estimate of the time needed to consummate our natural birth should correspond to the numerical classification of the rules of our regenerate life. But inasmuch as birth is also completed with the seventh month, I more readily recognize in this number than in the eighth the honor of a numerical agreement with the sabbatical period; so that the month in which God’s image is sometimes produced in a human birth, shall in its number tally with the day on which God’s creation was completed and hallowed. Human nativity has sometimes been allowed to be premature, and yet to occur in fit and perfect accordance with an hebdomad or sevenfold number, as an auspice of our resurrection, and rest, and kingdom.”—Treatise on the Soul, chap. 37.FACC 207.3

    Such childish nonsense is seldom seen under the heading of reason. No one but a Catholic “theologian” could have been guilty of putting it forth in sober earnest.FACC 209.1

    Tertullian is celebrated for his knowledge of “philosophy,” but the following extract shows that his knowledge of natural science was fully in keeping with his superstitious nature and his ignorance of the real teaching of Scripture:—
    “Since, however, everything which is very attenuated and transparent bears a strong resemblance to the air, such would be the case with the soul, since in its material nature it is wind and breath (or spirit); whence it is that the belief of its corporal quality is endangered, in consequence of the extreme tenuity and subtility of its essence. Likewise, as regards the figure of the human soul from your own conception, you can well imagine that it is none other than the human form; indeed, none other than the shape of that body which each individual soul animates and moves about. This we may at once be induced to admit from contemplating man’s original formation. For only carefully consider, after God hath breathed upon the face of man the breath of life, and man had consequently become a living soul, surely that breath must have passed through the face at once into the interior structure, and have spread itself throughout all the spaces of the body; and as soon as by the divine inspiration it had become condensed, it must have impressed itself on each internal feature, which the condensation had filled in, and so have been, as it were, congealed in shape (or stereotyped). Hence, by this densifying process, there arose a fixing of the soul’s corporeity; and by the impression its figure was formed and moulded. This is the inner man, different from the outer, but yet one in the twofold condition. It, too, has eyes and ears of its own, by means of which Paul must have heard and seen the Lord; it has, moreover all the other members of the body by the help of which it effects all processes of thinking and all activity in dreams.”—Id., chap. 9.
    FACC 209.2

    In chapter 50 he says that although Enoch and Elijah were translated without experiencing death, “they are reserved for the suffering of death, that by their blood they may extinguish antichrist.” Every reader will recognize in that saying the ravings of an insane man.FACC 210.1

    The following from his treatise, “On Baptism” (chapter 1), will give a good idea of the cabalistic method of interpretation, which was common among both Jews and heathen, and which many professed Christian teachers borrowed:—
    “A viper of the Cainite heresy, lately conversant in this quarter, has carried away a great number with her most venomous doctrine, making it her first aim to destroy baptism. Which is quite in accordance with nature; for vipers and asps and basilisks themselves generally do affect arid and waterless places. But we, little fishes, after the example of our Ichthuz Jesus Christ, are born in water, nor have we safety in any other way, than by permanently abiding in water; so that most monstrous creature, who had no right to teach even sound doctrine, knew full well how to kill the little fishes by taking them away from the water!”
    FACC 210.2

    The Greek word (ichthus) means fish. Christ was baptized, and we become united to him by baptism; and so Tertullian calls him our ichthus (our fish), and likens Christians to little fishes. The word, as applied to Christ, was formed by taking the initial letters of the words in the sentence, Iesouz Chrirtoz Theou Uzoz Soter, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, our Saviour.” It was by such methods that many professed Christian writers “proved” the truth of their positions.FACC 210.3

    Tertullian seems to have known nothing of substituting anything for immersion, and it is quite evident that in his day nothing but actual baptism—immersion—was practiced. But this ordinance was even then grossly perverted, as we have already seen, and as the following from chapter 4 of his treatise, “On Baptism,” shows:—
    “But it will suffice to have thus called at the outset those points in which withal is recognized that primary principle of baptism,—which was even then forenoted by the very attitude assumed for a type of baptism,—that the Spirit of God, who hovered over (the waters) from the beginning, would continue to linger over the waters of the baptized. But a holy thing, of course, hovered over a holy; or else, from that which hovered over that which was hovered over borrowed a holiness, since it is necessary that in every case an underlying material substance should catch the quality of that which overhangs it, most of all a corporeal of a spiritual, adapted (as the spiritual is) through the subtleness of its substance, both for penetrating and insinuating. Thus the nature of the waters, sanctified by the Holy One, itself conceived withal the power of sanctifying. Let no one say, ‘Why then, are we, pray, baptized with the very waters which then existed in the first beginning?’ Not with those waters, of course, except in so far as the genus indeed is one, but the species very many. But what is an attribute to the genus re-appears likewise in the species. And accordingly it makes no difference whether a man be washed in a sea or a pool, a stream or a fount, a lake or a trough; nor is there any distinction between those whom John baptized in the Jordan and those whom Peter baptized in the Tiber, unless withal the eunuch whom Philip baptized in the midst of his journeys with chance water, derived (therefrom) more or less of salvation than others. All waters, therefore, in virtue of the pristine privilege of their origin, do, after invocation of God, attain the sacramental power of sanctification; for the spirit immediately supervenes from the heavens and rests over the waters, sanctifying them from himself; and being thus sanctified, they imbibe at the same time the power of sanctifying.”
    FACC 211.1

    From this it is evident that Tertullian thought that the virtue of baptism lay in the quality of the water, and this idea was perpetuated in the Catholic Church, so that we find nothing but “holy water” used in all her ceremonies. But Tertullian believed that all water was sanctified by the brooding of the Spirit of God upon the face of the waters in the beginning, so that it was not necessary always to specially sanctify it.FACC 212.1

    In chapter 7 he bears testimony to the following perversion of the simple ordinance of baptism as practiced by the apostles:—
    “After this, when we have issued from the font, we are thoroughly anointed with the blessed unction,—(a practice derived) from the old discipline, wherein on entering the priesthood, men were wont to be anointed with oil from a horn, ever since Aaron was anointed by Moses. Whence Aaron is called ‘Christ,’ from the ‘chrism,’ which is ‘the unction;’ which, when made spiritual, furnished an appropriate name to the Lord, because he was ‘anointed’ with the Spirit by God the Father; as written in the Acts: ‘For truly they were gathered together in this city against thy holy Son whom thou hast anointed. Thus, too, in our case, the unction runs carnally (i. e. on the body), but profits spiritually; in the same way as the act of baptism itself too is carnal, in that we are plunged in water, but the effect spiritual, in that we are freed from sins.”
    FACC 212.2

    The reader will later have the pleasure of reading Bingham’s reference to this custom, in which he says that both men and women were often baptized naked, when it will be seen that the first false idea prepared the way for a second, and for a practice that, to say the least, was not expedient.FACC 212.3

    Although Tertullian retained the primitive form of some things, as in immersion, evidently because he did not know of any other way, still his “warm, ungoverned imagination” led him to run everything to an extreme. Consequently, as with the cross, he found baptism in everything. Witness the following:—
    “How many, therefore, are the pleas of nature, how many the privileges of grace, how many the solemnities of discipline, the figures, the preparations, the prayers, which have ordained the sanctity of water? First, indeed, when the people, set unconditionally free, escaped the violence of the Egyptian king by crossing over through water, it was water that extinguished the king himself, with his entire forces. What figure more manifestly fulfilled in the sacrament of baptism? The nations are set free from the world by means of water, to wit: and the devil, their old tyrant, they leave quite behind, overwhelmed in the water. Again, water is restored from its defect of ‘bitterness’ to its native grace of ‘sweetness’ by the tree of Moses. That tree was Christ, restoring, to wit, of himself, the veins of sometime envenomed and bitter nature into the all-salutary waters of baptism. This is the water which flowed continuously down for the people from the ‘accompanying rock;’ for if Christ is ‘the Rock,’ without doubt we see baptism blest by the water in Christ. How mighty is the grace of water, in the sight of God and his Christ, for the confirmation of baptism! Never is Christ without water; if, that is, he is himself baptized in water; inaugurates in water the first rudimentary displays of his power, when invited to the nuptials; invites the thirsty, when he makes a discourse, to his own sempiternal water; approves, when teaching concerning love, among works of charity, the cup of water offered to a poor (child); recruits his strength at a well; walks over the water; willingly crosses the sea; ministers water to his disciples. Onward even to the passion does the witness of baptism last: while he is being surrendered to the cross, water intervenes; witness Pilate’s hands: when he is wounded, forth from his side burst water; witness the soldiers’ lance!”—Id., chap. 9.
    FACC 213.1

    The following from his discourse, “On Prayer” (chapter 29), may also be taken as an evidence of Tertullian’s “Catholicity,” as well as of the childishness of his method of reasoning:—
    “The angels, likewise, all pray; every creature prays; cattle and wild beasts pray and bend their knees; and when they issue from their layers and lairs, they look up heavenward with no idle mouth, making their breath vibrate after their own manner. Nay, the birds too, rising out of the nest, upraise themselves heavenward, and, instead of hands, expand the cross of their wings, and say somewhat to seem like prayer. What more then, touching the office of prayer?”
    FACC 214.1

    The next quotation, which will be the last from Tertullian, is quite long, but it will be read with interest, as showing how early in the Christian era the doctrine of purgatory, and of deliverance therefrom by the prayers of those still in the flesh, found a place in the church. It is the second chapter of “The Passion of Perpetua,” and explains itself:—
    “After a few days, whilst we were all praying, on a sudden, in the middle of our prayer, there came to me a word, and I named Dinocrates; and I was amazed that that name had never come into my mind until then, and I was grieved as I remembered his misfortune. And I felt myself immediately to be worthy, and to be called on to ask on his behalf. And for him I began earnestly to make supplication, and to cry with groaning to the Lord. Without delay, on that very night, this was shown to me in a vision. I saw Dinocrates going out from a gloomy place, where also there were several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid color, and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age, who died miserably with disease—his face being so eaten out with cancer, that his death caused repugnance to all men. For him I had made my prayer, and between him and me there was a large interval, so that neither of us could approach to the other. And moreover, in the same place where Dinocrates was, there was a pool full of water, having its brink higher than was the stature of the body; and Dinocrates raised himself up as if to drink. And I was grieved that, although that pool held water, still, on account of the height to its brink, he could not drink. And I was aroused, and knew that my brother was in suffering. But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp-show. Then was the birthday of Geta Caesar, and I made my prayer for my brother day and night, groaning and weeping that he might be granted to me.
    FACC 214.2

    “Then, on the day on which we remained in fetters, this was shown to me. I saw that that place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. And where there had been a wound, I saw a scar; and that pool which I had before seen, I saw now with its margin lowered even to the boy’s navel. And one drew water from the pool incessantly, and upon its brink was a goblet filled with water; and Dinocrates drew near and began to drink from it, and the goblet did not fail. And when he was satisfied, he went away from the water to play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment.”FACC 215.1

    Whoever accepts Sunday as the Sabbath on the authority of the early church, is bound by all the laws of consistency to accept the doctrine of purgatory, and all that it employs.FACC 216.1

    And now that the reader has had a fair chance to judge for himself of the character of Tertullian and his writings, it will doubtless be a relief to him to give expression to his feelings in these words of Dean Milman:—
    “It would be wiser for Christianity, retreating upon its genuine records in the New Testament, to disclaim this fierce African, than to identify itself with his furious invectives by unsatisfactory apologies for their unchristian fanaticism.”—Note to chap. 15, paragraph 24, of Gibbon’s Decline and Fall.
    FACC 216.2

    So say we. Let us take that upon which we can depend. Whoever spends as much time as he ought in studying the “genuine records in the New Testament,” will have no time in which to winnow the chaff of the Fathers for the sake of a possible grain of truth.FACC 216.3

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