The Prescription Against Heretics by Tertullian
Chapter XLIV.--Heresy Lowers Respect for Christ, and Destroys All Fear of His Great Judgment The Tendency of Heretical Teaching on This Solemn Article of the Faith. The Present Treatise an Introduction to Certain Other Anti-Heretical Works of Our Author.
These evidences, then, of a stricter discipline existing among us, are an additional proof of truth, from which no man can safely turn aside, who bears in mind that future judgment, when |we must all stand before the judgment-seat of Christ,| to render an account of our faith itself before all things. What, then, will they say who shall have defiled it, even the virgin which Christ committed to them with the adultery of heretics? I suppose they will allege that no injunction was ever addressed to them by Him or by His apostles concerning depraved and perverse doctrines assailing them, or about their avoiding and abhorring the same. (He and His apostles, perhaps,) will acknowledge that the blame rather lies with themselves and their disciples, in not having given us previous warning and instruction! They will, besides, add a good deal respecting the high authority of each doctor of heresy, -- how that these mightily strengthened belief in their own doctrine; how that they raised the dead, restored the sick, foretold the future, that so they might deservedly be regarded as apostles. As if this caution were not also in the written record: that many should come who were to work even the greatest miracles, in defence of the deceit of their corrupt preaching. So, forsooth, they will deserve to be forgiven! If, however, any, being mindful of the writings and the denunciations of the Lord and the apostles, shall have stood firm in the integrity of the faith, I suppose they will run great risk of missing pardon, when the Lord answers: I plainly forewarned you that there should be teachers of false doctrine in my name, as well as that of the prophets and apostles also; and to my own disciples did I give a charge, that they should preach the same things to you. But as for you, it was not, of course, to be supposed that you would believe me! I once gave the gospel and the doctrine of the said rule (of life and faith) to my apostles; but afterwards it was my pleasure to make considerable changes in it! I had promised a resurrection, even of the flesh; but, on second thoughts, it struck me that I might not be able to keep my promise! I had shown myself to have been born of a virgin; but this seemed to me afterwards to be a discreditable thing. I had said that He was my Father, who is the Maker of the sun and the showers; but another and better father has adopted me! I had forbidden you to lend an ear to heretics; but in this I erred! Such (blasphemies), it is possible, do enter the minds of those who go out of the right path, and who do not defend the true faith from the danger which besets it. On the present occasion, indeed, our treatise has rather taken up a general position against heresies, (showing that they must) all be refuted on definite, equitable, and necessary rules, without any comparison with the Scriptures. For the rest, if God in His grace permit, we shall prepare answers to certain of these heresies in separate treatises. To those who may devote their leisure in reading through these (pages), in the belief of the truth, be peace, and the grace of our God Jesus Christ for ever.