I now come to those ordinary precepts of His, by means of which He adapts the peculiarity of His doctrine to what I may call His official proclamation as the Christ. |Blessed are the needy| (for no less than this is required for interpreting the word in the Greek, |because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.| Now this very fact, that He begins with beatitudes, is characteristic of the Creator, who used no other voice than that of blessing either in the first fiat or the final dedication of the universe: for |my heart,| says He, |hath indited a very good word.| This will be that |very good word| of blessing which is admitted to be the initiating principle of the New Testament, after the example of the Old. What is there, then, to wonder at, if He entered on His ministry with the very attributes of the Creator, who ever in language of the same sort loved, consoled, protected, and avenged the beggar, and the poor, and the humble, and the widow, and the orphan? So that you may believe this private bounty as it were of Christ to be a rivulet streaming from the springs of salvation. Indeed, I hardly know which way to turn amidst so vast a wealth of good words like these; as if I were in a forest, or a meadow, or an orchard of apples. I must therefore look out for such matter as chance may present to me.
In the psalm he exclaims: |Defend the fatherless and the needy; do justice to the humble and the poor; deliver the poor, and rid the needy out of the hand of the wicked.| Similarly in the seventy-first Psalm: |In righteousness shall He judge the needy amongst the people, and shall save the children of the poor.| And in the following words he says of Christ: |All nations shall serve Him.| Now David only reigned over the Jewish nation, so that nobody can suppose that this was spoken of David; whereas He had taken upon Himself the condition of the poor, and such as were oppressed with want, |Because He should deliver the needy out of the hand of the mighty man; He shall spare the needy and the poor, and shall deliver the souls of the poor. From usury and injustice shall He redeem their souls, and in His sight shall their name be honoured.| Again: |The wicked shall be turned into hell, even all the nations that forget God; because the needy shall not alway be forgotten; the endurance of the poor shall not perish for ever.| Again: |Who is like unto the Lord our God, who dwelleth on high, and yet looketh on the humble things that are in heaven and on earth! -- who raiseth up the needy from off the ground, and out of the dunghill exalteth the poor; that He may set him with the princes of His people,| that is, in His own kingdom. And likewise earlier, in the book of Kings, Hannah the mother of Samuel gives glory to God in these words: |He raiseth the poor man from the ground, and the beggar, that He may set him amongst the princes of His people (that is, in His own kingdom), and on thrones of glory| (even royal ones). And by Isaiah how He inveighs against the oppressors of the needy! |What mean ye that ye set fire to my vineyard, and that the spoil of the poor is in your houses? Wherefore do ye beat my people to pieces, and grind the face of the needy?| And again: |Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees; for in their decrees they decree wickedness, turning aside the needy from judgment, and taking away their rights from the poor of my people.| These righteous judgments He requires for the fatherless also, and the widows, as well as for consolation to the very needy themselves. |Do justice to the fatherless, and deal justly with the widow; and come, let us be reconciled, saith the Lord.| To him, for whom in every stage of lowliness there is provided so much of the Creator's compassionate regard, shall be given that kingdom also which is promised by Christ, to whose merciful compassion belong, and for a great while have belonged, those to whom the promise is made. For even if you suppose that the promises of the Creator were earthly, but that Christ's are heavenly, it is quite clear that heaven has been as yet the property of no other God whatever, than Him who owns the earth also; quite clear that the Creator has given even the lesser promises (of earthly blessing), in order that I may more readily believe Him concerning His greater promises (of heavenly blessings) also, than (Marcion's god), who has never given proof of his liberality by any preceding bestowal of minor blessings. |Blessed are they that hunger, for they shall be filled.| I might connect this clause with the former one, because none but the poor and needy suffer hunger, if the Creator had not specially designed that the promise of a similar blessing should serve as a preparation for the gospel, that so men might know it to be His. For thus does He say, by Isaiah, concerning those whom He was about to call from the ends of the earth -- that is, the Gentiles: |Behold, they shall come swiftly with speed:| swiftly, because hastening towards the fulness of the times; with speed, because unclogged by the weights of the ancient law. They shall neither hunger nor thirst. Therefore they shall be filled, -- a promise which is made to none but those who hunger and thirst. And again He says: |Behold, my servants shall be filled, but ye shall be hungry; behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty.| As for these oppositions, we shall see whether they are not premonitors of Christ. Meanwhile the promise of fulness to the hungry is a provision of God the Creator. |Blessed are they that weep, for they shall laugh.| Turn again to the passage of Isaiah: |Behold, my servants shall exult with joy, but ye shall be ashamed; behold, my servants shall be glad, but ye shall cry for sorrow of heart.| And recognise these oppositions also in the dispensation of Christ. Surely gladness and joyous exultation is promised to those who are in an opposite condition -- to the sorrowful, and sad, and anxious. Just as it is said in the 125th Psalm: |They who sow in tears shall reap in joy.| Moreover, laughter is as much an accessory to the exulting and glad, as weeping is to the sorrowful and grieving. Therefore the Creator, in foretelling matters for laughter and tears, was the first who said that those who mourned should laugh. Accordingly, He who began (His course) with consolation for the poor, and the humble, and the hungry, and the weeping, was at once eager to represent Himself as Him whom He had pointed out by the mouth of Isaiah: |The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed me to preach good tidings unto the poor.| |Blessed are the needy, because theirs is the kingdom of heaven.| |He hath sent me to bind up the broken-hearted.| |Blessed are they that hunger, for they shall be filled.| |To comfort all that mourn.| |Blessed are they that weep, for they shall laugh.| |To give unto them that mourn in Sion, beauty (or glory) for ashes, and the oil of joy for mourning, and the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness.| Now since Christ, as soon as He entered on His course, fulfilled such a ministration as this, He is either, Himself, He who predicted His own coming to do all this; or else if he is not yet come who predicted this, the charge to Marcion's Christ must be a ridiculous one (although I should perhaps add a necessary one), which bade him say, |Blessed shall ye be, when men shall hate you, and shall reproach you, and shall cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.| In this declaration there is, no doubt, an exhortation to patience. Well, what did the Creator say otherwise by Isaiah? |Fear ye not the reproach of men, nor be diminished by their contempt.| What reproach? what contempt? That which was to be incurred for the sake of the Son of man. What Son of man? He who (is come) according to the Creator's will. Whence shall we get our proof? From the very cutting off, which was predicted against Him; as when He says by Isaiah to the Jews, who were the instigators of hatred against Him: |Because of you, my name is blasphemed amongst the Gentiles;| and in another passage: |Lay the penalty on Him who surrenders His own life, who is held in contempt by the Gentiles, whether servants or magistrates.| Now, since hatred was predicted against that Son of man who has His mission from the Creator, whilst the Gospel testifies that the name of Christians, as derived from Christ, was to be hated for the Son of man's sake, because He is Christ, it determines the point that that was the Son of man in the matter of hatred who came according to the Creator's purpose, and against whom the hatred was predicted. And even if He had not yet come, the hatred of His name which exists at the present day could not in any case have possibly preceded Him who was to bear the name. But He has both suffered the penalty in our presence, and surrendered His life, laying it down for our sakes, and is held in contempt by the Gentiles. And He who was born (into the world) will be that very Son of man on whose account our name also is rejected.