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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter XV.--Sermon on the Mount Continued Its Woes in Strict Agreement with the Creator's Disposition. Many Quotations Out of the Old Testament in Proof of This.

The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian

Chapter XV.--Sermon on the Mount Continued Its Woes in Strict Agreement with the Creator's Disposition. Many Quotations Out of the Old Testament in Proof of This.

|In the like manner,| says He, |did their fathers unto the prophets.| What a turncoat is Marcion's Christ! Now the destroyer, now the advocate of the prophets! He destroyed them as their rival, by converting their disciples; he took up their cause as their friend, by stigmatizing their persecutors. But, in as far as the defence of the prophets could not be consistent in the Christ of Marcion, who came to destroy them; in so far is it becoming to the Creator's Christ that He should stigmatize those who persecuted the prophets, for He in all things accomplished their predictions. Again, it is more characteristic of the Creator to upbraid sons with their fathers' sins, than it is of that god who chastizes no man for even his own misdeeds. But you will say, He cannot be regarded as defending the prophets simply because He wished to affirm the iniquity of the Jews for their impious dealings with their own prophets. Well, then, in this case, no sin ought to have been charged against the Jews: they were rather deserving of praise and approbation when they maltreated those whom the absolutely good god of Marcion, after so long a time, bestirred himself to destroy. I suppose, however, that by this time he had ceased to be the absolutely good god; he had now sojourned a considerable while even with the Creator, and was no longer (like) the god of Epicurus purely and simply. For see how he condescends to curse, and proves himself capable of taking offence and feeling anger! He actually pronounces a woe! But a doubt is raised against us as to the import of this word, as if it carried with it less the sense of a curse than of an admonition. Where, however, is the difference, since even an admonition is not given without the sting of a threat, especially when it is embittered with a woe? Moreover, both admonition and threatening will be the resources of him who knows how to feel angry. For no one will forbid the doing of a thing with an admonition or a threat, except him who will inflict punishment for the doing of it. No one would inflict punishment, except him who was susceptible of anger. Others, again, admit that the word implies a curse; but they will have it that Christ pronounced the woe, not as if it were His own genuine feeling, but because the woe is from the Creator, and He wanted to set forth to them the severity of the Creator in order that He might the more commend His own long-suffering in His beatitudes. Just as if it were not competent to the Creator, in the pre-eminence of both His attributes as the good God and Judge, that, as He had made clemency the preamble of His benediction so He should place severity in the sequel of His curses; thus fully developing His discipline in both directions, both in following out the blessing and in providing against the curse. He had already said of old, |Behold, I have set before you blessing and cursing.| Which statement was really a presage of this temper of the gospel. Besides, what sort of being is that who, to insinuate a belief in his own goodness, invidiously contrasted with it the Creator's severity? Of little worth is the recommendation which has for its prop the defamation of another. And yet by thus setting forth the severity of the Creator, he, in fact, affirmed Him to be an object of fear. Now if He be an object of fear, He is of course more worthy of being obeyed than slighted; and thus Marcion's Christ begins to teach favourably to the Creator's interests. Then, on the admission above mentioned, since the woe which has regard to the rich is the Creator's, it follows that it is not Christ, but the Creator, who is angry with the rich; while Christ approves of the incentives of the rich -- I mean, their pride, their pomp, their love of the world, and their contempt of God, owing to which they deserve the woe of the Creator. But how happens it that the reprobation of the rich does not proceed from the same God who had just before expressed approbation of the poor? There is nobody but reprobates the opposite of that which he has approved. If, therefore, there be imputed to the Creator the woe pronounced against the rich, there must be claimed for Him also the promise of the blessing upon the poor; and thus the entire work of the Creator devolves on Christ. -- If to Marcion's god there be ascribed the blessing of the poor, he must also have imputed to him the malediction of the rich; and thus will he become the Creator's equal, both good and judicial; nor will there be left any room for that distinction whereby two gods are made; and when this distinction is removed, there will remain the verity which pronounces the Creator to be the one only God. Since, therefore, |woe| is a word indicative of malediction, or of some unusually austere exclamation; and since it is by Christ uttered against the rich, I shall have to show that the Creator is also a despiser of the rich, as I have shown Him to be the defender of the poor, in order that I may prove Christ to be on the Creator's side in this matter, even when He enriched Solomon. But with respect to this man, since, when a choice was left to him, he preferred asking for what he knew to be well-pleasing to God -- even wisdom -- he further merited the attainment of the riches, which he did not prefer. The endowing of a man indeed with riches, is not an incongruity to God, for by the help of riches even rich men are comforted and assisted; moreover, by them many a work of justice and charity is carried out. But yet there are serious faults which accompany riches; and it is because of these that woes are denounced on the rich, even in the Gospel. |Ye have received,| says He, |your consolation;| that is, of course, from their riches, in the pomps and vanities of the world which these purchase for them. Accordingly, in Deuteronomy, Moses says: |Lest, when thou hast eaten and art full, and hast built goodly houses, and when thy herds and thy flocks multiply, as well as thy silver and thy gold, thine heart be then lifted up, and thou forget the Lord thy God.| In similar terms, when king Hezekiah became proud of his treasures, and gloried in them rather than in God before those who had come on an embassy from Babylon, (the Creator) breaks forth against him by the mouth of Isaiah: |Behold, the days come when all that is in thine house, and that which thy fathers have laid up in store, shall be carried to Babylon.| So by Jeremiah likewise did He say: |Let not the rich man glory in his riches but let him that glorieth even glory in the Lord.| Similarly against the daughters of Sion does He inveigh by Isaiah, when they were haughty through their pomp and the abundance of their riches, just as in another passage He utters His threats against the proud and noble: |Hell hath enlarged herself, and opened her mouth, and down to it shall descend the illustrious, and the great, and the rich (this shall be Christ's woe to the rich'); and man shall be humbled,| even he that exalts himself with riches; |and the mighty man shall be dishonoured,| even he who is mighty from his wealth. Concerning whom He says again: |Behold, the Lord of hosts shall confound the pompous together with their strength: those that are lifted up shall be hewn down, and such as are lofty shall fall by the sword.| And who are these but the rich? Because they have indeed received their consolation, glory, and honour and a lofty position from their wealth. In Psalm xlviii. He also turns off our care from these and says: |Be not thou afraid when one is made rich, and when his glory is increased: for when he shall die, he shall carry nothing away; nor shall his glory descend along with him.| So also in Psalm lxi.: |Do not desire riches; and if they do yield you their lustre, do not set your heart upon them.| Lastly, this very same woe is pronounced of old by Amos against the rich, who also abounded in delights. |Woe unto them,| says he, |who sleep upon beds of ivory, and deliciously stretch themselves upon their couches; who eat the kids from the flocks of the goats, and sucking calves from the flocks of the heifers, while they chant to the sound of the viol; as if they thought they should continue long, and were not fleeting; who drink their refined wines, and anoint themselves with the costliest ointments.| Therefore, even if I could do nothing else than show that the Creator dissuades men from riches, without at the same time first condemning the rich, in the very same terms in which Christ also did, no one could doubt that, from the same authority, there was added a commination against the rich in that woe of Christ, from whom also had first proceeded the dissuasion against the material sin of these persons, that is, their riches. For such commination is the necessary sequel to such a dissuasive. He inflicts a woe also on |the full, because they shall hunger; on those too which laugh now, because they shall mourn.| To these will correspond these opposites which occur, as we have seen above, in the benedictions of the Creator: |Behold, my servants shall be full, but ye shall be hungry| -- even because ye have been filled; |behold, my servants shall rejoice, but ye shall be ashamed| -- even ye who shall mourn, who now are laughing. For as it is written in the psalm, |They who sow in tears shall reap in joy,| so does it run in the Gospel: They who sow in laughter, that is, in joy, shall reap in tears. These principles did the Creator lay down of old; and Christ has renewed them, by simply bringing them into prominent view, not by making any change in them. |Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.| With equal stress does the Creator, by His prophet Isaiah, censure those who seek after human flattery and praise: |O my people, they who call you happy mislead you, and disturb the paths of your feet.| In another passage He forbids all implicit trust in man, and likewise in the applause of man; as by the prophet Jeremiah: |Cursed be the man that trusteth in man.| Whereas in Psalm cxvii. it is said: |It is better to trust in the Lord than to put confidence in man; it is better to trust in the Lord than to place hope in princes.| Thus everything which is caught at by men is adjured by the Creator, down to their good words. It is as much His property to condemn the praise and flattering words bestowed on the false prophets by their fathers, as to condemn their vexatious and persecuting treatment of the (true) prophets. As the injuries suffered by the prophets could not be imputed to their own God, so the applause bestowed on the false prophets could not have been displeasing to any other god but the God of the true prophets.
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