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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter XVII.--Concerning Loans Prohibition of Usury and the Usurious Spirit. The Law Preparatory to the Gospel in Its Provisions; So in the Present Instance. On Reprisals. Christ's Teaching Throughout Proves Him to Be Sent by the Creator.

The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian

Chapter XVII.--Concerning Loans Prohibition of Usury and the Usurious Spirit. The Law Preparatory to the Gospel in Its Provisions; So in the Present Instance. On Reprisals. Christ's Teaching Throughout Proves Him to Be Sent by the Creator.

And now, on the subject of a loan, when He asks, |And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye?| compare with this the following words of Ezekiel, in which He says of the before-mentioned just man, |He hath not given his money upon usury, nor will he take any increase| -- meaning the redundance of interest, which is usury. The first step was to eradicate the fruit of the money lent, the more easily to accustom a man to the loss, should it happen, of the money itself, the interest of which he had learnt to lose. Now this, we affirm, was the function of the law as preparatory to the gospel. It was engaged in forming the faith of such as would learn, by gradual stages, for the perfect light of the Christian discipline, through the best precepts of which it was capable, inculcating a benevolence which as yet expressed itself but falteringly. For in the passage of Ezekiel quoted above He says, |And thou shalt restore the pledge of the loan| -- to him, certainly, who is incapable of repayment, because, as a matter of course, He would not anyhow prescribe the restoration of a pledge to one who was solvent. Much more clearly is it enjoined in Deuteronomy: |Thou shalt not sleep upon his pledge; thou shalt be sure to return to him his garment about sunset, and he shall sleep in his own garment.| Clearer still is a former passage: |Thou shalt remit every debt which thy neighbour oweth thee; and of thy brother thou shalt not require it, because it is called the release of the Lord thy God.| Now, when He commands that a debt be remitted to a man who shall be unable to pay it (for it is a still stronger argument when He forbids its being asked for from a man who is even able to repay it), what else does He teach than that we should lend to those of whom we cannot receive again, inasmuch as He has imposed so great a loss on lending? |And ye shall be the children of God.| What can be more shameless, than for him to be making us his children, who has not permitted us to make children for ourselves by forbidding marriage? How does he propose to invest his followers with a name which he has already erased? I cannot be the son of a eunuch especially when I have for my Father the same great Being whom the universe claims for its! For is not the Founder of the universe as much a Father, even of all men, as (Marcion's) castrated deity, who is the maker of no existing thing? Even if the Creator had not united male and female, and if He had not allowed any living creature whatever to have children, I yet had this relation to Him before Paradise, before the fall, before the expulsion, before the two became one. I became His son a second time, as soon as He fashioned me with His hands, and gave me motion with His inbreathing. Now again He names me His son, not begetting me into natural life, but into spiritual life. |Because,| says He, |He is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.| Well done, Marcion! how cleverly have you withdrawn from Him the showers and the sunshine, that He might not seem to be a Creator! But who is this kind being which hitherto has not been even known? How can he be kind who had previously shown no evidences of such a kindness as this, which consists of the loan to us of sunshine and rain? -- who is not destined to receive from the human race (the homage due to that) Creator, -- who, up to this very moment, in return for His vast liberality in the gift of the elements, bears with men while they offer to idols, more readily than Himself, the due returns of His graciousness. But God is truly kind even in spiritual blessings. |The utterances of the Lord are sweeter than honey and honeycombs.| He then has taunted men as ungrateful who deserved to have their gratitude -- even He, whose sunshine and rain even you, O Marcion, have enjoyed, but without gratitude! Your god, however, had no right to complain of man's ingratitude, because he had used no means to make them grateful. Compassion also does He teach: |Be ye merciful,| says He, |as your Father also that had mercy upon you.| This injunction will be of a piece with, |Deal thy bread to the hungry; and if he be houseless, bring him into thine house; and if thou seest the naked, cover him;| also with, |Judge the fatherless, plead with the widow.| I recognise here that ancient doctrine of Him who |prefers mercy to sacrifice.| If, however, it be now some other being which teaches mercy, on the ground of his own mercifulness, how happens it that he has been wanting in mercy to me for so vast an age? |Judge not, and ye shall not be judged; condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned; forgive, and ye shall be forgiven; give, and it shall be given unto you: good measure, pressed down, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye measure withal, it shall be measured to you again.| As it seems to me, this passage announces a retribution proportioned to the merits. But from whom shall come the retribution? If only from men, in that case he teaches a merely human discipline and recompense; and in everything we shall have to obey man: if from the Creator, as the Judge and the Recompenser of merits, then He compels our submission to Him, in whose hands He has placed a retribution which will be acceptable or terrible according as every man shall have judged or condemned, acquitted or dealt with, his neighbour; if from (Marcion's god) himself, he will then exercise a judicial function which Marcion denies. Let the Marcionites therefore make their choice: Will it not be just the same inconsistency to desert the prescription of their master, as to have Christ teaching in the interest of men or of the Creator? But |a blind man will lead a blind man into the ditch.| Some persons believe Marcion. But |the disciple is not above his master.| Apelles ought to have remembered this -- a corrector of Marcion, although his disciple. The heretic ought to take the beam out of his own eye, and then he may convict the Christian, should he suspect a mote to be in his eye. Just as a good tree cannot produce evil fruit, so neither can truth generate heresy; and as a corrupt tree cannot yield good fruit, so heresy will not produce truth. Thus, Marcion brought nothing good out of Cerdon's evil treasure; nor Apelles out of Marcion's. For in applying to these heretics the figurative words which Christ used of men in general, we shall make a much more suitable interpretation of them than if we were to deduce out of them two gods, according to Marcion's grievous exposition. I think that I have the best reason possible for insisting still upon the position which I have all along occupied, that in no passage to be anywhere found has another God been revealed by Christ. I wonder that in this place alone Marcion's hands should have felt benumbed in their adulterating labour. But even robbers have their qualms now and then. There is no wrong-doing without fear, because there is none without a guilty conscience. So long, then, were the Jews cognisant of no other god but Him, beside whom they knew none else; nor did they call upon any other than Him whom alone they knew. This being the case, who will He clearly be that said, |Why callest thou me Lord, Lord?| Will it be he who had as yet never been called on, because never yet revealed; or He who was ever regarded as the Lord, because known from the beginning -- even the God of the Jews? Who, again, could possibly have added, |and do not the things which I say?| Could it have been he who was only then doing his best to teach them? Or He who from the beginning had addressed to them His messages both by the law and the prophets? He could then upbraid them with disobedience, even if He had no ground at any time else for His reproof. The fact is, that He who was then imputing to them their ancient obstinacy was none other than He who, before the coming of Christ, had addressed to them these words, |This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart standeth far off from me.| Otherwise, how absurd it were that a new god, a new Christ, the revealer of a new and so grand a religion should denounce as obstinate and disobedient those whom he had never had it in his power to make trial of!
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