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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Chapter XXXV.--The Judicial Severity of Christ and the Tenderness of the Creator, Asserted in Contradiction to Marcion. The Cure of the Ten Lepers. Old Testament Analogies. The Kingdom of God Within You; This Teaching Similar to that of Moses. Christ, the

The Five Books Against Marcion by Tertullian

Chapter XXXV.--The Judicial Severity of Christ and the Tenderness of the Creator, Asserted in Contradiction to Marcion. The Cure of the Ten Lepers. Old Testament Analogies. The Kingdom of God Within You; This Teaching Similar to that of Moses. Christ, the

Then, turning to His disciples, He says: |Woe unto him through whom offences come! It were better for him if he had not been born, or if a millstone were hanged about his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should offend one of these little ones,| that is, one of His disciples. Judge, then, what the sort of punishment is which He so severely threatens. For it is no stranger who is to avenge the offence done to His disciples. Recognise also in Him the Judge, and one too, who expresses Himself on the safety of His followers with the same tenderness as that which the Creator long ago exhibited: |He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of my eye.| Such identity of care proceeds from one and the same Being. A trespassing brother He will have rebuked. If one failed in this duty of reproof, he in fact sinned, either because out of hatred he wished his brother to continue in sin, or else spared him from mistaken friendship, although possessing the injunction in Leviticus: |Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart; thy neighbor thou shalt seriously rebuke, and on his account shalt not contract sin.| Nor is it to be wondered at, if He thus teaches who forbids your refusing to bring back even your brother's cattle, if you find them astray in the road; much more should you bring back your erring brother to himself. He commands you to forgive your brother, should he trespass against you even |seven times.| But that surely, is a small matter; for with the Creator there is a larger grace, when He sets no limits to forgiveness, indefinitely charging you |not to bear any malice against your brother,| and to give not merely to him who asks, but even to him who does not ask. For His will is, not that you should forgive an offence, but forget it. The law about lepers had a profound meaning as respects the forms of the disease itself, and of the inspection by the high priest. The interpretation of this sense it will be our task to ascertain. Marcion's labour, however, is to object to us the strictness of the law, with the view of maintaining that here also Christ is its enemy -- forestalling its enactments even in His cure of the ten lepers. These He simply commanded to show themselves to the priest; |and as they went, He cleansed them| -- without a touch, and without a word, by His silent power and simple will. Well, but what necessity was there for Christ, who had been once for all announced as the healer of our sicknesses and sins, and had proved Himself such by His acts, to busy Himself with inquiries into the qualities and details of cures; or for the Creator to be summoned to the scrutiny of the law in the person of Christ? If any part of this healing was effected by Him in a way different from the law, He yet Himself did it to perfection; for surely the Lord may by Himself, or by His Son, produce after one manner, and after another manner by His servants the prophets, those proofs of His power and might especially, which (as excelling in glory and strength, because they are His own acts) rightly enough leave in the distance behind them the works which are done by His servants. But enough has been already said on this point in a former passage. Now, although He said in a preceding chapter, that |there were many lepers in Israel in the days of Eliseus the prophet, and none of them was cleansed saving Naaman the Syrian,| yet of course the mere number proves nothing towards a difference in the gods, as tending to the abasement of the Creator in curing only one, and the pre-eminence of Him who healed ten. For who can doubt that many might have been cured by Him who cured one more easily than ten by him who had never healed one before? But His main purpose in this declaration was to strike at the unbelief or the pride of Israel, in that (although there were many lepers amongst them, and a prophet was not wanting to them) not one had been moved even by so conspicuous an example to betake himself to God who was working in His prophets. Forasmuch, then, as He was Himself the veritable High Priest of God the Father, He inspected them according to the hidden purport of the law, which signified that Christ was the true distinguisher and extinguisher of the defilements of mankind. However, what was obviously required by the law He commanded should be done: |Go,| said He, |show yourselves to the priests.| Yet why this, if He meant to cleanse them first? Was it as a despiser of the law, in order to prove to them that, having been cured already on the road, the law was now nothing to them, nor even the priests? Well, the matter must of course pass as it best may, if anybody supposes that Christ had such views as these! But there are certainly better interpretations to be found of the passage, and more deserving of belief: how that they were cleansed on this account, because they were obedient, and went as the law required, when they were commanded to go to the priests; and it is not to be believed that persons who observed the law could have found a cure from a god that was destroying the law. Why, however, did He not give such a command to the leper who first returned? Because Elisha did not in the case of Naaman the Syrian, and yet was not on that account less the Creator's agent? This is a sufficient answer. But the believer knows that there is a profounder reason. Consider, therefore, the true motives. The miracle was performed in the district of Samaria, to which country also belonged one of the lepers. Samaria, however, had revolted from Israel, carrying with it the disaffected nine tribes, which, having been alienated by the prophet Ahijah, Jeroboam settled in Samaria. Besides, the Samaritans were always pleased with the mountains and the wells of their ancestors. Thus, in the Gospel of John, the woman of Samaria, when conversing with the Lord at the well, says, |No doubt Thou art greater,| etc.; and again, |Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; but ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.| Accordingly, He who said, |Woe unto them that trust in the mountain of Samaria,| vouchsafing now to restore that very region, purposely requests the men |to go and show themselves to the priests,| because these were to be found only there where the temple was; submitting the Samaritan to the Jew, inasmuch as |salvation was of the Jews,| whether to the Israelite or the Samaritan. To the tribe of Judah, indeed, wholly appertained the promised Christ, in order that men might know that at Jerusalem were both the priests and the temple; that there also was the womb of religion, and its living fountain, not its mere |well.| Seeing, therefore, that they recognised the truth that at Jerusalem the law was to be fulfilled, He healed them, whose salvation was to come of faith without the ceremony of the law. Whence also, astonished that one only out of the ten was thankful for his release to the divine grace, He does not command him to offer a gift according to the law, because he had already paid his tribute of gratitude when |he glorified God|; for thus did the Lord will that the law's requirement should be interpreted. And yet who was the God to whom the Samaritan gave thanks, because thus far not even had an Israelite heard of another god? Who else but He by whom all had hitherto been healed through Christ? And therefore it was said to him, |Thy faith hath made thee whole,| because he had discovered that it was his duty to render the true oblation to Almighty God -- even thanksgiving -- in His true temple, and before His true High Priest Jesus Christ. But it is impossible either that the Pharisees should seem to have inquired of the Lord about the coming of the kingdom of the rival god, when no other god has ever yet been announced by Christ; or that He should have answered them concerning the kingdom of any other god than Him of whom they were in the habit of asking Him. |The kingdom of God,| He says, |cometh not with observation; neither do they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.| Now, who will not interpret the words |within you| to mean in your hand, within your power, if you hear, and do the commandment of God? If, however, the kingdom of God lies in His commandment, set before your mind Moses on the other side, according to our antitheses, and you will find the self-same view of the case. |The commandment is not a lofty one, neither is it far off from thee. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?' nor is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say, Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, that we may hear it, and do it?' But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, and in thy hands, to do it.| This means, |Neither in this place nor that place is the kingdom of God; for, behold, it is within you.| And if the heretics, in their audacity, should contend that the Lord did not give an answer about His own kingdom, but only about the Creator's kingdom, concerning which they had inquired, then the following words are against them. For He tells them that |the Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected,| before His coming, at which His kingdom will be really revealed. In this statement He shows that it was His own kingdom which His answer to them had contemplated, and which was now awaiting His own sufferings and rejection. But having to be rejected and afterwards to be acknowledged, and taken up and glorified, He borrowed the very word |rejected| from the passage, where, under the figure of a stone, His twofold manifestation was celebrated by David -- the first in rejection, the second in honour: |The stone,| says He, |which the builders rejected, is become the head-stone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing.| Now it would be idle, if we believed that God had predicted the humiliation, or even the glory, of any Christ at all, that He could have signed His prophecy for any but Him whom He had foretold under the figure of a stone, and a rock, and a mountain. If, however, He speaks of His own coming, why does He compare it with the days of Noe and of Lot, which were dark and terrible -- a mild and gentle God as He is? Why does He bid us |remember Lot's wife,| who despised the Creator's command, and was punished for her contempt, if He does not come with judgment to avenge the infraction of His precepts? If He really does punish, like the Creator, if He is my Judge, He ought not to have adduced examples for the purpose of instructing me from Him whom He yet destroys, that He might not seem to be my instructor. But if He does not even here speak of His own coming, but of the coming of the Hebrew Christ, let us still wait in expectation that He will vouchsafe to us some prophecy of His own advent; meanwhile we will continue to believe that He is none other than He whom He reminds us of in every passage.
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