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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : 4. A Strain of the Judgment of the Lord.

Fathers Of The Third Century Tertullian Appendix by Unknown

4. A Strain of the Judgment of the Lord.

(Author Uncertain.)

Who will for me in fitting strain adapt

Field-haunting muses? and with flowers will grace

The spring-tide's rosy gales? And who will give

The summer harvest's heavy stalks mature?

5 And to the autumn's vines their swollen grapes?

Or who in winter's honour will commend

The olives, ever-peaceful? and will ope

Waters renewed, even at their fountainheads?

And cut from waving grass the leafy flowers?

10 Forthwith the breezes of celestial light

I will attune. Now be it granted me

To meet the lightsome muses! to disclose

The secret rivers on the fluvial top

Of Helicon, and gladsome woods that grow

15 'Neath other star. And simultaneously

I will attune in song the eternal flames;

Whence the sea fluctuates with wave immense:

What power moves the solid lands to quake;

And whence the golden light first shot its rays

20 On the new world; or who from gladsome clay

Could man have moulded; whence in empty world

Our race could have upgrown; and what the greed

Of living which each people so inspires;

What things for ill created are; or what

25 Death's propagation; whence have rosy wreaths

Sweet smell and ruddy hue; what makes the vine

Ferment in gladsome grapes away; and makes

Full granaries by fruit of slender stalks

distended be; or makes the tree grow ripe

30 'Mid ice, with olives black; who gives to seeds

Their increments of vigour various;

And with her young's soft shadowings protects

The mother. Good it is all things to know

Which wondrous are in nature, that it may

35 Be granted us to recognise through all

The true Lord, who light, seas, sky, earth prepared,

And decked with varied star the new-made world;

And first bade beasts and birds to issue forth;

And gave the ocean's waters to be stocked

40 With fish; and gathered in a mass the sands,

With living creatures fertilized. Such strains

With stately muses will I spin, and waves

Healthful will from their fountainheads disclose:

And may this strain of mine the gladsome shower

45 Catch, which from placid clouds doth come, and flows

Deeply and all unsought into men's souls,

And guide it into our new-fumed lands

In copious rills.

Now come: if any one

Still ignorant of God, and knowing naught

50 Of life to come, would fain attain to touch

The care-effacing living nymph, and through

The swift waves' virtue his lost life repair,

And 'scape the penalties of flame eterne,

And rather win the guerdons of the life

55 To come, let such remember God is One,

Alone the object of our prayers; who 'neath

His threshold hath the whole world poised; Himself

Eternally abiding, and to be

Alway for aye; holding the ages all;

60 Alone, before all ages; unbegotten,

Limitless God; who holds alone His seat

Supernal; supereminent alone

Above high heavens; omnipotent alone;

Whom all things do obey; who for Himself

65 Formed, when it pleased Him, man for aye; and gave

Him to be pastor of beasts tame, and lord

Of wild; who by a word could stretch forth heaven;

And with a word could solid earth suspend;

And quicklier than word had the seas wave

70 Disjoined; and man's dear form with His own hands

Did love to mould; and furthermore did will

His own fair likeness to exist in him;

And by His Spirit on his countenance

The breath of life did breathe.

Unmindful he

75 Of God, such guilt rashly t' incur! Beyond

The warning's range he was not ought to touch.

One fruit illicit, whence he was to know

Forthwith how to discriminate alike

Evil and equity, God him forbade

80 To touch. What functions of the world did God

Permit to man, and sealed the sweet sweet pledge

Of His own love! and jurisdiction gave

O'er birds, and granted him both deep and soil

To tame, and mandates useful did impart

85 Of dear salvation! 'Neath his sway He gave

The lands, the souls of flying things, the race

Feathered, and every race, or tame or wild,

Of beasts, and the sea's race, and monsterforms

Shapeless of swimming things. But since so soon

90 The primal man by primal crime transgressed

The law, and left the mandates of the Lord

(Led by a wife who counselled all the ills),

By death he 'gan to perish. Woman 'twas

Who sin's first ill committed, and (the law

95 Transgressed) deceived her husband. Eve, induced

By guile, the thresholds oped to death, and proved

To her own self, with her whole race as well,

A procreatrix of funereal woes.

Hence unanticipated wickedness,

100 Hence death, like seed, for aye, is scattered. Then

More frequent grew atrocious deed; and toil

More savage set the corrupt orb astir:

(This lure the crafty serpent spread, inspired

By envy's self:) then peoples more invent

105 Practices of ill deeds; and by ill deeds

Gave birth to seeds of wickedness.

And so

The only Lord, whose is the power supreme.

Who o'er the heights the summits holds of heaven

Supreme, and in exalted regions dwells

110 In lofty light for ages, mindful too

Of present time, and of futurity

Prescient beforehand, keeps the progeny

Of ill-desert, and all the souls which move

By reason's force much-erring man -- nor less

115 Their tardy bodies governs He -- against

The age decreed, so soon as, stretched in death,

Men lay aside their ponderous limbs, and light

As air, shall go, their earthly bonds undone,

And take in diverse parts their proper spheres

120 (But some He bids be forthwith by glad gales

Recalled to life, and be in secret kept

To wait the decreed law's awards, until

Their bodies with resuscitated limbs

Revive. ) Then shall men 'gin to weigh the awards

125 Of their first life, and on their crime and faults

To think, and keep them for their penalties

Which will be far from death; and mindful grow

Of pious duties, by God's judgments taught;

To wait expectant for their penalty

130 And their descendants', fruit of their own crime;

Or else to live wholly the life of sheep,

Without a name; and in God's ear, now deaf,

Pour unavailing weeping. Shall not God

Almighty, 'neath whose law are all things ruled,

135 Be able after death life to restore?

Or is there ought which the creation's Lord

Unable seems to do? If, darkness chased,

He could outstretch the light, and could compound

All the world's mass by a word suddenly,

140 And raise by potent voice all things from nought,

Why out of somewhat could He not compound

The well-known shape which erst had been, which He

Had moulded formerly; and bid the form

Arise assimilated to Himself

145 Again? Since God's are all things, earth the more

Gives Him all back; for she will, when He bids,

Unweave whate'er she woven had before.

If one, perhaps, laid on sepulchral pyre,

The flame consumed; or one in its blind waves

150 The ocean have dismembered; if of one

The entrails have, in hunger, satisfied

The fishes; or on any's limbs wild beasts

Have fastened cruel death; or any's blood,

His body reft by birds, unhid have lain:

155 Yet shall they not wrest from the mighty Lord

His latest dues. Need is that men appear

Quickened from death 'fore God, and at His bar

Stand in their shapes resumed. Thus arid seeds

Are drops into the vacant lands, and deep

160 In the fixt furrows die and rot: and hence

Is not their surface animated soon

With stalks repaired? and do they not grow strong

And yellow with the living grains? and, rich

With various usury, new harvests rise

165 In mass? The stars all set, and, born again,

Renew their sheen; and day dies with its light

Lost in dense night; and now night wanes herself

As light unveils creation presently;

And now another and another day

170 Rises from its own stars; and the sun sets,

Bright as it is with splendour -- bearing light;

Light perishes when by the coming eve

The world is shaded; and the phoenix lives

By her own soot renewed, and presently

175 Rises, again a bird, O wondrous sight!

After her burnings! The bare tree in time

Shoots with her leaves; and once more are her boughs

Curved by the germen of the fruits.

While then

The world throughout is trembling at God's voice,

180 And deeply moved are the high air's powers,

Then comes a crash unwonted, then ensue

Heaven's mightiest murmurs, on the approach of God,

The whole world's Judge! His countless ministers

Forthwith conjoin their rushing march, and God

185 With majesty supernal fence around.

Angelic bands will from the heaven descend

To earth; all, God's host, whose is faculty

Divine; in form and visage spirits all

Of virtue: in them fiery vigour is;

190 Rutilant are their bodies; heaven's might

Divine about them flashes; the whole orb

Hence murmurs; and earth, trembling to her depths

(Or whatsoe'er her bulk is ), echoes back

The roar, parturient of men, whom she,

195 Being bidden, will with grief upyield. All stand

In wonderment. At last disturbed are

The clouds, and the stars move and quake from height

Of sudden power. When thus God comes, with voice

Of potent sound, at once throughout all realms

200 The sepulchres are burst, and every ground

Outpours bones from wide chasms, and opening sand

Outbelches living peoples; to the hair

The members cleave; the bones inwoven are

With marrow; the entwined sinews rule

205 The breathing bodies; and the veins 'gin throb

With simultaneously infused blood:

And, from their caves dismissed, to open day

Souls are restored, and seek to find again

Each its own organs, as at their own place

210 They rise. O wondrous faith! Hence every age

Shoots forth; forth shoots from ancient dust the host

Of dead. Regaining light, there rise again

Mothers, and sires, and high-souled youths, and boys,

And maids unwedded; and deceased old men

215 Stand by with living souls; and with the cries

Of babes the groaning orb resounds. Then tribes

Various from their lowest seats will come:

Bands of the Easterns; those which earth's extreme

Sees; those which dwell in the downsloping clime

220 Of the mid-world, and hold the frosty star's

Riphæan citadels. Every colonist

Of every land stands frighted here: the boor;

The son of Atreus with his diadem

Of royalty put off; the rich man mixt

225 Coequally in line with pauper peers.

Deep tremor everywhere: then groans the orb

With prayers; and peoples stretching forth their hands

Grow stupid with the din!

The Lord Himself

Seated, is bright with light sublime; and fire

230 Potent in all the Virtues flashing shines.

And on His high-raised throne the Heavenly One

Coruscates from His seat; with martyrs hemmed

(A dazzling troop of men), and by His seers

Elect accompanied (whose bodies bright

235 Effulgent are with snowy stoles), He towers

Above them. And now priests in lustrous robes

Attend, who wear upon their marked front

Wreaths golden-red; and all submissive kneel

And reverently adore. The cry of all

240 Is one: |O Holy, Holy Holy, God!|

To these the Lord will mandate give, to range

The people in twin lines; and orders them

To set apart by number the depraved;

While such as have His biddings followed

245 With placid words He calls, and bids them, clad

With vigour -- death quite conquered -- ever dwell

Amid light's inextinguishable airs,

Stroll through the ancients' ever blooming realm,

Through promised wealth, through ever sunny swards,

250 And in bright body spend perpetual life.

A place there is, beloved of the Lord,

In Eastern coasts, where light is bright and clear,

And healthier blows the breeze; day is eterne,

Time changeless: 'tis a region set apart

255 By God, most rich in plains, and passing blest,

In the meridian of His cloudless seat.

There gladsome the air, and is in light

Ever to be; soft is the wind, and breathes

Life-giving blasts; earth, fruitful with a soil

260 Luxuriant, bears all things; in the meads

Flowers shed their fragrance; and upon the plains

The purple -- not in envy -- mingles all

With golden-ruddy light. One gladsome flower,

With its own lustre clad, another clothes;

265 And here with many a seed the dewy fields

Are dappled, and the snowy tilths are crisped

With rosy flowers. No region happier

Is known in other spots; none which in look

Is fairer, or in honour more excels.

270 Never in flowery gardens are there born

Such lilies, nor do such upon our plains

Outbloom; nor does the rose so blush, what time,

New-born, 'tis opened by the breeze; nor is

The purple with such hue by Tyrian dye

275 Imbued. With coloured pebbles beauteous gleams

The gem: here shines the prasinus; there glows

The carbuncle; and giant-emerald

Is green with grassy light. Here too are born

The cinnamons, with odoriferous twigs;

280 And with dense leaf gladsome amomum joins

Its fragrance. Here, a native, lies the gold

Of radiant sheen; and lofty groves reach heaven

In blooming time, and germens fruitfullest

Burden the living boughs. No glades like these

285 Hath Ind herself forth-stretcht; no tops so dense

Rears on her mount the pine; nor with a shade

So lofty-leaved is her cypress crisped;

Nor better in its season blooms her bough

In spring-tide. Here black firs on lofty peak

290 Bloom; and the only woods that know no hail

Are green eternally: no foliage falls;

At no time fails the flower. There, too, there blooms

A flower as red as Tarsine purple is:

A rose, I ween, it is (red hue it has,

295 An odour keen); such aspect on its leaves

It wears, such odour breathes. A tree it stands,

With a new flower, fairest in fruits; a crop

Life-giving, dense, its happy strength does yield.

Rich honies with green cane their fragrance join,

300 And milk flows potable in runners full;

And with whate'er that sacred earth is green,

It all breathes life; and there Crete's healing gift

Is sweetly redolent. There, with smooth tide,

Flows in the placid plains a fount: four floods

305 Thence water parted lands. The garden robed

With flowers, I wot, keeps ever spring; no cold

Of wintry star varies the breeze; and earth,

After her birth-throes, with a kindlier blast

Repairs. Night there is none; the stars maintain

310 Their darkness; angers, envies, and dire greed

Are absent; and out-shut is fear, and cares

Driven from the threshold. Here the Evil One

Is homeless; he is into worthy courts

Out-gone, nor is't e'er granted him to touch

315 The glades forbidden. But here ancient faith

Rests in elect abode; and life here treads,

Joying in an eternal covenant;

And health without a care is gladsome here

In placid tilths, ever to live and be

320 Ever in light.

Here whosoe'er hath lived

Pious, and cultivant of equity

And goodness; who hath feared the thundering God

With mind sincere; with sacred duteousness

Tended his parents; and his other life

325 Spent ever crimeless; or who hath consoled

With faithful help a friend in indigence;

Succoured the over-toiling needy one,

As orphans' patron, and the poor man's aid;

Rescued the innocent, and succoured them

330 When press with accusation; hath to guests

His ample table's pledges given; hath done

All things divinely; pious offices

Enjoined; done hurt to none; ne'er coveted

Another's: such as these, exulting all

335 In divine praises, and themselves at once

Exhorting, raise their voices to the stars;

Thanksgivings to the Lord in joyous wise

They psalming celebrate; and they shall go

Their harmless way with comrade messengers.

340 When ended hath the Lord these happy gifts,

And likewise sent away to realms eterne

The just, then comes a pitiable crowd

Wailing its crimes; with parching tears it pours

All groans effusely, and attests in acts

345 With frequent ululations. At the sight

Of flames, their merit's due, and stagnant pools

Of fire, wrath's weapons, they 'gin tremble all.

Them an angelic host, upsnatching them,

Forbids to pray, forbids to pour their cries

350 (Too late!) with clamour loud: pardon withheld,

Into the lowest bottom they are hurled!

O miserable men! how oft to you

Hath Majesty divine made itself known!

The sounds of heaven ye have heard; have seen

355 Its lightnings; have experienced its rains

Assiduous; its ires of winds and hail!

How often nights and days serene do make

Your seasons -- God's gifts -- fruitful with fair yields!

Roses were vernal; the grain's summer-tide

360 Failed not; the autumn variously poured

Its mellow fruits; the rugged winter brake

The olives, icy though they were: 'twas God

Who granted all, nor did His goodness fail.

At God earth trembled; on His voice the deep

365 Hung, and the rivers trembling fled and left

Sands dry; and every creature everywhere

Confesses God! Ye (miserable men!)

Have heaven's Lord and earth's denied; and oft

(Horrible!) have God's heralds put to flight;

370 And rather slain the just with slaughter fell;

And, after crime, fraud ever hath in you

Inhered. Ye then shall reap the natural fruit

Of your iniquitous sowing. That God is

Ye know; yet are ye wont to laugh at Him.

375 Into deep darkness ye shall go of fire

And brimstone; doomed to suffer glowing ires

In torments just. God bids your bones descend

To penalty eternal; go beneath

The ardour of an endless raging hell;

380 Be urged, a seething mass, through rotant pools

Of flame; and into threatening flame He bids

The elements convert; and all heaven's fire

Descend in clouds.

Then greedy Tartarus

With rapid fire enclosed is; and flame

385 Is fluctuant within with tempest waves;

And the whole earth her whirling embers blends!

There is a flamy furrow; teeth acute

Are turned to plough it, and for all the years

The fiery torrent will be armed: with force

390 Tartarean will the conflagrations gnash

Their teeth upon the world. There are they scorched

In seething tide with course precipitate;

Hence flee; thence back are borne in sharp career;

The savage flame's ire meets them fugitive!

395 And now at length they own the penalty

Their own, the natural issue of their crime.

And now the reeling earth, by not a swain

Possest, is by the sea's profundity

Prest, at her farthest limit, where the sun

400 (His ray out-measured) divides the orb,

And where, when traversed is the world, the stars

Are hidden. Ether thickens. O'er the light

Spreads sable darkness; and the latest flames

Stagnate in secret rills. A place there is

405 Whose nature is with sealed penalties

Fiery, and a dreadful marsh white-hot

With heats infernal, where, in furnaces

Horrific, penal deed roars loud, and seethes,

And, rushing into torments, is up-caught

410 By the flame's vortex wide; by savage wave

And surge the turbid sand all mingled is

With miry bottom. Hither will be sent,

Groaning, the captive crowd of evil ones,

And wickedness (the sinful body's train)

415 To burn! Great is the beating there of breasts,

By bellowing of grief accompanied;

Wild is the hissing of the flames, and thence

The ululation of the sufferers!

And flames, and limbs sonorous, will outrise

420 Afar: more fierce will the fire burn; and up

To th' upper air the groaning will be borne.

Then human progeny its bygone deeds

Of ill will weigh; and will begin to stretch

Heavenward its palms; and then will wish to know

425 The Lord, whom erst it would not know, what time

To know Him had proved useful to them. There,

His life's excesses, handiworks unjust,

And crimes of savage mind, each will confess,

And at the knowledge of the impious deeds

430 Of his own life will shudder. And now first,

Whoe'er erewhile cherished ill thoughts of God;

Had worshipped stones unsteady, lyingly

Pretending to divinity; hath e'er

Made sacred to gore-stained images

435 Altars; hath voiceless pictured figures feared;

Hath slender shades of false divinity

Revered; whome'er ill error onward hath

Seduced; whoe'er was an adulterer,

Or with the sword had slain his sons; whoe'er

440 Had stalked in robbery; whoe'er by fraud

His clients had deferred; whoe'er with mind

Unfriendly had behaved himself, or stained

His palms with blood of men, or poison mixt

Wherein death lurked, or robed with wicked guise

445 His breast, or at his neighbour's ill, or gain

Iniquitous, was wont to joy; whoe'er

Committed whatsoever wickedness

Of evil deeds: him mighty heat shall rack,

And bitter fire; and these all shall endure,

450 In passing painful death, their punishment.

Thus shall the vast crowd lie of mourning men!

This oft as holy prophets sang of old,

And (by God's inspiration warned) oft told

The future, none ('tis pity!) none (alas!)

455 Did lend his ears. But God Almighty willed

His guerdons to be known, and His law's threats

'Mid multitudes of such like signs promulged.

He 'stablished them by sending prophets more,

These likewise uttering words divine; and some,

460 Roused from their sleep, He bids go from their tombs

Forth with Himself, when He, His own tomb burst,

Had risen. Many 'wildered were, indeed,

To see the tombs agape, and in clear light

Corpses long dead appear; and, wondering

465 At their discourses pious, dulcet words!

Starward they stretch their palms at the mere sound,

And offer God and so -- victorious Christ

Their gratulating homage. Certain 'tis

That these no more re-sought their silent graves,

470 Nor were retained within earth's bowels shut;

But the remaining host reposes now

In lowliest beds, until -- time's circuit run --

That great day do arrive.

Now all of you

Own the true Lord, who alone makes this soul

475 Of ours to see His light and can the same

(To Tartarus sent) subject to penalties;

And to whom all the power of life and death

Is open. Learn that God can do whate'er

He list; for 'tis enough for Him to will,

480 And by mere speaking He achieves the deed;

And Him nought plainly, by withstanding, checks.

He is my God alone, to whom I trust

With deepest senses. But, since death concludes

Every career, let whoe'er is to-day

485 Bethink him over all things in his mind.

And thus, while life remains, while 'tis allowed

To see the light and change your life, before

The limit of allotted age o'ertake

You unawares, and that last day, which is

490 By death's law fixt, your senseless eyes do glaze,

Seek what remains worth seeking: watchful be

For dear salvation; and run down with ease

And certainty the good course. Wipe away

By pious sacred rites your past misdeeds

495 Which expiation need; and shun the storms,

The too uncertain tempests, of the world.

Then turn to right paths, and keep sanctities.

Hence from your gladsome minds depraved crime

Quite banish; and let long-inveterate fault

500 Be washed forth from your breast; and do away

Wicked ill-stains contracted; and appease

Dread God by prayers eternal; and let all

Most evil mortal things to living good

Give way: and now at once a new life keep

505 Without a crime; and let your minds begin

To use themselves to good things and to true:

And render ready voices to God's praise.

Thus shall your piety find better things

All growing to a flame; thus shall ye, too,

510 Receive the gifts of the celestial life;

And, to long age, shall ever live with God,

Seeing the starry kingdom's golden joys.


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