August Neander.

History of the planting and training of the Christian church by the Apostles ; also his Antignostikus, or, spirit of Tertullian (Volume 2) online

. (page 39 of 61)
Online LibraryAugust NeanderHistory of the planting and training of the Christian church by the Apostles ; also his Antignostikus, or, spirit of Tertullian (Volume 2) → online text (page 39 of 61)
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excepted, which has been noticed by Rigaltius. TertuUian
has here used designedly a tone of moderation, because he
wrote to an individual in the very bosom of the catholio
church, whom he wished to convince fi'om his own stand-point.
For everything here brought forward he was certainly pre«


paved by those views on single life which we have already
noticed in his first book Ad Uxorem, — both what he su])pcsed,
was to be found in many passages of Paul's Epistles, and the
consequences deduced from them by his own peculiar logic.
He writes to a person whom he wished to exhort not ti
marry again after the death of his first wife. This book is,
on the whole, disting-uished by a gentleness and quietness
unusual to TertuUian in controversy; there is a sobriety of
development, without those outbursts which he was wont to
indulge in. This peculiarity may be explained by the character
of the work being hortatory rather than controversial. Ter-
tuUian is animated by the desire not to crush an opponent,
but to win a friend to the acknowledgment of principles
which appeared to himself as the only correct ones. This is
perceptible in the gentle unpretending manner in which the
treatise begins. He guards himself against the reproach of
laying down the law to his friend on a point which he ought
to determine by his own belief and conscience. He supposes,
that through the weakness of the flesh, he might be carried
away to act differently from what the Gospel and the Spirit
would require of him, and therefore that it might be an
advantage if in such a conflict his own faith were aided by
the counsel of a friend. But it is also not less evident that
TertuUian sets out from that point of view of which we have
already spoken, namely, that a single life belongs to the per-
fection of holiness ; though other reasons are added.

Man, created after the image of God, ought to be con-
tinually advancing in likeness to God, in being holy as God
is holy. But as a part of this holiness, TertuUian from his
ascetic point of view reckons the suppression of sexual desire.
He makes three distinct stages. First, refraining from
marriage from the first, as something founded in nature ;
secondly, by the mutual consent of married persons to practise
abstinence from the time of their baptism ; or resolving from
that time not to enter on the married state; thirdly, not t(
marry again after the first marriage has been dissolved by th'.
death of one of the parties. Here in his opinion another con-
sideration was added to the motives for sanctification, the
recognition of the Divine will which was manifested by the
death of one of the parties, and resignation to this will which
he distinguished by the name of viodestia. Tiiis was, in fact,


an argument which Tertulhan employed before he joined the
Montanists, which shows how the quietism inherent in Mon-
tanism had ah'eady allied itself to TertuUian's peculiar dispo.
sition. Yet we may easily perceive that against a person
who was disposed to find in such an event the expression of
the Divine will, many reasons might be foxmd for disput-
ing it, and that other signs might counter-indicate what
was the Divine will. It also appears that by the person
to whom the ti'eatise was addressed, or by others, a sub-
jective indication of the Divine will would be opposed to the

One pereon might say, — It is God who has produced in me
the need and desire to form a new marriage. In truth, as
the appeal to that objective expression of the Divine will, so
the appeal to the subjective would be deceptive, unless other
signs were added. Every desire that rises in a man's bosom
might be interpreted as the voice of God ; there needs first of
all a criterion in order to distinguish the Divine indication
fi'om the bodily impulse. This did not escape TertuUian's
notice, and he has said many admirable things on the neces-
sity of self-examination in virtue of the possession of reason
and freedom, which in another direction might be applied to
the enthusiastic tendencies of M on tanism. " It is not the
mark of a good and solid faith thus to refer all things to the
will of God. And thus eveiy one flatters himself that nothing
is done without God's command; and we do not understand
that anything depends upon ourselves. Lastly, every trans-
gression may be excused, if we maintain that nothing is done
by us w^ithout the will of God. By such a dogma the whole
scheme of religion is overturned, if he produces by his will
what he does not approve, or if there is nothing which God

does not appi'ove After we have learned both from

his precepts what he wills and what he wills not, there still
remains to us free-will to choose one or the other, as it is
■written, ' Behold, I have placed before thee good and evil.' . . .
therefore our will is to will evil, when we are contrary to the
will of God, who wiUs good. Do you moreover ask. Whence
does this will come by which we will anything contrary to the
will of God 1 I answer, and not unadvisedly, from oui-selves.

Man must correspond with the progenitor of his race

As he, from whom the development of the race and sin pro*


ceeded, sinned freely, so also sin is a free act in all his


It is remarkable that TertuUian, the forerunner of Augustin
in the doctrine of human depravity and of grace, should so
distinctly represent free-will as the lever of all moral develop-
ment, and that he regards it as so important to shun and
keep off everything which might serve in any degree to
furnish an apology for sin as an act of un-freedom, or to
deduce its origin from anything save the free-will. Against
the appeal made to the temptation of Satan, from whom evil
thoughts and resolutions proceed, he maintains, " It is only
the work of the devil to tempt what is in thee if thou wiliest.
But -when thou hast willed, it follows that he has subdued
thee, not by having worked the willing in thee, but having
gained possession of thy will." ''^

But it was very difficult for TertuUian, to refute the argii-
ments adduced by his opponents, from Paul's express pei'mis-
sion to conclude a second marriage. Though there h:ts been a
disposition to find in all that he has said on this topic nothing
but sophistical perversion, yet we must maintain that many
profound truths, though falsely applied, form the basis of his
reasonings. TertuUian thought that everything depended,
not only on recognising the universally known, revealed will
of God, but also that which was more secretly indicated. We
find therefore, first of all, that distribution maintained by him
with a reference to ethics, which aftei'wards was applied in a
totally different way to dogmatic subjects, the distinction
between a hidden and a revealed will. But by the hidden
wall of God he by no means understands a will not expi'essed
by divine revelation, but that which cannot be known by a
mere superficial observation of the mind, but which is to be
understood by deeper entrance into the connexion of the
divine word, and which can only be learned by close reflec-
tion and a careful comparison of single expressions.

If we wish to understand the relation in which TertuUian

' " Porro si quseris, unde venit ista voluntas, qua quid volumus adversus
Dei voluntatem, dicam ; ex nobis ipsis ; nee temere ; semini enim tuo
respondeat necesse est, siquidem ille princeps et generis et delicti
Adana voluit quod deliquit." Cap. ii.

* " Ita diaboli opus unum est, tentare quod in te est, an velis. At
ubi voluisti, sequitur ut te sibi snbigat, non operatus in te voluntatem,
Bed nactus possessionem voluntatis." Cap. ii.


placed the new revelations of the Paraclete to that hidden
will of God, we shall find that according to his view, what
every one could discover in Holy Writ by deeper reflection,
was brought to the consciousness, and expressly marked aa
the special will of God, by the new revelations. Now Tertul-
lian maintains, that what was allowed only as a conditional
permission in reference to a certain stand-point of human
weakness, cannot be the luiconditional will of God, — the will
of God in itself, the highest in itself, wdiicli belongs to the
true Christian ideal. In this assertion lies the truth that
there cannot be a twofold Christian morality, a higher and a
lower, but only one stand-point of Christian perfection, which
all Clnistians are to aim at. According to that, the distinc-
tion which was then continually gaining ground in the church,
between the law or command for all Christians, and that
which only belonged to the counsels of Christian perfection,
would vanish ; there would be no difference between what
was commanded and what was permitted, so that the higher
stand-point of Christian perfection must also take account of
what was permitted for Christian principle. The permissible,
according to TertuUian, was only what w^as allowed tempo-
rarily, with reference to a certain standard of human weak-
ness, which yet could not correspond to the Christian ideal.
We must acknowledge that TertuUian in this respect had
truth on his side, though he en-ed in his explanation of
Christian perfection, and erred also, in taking no account of
the multiplicity of the peculiar relations of life, and the unity
of the moral ideal in this midtiplicity. Here lies the great
difference between TertuUian and the apostle Paul, who in a
certain preference for single life, as dedicated without inter-
ruption to the process of spreading the kingdom of God,
agreed with TertuUian. In this last respect he found a point
of connexion with the apostle Paul for his opinion ; but in
another respect he was incapable of correctly appreciating the
wisdom of the apostle in distinguishing the objective and
the subjective in morals with so much discretion and mental
freedom. But we also recollect the hindrances in his own
and later times, as we have already remai'ked, to a correct
historical understanding of the apostle.

The manner in which TertuUian explains those expressions
of the apostle Paul in theu' mutual relation, is important for


the purpose of understanding his idea of inspiration in con-
nexion with the whole of his montauist views. He dis-
tinguishes between what the apostle delivered as his merely
human advice, and what he delivered with divine authority
as the command of the Lord, in virtue of his illumination by
the Spirit. He compares tliat passage in which Paul says
that he thinks that he also has the Spirit, with what Paul
delivered as the express word of the Lord, and finds the same
in both, the peculiai'ly divine, in contrast to the merely
human delivered as human opinion.' He distinguishes the
general agency of the Holy Spirit in all Christians from his
peculiar specific influence on the apostles. To the latter he
aseribes the fulness of spii'itual gifts, while he acknowledges
ouiy individual gifts in other Christians. " The apostles," he
says, " had the Holy Spirit in a peculiar sense, since they had
him perfectly in the works of prophecy, and in the working of
miracles, and in the gift of tongues, and not partially like the
rest." We shall examine in the sequel what Tertullian under-
stood by the gift of tongues At present we only remark,
that as a Montanist he attached great importance to the
supernaturally wonderful and the ecstatic. Accordingly, he
has distinguished in the writings of the apostles between the
merely human and the immediately divine, uttered with a
higher authority. If, in his idea of inspiration, he is so far
correct, that he applies the inflvience of the Holy Spirit not
to everything equally, but distinguishes different gradations ;
yet he falls into an error connected with his montauistic
supernaturalism, in making so strong a contrast between the
divine and the hviman in the apostles, and does not acknow-
ledge the harmonious cooperation of the divine and tho
human. So also, he erroneously limits to certain expressions,
while excluding the rest, what the apostle says of his own
consciousness of being animated of the Holy Spirit. Pro-
ceeding from that false point of view, he maintains that what
Paul had delivered in his apostolic capacity as cojisilium,
thereby acquired the authority of a prceceptum. Here again
the truth involved is the opposition against the distinction
between cons ilia and prcecepta.^

1 Distitiguishing between, " hominis prudentis consilium," and
"S_iiritiis S.ncti consilium."

'^ "Fact in est jam non consilium divini Spiritus, sed pro ejua

niaje^iate t ra;cej)tUiii


The prohibition of second marriages is reckoned by Ter-
tulhan among the peculiarities belonging to the New Testa-
ment stand-point, in distinction fi"om the Old. It belonged
to the merits of Montanism to have given greater prominence
to this distinction in opposition to the common mingling
of the two stand-points, although Montanism, on the other
hand, had gone back to the Old Testament stand-poiot,
through that which should have been a progressive develop-
ment of Christianity, through a new legal code, and through
a new order of prophets who w^ere placed at the head of
church government. Here, also, in this book, montanistic
ideas form the groundwork, though not so clearly expressed
and developed. On the Old Testament stand-point, the"
process of spreading the kingdom of God was the leading
object in the increase of the human race. On the New
Testament stand-point the extensive development of God's
kingdom was rendered more prominent by increasing holiness.
The existing generation of mankind were required to receive
the kingdom of God, and to be thoroughly imbued with
its principles. No increase in the numbers of mankind
was required. Tertullian, especially as a Montanist, con-
sidered the end of the world as near at hand.' "Now,
at the end of the times God has confined what he before
relaxed ; he has recalled what he formerly allowed ; there
was reason for propagation at the first, and for pruning at
the last ; beginnings are always unfettered, the endings are
contracted. So a man plants a wood, and suffers it to
grow, that at a proper time he may cut it down. The
wood is the old state of things, w^hich by the new Gospel is
pruned and lopped ; the axe is now laid at the root of the
tree. So also that rule, ' Eye for eye, tooth for tooth,' has
waxed old since the time of youth is come." He recognises,
therefore, in the Sermon on the Moimt, the contrast of the new
Christian stand-point to the juridical-theocratic stand-point,
whicih in the Old Testament was adapted to the rudeness
of the people, who I'equire to be trained and educated. He

' Tertullian quotes the words of Paul in 1 Cor. vii. 29, o Katphs (Twea-
TaKfifuos iffrXv rh Komciv, according to the existing North African version,
and understands them to mean, " Only a short time remains for the
duration of the world," and contrasts them with the words in Genesis
respecting the muliiplj'ing of the human race. " Tempus jam in col-
lecto esse, restare, ut et qui uxores habent tanquam non habentes agant."


desci'ibes the uew stand-point as that of yoii

Online LibraryAugust NeanderHistory of the planting and training of the Christian church by the Apostles ; also his Antignostikus, or, spirit of Tertullian (Volume 2) → online text (page 39 of 61)