Scanned text contains errors.
must be imperfect and unsatisfactory. Hence, theologians have now for the most part agreed merely to separate those tracts which were composed while Tertullian was still a member of the Church, from those which were composed after he became a Montanist. But even this plan, simple as it may appear, cannot be completely executed, for the doctrines of Montanus were, upon many points, strictly orthodox, and it was only when speaking of himself and the nature of his own mission that he became subject to the charge of extravagance and heresy. Thus, after we have set aside a few pieces which are stamped with broad and well-defined marks of heterodoxy, we shall find a considerable number in which the characteristics are faint and doubtful, and many more in which they are altogether wanting. Still the attempt ought to be made ; and accordingly we shall pursue the method followed by the Bishop of Lincoln, the best, perhaps, which the circumstances of the case permit us to adopt. We shall place together: — I. Works probably written while he was yet a member of the Church. II. Works certainly written after he became a Montanist. III. Works probably written after he became a Montanist. IV. Works respecting which nothing certain can be pronounced.
1. WORKS PROBABLY WRITTEN WHILE HE
was yet a member op the church. — 1. De Poenltentia. Chiefly remarkable because the author here advocates a doctrine which at a subsequent period, after he had embraced the errors of Montanus, he sternly impugned, namely, that those who committed heinous sins after baptism might, notwithstanding their guilt, obtain absolution from the Church, if sincerely penitent. In the first chapter, when defining penitence and pointing out the erroneous ideas entertained by the gentiles, he makes use of an expression which has been regarded as an avowal that he had at one time been a heathen, " Poenitentiam, hoc genus hominum, quod et ipsi retro fuimus, caeci sine Domini lumine, natura tenus norunt," &c. Erasmus, in consequence of the elegance by which the style of this tract is distinguished, was led to doubt whether it really belonged to Tertullian, but it is quoted as his by Pacianus, a writer of the fourth century, and is now generally received as genuine.
2. De Oratione. Consists of two parts : — a. An exposition of the Lord's Prayer, which is represented as containing an epitome of the whole Gospel. I. Instructions with respect to certain forms to be observed by Christians in their devotions. The latter portion terminates abruptly in the MSS., but some additional chapters were supplied by Mu-ratori, by whom they were 'discovered in the Am-brosian library, and published in his Anecdota. These are rejected by some critics, but admitted by others, among whom we may specially mention Neander.
3. De Baptismo. A certain Quintilla had been propagating at Carthage the heresy .that baptism was neither imperative nor beneficial. Tertullian, in confuting this error, takes occasion—a. To examine fully into the nature and efficacy of this sacrament, b. To discuss certain questions touching the time at which it ought to be administered and the forms to be observed. He calls his opponent a Cainite; and if we suppose that he uses the term literally, and not as a mere epithet of reproach, she must have belonged to that wild sect
who looked up with peculiar reverence to Cain and those other characters in the Bible who had fallen under the heavy displeasure of the Almighty.
4. Ad Uxorem Libri II. Advice to his wife, with regard to her conduct in the event of his predeceasing her. In the first book he earnestly dissuades her from contracting a second marriage, maintaining that all such alliances are wrong in principle and inexpedient in practice. In the second, supposing that, notwithstanding his arguments to the contrary, she may feel inclined again to enter into wedlock, he urges upon her the necessity of uniting herself to a Christian and not to a heathen, pointing out that it was contrary to the express commands of God, and in itself impure, unnatural, and dangerous to form so close a connection with an alien from the faith.
5. Ad Martyres. An earnest exhortation to the brethren who were suffering persecution on account of their faith, to remain steadfast, in de • fiance of imprisonment, torture, or death itself, looking forward with eager anticipations to the glories and privileges reserved for those who won the crown of martyrdom.
6. De Patientia. A moral essay on the importance and utility of this virtue, conceived in a truly Christian spirit, and expressed, especially towards the conclusion, in very dignified and picturesque language.
7. Adversus Judaeos Liber. A public debate had been held between a Jewish proselyte and a Christian, each supporting the claims of the creed which he professed. The discussion having been carried on irregularly, and frequently interrupted by the clamours of the partizans on either side, Tertullian deemed this a fitting opportunity for presenting in a written form a succinct view of the real merits of the question. He undertakes to demonstrate two propositions — a. That the Mosaic dispensation had been abrogated by Christ. b. That the Jews themselves had long looked for the arrival of a Messiah, that the Messiah looked for by them had actually arrived, and that Christ was that Messiah. In support of the first he argues that since God had the power to enact, so he had the power to repeal the ritual law, and that it was consonant both with reason and revelation to believe that in the fulness of time he would substitute for it a code applicable, not to one particular people, but to the whole of mankind, thus fulfilling the promise made to our first parents and to Abraham. The second he proves by pointing out how exactly the character and career of Jesus corresponded with the predictions contained in the divinely inspired books of the Old Testament.
Neander has written a dissertation to prove that Tertullian broke off this work at the beginning of the ninth chapter, and that what follows is by a later hand, being taken, with some slight alterations, from the remarks upon the same text of Isaiah, in the third book against Marcion, remarks altogether inapplicable to the debate with the Jew. But the Bishop of Lincoln insists that the argument is with a few changes, strictly applicable, and that the necessary changes have actually been made.
8. De Praescriptione Hereticorum, i. e. on the rules to be observed by Catholics in dealing with heretics. The subject is introduced by pointing out that the existence of heresy ought not to prove a source of wonder or of scandal to the orthodox, inasmuch as the appearance of false teachers had