Of the Observance of Days Connected with Idolatry.
But why speak of sacrifices and priesthoods? Of spectacles, moreover, and pleasures of that kind, we have already filled a volume of their own. [254] In this place must be handled the subject of holidays and other extraordinary solemnities, which we accord sometimes to our wantonness, sometimes to our timidity, in opposition to the common faith and Discipline. The first point, indeed, on which I shall join issue is this: whether a servant of God ought to share with the very nations themselves in matters of his kind either in dress, or in food, or in any other kind of their gladness. "To rejoice with the rejoicing, and grieve with the grieving," [255] is said about brethren by the apostle when exhorting to unanimity. But, for these purposes, "There is nought of communion between light and darkness," [256] between life and death or else we rescind what is written, "The world shall rejoice, but ye shall grieve." [257] If we rejoice with the world, there is reason to fear that with the world we shall grieve too. But when the world rejoices, let us grieve; and when the world afterward grieves, we shall rejoice. Thus, too, Eleazar [258] in Hades, [259] (attaining refreshment in Abraham's bosom) and the rich man, (on the other hand, set in the torment of fire) compensate, by an answerable retribution, their alternate vicissitudes of evil and good. There are certain gift-days, which with some adjust the claim of honour, with others the debt of wages. "Now, then," you say, "I shall receive back what is mine, or pay back what is another's." If men have consecrated for themselves this custom from superstition, why do you, estranged as you are from all their vanity, participate in solemnities consecrated to idols; as if for you also there were some prescript about a day, short of the observance of a particular day, to prevent your paying or receiving what you owe a man, or what is owed you by a man? Give me the form after which you wish to be dealt with. For why should you skulk withal, when you contaminate your own conscience by your neighbour's ignorance? If you are not unknown to be a Christian, you are tempted, and you act as if you were not a Christian against your neighbour's conscience; if, however, you shall be disguised withal, [260] you are the slave of the temptation. At all events, whether in the latter or the former way, you are guilty of being "ashamed of God." [261] But "whosoever shall be ashamed of Me in the presence of men, of him will I too be ashamed," says He, "in the presence of my Father who is in the heavens." [262]


[254] The treatise De Spectaculis [soon to follow, in this volume.]

[255] Romans 12:15.

[256] See 2 Corinthians 6:14. In the De Spect. xxvi. Tertullian has the same quotation (Oehler). And there, too, he adds, as here, "between life and death."

[257] John 16:20. It is observable that Tertullian here translates kosmon by "seculum."

[258] i.e., Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31.

[259] "Apud inferos," used clearly here by Tertullian of a place of happiness. Augustine says he never finds it so used in Scripture. See Ussher's "Answer to a Jesuit" on the Article, "He descended into hell." [See Elucid. X. p. 59, supra.]

[260] i.e., if you are unknown to be a Christian: "dissimulaberis." This is Oehler's reading; but Latinius and Fr. Junis would read "Dissimulaveris," ="if you dissemble the fact" of being a Christian, which perhaps is better.

[261] So Mr. Dodgson renders very well.

[262] Matthew 10:33; Mark 8:38; Luke 9:26; 2 Timothy 2:12.

chapter xii further answers to the
Top of Page
Top of Page