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Chapter XXIII.—Impossible that Marcion’s Christ Should Reprove the Faithless Generation. Such Loving Consideration for Infants as the True Christ Was Apt to Shew, Also Impossible for the Other. On the Three Different Characters Confronted and Instructed by Christ in Samaria.
I take on myself the character43754375 Personam: “I personate Israel.” of Israel. Let Marcion’s Christ stand forth, and exclaim, “O faithless generation!43764376 Genitura. how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?”43774377 Luke ix. 41. He will immediately have to submit to this remonstrance from me: “Whoever you are, O stranger,43784378 ἐπερχόμενε. The true Christ is ὁ ἐρχόμενος. first tell us who you are, from whom you come, and what right you have over us. Thus far, all you possess43794379 Totum apud te. belongs to the Creator. Of course, if you come from Him, and are acting for Him, we will bear your reproof. But if you come from some other god, I should wish you to tell us what you have ever committed to us belonging to yourself,43804380 De tuo commisisti. which it was our duty to believe, seeing that you are upbraiding us with ‘faithlessness,’ who have never yet revealed to us your own self. How long ago43814381 Quam olim. did you begin to treat with us, that you should be complaining of the delay? On what points have you borne with us, that you should adduce43824382 Imputes. your patience? Like Æsop’s ass, you are just come from the well,43834383 This fable is not extant (Oehler). and are filling every place with your braying.” I assume, besides,43844384 Adhuc. the person of the disciple, against whom he has inveighed:43854385 Insiliit. “O perverse nation! how long shall I be with you? how long shall I suffer you?” This outburst of his I might, of course, retort upon him most justly in such words as these: “Whoever you are, O stranger, first tell us who you are, from whom you come, what right you have over us. Thus far, I suppose, you belong to the Creator, and so we have followed you, recognising in you all things which are His. Now, if you come from Him, we will bear your reproof. If, however, you are acting for another, prythee tell us what you have ever conferred upon us that is simply your own, which it had become our duty to believe, seeing that you reproach us with ‘faithlessness,’ although up to this moment you show us no credentials. How long since did you begin to plead with us, that you are charging us with delay? Wherein have you borne with us, that you should even boast of your patience? The ass has only just arrived from Æsop’s well, and he is already braying.” Now who would not thus have rebutted the unfairness of the rebuke, if he had supposed its author to belong to him who had had no right as yet to complain? Except that not even He43864386 Nisi quod nec ille. This ille, of course, means the Creator’s Christ. would have inveighed against them, if He had not dwelt among them of old in the law and by the prophets, and with mighty deeds and many mercies, and had always experienced them to be “faithless.” But, behold, Christ takes43874387 Diligit: or, loves. infants, and teaches how all ought to be like them, if they ever wish to be greater.43884388 Luke ix. 47, 48. The Creator, on the contrary,43894389 Autem. let loose bears against children, in order to avenge His prophet Elisha, who had been mocked by them.43904390 2 Kings ii. 23, 24. This antithesis is impudent enough, since it throws together43914391 Committit. things so different as infants43924392 Parvulos. and children,43934393 Pueros: [young lads].—an age still innocent, and one already capable of discretion—able to mock, if not to blaspheme. As therefore God is a just God, He spared not impious children, exacting as He does honour for every time of life, and especially, of course, from youth. And as God is good, He so loves infants as to have blessed the midwives in Egypt, when they protected the infants of the Hebrews43944394 Partus Hebræos. which were in peril from Pharaoh’s command.43954395 Ex. ii. 15–21. Christ therefore shares this kindness with the Creator. As indeed for Marcion’s god, who is an enemy to marriage, how can he possibly seem to be a lover of little children, which are simply the issue of marriage? He who hates the seed must needs also detest the fruit. Yea, he ought to be deemed more ruthless than the king of Egypt.43964396 See a like comparison in book i. chap. xxix. p. 294. For whereas Pharaoh forbade infants to be brought up, he will not allow them even to be born, depriving them of their ten months’ existence in the womb. And how much more credible it is, that kindness to little children should be attributed to Him who blessed matrimony for the procreation of mankind, and in such benediction included also the promise of connubial fruit itself, the first of which is that of infancy!43974397 Qui de infantia primus est: i.e., cujus qui de infantia, etc. [Elucidation VIII.] The Creator, at the request of Elias, inflicts the blow43984398 Repræsentat plagam. of fire from heaven in the case of that false prophet (of Baalzebub).43994399 2 Kings i. 9–12. I recognise herein the severity of the Judge. And I, on the contrary, the severe rebuke44004400 I translate after Oehler’s text, which is supported by the oldest authorities. Pamelius and Rigaltius, however, read “Christi lenitatem increpantis eandem animadversionem,” etc. (“On the contrary, I recognize the gentleness of Christ, who rebuked His disciples when they,” etc.) This reading is only conjectural, suggested by the “Christi lenitatem” of the context. of Christ on His disciples, when they were for inflicting44014401 Destinantes. a like visitation on that obscure village of the Samaritans.44024402 Luke ix. 51–56. The heretic, too, may discover that this gentleness of Christ was promised by the selfsame severest Judge. “He shall not contend,” says He, “nor shall His voice be heard in the street; a bruised reed shall He not crush, and smoking flax shall He not quench.”44034403 Isa. xlii. 2, 3. Being of such a character, He was of course much the less disposed to burn men. For even at that time the Lord said to Elias,44044404 Compare De Patientia, chap. xv. “He was not in the fire, but in the still small voice.”44054405 1 Kings xix. 12. Well, but why does this most humane and merciful God reject the man who offers himself to Him as an inseparable companion?44064406 Luke ix. 57, 58. If it were from pride or from hypocrisy that he had said, “I will follow Thee whithersoever Thou goest,’ then, by judicially reproving an act of either pride or hypocrisy as worthy of rejection, He performed the office of a Judge. And, of course, him whom He rejected He condemned to the loss of not following the Saviour.44074407 Salutem: i.e., “Christ, who is our salvation” (Fr. Junius). For as He calls to salvation him whom He does not reject, or him whom He voluntarily invites, so does He consign to perdition him whom He rejects. When, however, He answers the man, who alleged as an excuse his father’s burial, “Let the dead bury their dead, but go thou and preach the kingdom of God,”44084408 Luke ix. 59, 60. He gave a clear confirmation to those two laws of the Creator—that in Leviticus, which concerns the sacerdotal office, and forbids the priests to be present at the funerals even of their parents. “The priest,” says He, “shall not enter where there is any dead person;44094409 Animam defunctam. and for his father he shall not be defiled”44104410 Lev. xxi. 1, according to our author’s reading.; as well as that in Numbers, which relates to the (Nazarite) vow of separation; for there he who devotes himself to God, among other things, is bidden “not to come at any dead body,” not even of his father, or his mother, or his brother.44114411 Num. vi. 6, 7. Now it was, I suppose, for the Nazarite and the priestly office that He intended this man whom He had been inspiring44124412 Imbuerat. to preach the kingdom of God. Or else, if it be not so, he must be pronounced impious enough who, without the intervention of any precept of the law, commanded that burials of parents should be neglected by their sons. When, indeed, in the third case before us, (Christ) forbids the man “to look back” who wanted first “to bid his family farewell,” He only follows out the rule44134413 Sectam. of the Creator. For this (retrospection) He had been against their making, whom He had rescued out of Sodom.44144414 Gen. xix. 17.
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