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ANF04. Fathers of the Third Century: Tertullian, Part Fourth; Minucius Felix; Commodian; Origen, Parts First and Second
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Chapter XI.—Of the Respect Due to “Human Authority;” And of the Charges of “Heresy” And “Pseudo-Prophecy.”

But all these (instances) I believe to be unknown to those who are in a state of agitation at our proceedings; or else known by the reading alone, not by careful study as well; in accordance with the greater bulk of “the unskilled”10891089    Comp. 2 Pet. iii. 16. among the overboastful multitude, to wit, of the Psychics.  This is why we have steered our course straight through the different individual species of fastings, of xerophagies, of stations:  in order that, while we recount, according to the materials which we find in either Testament, the advantages which the dutiful observances of abstinence from, or curtailment or deferment of, food confer, we may refute those who invalidate these things as empty observances; and again, while we similarly point out in what rank of religious duty they have always had place, may confute those who accuse them as novelties:  for neither is that novel which has always been, nor that empty which is useful.

The question, however, still lies before us, that some of these observances, having been commanded by God to man, have constituted this practice legally binding; some, offered by man to God, have discharged some votive obligation.  Still, even a vow, when it has been accepted by God, constitutes a law for the time to come, owing to the authority of the Acceptor; for he who has given his approbation to a deed, when done, has given a mandate for its doing thenceforward.  And so from this consideration, again, the wrangling of the opposite party is silenced, while they say:  “It is either a pseudo-prophecy, if it is a spiritual voice which institutes these your solemnities; or else a heresy, if it is a human presumption which devises them.”  For, while censuring that form in which the ancient economies ran their course, and at the same time drawing out of that form arguments to hurl back (upon us) which the very adversaries of the ancient economies will in their turn be able to retort, they will be bound either to reject those arguments, or else to undertake these proven duties (which they impugn):  necessarily so; chiefly because these very duties (which they impugn), from whatsoever institutor they are, be he a spiritual man or merely an ordinary believer, direct their course to the honour of the same God as the ancient economies.  For, indubitably, both heresy and pseudo-prophecy will, in the eyes of us who are all priests of one only God the Creator and of His Christ, be judged by diversity of divinity:  and so far forth I defend this side indifferently, offering my opponents to join issue on whatever ground they choose.  “It is the spirit of the devil,” you say, O Psychic.  And how is it that he enjoins duties which belong to our God, and enjoins them to be offered to none other than our God?  Either contend that the devil works with our God, or else let the Paraclete be held to be Satan.  But you affirm it is “a human Antichrist:”  for by this name heretics are called in John.10901090    See 1 John ii. 18, 29; 2 John 7–10.  And how is it that, whoever he is, he has in (the name of) our Christ directed these duties toward our Lord; whereas withal antichrists have (ever) gone forth (professedly teaching) towards God, (but) in opposition to our Christ?  On which side, then, do you think the Spirit is confirmed as existing among us; when He commands, or when He approves, what our God has always both commanded and approved?  But you again set up boundary-posts to God, as with regard to grace, so with regard to discipline; as with regard to gifts, so, too, with regard to solemnities:  so that our observances are supposed to have ceased in like manner as His benefits; and you thus deny that He still continues to impose duties, because, in this case again, “the Law and the prophets (were) until John.”  It remains for you to banish Him wholly, being, as He is, so far as lies in you, so otiose.


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