Tertullian: Do You Persistently Plead for the Health of Patience?

Feast of the Holy Martyr Zosima

Tertullian_square_2.jpegI FULLY confess unto the Lord God that it has been rash enough, if not even impudent, in me to have dared compose a treatise on Patience, for practicing which I am all unfit, being a man of no goodness; whereas it were becoming that such as have addressed themselves to the demonstration and commendation of some particular thing, should themselves first be conspicuous in the practice of that thing, and should regulate the constancy of their commonishing by the authority of their personal conduct, for fear their words blush at the deficiency of their deeds. And would that this “blushing” would bring a remedy, so that shame for not exhibiting that which we go to suggest to others should prove a tutorship into exhibiting it; except that the magnitude of some good things – just as of some ills too – is insupportable, so that only the grace of divine inspiration is effectual for attaining and practicing them. For what is most good rests most with God; nor does any other than He who possesses it dispense it, as He deems meet to each. And so to discuss about that which it is not given one to enjoy, will be, as it were, a solace; after the manner of invalids, who since they are without health, know not how to be silent about its blessings. So I, most miserable, ever sick with the heats of impatience, must of necessity sigh after, and invoke, and persistently plead for, that health of patience which I possess not; while I recall to mind, and, in the contemplation of my own weakness, digest, the truth, that the good health of faith, and the soundness of the Lord’s discipline, accrue not easily to any unless patience sit by his side. So is patience set over the things of God, that one can obey no precept, fulfill no work well-pleasing to the Lord, if estranged from it. The good of it, even they who live outside it, honor with the name of highest virtue. Philosophers indeed, who are accounted animals of some considerable wisdom, assign it so high a place, that, while they are mutually at discord with the various fancies of their sects and rivalries of their sentiments, yet, having a community of regard for patience alone, to this one of their pursuits they have joined in granting peace: for it they conspire; for it they league; it, in their affection of virtue of virtue, they unanimously pursue; concerning patience they exhibit all their ostentation of wisdom. Grand testimony this is to it, in that it incites even the vain schools of the world unto praise and glory! Or is it rather an injury, in that a thing divine is bandied among worldly sciences? But let them look to that, who shall presently be ashamed of their wisdom, destroyed and disgraced together with the world it lives in.

~Tertullian, On Patience


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