Ante-Nicene Fathers/Volume IV/Tertullian: Part Fourth/On Exhortation to Chastity/Elucidation

Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Exhortation to Chastity
by Tertullian, translated by Sydney Thelwall
155806Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol. IV, Tertullian: Part Fourth, On Exhortation to Chastity — ElucidationSydney ThelwallTertullian



(Albeit they be laics, p. 54.)

In the tract on Baptism[1] Tertullian uses language implying that three persons compose a Church.  But here we find it much more strongly pronounced,—Ubi tres, Ecclesia est, licet Laici.  The question of lay-baptism we may leave till we come to Cyprian, only noting here, that, while Cyprian abjures his “master” on this point, his adversary, the Bishop of Rome, adopts Tertullian’s principle in so far.  But, in view of Matt. xix. 20, surely we may all allow that three are a quorum when so “gathered together in Christ’s name,” albeit not for all purposes.  Three women may claim the Saviour’s promise when lawfully met together for social devotions, nor can it be denied that they have a share in the priesthood of the “peculiar people.”  So, too, even of three pious children.  But it does not follow that they are a church for all purposes,—preaching, celebrating sacraments, ordaining, and the like.  The late Dean Stanley was fond of this passage of Tertullian, but obviously it might be abused to encourage a state of things which all orderly and organized systems of religion must necessarily discard.[2]  On p. 58 there is a reference, apparently, to deaconesses as “women in Ecclesiastical Orders.”

Footnotes edit

  1. Chap. vi. vol. iii. p. 672, this series.
  2. Hooker, Eccl. Polity, b. iii. cap. i. 14.