Matt. 5:1-12 (Part 6)

JUSTIN MARTYR: Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love only what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions, if these be worthless. For not only does sound reason direct us to refuse the guidance of those who did or taught anything wrong, but it is incumbent on the lover of truth, by all means, and if death be threatened, even before his own life, to choose to do and say what is right. . . . For as for us, we reckon that no evil can be done to us, unless we be convicted as evil-doers or be proved to be wicked men; and you, you can kill, but not hurt us. The First Apology, 1.163.

CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: And it is the sum of all virtue, in my opinion, when the Lord teaches us that for love to God we must despise death. “Blessed are they,” says He, “who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for they shall be called the sons of God;” or, as some of those who transpose the Gospels say, “Blessed are they who are persecuted by righteousness, for they shall be perfect.” And, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for my sake; for they shall have a place where they shall not be persecuted.” And, “Blessed are you when men shall hate you, when they shall separate you, when they shall cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake;” if we do not detest our persecutors, and undergo punishments at their hands, not hating them under the idea that we have been put to trial more tardily than we looked for; but knowing this also, that every instance of trial is an occasion for testifying. The Stromata, 2.416.

TERTULLIAN: It is still the same sentiment which he follows up in the passage in which he puts the recompense above the sufferings: “for we know;” he says, “that if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens;” in other words, owing to the fact that our flesh is undergoing dissolution through its sufferings, we shall be provided with a home in heaven. He remembered the award (which the Lord assigns) in the Gospel: “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Yet, when he thus contrasted the recompense of the reward, he did not deny the flesh’s restoration; since the recompense is due to the same substance to which the dissolution is attributed,—that is, of course, the flesh. On the Resurrection of the Flesh, 3.575.

TERTULLIAN: In the case of Christ both the divine nature and the will and the sect are different from any previously known! He will have commanded either no martyrdoms at all, or those which must be understood in a sense different from the ordinary, being such a person as to urge no one to a risk of this kind as to promise no reward to them who suffer for Him, because He does not wish them to suffer; and therefore does He say, when setting forth His chief commands, “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Scorpiace, 3.641.

ORIGEN: I beseech you, therefore, throughout the present conflict to remember the great reward laid up in the heavens for those who are persecuted and reviled for righteousness' sake and for the Son of Man's sake, and that you rejoice and be glad and exult just as the apostles rejoiced when on one occasion they were “counted worthy to suffer insults for his name.” Exhortation to Martyrdom.108

CYPRIAN: For to this battle our Lord, as with the trumpet of His Gospel, stimulates us when He says, “He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves his own soul more than me is not worthy of me. And he that does not take up his cross, and follow after me, is not worthy of me.” And again, “Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed shall you be, when men shall persecute you, and hate you. Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for so did their fathers persecute the prophets which were before you.” And again, “Because you shall stand before kings and powers, and the brother shall deliver up the brother to death, and the father the son, and he that endures to the end shall be saved;” and “To him that overcomes I will give to sit on my throne, even as I also overcame and am set down on the throne of my Father.” Moreover the apostle: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (As it is written, For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) No, in all these things we are more than conquerors for Him who loved us.”
The Epistles of Cyprian, 5.303.

CYPRIAN: Moreover, the Lord in the Gospel, Himself the avenger of our persecution and the rewarder of our suffering, says: “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” And again: “Blessed shall you be when men shall hate you, and shall separate you, and shall expel you, and shall revile your name as evil, for the Son of man’s sake. Rejoice in that day, and leap for joy; for, behold, your reward is great in heaven.” And once more: “Whosoever shall lose his life for my sake, the same shall save it.” Nor do the rewards of the divine promise attend those alone who are reproached and slain; but if the passion itself be lacking to the faithful, while their faith has remained sound and unconquered, and having forsaken and disdained all his possessions, the Christian has shown that he is following Christ, even he also is honored by Christ among the martyrs, as He Himself promises and says: “There is no man that has left house, or land, or parents, or brethren, or wife, or children, for the kingdom of God’s sake, who will not receive seven times as much in this present time, and in the world to come eternal life.” The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.506.

5:11ff MATHETES: They are poor, yet make many rich; they are in lack of all things, and yet abound in all; they are dishonored, and yet in their very dishonor are glorified. They are evil spoken of, and yet are justified; they are reviled, and bless; they are insulted, and repay the insult with honor; they do good, yet are punished as evil-doers. When punished, they rejoice as if quickened into life. Epistle to Diognetus, 1.27.

TERTULLIAN: The following statement, indeed, applies first to all without restriction, then specially to the apostles themselves: “Blessed shall you be when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you, for my sake. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, since very great is your reward in heaven; for so their fathers used to do even to the prophets.” So He likewise foretold they also would have to be slain themselves, after the example of the prophets. Though, even if He had appointed all this persecution in case He were obeyed for those only who were then apostles, assuredly through them along with the entire sacrament, with the shoot of the name, with the layer of the Holy Spirit, the rule about enduring persecution also would have had respect to us too, as to disciples by inheritance, and, (as it were,) bushes from the apostolic seed. And again He gives words of guidance to the apostles: “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves;” and, “Beware of men, for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues; and you shall be brought before governors and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them and the Gentiles,” etc.

Now when He adds, “But the brother will deliver up the brother to death, and the father the child; and the children shall rise up against their parents, and cause them to be put to death,” He has clearly announced with reference to the others, (that they would be subjected to) this form of unrighteous conduct, which we do not find exemplified in the case of the apostles. For none of them had experience of a father or a brother as a betrayer, which very many of us have. Then He returns to the apostles: “And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.” How much more shall we, for whom there exists the necessity of being delivered up by parents too! Thus, by allotting this very betrayal, now to the apostles, now to all, He pours out the same destruction upon all the possessors of the name, on whom the name, along with the condition that it be an object of hatred, will rest.

But he who will endure on to the end—this man will be saved. By enduring what but persecution, betrayal, death? For to endure to the end is nothing other than to suffer the end. And therefore there immediately follow, “The disciple is not above his master, nor the servant above his own lord;” because, seeing the Master and Lord Himself was stedfast in suffering persecution, betrayal and death, much more will it be the duty of His servants and disciples to bear the same, that they may not seem as if superior to Him, or to have got an immunity from the assaults of unrighteousness, since this itself should be glory enough for them, to be conformed to the sufferings of their Lord and Master; and, preparing them for the endurance of these, He reminds them that they must not fear such persons as kill the body only, but are not able to destroy the soul, but that they must dedicate fear to Him rather who has such power that He can kill both body and soul, and destroy them in hell.
Scorpiace, 3.641-642.

TERTULLIAN: If the tongue’s bitterness break out in malediction or reproach, look back at the saying, “When they curse you, rejoice.” The Lord Himself was “cursed” in the eye of the law; and yet is He the only Blessed One. Let us servants, therefore, follow our Lord closely; and be cursed patiently, that we may be able to be blessed. Of Patience, 3.712.

5:12 TERTULLIAN: He says, “Rejoice and be glad, as often as they shall curse and persecute you; for very great is your reward in heaven,” of course it is not to the impatience of exultation that He makes that promise; because no one will “exult” in adversities unless he has first learned to regard them with contempt, which no one will do unless he has learned to practice patience. Of Patience, 3.714.

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