Matt. 5:38-42 (Part 4)

ORIGEN: Jesus’ words regarding turning the other cheek concern more than simply long-suffering. For it is against nature to be so arrogant as to hit the other person. Fragment 108.

ORIGEN: “But if your enemy is hungry, feed him, if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for in doing this you will heap burning coals on his head.”35 Indeed the Lord also commands these things in the Gospels. . . . To the same extent that we not only do not retaliate against enemies and those who injure, but even offer good, to that same extent we heap up their punishments at the judgment of God–for their condemnation is truly just if they are convicted before the Lord for having inflicted evils upon those from whom they have received good things.
Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.

CYPRIAN: Christians cannot be conquered, but they can die; and by this very fact they are invincible, that they do not fear death; that they do not in turn assail their assailants, since it is not lawful for the innocent even to kill the guilty; but that they readily deliver up both their lives and their blood; that since such malice and cruelty rages in the world, they may the more quickly withdraw from the evil and cruel.
The Epistles of Cyprian, 5.351.

CYPRIAN: Believe in Christ, whom the Father has sent to quicken and restore us. Cease to hurt the servants of God and of Christ with your persecutions, since when they are injured the divine vengeance defends them.

None of us [Christians], when he is apprehended, makes resistance, nor avenges himself against your unrighteous violence, although our people are numerous and plentiful. Our certainty of a vengeance to follow makes us patient. The innocent give place to the guilty; the harmless acquiesce in punishments and tortures, sure and confident that whatsoever we suffer will not remain unavenged, and that in proportion to the greatness of the injustice of our persecution so will be the justice and the severity of the vengeance exacted for those persecutions. Nor does the wickedness of the impious ever rise up against the name we bear, without immediate vengeance from above attending it. The Treatises of Cyprian. 5.462.

CYPRIAN: And because we may not hate, and we please God more by rendering no return for wrong, we exhort you while you have the power, while there yet remains to you something of life, to make satisfaction to God, and to emerge from the abyss of darkling superstition into the bright light of true religion. We do not envy your comforts, nor do we conceal the divine benefits. We repay kindness for your hatred; and for the torments and penalties which are inflicted on us, we point out to you the ways of salvation. The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.465.

CYPRIAN: In the Epistle of Paul to the Romans: “Rendering to no man evil for evil.” Also in the same place: “Not to be overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Of this same thing in the Apocalypse: “And He said to me, 'Seal not the words of the prophecy of this book; because now the time is at hand. And let those who persist in hurting, hurt: and let him who is filthy, be filthy still: but let the righteous do still more righteousness: and in like manner, let him that is holy do still more holiness. Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to every man according to his deeds.'” The Treatises of Cyprian, 5.541.

THEONAS OF ALEXANDRIA: Do no one an injury at any time, and provoke no one to anger. If an injury is done to you, look to Jesus Christ; and even as you desire that He may remit your transgressions, also forgive them theirs.
The Epistle of Theonas, Bishop of Alexandria, to Lucianus, the Chief Chamberlain, 6.161.

LACTANTIUS: For religion is to be defended, not by putting to death, but by dying; not by cruelty, but by patient endurance; not by guilt, but by good faith: for the former belong to evils, but the latter to goods; and it is necessary for that which is good to have place in religion, and not that which is evil. For if you wish to defend religion by bloodshed, and by tortures, and by guilt, it will no longer be defended, but will be polluted and profaned. For nothing is so much a matter of free will as religion; in which, if the mind of the worshipper is disinclined to it, religion is at once taken away, and ceases to exist. The right method therefore is, that you defend religion by patient endurance or by death; in which the preservation of the faith is both pleasing to God Himself, and adds authority to religion. For if he who in this earthly warfare preserves his faith to his king in some illustrious action, if he shall continue to live, because more beloved and acceptable, and if he shall fall, obtains the highest glory, because he has undergone death for his leader; how much more is faith to be kept towards God, the Ruler of all, who is able to pay the reward of virtue, not only to the living, but also to the dead! Therefore the worship of God, since it belongs to heavenly warfare, requires the greatest devotedness and fidelity. . . .

But we, on the contrary, do not require that any one should be compelled, whether he is willing or unwilling, to worship our God, who is the God of all men; nor are we angry if any one does not worship Him. For we trust in the majesty of Him who has power to avenge contempt shown towards Himself, as also He has power to avenge the calamities and injuries inflicted on His servants. And therefore, when we suffer such impious things, we do not resist even in word; but we remit vengeance to God, not as they act who would have it appear that they are defenders of their gods, and rage without restraint against those who do not worship them. The Divine Institutes, 7.157-158.

LACTANTIUS: Since, therefore, the Christian does injury to none, nor desires the property of others, and does not even defend his own if it is taken from him by violence, since he knows how even to bear with moderation an injury inflicted upon him, because he is endued with virtue; it is necessary that the just man should be subject to the unjust, and that the wise should be insulted by the foolish, that the one may sin because he is unjust, and the other may have virtue in himself because he is just. The Divine Institutes, 7.160.

LACTANTIUS: Constancy is a virtue; not that we resist those who injure us, for we must yield to these. The Divine Institutes, 7.182.

LACTANTIUS: Cicero says in those same books respecting Offices: “But if any one should wish to unravel this indistinct conception of his soul, let him at once teach himself that he is a good man who profits those whom he can, and injures no one unless provoked by injury.”

Oh how he marred a simple and true sentiment by the addition of two words! For what need was there of adding these words, “unless provoked by injury?” that he might append vice as a most disgraceful tail to a good man and might represent him as without patience, which is the greatest of all the virtues. He said that a good man would inflict injuries if he were provoked: now he must necessarily lose the name of a good man from this very circumstance, if he shall inflict injury. For it is not less the part of a bad man to return an injury than to inflict it. For from what source do contests, from what source do fightings and contentions, arise among men, except that impatience opposed to injustice often excites great tempests? But if you meet injustice with patience, than which virtue nothing can be found more true, nothing more worthy of a man, it will immediately be extinguished, as though you should pour water upon a fire. But if that injustice which provokes opposition has met with impatience equal to itself, as though overspread with oil, it will excite so great an extreme fire, that no stream can extinguish it, but only the shedding of blood. Great, therefore, is the advantage of patience, of which the wise man has deprived the good man. For this alone causes that no evil happens; and if it should be given to all, there will be no wickedness and no fraud in the affairs of men. What, therefore, can be so calamitous to a good man, so opposed to his character, as to let loose the reins to anger, which deprives him not only of the title of a good man, but even of a man; since to injure another, as he himself most truly says, is not in accordance with the nature of man? For if you provoke cattle or horses, they turn against you either with their hoof or their horn; and serpents and wild beasts, unless you pursue them that you may kill them, give no trouble.

And to return to examples of men, even the inexperienced and the foolish, if at any time they receive an injury, are led by a blind and irrational fury, and endeavor to retaliate upon those who injure them. In what respect, then, does the wise and good man differ from the evil and foolish, except that he has invincible patience, of which the foolish are destitute; except that he knows how to govern himself, and to mitigate his anger, which those, because they are without virtue, are unable to curb? But this circumstance manifestly deceived him, because, when inquiry is made respecting virtue, he thought that it is the part of virtue to conquer in every kind of contention. Nor was he able in any way to see, that a man who gives way to grief and anger, and who indulges these affections, against which he ought rather to struggle, and who rushes wherever injustice shall have called him, does not fulfill the duty of virtue. For he who endeavors to return an injury, desires to imitate that very person by whom he has been injured. Thus he who imitates a bad man can by no means be good.

Therefore by two words he has taken away from the good and wise man two of the greatest virtues, innocence and patience. . . . Therefore patience is to be regarded as a very great virtue; and that the just man might obtain this, God willed, as has been before said, that he should be despised as sluggish. For unless he shall have been insulted, it will not be known what fortitude he has in restraining himself. Now if, when provoked by injury, he has begun to follow up his assailant with violence, he is overcome. The Divine Institutes, 7.184-185.

LACTANTIUS: It is not befitting that those who strive to keep to the path of justice should be companions and sharers in this public homicide. For when God forbids us to kill, He not only prohibits us from open violence, which is not even allowed by the public laws, but He warns us against the commission of those things which are esteemed lawful among men. Thus it will be neither lawful for a just man to engage in warfare, since his warfare is justice itself, nor to accuse any one of a capital charge, because it makes no difference whether you put a man to death by word, or rather by the sword, since it is the act of putting to death itself which is prohibited. Therefore, with regard to this precept of God, there ought to be no exception at all; but that it is always unlawful to put to death a man, whom God willed to be a sacred creature. The Divine Institutes, 7.187.

5:40ff IRENAEUS: For “to him that takes away your coat,” He says, “give to him your cloak also; and from him that takes away your goods, do not ask for them again; and as you would that men should do to you, do likewise to them;” so that we may not grieve as those who are unwilling to be defrauded, but may rejoice as those who have given willingly, and as rather conferring a favor upon our neighbors than yielding to necessity. “And if any one,” He says, “shall compel you to go a mile, go with him two;” so that you may not follow him as a slave, but may as a free man go before him, showing yourself in all things kindly disposed and useful to your neighbor, not regarding their evil intentions, but performing your kind offices, assimilating yourself to the Father, “who makes His sun to rise upon the evil and the good, and sends rain upon the just and unjust.”
Against Heresies, 1.477.

TERTULLIAN: Patience in losses is an exercise in bestowing and communicating. He who does not fear to lose, does not find it difficult to give. Else how will one, when he has two coats, give the one of them to the naked, unless he be a man likewise to offer to one who takes away his coat his cloak as well? How shall we fashion to us friends from mammon, if we love it so much as not to put up with its loss? We shall perish together with the lost mammon. Why do we find here, where it is our business to lose? To exhibit impatience at all losses is the Gentiles’ business, who give money the precedence perhaps over their soul; for so they do, when, in their greed of money, they encounter the gainful perils of commerce on the sea; when, for money’s sake, even in the forum, there is nothing which damnation itself would fear which they hesitate to try; when they hire themselves for sport and the camp; when, after the manner of wild beasts, they play the bandit along the highway. But us, according to the diversity by which we are distinguished from them, it becomes to lay down not our soul for money, but money for our soul, whether spontaneously in bestowing or patiently in losing. Of Patience, 3.712.

5:42 BARNABAS: Do not be ready to stretch forth your hands to take, while you contract them to give. . . . Do not hesitate to give, nor murmur when you give. “Give to every one that asks you,” and you will know who is the good Recompenser of the reward. 1.148.

THE DIDACHE: Do not be a stretcher forth of the hands to receive and a drawer of them back to give. If you have anything at all, through your hands you will give ransom for your sins. Do not hesitate to give, nor murmur when you give; for you will know who is the good repayer of the hire. Do not turn away from him that is in need, but share all things with your brother, and do not say that they are your own; for if you are partakers in that which is immortal, how much more in things which are mortal? 7.378.

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