Matt. 7:7-12 (Part 2)

TERTULLIAN: I come now to the point which is urged both by our own brethren and by the heretics. Our brethren adduce it as a pretext for entering on curious inquiries, and the heretics insist on it for importing the scrupulosity (of their unbelief). It is written, they say, “Seek, and you shall find.” Let us remember at what time the Lord said this. I think it was at the very outset of His teaching, when there was still a doubt felt by all whether He were the Christ, and when even Peter had not yet declared Him to be the Son of God, and John the Baptist had actually ceased to feel assurance about Him.  With good reason, therefore, was it then said, “Seek, and you shall find,” when inquiry was still to be made of Him who was not yet become known.

Besides, this was said in respect of the Jews. For it is to them that the whole matter of this reproof pertains, seeing that they had a revelation where they might seek Christ. “They have,” He says, “Moses and Elijah,”—in other words, the law and the prophets, which preach Christ; as also in another place He says plainly, “Search the Scriptures, in which you expect to find salvation; for they testify of me;”  which will be the meaning of “Seek, and you shall find.” For it is clear that the next words also apply to the Jews: “Knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” The Jews had formerly been in covenant with God; but being afterwards cast off on account of their sins, they began to be without God. The Gentiles, on the contrary, had never been in covenant with God; they were only as “a drop from a bucket,” and “as dust from the threshing floor,”  and were ever outside the door. Now, how shall he who was always outside knock at the place where he never was? What door does he know of, when he has passed through none, either by entrance or ejection? Is it not rather he who is aware that he once lived within and was thrust out, that probably found the door and knocked there?

In like manner, “Ask, and you shall receive,” is suitably said to one who was aware from whom he ought to ask,—by whom also some promise had been given; that is to say, “the God of Abraham, of Isaac, and of Jacob.” Now, the Gentiles knew nothing either of Him, or of any of His promises. Therefore it was to Israel that he spoke when He said, “I am not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”  Not yet had He “cast to the dogs the children’s bread;”  not yet did He charge them to “go into the way of the Gentiles.”12 It is only at the last that He instructs them to “go and teach all nations, and baptize them,”  when they were so soon to receive “the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, who should guide them into all the truth.”  And this, too, makes towards the same conclusion. If the apostles, who were ordained to be teachers to the Gentiles, were themselves to have the Comforter for their teacher, far more needless was it to say to us, “Seek, and you shall find,” to whom was to come, without research, our instruction by the apostles, and to the apostles themselves by the Holy Ghost. All the Lord’s sayings, indeed, are set forth for all men; through the ears of the Jews have they passed on to us. Still most of them were addressed to Jewish persons; they therefore did not constitute instruction properly designed for ourselves, but rather an example. The Prescription Against Heretics, 3.247.

TERTULLIAN: Since, however, the Lord, the Foreseer of human necessities, said separately, after delivering His Rule of Prayer, “Ask, and you will receive;” and since there are petitions which are made according to the circumstances of each individual; our additional wants have the right—after beginning with the legitimate and customary prayers as a foundation, as it were—of rearing an outer superstructure of petitions, yet with remembrance of the Master’s precepts. On Prayer, 3.684.

ORIGEN: Now you will connect with the man seeking goodly pearls the saying, “Seek and you shall find,” and this—“Every one that seeks finds.” For what do you seek? Or what does every one that seek find? I venture to answer, pearls and the pearl which he possesses, who has given up all things, and counted them as loss; “for which,” Paul says, “I have counted all things but loss that I may win Christ;”  by “all things” meaning the goodly pearls, “that I may win Christ,” the one very precious pearl. Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 9.418.

ORIGEN: “If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them.” . . . But if whenever two of us agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of the Father of Jesus who is in heaven, plainly when this is not done for them of the Father in heaven as touching anything that they shall ask, there the two have not been in agreement on earth; and this is the cause why we are not heard when we pray, that we do not agree with one another on earth, neither in opinions nor in life. Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, 9.494-495.

ORIGEN: Do you, then, my lord and my son, chiefly give heed to the reading of the Divine Scriptures; do give heed. For we need great attention when we read the Divine writings, that we may not speak or form notions about them rashly. And as you give heed to reading the Divine volume with a faithful anticipation well pleasing to God, knock at its closed doors and it shall be opened to you by the porter, of whom Jesus said, “To him the porter opens.”  And as you give heed to the Divine reading, seek, in the right way and with an unfaltering faith in God, the meaning of the Divine writings, which is hidden from the many. However, do not be content with knocking and seeking; for prayer is the most necessary qualification for the understanding of Divine things, and the Savior urged us to this when He said, not only, “Knock and it shall be opened, seek and you shall find,” but also, “Ask and it shall be given to you.”  The Philocalia of Origen.

ANONYMOUS: Let us then arouse ourselves as much as we can, beloved brethren; and breaking away from the slumber of indolence and security, let us be watchful for the observance of the Lord’s precepts. Let us with all our hearts seek for what we have lost, that we may be able to find; because “to him that seeks,” says the Scripture, “it shall be given, and to him that knocks it shall be opened.” 
A Treatise Against the Heretic Novatian by an Anonymous Bishop. 5.662.

7:8 CYPRIAN: Let us ask, and we will receive; and if there be delay and tardiness in our receiving, since we have grievously offended, let us knock, because “to him that knocks also it will be opened,”  if only our prayers, our groanings, and our tears, knock at the door; and with these we must be urgent and persevering, even although prayer be offered with one mind. 

For,—which the more induced and constrained me to write this letter to you,—you ought to know (since the Lord has condescended to show and to reveal it) that it was said in a vision, “Ask, and you will obtain.” Then, afterwards, that the attending people were bidden to pray for certain persons pointed out to them, but that in their petitions there were dissonant voices, and wills disagreeing, and that this excessively displeased Him who had said, “Ask, and you will obtain,” because the disagreement of the people was out of harmony, and there was not a consent of the brethren one and simple, and a united concord; since it is written, “God who makes men to be of one mind in a house;”  and we read in the Acts of the Apostles, “And the multitude of them that believed were of one heart and of one soul.”  And the Lord has bidden us with His own voice, saying, “This is my command, that you love one another.”  And again, “I say to you, that if two of you will agree on earth as touching anything that you ask, it will be done for you of my Father which is in heaven.”  But if two of one mind can do so much, what might be effected if the unanimity prevailed among all? But if, according to the peace which our Lord gave us, there were agreement among all brethren, we should before this have obtained from the divine mercy what we seek; nor should we be wavering so long in this peril of our salvation and our faith. Yes, truly, and these evils would not have come upon the brethren, if the brotherhood had been animated with one spirit.

For there also was shown that there sat the father of a family, a young man also being seated at his right hand, who, anxious and somewhat sad with a kind of indignation, holding his chin in his right hand, occupied his place with a sorrowful look. But another standing on the left hand, bore a net, which he threatened to throw, in order to catch the people standing round. And when he who saw marveled what this could be, it was told him that the youth who was thus sitting on the right hand was saddened and grieved because his commandments were not observed; but that he on the left was exultant because an opportunity was afforded him of receiving from the father of the family the power of destroying. This was shown long before the tempest of this devastation arose. And we have seen that which had been shown fulfilled; that while we despise the commandments of the Lord, while we do not keep the salutary ordinances of the law that He has given, the enemy was receiving a power of doing mischief, and was overwhelming, by the cast of his net, those who were imperfectly armed and too careless to resist.

Let us urgently pray and groan with continual petitions. For know, beloved brethren, that I was not long ago reproached with this also in a vision, that we were sleepy in our prayers, and did not pray with watchfulness. The Epistles of Cyprian, 5.286.

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