Chapter XIV.—Of Blasphemy. One of St. Pauls Sayings.
But, however, the majority (of Christians) have by this time induced the belief in their mind that it is pardonable if at any time they do what the heathen do, for fear “the Name be blasphemed.” Now the blasphemy which must quite be shunned by us in every way is, I take it, this: If any of us lead a heathen into blasphemy with good cause, either by fraud, or by injury, or by contumely, or any other matter of worthy complaint, in which “the Name” is deservedly impugned, so that the Lord, too, be deservedly angry. Else, if of all blasphemy it has been said, “By your means My Name is blasphemed,” 263 we all perish at once; since the whole circus, with no desert of ours, assails “the Name” with wicked suffrages. Let us cease (to be Christians) and it will not be blasphemed! On the contrary, while we are, let it be blasphemed: in the observance, not the overstepping, of discipline; while we are being approved, not while we are being reprobated. Oh blasphemy, bordering on martyrdom, which now attests me to be a Christian, 264 while for that very account it detests me! The cursing of well-maintained Discipline is a blessing of the Name. “If,” says he, “I wished to please men, I should not be Christs servant.” 265 But the same apostle elsewhere bids us take care to please all: “As I,” he says, “please all by all means.” 266 No doubt he used to please them by celebrating the Saturnalia and New-years day! [Was it so] or was it by moderation and patience? by gravity, by kindness, by integrity? In like manner, when he is saying, “I have become all things to all, that I may gain all,” 267 does he mean “to idolaters an idolater?” “to heathens a heathen?” “to the worldly worldly?” But albeit he does not prohibit us from having our conversation with idolaters and adulterers, and the other criminals, saying, “Otherwise ye would go out from the world,” 268 of course he does not so slacken those reins of conversation that, since it is necessary for us both to live and to mingle with sinners, we may be able to sin with them too. Where there is the intercourse of life, which the apostle concedes, there is sinning, which no one permits. To live with heathens is lawful, to die with p. 70 them 269 is not. Let us live with all; 270 let us be glad with them, out of community of nature, not of superstition. We are peers in soul, not in discipline; fellow-possessors of the world, not of error. But if we have no right of communion in matters of this kind with strangers, how far more wicked to celebrate them among brethren! Who can maintain or defend this? The Holy Spirit upbraids the Jews with their holy-days. “Your Sabbaths, and new moons, and ceremonies,” says He, “My soul hateth.” 271 By us, to whom Sabbaths are strange, 272 and the new moons and festivals formerly beloved by God, the Saturnalia and New-years and Midwinters festivals and Matronalia are frequented—presents come and go—New-years gifts—games join their noise—banquets join their din! Oh better fidelity of the nations to their own sect, which claims no solemnity of the Christians for itself! Not the Lords day, not Pentecost, even it they had known them, would they have shared with us; for they would fear lest they should seem to be Christians. We are not apprehensive lest we seem to be heathens! If any indulgence is to be granted to the flesh, you have it. I will not say your own days, 273 but more too; for to the heathens each festive day occurs but once annually: you have a festive day every eighth day. 274 Call out the individual solemnities of the nations, and set them out into a row, they will not be able to make up a Pentecost. 275
Isa. 52:5, Ezek. 36:20, 23. Cf. 2 Sam. 12:14, Rom. 2:24.69:264
[This play on the words is literally copied from the original—“quæ tunc me testatur Christianum, cum propter ea me detestatur.”]69:265
St. Paul. Gal. i. 10.69:266
1 Cor. 10:32, 33.69:267
1 Cor. ix. 22.69:268
1 Cor. v. 10.70:269
i.e., by sinning (Oehler), for “the wages of sin is death.”70:270
There seems to be a play on the word “convivere” (whence “convivium,” etc.), as in Cic. de Sen. xiii.70:271
Isa. i. 14, etc.70:272
[This is noteworthy. In the earlier days sabbaths (Saturdays) were not unobserved, but, it was a concession pro tempore, to Hebrew Christians.]70:273
i.e., perhaps your own birthdays. [See cap. xvi. infra.] Oehler seems to think it means, “all other Christian festivals beside Sunday.”70:274
[“An Easter Day in every week.”—Keble.]70:275
i.e., a space of fifty days, see Deut. xvi. 10; and comp. Hooker, Ecc. Pol. iv. 13, 7, ed. Keble.