Chapter XII.—Of those who are Ignorant of this Mystery; and that their Ignorance is Voluntary. The Blessings which await those who know it, especially such as die in the Confession of the Faith. 3433
But it will be said by some, who love to blaspheme, that it was in the power of God to ameliorate and soften the natural will of man. What better way, I ask, what better method could be devised, what more effectual effort put forth for reclaiming evil man, than converse with God himself? Was not he visibly present to teach them the principles of virtuous conduct? And if the personal instructions of God were without effect, how much more, had he continued absent and unheard? What, then, had power to hinder this most blessed doctrine? The perverse folly of man. For the clearness of our perceptions is at once obscured, as often as we receive with angry impatience those precepts which are given for our blessing and advantage. In truth, it was the very choice of men to disregard these precepts, and to turn a deaf ear to the commandments so distasteful to them; though had they listened, they would have gained a reward well worthy such attention, and that not for the present only, but the future life, which is indeed the only true life. For the reward of obedience to God is imperishable and everlasting life, to which they may aspire who know him, 3434 and frame their course of life so as to afford a pattern to others, and as it were a perpetual standard for the imitation of those who desire to excel in virtue. Therefore was the doctrine committed to men of understanding, that the truths which they communicated might be kept with care and a pure conscience by the members of their households, and that thus a truthful and steadfast observance of Gods commands might be secured, the fruit of which is that boldness in the prospect of death which springs from pure faith and genuine holiness before God. He who is thus armed can withstand the tempest of the world, and is sustained even to martyrdom by the invincible power of God, whereby he boldly overcomes the greatest terrors, and is accounted worthy of a crown of glory by him to whom he has thus nobly testip. 571 fied. 3435 Nor does he himself assume the praise, knowing full well that it is God who gives the power both to endure, and to fulfill with ready zeal the Divine commands. And well may such a course as this receive the meed of never-failing remembrance and everlasting honor. For as the martyrs life is one of sobriety and obedience to the will of God, so is his death an example of true greatness and generous fortitude of soul. Hence it is followed by hymns and psalms, words and songs of praise to the all-seeing God: and a sacrifice of thanksgiving is offered in memory of such men, a bloodless, a harmless sacrifice, wherein is no need of the fragrant frankincense, no need of fire; but only enough of pure light 3436 to suffice the assembled worshipers. Many, too, there are whose charitable spirit leads them to prepare a temperate banquet for the comfort of the needy, and the relief of those who had been driven from their homes: a custom which can only be deemed burdensome 3437 by those whose thoughts are not accordant with the divine and sacred doctrine.
Literally and better, “through the confession.” It refers to those who are technically known as confessors. Although in general the distinction prevails by which those who have suffered, but not unto death, are called “confessors,” while those who lost their lives are called “martyrs” (cf. Pseud-Cypr. de dupl. Mart. c. 31), yet its use for martyrs is not uncommon (cf. Ambrose, ad Gratian, c. 2). Later the term was used of all, especially faithful professors of Christ.570:3434
Cf. John 17:3, 1 John 5:19.571:3435
This translation “to whom” accords with the reading of Valesius, followed by 1611, Molz., “Zimmermann,” Cous. (“whose cause he has sustained”), but Hein. adopts the reading “who,” preceded by Chr., who translates “who himself bravely endured martyrdom.”571:3436
[Alluding to the tapers, &c., lighted at the tombs of martyrs on the anniversary of their death.—Bag.] Compare Scudamore, Lights, The Ceremonial Use of, in Smith and Cheetham, Dict. 1 (1880), 993 sq.571:3437