XXXVIII. TERTULLIAN, Apol. 39.
Corpus sumus de conscientia religionis et disciplinae unitate et spei foedere. Coimus in coetum et congregationem, ut ad deum, quasi manu facta, precationibus ambiamus. Haec vis deo grata est. Oramus etiam pro imperatoribus, pro ministeriis eorum ac potestatibus, pro statu saeculi, pro rerum quiete, pro mora finis. Cogimur ad litterarum divinarum commemorationem, si quid praesentium temporum qualitas aut praemonere cogit aut recognoscere. Certe fidem sanctis vocibus pascimus, spem erigimus, fiduciam figimus, disciplinam praeceptorum nihilominus inculcationibus densamus; ibidem etiam exhortationes, castigationes et censura divina. Nam et iudicatur magno cum pondere, ut apud certos de dei conspectu, summumque futuri iudicii praeiudicium est, si quis ita deliquerit, ut a communicatione orationis et conventus et omnis sancti commercii relegetur. Praesident probati quique seniores, honorem istum non pretio sed testimonio adepti; neque enim pretio ulla res dei constat. Etiam si quod arcae genus est, non de honoraria summa, quasi redemptae religionis congregatur; modicam unusquisque stipem menstrua die, vel quum velit, et si modo velit et si modo possit, apponit: nam nemo compellitur, sed sponte confert. Haec quasi deposita pietatis sunt. Nam inde non epulis nec potaculis, nec ingratis voratrinis dispensatur, sed egenis alendis humandisque, et pueris ac puellis re ac parentibus destitutis, iamque domesticis senibus, item naufragis, et si qui in metallis, et si qui in insulis, vel in custodiis, dumtaxat ex causa dei sectae, alumni confessionis suae fiunt.
We are made a body by common religious feeling, unity of discipline, and the bond of hope. We come together in a meeting and assembly, that we may as it were form a troop, and so in prayer to God beset Him with our supplications. This violence is well-pleasing to God. We pray also for emperors, for their ministers and for them that are in power, for the welfare of the world, for peace therein, for the delay of the end. We meet together for the reading of the divine writings, if the character of the times compels us in any way to forewarning or reminder. However that may be, with the holy words we nourish our faith, lift up our hope, confirm our confidence, and no less make strong our discipline by impressing the precepts. At these meetings we have also exhortations, rebukes, and a Divine censorship. For judgement also is executed with much gravity, as before men who are sure that they are in the sight of God; and it is a notable foretaste of judgement to come if a man has so sinned as to be banished from the communion of our prayer and meeting and all holy intercourse. Our presidents are the approved elders, obtaining that honour not for a price, but by attested character; for indeed the things of God are not sold for a price. Even if there is a sort of common fund, it is not made up of money paid in fees, as for a worship by contract. Each of us puts in a trifle on the monthly day, or when he pleases; but only if he pleases, and only if he is able, for no man is obliged, but contributes of his own free will. These are as it were deposits of piety; for it is not paid out thence for feasts and drinkings and thankless eating-houses, but for feeding and burying the needy, for boys and girls deprived of means and parents, for old folk now confined to the house: also for them that are shipwrecked, for any who are in the mines, and for any who in the islands or in the prisons, if only it be for the cause of God's people, become the nurslings of their own confession.
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