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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol II:
CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA: Chapter IX.—Why We are to Use the Bath.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IX.—Why We are to Use the Bath.

There are, then, four reasons for the bath (for from that point I digressed in my oration), for which we frequent it: for cleanliness, or heat, or health, or lastly, for pleasure. Bathing for pleasure is to be omitted. For unblushing pleasure must be cut out by the roots; and the bath is to be taken by women for cleanliness and health, by men for health alone. 1653 To bathe for the sake of heat is a superfluity, since one may restore what is frozen by the cold in other ways. Constant use of the bath, too, impairs strength and relaxes the physical energies, and often induces debility and fainting. For in a p. 283 way the body drinks, like trees, not only by the mouth, but also over the whole body in bathing, by what they call the pores. In proof of this often people, when thirsty, by going afterwards into the water, have assuaged their thirst. Unless, then, the bath is for some use, we ought not to indulge in it. The ancients called them places for fulling 1654 men, since they wrinkle men’s bodies sooner than they ought, and by cooking them, as it were, compel them to become prematurely old. The flesh, like iron, being softened by the heat, hence we require cold, as it were, to temper and give an edge. Nor must we bathe always; but if one is a little exhausted, or, on the other hand, filled to repletion, the bath is to be forbidden, regard being had to the age of the body and the season of the year. For the bath is not beneficial to all, or always, as those who are skilled in these things own. But due proportion, which on all occasions we call as our helper in life, suffices for us. For we must not so use the bath as to require an assistant, nor are we to bathe constantly and often in the day as we frequent the market-place. But to have the water poured over us by several people is an outrage on our neighbours, through fondness for luxuriousness, and is done by those who will not understand that the bath is common to all the bathers equally.

But most of all is it necessary to wash the soul in the cleansing Word (sometimes the body too, on account of the dirt which gathers and grows to it, sometimes also to relieve fatigue). “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites!” saith the Lord, “for ye are like to whited sepulchres. Without, the sepulchre appears beautiful, but within it is full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.” 1655 And again He says to the same people, “Woe unto you! for ye cleanse the outside of the cup and platter, but within are full of uncleanness. Cleanse first the inside of the cup, that the outside may be clean also.” 1656 The best bath, then, is what rubs off the pollution of the soul, and is spiritual. Of which prophecy speaks expressly: “The Lord will wash away the filth of the sons and daughters of Israel, and will purge the blood from the midst of them” 1657 —the blood of crime and the murders of the prophets. And the mode of cleansing, the Word subjoined, saying, “by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning.” The bathing which is carnal, that is to say, of the body, is accomplished by water alone, as often in the country where there is not a bath. 1658


Footnotes

282:1653

[The morals of Clement as to decency in bathing need to be enforced among modern Christians, at seaside places of resort.]

283:1654

ἀνθρωπογναφεῖα.

283:1655

Matt. xxiii. 27.

283:1656

Matt. 23:25, 26.

283:1657

Isa. iv. 4.

283:1658

Isa. iv. 4.


Next: Chapter X.—The Exercises Suited to a Good Life.

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