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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: The Evil Spirit Has Marred the Purity of the Soul from the Very Birth.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XXXIX.—The Evil Spirit Has Marred the Purity of the Soul from the Very Birth.

All these endowments of the soul which are bestowed on it at birth are still obscured and depraved by the malignant being who, in the beginning, regarded them with envious eye, so that they are never seen in their spontaneous action, nor are they administered as they ought to be. For to what individual of the human race will not the evil spirit cleave, ready to entrap their souls from the very portal of their birth, at which he is invited to be present in all those superstitious processes which accompany childbearing? Thus it comes to pass that all men are brought to the birth with idolatry for the midwife, whilst the very wombs that bear them, still bound with the fillets that have been wreathed before the idols, declare their offspring to be consecrated to demons: for in parturition they invoke the aid of Lucina and Diana; for a whole week a table is spread in honour of Juno; on the last day the fates of the horoscope 1751 are invoked; and then the infant’s first step on the ground is sacred to the goddess Statina. After this does any one fail to devote to idolatrous service the entire head of his son, or to take out a hair, or to shave off the whole with a razor, or to bind it up for an offering, or seal it for sacred use—in behalf of the clan, of the ancestry, or for public devotion? On this principle of early possession it was that Socrates, while yet a boy, was found by the spirit of the demon. Thus, too, is it that to all persons their genii are assigned, which is only another name for demons. Hence in no case (I mean of the heathen, of course) is there any nativity which is pure of idolatrous superstition. It was from this circumstance that the apostle said, that when either of the p. 220 parents was sanctified, the children were holy; 1752 and this as much by the prerogative of the (Christian) seed as by the discipline of the institution (by baptism, and Christian education). “Else,” says he, “were the children unclean” by birth: 1753 as if he meant us to understand that the children of believers were designed for holiness, and thereby for salvation; in order that he might by the pledge of such a hope give his support to matrimony, which he had determined to maintain in its integrity. Besides, he had certainly not forgotten what the Lord had so definitively stated:  “Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God;” 1754 in other words, he cannot be holy.


Footnotes

219:1751

Fata Scribunda.

220:1752

1 Cor. vii. 14.

220:1753

1 Cor. vii. 14.

220:1754

John iii. 5.


Next: The Body of Man Only Ancillary to the Soul in the Commission of Evil.

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