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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part I: The Body of Man Only Ancillary to the Soul in the Commission of Evil.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter XL.—The Body of Man Only Ancillary to the Soul in the Commission of Evil.

Every soul, then, by reason of its birth, has its nature in Adam until it is born again in Christ; moreover, it is unclean all the while that it remains without this regeneration; 1755 and because unclean, it is actively sinful, and suffuses even the flesh (by reason of their conjunction) with its own shame. Now although the flesh is sinful, and we are forbidden to walk in accordance with it, 1756 and its works are condemned as lusting against the spirit, 1757 and men on its account are censured as carnal, 1758 yet the flesh has not such ignominy on its own account. For it is not of itself that it thinks anything or feels anything for the purpose of advising or commanding sin. How should it, indeed? It is only a ministering thing, and its ministration is not like that of a servant or familiar friend—animated and human beings; but rather that of a vessel, or something of that kind: it is body, not soul. Now a cup may minister to a thirsty man; and yet, if the thirsty man will not apply the cup to his mouth, the cup will yield no ministering service. Therefore the differentia, or distinguishing property, of man by no means lies in his earthy element; nor is the flesh the human person, as being some faculty of his soul, and a personal quality; but it is a thing of quite a different substance and different condition, although annexed to the soul as a chattel or as an instrument for the offices of life. Accordingly the flesh is blamed in the Scriptures, because nothing is done by the soul without the flesh in operations of concupiscence, appetite, drunkenness, cruelty, idolatry, and other works of the flesh,—operations, I mean, which are not confined to sensations, but result in effects. The emotions of sin, indeed, when not resulting in effects, are usually imputed to the soul: “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after, hath already in his heart committed adultery with her.” 1759 But what has the flesh alone, without the soul, ever done in operations of virtue, righteousness, endurance, or chastity? What absurdity, however, it is to attribute sin and crime to that substance to which you do not assign any good actions or character of its own!  Now the party which aids in the commission of a crime is brought to trial, only in such a way that the principal offender who actually committed the crime may bear the weight of the penalty, although the abettor too does not escape indictment. Greater is the odium which falls on the principal, when his officials are punished through his fault. He is beaten with more stripes who instigates and orders the crime, whilst at the same time he who obeys such an evil command is not acquitted.


Footnotes

220:1755

Rom. vi. 4.

220:1756

Gal. v. 16.

220:1757

Gal. 5.17.

220:1758

Rom. viii. 5.

220:1759

Matt. v. 28.


Next: Notwithstanding the Depravity of Man's Soul by Original Sin, There is Yet Left a Basis Whereon Divine Grace Can Work for Its Recovery by Spiritual Regeneration.

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