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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
City of God: Chapter 19

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 19.—That It is Now Necessary, as It Was Not Before Man Sinned, to Bridle Anger and Lust by the Restraining Influence of Wisdom.

Hence it is that even the philosophers who have approximated to the truth have avowed that anger and lust are vicious mental emotions, because, even when exercised towards objects which wisdom does not prohibit, they are moved in an ungoverned and inordinate manner, and consequently need the regulation of mind and reason.  And they assert that this third part of the mind is posted as it were in a kind of citadel, to give rule to these other parts, so that, while it rules and they serve, man’s righteousness is preserved without a breach. 747   These parts, then, which they acknowledge to be vicious even in a wise and temperate man, so that the mind, by its composing and restraining influence, must bridle and recall them from those objects towards which they are unlawfully moved, and give them access to those which the law of wisdom sanctions,—that anger, e.g., may be allowed for the enforcement of a just authority, and lust for the duty of propagating offspring,—these parts, I say, were not vicious in Paradise before sin, for they were never moved in opposition to a holy will towards any object from which it was necessary that they should be withheld by the restraining bridle of reason.  For though now they are moved in this way, and are regulated by a bridling and restraining power, which those who live temperately, justly, and godly exercise, sometimes with ease, and sometimes with greater difficulty, this is not the sound health of nature, but the weakness which results from sin.  And how is it that shame does not hide the acts and words dictated by anger or other emotions, as it covers the motions of lust, unless because the members of the body which we employ for accomplishing them are moved, not by the emotions themselves, but by the authority of the consenting will?  For he who in his anger rails at or even strikes some one, could not do so were not his tongue and hand moved by the authority of the will, as also they are moved when there is no anger.  But the organs of generation are so subjected to the rule of lust, that they have no motion but what it communicates.  It is this we are ashamed of; it is this which blushingly hides from the eyes of onlookers.  And rather will a man endure a crowd of witnesses when he is unjustly venting his anger on some one, than the eye of one man when he innocently copulates with his wife.



See Plato’s Republic, book iv.

Next: Chapter 20

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