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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. II:
On Christian Doctrine: Chapter 23

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 23.—Man Needs No Injunction to Love Himself and His Own Body.

22.  Those things which are objects of use are not all, however, to be loved, but those only which are either united with us in a common relation to God, such as a man or an angel, or are so related to us as to need the goodness of God through our instrumentality, such as the body.  For assuredly the martyrs did not love the wickedness of their persecutors, although they used it to attain the favor of God.  As, then, there are four kinds of things that are to be loved,—first, that which is above us; second, ourselves; third, that which is on a level with us; fourth, that which is beneath us,—no precepts need be given about the second and fourth of these.  For, however far a man may fall away from the truth, he still continues to love himself, and to love his own body.  The soul which flies away from the unchangeable Light, the Ruler of all things, does so that it may rule over itself and over its own body; and so it cannot but love both itself and its own body.

23.  Morever, it thinks it has attained something very great if it is able to lord it over its companions, that is, other men.  For it is inherent in the sinful soul to desire above all things, and to claim as due to itself, that which is properly due to God only.  Now such love of itself is more correctly called hate.  For it is not just that it should desire what is beneath it to be obedient to it while itself will not obey its own superior; and most justly has it been said, “He who loveth iniquity hateth his own soul.” 1734   And accordingly the soul becomes weak, and endures much suffering about the mortal body.  For, of course, it must love the body, and be grieved at its corruption; and the immortality and incorruptibility of the body spring out of the health of the soul.  Now the health of the soul is to cling steadfastly to the better part, that is, to the unchangeable God.  But when it aspires to lord it even over those who are by nature its equals,—that is, its fellow-men,—this is a reach of arrogance utterly intolerable.


Footnotes

528:1734

Ps. 10.5(LXX.).


Next: Chapter 24

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