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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 36

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 36 [XXII.]—Man’s State Before the Fall.

Before they had thus violated their obedience they were pleasing to God, and God was pleasing to them; and though they carried about an animal body, they yet felt in it no disobedience moving against themselves. This was the righteous appointment, that inasmuch as their soul had received from the Lord the body for its servant, as it itself obeyed the Lord, even so its body should obey Him, and should exhibit a service suitable to the life given it without resistance. Hence “they were both naked, and were not ashamed.” 591 It is with a natural instinct of shame that the rational soul is now indeed affected, because in that flesh, over whose service it received the right of power, it can no longer, owing to some indescribable infirmity, prevent the motion of the members thereof, notwithstanding its own unwillingness, nor excite them to motion even when it wishes. Now these members are on this account, in every man of chastity, rightly called “pudenda,” 592 because they excite themselves, just as they like, in opposition to the mind which is their master, as if they were their own masters; and the sole authority which the bridle of virtue possesses over them is to check them from approaching impure and unlawful pollutions. Such disobedience of the flesh as this, which lies in the very excitement, even when it is not allowed to take effect, did not exist in the first man and woman whilst they were naked and not ashamed. For not yet had the rational soul, which rules the flesh, developed such a disobedience to its Lord, as by a reciprocity of punishment to bring on itself the rebellion of its own servant the flesh, along with that feeling of confusion and trouble to itself which it certainly failed to inflict upon God by its own disobedience to Him; for God is put to no shame or trouble when we do not obey Him, nor are we able in any wise to lessen His very great power over us; but we are shamed in that the flesh is not submissive to our government,—a result which is brought about by the infirmity which we have earned by sinning, and is called “the sin which dwelleth in our members.” 593 But this sin is of such a character that it is the punishment of sin. As soon, indeed, as that transgression was effected, and the disobedient soul turned away from the law of its Lord, then its servant, the body, began to cherish a law of disobedience against it; and then the man and the woman grew ashamed of their nakedness, when they perceived the rebellious motion of the flesh, which they had not felt before, and which perception is called “the opening of their eyes;”  594 for, of course, they did not walk about among the trees with closed eyes. The same thing is said of Hagar: “Her eyes were opened, and she saw a well.” 595 Then the man and the woman covered their parts of shame, which God had made for them as members, but they had made parts of shame.


Footnotes

59:591

Gen. ii. 25.

59:592

i.e. “Parts of shame.”

59:593

Rom. 7:17, 23.

59:594

Gen. iii. 7.

59:595

Gen. xxi. 19.


Next: Chapter 37

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