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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
A Treatise on the Merits and Forgiveness...: Chapter 21

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 21 [XII.]—The Precept About Touching the Menstruous Woman Not to Be Figuratively Understood; The Necessity of the Sacraments.

Let no one, then, on this subject be either deceived or a deceiver. The manifest sense of Holy Scripture which we have considered, removes all obscurities. Even as death is in this our mortal body derived from the beginning, so from the beginning has sin been drawn into this sinful flesh of ours, for the cure of which, both as it is derived by propagation and augmented by wilful transgression, as well as for the quickening of our flesh itself, our Physician came in the likeness of sinful flesh, who is not needed by the sound, but only by the sick,—and who came not to call the righteous, but sinners. 701 Therefore the saying of the apostle, when advising believers not to separate themselves from unbelieving partners: “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy,” 702 must be either so understood as both we ourselves elsewhere, 703 and as Pelagius in his notes on this same Epistle to the Corinthians, 704 has expounded it, according to the purport of the passages already mentioned, that sometimes wives gained husbands to Christ, and sometimes husbands converted wives, whilst the Christian will of even one of the parents prevailed towards making their children Christians; or else (as the apostle’s words seem rather to indicate, and to a certain degree compel us) some particular sanctification is to be here understood, by which p. 78 an unbelieving husband or wife was sanctified by the believing partner, and by which the children of the believing parents were sanctified,—whether it was that the husband or the wife, during the woman’s menstruation, abstained from cohabiting, having learned that duty in the law (for Ezekiel classes this amongst the precepts which were not to be taken in a metaphorical sense 705 ), or on account of some other voluntary sanctification which is not there expressly prescribed,—a sprinkling of holiness arising out of the close ties of married life and children. Nevertheless, whatever be the sanctification meant, this must be steadily held: that there is no other valid means of making Christians and remitting sins, except by men becoming believers through the sacrament according to the institution of Christ and the Church. For neither are unbelieving husbands and wives, notwithstanding their intimate union with holy and righteous spouses, cleansed of the sin which separates men from the kingdom of God and drives them into condemnation, nor are the children who are born of parents, however just and holy, absolved from the guilt of original sin, unless they have been baptized into Christ; and in behalf of these our plea should be the more earnest, the less able they are to urge one themselves.


Footnotes

77:701

Mark ii. 17.

77:702

1 Cor. vii. 14.

77:703

See Augustin’s work On the Sermon on the Mount, i. 16.

77:704

See the Commentaries on St. Paul in Jerome’s works, vol. xi. (Vallarsius), the work of either Pelagius or one of his followers.

78:705

Ezek. xviii. 6.


Next: Chapter 22

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