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Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Vol. V:
On Marriage and Concupiscence.: Chapter 36

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter 36 [XXI.]—God Made Nature Good: the Saviour Restores It When Corrupted.

Now we do not reprehend bread and wine because some men are luxurious and drunkards, any more than we disapprove of gold because of the greedy and avaricious. Wherefore on the same principle we do not censure the honourable connection between husband and wife, because of the shame-causing lust of bodies. For the former would have been quite possible before any antecedent commission of sin, and by it the united pair would not have been made to blush; whereas the latter arose after the perpetration of sin, and they were obliged to hide it, from very shame. 2278 Accordingly, in all united pairs ever since, however well and lawfully they have used this evil, there has been a permanent necessity of avoiding the sight of man in any work of this kind, and thus acknowledging what caused inevitable shame, though a good thing would certainly cause no man to be ashamed. In this way we have two distinct facts insensibly introduced to our notice: the good of that laudable union of the sexes for the purpose of generating children; and the evil of that shameful lust, in consequence of which the offspring must be regenerated in order to escape condemnation. The man, therefore, who, though with the lust which causes shame, joins in lawful cohabitation, turns an evil to good account; whereas he who joins in an unlawful cohabitation uses an evil badly; for that is more correctly called evil than good, at which both bad and good alike blush. We do better to believe him who has said, “I know that in me, that is, in my flesh, dwelleth no good thing,” 2279 rather than him who calls that p. 298 good, by which he is so conformed that he admits it to be evil; but if he feels no shame, he adds the worse evil of impudence. Rightly then did we declare that “the good of marriage is no more impeachable because of the original sin which is derived therefrom, than the evil of adultery and fornication can be excused, because of the natural good which is born of them:” since the human nature which is born, whether of wedlock or of adultery, is the work of God. Now if this nature were an evil, it ought not to have been born; if it had not evil, it would not have to be regenerated: and (that I may combine the two cases in one and the same predicate) if human nature were an evil thing, it would not have to be saved; if it had not in it any evil, it would not have to be saved. He, therefore, who contends that nature is not good, says that the Maker of the creature is not good; whilst he who will have it, that nature has no evil in it, deprives it in its corrupted condition of a merciful Saviour. From this, then, it follows, that in the birth of human beings neither fornication is to be excused on account of the good which is formed out of it by the good Creator, nor is marriage to be impeached by reason of the evil which has to be healed in it by the merciful Saviour.


Footnotes

297:2278

Gen. iii. 7.

297:2279

Rom. vii. 18.


Next: Chapter 37

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