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Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers, Ser. II, Vol. XIV:
The Canons of the Councils of Ancyra, Gangra, Neocæsarea, Antioch and Laodicea, which Canons were Accepted and Received by the Ecumenical Synods.: Canon IV

Early Church Fathers  Index     

p. 81 Canon IV.

If any man lusting after a woman purposes to lie with her, and his design does not come to effect, it is evident that he has been saved by grace.


Ancient Epitome of Canon IV.

Whoso lusteth but doth not accomplish his pleasure is preserved of God.


Instead of ἑπιθυμῆσαι we must read, with Beveridge and Routh, who rely upon several mss., ἐπιθυμήσας.  They also replace μετ᾽ αὐτῆς by αὐτῇ.

The meaning of the canon appears to me to be very obscure.  Hefele refers to Van Espen and adopts his view, and Van Espen in turn has adopted Fleury’s view and given him credit for it, referring to his Histoire Ecclesiastique, Lib. X., xvij.  Zonaras’ and Balsamon’s notes are almost identical, I translate that of the latter in full.


In sins, the Fathers say, there are four stages, the first-motion, the struggle, the consent, and the act:  the first two of these are not subject to punishment, but in the two others the case is different.  For neither is the first impression nor the struggle against it to be condemned, provided that when the reason receives the impression it struggles with it and rejects the thought.  But the consent thereto is subject to condemnation and accusation, and the action to punishment.  If therefore anyone is assailed by the lust for a woman, and is overcome so that he would perform the act with her, he has given consent, indeed, but to the work he has not come, that is, he has not performed the act, and it is manifest that the grace of God has preserved him; but he shall not go off with impunity.  For the consent alone is worthy of punishment.  And this is plain from canon lxx. of St. Basil, which says; “A deacon polluted in lips (ἐν χείλεσι)” or who has approached to the kiss of a woman “and confesses that he has so sinned, is to be interdicted his ministry,” that is to say is to be prohibited its exercise for a time.  “But he shall not be deemed unworthy to communicate in sacris with the deacons.  The same is also the case with a presbyter.  But if anyone shall go any further in sin than this, no matter what his grade, he shall be deposed.”  Some, however, interpret the pollution of the lips in another way; of this I shall speak in commenting on Canon lxx. of St. Basil. 125



Balsamon’s note is most curious reading, but beside being irrelevant to the present canon of Neocæsarea, would hardly bear translation into the vernacular.

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