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Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol III:
Tertullian: Part II: Heathens and Heretics Alike in Their Vilification of the Flesh and Its Functions, the Ordinary Cavils Against the Final Restitution of So Weak and Ignoble a Substance.

Early Church Fathers  Index     

Chapter IV.—Heathens and Heretics Alike in Their Vilification of the Flesh and Its Functions, the Ordinary Cavils Against the Final Restitution of So Weak and Ignoble a Substance.

Hence it is that heretics start at once from this point, 7311 from which they sketch the first draft of their dogmas, and afterwards add the details, being well aware how easily men’s minds are caught by its influence, (and actuated) by that community of human sentiment which is so favourable to their designs. Is there anything else that you can hear of from the heretic, as also from the heathen, earlier in time or greater in extent? Is not (their burden) from the beginning and everywhere an invective against the flesh—against its origin, against its substance, against the casualties and the invariable end which await it; unclean from its first formation of the dregs of the ground, uncleaner afterwards from the mire of its own seminal transmission; worthless, 7312 weak, covered with guilt, laden with misery, full of trouble; and after all this record of its degradation, dropping into its original earth and the appellation of a corpse, and destined to dwindle away even from this 7313 loathsome name into none henceforth at all—into the very death of all designation? Now you are a shrewd man, no doubt: will you then persuade yourself, that after this flesh has been withdrawn from sight, and touch, and memory, it can never be rehabilitated from corruption to integrity, from a shattered to a solid state, from an empty to a full condition, from nothing at all to something—the devouring fires, and the waters of the sea, and the maws of beasts, and the crops of birds and the stomachs of fishes, and time’s own great paunch 7314 itself of course yielding it all up again?  Shall the same flesh which has fallen to decay be so expected to recover, as that the lame, and the one-eyed, and the blind, and the leper, and the palsied shall come back again, although there can be no pleasure in returning to their old condition? Or shall they be whole, and so have to fear exposure to such sufferings? What, in that case, (must we say) of the consequences of resuming the flesh? Will it again be subject to all its present wants, especially meats and drinks?  Shall we have with our lungs to float (in air or water), 7315 and suffer pain in our bowels, and with organs of shame to feel no shame, and with all our limbs to toil and labour?  Must there again be ulcers, and wounds, and fever, and gout, and once more the wishing to die? Of course these will be the longings incident on the recovery of the flesh, only the repetition of desires to escape out of it. Well now, we have (stated) all this in very subdued and delicate phrases, as suited to the character of our style; but (would you know) how great a licence of unseemly language these men actually use, you must test them in their conferences, whether they be heathens or heretics.



Of the resurrection of the body.








Natandum pulmonibus.

Next: Some Considerations in Reply Eulogistic of the Flesh. It Was Created by God. The Body of Man Was, in Fact, Previous to His Soul.

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